Monthly Archives: January 2007

Irrevocable justification

It is interesting reading this article to find that Gaffin agrees with Wright that those who are truly justified will never ever lose that status. I agree with both of them, but in the case of Wright I think his understanding leads him astray when dealing with the frank warning passages in Romans 11. I don’t know about Gaffin. He may well (and should, in my opinion) have a more robust view of how warnings function. My personal favorite on this sort of thing is Charles Hodge.

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, (that ye may be) blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 1.9).

Shall also confirm you. God had not only enriched them with the gifts of the Spirit, but he would also confirm them. The one was an assurance of the other. Those to whom God gives the renewing influence of the Spirit, he thereby pledges himself to save; for “the first fruits of the Spirit” are, as just remarked, of the nature of a pledge. They are an earnest, as the apostle says, of future inheritance… Shall confirm… ie. shall make steadfast, preserve from falling. The word is used in reference to persons and things. God is said to confirm his promises, when he fulfills them, or so acts as to prevent their falling… He is said to confirm his people when he renders them steadfast in the belief and obedience to the truth… unto the end, may mean the end of life, or the end of this dispensation, ie. to the end of the period which was to precede the advent of Christ; or it may be understood indefinitely as we use the expression “final perseverance.” Unblamable, ie. Not arraigned or accused. He is unblamable against whom no accusation can be brought. In this sense it is said “a bishop must be blameless,” Titus 1, 6. 7. God will confirm his people so that when the day of judgment comes, which is the day of our Lord Jesus, ie. The day of his second advent, they shall stand before him blameless, not chargeable with apostasy or any other sin. The are to be “holy and without blame.” Compare 1 Thess. 5, 23. When we remember on the one hand how great is our guilt, and on the other, how great is our danger from without and from within, we feel that nothing but the righteousness of Christ and the power of God can secure our being preserved and presented blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus (pp. 9-10).

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (First Corinthians 8.11)

For whom Christ died. There is great power and pathos in these words. Shall we, for the sake of eating one kind of meat rather than another, endanger the salvation of those for whom the eternal Son of God laid down his life? The infinite distance between Christ and us, and the almost infinite distance between his sufferings and the trifling self-denial required at our hands, give to the apostle’s appeal a force the Christians heart cannot resist. The language of Paul in this verse seems to assume that those may perish for whom Christ died. It belongs, therefore, to the same category as those numerous passages which make the same assumption with regard to the elect. If the latter are consistent with the certainty of the salvation of the elect, then this passage is consistent with the certainty of the salvation of those for whom Christ specifically died. It was absolutely certain that none of Paul’s companions in shipwreck was on that occasion to lose his life, because the salvation of the whole company had been predicted and promised; and yet the apostle said that if the sailors were allowed to take away the boats, those left on board could not be saved. This appeal secured the accomplishment of the promise. So God’s telling the elect that if they apostatize they shall perish, prevents their apostasy. And in like manner, the Bible teaching that those for whom Christ died shall perish if they violate their conscience, prevents their transgressing, or brings them to repentance. God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end. If the means fail, the end will fail. He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died shall be saved, as that the elect shall be saved. Yet in both cases the event is spoken of as conditional. There is not only a possibility, but an absolute certainty of their perishing if they fall away. But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent (pp. 148-149).

…There is, however, a sense in which it is scriptural to say that Christ died for all men. This is very different from saying that he died equally for all men, or that his death had no other reference to those who are saved than it had to those who are lost. To die for one is to die for his benefit. As Christ’s death has benefited the whole world, prolonged the probation of men, secured for them innumerable blessings, provided a righteousness that is sufficient and suitable for all, it may be said that he died for all. And in reference to this obvious truth, the language of the apostle, should any prefer this interpretation, may be understood, “Why should we destroy one for whose benefit Christ lay down his life?”… (p. 149).

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (First Corinthians 10.12).

…There is perpetual danger of falling. No degree of progress we may have already made, no amount of privileges which we may have enjoyed, can justify the want of caution. Let him that thinketh he standeth, that is, let him who thinks himself secure. This may refer either to security of salvation, or against the power of temptation. The two are very different, and rest generally on different grounds. False security of salvation commonly rests on the ground of our belonging to a privileged body (the church), or to a privileged class (the elect). Both are equally fallacious. Neither the members of the church nor the elect can be saved unless they persevere in holiness; and they cannot persevere in holiness without continual watchfulness and effort. False security as to our power to resist temptation rests on an overweening self-confidence in our own strength. None are so liable to fall as they who, thinking themselves strong, heedlessly run into temptation (p. 181).

I’m not sure I completely understand statements like this from Gaffin:

Christ is the living and abiding embodiment of the righteousness that has been irrevocably imputed to believers. As such, he continues to sustain in their justified state those whom God has already predestined and justified (vss. 29-30). And he does that sustaining work with unwavering faithfulness, just as he has ever since each of those elect was first united to him by faith. Because of his intercession, they cannot and will not ever fall from the state of justification.

OK, here’s the deal. Usually, if I do something “irrevocably” I don’t have to keep sustaining it. Perhaps I’m wrong about this. I got married irrevocably, but I obviously have to work at it. But then again, divorce laws are quite clear that I am not married irrevocably. If one of us files and abandons the other, then the marriage will be “revoked.” What is different about Jesus is not only that he never files, but he prevents our faith from failing (as Gaffin points out) so that we never file either.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road. One way in which (sometimes) believers are prevented from falling into unbelief is by warnings. Faith “trembles at the threatenings” in the Word of God, we are taught in the Westminster Confession (yeah and its in the Bible too, for you nonPresbyterian readers who still don’t understand church authority). If we are all taught we are in an irrevocable status–that Jesus is stuck with us even if we go out leave him with all the children, and sleep with strange men–then the church of God gets deprived of a means by which some are effectually called to salvation.

Gaffin’s version of “irrevocable” is consistent, I think, with the contingencies and the ongoing need for Christ’s intercessory work. But if he had been writing for the edification of the Church, rather than the party which he has joined in (not that there is anything wrong with these men other than defining themselves according to imagined opponants), he could have presented us with a much more engaging discussion regarding common pastoral concerns.

More game writing discovery

Sort of continued from this.

I heard the name, “Mark Laidlaw” in correlation with some sci-fi short stories, perhaps during cyberpunk’s quarter-hour of fame.

Now I realize I have experienced more of his work than I knew:

Mark Laidlaw, it turns out, was the major force behind Half-Life, the best first-person shooter, period. (bios: wikipedia; moby games).

So what this means is that Mark is a major source of the main reason I sometimes long for a well-working PC.

An apology for the erudite and scholarly Christian gentleman, Dr. R. Scott Clark

Dr. Clark has done a service for us “fv boys”–as he refers to us in his touching paternal affection. Unfortunately, I can’t own any of the things he lists as they relate to motives, nor even to many of the actual acts he lists. But rather than see all that wonderful ministry go to waste, I thought I would write up an accurate apology for the crimes I have committed–something that gets to the root problem.

I repent of having read the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as a reliable guide for Biblical doctrine.

I repent of learning that faith consists principally in “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace” but also more generally faith “believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.” This is obviously a “complex instrument” (Theses #38-40) and a denial of sola fide and solo Christo.

I repent of learning that repentance is necessary for pardon and that repentance includes endeavoring after new obedience. I renounce utterly the idea that three things are required for escaping the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of our transgression of the law. Listing faith as a requirement with repentance and “he diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation” is obviously “another Gospel.” I renounce it all.

I renounce the decalogue given as part of the administration of the covenant of Grace. I hereby declare that no document which takes the Preface of the Decalogue as a type of the Christian Gospel covenant and does not even mention the Abrahamic covenant, can be a reliable guide to covenant theology. Never again will I teach a congregation to believe from the Ten Commandments “that he is a God in covenant, as with Israel of old, so with all his people; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our spiritual thraldom; and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments.”

I recant the definition of a sacrament as “an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” I renounce all words like “apply” or “confer” in relation to the sacraments and now confess that all those words are misleading in the Westminster documents. Only undefined “signs and seals” may be our mantra if we believe the gospel, and perhaps the modern, anachronistic, and conveniently anemic definition of “exhibit.”

I renounce improving our baptism rather than our effectual calls. I repent of teaching the generality of professing Christians that we should all believe that “privileges and benefits” were “conferred and sealed” by baptism. I repent of preaching that we should be “growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament” and now will teach that we must gain those blessings which we never possessed by exercising faith. I repent of believing that Romans 6 refers to water baptism, that one improves one’s baptism by “drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace.” And I most heartily condemn myself for thinking baptism appointed me “to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.” (Here I must especially thank you for your consistent and faithful example of what real Christian behavior looks like in this regard! What a witness to the truth you are!)

I repent of looking to contemporary public confessional documents from the Westminster Assembly as a way to come to a more sure understanding of what they meant in the confession and catechisms. Specifically, I repent of reading the Westminster Assemblies instructions for baptism in their Directory of Public Worship as if it might have anything to do with the claim that “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered,” as in when the minister is instructed to say:

That it is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ:

That it is a seal of the covenant of grace, of our ingrafting into Christ, and of our union with him, of remission of sins, regeneration, adoption, and life eternal:

That the water, in baptism, representeth and signifieth both the blood of Christ, which taketh away all guilt of sin, original and actual; and the sanctifying virtue of the Spirit of Christ against the dominion of sin, and the corruption of our sinful nature:

That baptizing, or sprinkling and washing with water, signifieth the cleansing from sin by the blood and for the merit of Christ, together with the mortification of sin, and rising from sin to newness of life, by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ:

That the promise is made to believers and their seed; and that the seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church, have, by their birth, interest in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the church, under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament; the covenant of grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before:

That the Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, For of such is the kingdom of God:

That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers;

and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh:

That they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized:

That the inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reacheth to the whole course of our life;

and that outward baptism is not so necessary, that, through the want thereof, the infant is in danger of damnation, or the parents guilty, if they do not contemn or neglect the ordinance of Christ, when and where it may be had.

I likewise repent of following the advice of Dr. Ligon Duncan and listening to Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn regarding the imputation of the active obedience of Christ in reference to the original intent of the Westminster Confession.

There are many other such details I could add to this, but I will stop here.

I repent of repeatedly reading Zacharias Ursinus’ commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism.

Thus, I repent of agreeing with Ursinus about what the Heidelberg Catechism teaches about the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. There is no excuse for my poor judgment. Obviously Dr. Clark and the other many noble sages in Escondido know the meaning of the catechism better than Ursinus.

I repent of learning from Ursinus that “good works are necessary to salvation, not as a cause to an effect, or as if they merited a reward, but as a part of salvation itself, or as an antecedent to a consequent, or as a means without which we cannot obtain the end.” Or that the promises of the gospel are made upon the condition “of faith in Christ and the commencement of new obedience” (p. 3). I renounce Ursinus and all the other Reformers who taught of the Mosaic and Gospel covenants that they are one “In the condition in respect to ourselves. In each covenant, God requires from men faith and obedience. “Walk before me and be thou perfect.” “Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Gen. 17:1. Mark 1:15.) The new covenant, therefore, agrees with the old in that which relates to the principal conditions, both on the part of God, and on the part of man….” [p. 99].

I repent of reading the scholastics, the Presbyterians, Calvin, other church historians, even Kline! etc.

And time will fail if I go on line by line book by book and renounce all the other false teachers who have misled me about the Gospel and basic Reformed Theology 101: Francis Turretin, Benedict Pictet, A. A. Hodge, and all the rest. I should never have touched them. I should have known that the only true knowledge of Reformed theology comes from your pull quotes from Witsius, a couple of erudite works by the Reformed guru Meredith Kline, and your own class notes. (Of course, I really have to repent of reading Kline too. I started with Images of the Spirit, which was a pretty straightforward gateway drug that led to James B. Jordan)
I especially repent of reading John Calvin without your gentle wise guidance, and for having the horrible temerity to ever think that a church historian other than yourself might have some insight into Calvin’s covenant theology.

I repent of the Scriptures and Reformed Confessions and Reformed theologians who taught me that God’s grace is given to creatures nonsinful situations.

I repent of mucking up the new American sola fide by affirming the following heresies:

Although the sacraments are external means and instruments applying (on the part of God) the promise of grace and justification, this does not hinder faith from being called the internal instrument and means on the part of man for receiving this benefit offered in the word and sealed by the sacraments [16.7.20].The question is not whether faith alone justifies to the exclusion either of the grace of God or the righteousness of Christ or the word and sacraments (by which the blessing of justification is presented and sealed to us on the part of God), which we maintain are necessarily required here; but only to the exclusion of every other virtue and habit on our part…. For all these as they are mutually subordinated in a different class of cause, consist with each other in the highest degree [16.8.5].

…. although the other virtues do not justify with faith, still faith cannot justify in their absence, much less the opposite vices being present. For faith cannot be true except in connection with the virtues (which if they do not contribute to justification, still contribute to the existence and life of faith, which the presence of vices would destroy) [16.8.14].

Hence it is evident that the question [“Are Good Works Necessary to Salvation”] here does not concern the necessity of merit, causality, and efficiency–whether good works are necessary to effect salvation or to acquire it by right. (For this belongs to another controversy, of which hereafter). Rather the question concerns the necessity of means, of presence and of connection or order–Are they required as the means and way for possessing salvation? This we hold [17.3.3].

…although works may be said to contribute nothing to the acquisition of our salvation, still they should be considered necessary to the obtainment of it, so that no one can be saved without them–that thus our religion may be freed from those most foul calumnies everywhere cast mot unjustly upon it by the Romanists (as if it were the mistress of impiety and the cushion of carnal licentiousness and security)… [17.3.4].

I repent of agreeing with some guy named Hart about the lasting value to be found in the work and thought of John Williamson Nevin, rather than siding with your unresearched instincts condemning him.

I realize this only scratches the surface. Perhaps I can get into more specifics another time since it seems obvious that you will require many acts of penance.

Your humble supplicant.

Not sure I need to comment

Most Latino students spurn college loans

“My parents have always said, ‘If you don’t have the money to pay for it, then work for it,’ ” Fernandez said.

Educators and financial aid experts said the cultural aversion to loans — considered a sign of a strong work ethic — is common among Latino immigrants and their children. And it creates an odd dilemma in academia.

Financial aid experts worry that students who rely heavily on loans are taking on too much personal debt to pay for college, but educators are trying to convince Latinos that school loans, if used wisely, can lead to high-paying jobs later.

“The majority of Mexican clients we had, I noticed, liked to pay in cash,” said Coronel, 22. “They were insecure about credit or borrowing, as they thought fraud would be a possibility. I think we learned that from our parents.”

Researchers said the loan phobia isn’t limited to the Latino community but is a common apprehension among students from low-income, immigrant, or first-generation college backgrounds.

Writing programs

Well new work (sort of; keep praying) has led into interesting areas.

One of those has been the discovery of Scrivener, through 43 folders. Scrivener is a virtual writing studio and looks really good so far. Click on the 43 folders link for Merlin Mann’s review. I downloaded the demo and am enjoying it. It might be a good investment.

But, the good people of Scrivener actually provide links to all their competitors. So now I am paralyzed. So many cool apps, so little time! (Or, so many ways to procrastinate from doing any writing.) I’ll list them here. The Scrivener page has little mini-reviews.

The page also includes OmniOutliner (which I here great things about) and MacJournal (which is good), neither of which I consider to be really the same sort of thing. I downloaded Jer’s because it is free, but I haven’t started using it yet (mainly because I’m too stubborn to read directions).

Can baptism DO anything?

Lots of conservative Protestants want to answer “no” to this question.

The problem with this position is that conservative Protestants are bound to believe what the Bible teaches. And the Bible says inconvenient things, like “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3.21), or “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27, 28), or “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free” (1 Corinthians 12.13), or “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death… Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6.3, 4), or “in Christ you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 3.11, 12).

Many people have decided that since they know the Bible could not possibly be saying such things about baptism, the baptism being referred to must be a dry “spiritual” baptism, not water baptism.

But again there are some inconvenient statements in the Bible. For example, in the book of Acts in the first sermon of the Church, Peter gives this altar call: “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.38). Here, there is no question that normal water baptism is intended, because the text goes on to record that three thousand were baptized that day in response to Peter’s words. Yet Peter’s statements about baptism are quite similar to those in the New Testament Epistles quoted above. On what basis do we claim that the Epistles must not be speaking of water baptism?

We can be sure, of course, that baptism does not absolutely guarantee that a person will inherit glory and escape condemnation at the resurrection. The Apostle Paul says amazing things about baptism in chapter 12 of his first letter to the Corinthians, but he warns them earlier that baptism does not mean they will escape the wrath of Jesus if they worship other gods (1 Corinthians 10.1-12). Likewise, Acts tells us of a man named Simeon who was baptize but then manifested an unbelieving heart (Acts 8.9-24). Likewise, when the Apostle Peter writes, “baptism now saves you” he compares baptism to the Noah and his family brought to safety through the flood on the Ark. Yet Ham apostatized and rebelled as both Peter and his readers must have known.

So what are we to think of baptism?

If we try to solve this puzzle without considering anything besides the ritual itself, I don’t think a solution is available. However, what if we consider the fact that Jesus established a new society, His Church? The Church is “the household of God” (1 Timothy 3.15; 1 Peter 4.17). She is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5.32) and the mother of all believers (Galatians 4.26). She is a corporate priesthood and royal dynasty (1 Peter 2.5, 9; Revelation 1.6). The Church has been given Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1.22, 23) with all his benefits and gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12.4ff).

Here we have an angle that allows baptism to be something incredibly important and yet avoids superstition. Baptism is how one enters the Church. If the Church is the family of God (1 Timothy 3.15; 1 Peter 4.17) and the mother of all believers (Galatians 4.26), and if baptism is how one is admitted into the Church (1 Corinthians 12.13), then naturally, baptism would be the normal way one is adopted into God’s family as one of his children (Galatians 3.26, 27).

While members of the Church are promised forgiveness, the Spirit, and many other benefits, the Bible does not say that all members of the Church will take advantage of these great things. Sadly, some do not persevere in what they have been given. One is justified by faith, after all–a persevering faith (Hebrews 10.35-39). But the fact that baptism and membership among God’s people does not guarantee one will inherit eternal life, does not mean that we should disregard it as of no significance.

The point here is that it is easier to trust Christ to save us and bring us to the resurrection in glory if one is confident that one has been entrusted to Christ. The Church is Jesus’ special trust and we receive in baptism God’s promise that we belong to him and he to us. We must respond to this in faith by following Christ all our days.

No one should presume on his baptism as a “free pass” into heaven, but neither should anyone despise his baptism in unbelief.

Some thoughts on Siouxland Presbytery’s document: Part 7-Justifying Faith

Posted here:

1. a. We affirm that justifying faith receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness held forth in the Gospel for pardon of sin and for the accepting and account of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation (L 72).
1. b. We deny that justifying faith justifies a sinner because of any of those other graces that do always accompany it, or because of any act of justifying faith being imputed to him for his justification (L 73).
2. a. We affirm that justifying faith is an instrument by which a sinner receives and applies Christ and his righteousness (L 73).
2. b. Consequently, we deny that prelapsarian Adam or Christ could have had or did have this justifying faith and so be counted righteous by such a faith.

Fine. But the faith of prelapsarian Adam or of Christ could be counted as their righteousness. In other words, their trust in God would be pleasing to him and also be the motive cause of all their obedience to him. Their faith was not justifying in that they were relying on a substitute/representative and his alien righteousness, but they did have faith, that faith motivated their obedience, and it was the root of all other obedience which flowed from it.

Furthermore, the Westminster Confession is right to insist that faith is not the ground of our justification. However, “righteousness” is a term in the Bible sometimes use for meeting conditions of the covenant. Also, faith is that condition in the Covenant of Grace (i.e. as it is defined in Larger Catechism q&a #32). Thus, it is true by such definitions that, for all believers their faith is counted as righteousness (the condition of the covenant of grace). This would in no way deny that their faith is in no way the meritorious ground of their standing before God, which is only in the alien righteousness of Christ receive instrumentally by faith.

My only point in bringing this up is to show why I am concerned that this section lays out confusing grounds by which a person could be accused of saying something improper, merely for relaying common knowledge in Biblical studies. Again, at the very least this warrants some discussion. I can’t help but wonder here if innocent statements are being misconstrued.