Posts Tagged ‘Historical theology’

Augustine and Calvin

This post is mostly a personal recollection about how I came to know “the doctrines of grace” or “Calvinism.” There have been a couple of instances recently that have prompted me to think about how it was that I became a Calvinist. Before I delve into some personal reflection, however, I should like to tidy up things on a terminological level. What’s meant by the terms “Calvinism,” “the doctrines of grace,” “sovereign grace,” and the like?

Typically, people use all of those words/phrases to point to John Calvin’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation. Calvin, however, was no innovator. The set of teachings that bears his name has very little to do with him specifically. (more…)


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An Outline Of Christian Worship Its Development And FormsAn Outline Of Christian Worship Its Development And Forms by William D. Maxwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review will be a little longer than others, for Maxwell’s little book was like a bombshell for me. If nothing else, I learned that I know very, very little about historic Christian worship. I found, with some astonishment, that I knew virtually nothing of the liturgical nomenclature. I virtually had to have a dictionary open in one hand as I read this little volume. Maybe there is a liturgical dictionary out there (if so, please let me know, and I will buy it promptly, as I need it!), but I was swimming just trying to keep up with language of historic Christian worship. In a word, this book taught me that my ignorance is immense. (more…)

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I ran across a gorgeous little ditty from John Calvin today. It fits into the discussion about God’s will and the salvation of people. Calvin’s little tract is called “Articles concerning Predestination”; it’s found in a volume translated and edited by J.K.S. Reid entitled Calvin: Theological Treatises. In that the article is short, I will reproduce the whole thing below and then add some comments afterward.

Articles concerning Predestination

Before the first man was created, God in his eternal counsel had determined what he willed to be done with the whole human race.

In the hidden counsel of God it was determined that Adam should fall from the unimpaired condition of his nature, and by his defection should involve all his posterity in sentence of eternal death.

Upon the same decree depends the distinction between elect and reprobate: as he adopted some for himself for salvation, he destined others for eternal ruin. (more…)

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The following is an articulation, not an attempt to “prove” covenant theology from Scripture. Maybe it will be a benefit to you.

The so-called Covenant of Redemption (CoR) is between the Persons of the Godhead. It is God’s plan for redemptive history. The CoR gives rise to two distinct but related *historical* covenants: the Covenant of Works (CoW) and the Covenant of Grace (CoG).

BAD Covenant

The CoW is between God and Adam. Adam failed in it and death was the divine sanction (consequence/punishment). Adam was constituted (by God) as a public figure, representing all his posterity. Thus, we all fell in Adam. We all broke the CoW and stand condemned under it. This, of course, was God’s plan. God (according to his eternal plan, which we’re calling the CoR) purposed to send a second public person, Christ, the Last Adam.

Since the CoW failed to bring life, God immediately instituted another covenant, which we call the CoG. In the CoG, fallen and sinful men receive not just forgiveness, but the fullness of life (the same thing that God implicitly offered Adam in the CoW). These blessings come to fallen man as sheer grace. Fallen man (under the condemnation of the CoW) could never earn these blessings. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, however, could and did earn them.

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Too often (mostly all the time) we gauge God’s power by our own impotence. If God can conquer one sinner, he can conquer every one of them. If God can take one soldier from the kingdom of darkness and transfer him into the Kingdom of his own dear Son, he can take ALL that’s Satan’s and give it to his Son. If you’re reading this post, chances are very high that God has done exactly this for you. If he’s done this for you, why not your recalcitrant neighbor who hates Christ? Why not your whole neighborhood? How about your whole town or county? Too much to think? Really?!

Let’s do an experiment. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our Christian brothers in Rome in the year AD 64. This was the year that Nero began persecuting the Christians, lighting them up in his gardens, feeding them to beasts in the Coliseum, and generally terrorizing the Christians for almost five years. Nero was the head of the Roman Empire, the greatest force in the world. This Empire was opposed to Christ and purposed (on and off) to stamp out Christianity. Okay, now we’re back in Rome, hidden underground, praying for our brothers that have been arrested, and praying that the Roman authorities do not find us. How absolutely unthinkable is it that the Roman Empire should be a Christian Empire? What kind of pipe dream is it that Caesar should become a Christian, and that Christianity should become the official religion of the Empire? That could NEVER happen… (more…)

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Heidelberg Catechism #42

Q: Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?

A: Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.

Theological: Christians still die… why? First thing is that Christ has transformed EVERYTHING for Christians. Death is something. Ergo, Christ has transformed death for Christians. Death, for the Christian, might be unknown, and, to that degree, might be scary. Death is not, however, a punishment for the Christian. Death IS a punishment for those outside of Christ. One gets the impression that death for the Christian (that is, when it actually happens) is actually a pleasure. Without doubt, it’s certainly a portal to eternal pleasure. After all, at Yahweh’s right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:11).  Death is an entrance into those pleasures. The saint will live in those pleasures until the resurrection, when those pleasures will be perfected. Similarly (or maybe conversely), for those outside of Christ, death is punishment and an entrance into eternal punishment, which will be perfected at the resurrection. Christ has removed the sting of death (1 Cor 15), but not its use as a major point of transition.

Practical: You know, everyone’s gotta die… at least for the most part. There will be one generation that doesn’t have to, but, aside from them, we all face death. Steve Job’s comments about death are interesting, but seem flat when compared with eternal joys or punishment. You can see Steve’s full speech here. People outside of Christ should be horrified by death. Typically they are. Sometimes, however, they are act as if they don’t care, or that it doesn’t bother them. These folks are either simply lying (to themselves and/or to others) or are deluded. Death, therefore, is an evangelistic tool… use it. Preach it. Speak about it. If folks accuse you of being morbid, tell them you only speak of death in order to draw attention to the eternal life found only in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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Cur Deus HomoCur Deus Homo by St. Anselm of Canterbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anselm’s famous book was on one hand exactly what I thought it’d be, and on the other hand refreshingly different from what I expected.

Cur Deus Homo is often referenced in discussions of why the incarnation of the Son of God factored into the atonement which he purchased. It is quite common (praise the Lord) for people to speak of the Savior needing to be man because only a human could pay for human sin and also needing to be God, as only God could do the job of reconciling sinful men to an infinitely holy God. I totally expected to find this explained in Anselm’s book, and I was not disappointed.

I was also refreshed by a few things that I did not expect. The first thing that I didn’t expect was Anselm’s lucid style. This book is set as a dialog ‘twixt Anselm and Boso, a curious and educated inquirer. I think the style of the dialog is excellent and should be used more often. What’s more, I’ve heard Anselm referred to as the Augustine of the Middle Ages. With his clear writing style and the way in which he handles ideas, I can understand why Anselm enjoys that high distinction. Augustine, too, was a fabulous and lucid writer. I find that usually the great ones are far easier to understand than their handlers. Finally, the way in which Anselm conceives of the redemption purchased by the God-man is at once very similar, but also quite foreign to the contemporary discussion of the matter. I don’t want to go into detail here in this short review, but suffice it to say that there is great benefit in reading ancient writers. If nothing else, they can help us to see how our thinking is both modern and all-too-provincial.

One weakness of Anselm’s approach, it seems to me, is that he’s self-consciously and explicitly attempting to give a rational accounting of how the incarnation factors into the atonement. Thus, while he does occasionally refer to Scripture, and even call it the only rock on which we’re to build a sturdy house, reason is his guiding light in this book. In Cur Deus Homo he’s trying to show how the biblical doctrine and the church teaching regarding atonement through the God-man is rational. To that degree, I guess I have no beef. I would just like to see him root his work more deeply in the Scripture, which is, after all, the sword of the Spirit. His reliance upon reason, however, is part of what’s earned him another one of his titles (valid or not): the father of scholasticism.

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