Hodge on Imputation

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes Here are some great words by Charles Hodge on imputation and justification.

The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification. The word impute is familiar and unambiguous. To impute is to ascribe to, to reckon to, to lay to one’s charge. When we say we impute a good or bad motive to a man, or that a good or evil action is imputed to him, no one misunderstands our meaning. Philemon had no doubt what Paul meant when he told him to impute to him the debt of Onesimus. “Let not the king impute anything unto his servant.” (1 Sam. 22:16.) “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me.” (2 Sam. 19:19.) “Neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it.” (Lev. 7:18.) “Blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood.” (Lev. 17:4.) “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity.” (Ps. 32:2.) “Unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” (Romans 4:6.) God is “in Christ not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2 Cor. 5:19.)

…We use the word impute in its simple admitted sense, when we say that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification.

…It seems unnecessary to remark that this does not, and cannot mean that the righteousness of Christ is infused into the believer, or in any way so imparted to him as to change, or constitute his moral character. Imputation never changes the inward, subjective state of the person to whom the imputation is made. When sin is imputed to a man he is not made sinful; when the zeal of Phinehas was imputed to him, he was not made zealous. When you impute theft to a man, you do not make him a thief. When you impute goodness to a man, you do not make him good. So when righteousness is imputed to the believer, he does not thereby become subjectively righteous. If the righteousness be adequate, and if the imputation be made on adequate grounds and by competent authority, the person to whom the imputation is made has the right to be treated as righteous. And, therefore, in the forensic, although not in the moral or subjective sense, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does make the sinner righteous. That is, it gives him a right to the full pardon of all his sins and a claim in justice to eternal life.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Volume 3, p. 144-145.

rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

God Hates Divorce?

Product Details “…For I hate divorce….’  These words in Malachi 2:16 are known (but not always lived out!) by many evangelicals.  It should be noted, however, that this translation isn’t accepted by nearly all commentators or Bible translations (i.e. Luther, the Septuagint, the ESV, etc).  One issue is that the Hebrew verb (hate/sanah) is 3rd person masculine singular – “he hates” or “he that hates”; another issue is that there is a conjunction before the verb “hate” that could be translated “if” or “for”; still one more issue is the teaching in Deuteronomy 24 and Ezra 9, where God actually allowed divorces and divorce certificates for certain reasons.  Because of these and other translation issues, we should pause before accepting the above translation (…For I hate divorce…).

Though I’m still working through this text and it’s meaning/application, I appreciate what Douglas Stuart has to say about it (building on Gordon Hugenberger’s work Marriage As A Covenant).  I don’t have the space and time here to reproduce his entire argument, but below are a few helpful summary notes and quotes.

Stuart’s translation is this: “If one hates and divorces” – Yahweh, Israel’s God said – “he covers his clothes with crime” – Yahweh of the Armies said.  Stuart argues that this translation 1) doesn’t require emendation of the Hebrew verb, 2) fits the immediate context, and 3) is consistent with the divorce teaching of Deuteronomy 24 and Ezra 9.

“For those who would recognize the over dependence of the prophets on the Pentateuch and of Malachi specifically on Deuteronomy, it is entirely reasonable to expect that Malachi would be careful in the process of condemning what his contemporaries were doing – divorcing their first wives to marry pagans – not to state that all divorce was illegal.

“…Through [Malachi] came the revelation of God in consistency with all prior divine revelation, some of which regulated – but did not license – divorce.  Moses and Malachi come at the issue of divorce from different angles.  Moses allows it under certain conditions.  Malachi condemns it except under certain conditions.  But inasmuch as these conditions appear to be identical, employing even the same essential vocabulary in definition of the actions involved, their respective doctrines are compatible.”

In summary, Stuart argues that Malachi 2:16 “prohibits aversion-based divorce but is not concerned with divorce for other reasons.”  Without making any interpretive remarks, I think Stuart’s argument is compelling.  You’ll have to get his helpful commentary found in Thomas McComiskey’s edited set on the Minor Prophets to read Stuart’s entire argument.  (And congrats if you can find it for a decent price!)

shane lems
hammond, wi

Created for Covenantal Relationships and Duties: Richard Phillips’ Response to “Wild at Heart”

In preparing for a seminar for the men of our church in a couple of weeks, I’ve been reading through Richard D. Phillips’ nice little book The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men. I’ve come to appreciate Phillips greatly on a number of topics. His book on dating, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating (co-written with his wife, Sharon) is one I recommend highly. He holds to conservative, complementarian values, while steering clear of many of the snares of the Christian patriarchy movement. His booklet on the Lord’s Supper in the Basics of the Reformed Faith series is also a gem.

The Masculine Mandate has been an excellent read so far and I appreciate that he puts the emphasis in the right place with regard to what Christian men are truly called to be doing as marks of “Christian masculinity.” This actually pits him against many of the “Christian man” books that are out there with their “burly man” approaches to masculinity. In an effort to contrast the popular view of Christian manhood with the biblical view, he offers a critique of one of the most popular books of the last 15 years on the subject, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.

In Chapter 1, “Man in the Garden,” Phillips explains:

Since its publication in 2001, the top Christian book on manhood has been John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. This book has become practically a cottage industry, complete with supporting videos, workbooks, and even a “Field Manual.” In my opinion, Wild at Heart gained traction with Christian men in large part because it calls us to stop being sissies, to cease trying to get in touch with our “feminine side” (mine is named Sharon), and instead to embark on an exciting quest to discover or male identity. I can add my hearty “Amen!” to the idea that Christian men should reject a feminized idea of manhood. The problem is that the basic approach to masculinity presented in Wild at Heart is almost precisely opposite from what is really taught in the Bible. For this reason, this book has, in my opinion, sown much confusion among men seeking a truly biblical sense of masculinity.

We encounter major errors in Wild at Heart right at the beginning, where Eldredge discusses Genesis 2:8: “Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden’s garden. But Adam, if you’ll remember, was created outside the garden, in the wilderness.” Eldredge reasons here that if God “put the man” into the garden, he must’ve been made outside the garden. While the Bible does not actually say this, it’s plausible. But even assuming it’s true, what are we to make of it? Eldredge makes an unnecessary and most unhelpful leap of logic, concluding that the “core of a man’s heart is undomesticated,” and because we are “wild at heart,” our souls must belong in the wilderness and not in the cultivated garden. That is, Eldredge assumes and then teaches as a point of doctrine a view of manhood that Scripture simply does not support.

It’s easy to understand how this teaching has appealed to men who labor in office buildings or feel imprisoned by the obligations of marriage, parenthood, and civilized society. But there is one thing Eldredge does not notice. God put the man in the garden. The point of wild at heart is that a man finds his identity outside the garden in wilderness quest. In contrast, the point of Genesis 2:8 is that God has put the man into the garden, into the world of covenantal relationships and duties, in order to gain and act out his God-given identity there. If God intends men to be wild at heart, how strange that he placed man in the garden, where his life would be shaped not by self-centered identity quests but by covenantal bonds and blessings.

Pgs. 6-7.

The opening illustration of this chapter tells the story of a Moto-X freestyle rider named Brian Deegan who, by God’s grace, was convicted of his sin and became a Christian. He left a lifestyle consumed by seeking pleasure, alcohol, drugs and violence, and sought to grow as a Christian husband and father. Phillips notes that Deegan still has much maturing to do, but Deegan himself is fully aware of that fact.

After drawing attention to John Eldredge’s exegetical missteps, Phillips makes a final reference to Deegan:

Let me end this chapter by going back to Brian Deegan. The last thing this brother needs to be told – newly married, with his little baby on his lap, and through his God-given talent holding a position of influence among his generation – is that God wants him to look on life as a series of ego-adventures in the wilderness so that he might find his masculine self. That is precisely what Deegan was doing prior to becoming a Christian. Indeed, this is what modern and postmodern masculinity has been all about – men behaving like little boys forever, serving themselves in the name of self-discovery.

Pg. 9 (Bold emphasis added).

Would that we as Christian men might grow in maturity and be better leaders and servants in our families, churches and communities. Richard Phillips’ The Masculine Mandate is a good resource for considering how to do just that.

R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

Repentance Became Impossible

1 Samuel: Looking at the Heart (Focus on the Bible) I very much appreciate Dale Davis’ comments on 1 Samuel 2:25b which has to do with God’s sovereignty in judgment on Hophni and Phinehas.  Too often people speculate when it comes to this topic, leading down the road of hyper-Calvinism.  Davis, however, stays balanced:

“…[The text says] Eli’s sons did not listen to him because (‘for’) Yahweh had decided to put them to death.  Hophni’s and Phinehas’ resistance was not the rationale for Yahweh’s judgment but the result of his judgment.  A perfectly just judgment.  We cannot divorce verse 25 from the previous account of Hophni and Phinehas’ impudence and immorality.  In that light verse 25b says that for their persisting rebellion Yahweh decided to put them to death and that, therefore, they had not listened to Eli’s plea.  So the text teaches that someone can remain so firm in his rebellion that God will confirm him in it, so much that he will remain utterly deaf to and unmoved by any warning of judgment or pleas of repentance.”

“…Be careful of your response to such teaching.  Some of you may become Yahweh’s prosecutors, alleging he is deficient in mercy.  Others may be intellectually curious about the mechanics of hardening – at what point in sin’s progress does it become impossible to repent?  Both the critic and the curious are wrong.  Our place is not to question or to comprehend but to tremble before a God who can justly make sinners deaf to the very call to repentance” (p. 34-5).

Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel (Ross-Shire, Christian Focus Publications, 1988).

shane lems

A Brief History of Hebrew Vowels

Beginning Biblical Hebrew Ever wonder how the transcribing/copying of the Hebrew Bible developed over time?  Mark Futato has a helpful summary:

1) During the original phase, Hebrew was written without any vowels indicated in the script.  The letters qdoc could have meant ‘righteousness,’ ‘his righteousness,’ they are righteous,’ etc.  This phase was before King David, ca. 1,400 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.

2) During the middle phase, several letters of the alphabet came to be used to indicate certain vowels.  The letters wqdoc could have meant ‘his righteousness,’ or ‘they are righteous,’ but not ‘righteousness.’  …This phase was after King David, ca. 1,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.

3) During the final phase, ‘points’ were added to the text to eliminate ambiguity.  The word AqïD>c; could only have meant ‘they are righteous.’  This phase was c.a. 700 A.D. to 1000 A.D.

The scholars responsible for adding the vowel signs to the text are called Masoretes [Jewish scribes – spl].  The text of the Bible produced by the Mastoretes is called the ‘Masoretic Text,’ abbreviated MT.

Mark D. Futato, Beginning Biblical Hebrew (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 7.

shane lems

It Was a ‘God Thing’ (Really?)

Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology For Pilgrims on The Way (This is a repost from February, 2012)
I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase, “It was a God-thing” or something similar.  What evangelicals usually mean by this phrase is that God was somehow directly or immediately at work through some instance in their life.  For example, someone will say that they really needed to hear a certain song on Christian radio on the drive to work – and since it played, “it was a God-thing” (despite the fact that the radio station plays this song 437 times each day).  One problem with this is the subjectiveness of it all.  Why wouldn’t it be a “God-thing” to keep the radio off and pray?  Or why wouldn’t it be a “God-thing” to carpool to work to save gas money?  Couldn’t it be a “God-thing” to think about your schedule for the day?  Or, might it be a “God-thing” to walk or bike to work for much-needed exercise?  The subjective list goes on.

A section of Mike Horton’s The Christian Faith uncovers another error behind this way of thinking. Paradoxically, many evangelicals who talk about everything being a “God-thing” are Arminian when it comes to salvation, regeneration, and faith.  It’s a “God-thing” to hear a Third Day song on the way to work, but choosing Christ and letting him into your heart or making him Lord of your life – that’s a “man-thing.”  Oddly, many evangelicals use monergistic language for things like songs on the radio at the right time but synergistic language for regeneration.  Horton says it well as he discusses God’s sovereignty in providence and secondary causes (causa secundae).

“Ironically, many today who would not affirm a classic Christian notion of divine sovereignty in salvation nevertheless often speak as if God does all things in their daily lives directly, without any instrumental means or ‘secondary causes.’  If one attributes a remarkable recovery from an illness to the skill of the physicians, well-meaning Christians are sometimes inclined to reply, ‘Yes, but God was the one who healed her.’  In more extreme cases, some believers even excuse their laziness and lack of wisdom or preparation by appealing to God’s sovereignty.  ‘Just pray about it'; ‘If God wants it to happen, it will happen.'”

“To be sure, the truth of God’s providence is meant to assure believers that ultimately our times our in God’s hands, but God does not fulfill all of his purposes directly.  In fact, it is his ordinary course to employ means, whether human beings or weather patterns, social upheavals, animal migrations, various vocations, and a host of other factors over which he has ultimate control.  We are comforted by the truth that God works all things – even adversity – into his plan for our salvation.  God provides, but we are commanded to pray for our daily bread and to labor in our callings.”

This quote is found on page 361 of The Christian Faith.

shane lems

To Humbly Bow Before God’s Secrets

Here’s an excellent section (para. VIII) from the French Confession of Faith (1559).  There are, of course, parallels with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism in this paragraph – but more importantly, it is a great summary of Scripture’s teaching on God’s providence and sovereignty.

“We believe that he not only created all things, but that he governs and directs them, disposing and ordaining by his sovereign will all that happens in the world; not that he is the author of evil, or that the guilt of it can be imputed to him, as his will is the sovereign and infallible rule of all right and justice; but he hath wonderful means of so making use of devils and sinners that he can turn to good the evil which they do, and of which they are guilty. And thus, confessing that the providence of God orders all things, we humbly bow before the secrets which are hidden to us, without questioning what is above our understanding; but rather making use of what is revealed to us in Holy Scripture for our peace and safety, inasmuch as God, who has all things in subjection to him, watches over us with a Father’s care, so that not a hair of our heads shall fall without his will. And yet he restrains the devils and all our enemies, so that they can not harm us without his leave [permission].

Found on page 115 of Thy Word is Still Truth.

shane lems