The Death of Christ for Us (Turretin)

 Francis Turretin (d. 1687) did a very good job of summarizing Scripture’s account of Christ’s atonement as satisfying the justice of God.  In his section called “The Necessity of the Satisfaction,” he wrote the following (I’ve edited it slightly):

Sin, which renders us guilty, binds us over to punishment as hated of God. It [sin] may be viewed 1) as a debt which we are bound to pay to divine justice, in which sense the law is called “a hand-writing,” (Col 2:14) 2) as a principle of enmity, whereby we hate God and he becomes our enemy: 3) as a crime against the government of the universe by which, before God, the supreme governor and judge, we become deserving of everlasting death and malediction.

Whence, sinners are expressly called 1) “debtors,” (Matt. 6:12); 2) “enemies to God,” both actively and passively, (Col. 1:21); 3) “and guilty before God,” (Rom. 3:19.) We, therefore, infer that three things were necessary in order to our redemption; the payment of the debt contracted by sin, the appeasing of the divine wrath, and the expiation of guilt.

[Therefore] the nature of the satisfaction to be made may be easily perceived: the payment of the debt, the appeasing of the divine wrath (by reconciling us with him) and the expiation of guilt (by the endurance of punishment).

Francis Turretin, Institutes, II, pages 418-419.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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Abortion and Dehumanization (Pearcey)

 I’m very much enjoying Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Love Thy Body.  I’ll come back to it again later, but for now I wanted to share an insightful observation of Pearcey’s in the first chapter:

If you favor abortion, you are implicitly saying that in the early stages of life, an unborn baby has so little value that it can be killed for any reason – or no reason – without any moral consequence. Whatever your feelings, that is a very low view of life. Then, by sheer logic, you must say that at some later time the baby becomes a person, at which point it requires such high value that killing it would be a crime.

The implication is that as long as the pre-born child is deemed to be human but not a person, it is just a disposable piece of matter – a natural resource like timber or corn. It can be used for research and experiments, tinkered with genetically, harvested for organs, and then disposed of with the other medical waste.

The assumption at the heart of abortion, then, is personhood theory, with its two tiered view of the human being – one that sees no value in a living human body but places all our worth in the mind or consciousness.

Personhood thus presumes a very low view of the human body, which ultimately dehumanizes all of us. For if our bodies do not have inherent value, then a key part of our identity is devalued. What we will discover is that this same body/person dichotomy, with its denigration of the body, is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related ethical issues.

Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body, p. 20.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

A Theological Problem of Theonomy (Kline)

 One of the more profound and, in my opinion, helpful critiques of theonomy was written by Meredith Kline in volume 41 (1978/79) of the Westminster Theological Journal.   In this article called “Comments on an Old-New Error”, Kline is interacting with Greg Bahnsen’s 1977 publication, Theonomy in Christian Ethics.  There are quite a few points in Kline’s article to discuss, but one major critique he makes is that theonomy’s version of postmillenialism and politics goes against the grain of the common grace covenant God made with Noah and “every living creature” in Genesis 9.  I’ve added [ ] brackets to [hopefully!] make it easier to read.  It’s not the easiest article to read, but it is worth the effort!  (Note: “Chalcedon” is a referent to the 1970’s Chalcedon Foundation, which was an advocate of theonomy.)

First, Kline explains theonomy’s brand of postmillenial politics:

Along with the hermeneutical deficiencies of Chalcedon’s [version of] postmillennialism there is a fundamental theological problem that besets it. And here we come around again to Chalcedon’s confounding the biblical concepts of the holy and the common. As we have seen, Chalcedon’s brand of postmillennialism envisages as the climax of the millennium something more than a high degree of success in the church’s evangelistic mission to the world [as with historic postmillenialism]. An additional millennial prospect (one they particularly relish) is that of a material prosperity and a world-wide eminence and dominance of Christ’s established kingdom on earth, with a divinely enforced submission of the nations of the world to the government of the Christocracy. For example, appealing to Isaiah 60:3, 10, 12, Bahnsen declares that during the millennial period the kings of the Gentiles will either minister unto God’s kingdom or they will utterly perish (p, 428).

Next, Kline gives a critique based on Genesis 9:

The insuperable theological objection to any and every such chiliastic [millenial] construction is that it entails the assumption of a premature eclipse of the order of common grace. That order was formalized in the post-diluvian [post-flood] world by the divine covenant of Genesis 9 and by the terms of that covenant it is in force as ‘long as the earth endures,’ that is, until the cosmic re-creation at the consummation (cf. 2 Pet, 3: 7, 11-13). A basic and essential structure of that common grace order is the institution of the common state [cf. Romans 13]. This civil institution, unlike the nation Israel, which was separated unto a distinctive institutional identity as a holy, redemptive, theocratic kingdom, is not a holy but rather common institution, with its citizenry a mixture of both the holy and the non-holy.  It [the civil institution of the state] does not, as did the Israelite kingdom, possess special guarantees of a material prosperity unfailingly equal to the measure of its obedience to the law of God nor does it enjoy the promise of an ultimate perfecting of its beatitude. Its prospect is that of eventual termination rather than consummation. And meanwhile it must run its course within the uncertainties of the mutually conditioning principles of common grace and common curse, prosperity and adversity being experienced in a manner largely unpredictable because of the inscrutable sovereignty of the divine will that dispenses them in mysterious wisdom.

In this last paragraph I’ll quote, Kline explains that the temporary and typical theocracy of Israel in the Old Testament existed in the context of the common grace covenant of Genesis 9:

The existence of Israel as a holy kingdom with special guarantees of prosperity constituted an intrusive exception within the pattern of common grace nations. But the Israelite theocracy was only a limited, local kingdom, serving as merely a typical [a type] model of the ultimate universal theocracy, and hence it did not effect the abolishment of the common grace order [established by God in Genesis 9]. That order with all its common nations was able to coexist with theocratic Israel. But millennial theories that attribute to the pre-consummation [before Christ’s final coming] stage of the history of the messianic age the fulfillment of the prophecies of the visible, universal, holy, messianic theocratic kingdom  postulate the abrogation of the common grace order prior to the consummation.  …God committed himself in this ancient [Genesis 9] covenant to maintain that order as long as the earth endures.

Again, there’s more to the argument, but I think this is one helpful critique of theonomy’s postmillenial politics: it runs roughshod over the post-flood creational covenant of Genesis 9. Perhaps I’ll come back to other parts of this article later.

For now, here’s the citation: Meredith Kline, “Comments on an Old-New Error” in Westminster Theological Journal 41.1, pages 172-179.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Dimensions of Repentance in the OT (Boda)

 I enjoyed this book by Mark Boda called Return to Me: A Biblical Theology of Repentance.  As the title suggests, it is a summary of the Bible’s teaching on repentance from Genesis to Revelation.  Each chapter is called something like this: “Repentance in the Torah,” or “Repentance in the Latter Prophets,” etc.  While studying 2 Chronicles 19:4, I read over some parts of Boda’s book and I saw this section that I had marked up earlier.  It’s about the dimensions of repentance in Old Testament theology:

Repentance throughout the Old Testament involves a shift in relationship, in behavior, in affection, and is often accompanied by a verbal declaration and/or ritual acts.  I call these dimensions of repentance because they occur within the same context as simultaneous aspects of repentance.

At the core of the old testament theology of repentance is the relational dimension.  The change in relationship is often explicitly expressed as a shift from a foreign god or gods to Yahweh.  While this may have a behavioral aspect to it, such as destroying or abandoning one’s idols, it is the relational shift that is key as the person or people exchange their relationship with one deity or deities for a relationship with Yahweh.  At times, however, the focus is on returning to Yahweh without explicit reference to turning from other gods.

… Repentance, however, is not reduced to a shift in external behavior, that is, repentance is not mere moralism. Across the Old Testament there is a consistent emphasis on the kind of change that entails an inner reorientation.  This is seen in the regular reference to the heart or soul in contexts that encourage repentance.  This is best expressed by the oft-repeated phrase ‘with all one’s heart’ (and soul and might).  Internal characteristics include humility, sincerity, truthfulness, fear/reverence, tenderness, contriteness and lowliness of spirit, heavy heart and broken spirit, shame and humiliation, loathing, trembling, love, willingness, and steadfastness.  Repentance at times it involves not just a change in behavior (whether action or speech) but a change in perspective, whether that is shifting one’s view of God as seen in Malachi 2:17, 3:15, and Job 42:1-6, or seeking insight into God’s truth in Daniel 9:13….

There is more to Boda’s summary of repentance in the Old Testament, but this is a helpful part of that summary.  Boda did give a list of Scripture references for these aspects of repentance, to be sure.  If you want the entire summary, or if you want a good resource on the theme of repentance in the Bible, get this book: Return to Me

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

Christ Our Mediator (Chrysostom)

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1.13: Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon While studying 1 Timothy 2:5 (For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus... [NASB]) I ran across these helpful comments by Chrysostom:

Now a mediator ought to have communion with both parties between whom he is to mediate. For this is the property of a mediator, to be in close communion with each of those whose mediator he is. For he would be no longer a mediator if he were connected with one but separated from the other. If therefore He partakes not of the nature of the Father, He is not a Mediator, but is separated. For as He is partaker of the nature of men, because He came to men, so is He partaker of the nature of God, because He came from God. Because He was to mediate between two natures, He must approximate to the two natures; for as the place situated between two others is joined to each place, so must that between natures be joined to either nature. As therefore He became Man, so was He also God.

A [regular] man could not have become a mediator, because he must also plead with God. God could not have been mediator, since those could not receive Him, toward whom He should have mediated. And as elsewhere he says, “There is one God the Father, … and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6); so also here “One” God, and “One” Mediator; he does not say two; for he would not have that number wrested to Polytheism, of which he was speaking. So he wrote “One” and “One.” You see how accurate are the expressions of Scripture!

 John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy,”  vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 430.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Definite Atonement, the Gospel Call, and Rejecting Christ (Newton)

 In a sermon on John 1:29, John Newton discussed definite atonement and the free offer of the gospel.  He admitted there is mystery in this area of Scripture’s teaching:

“I am not disheartened by meeting with some things beyond the grasp of my scanty powers in a book which I believe to be inspired by Him whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours, ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth.’

Later in the sermon, Newton said that the biblical command for “all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30) implies a “warrant to believe in the name of Jesus, as taking away the sin of the world.”  It’s a serious call to repentance and faith, a kind summons for sinners to receive free forgiveness in Christ.

Let it not be said that to call upon men to believe, which is an act beyond their natural power, is to mock them.  There are prescribed means for the obtaining of faith, which it is not beyond their natural power to comply with, if they are not wilfully obstinate.  We have the word of God for our authority.  ‘God cannot be mocked,’ neither doth he mock his creatures.  Our Lord did not mock the young ruler when he told him that if he would sell his possessions on earth, and follow him, ‘he should have treasure in heaven.’  Had this ruler no power to sell his possessions?  I doubt not but that he himself thought he had power to sell them if he pleased….

…We cannot ascribe too much to the grace of God [in the salvation of sinners], but we should be careful that, under a semblance of exalting his grace, we do not furnish the slothful and unfaithful with excuses for their wilfulness and wickedness.  God is gracious; but let man be justly responsible for his own evil, and not presume to state his case so, as would, by just consequence, represent the holy God as being the cause of the sin which he hates and forbids.

These are some excellent points to remember.  The teaching of Scripture is that it is right and proper to call all people to repentance and faith, sincerely promising them that if they come to Christ, they will receive forgiveness and eternal life.  It’s also true that salvation is all of grace, yet God is not to blame when sinners reject the gospel call.

The entire sermon – which is very much worth reading! – is called “The Lamb of God, the Great Atonement” and it is found in volume four of Newton’s Works.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54014

He Knew All Your Sins (Goodwin)

The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 5 The saving work of our mediator, Christ Jesus, is something deep, wide, rich, and beautiful in ways that are beyond our fallen and finite minds.  It isn’t an exaggeration to say that in Christ we find absolutely everything we need for salvation and for our Christian life.  Everything!

In his book Christ the Mediator Thomas Goodwin (d. 1680) explored many of the benefits we have in Christ.  There are too many to list here for sure!  One part of this book that I appreciate is the section where Goodwin talked about the “use” or application of the fact that Christ was made a curse for us, redeeming us who were under the law (cf. Gal. 4:4-5).  He lists quite a few points of application.  The one below was especially comforting to me.  I’ve edited it slightly:

It may serve to strengthen thy faith against particular sins by this, that Christ bore them. Say and plead to Christ when thou beggest pardon, ‘Was not this sin in the number?’ And as we make it a great upholding to faith, to consider that God knew beforehand what we would be, and that we would sin, and yet chose us, and that therefore no sins will put him off.

So we may also as well make use of this similar consideration, that Jesus Christ also, when he died for us, knew what we would be, and what our sins would be, and yet refused not our bill of sins, nor our names given to him, but bore all those sins of ours in his body on the tree. And if he had meant to have refused thee for thy sins, he would have done it then, at the cross.

When a new sin is committed, we are apt to be amazed, and to call everything in question. If indeed thou couldst commit a sin which God and Christ had not known; if any sin were or could be now new unto Christ, then it might trouble thee; but there is none that is so, but even this sin that troubles thy conscience so much was amongst the rest that God knew of and Jesus bore on the cross.

 Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 5 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 187.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015