Denying Hell? (Turretin)

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 Volumes

The last section of Francis Turretin’s Institutes appropriately covers the doctrine of the last things (eschatology). Turretin’s seventh question is this: “Is there a hell? And what are its punishments…?” Turretin immediately says yes, hell is real and it is a place of punishment for the wicked. He gives numerous Scripture quotations to defend the doctrine of hell (Mk. 9:44, Mt. 22:13, Mt. 25:41, Rev. 19:20, Heb. 6:2, Mt. 3:7, etc. etc.). In other words, Turretin says, yes, quite clearly the doctrine of hell is taught in the Bible. I like how he then commented on the question itself:

We think it is superfluous to inquire whether there is a hell, whatever Epicureans and atheists (who consider it as a mere figment and empty scarecrow of the simple) may say. For it is asserted in so many passages of the Scriptures, and is confirmed by so many arguments (whether from the justice of God, or from the curse of the law, or from the heinousness and demerit of sin, or from the terrors and torments of conscience) that it is a proof not only of the highest impiety, but also madness to question or deny it. Those deriders will too well feel its truth and terribleness to their own great hurt.

Francis Turretin, Institutes, volume 3, p. 605.

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

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

Why Do Reformed Churches Baptize Infants? (Horton)

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by [Horton, Michael] There are several different biblical reasons why Reformed churches baptize both infants and adults.  Louis Berkhof, Francis Turretin, Charles Hodge, John Calvin, and others have pointed out the various biblical reasons why Reformed churches baptize infants as well as adults.  There’s obviously more to the discussion, but I appreciate how Michael Horton put it:

From a covenantal perspective, it is impossible to separate the claim that the children of believers are holy (1 Cor 7:14) from the sign and seal of the covenant.  According to the traditional Anabaptist/Baptist view, the children are not regarded as holy until they personally repent and believe.  However, the New Testament preserves the clean/unclean distinction, only now it pertains not to Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised, but to believing and unbelieving families, with baptism as the covenant’s ratification.  In fact, Paul especially labors the point that all, Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised, are Abraham’s children and heirs of the Abrahamic covenant through faith alone, just like Abraham (Rom 4:3 with Gen. 15:6, Gal. 3-4).  The church, in its unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ, is understood as the fulfillment of Israel’s existence (Mt 21:43; Rom 9:25-26, 2 Cor 6:16, Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9, Gal 6:16; Rev. 5:9).  Everything turns on whether we assume continuity or discontinuity as most fundamental to interpreting the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Given the way that the New Testament itself interprets the Old, we should privilege continuity.

If this is the case, then the burden of proof shifts from the paedobaptists (i.e., infant baptizers) to Baptists.  Given the Jewish background of the first Christians, it would not be the command to administer the sign and seal of the covenant to their children that would have been surprising, but the command to cease administering it to them.  However, we are not left to an argument from silence.  This promise for believers and their children is exhibited in the conversion and baptism of Lydia.  After she believed the gospel, ‘she was baptized, and her household as well’ (Acts 16:15).  Later in the same chapter, we read of the conversion of the Philippian jailer.  He too is told, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household…and he was baptized at once, he and all his family’ (vv 31, 33).  Paul recalls having baptized the household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16).  If children are included in the covenant of grace under its Old Testament administration, surely they are not excluded in the new covenant administration, which the writer to the Hebrews calls ‘better’ than the old (Heb. 7:22).

Again, there’s more to the discussion, but I appreciate Horton’s words on the continuity between the Old and New Covenants.  It’s also helpful to realize that infants had been included in the covenant for around twenty centuries before the apostles’ lived.  If infants are no longer part of the covenant community in the New Testament era, one would expect a very clear command to now exclude children of believers.  Instead, in the New Testament we’re told that children of believers are “holy” (set apart) and that the promise belongs to them as well as their parents (1 Cor 7:14; Acts 2:39).  Paul tells children to obey their parents in the Lord (Eph. 6:1).  Jesus himself welcomed little children, blessed them, prayed over them, and said, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Lk. 18:16 NASB).  Therefore, “why should the church refuse to welcome into her arms those whom Christ received into his?” (Francis Turretin).

The above quotes are found in Michael Horton, Christian Theology, p. 795-6.  Emphasis his.

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

The Principal Foundation of our Salvation (Turretin)

 I’ve always appreciated Francis Turretin’s discussion of justification by faith alone.  Here are some of his quotes on this topic that I’ve found quite comforting:

For the righteousness of Christ alone imputed to us is the foundation and meritorious cause upon which our absolutary (absolving) sentence rests, so that for no other reason does God bestow the pardon of sin and the right to life than on account of the most perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us and apprehended by faith.  Hence it is readily gathered that we have not here a mere dispute about words (as some falsely imagine), but a controversy most real and indeed of the highest moment.  In it we treat of the principal foundation of our salvation, which being overthrown or weakened, all our confidence and consolation both in life and in death must necessarily perish.

…The gospel teaches that what could not be found in us was to be sought in another, could be found nowhere else than in Christ, the God-man; who taking upon himself the office of surety most fully satisfied the justice of God by his perfect obedience and thus brought to us an everlasting righteousness by which alone we can be justified before God; in order that covered and clothed with that garment as though it were of our first-born (like Jacob), we may obtain under in the eternal blessing of our heavenly Father.

…The obedience of Christ rendered in our name to God the Father is so given to us by God that it is reckoned to be truly ours and that it is the sole and only righteousness on account of and by the merit of which we are absolved from the guilt of our sins and obtain a right to life….”

Francis Turretin, Institutes, vol 2, p. 639, 647, 648.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Not a Twofold Justification (Turretin)

Turretin Scripture teaches that those who are justified have peace with God and will be glorified (Rom. 5:1; 8:30).  This means, among other things, that God continually forgives the sins of those he justified and that once they are justified, they cannot fall from the state of justification (see WCF 11.5).  What does this mean for Christians on the last day, the day of judgment?  Here’s how Francis Turretin nicely explained it:

Although our justification will be fully declared on the last day (our good works also being brought forward as the sign and proof of its truth, Mt. 25:34-40), still falsely would anyone maintain from this a twofold gospel justification – one from faith in this life (which is the first); the other (and second) from works on the day of judgment (as some hold, agreeing too much with the Romanists on this point).

The sentence to be pronounced by the supreme Judge will not be so much a new justification, as the solemn and public declaration of a sentence once passed and its execution by the assignment of the life promised with respect to an innocent person from the preceding justification.  Thus it is nothing else than an adjudicatory sentence of the possession of the kingdom of heaven from the right given before through justification.  And if works are then brought forward, they are not adduced as the foundation of a new justification to be obtained then, but as signs, marks and effects of our true faith and of our justification solely by it.

Francis Turretin, Institutes, vol. 2, p. 687.

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