John Calvin: The World as a Theater

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Therefore, because God has put us in this world as in a theatre, to contemplate his glory, let us acknowledge him to be such as he declares himself to us, and because he gives us the second instruction which is even more familiar in his word, let us be more confident and stirred with a burning zeal to aspire unto him until we reach that goal, and let us be aware that this world was created for that purpose and that our Lord has placed us here and has favored us with living here and enjoying all the things he has created.

Now, the sun was not made for itself and is even a creature without feeling. The trees, the each, which produces food for us — all of that works for man. The animals, although they move and have some feeling, do not do for all that have this high capacity to understand what belongs to God, for they do not discriminate between good and evil. We also see that their life and death are for men’s use and service.

Jean Calvin, “The Triune God at Work (Gen. 1:1-2)” in Sermons On Genesis, Chapters 1:1-11:4: Forty-Nine Sermons Delivered in Geneva between 4 September 1559 and 23 January 1560, trans. Rob Roy McGregor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, ©2009), 6.

However, we need note here that we are more than cursed and abominable if we, being masters and possessors of all the good things God has bestowed upon us, do not at least show gratitude as we worship him and confess that everything comes from.

Id., at p. 10. This is the great indictment of humanity:

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:21–25 (ESV)

 

Infallibility and Inerrancy in the 17th Century

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There is a contention that “inerrancy” is a bit of a new doctrine (something post-Hodge and Warfield) and is thus a bit of an invention:

The CSBI [Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy] goes on the defensive in article 16 when it affirms that inerrancy “has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” and denies that it “is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.” There is a grain of truth here, but some palpable problems as well. First, Christian believers over the course of history have repeatedly affirmed that the Holy Scriptures come from God, they are to be read and studied in the churches, they are the inscripturated form of the rule of faith, they emit divine authority, they are without falsehood, and they are true and trustworthy. 8 However, to insist that the CSBI understanding of inerrancy is and always has been normative in church history is a bit of a stretch.

Michael Bird, “Inerrany is not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA” in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Zondervan (2013-12-10) Kindle Locations 2448-2449. In response, I would like to note the following use of “infallibility” and “unerringness” (inerrancy) from the 17th Century Puritan Thomas Goodwin:

There is a contention that “inerrancy” is a bit of a new doctrine (something post-Hodge and Warfield) and is thus a bit of an invention:

The CSBI [Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy] goes on the defensive in article 16 when it affirms that inerrancy “has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” and denies that it “is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.” There is a grain of truth here, but some palpable problems as well. First, Christian believers over the course of history have repeatedly affirmed that the Holy Scriptures come from God, they are to be read and studied in the churches, they are the inscripturated form of the rule of faith, they emit divine authority, they are without falsehood, and they are true and trustworthy. 8 However, to insist that the CSBI understanding of inerrancy is and always has been normative in church history is a bit of a stretch.

Michael Bird, “Inerrany is not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA” in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Zondervan (2013-12-10) Kindle Locations 2448-2449. In response, I would like to note the following use of “infallibility” and “unerringness” (inerrancy) from the 17th Century Puritan Thomas Goodwin:

Apostleship was an office extraordinary in the Church of God, appointed for a time for the first rearing and governing of the Church of the New Testament, and to deliver the faith which was about wants to be given to the Saints (as Jude speaks), and the apostles are therefore entitled the foundation the church is built on, Eph. ii. 20; which office, accordingly, had many extraordinary privileges annexed to it, suited (as all the callings by God and his institutions are) to attain that and which was so extraordinary–as, namely, unlimitedness of commission to teach all nations, Matt. xxvviii.19. They likewise had an infallibility and unerringness, this, whether in their preaching or writing (2 Cor. i. ver. 13 and 18 compared), which was absolutely necessary for them to have, seeing they were to lay the foundation for all ages, although in their personal walking’s they might her, as Peter did, Gal. ii. 10.

Thomas Goodwin, “Exposition of Ephesians 1”, in The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1,(Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 5.

Thomas Goodwin, “Exposition of Ephesians 1”, in The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1,(Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 5.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation XLIV

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Upon a Physician Feeling the Pulse

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How often and how exactly do physicians feel the pulse of their patients? Not a day passes without a strict observation of the motion that it makes, according to which they judge both of the greatness and danger of the distemper, and what issues are like to be both in respect of life and death. They do not as other visitors, ask the patient how he does, but rather inform him how he is, and from the report which they make of his malady, his fears and hopes are more or less.

And yet how rarely do they feel their own pulse, who are so seemingly anxious about another’s. Days, weeks, months do elapse and pass away without any such studious heeding of themselves, as they continually in their profession exercise towards others. And yet happily and so doing they are as the priest in the temple who (as our Savior says) profane the Sabbath and are blameless.

But they osscaion me to think of the practice of many, who cannot so easily be acquitted; such you are severe observers of other men’s ways and actions and yet as great the neglecters of their own; who are far more glad that they can espy a fault than others, than grieve but it is committed: who presume to two look into the breast and To discover how the affections, which are the pulse of the soul, do beat and work in every duty.

And someday mistake the heat of their zeal as resembling a high and vehement pulse who strength comes not from health but from fever. And others, they condemn lukewarmness, an indifferency, whose affections they judged to be as weak and slow pulse, or is the springs of a watch that is well nigh down; which clicks and moves very faintly. In some again, they observed an inequality in their profession, which is accompanied with frequent stands and pauses that they make; like the asthmatic and short breaths persons, they run a while and blow longer, before they can move again. And upon these they look with this sad accountants as a physician does upon his patient as a false and intermittent pulse.

Few or none can be found to escape their censure, who observe the feelings of others, as some ancient critics did the imperfect verses of Homer, which they learned by heart, not at all regarding the many good. But what can be more contrary to law and rule of Christianity in such practices? How many prohibitions are gone out of the court of heaven to stay such a regular proceedings? Are we not by Christ forbidden to judge that we be not judged? To judge nothing before the time the Lord come?

And yet what if any man could know the true temper of the affections of others, as as fully as a position can distinguish between a well in sick pulse, would this knowledge be any great advantage onto him while he it Is both ignorant and regardless of his own estate? Would there bye find such joy and comforting himself as he that by an impartial examination of himself can discover the truth and sincerity of his own heart to Christ, though he can say nothing of others? Surely this man, as the hungry, would be filled with good things; when the other, as the rich, should be sent away empty.

He as the humble publican would be justified, when the other is the proud Pharisee should be condemned. Let others then physician like Study the condition of others, I shall look upon it as my duty and make it my work not to find out what others are, but what I am in regard of my unfeigned love and affection under Christ who has transcendently merited my love, when I am wholly unworthy of his.

Ethics of Gratitude 

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Patience, longsuffering and joy should continually be accompanied by a thankful spirit. In Christianity, someone has said, theology is grace, and ethics is gratitude. If God’s attitude and action towards us have been characterized by grace, our response to Him, in life and behaviour as well as in thought and word, should be characterized by gratitude. Nothing less is fitting, when we consider how, in the apostle’s language here, He has “fitted us to share the inheritance of His holy people.”

Commentary on Ephesians and Colossians, E.K. Simpson, F.F. Bruce (Wm. B. Erdmanns, Grand Rapids, 1957), 187

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Richard Sibbes: God is a Relationship

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But you will say, How shall we know that this covenant belongeth to us? that we are such as we may say, God is our God?
I answer, first—to lay this for a ground—you must know that to be a God is a relation. Whosoever God is a God to, he persuadeth them by his Spirit that he is a God to. The same Spirit that persuadeth them that there is a God, that Spirit telleth them that God is their God, and works a qualification and disposition in them, as that they may know that they are in covenant with such a gracious God. The Spirit as it revealeth to them the love of God, and that he is theirs, so the Spirit enableth them to claim him for their God, to give up themselves to him as to their God.

Richard Sibbes, “The Faithful Covenanter” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 6 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 8.

This is a profound bit of theology and needs some thought to be understood.

Consider first, “you must know that to be a God is a relation”. We too easily abstract God: God is a being with a set of attributes. Another sort of one has an idea of a celestial butler, the god of moral therapeutic deism:

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about ones self.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.” (As Dr. Mohler summarized Smith’s findings.)

Or some other god. But consider what Sibbes is saying: The “God” part of our understanding of God is relational. For instance, Moses speaks to Pharaoh of the “LORD our God.” There is a particular person(s) who is our God. Since He is God, we have a particular relationship toward him.

The abstract God is a powerful being, but we have little relationship to him. He have created us, but he may also have forgotten us: he is not God to us. The Therapeutic god is no God at all. He is a powerful helper, but he is not a God to anyone. That is why the Christian confession is that Christ is Lord.

The remainder of Sibbes’ discussion speaks about how God himself, God the Spirit, brings the human being into a right relation to God. God is there for everyone, but not everyone is God-worshipper relationship with God (indeed, one can think of sanctification as merely the process of turning human beings into right worshipers).

Whosoever God is a God to,
1) he persuadeth them by his Spirit that he is a God to.
2) The same Spirit that persuadeth them that there is a God,
3) that Spirit telleth them that God is their God,
4) and works a qualification and disposition in them,
5) as that they may know that they are in covenant with such a gracious God.
6) The Spirit as it revealeth to them the love of God, and that he is theirs,
7) so the Spirit enableth them to claim him for their God,
8) to give up themselves to him as to their God

Each of these elements makes plain what is in the relationship of “God”. There is a God. This God stands in some sort of relationship to the human being. The human being is in a covenantal relationship to this God. The human being’s affections, thoughts, dispositions, actions are brought into a correspondence to the covenant (that is also known as sanctification: note that sanctification is not merely morally appropriate behavior, although it is not less). Counseling/preaching is the process of using the Word of God (assisted by the Spirit of God) to bring about this relational process.

Edward Taylor, Would God I in that Golden City Were.3

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The previous post on this poem may be found here.

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I am to Christ more base than to a King
A mite, fly, worm, ant, serpent, devil is,
Or can be, being tumbled all in sin,
And shall I be his spouse? How good is this?
It is too good to be declared to thee
But not too good to be believed by me.

This stanza repeats the theme of the previous two stanzas: the wonder that God should love human beings; that Christ should join himself to such as us. There are two movements which must take place to fully appreciate what the poet does here: the first is to fully understand what he does in the poem itself. The second is to move past our natural prejudice in favor of ourselves.

The stanza breaks neatly into two; the break taking place in the middle of the fourth line (the 34th line of the poem). The first portion reads:

I am to Christ more base than to a King
A mite, fly, worm, ant, serpent, devil is,
Or can be, being tumbled all in sin,
And shall I be his spouse?

The them of this section is the sheer improbability that Christ should love the poet. There are three aspects of this: First, there is the comparison of Christ to a king and the poet to a loathsome creature. Second, the reference to “being tumble all in sin.” Third, that such a one should be brought into intimate relationship.

Technically, the second line is the key here: The first line sets up the comparison Christ equals a King. The second stays to ten syllables but then crams it full of stresses:
a MITE, FLY, WORM, ANT, SERpent, DEVil is. The lien can only be read very slowly and then tails off. The idea picks up in the third line OR can be, which comes along as an afterthought. Of these vermin, ants, worms, and serpents appeared in the previous stanza.

We miss the horror here if we don’t stop to realize what life is like without houses which are sealed against the weather, and screens, and traps, and poisons, and medicines and antidotes. Imagine being invested with mites or worms and being unable to rid your body of the beasts infecting you. Imagine ants and flies getting into and spoiling all of the food which you could have. Imagine fearing that a snake would strike unaware and kill. And most moderns could not imagine any sort of devil that did not exist only in horror movies and was capable of being driven off with a crucifix. When you read this line, you must have a sense of disgust, fear and an uncanny horror.

The purpose of this bestiary is to evoke the sensation which should be stirred by the real reason for wonder: sin. Why should God have anything to do with those in sin? We are supposed to real revulsion and then that explained by the word “sin”:

Psalm 5:4–6 (AV)
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
We fail to understand what is happening here as long as we think of sin solely in terms of discrete actions. Yes, sin entails discrete acts of sin. But is also a status offense (as such things are called in the law). It is like being an illegal alien in a country: the status is an offense even without additional bad acts. The Mosaic covenant aims at this concept by the matter of being ritually clean or unclean. Many things which were morally neutral were unclean. Likewise inanimate objects could be “holy” because they were dedicated to God.

To be tumbled in sin is to be subsumed it: to be repulsive, unclean.

And yet, it is precisely such repulsive people who are brought into intimate union with Christ. The poet cannot understand it, but for all that, he will not reject it but believe it:

How good is this?
It is too good to be declared to thee
But not too good to be believed by me.

We see in this a hint at why “belief” is at the core of receipt of justification, right standing with God. To believe this gift is to receive it with joy and thankfulness. It is not a bare historical opinion that some event took place. It is a joyful reception of something marvelous being offered.

Pharaoh found in slum.

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A statue workers say depicts Pharaoh Ramses II who ruled Egypt over 3,000 years was unearthed on Thursday in the Matariya area in Cairo

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have found a massive eight-metre statue submerged in ground water in a Cairo slum that they say probably depicts revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.” This man was one of the most powerful and consequential human beings to ever live:

One measure of Egypt’s prosperity is the amount of temple building the kings could afford to carry out, and on that basis the reign of Ramses II is the most notable in Egyptian history, even making allowance for its great length. It was that, combined with his prowess in war as depicted in the temples, that led the Egyptologists of the 19th century to dub him “the Great,” and that, in effect, is how his subjects and posterity viewed him; to them he was the king par excellence. Nine kings of the 20th dynasty (1190–1075 bce) called themselves by his name; even in the period of decline that followed, it was an honour to be able to claim descent from him, and his subjects called him by the affectionate abbreviation Sese. (Britannica)

Now his image lies in the working class area of Matariya, among unfinished buildings and mud roads.

egypt_archeology-2

Reminds me a bit of this (different Pharaoh):

1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. 2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Exodus 5:1–2 (AV)

The theological limitation of the DSM-5

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Nevertheless, the DSM-5 and the like fall short of describing physiologically verifiable trouble in two important ways. First, the diagnosis is based on theory that does not include a theological vision of humanity, which understand people to be active spiritual agents made to reflect the righteous personhood of an unseen God. DSM-5, therefore, defines dysfunction primarily in terms of what is distressing to the individual or harmful to others. The observations are not simple, are acknowledgements of truth, but interpreted according to a framework of belief. That is not a problem in itself, of course. However, the short-sighted beliefs of any culture constantly change, thus shifting opinion of what should be considered distressing or harmful. Second, no amount of neurobiological ingenuity in medical treatment can overcome the corruption of living in a fallen world. Physiological troubles will never be eliminated in this world, but Christians can respond to them in faith.

Jeremy Pierre, The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2016), 99.

 

Masterpiece Cakeshop

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The First Amendment prohibits the government from telling private citizens “what they must say.” Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc. Int’l, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 2321, 2327 (2013). It is undisputed that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (the “Commission”) does not apply CADA to ban (1) an African-American cake artist from refusing to create a cake promoting white-supremacism for the Aryan Nation, (2) an Islamic cake artist from refusing to create a cake denigrating the Quran for the Westboro Baptist Church, and (3) three secular cake artists from refusing to create cakes opposing same- sex marriage for a Christian patron. App. 78a; App. 297a-App. 331a.

Neither should CADA ban Jack Phillips’ polite declining to create a cake celebrating same-sex marriage on religious grounds when he is happy to create other items for gay and lesbian clients. See Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2607 (2015) (“[T]hose who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”).

Here’s the rest of the brief

This is interesting, because it was not the refusal to sell anything: rather, the issue is whether the government can compel speech.

More:

Because of the artistry associated with custom cakes, Phillips also honors God through his work by declining to use his creative talents to design and create cakes that violate his religious beliefs. App. 282-283a, ¶¶ 57-58, 62. This includes cakes with offensive written messages and cakes celebrating events or ideas that violate his beliefs, including cakes celebrating Halloween (a decision that costs him significant revenue), anti-American or anti- family themes, atheism, racism, or indecency. App. 283-284a, ¶¶ 61, 63-64. He also will not create cakes with hateful, vulgar, or profane messages, or sell any products containing alcohol. Id., ¶¶ 59, 61.

Consistent with this longstanding practice, Phillips also will not create cakes celebrating any marriage that is contrary to his understanding of biblical teaching. App. 276-277a, ¶¶ 21, 25. As a Christian, Phillips believes that God ordained marriage as the sacred union between one man and one woman, a union that exemplifies the relationship of Christ and His Church. App. 274- 275a, ¶¶ 10-15. And Phillips’ religious conviction compels him to create cakes celebrating only marriages that are consistent with his understanding of God’s design. App. 275-277a, ¶¶16-22, 25. For this reason, Phillips politely declined to design and create a cake celebrating Respondents Craig’s and Mullins’ same-sex wedding, App. 287a, ¶ 78, but offered to make any other cake for them, id., ¶ 79.

 

This was not bigotry: he did not refuse to sell them anything. He merely treated the couple the same as he did every other patron: there were some-things Jack would not say. Irrespective of how one feels about the underlying wedding, one should be concerned if the government can force speech under threat of penalty. Think of it this, would you like President Obama or President Trump (or both) telling you what you had to say? You can’t pick the guy “on your side”.