Andrew David Naselli. The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, November 3, 2020. 160 pp. 5 out of 5 Purchase: Westminster | …Review: The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer
There is an absurdity sin. In the fact of repentance, one element which must concern us is a realization that our sin is absurd. Sibbes draws this out by demonstrating that the things which had become idolatrous snares to Israel were also things which could not provide succor. We rely upon solutions which simply do not work.
Doct. How these outward things cannot help us.
How prone soever we are to rely upon them, they are in effect nothing. They cannot help us, and so are not to be relied upon. ‘Asshur shall not save us.’ Indeed it will not, it cannot. These things cannot aid us at our most need. So that that which we most pitch upon, fails us when we should especially have help. Some present vanishing supply they yield, but little to purpose. They have not that in them which should support the soul at a strait, or great pinch, as we say.
Having made the accusation: these things cannot help us, Sibbes now seeks to prove-up his point: They are vanity.
Reason. The reason is largely given by Solomon in the whole book of Ecclesiastes, ‘All is vanity and vexation of spirit,’ Eccles. 1:14.
He is going to use the phrase “to support the soul.” His point is that riches (he will give that as a particular example) cannot be used to buy food. Of course it can. But riches are of limited value. We sinfully place a reliance upon the creature which it cannot bear:
There is a vanity in all the creatures, being empty and not able to support the soul. They are vain in their continuance, and empty in regard of their strength. They are gone when we have need of them.
Riches, as the wise man saith, are gone, and have wings to fly away, in our most need, Prov. 23:5. So friends are fugitive good things, being like to the brooks mentioned in Job, 6:15: which when in summer there is need of, then they are dried up, and yet run amain in winter, when there is no need of them.
He is trying to explain the way in which money or friends are of limited use:
So, earthly supports, when there is no need of them, then they are at hand; but when we have most need of them, are gone. ‘They are broken cisterns,’ as the prophet calls them, Jer. 2:13. Cisterns, that is, they have a limited capacity.
He picks up on the image of a cistern from Jeremiah and develops it as follows:
A cistern is not a spring.
A cistern, even a broken cistern, is not wholly lacking in use; but it is nothing compared to a spring. The cistern will soon run dry; the spring will not.
So all their support, at the best, is but a bounded and a mixed sufficiency; and that also which will quickly fail: like water in a cistern, which if it be not fed with a continual spring, fails or putrefies presently.
Likewise these outward things are not sufficient for the grievance; for being limited and bounded, the grievance will be above the strength of the creature; which though sometime it be present and do not fail, yet the trouble is such, that it is above the strength of the creature to help. So that for these and the like respects, there is no sufficiency, nor help to be expected from the creature.
He has stated his proposition with some emphasis, but it still may be unclear. In particular way is Assyria, the most power country in the world at that time, insufficient?
‘Asshur shall not save us.’ He is not a sufficient ground of trust. Why?
1. He is but a creature.
2. He is an enemy.
3. He is an idolater.
So that, take him in all these three relations, he is not to be trusted.
What are the limitations of being a creature?
1. He is a creature. What is a creature? Nothing, as it were. Saith the prophet, ‘All creatures before him are as nothing, and as a very little thing.’ And what it is, when he pleaseth, he can dissolve it into nothing, turn it into dust. Man’s breath is in his nostrils, Isa. 2:22. ‘All flesh is grass, and all his glory as the flower of grass,’ Ps. 103:15.
Creatures have finite duration: they can die. Creatures are dependent upon the sufferance of God to even exist. Therefore, if you trust in the creature, it might fail you. Sibbes puts this nicely:
If a man trust the creature, he may outlive his trust.
The repeated use of “trust” is well done. The first use is as a verb; the second a noun indicating the state of the verb in action.
His prop may be taken from him, and down he falls.
The abstract statement about trust becomes a comic, concrete image of the clown falling which the prop against he leans is moved.
He then moves to another trouble with creature: to trust it is to incur a curse:
Asshur must not be trusted, therefore, as a creature, nor as a man, for that brings us within the curse. Thus saith the Lord, ‘Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,’ &c., Jer. 17:5. So trusting in the creature not only deceives us, but brings us within the curse. In that respect, Asshur must not be trusted.
The connection made between Hosea and Jeremiah is not the sort of connection which will appear in margin notes or word studies. It is a connection made from countless hours of study and meditation such that Sibbes can see conceptual ties between disparate passages.
2. But Asshur likewise was an enemy, and a secret enemy. For howsoever the ten tribes unto whom Hosea prophesied were great idolaters, yet they were somewhat better than Asshur, who was without the pale of the church, and a wholly corrupted church. Therefore, they were enemies to the ten tribes, and, amongst other reasons, because they were not so bad as they, nor deeply enough dyed with idolatry.
Before we consider the “present time” examples which Sibbes offers is perhaps wise to consider the ways in which we personally have made reliance upon an enemy. At the time of Sibbes’ writing it must be understood what a grave danger rested in religious opinions. There would be repeated wars involving England which concerned the question of what religious practice would be permitted in England. There would be attempts by the house of Stewart to forcibly impose Roman Catholicism upon England. People were going to die over this question.
Many think they may comply with popery in some few things, to gain their love, and that there may be joining with them in this and that; but do we think that they will ever trust us for all this? No; they will alway hate us, till we be as bad as they, and then they will despise us, and secure themselves of us. Therefore, there is no trusting of papists, as papists; not only creatures, but as false, and as enemies.
He then personalizes this principle: In personal relationships, the wicked will seek to first corrupt the morals of the other. “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Cor. 15:33.
For this is the nature of wicked men. They will never trust better than themselves, till they become as bad as they are, after which they despise them. Say they, Now we may trust such and such a one; he is as bad as we, becom’d one of us.
But the one who willing corrupts is not one whom you can trust for constancy:
Which is the reason why some of a naughty disposition take away the chastity and virginity of men’s consciences, making them take this and that evil course, and then they think they have such safe, being as bad as themselves. Wherein they deal as Ahithophel’s politic, devilish counsel was, that Absalom should do that which was naught, and then he should be sure that David and he should never agree after that, 2 Sam. 16:21; and that then by this discovery the wicked Jews, set on mischief, might secure themselves of Absalom. So they, now that they join with us, God will forsake them; we shall have them our instruments for anything. First, they would have the ten tribes as bad as they, and then give them the slip whensoever they trusted them.
He hears so the proper limits which the Christian can have with others. We cannot live in such a way as to have no “commerce and traffic” with such people “since then you would need to go out of the world.” (1 Cor. 5:10). But we cannot place that ultimate trust upon them:
3. Again, neither were they to be trusted as idolaters, to have league and society with them. There may be some commerce and traffic with them, but amity and trust, none. Asshur and Egypt were horrible idolaters, and therefore not to be trusted in that respect. As we see the prophet in this case reproved good Jehoshaphat, when he had joined with wicked Ahab, king of the ten tribes, ‘Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore wrath is upon thee from before the Lord,’ 2 Chron. 19:2. So we see it is a dangerous thing to be in league with idolaters, even such as the ten tribes were, who had some religion amongst them. This good king was chidden for it.
Here are the links related to Presuppositional Apologetics gathered between August 8th-15th, 2021. 1.) Cave to the Cross’ Prayer Help – Ep. 136 – …Mid-August 2021 Presuppositional Apologetics Links
T. Desmond Alexander notes the significance of the phrase “beast of the field”: The serpent is elevated above every other “beast of the field,” that is, the wild animals. This comment is likely to have had a negative connotation in the minds of the first readers or listeners to this story. Wild animals presented a threat to human beings. Ezekiel 34:8 describes, for example, how a flock of sheep without a shepherd could become “meat to every beast of the field.” For this reason, the introduction of the serpent as the craftiest of the wild animals has an ominous ring to it.
Against the Darkness, Graham A Cole
(This is not a case completed argument. It is just a sketch I may get back to)
A common argument against the existence of the God of the Bible contends this God is mere wish fulfillment: you wish for such a God and so pretend he exists.
This contains (at least) two arguments.
1 God does not exist just because you wish he did
2 A God for whom you wish conforming to your wish is evidence God does not exist
Thinking of this second argument
A Why wouldn’t God correspond to human desire? Would it be illogical for God to create human beings that would feel their way towards him and find him? Acts 17:27
B Does the God of the Bible actually look like a bare wish fulfillment? He is at least as upsetting for human culture as any wish could entail?
C (I do not know who originated this response) Just because a sailor on a raft wishes for land does not mean land does not exist.
There is then an irony in the use of this argument. Sometimes the argument is used by one who also contends that the God of the Bible does not exist because that God does not conform to *my* expectations. This brings us to point 2b, above.
If the Christian proposition of Fall and Redemption is true then a God who conforms and unsettles is what should happen. The relationship between humanity and God is – to use a modern idiom – “complicated”
The true wish fulfillment God would be one who happens to confirm one’s present culture: a god who confirms me. But the Christian God says take up your cross,
Be crucified to the world, put to death “what is earthly in you.” That is an odd wish (especially since the last command comes immediately after the instruction that asceticism is not profitable Col. 2:20-23)
Stuart Scott. Communication and Conflict Resolution: A Biblical Perspective. Bemidji, MN: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, July 10th 2005. 36 pp.
5 out of 5
Need to work on your communication and conflict resolution skill biblically? This booklet by Stuart Scott a professor of biblical counseling might be what you are looking for. Don’t let the size of this pamphlet deceive you; there’s a lot of helpful materials found in its pages and I personally took a few weeks of slowly digesting it and taking lots of notes when I read it.
View original post 257 more words
The following is a remarkable document from 1661, which was presented onto Parliament in England and which seeks for religious tolerance for everyone. Moreover, it is supported in points by statements made by the Stuart kings (James & Charles) It was presented within one year of restoration of Charles II in May 1600. The men who published the document were Quakers.
The document is written in the form of a series of short propositions. Following the propositions, I will provide a brief comment and try to follow the movement of their (often ingenious) argument.
I have also modernized the spelling in places.
The title page reads:
Liberty of Conscience ASSERTED, And SEVERAL REASONS RENDRED, Why no Outward Force, nor Imposition, ought to be used in Matters of Faith and Religion: With several SAYINGS, Collected from the Speeches and Writings of KING JAMES, And KING CHARLES the First.
Acts 5. 38, 39.
Now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this Counsel, or this Work, be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found fighters against God.
This was delivered into the hands of the Members of both Houses of Parliament, the last day of the Third Month, 1661.
London, Printed for Robert Wilson, in Martins Le Grand, 1661.
Liberty of Conscience Asserted, &c.
LIBERTY of CONSCIENCE ought to be allowed in the days of the Gospel in the free Exercise of it to God-ward (without Compulsion) in all things relating to His Worship, for these Reasons following.
Comment: The liberty asserted is liberty of conscience with respect to religious practice. The argument is premised upon specifically Christian considerations. There is an interesting phrase, “in the days of the Gospel.” It is unclear whether the authors are referencing all of the time after Christ, or whether they mean a specific period within recent history. If so, the reference would be post-reformation, and likely post-Mary with a knowledge of the Marian suppression of Protestantism.
1. Because the General and Universal Royal Law of Christ Commands it Matt. 7. 12. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and Prophets. That which every man would have and receive from another, he ought by Christ’s Rule to give and allow it to another. But every man is willing to have the Liberty of his own Conscience, Therefore ought to allow it to another.
Comment: Here they give a ground for freedom of conscience: (1) It is grounded in a command of Christ. They define this command as “general” and “royal”. By general, it is a law which would apply to all persons and all places. By being “royal” it would be supreme. In addition, the phrase “royal law” coupled to “liberty” is used in James 2:
James 2:8–13 (AV)
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
While the text does deal specifically with the point raised, linguistically the combination of “royal law” and “law of liberty” is suggestive.
(2) This is an argument which goes to the moral weight of being a human being: You must be protected in your freedom of conscience because you are a human being. This remains true even if I believe you are wrong.
This is remarkable change from what has been the case in much of human history. When it comes to religion, the belief has typically been that the religious coherence of everyone in the group is necessary to protect the group. If you antagonize a god, we all may be in danger.
Notice also that your practice may be gravely offensive to me.
2. Because, No man can persuade the Conscience of another, either what God is, or how he should be worshipped, but by the Spirit, which God hath given to instruct man in the ways of Truth.
Comment: The rationale here is again explicitly Christian. This one takes a somewhat different tack: Rather than argue from the dignity of a human being, this one argues from the work of God. Rather than seeing religion as merely the outward working of a rite, or a publicly approved confession, it is a primarily an inward matter.
3. Because, All Obedience or Service that is obtained by force, is for fear of Wrath, and not from Love, nor for Conscience sake; and therefore will but continue so long as that fear or force abides upon them.
Comment: This again argues to the fact of subjective conversion: You can make someone engage in a behavior or say as word. What is the value of that? You have not really gained their heart or mind. As soon as they can escape the tyranny, they will.
4. Because, That by forcing, No man can make a Hypocrite to be a true Believer; but on the contrary, many may be made Hypocrites.
Comment: This turns the religious conformity argument on its head. To be a hypocrite is to falsely profess a faith. You do not really believe X, you are mere pretender. Well then, if you goal is coerce conduct in public, you can do so. But, you cannot argue that you giving honor to God because such conduct can only have the effect of creating one is in greater rebellion against God.
This raises the stakes: Are you truly seeking to honor God or to obtain political power? You can get one, but not other by coercion.
5. Because, That in all forced Impositions upon men’s Consciences there is something of the Wrath of man exercised, which works not the Righteousness of God, but rather begets Enmity in the heart one towards another.
Comment: This argument takes up the argument of point 4 and then enlarges the sphere of sin. You not only make the man coerced a worse sinner, you are actually sinning yourself when you coerce another. This argument comes from James 1:20, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” You are provoking anger in another which is sinful in you. Thus, you cannot coerce religion in the name of God without becoming the enemy of God.
You are also increasing the sum-total of sin by creating enmity between men.
6. Because, that by forcing any thing upon men’s Consciences, as to matters of Faith and Worship, many are hardened in their hearts against the things imposed; when as otherwise, through Love and gentle Instructionstheir hearts might be persuaded to willing Obedience.
Comment: Continuing in the line of argument that you are actually working against God in your attempt to force religious compliance, he uses the argument that forcing another results in their being unwilling to hear your case. Perhaps you are making a good point, but who will hear when your crushing their liberty?
This creates an interesting move in this overall argument. In point 2 above, he states that true faith will be ultimately a work of God. Therefore, being a work of God, how can someone be persuaded without compromising God’s sovereignty in the work? A resolution of this conflict can be seen by understanding that there are matters upon Christian must agree: those are matters determined by the Spirit of God that God is and is to be worshipped. But, there may be matters which are more open to variation. This will followed upon in point 8, below.
7. Because, That Persecution for Conscience contradicteth Christ’s Charge, Matt. 13. who bids, that the Tares(or false worshippers) be suffered to grow together in the Field(or World) till the Harvest (or End of the World.)
8. Because, Force is contrary to the End for which it is pretended to be used (viz.) the preservation and safety of the Wheat, which End is not answered by Persecution,because the Wheat is in danger to be plucked up thereby, as Christ saith.
Comment: These two points should be seen together. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable of a farmer who planted his field in wheat. In the evening, an enemy also planted seeds of a plant which looked almost identical to wheat. As the plants grow, it can be difficult if not impossible to tell the difference. The farmer forbids his servants from try to separate the wheat and the weeds so that they don’t accidentally destroy the crop.
Jesus says this is the nature of the Church: it will contains wheat and weeds. It will be very difficult to tell them apart. Therefore, not until the end will there be a separation of the two. The Church will always involve this confusion. If you, even if you are right, seek to tear out every weed may find that you are also tearing out wheat.
The argument is again: You cannot coerce another’s conscience as a Christian without contradicting your claim to be a Christian.
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. The Plan Of Salvation. Seattle, WA: Amazon Digital Services LLC, March 21, 2017. 82 pp. 5 out of 5 Free: Monergism …Free PDF and Review: The Plan Of Salvation by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield
This is a quote from the remarkable Rites is Spring (which details how much western civilization was transformed at WW I). What struck me here was the degree to which we lie to one another and lie to ourselves. And also how easily we believe the most nonsensical things about our enemies:
If the British were encouraged to believe that Germans crushed the skulls of Belgian and French babies with their jackboots, that the kaiser was personally involved in torturing three-year-olds in satanic rituals, and that corpses were recycled in Germany to produce fats, oils, and pig fodder, the Germans were told that Gurkha and Sikh troops crept across no man’s land at night, slipped into German trenches, slit German throats, and then drank the blood of their victims, and that the Senegalese fighting with the French were cannibals. The press led the propaganda effort, but churchmen, educators, artists, musicians, and authors buttressed it. All the belligerents were involved in the creation of myth and the distortion of reality. Reality, a sense of proportion, and reason—these were the major casualties of the war.
What we should ask ourselves now is what lies do I currently believe?
How many things are there now, who display’th?
How many acts each thing doth here dispense?
How many influences each thing hath?
How many contraries each influence?
How many contraries from things do flow?
From acts? From influences? Who can show?
Summary: If all things are mine, then what is the full number of things. What are the endless relationships between all things? How does each part influence the rest?
The individual lines present no real problem beyond the first line, “How many things are there now, who display’th?” The difficulty is with the word “who”: it could be God who “displays” all things. But more likely the “who” is being used as we would use “what” or “which”. Thus, the sense would be, “How many things are there displayed in the world?”
For the sense of “display” we have the image from Calvin (likely known to Taylor) that the creation is the theater of God’s glory. Thus, the objects in the creation are displays of God.
How many acts each thing doth here dispense?
How many influences each thing hath?
How many contraries each influence?
These are scientific questions which were very much “live” at the time of Taylor. There was enormous curiosity into how the various objects in the world interrelated. When we think of the various conflicts with supposed witches, we also need to realize that the conceptions of witchcraft as influence at a distance is in effect bad science. Things which we confidently “know” would have been bare possibilities.
Who can show? Who knows the answer.
In tone, the stanza has a feel for the book of Job, particularly the concluding section wherein God asks Job a number of questions about the natural world, which Job is unable to answer in any form. The effect of this questioning in the poem is put the reader into a place where he (or she) must admit, “I do not know the answer. I do know the whole of the world, or the relationships between all things therein. How can show? Only God would know that answer.”
How glorious then is he that doth all raise
Rule and dispose and make them all conspire
In their jars, junctures, good-bad ways
To meliorate the self-same objection higher?
Earth, water, fire, winds, herbs, trees, beasts and men,
Angels, and devils, bliss, blasts, advance one stem?
Hell, earth, and heath with their whole troops, come
Contrary winds, grace, and disgrace, sour, sweet,
Wealth, want, health, sickness, to conclude in sum
All providences work in this good meet?
Who, who can do’t, but thou my Lord? And thou
Dost do this thing; yea, thou performst it now.
Summary: In a flurry of nouns and images, are poured out. The effect is an overwhelming jumble of events, all seeming to move in contrary purpose to one-another. Hell versus earth, contrary winds; water and fire; and so on. The important part comes in the middle of stanza five: “conclude in a sum”. God has knowledge of all things and in his providence brings all things for his glory: And thus will lead to the conclusion of how “all things are mine” can be a blessing.
How glorious then is he that doth all raise
Rule and dispose and make them all conspire
Since it is impossible to know all things that are, it is a greater wonder that God can have sovereignty over all things: He rules, disposes of, and holds them in a conspiracy, they “conspire” toward a common end.
The doctrine of providence, which is asserted in these stanzas was of great importance to the Puritan world:
The doctrine of a special providence in disposing of all events, whether good or evil, is of great importance; it forms a fundamental truth in our holy religion; it is the strong pillar of the believer’s faith, it is the cardinal point in Christian experience, and contains one main ground of practical godliness.
Indeed, till we have given to this doctrine, not a cold assent of the head, but a cordial reception in the heart, it will be impossible for us to live as we ought in any condition, and specially in a scene so shifting as the present; we may content ourselves for a while, but we have no lasting or solid basis whereon to rest; we can never be thankful for present mercies, nor be patient under any troubles, nor cherish a scriptural hope of deliverance out of them.
Thomas Watson, Spiritual Life Delineated; With the Detection and Exposure of Some of the Popular Errors of the Day (London: R. B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1838), 233. Upon the basis of a knowledge of God’s providence, one can be contented and see that all events which take place are for good. As Thomas Boston was to write, “That the dispensations of providence are altogether perfect and faultless, however they appear to our carnal hearts.” Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Sixty-Six Sermons, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 9 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1851), 62. Boston will go ahead and argue the point.
To make sense of this, we must realize that what is good is not always what is immediately pleasant. Sometimes what it good is also what is evil: Jesus was murdered on false charges and for political expedience, and yet the result of the good of humanity, the conquering of death, his exaltation as King.
Taylor is anxious to exalt this contrary working of God
to conclude in sum
All providences work in this good meet?
Who, who can do’t, but thou my Lord?
Only God could strike a straight line with a crooked stick. This is a continual theme among Taylor co-religionists. Thomas Boston’s series of sermons, The Crook in the Lot consider this at length.
The language of these stanzas seems suggested by Psalms such as 148:
Psalm 148:7–10 (AV)
7 Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: 8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: 9 Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: 10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: