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Reflections from Scripture_ 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:1-5 “HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?”

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CHAPTER 7:1-5 HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?

            In chapter 7 Paul continues the theme of believers walking uprightly in our relationships.  Because of Christ’s atonement (i.e., his sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection for those who trust in him), God is glorified in our bodies but how is that accomplished.  Here it focuses on the marriage union between a man and a woman.  Pail writes:

“Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise, also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.(1 Cor.7:1-5)

Let’s make several observations.  First, it’s good to be single.  Apparently, someone had previously written to Paul from Corinth concerning the state of the church and wrote: “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Here, he can’t mean that there is to be no physical contact because he would be contradicting his command elsewhere to greet one another with a holy kiss.

Contextually, this has to do with sexual intercourse as the following verses unfold.  What’s “good” about a man not touching a woman?  It seems he’s referring to the virtue of being unmarried for the purpose of glorifying God and being about the business of the kingdom as the rest of the chapter depicts.  That is, singleness in the church is not to be frowned upon, but rather appreciated and lauded.

As the self-existent One, who is the source of all life, the virtue of goodness is necessarily based on God’s ontological status (i.e., the divine nature in all its perfections shared by each member of the trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) and thus the Creator rather than the creature determines what is good.  Here, to be single is good, but immorality is not and thus a real problem.  Thus, Paul offers a “game changer”, as we say.

Second, it’s good to be married.  While singleness is a good thing, it’s not if immorality is a struggle, thus, marriage is the good option Paul commands:  But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.  The clause, “But because of immoralities” calls attention to sexual sin contextually (6:12-20) and offers the solution “each man is to have his own wife and likewise also the wife to her husband”.  There are several observations that can be noted.

First, each man is to be devoted to the one woman he has entered into covenant with and not another wife.  Second, that being the case, the singular term “wife” not wives, supports monogamy, not polygamy. Third, this is a safeguard for those longing to sexually express themselves within the context of a one flesh union between a man and a woman.  Fourth, this contradicts the in-vogue notion of “same-sex marriage” that many in Western civilization have embraced.  Fifth, the same holds true for women.  Sixth, both male and female have a bent to immorality, both are culpable before Gods’ court of justice, and both are graciously given a solution—marriage.  Now in this covenant relationship there are duties given for flourishing to obtain.

Third, duties obtain for both man and woman.  Paul continues his thought and describes the duties both husband and wife are to fulfill toward each another.  When Paul says; v-3 “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband” he makes abundantly clear that they equally share the responsibility to make the marriage union flourish.

First, Paul grounds his command of duty/fulfillment on the idea and reality that “authority” over the other’s body is a non-negotiable.  What does authority here mean?  On the surface, biblically when one has authority over another they possess the power to command persons (and affect them) to live a certain way, to do certain things.  This attribute of authority again is grounded in God’s being—one way image bearers express the Creators presence, objective reality and His existence.

Second, Paul is sounding the alarm when he states in v-4:  “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” 

The alarm here is that both husband and wife belong to each other, they are distinct persons, but have a one flesh union which forever changes how they are to live.  It seems clear that they are not “free” to make autonomous sexual decisions, but instead are to always submit to the desires of each other within God’s design for sexuality (which clearly exclude bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexual adultery, etc.), but not as clearly when it deals with oral copulation.

When we consider a text that does not give us specifics (e.g., Paul here does not specify what I brought up), a wise approach to get at the meaning of a biblical text, is to consider the entirety of what Scripture teaches (on a given topic) deal first with the clearest texts and then proceed to the more obscure texts.  By this approach, the obscurity, while not completely removed, does have more light shed on it by the clearer passages in scripture.  After Paul describes both duties and authority, he commands both husband and wife to obey.

Fourth, husbands and wives are commanded to stop sinning against each other.  Paul gives a prohibition because then like today, husbands and wives were sinning against each other by depriving each other of sexual intimacy v-5; “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

To deprive means to withhold something good possessed by one for the benefit of another—the covenant spouse here.  That is, if one spouse desires sexual relations the other is to concede.  Only by mutual agreement is the married couple to withhold sexual relations.

This opens up a “can of worms” that’s filled with pain, manipulation, and abuse which reveals our brokenness as people.  Nevertheless, we must understand that what fuels this command is love for God and Christ Jesus (though imperfectly expressed) in the marriage union between a man and a woman.

Men often don’t walk in a loving manner toward their wives and wives accordingly to their husbands.  The reason for such turmoil is the real distinctions between men and women.  The lack of appreciation and understanding of these distinctions has from Adam and Eve unto today been a real problem.   That is, according to God’s design, a man’s greatest need is to be respected, while a woman’s supreme need is to be loved.  And while the needs are distinct, both spouses are commanded to honor one another.

The prohibition to “stop depriving one another” means that if that’s presently the case, it is to cease in the present.  Yet, if mutual consent to withhold obtains, it’s for a very practical purpose; “so that you may devote yourselves to prayer”.  Could it be that Paul is commanding the spouses to entreat God with the same passion with which they sexually pleasure each other?  I don’t see why not, but this activity of intimacy between spouse and God has a “time” or “duration” of activity not specified.

There’s a time for everything under heaven Solomon wrote and here Paul is saying to married couples, “there’s a time for sex and a time to refrain in order to pray”.  Whatever the duration here, the key is that there’s agreement.  So, there’s a time for sex and a time for prayer, but he does not end it there.

Paul finishes the command and provides the reason for it: “and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.  Both spouses are addressed because when marriages fail and adultery occurs there’s usually culpability from both parties.  Paul is alluding to the practical need for sexual relations to continue when he says, “come together again” for the purpose of denuding satanic temptation to commit adultery.

The reason for the command is because there’s a lack of self-control, thus the loving act for the spouses to do is to sexually fulfill each other (however imperfectly it may be done).  Obedience here is the path of holiness to the LORD which is our highest good and joy.

These verses unfold the gravity of marriage and their reflection of God’s love and care for His people.  Elsewhere Paul explains that marriage is the mystery unveiled of Christ and His union with the Church (Eph.5).

We live in a time where “sexual liberation” is lauded in a way that actually dishonors God and thus dishonors human beings.  Sexuality expressed according to God’s design is magnificent, when it goes awry, while for a time may be exhilarating, will in the end be another means for human destruction.  God have mercy on our souls and bodies.

(SDG)

Reflection From 1 Corinthians 7: PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE & SINGLENESS AS EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE FOR CHRIST

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            Paul continues his instruction to the called saints who are in the world but not of it.  In chapter 5 the apostle tackles the issue of immorality caused by the Corinthians’ pride and warns of God’s looming judgment as the impetus for repentance.

In chapter 6 Paul continues to address the believers’ immorality and resultant ineptness to wisely judge among themselves when being defrauded by another professing Christian.  He then points to Christ’s atonement as the basis for believers to humble themselves before God and each other.  It’s humility that safeguards God’s people from sexual immorality which is for their, not harm.

In chapter 7 Paul addresses the aspects of marriage, singleness, divorce, separation and remarriage.  These were massive issues then as they are today.  These issues are emotionally charged, often difficult to grapple with, because what can be a joyous relationship too often becomes a miserable existence for image bearers.  Our brokenness has not served us well.

The sexual tension that both married and single experience has not changed and the views in said realities either reflect Gods’ design or rejects it.    Since this letter is for believers and how they are to conduct their lives before the consummation, it’s critical to heed Paul’s teaching (Christ’s authoritative spokesman), and if non-believers mock and contradict what Scripture teaches, God will deal with them.

In the church the sexual confusion over male/female distinctions has adversely impacted our marriages resulting in the divorce of many couples.  Much of this is because God’s people make a habit of ignoring their inheritance—the Word of life, the Scriptures, which bring light to our darkened minds and restoration to our broken dispositions.   Too often (in the name of love) believers unwittingly imbibe a Godless worldview in order to be “relevant” to the culture.  Ironically, the Christian is most relevant when the word of life is spoken and practiced before the watching world not ignored.

In what follows, Paul is going to challenge 21st century believers with what it means to be loving, what it means to be salt and light, what it means to be presently relevant by lauding God’s truth not lies (because we love Christ) in the context of our most cherished relationships.

(SDG)

Considering a Few Who Have Shaped the Church’s Thought: PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD / REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD

Theological Book Summaries

The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7. Too often Christians find themselves imitating the faith of those who actually do not speak the word of God to them in truth. Instead, they listen to teachers who proclaim what their itching ears want to hear to their utter destruction. One way to guard against that is to consider how believers through the centuries understood the Gospel, and treasured Christ as they lived out its implications.

There are two cautions, two extremes, I think are critical to consider if we are to love God with our minds and hearts. First, we must guard against thinking that because something is old (pick a number) it’s irrelevant in the present and for our future. Second, we must guard against thinking that because something is new it’s relevant for the present and future. Both extremes are foolish, irrational, clothed in hubris and blind us from discovering objective truth in order to live it out presently and in the future.

The following summaries are provided to encourage, challenge, comfort and invigorate the follower of Christ to consider how in the last two millennia followers of Christ understood and lived out the implications of their faith. It’s to consider how these believers spent their energies for the glory of God and the cause of the kingdom, and to see where their example is worthy to be emulated.

Some things will seem odd, some things odious, some things onerous, and some things endearing. I trust in no way you will be bored. These summaries are but a taste of their substance that I’ve attempted to capture so that you, the reader will take up and read at the source.  Click the link Theological Book Summaries to download the entire summaries.

(Soli Deo Gloria)

 

 

Reformation/ Modern Period_Summary on John Wesley’s: Christian Perfection

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Wesley: Christian Perfection[1]

In his Christian Perfection, Wesley distinguishes between how Christians are and are not perfect.

How Are Christians Not Perfect? 

Both from experience and the Scriptures it is clear Christians are not perfect in knowledge e.g., our ignorance in God’s workings in different dispensations.  Christians are not perfect in their mistakes (e.g., “we know in part” 1 Cor. 13:12) at handling the Scriptures.  Christians are not free from infirmities (e.g., physical ailments or moral failures).  Moreover, Christians are not free from temptation, such freedom lies ahead in the next life.  Christian perfection is another term for holiness.  Hence, to be perfect one must be holy and the converse obtains.

How Are Christians Perfect?

First, developmentally babes and mature Christians are in different stages, yet perfection applies to both.  Scripture clearly says that those who are justified (be it babe or mature) “do not continue in sin” (Rom. 6:1, 5-7, 14, 18) i.e., all real Christians are free from external sin (1 Pet. 4:1-2; 1 Jn. 3:8-9; 5:18).  Wesley then argues for misinterpreted counter examples from the lives of David, Abraham, even the Proverbs.  Wesley concludes with those opposing the “plain” reading of NT texts, that they need to buttress their arguments and give proofs form the NT clear teaching, rather than an OT vague passage.

Wesley understands that to use arguments that a Christian must sin is unacceptable, for no necessity of sinning obtains for the Christian.  The same grace that was sufficient for Paul is also at our disposal.  Hence, although temptation comes, one is not required to yield to it (1 Cor. 10:13).  Moreover, Wesley addresses the misuse of passages (2 Cor. 12:7-10) that are often used to buttress the above contention that we must sin and challenges such notions with James understanding of faith and works (Jam. 3:2).               

[1] John Wesley, Sermon Forty, Christian Perfection, Edited by Dave Sparks, (1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology, web site: webadmin@wesley.nnu.edu for permission or to report errors)

Summary of CHAPTER 4: THE IMPROBABLE WORLD (Pgs. 56-70)

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CHAPTER 4: THE IMPROBABLE WORLD (Pgs.56-70)     

            In this chapter Postman points out that Technopoly has a vigorous ally called “social science”.   He uses a thought experiment to demonstrate that Americans will believe most anything that is preceded by “Studies show…” regardless of how ridiculous it may be.  This is done by stating a prestigious university, stating a study that “doctor so and so conducted” and the rest is assumed to be credible.

Like those in the Middle Ages who believed in the authority of their religion, Postman holds that twentieth century people believe in the authority of their science, no matter what.  The reason for this is that the world in which we live is for most of us incomprehensible and thus any new facts presented are uncritically accepted.  The reason for this is Americans have no unifying worldview from which to access logically truth from error, contradictions from realities.

The Scaffolding of the Old World Replaced by the Framework of Progress

The theological scaffolding that buttressed the belief system of so many and gave it a unifying Christian worldview—meaning to life, was supplanted in the Middle Ages by the instruments of Progress who replaced the theological with the scientific and technological with reliable information about nature and thus end ignorance and superstition.  These technocracies delivered real progress in pharmacology, sanitation, transportation, and communication.  These events were fueled by information—which became the god of culture reinterpreting the structure of nature and the human soul.

Information Glut

Like today, so it was back then that the flood of information was viewed as a friend, not a foe.  It was uncritically viewed as the key to solve human pain and suffering and yet the human plight really was not solved.  That is, very few personal and social political problems result from the lack of information.  Yet, information is what the progressive “Technopolist” affirms to be the “savior” of humanity.  But information “glut” as Postman puts it, does not aid us to reflect on the pros and cons of what’s ahead.  Information does not equal knowledge, knowledge does not equal wisdom and reflection is what’s required to distinguish these human realities.

The origins of information glut did not begin with the age of computers but with Gutenberg‘s old wine press which he converted into a printing machine with movable type.  Postman writes, “Fifty years after the press was invented, more than eight million books had been printed, almost all of them filled with information that had previously been unavailable to the average person…” Subjects like law, agriculture, politics, botany, linguistics, pediatrics, and more were available in book form.

In order to control the flow of said information schools became increasingly the bureaucratic structure for legitimizing certain flows of information and discrediting other aspects of it.  This impacted the areas of science, theology, philosophy and politics where the masses had access to knowledge that was historically unprecedented.

Whether the printed page came from Martin Luther (which spawned the Protestant Reformation), or it came from the likes of Kant and Hume (which sped up the “age of reason”), or it came from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (which caused the birth of a nation), no one can question its’ seismic effects on human history.

Moreover, when the printed page (through Newspapers) and the telegraph (with its Morse code) were combined, it removed space from the equation of getting information to the masses, converted it into a commodity (something to be bought and sold regardless of the usefulness or meaning) which resulted in the idea of context-less information.  Here, the fortunes accumulated by newspapers did not depend on the quality or utility of the information, but rather on the quantity and speed of getting it to the masses.

Again, the telegraph and printed page served to prepare people for the photographic revolution where a picture was worth a thousand words, and language was supplemented by new imagery as the dominant means for understanding and testing reality.

These three modes of information—the telegraph, the printed page and the photo) spawned a new definition of information, Postman writes:

“Here was information that rejected the necessity of inter-connectedness, proceeded without context, argued for instancy against historical continuity, and offered fascination in place of complexity and coherence” (pg.69).

These three stages in the information revolution were followed by broadcasting and fifth by computer technology.  Each communicated new forms of information, never before amounts of it imagined, and it increased the speed at which the information was distributed.

What does this mean?

So much information from so many angles through the above mentioned means around the globe (e.g., books, radio, television, advertisements, computer chips, etc.) finds its way into our homes.  Postman among other things concludes that:

“Like the Sorcerer’s apprentice, we are awash in information.  And all the sorcerer has left us is a broom.  Information has become a source of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental human questions but barely useful in providing coherent direction to the solution of even mundane problems…We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend…(without realizing it can also be our foe)” (Pg69-70)

The setting under which Technopoly flourishes is between information and human purpose; here information appears without discretion with no particular audience in mind and is disconnected from theory, meaning, or any design.

Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD: John Bunyan”Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”

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Bunyan: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners[1]

In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, during his incarceration, Bunyan writes a spiritual autobiography, where his conversion to Christ is contrasted from his former idolatry.  The son of a traveling blacksmith, Bunyan in 1653 was incarcerated for 11 years because he refused to refrain from preaching.

He starts his autobiography by explaining the former darkness that bound him (Eph. 2: 2, 3) such that a sinful lifestyle became second nature to him.  Yet, thoughts of coming judgment and hell tormented Bunyan around nine or ten years of age.  However, until he married, all manner of vice drowned out the aforesaid fears as he gave himself over to satisfy his every lust.

Experiencing Guilt Yet Not Converted

Bunyan was much vexed with guilt after hearing a sermon on keeping the Sabbath, and in a mystical experience, he heard a voice (supposedly from Christ) challenging him to leave sin for heaven or embrace hell for sin, despair gripped Bunyan, believing that he was beyond Christ’s forgiveness.  After this experience, Bunyan noticed that his speech went from swearing to leaving that pleasantly behind (this happened before he knew Christ).  Yet, while experiencing some outward manifestations of reform, Bunyan was not converted.  He had religion, but without Christ, he was outwardly righteous, but inwardly wicked.  He was pleased with his own righteousness, while ignorant of Christ’s righteousness.  That is, until it was initially revealed to him through women conversing about the new birth and as Bunyan read the Scriptures, his thirst to truly know God grew.

The Gift of Faith

As Bunyan read (1 Cor. 12: 8, 9) regarding the gift of faith, he wondered if he could receive it, moreover, if he actually had it, but simultaneously was puzzled as how to verify whether or not he had faith.  He then wondered how he could know if he was elect which tormented Bunyan, for he understood Romans 9: 16 to say that one’s election is grounded not on one’s desires, nor on one’s willingness, but on God’s mercy.  Hence, unless God elected him, he knew that hell awaited.  The Tempter tormented Bunyan much with this issue, discouraging his soul deeply, but eventually God’s sweet mercy and calling became real to him (Mk. 3:13).  In his soul, Bunyan understood Romans 8:39 and assured him of God’s love for him.

Struggling with Christ’s Exclusivity

He then had to deal with doubts about Jesus being the only Savior, for the Turks also have their scriptures and their savior is Mahomet.  Yet, something within his spirit allowed Bunyan not to doubt Jesus and the Scriptures he had.  But he still had many bouts with doubt, which caused Bunyan much unrest.  Yet scriptures such as (2 Cor. 5:21; John 14:19; Rom. 8:31; Heb. 2: 14-15) comforted him regarding salvation and the rescue from death, all of which are grounded on God’s goodness toward his creatures.

Called to Ministry

Now concerning his call to ministry, Bunyan offers a brief account explaining among other things how his peers recognized God’s hand on him and gladly desired to hear him preach.  After fasting and prayer, he was appointed to a more ordinary and public ministry of preaching.  Bunyan understood that God desired men with gifts to use them for the Masters glory, rather than bury them.   The following Scriptures encouraged him to labor diligently in the ministry of the word (Acts 8: 4; 18:24-25; 1 Pet. 4:10; Rom. 12:6) and also those of church history (Foxes Acts and Mounments).

Moved for the People

When he preached, Bunyan was moved for the people, as they were confronted with the gravity of their sin before a holy God.  In touch with his own wretchedness, Bunyan was amazed and humbled that the people loved him, and that God was using him for preaching the word.

Mode of Preaching

His mode of preaching focused first on the problem of sin in mans’ hearts, and the terror that awaits the ungodly.  Having been under the torment of such a reality himself, Bunyan understood his duty to warn people of God’s coming judgment and Christ’s rescue.  While he received opposition from the doctors and the priests, Bunyan did not shrink back from proclaiming the gospel.  He was not a polemical preacher, but focused primarily on the redemption that is only found in Christ.

Bunyan sensed God’s leading before he embarked going to any particular place.  Moreover, he also understood that where God lead him, the Devil would meet him trying to oppose the work of the gospel.  He desired to go into the darkest places spiritually speaking and preach the gospel among those who had not heard it, interceding much for them.

[1] Bunyan, Graces Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Dr. Alan Gomes, Spring 2002 Biola University, Reformation & Modern Theology Selected Readings, CD ROM Pp. 1-58).

 

Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD: Arminius Declaration of Sentiments

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Arminius Declaration of Sentiments[1]

In his Declaration of Sentiments, Arminius deals with the doctrine’s of predestination, Divine Providence, the freedom of the will, God’s grace, Christ’s deity, and man’s justification before God.

Many Facets to Predestination Obtain

The bulk of his treatise deals with the many facets of predestination, holding that Calvin’s view on many points is false and impertinent.  Arminius rejects the notions that the decree of God is the foundation of Christianity, salvation, and one’s certainty.  For predestination is not the foundation of the Gospel, Christ is through whom believers are built up into Him.  It’s neither the grounds for salvation, nor it’s certainty, for only those who believe shall be saved.   Arminius sees that the Gospel of Christ and of the Apostles after the ascension is one of repentance and belief, followed by a promise to forgive sins and realizing eternal life. But predestination belongs to neither of these injunctions and is not necessary for a doctrine of salvation; as an object of knowledge, belief, hope, or performance.

The Councils and Divines of the Church Never Held This Predestination View

Arminius continues and points to the early Councils[2] and to the Divines/Doctors of the church, while holding orthodox views, and defending God’s grace against Pelagius, never brought this doctrine forward or approved it.  Moreover, this doctrine is not found in the volume of Geneva[3] and is debatable in others.[4]  And as such, more tolerance of those opposing Calvin’s view should obtain.

Calvin’s Predestination View is Repugnant in View of God’s Nature

Arminius found the doctrine repugnant in view of God’s nature.  It is repugnant concerning God’s wisdom seeing Him decreeing something that is not good nor can be. Concerning His justice it counts against God loving righteousness and hating evil.  And concerning His goodness, it’s repugnant showing God to will the greatest evil.

Again, Arminius understands this doctrine to be contrary to man’s nature, for being created in God’s image with free will, certain commands to obedience cannot be excited in man if he can choose no other alternative (Rom. 10: 5; Gen. 2: 17).  Along the same lines, Arminius sees that determining man’s actions is inconsistent with creation by preventing the free exercise of liberty.  This predestination is totally opposed to the Act of Creation, for that which is by nature good, turns out to be a the determined perdition of the creature.  Reprobation is an act of hatred (Mt.26: 24) creation is the converse.  Creation is a perfect act of God whereby His goodness, wisdom and omnipotence are manifest.

Calvin’s Predestination View is Hostile to the Nature of Eternal Life

This predestination is both hostile to the nature of eternal life (Mt. 5:12; Tit. 3:7; Jn. 1:12), and to the nature of eternal death (Rom. 6:23).  It’s further inconsistent with the nature of Divine Grace because it denies that: grace can be resisted (Acts 7:51); that man can receive or reject it; and that man cannot freely exercise his will.

There are many more disagreements to Calvin’s views that Arminius expresses such as; this doctrine is hurtful to man’s salvation, it’s dishonorable to Jesus Christ, it’s openly hostile to the Gospel’s ministry, it’s subversive to Christianity in particular (dealing with supralapsarianism), etc.  Arminius then deals with a second and third kind of predestination and then positively affirms his position on the doctrine.

God’s Providence Generally and Specifically

He then deals with God’s Providence seeing in it the general care of God for the whole world and particular care for His intelligent creatures and of those who should be heirs of salvation.  For Arminius, his view of providence does not attribute see God as the cause of sin.  Concerning man’s free will, only the regenerate can perform what is truly good since they are delivered from sin’s power.  Concerning God’s grace, Arminius held men could reject it.  Concerning the perseverance of the saints, they can resist Satan and persevere to the end only through the Holy Spirit’s power.  However, certain passages seem to say that one can fall away from the faith, but many other passages buttress the contrary.  Concerning the assurance of salvation, Arminius holds that one can know with certainty that they are saved, but not with the same certainty that we know God exists.

Arminius then concludes with the believer’s perfection, Christ’s divinity, man’s justification before God and ends his treatise with a plea for toleration from those differing with him, for Christianity has had enough schisms.  Said schisms should be diminished and their influence ought to be destroyed.

[1] Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments, Dr. Alan Gomes, Spring 2002 Biola University, Reformation & Modern Theology Selected Readings, CD ROM Pp. 1-36).

[2]  The first six centuries after Christ.

[3]  Which is done in the name of the Protestant and Reformed Churches

[4]  The Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism

Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD: Trent on Justification (Discussion) & (Canons)

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Trent, On Justification (Discussion)[1]

Pope Paul the III presided over the Council of Trent, which focused on clarifying the significance of Justification.  They understand that man in his state of original sin is incapable of self-rescue.  Said rescue can only be realized through faith in Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice as one appropriates the benefit of his death personally.  This justification is derived from God’s prevenient grace, which one can reject.

The justification of the impious has God as the final cause, God’s mercy as the efficient cause, Jesus Christ as the meritorious cause, the sacrament of baptism is the instrumental cause, and Gods justice as the alone formal cause.  We are freely justified by faith.  It’s the genesis of human salvation.  However, if one demonstrates confidence in that their sins are forgiven, they are not.  For nobody can have such certainty of faith or of perseverance.

Moreover, justification is realized not forensically, but dualistically as faith and good works manifest in a believer.  Furthermore, it is necessary and possible to keep the commandments, for works of righteousness are the means to realize final salvation.  If one falls away from justification, he can again be justified through the Sacraments of penance, confession of sins, sacerdotal absolution, fasts, alms, etc.  And finally, the ultimate fruit of justification is merited eternal life.   

Trent, On Justification (Canons)[2]

The Canons lay out a plethora of anathemas to those in disagreement with Trent’s views.  Such anathemas include those holding: that man’s image in Adam’s was erased, rather than effaced; that God is the cause of evil in man; that justification is by faith alone; that men are just without Christ’s righteousness; that by faith alone absolution and justification are realized; that perseverance is certain, unless divinely revealed; that Jesus is the Savior but does not need to be obeyed; that one cannot lose their salvation; seeing good works as fruit of being justified, rather than the grounds thereof, etc.

[1] Document retrieved through Hanover College, History Department,  Comments to: luttmer@hanover.edu

[2] Ibid.

Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD: Calvin On Predestination (Institutes)

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Calvin On Predestination (Institutes)[1]

The Doctrine of Election

In Calvin’s treatise On Predestination, he first addresses the doctrine of eternal election, where some are predestined to salvation and others to destruction.  He begins by affirming that neglecting this doctrine essentially impairs God’s glory and produces pride in the individual.  He admonishes both the inquirers and those shunning the doctrine of predestination, to stay within the bounds of scripture, rather than venture into what God has concealed, for everything we need to know is contained therein.  When God ceases revealing, we cease wanting to be wise.  Calvin understood that profane men would scoff and cavil this doctrine, but it is not to deter one from its inquiry.  For scoffers will always find something to poke fun at.

Predestination is the Eternal Decree of God

For Calvin, predestination is “the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man,” God testifying his election of Israel in (Dt.32: 8, 9; 4: 37; 7: 7, 8; 10: 14, 15; Ps.47: 4; 33: 12; 1 Sam. 12:22; Is. 41:9 etc.).  God also shows His rejection of Ishmael, Esau, Saul, and Ephraim (Ps. 78: 67, 68; 147: 20; Mal.1: 2, 3; Rom. 9:8; Gal. 3:16; etc.).   Though in the line of Abraham, they were rotten, not the remnant.  Hence, in God’s eternal and immutable council some were elected for salvation, and others to perdition.

Calvin makes a case for election from Scripture contra those who interpret election, as those who God foreknew would not be worthy of his grace.  His election is certainly not based on man’s inherent worth, for it precedes works.  As Paul declares God’s choosing us (i.e., believers) before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 5; Col. 1:12; cf., 1 Tim. 2:9).  Jesus himself explicitly demonstrates God choosing us not based on past merits, but on God’s mercy (John. 15:16).  Again, Paul shows that the origin and cause of election proceed not from works of merit, but from God’s good pleasure (Rom. 9:11).  Calvin disagrees with those that assign election to past or future works, for he understands that God finds nothing in man to show him kindness (Rom. 9:15).

Moreover, Peter accentuates God accomplishing the believer’s salvation by his own determinate foreknowledge in Christ’s death (Acts 2:23).   Election is further supported by the Father’s donation to Jesus, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me” (John 6: 37, 39, 44, 45; 17:9; 12; 13:18;).  These texts demonstrate God’s gratuitous adoption of those whom according to his good pleasure, he wishes to be his sons, because God is contented with his secret pleasure.  Calvin then considers the church fathers on this issue (Ambrose, Origin, Jerome, Augustine, and Aquinas) understanding that Augustine got the doctrine correctly in his later years and continues dealing with objections to his position.

Responding To Objections

Calvin deals with several objections to his view and responds accordingly.  He first addresses those who object that God makes anyone reprobate, and reminds his dissenters that Paul does not try to defend God, but simply reminds us that it is unlawful for the creature to argue with the Creator.  Calvin further shows that the reprobate, are those trees not planted by the Father who are doomed to destruction (Mt. 15:13).

A second objection is that it seems unjust and capricious for God to doom some to destruction before they have committed any wrongs.  Calvin’s response is that because of God’s ontological status (being righteous), he does not commit any lawlessness, and by the mere fact of his willing (in election), is necessarily right.  A further objection is that God seems to be a cruel judge by preordaining the reprobate’s sin.  But, Calvin defends the justice of God with Paul’s words, “…O man, who are thou that replies against God…” (Rom. 9:20-21).  This passage couches God’s infinite mind, to man’s finitude.  The last objection we will consider is the charge that Scripture nowhere declares that God decreed Adam’s fall.  Calvin responds that Scripture proclaims all mankind was in Adam, made liable to eternal death.  The decree is dreadful, but it is impossible to deny that God foreknew man’s end before being created.  To do so, is rash and not advised.

Election Confirmed by God’s Calling

Calvin deals with election confirmed by God’s calling and the reprobate bring upon themselves the righteous destruction to which they are doomed.  Calvin admits that election is God’s secret, but is manifest in his effectual calling.  He then deals with the metaphysics of said calling and concludes that it is founded on God’s free mercy.  He then illustrates aforementioned and understands that this calling is grounded on Christ.  He further considers objections to his position that the elect sometimes fall away and responds accordingly (e.g., the son of perdition passage, many are called but few are chosen, etc.)

[1] Calvin’s Institutes: Chapters 21-24, (This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Last updated on May 27, 1999. Contacting the CCEL).

Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD_Martin Luther: On Christian Liberty, Justification, the Church Fathers and the Scriptures

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Luther, On Christian Liberty[1]

In his letter On Christian Liberty, Luther addresses Pope Leo X and

affirms that he has never thought any evil concerning his person, but regards him highly and his dispute is not over morals, but over the word of truth.  The Church of Rome “Babylon” doesn’t want reform, and the pope is as Daniel in that Satanically ruled city, the “seat of all pestilence”.  He views Luther’s chief nemesis, John Eccius, as the enemy of peace, evidenced by their exaltation of the Pope (i.e., only via his authority one can be saved, and he alone has the right to interpret Scripture).  Instead of trusting those who exalt him, Luther implores the Pope to trust the ones who humble him.

The Christian is the Freest Lord of All

For Luther, the Christian is the freest lord of all, and subject to none, but is also the most dutiful servant of all and subject to all (Paul’s example used: 1 Cor.9: 19; Rom.13:8).  He argues that mere outward pious acts do not make one justified or liberate the soul, but rather the risen Christ and his word (Jn.11: 25; Mt.4: 4).  The soul can do without everything but the word of God.  Through the word salvation is realized (Rom.1; 10:9; 10:4; 1:17) and the sinner liberated (Rom.3: 23).  This justification is by faith alone, hence, the Christian’s primary concern must be to grow, not in reliance on works, but in strengthening one’s faith.  Luther cites Jesus when confronted by the Jews what the work of God was, “to believe on Him whom He hath sent…” (Jn.6: 27-29).

Commands Teach Us What is Good, But They Do Not Help Us Obey

Precepts (commands) teach us what is good “thou shall not…” but it does not empower us to obey.  Once one understands the aforementioned, that person is ready to believe the promises of God, which by faith aids the obeying of commands, “the promises of God give that which the precepts exact” p.11 (see; 1 Tim.1: 9).  To disbelieve God’s promises is the highest form of insult toward Him, while the converse is the greatest honor toward the Almighty (1 Sam. 2:30).  Among other things Luther makes a case for the priesthood of all believers and sees the system that separates “laity” from “priest”,  “clergy” etc., as bad because the notion is not biblical.

Why Are Good Works Commanded?

To the objection: “if faith is everything, and by itself suffices for justification, why then are good works commanded?  Are we then to take our ease and do no works, content with faith?”  Luther affirms no!  Pertaining to his freedom, man is justified (inwardly) subject to none, but concerning his works (outwardly) he is subject to all and the servant of all.  For Luther, those who belong to Christ crucify the flesh (Gal. 5:24), in his words: “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works” p.18 (Mt.7: 18).  He continues and asserts that good works prior to justification profit the non-believer nothing concerning salvation.  But Luther wholeheartedly embraced the doing and teaching of good works to the highest degree, especially directed toward others (Phil.2: 1-4) as imitators of Christ (Phil.2: 5-8).   The works, which overflow from the joy of being justified, the believer is not concerned with recognition or recompense from friend or foe.  Luther then uses the Virgin Mary, and St. Paul as examples of the aforesaid life.

Justification is the Grounds for Love

For Luther, the man justified by faith in Christ is the one who serves his neighbor by love.  The liberty of the justified is a freedom from all sins, laws, and commandments (1 Tim.1: 9), and a liberty from believing that good works makes one right before God.

 Luther, Table Talk on Justification[2]

In Luther’s Table Talk on Justification, he begins by asserting that it is impossible for the papist to understand this article.  One remains a child of God even though periodically he sin or be tempted, for he is the Shepherds lamb.  Christians make the best use of natural wisdom and understanding because through faith, their reason furthers their understanding of things divine, not so with the unregenerate.  Their understanding is darkened because it strives against faith.

For Luther, the workmen who continuously is improving his craft, is like the righteous who constantly strive to increase their faith.  Faith and Hope are distinguishable in that, among other things, the former; it looks to the word and promise of truth, whereas the latter; looks to that which the Word promises (i.e., the good or benefit).  Again, faith is necessary for salvation because man is justified by it before God through Christ the Lord.  Justification is the key doctrine for all theological disputation; one cannot merit it, it is an inheritance from the Father, it bears the fruit of generosity toward neighbor, it produces virtues (the greatest being patience) and good works in the believer.  Luther understands that a believer’s good works are incompletely good, because they proceed from a weak obedience.

Luther, Table Talk on the Church Fathers[3]

In Luther’s Table Talk on the church Fathers, he does not want to be too critical of the Fathers.  He considers Chrysostum a rhetorician whose exegesis goes awry concerning the message of the text.  On the one hand, Luther’s disgust with the following fathers are because justification is nowhere to be found: St. Jerome; for his writings are cold, Ambrose; for his books are poor, Augustine; for his inattention to faith in Galatians or Romans and his apparent siding with the Church’s authority.  On the other hand, Luther appreciates the writings of Epiphanius; who compiled a church history, and Prudentius; who is the best of Christian poets.

The Fathers must be read with caution.  Luther asserts this because: First, their exegetical methods draw attention away from the Gospel of Christ.  Second, their writings are used in a way that undervalues the teaching of Christ’s apostles.  Third, Augustine noted; the laws of the Jews brought less trouble to the church than the ordinances and traditions of the bishops.  For Luther, faithful Christians must heed the words of Christ and those who stray from them in their teaching, should be shunned.

Luther, Table Talk on the Scriptures[4]

In Luther’s Table Talk on the Scriptures, he views the Bible as the highest and best of all books.  He understands that rulers have tried to destroy the Bible, and its survival is seen as an act of God alone.  Luther compares it to the writings of Homer, Virgil, and the like, and concludes that there is no comparison, regardless of how fine and noble these antiquated books may be.  He is thankful that finally, the Bible is written in the German language for all to read and understand.

Part of the reason Luther sees the Bible as superior to the rest is because of it’s divine content of virtues and gift’s.  The Scriptures abound in comfort for those undergoing trials and tribulations.  They should be studied and judged not by mere reason alone, but in humility bathed with prayer.  Moreover, for Luther, the one who has mastered the principles of the text will not err in its interpretation, but will rather silence his adversaries.  He also affirms that the Bible is to trump the authority of the fathers, regardless of their value.  Again, Luther sees that the knowledge of God in Scripture supercedes any of the other sciences whether philosophers, or jurists for the effect it has on our eternal destiny.

Luther understands that there is no harder discipline of knowledge to master than that of divinity, even though worldly wisdom would hold the contrary position.  He sees the worse thing that could possibly happen to Christians is for the Word of God to be taken from them or falsified.  Among other things, Luther continues lauding the Scripture’s magnificence and comments on the many books of the Bible with the respective authors intended message (Judges, Proverbs, John, Paul, etc.), and the is a discussion on the different genres (example: Gospel parables).  For Luther, the ablest teacher of the Word is the one who so familiarizes with its every text, that the context, verse, and meaning of the passage are known.

[1] Concerning Christian Liberty: by Martin Luther 1520, “The Harvard Classics”, Volume 36 (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1910, Pages 353-397)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.