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The Reformation: Augustine versus Augustine

Speaking of contradictions, I found this very interesting:


In response [to Pelagius], Augustine strongly asserted the inability of unregenerate sinners to merit salvation. Moreover, he said, no one can believe in Christ apart from a sovereign work of God overcoming man’s sinful resistance. Augustine refuted the false notion that God merely looks down the proverbial tunnel of time and foresees the free will of man choosing Him. Instead, he developed a full-blown doctrine of predestination. He firmly maintained the biblical teaching on original sin, total depravity, sovereign election, monergistic regeneration, and absolute predestination. He saw man as hopelessly plagued by radical corruption and, therefore, unable to initiate or contribute to his salvation. By necessity, he viewed God as sovereign in the exercise of His saving grace toward elect sinners.

Regarding election, Augustine taught that salvation is a sovereign gift, fixed in eternity past, irrespective of the merit of man. Augustine, Loraine Boettner argues, “went far beyond the earlier theologians, and taught an unconditional election of grace, and restricted the purposes of redemption to the definite circle of the elect.” The whole race fell in Adam, Augustine maintained, so that everyone is born totally depraved and spiritually dead. Therefore, the human will is free only to sin, but not free to choose any good toward God. Thus, Augustine was the first theologian to carefully connect the biblical truths of man’s moral inability in sin and God’s sovereignty in election and regeneration. Augustine’s influence would dominate medieval Christianity and provide the chief stimulus for the Reformation.

Though Augustine asserted salvation by grace, he maintained that the irresistible grace of predestination is applied by the sacrament of baptism. He also espoused progressive justification. He even held that some believers are not of the elect and will not persevere. Thus, his theological steps forward did not go far enough. Despite his advances in the areas of sin and grace, further clarity was needed on salvation by faith alone. The Reformation would be the triumph of Augustine’s views on sovereign grace, as held by the Protestants, over his views on sacramentalism and the church, as held by the Roman Catholics.

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 27–28.

Lord’s Day 32, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; Who establishes the mountains by His strength, Being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. —Psalm 65:5—8 On a Stormy Night. I. Lord of the earth, and seas, and skies, All nature owns thy sovereign pow’r; At thy command the tempests rise, At thy command the thunders roar. II. We hear, with trembling and affright, The voice of heav’n, (tremendous sound!) Keen lightnings pierce the shades of night, And spread bright horrors all around. III. What mortal could sustain the stroke, Should wrath divine in vengeful storms, (Which our repeated crimes provoke,) Descend to crush rebellious worms? IV. These dreadful glories of thy name With terror would o’erwhelm our souls; But mercy dawns with kinder beam, And guilt and rising fear controuls. V. O let thy mercy on my heart With cheering, healing radiance shine; Bid ev’ry anxious fear depart, And gently whisper, Thou art mine. VI. Then safe beneath thy guardian care, In hope serene my soul shall rest; Nor storms nor dangers reach me there, In thee, my God, my refuge, blest. —Anne Steele, The Works of Mrs. Anne Steele (Munroe, Francis, and Parker, 1808). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Depth of Mercy

Depth of Mercy Canterbury Depth of mercy! Can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear? Me, the chief of sinners, spare? I have long withstood His grace: long provoked Him to His face; would not hearken to His calls; grieved Him by a thousand falls. I my Master have denied, I afresh have crucified, oft profaned His hallowed name, put Him to an open shame. There for me the Savior stands, shows His wounds and spreads His hands: God is love! I know, I feel; Jesus weeps, but loves me still! Now incline me to repent! Let me now my fall lament! Now my foul revolt deplore! Weep, believe, and sin no more. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). I could not find a video of this tune. You can listen here. The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, recently published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

A Loophole in Sola Scriptura?

Trying to hunt down another Luther quotation (because you can’t be too careful, e.g., the so-called “battle quote”), I came across this gem. Apologies to my Lutheran friends—I don’t do this to annoy you, really. That’s just an added bonus. In the second place, this is an important consideration: No heresy endures to the end, but always, as St. Peter says, soon comes to light and is revealed as disgraceful. So St. Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres and their like [II Tim. 3:8f], whose folly is finally plain to all. Were child baptism now wrong God would certainly not have permitted it to continue so long, nor let it become so universally and thoroughly established in all Christendom, but it would sometime have gone down in disgrace. The fact that the Anabaptists now dishonor it does not mean anything final or injurious to it. Just as God has established that Christians in all the world have accepted the Bible as Bible, the Lord’s Prayer as Lord’s Prayer, and faith of a child as faith, so also he has established child baptism and kept it from being rejected while all kinds of heresies have disappeared which are much more recent and later than child baptism. This miracle of God is an indication that child baptism must be right. He has not so upheld the papacy, which also is an innovation and has never been accepted by all Christians of the world as has child baptism, the Bible, faith, or the Lord’s Prayer, etc. You say, this does not prove that child baptism is certain. For there is no passage in Scripture for it. My answer: that is true. From Scripture we cannot clearly conclude that you could establish child baptism as a practice among the first Christians after the apostles. But you can well conclude that in our day no one may reject or neglect the practice of child baptism which has so long a tradition, since God actually not only has permitted it, but from the beginning so ordered, that it has not yet disappeared. For where we see the work of God we should yield and believe in the same way as when we hear his Word, unless the plain Scripture tells us otherwise. I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace. It is a work of wrath from which to flee, as other plagues also are works of God, but works of wrath and displeasure. —Martin Luther, Concerning Rebaptism [source]. In a nutshell: Infant baptism is not found in scripture, but it must be right because God “permitted it to continue so long, [and] let it become so universally and thoroughly established”—never mind that it only became “thoroughly established” in the apostate Roman Catholic church. Then, with no sense of irony, “I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace.” Luther was a great and brilliant man, but he was also a man of many contradictions.

And furthermore . . .

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Teach as Jesus Taught, I present this from Carl Trueman: Historically, it was one of the objections Erasmus made to Luther’s doctrine of the bondage of the will. How could it make sense to preach the law when nobody could fulfill its commands? Or predestination when it would only subvert any notion of real moral accountability? But this kind of objection to certain doctrines—we might call it the kerygmatic fallacy*—is no monopoly of Luther’s nemesis or of anti-Protestants. His own friend and colleague, Philip Melanchthon also thought preaching predestination was a bad idea, a position for which he was implicitly slapped by his Reformed contemporary and friend, John Calvin, in his Institutes. For Calvin and Luther, the presence of a doctrine in God’s Word meant that it must be preached. God knew best and therefore no matters of human taste or misplaced concerns about its impact could silence a biblical doctrine. The kerygmatic fallacy was just that—a fallacy. . . . So the only evaluative question to ask about any doctrine is this: ‘Is it historic, biblical Christianity?’ And if the answer to that is yes, then the next question is not ‘Is it preachable?’—by definition it must be—but rather ‘How then should I preach it?’ And, whatever the doctrine may be, a brief but humble glance at the great theologian-preachers of the past will almost certainly help you answer that. (Full article: The Kerygmatic Fallacy) * Kerygma (κηρύγμα) : preaching

Teach as Jesus Taught

The preacher said, “Predestination? I don’t go there.” When I heard that, I thought, “That’s too bad. In fact, it’s disturbing, because it means Jesus taught things that you’re not willing to repeat. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. —John 6:37–40 Thankfully, the apostle Paul did not shy away from “go[ing] there.” And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. —Romans 8:28–30 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. —Ephesians 1:3–14 Christians, we must go where the inspired text takes us. We must believe and teach what God has declared, in his word, to be true. If it makes us uncomfortable, or we find it impractical, we need to humbly submit to it and work through it until, by the grace of God, we find his purpose and our comfort in it. When we find our feelings at odds with God’s word, it is never he who is wrong.

Love’s Activity

Kindness is usefulness in a good sense, and always in small things. The word “kindness” refers to that attitude of life which makes men see the little thing which, being done, will minister to some other soul. I submit to you, is there anything equal to maintaining you in the kindness of doing little things except love? I am afraid it must be granted that there may be motives for great philanthropies other than that of love. Amos was a wonderful prophet, and he, when he was dealing with the men of his day, said, “They proclaim freewill offerings and publish them.” Love is not necessarily behind the published gift. . . . Here is a young man who, if he were talking to me, would tell me he loves his mother. He would even tell me that he was willing to die for her. Nonsense! Stay at home tomorrow night and read to her for half an hour. Kindness is the willingness to do simple things to help other people. When Jesus approaches a subject He says the last thing. According to Him, the cup of cold water, which costs nothing but the trouble of seeing that it is wanted and the giving, counts in heaven. What will make a man keen-eyed enough to see the thousand and one little needs of life and meet them? Nothing but love. Kindness is love’s activity. —G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit (Sermon: “The Fruit of the Spirit”) (Baker, 2006), 1:174–175.

Dig Up the Hatchet
Lord’s Day 31, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Ho! Ye That Thirst
My Gospel
One Job
Shipwrecked, Lost, and Gone to Pieces
The End of All

A Worthless Pedigree
Lord’s Day 29, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: How Sad Our State
The Eschatology of Grace
Denigrating Grace
Purified and Zealous
No Contradiction

God’s Glory
Lord’s Day 30, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Come to the Waters
Capital Crime
Christ Died for God
Unformed and Inadequate
The Full Weight of Divine Fury


Who Is Jesus?

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What It Means to Be a Christian

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What I Believe

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