Doctrine

“How to Defend the Faith: A Presuppositional Approach” is released in paperback and e-book

Description: “You know that Christianity is the truth, but can you prove it in conversation with an unbeliever? How to Defend the Faith takes the apologetical theory of Cornelius Van Til, known as the presuppositional apologetic, and makes a practical guide for how to use it in real conversation with real people. This book equips the Christian with confidence that he or she will be able to soundly refute every non-Christian worldview that comes along, and logically prove the truth of biblical Christianity. It is intended for the Christian who desires to engage unbelievers with rational proof for Christianity, and would like to be more confident in knowing how to approach the debate and the words to say. With this book in your arsenal, you will never enter the intellectual fight unarmed again.”  Paperback: $8.99.  Kindle E-book: $6.99.

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Sinless Concupiscence?

Pelagius2Richard D. Phillips states in his interesting update following the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly: “At the heart of our division on this subject is whether or not to define same-sex attraction (SSA) as a morally neutral status that does not require repentance. PCA progressives seem to have asserted such a sub-category beneath sinful desire (essentially adopting the pre-Reformation concept of concupiscence).”

I’m trying really hard, but I can’t for the life of me think of a definition of concupiscence that anyone in the Reformed or Presbyterian tradition would not consider to be sin.  According to Reformed (and even Catholic) doctrine, Original Sin is sin.  (Concupiscence, too.)  Any Presbyterian should understand that given the clarity of our confessional standards on the subject:

Westminster confession of Faith (1646), IV. Of the Fall of Man, Sin, and the Punishment Thereof

v. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

But maybe those Westminster divines were suffering from Puritan Brain Syndrome.  Lest we think a contrary view that original sin and/or concupiscence are not in themselves sin, has a place in Reformed doctrine, let us see how soundly other Reformed Confessions proclaim that original sin is sin:

French Confession of Faith (1559)

XI. We believe, also, that this evil [original sin] is truly sin, sufficient for the condemnation of the whole human race, even of little children in the mother’s womb, and that God considers it as such; even after baptism it is still of the nature of sin,

39 Articles (1572), Article IX, Of Original or Birth Sin

And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized: yet the Apostle doth confess that con­cupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

Belgic Confession, (1619), Article 15, Of the Doctrine of Original Sin

[Original Sin] is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn the human race

Phillips mentions pre-reformation sources.  What would Aquinas say on the subject of whether concupiscence toward sodomy is sin?

Aquinas, Summa Theologica, “Whether Original sin is concupiscence?”

Augustine says (Retract. i, 15): “Concupiscence is the guilt of original sin.” (Aquinas, Objection)

Aquinas: Reply to Objection 1, …so far as it trespasses beyond the bounds of reason, it is, for a man, contrary to reason. Such is the concupiscence of original sin.

Reply to Objection 2 …Therefore original sin is ascribed to concupiscence, as being the chief passion, and as including all the others, in a fashion.

Reply to Objection 3 …for [concupiscence] clouds and draws the reason, as stated above. Hence original sin is called concupiscence

Some appetite (Aquinas), inclination or proclivity toward sin, lying below the level of desire, must be characterized as sin.  On first reaction, one wonders if PCA progressives are raising Pelagius from the grave. But on second thought, even Pelagius would have considered an inclination or proclivity to desire to commit sodomy to be sin (by imitation not by nature.)  Does anyone in the PCA believe in sin?

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Samuel Rutherford on the two kingdoms

And I see not, but those who doe confound them, may also say, that the Christian State and Christian Church be all one state, and that the government of the one must be the government of the other; which were a confusion of the two kingdoms. It is true, God hath not prescribed judicials to the Christian State, as he did to the Jewish State, because shadows are now gone, when the body Christ is come; but Gods determination of what is morally lawful in civill laws, is as particular to us as to them; Samuel Rutherford, Due Right of Presbyteries, 70.

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Augustine of Hippo On Faith as the Instrumental Means of Salvation

Augustine of Hippo spends one chapter in his work, the city of God recapping the various philosophical schools of Greece and Rome. He relates and critiques their debates about the supreme good and evil, virtue, pleasure, and their interrelation. Then he contrasts that “earthly city” with the “city of God”, in the process affirming the doctrine of justification by faith alone, adapting the philosophical categories and terminology to his purpose for the benefit of his pagan readers:

“if then, we be asked what the city of God has to say upon these points, in the first place, what its opinion regarding the supreme good and evil is, it will reply that life eternal is the supreme good, death eternal the supreme evil, and that to obtain the one and escape the other we must live rightly. And thus it is written, ‘the just lives by faith,’ or we do not as yet see our good, and must therefore live by faith; neither have we in ourselves power to live rightly, but can do so only if he who has given us faith to believe in his help do help us when we believe and pray.” Augustine, the City of God, book 19, chapter 4

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Baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation–St. Augustine

For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, “Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” John 3:5 made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;” Matthew 10:32 and in another place, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” Matthew 16:25 And this explains the verse, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Augustine, City of God, Book XIII, chapter 7.

 

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“For then death was incurred by sinning, now righteousness is fulfilled by dying.”

But now, by the greater and more admirable grace of the Saviour, the punishment of sin is turned to the service of righteousness. For then it was proclaimed to man, “If you sin, you shall die;” now it is said to the martyr, “Die, that you sin not.” Then it was said, “If you trangress the commandments, you shall die;” now it is said, “If you decline death, you transgress the commandment.” That which was formerly set as an object of terror, that men might not sin, is now to be undergone if we would not sin. Thus, by the unutterable mercy of God, even the very punishment of wickedness has become the armor of virtue, and the penalty of the sinner becomes the reward of the righteous. For then death was incurred by sinning, now righteousness is fulfilled by dying. In the case of the holy martyrs it is so; for to them the persecutor proposes the alternative, apostasy or death. For the righteous prefer by believing to suffer what the first transgressors suffered by not believing. For unless they had sinned, they would not have died; but the martyrs sin if they do not die. The one died because they sinned, the others do not sin because they die. By the guilt of the first, punishment was incurred; by the punishment of the second, guilt is prevented. Not that death, which was before an evil, has become something good, but only that God has granted to faith this grace, that death, which is the admitted opposite to life, should become the instrument by which life is reached.

Augustine, City of God, Book XIII, Chapter 5

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The Cultural Mandate, Not the Benedict Option

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but the secularists’ are. I like this approach, “The best way to keep satanic secularism off the sacred turf of the church and family is to contest the so-called secular turf of modern culture” It reminds me of the war on terrorism. We fought them in Iraq so that we didn’t have to fight them here.

P. Andrew Sandlin

ben-op-cover-black-hill

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (an excerpt of which appeared in Christianity Today),[1] has launched the latest Facebook-Twitter-blog-web battle among culturally oriented Christians. The Benedict Option (Dreher abbreviates it: Ben Op) is a “strategic withdrawal” according to which many conservative Christians, aggressive culture warriors since the 70s, now retreat into tight-knit communities to bolster their faith during our time of nearly unprecedented cultural hostility. Dreher argues that this culture is presently so influential and pervasive in its anti-Christianity that to refuse to withdraw from it relegates our children and grandchildren to “assimilation.” Our cultural foes are so vast and influential, that we just can’t expect to hold out against them. We’ve lost the culture wars, and we’d better adopt and act on a strategy to spend our earthly sojourn as the cultural losers we’ve become.

It’s not a new proposal…

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Calvin on the Adoration of the Elements of Holy Communion

pope-francis-kneeling-at-st-mary-majorWho therefore can deny that it is a wicked superstition that men kneel down before bread, to adore Jesus Christ in it?  There is no doubt that the Council of Nicaea wanted to prevent such an detriment, having prohibited Christians from stopping to fix their thoughts humbly toward visible signs.  There would not have been any other reason why it was instituted in the ancient Church that the deacon would cry out to the people in a loud and clear voice before the consecration [of the elements], that everyone should have his heart up above.  And in the same way the Scripture, other than explaining to us distinctly the ascension of our Lord, when it mentions Him, exhorts us to raise our hearts up above (Col. 3:1) to remove from us from any carnal thought.  Therefore, following this rule, it is necessary for us to adore Him spiritually in the glory of heaven, rather than to invent such a dangerous form of adoration, which proceeds from a deep dream and worse than carnal, that we conceive as being from God and from Jesus Christ.

That is why those who invented the adoration of the sacrament, did not only think it up by themselves without Scripture, in which not a single word is found of it, that which would not have been forgotten, if it had been approved by God, but they also forge a new god plainly contrary to the Scriptures, according to their own will, and forsake the living God.  For what idolatry is there in the world, if that is not one, to adore the gifts instead of the Giver?  In this they have doubly erred: for the honor was taken from God, to transfer it to the creature.  And God was also dishonored, in that the gift of His goodness was soiled and profaned, when an execrable idol was made of His holy sacrament.

We, however, in order that we do not fall into the same ditch, let us fix our ears, our eyes, our hearts, our thoughts, and our tongues, entirely in the very holy teaching of God.  For it is in the school of the Holy Spirit, a very good Teacher, in which there is excellent benefit, to which there is no need to add anything else, and it is to voluntarily ignore everything that is not taught in it.

Jean Calvin, Institution Chrétienne, IV.XVII.36

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The Historic Reformed 2 Kingdoms doctrine vs. modern “R2K”

Ames, in his Marrow of Theology, describes two distinct Kingdoms: the Kingdom of God’s grace (the Church) and the kingdom of God’s power (the whole universe.) Both are under His law, without any distinction made between general and special revelation. Modern “R2K” teaching strangely makes a complete separation between God’s law in general and special revelation, says only the former applies outside the church, and often seems to imply that it in fact says something different from what the law in special revelation says. But classical reformed theology said that in order to be correct, because of sin, our understanding of general revelation must be corrected by the Scriptures, to make it accurate. (Dogmatics, Mueller.) This has ramifications for the “secular” kingdom.

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Calvin on transubstantiation

He commands me in His Holy Communion, to take, eat and drink His body and His blood under the signs of bread and wine. I do not doubt that He gives me what He promises, and that I receive them. I only reject the absurdities and false imaginations that contradict His majesty, or the truth of His human nature, in light of the fact that they are also contrary to the word of God, which teaches that Jesus Christ being received in the glory of Heaven, should not be searched for down here, and attributes to His human nature all that which is proper to man.

Calvin, Institution, IV.XVII.32

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