Monthly Archives: March 2014

Elbow Drop (Puritan Style)

“There are two rotten pillars which the fabric of late Arminianism (an egg of the old Pelagianism, which we had well hoped had long since chilled, but is sat upon and brooded by wanton wits of our degenerate and apostate spirits) doth principally stand.

“The one is, That God loveth all alike, Cain as well as Abel, Judas as the rest of the Apostles.

“The other is, That God giveth (nay is bound, “ex debito,” so to do) both Christ, the great gift of his eternal love, for all alike to work out their redemption, and “vires credenda,” power to believe in Christ to all alike to whom he gives the gospel; whereby that redemption may effectually be applied for their salvation, if they please to make right use of that which is so put into their power.

“The former destroys the free and special grace of God, by making it universal; the latter gives cause to man of glorying in himself rather than in God,–God concurring no farther to the salvation of a believer than a reprobate. Christ died for both alike;–God giving power of accepting Christ to both alike, men themselves determining the whole matter by their free-will; Christ making both savable, themselves make them to be saved.

“This cursed doctrine of theirs crosseth the main drift of the holy Scripture; which is to abase and pull down the pride of man, to make him even to despair of himself, and to advance and set up the glory of God’s free grace from the beginning to the end of man’s salvation. His hand hath laid the foundation of his spiritual house; his hand shall also finish it” (Prefatory remarks by Stanley Gower, who was a member of the Westminster Assembly, for John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise of the Redemption and Reconciliation that is in the Blood of Christ, with the Merit Thereof, and Satisfaction Wrought Thereby).

“The glory of God’s free grace from the beginning to the end of man’s salvation.” Indeed.

Church History

“If we take seriously the Pauline conceptions of the Christian Church as the Body of Christ, then Church History may be regarded as the continuation of the story of Jesus. That is to say, Jesus, who began to act and teach on earth in the years immediately preceding A.D. 30, has continued to act and teach since that year by His Spirit in his servants; and the history of Christianity ought to be the history of what He has been doing and teaching in this way down to our own times–a continuous Acts of the Apostles. But this is not how Church history is usually viewed or presented. There is much truth in the words of the late Dean Inge:

The real history of Christianity is the history of a great spiritual tradition. The only true apostolic succession is the lives of the saints. Clement of Alexandria compared the Church to a great river, receiving affluents from all sides. The great river sometimes flows impetuously through a narrow channel; sometimes it spreads like a flood; sometimes it divides into several streams; sometimes, for a time, it seems to have been driven underground. But the Holy Spirit has never left himself without witness; and if we will put aside a great deal of what passes for Church history, and is really a rather unedifying branch of secular history, and follow the course of the religion of the Spirit and the Church of the Spirit, we shall judge very differently of the relative importance of events from those who merely follow the fortunes of institutionalism (W. R. Inge, Things New and Old, pp. 57f).

“But the difficulty for the would-be historian is this: it is relatively easy to trace the fortunes of a visible institution, whereas the course of a great spiritual tradition is much more elusive. And yet, the two are so closely interwoven that it is impossible to treat of the one without constant reference to the other” (F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame, 161).

Reading Notes: As I Lay Dying, Moby Dick, The Iliad, and the Noetic Effects of Sin and Anger-and-Revenge’s Power to Degrade

Several months ago I read Gene Fant’s article at First Things titled “William Faulkner’s Peculiar Calvinism: As I Lay Dying.” The author reflects on elements from a handful of different works by Faulkner, highlighting his “Peculiar [Read Redemption-Less] Calvinism”, and vouches for the truthfulness of Faulkner’s Southern characterizations (Fant is a native-born Mississippian). The author’s reflections are tied up with the recent film adaptation of As I Lay Dying, written/directed/starring James Franco.

This has made me think of when, several years ago, I first read As I Lay Dying: I thought it was an emotionally-weighty but good read, especially since the noetic effects of sin are soberly portrayed. (The characters in As I Lay Dying do genuinely bizarre and irrational things again and again.) Also, recently I finished reading Moby Dick (I already read half of the book 3 or 4 times, but finally plowed through to the end. Yay!), and, again, I was impressed by the noetic effects of sin: Melville captures that untoward power in his characterization of Captain Ahab, a man who, like Achilles from The Iliad, becomes drunk with anger and revenge to the point of his own demise. Yikes. Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

On The Same Path

“The whole argument about tradition in this book has been predicated on the sober recognition that it is actually quite easy to go wrong in theology, and that we need the insights of precisely those within the Church with whom we disagree if we are to learn and progress. . . . The creeds essentially codify the patristic synthesis concerning the doctrine of God. The occasion for the promulgation of creeds were generally Christological and Trinitarian heresies, which made claims about who God is that were judged unacceptable. Now, in seeking to discern who, however wrong we may think them, still should be regarded as a Christian brother or sister, and who has left the faith some way behind, it seems to me that the doctrine of God is crucial. Two people who both alike confess one God in three Persons, and the hypostatic union of divine and human in Jesus Christ, are seeking to serve the same God as each other; someone who denies one of these crucial points is, from a Christian point of view, running after idols of their own construction. Given this, however wrong I may think someone who confesses these points is on other matters of faith and morals, they are on the same path as I am on, also imperfectly; the difference between us can only ever be in degree. Someone who confesses a different God, by contrast, is doing something different to what I am seeking to do” (Stephen R. Holmes, Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology, 162-163).


I preached as never sure to preach again. And as a dying man to dying men.
                                                                                 –Richard Baxter


“What would our forefathers have thought had they known that the blessings of their blessings would one day schedule the arrival of blessings as if they were bottles of milk left on the stoop? A soon-to-be-married couple tells themselves, “We figure that we’ll spend a few years after the wedding getting to know each other, just the two of us, and working so we can save money for a house. Then we’ll have our first child, and when he turns four, then we’ll start working on the next. If at that point we have one of each then we’ll probably just quit, and then fiver years after that I can go back to work. If they’re the same, we’ll wait three years and try again.’ God will not be mocked; He who opens and closes the womb will not take orders from yuppie brides” (R. C. Sproul, Jr., Eternity in Our Hearts: Essays on the Good Life, 81).


“There is probably no greater life-changing event than the arrival of a child. Jobs change often. That big mortgage we signed is financing a house that will one day be rubble. But children last forever” (R. C. Sproul, Jr., Eternity in Our Hearts: Essays on the Good Life, 80).