Category Archives: Bookshelf

Comprehensive

“In the 1980s, my doctoral dissertation adviser, D. Clair Davis, often said that Calvinism is so comprehensive that it is hard to get one’s mind and arms around it. He would then say, a bit tongue-in-cheek, that this comprehensiveness is one major difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism. Lutheranism could neatly bring all of its confessional statements under one cover in 1580 and call it The Book of Concord. But the Calvinistic faith is so rich that at least three families of confessional statements developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: the English-Scottish family, the Dutch-German family, and the Swiss family–none of which contradicted the others but built on and complemented them” (“Preface” by Joel R. Beeke, Living For God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism, xi-xii).

Athanasius’s Achievements

“Thus, he defines the oneness of God not in terms of the Father, but in terms of the whole Godhead. . . . While the eventual settlements would be due more precisely to the work of the three great Cappadocians, Athanasius’s contribution to the theology of the Trinity can scarcely be overestimated. His elaborations of the full deity of the Son and the Spirit in the one being of God, and of the revelations of the three in their mutual coinherence, were quantum advances in understanding and huge milestones on the path to a more accurate view of the Trinity. In addition, he rooted his Trinitarianism in his doctrines of creation and salvation, and turned discussion away from philosophical speculation and back to biblical and theological basis. These were no mean achievements” (Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity, 145).

Imputation, Union, and Covenant

“In love, the triune God chose the elect in Christ (Eph. 1:4). The Father so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Christ demonstrated His love for His Father by obeying His commands (John 14:31). In love, Christ offered His obedience and laid down His life for His bride (John 15:9; Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:14). All of these expressions of love occurs within the context of a covenant, whether in the pactum salutis or in its historical execution in the covenant of grace. Just as a watch does not function apart from its gears, union with Christ does not function apart from the gears of imputation. And just as the housing of the timepiece holds the watch face and gears together, imputation and union with Christ cannot function apart from the context of covenant, that which binds the one and the many” (J.V. Fesko, The Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 302).

Meet & Experience

“You should attend the morning worship service expecting to meet with the risen Christ and to experience the power of His Spirit in your hearts through the ministry of the Word, by the means of all the elements of the worship service, and in the context of Christian fellowship” (Ryan McGraw, “What Should a Typical Sabbath Look Like and Why?” in The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. 12, 140).

Indeed!

Some of this is complex stuff [regarding discourse on justification by faith]. Tweeting about these issues is really dumb. Questioning someone’s orthodoxy in 140 characters should generally be avoided, I would think. Hinting that someone is unorthodox or subtweeting really has to be on one of the lowest bars of theological discourse. (Mark Jones @ CI)

Important

Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt” (J.C. Ryle, Holiness, vii)

“. . . have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us.”

I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country. Politics, or controversy, or party-spirits, or worldliness, have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us. The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background” (J.C. Ryle, Holiness, vii).

Redeemed to Worship the Lord

“While an examination of the entirety of the work [“The Necessity of Reforming the Church”] would be beneficial, for our purposes we only need to focus on Calvin’s discussion regarding the reforming of worship. While justification by faith alone has a primary role in the Reformation, Calvin actually gives worship the place of preeminence.

If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge first, of the mode in which God is duly worshiped, and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained (Calvin, Necessity, 126).

“It’s not hard to understand Calvin’s thinking here. The worship of God is that which has been commanded, by God. It’s that which his people are to engage in, faithfully, day in and day out. To get worship wrong is to get the Christian faith wrong. We are redeemed to worship the Lord” (“Less Outward Glory: An Examination of Calvin’s Reformation of Worship” by Everett A. Henes in The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. 13, 122-123).

Our Heavenly Father

“The Father has a unique relation to the incarnate Son within the being of God. God’s revelation as the Father does not refer to his general fatherhood with respect to all his creatures. Moreover, as Toon comments, the name Father is not merely a simile (as if God is simply like a father) or even a metaphor (an unusual use of language drawing attention to aspects of God’s nature in surprising terms), but rather a definite personal name. In contrast, the term mother, when used in reference to God in the OT, is a simile, but never a metaphor, and it is completely absent in the NT. Father is the proper name of God and does not merely describe what he is like” (Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity, 36).

“‘Abba’ [Father] was used by the early Christians in prayer. . . . This custom stems from Jesus’ usual way of addressing God. His followers adopt it because they believe that they share his own natural relation to the Father” (36).

OT Background to the Doctrine of Trinity

“While the OT does not make explicit what is revealed by the coming of Christ and the writing of the NT, it does provide the essential foundation without which the full Christian doctrine of God could not exist. As [Gerald] O’Collins puts it, ‘The OT contains, in anticipation, categories used to express and elaborate the Trinity. To put this point negatively, a theology of the Trinity that ignores or plays down the OT can only be radically deficient,’ while from the positive angle, ‘the NT and post-NT Christian language for the tripersonal God flowed from the Jewish Scriptures,’ for though deeply modified in the light of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, naming God as Father, Son, and Spirit ‘found its roots in the OT.’ This is not to say that by the first century there had emerged in Israel a clear and coherent picture of plurality within the one being of God. This was clearly not the case. These ideas in the OT were scattered and had not formed into anything like a coherent picture. Notwithstanding, the OT provided the means both to distinguish and to hold together the roles of Son/Wisdom/Word and Spirit, since these were vivid personifications, not abstract principles. The ultimate acknowledgement by the church of the triunity of God was ‘providentially prepared’ by these foreshadowings. The OT personifications helped lay the groundwork for the eventual leap to persons, for ‘the post-exilic Jews had an idea of plurality within the Godhead’ and so ‘the idea of plurality within unity was already implicit in Jewish theology'” (Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity, 32).