We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: http://www.amazon.com/Book-Common-Prayer-Biography-Religious/dp/0691154813/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417814005&sr=8-1&keywords=jacobs+book+of+common+prayer. January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Cranmer-English-Reformation-1489-1556/dp/1592448658/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420055574&sr=8-1&keywords=A.F.+Pollard+Cranmer. February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Cranmer-Jasper-Ridley/dp/0198212879/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422892154&sr=8-1&keywords=jasper+ridley+cranmer&pebp=1422892151110&peasin=198212879
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Church Society - Publications - The Principles of Theology
The Principles of Theology - Article 1
by W.H.Griffith Thomas
1. The Existence Of God
“There is … God.” This is the general theistic position on which all religion rests, and as the Article starts here, it seems necessary to discuss briefly the grounds of Theism. The word “God”, according to Skeat, comes from the Indo-Germanic, “Ghu”, “to worship”. It does not mean, as often formerly suggested, “good”. The Article treats belief in God in two parts, dealing first with that which is common to all theistic religions, and then stating that which is distinctive of Christianity. Theism is, of course, not peculiar to Christianity, and definitions of God differ. Although for convenience the order of the Article is followed it is not necessary to think that Theism rests on two separate and distinct foundations, natural and supernatural, for our highest authority for God is Revelation, not Nature (Rom. 1:20). Following Scripture, the Article does not argue or prove, but assumes the existence of God. “There is … God.” “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Our aim, therefore, is not so much to prove as to explain what the existence of God is and involves. Scripture recognises a natural knowledge of God (Rom. 1:19).
What is the origin of the idea of God? There are two general explanations. By some the idea of God as a Supreme Being is regarded, in technical language, as “an intuition of the moral reason”. St. Paul seems to have recognised in the mind an innate perception of God (Acts 17:28). This means that the belief in a Personal God is born in every man, not as a perfect and complete idea, but as involving a capacity for belief when the idea is presented. If this is so, it is one of the primary intuitions of human nature. It is certainly a mistake to suppose that we derive the idea of God from the Bible, for races that have never heard of the Bible possess a definite belief in a Supreme Being. The Bible reveals God’s character and His purpose for man, and thus gives us a true idea of the Divine Being, but the emphasis is on the truth rather than on the mere fact. In the same way it is equally incorrect to say that we obtain the idea of God from reason, for reason is not in this respect originative. By reflection we can obtain a fuller conception of God, but the reason itself is not the source of the conception. By those who hold that our idea of God is intuitive the conception of God is analysed into three elements: first, a consciousness of power in God which leads to a feeling of our dependence on Him; second, a consciousness of His perfection which leads to a realisation of our obligation to Him; third, a consciousness of His Personality which leads to a sense of worship of Him.
Others object to the idea of God as intuitive, and say that it is the result of the reason instinctively recognising Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and that these coalesce in the thought of one Reality. On this view these three elements afford an argument for Theism.
But however it comes, natural religion means the idea of God formed by men independently of Revelation, and one thing is quite clear, the belief is universal. This is usually termed the Consensus Gentium, and is a fact which has to be explained, since “a primitive Revelation presupposes a Revealer: an innate idea presupposes an Author”. It shows that religion is not illusive, but real, and that the universe is spiritual.
This universal belief in the existence of God is confirmed by arguments suggested by the world without and man’s nature within, and it is necessary to enquire as to these proofs of the existence of God. While we may rightly deny the possibility of finding God by reason only, the proofs usually adduced are valuable and, indeed, essential for the knowledge of the Divine Nature and for the vindication of the convictions otherwise obtained. There are two ways of procedure. Some maintain that it is possible to prove the existence of God on a priori grounds. By reasoning from the nature of things it is urged that we may deduce the proof of God’s existence. This was attempted in the eighteenth century by Dr. Samuel Clarke, and called by him “A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God”. In the nineteenth century the same method was seen in “The Argument a priori for the Being and Attributes of the Living God”, by W. H. Gillespie, who was dissatisfied with Dr. Clarke’s work. By means of a series of propositions it is argued that “there is a Being of Infinity, of Expansion, and Duration”; and that this Being is a Spirit, All-Knowing, the Creator and Governor of all things. But it may be questioned whether this metaphysical method will satisfy many minds. It is an attempt to demonstrate a First Cause by showing that however far back we go every effect must have a first adequate cause, and that the mind must at last come to an existence without a cause, an uncaused cause. But it is at once better and certainly easier to proceed along the other, the a posteriori road. The questions of natural religion are facts and must be dealt with inductively and by the same processes we apply to all other realms of knowledge. This does not mean that the results of the a priori method are barren, for once the existence of God has been established on a posteriori grounds we are inevitably led to attribute to Him the conception of Infinity, Eternity, and Spirituality which the a priori method emphasises.
We have already seen that Scripture never attempts to prove God’s existence, but always assumes and affirms it (Psa. 19: 1). It may be questioned whether the existence of God is really capable of direct proof, for there seems no line of evidence absolutely conclusive to the mind of man. This fact has been said to show that belief in God is not like a mathematical axiom, self-evident. But since demonstration is impossible, for then there would be no room for faith, so the non-existence of God is equally impossible of demonstration. Many of life’s essential elements are of this character, and the true position is that of Butler: “Probability is the very guide of life”. This probability admits of degrees from the lowest possibility to the highest moral certainty, the latter reaching to the strongest kind of proof.
It is important to note the reason why it is said that we can have no demonstrable proofs for the existence of God. This is not due to the fact that belief in God is unreasonable, but because the fact to be proved is in the very nature of the case so great as not to admit of strict demonstration. To demonstrate God would require some greater truth or truths by which to prove our point. Indeed, it may be said without any question that the existence of a God of reason and love is so certain and fundamental a fact that it actually has to be assumed in all our thought and life. So that it is a fact which cannot be proved because it is the foundation of all proof, the postulate without which we should have to give up the possibility of rational thought. Hence, this position really gives in a way the deepest proof that we could possibly have, and that, in spite of the fact that strict mathematical demonstration is impossible.
The truth is, as we shall see in the course of our consideration, that it is impossible to distinguish between the existence and the character of God. The two ideas are inextricably bound up together, so that as we ponder what are often called the proofs of God’s existence we are all the while giving attention to the necessary elements of the Divine character. While, therefore, there are no direct proofs of the Divine existence, there are several indirect proofs involving evidence which points to it as the essential basis of all other existence. These proofs are not all of the same value, but they call for separate attention, and also combine to produce cumulative force.
1. The Ontological Proof. By this is meant that a subjective conception in man implies an objective existence apart from man. It is sometimes expressed by saying that the thought of God is latent in the mind, but is not produced by the mind. Man “claims to interpret the nature outside him on the analogy of his own”. The unity he imposes on nature is modelled on his knowledge of himself. We have an idea of an independent perfect Being, and when the thought of this comes to us we inevitably think of Him as existing, and as necessarily existing. It must be admitted, however, that many scholars regard this proof as of only small value. Thus, Dean Strong says it is an assumed claim which cannot be proved, and an ideal which cannot be realised. On this view the argument seems rather to assume God’s existence while proving His perfection. But it is still possible to use it as a way of stating the fact that belief in God’s existence is a necessity of the practical reason. And as Orr says:
“It would be strange if an argument which has wielded such power over some of the strongest intellects were utterly baseless. … Kant himself has given the impulse to a new development of it, which shows more clearly than ever that it is not baseless, but is really the deepest and most comprehensive of all arguments.”
2. The Cosmological Proof. This means that every effect must have its adequate cause. Antecedents and consequents are insufficient because they only imply succession. Sequences of events are not merely chronological. It is true that night follows day, but not as effect following cause. Yet there is a cause both to day and night. The universe is an effect because it had a beginning (Gen. 1:1), and its only adequate cause is the First Cause, God. Everything, therefore, in existence must have had a cause to produce it. The world exists and must have had a cause, and as God is the only adequate Cause, God exists. This means that the mind intuitively perceives a cause from what is visible (Rom. 1:20). Matter must have been created. Motion must have had an impetus. Life must have had a Life-giver. The argument has been stated thus: (1) The process of development in the universe, or in any part of it, had a beginning; (2) this requires a cause; (3) this cause was not physical; (4) the only non-physical cause is will or mind; (5) these imply a personal being. According to Huxley, Causality is the first great act of faith on the part of a man of science.
Another recent statement of the same position is worthy of mention: (1) every phenomenon must have a cause adequate to produce it; (2) the universe must have a cause; (3) whatever is intelligible bears witness to a cause that is intelligent; (4) the universe, being intelligible, proclaims its cause to be intelligent; (5) in all phenomena controlled by human agency, regularity and uniformity are the evidences of design and intention; (6) the universe, being full of regularities and uniformities, demands for its explanation a purposive causative agency; (7) human personality is constituted by the attributes of consciousness, intelligence, and purposive will; (8) the same attributes would constitute personality in the cause of the universe, which is, in effect, the contention of Theism.
By some it is urged that apart from Scripture it cannot be proved that the universe had a beginning, but the argument now stated is valid and strong for the probability and reasonableness of the Divine existence as the only adequate cause.
3. The Teleological Proof. This is better known as “the argument from design”. There are evidences of design in nature, e.g. the adaptation of means to end imply a designer, a personal, purposive cause. The gills of a fish in relation to water, the wings of a bird to air, the teeth of animals to tearing, the hand of man to work, the solar system with its fixed orbits, unchanging speeds and distances calculated according to mathematical law – all these things, and many more besides, suggest the presence of mind and purpose in the universe. In his Natural Theology, Paley used the illustration of a watch, which could not make itself, the mechanism presupposing a watchmaker, and although the form of the argument may have changed since his day the fact remains the same, that the world as a whole shows evidence of design, that it could not make itself, but must have had a Maker, that Maker being God.
Objection is sometimes raised to this argument, because as it rests on finite data it is urged that it cannot prove God’s infinity or eternity. But it is at least an argument for the rationality of the universe. While it may not be possible, following Paley, to argue design from particular details, yet viewing the universe as a whole the argument is as valid as ever. “Man expects to find the world a coherent whole.” This is the necessary basis of all thought and experience, for in the use of the various avenues of life man naturally and rightly expects to find all the facts harmonise. The very word universe implies mind.
4. The Anthropological Proof. This means an argument from man to God, from the human nature to the Divine. Man’s mental, moral, and spiritual natures demand God as their Creator. The existence of human free will implies a greater Will. The fact of conscience with its emphasis on law involves a Law-giver. When man says, “I ought”, he means, “I owe it”, and herein lies one of the essential distinctions between man and the lower animals. Man’s conscience can be trained to the highest degree, but it is impossible to train that which does not exist, and the lower animals can only be compelled to certain actions by a sense of fear, never by a consciousness of right and wrong. The fact of personality in man is also an argument for the existence of God, since it is impossible to conceive that man’s personality is the only or highest in existence. Personality is the supreme element in the universe, as Huxley himself admitted in one of the latest of his writings. All this tends to show that mind cannot come from matter, or spirit from flesh, or conscience from anything purely physical, and for this reason a Being possessing both mind and spirit must have made man. This Being was God, Who therefore exists.
Further, man is impressed by the three ideas of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and these point to the character of God in Whom they are fully realised. Some thinkers have rested their view of God on one or other of these alone. Plato laid stress on the beautiful, Spinoza on unity, Kant on morality. But the whole man demands attention. The idea of truth argues for unity, and this in turn involves the eternity, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God. The idea of goodness argues for the character of God as love. The idea of beauty implies the glory of God, as seen in the manifestations of the Divine nature and work. According to the law stamped on all life, like begets like, flower begetting flower, animal begetting animal, man begetting man. And so we believe God “created man in His own image” (Gen. 1:26,27).
Here, again, because man is finite it may not be possible to argue God’s Infinity, but it certainly postulates Personality. There are four great facts in nature: Thought, Forethought, Law, and Life, and these demand respectively a Thinker, a Provider, a Law-giver, and a Life-giver. We must beware of the fallacy of personifying Nature and Law, which are expressive only of method, not of source.
It is sometimes said that the doctrine of Evolution has destroyed the cosmological, and especially the teleological, proofs of the Divine existence, that the Darwinian doctrine of Natural Selection is not concerned with ends, but results, and for this intelligence is not required. But this position involves much that is open to question and calls for serious consideration. It is sometimes thought that the Christian Church has been needlessly suspicious of Evolution and far too slow in applying it to religion. But it should never be forgotten that Evolution entered the world originally, not simply as a theory of science, but as an ally of a philosophy of materialism which, if true, would have banished Christianity, and, indeed, all spiritual religion from the earth. It was hardly to be expected, therefore, that the Church could give a welcome to a theory which entered in connection with such associations. Then again, time has shown that the Darwinian theory is not necessarily to be identified with the general doctrine of Evolution. It has been pointed out by several writers that there are factors of which Darwin took little or no account, and these factors have led to a decided modification of the original theory of Natural Selection.
There is scarcely anything more important than a clear understanding of what Evolution means. The term is commonly used in a very indefinite way. It may mean little or it may mean much. There are three main divisions commonly included in the word “Evolution”; the sub-organic, the organic, and the super-organic. The first refers to the development of matter without life, and is generally applied to the formation of the solar or stellar systems from some more crude conditions of matter. Organic Evolution is the name for a process of derivation or development of the forms of life, vegetable and animal, that have existed, or now exist in the world. Super-organic Evolution refers to the same process in non-material spheres. But even in connection with organic Evolution there is a very wide divergence of opinion as to the use of the term. It is applied also to ordinary growth, and also to gradual, progressive development made without interference from without, but by the inherent potentiality of some primordial germ up to all the varied forms of life on the globe. Yet again, Evolution may be regarded as either causal or modal, as the cause of all life or as only the mode by which a Personal Creator has brought about the diversity which now exists. In other words, Evolution may be regarded as atheistic or as theistic. Now there can be no doubt that if Evolution is considered to be causal it is entirely opposed to all theistic conceptions. But the causality of Evolution is very far from being proved; indeed, it is entirely opposed to all that is known of science. Evolution within certain limits is a fact, but it has not yet been proved to be of universal application. There are physical gaps, to say nothing of mental and moral chasms. By means of a good deal of vagueness and inaccuracy of thought, men frequently speak of the uniformity of nature, but they forget that man is included in nature, and man’s life is very far from uniform by reason of his possession of will. So that while we may rightly accept Evolution as a working hypothesis, and within certain limits an undoubted truth, yet this is wholly different from regarding it as the full explanation of all things in the universe. If, however, we regard Evolution as modal it is not only not anti-theistic, but in many respects gives a far deeper, richer and fuller conception of the Divine working than the older theories. It is only opposed to Theism if regarded as causal and materialistic. Testimonies to this can be found in the writings of scientific men like Huxley, Ray Lankester, and others. The best thought of today tends more and more to agree with the opinion expressed by Sir Oliver Lodge, that “the existence of a great World-soul is the best explanation of things as they are”.
The place and value of these proofs vary with different writers, though there is a general agreement that they do not amount to a demonstration of the existence of God. But in their place and for their purpose they are as valuable as ever. The main point of importance to remember is that these proofs are hardly capable apart from Revelation of assuring us of a Personal God, with the attributes associated with Him. One thing is absolutely certain, that it is only by Revelation we attain to fellowship with God as a Personal Redeemer. And it is for this reason that modern thought tends increasingly in the direction of Revelation for the main support of the theistic position. While ready to give reason its due and to allow it its proper place, there still remains the consideration that for the character of God we need the knowledge that Revelation alone can provide. The main objection taken to the usual proofs, as now set out, is not their error so much as their inadequacy:
“The God whom they prove may be God, but He is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This tendency of recent thought to regard natural religion as secondary and to make the Christian Revelation our primary ground for Theism is undoubtedly important and needs careful consideration. It is urged that while belief in Christ presupposes natural theology, yet the latter is difficult because it tends to become metaphysical and philosophical, so that our true method is not so much to reach through God to Christ as through Christ to God. But, nevertheless, we must not deny natural theology by undue emphasis on belief in God through Christ. To natural theology we may rightly look for indications of the existence of God, though as inevitably we turn to Christianity for the marks of the Divine character. The Nature of God in the abstract may be inferred from natural theology, but His personal character as Love comes from Christ. For this reason we must therefore give attention to the next line of proof.
5. The Christological Proof. The Incarnation of Christ, which for the present we assume to be true, corresponds with the foregoing considerations and demands a belief in God. God can only be adequately known in Christ, and any speculations about God which stop short of Christ’s revelation are necessarily inadequate. The bearing of this on the theistic controversy is important, for all objections proceed on the fallacy of excluding from consideration our Lord’s life and teachings and endeavour to place our knowledge of God on a natural basis. Now though we do not now prove Christ’s words to be a revelation of God, we have a right to say that no philosophy is scientific which fails to notice the testimony of Christ as, in any case, the greatest human experience on the subject. No testimony ought to be excluded from notice, and we hold that God was revealed in Christ because nature alone was insufficient to reveal Him in the character and attitude essential for human life, as good and gracious.
The New Testament claims that Christ revealed God, and this proof consists of several elements: (1) The character of Christ; (2) the fulfilment of prophecy; (3) the elements of the supernatural and miraculous; (4) the character, claim, and power of the Bible; (5) the existence and growth of the Christian Church; (6) the progress and power of Christianity in the world; (7) the moral miracle of personal and corporate regeneration and renovation. These matters are necessarily left for detailed consideration and proof, and are mentioned here simply as parts of the Christological proof of the existence and character of God. They require nothing short of a Divine presence and power to account for them. Thus this Christological conception confirms our belief in a First Cause, a Personality, and a Moral Governor of the universe, as set forth in the previous considerations.
As we review these five lines of argument we observe that their force lies in their combination. As each thread of a rope may be easily broken while separated, though the rope as a whole may be unbreakable, so it may be said that each of these proofs taken alone may be inconclusive, but when all five are united they are conclusive of the Personal existence of God. Nor are we concerned with the essential difference between theology and other sciences in regard to nature and method. While no science proves is own first principles, but must derive them from elsewhere or assume them, theology uses the fact of the existence of God both as premiss and conclusion. So that if we grant belief in the existence of a Personal God the value of these proofs may be stated as follows: The Ontological argument proves God’s Perfection; the Cosmological argument proves God’s Causality; the Teleological argument proves God’s Intelligence; the Anthropological argument proves God’s Personality; the Christological argument proves God’s Character as Love.
It is also important to remember that belief in God always contains a moral element and cannot be limited to that which is merely intellectual. It is for this reason that the various proofs associated with natural theology cannot originate the idea of God in one who does not possess it. The idea must first of all be postulated, and then the proofs become powerful and cumulative. While, therefore, we must not undervalue natural theology, yet to Christians the argument from nature is rather the confirmation of our belief in God than the foundation of it. Christian Theism is not merely natural theology in the light of Christ’s teaching, or even Christ added to the God of natural theology; it is Theism embodied in and expressed by Christ, so that in Him we see Who and what God is and are thereby satisfied (John 14:8). Thus “Theism needs Revelation to complete it”.
It may be well to point out at this stage that the position of this Article is a testimony to the fact that the doctrine of God is fundamental for all else, settling everything. As this is, so will be our idea of Religion, Christ, the Bible, Man, Sin, and Revelation. It is the regulative idea and covers the whole of life.
>> 2. The Nature Of God
 “We do not reach the idea of God as the final and irrefragable result of a long chain of syllogistic reasoning. Neither do we find God vindicated to the intellect as the crown of a slow and patient induction from data given to us in consciousness. No doubt the apprehension of God is an intellectual act, but it is an intellectual act that is saturated with emotion” (Miller, Problem of Theology, p. 15 f; see also Note B, p. 306).
 Everett, Theism and the Christian Faith(Unitarian and Hegelian).
 Litton, Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, Second Edition, p. 61; see also Strong, Manual of Theology, p. 33; Miller, Topics of the Times, “The Idea of God”, pp. 10, 23.
 Peake, Christianity: Its Nature and Truth, Ch. 4.
 “It is very doubtful whether a single individual has ever found God as the sequence of a syllogistic process. Today the agnostic points out hopeless flaws in the argument, and the vast majority of intellectual believers ground their faith on a totally different basis. But though we cease to hold these arguments as demonstrations of God’s existence they are still essential elements in enriching our knowledge of God. Rightly apprehended, they have an all-important place in the communion of the soul with God, and in strengthening those tendrils of faith with which the human spirit grasps the Divine” (Miller, ut supra, p. 16 f.).
 T. & T. Clark, 1906
 Strong, ut supra, p. 25.
 Strong, ut supra, p. 27; see also Litton, ut supra, p. 59 f.
 Litton, ut supra, p. 60.
 Orr, Christian View of God and the World, Tenth Edition, p. 103 f.
“I cannot but maintain, therefore, that the ontological argument, in the kernel and essence of it, is a sound one, and that in it the existence of God is really seen to be the first, the most certain, and the most indisputable of all truths” (Orr, ut supra, p. 106).
 A. D. Kelly, Rational Necessity of Theism, pp. 142-149.
 A. D. Kelly, ut supra, pp. 50, 156.
 Warschauer, The Atheist’s Dilemma, p. 22 f.
 “This common-sense Theism, however roughly defined, has elements of truth in it. No sophistry will prevail on us to throw it away. It is held that the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, in his doctrine of a first cause of motion outside the universe, stated a cosmological proof for the being of God” (Mackintosh, A First Primer of Apologetics, p. 35). See also Orr, ut supra, p. 95.
 “The Design argument is the expression of a deeply-rooted and reasonable conviction that a world existing apart from purpose is not a rational world at all, that is, it is not a world which answers to the demand of our reason. As stated in its traditional form it lacks convincingness. But if we turn our minds from adaptations manifested in a particular organism to the fact of the universe as a whole – to the fact that the universe is a Cosmos not a Chaos, the old argument regains its old force” (A. D. Kelly, ut supra, p. 155).
 Strong, ut supra, p. 20.
 “Man has five senses. Each one of these admits him into a different world. The world of sight is not the same as the world of sound, or the world of sound as the world of smell. But man’s capacity to live and utilise his experience depends upon his being able at will to translate the reports of one sense into terms of another, and to feel himself certain of the truthfulness of his results” (Strong, ut supra, p. 21).
 “I cannot conceive how the phenomena of consciousness as such, and apart from the physical processes by which they are called into existence, are to be brought within bounds of physical science” (Quoted in A. D. Kelly, ut supra, p. 29).
 Orr, ut supra, “God as Religious Postulate”. Appendix to Lecture 3, p. 112.
 Henslow, Present-Day Rationalism critically Examined; Orr, God’s Image in Man; Otto, Naturalism and Religion. It is also obvious that Natural Selection cannot apply to the inorganic world which is dead, and yet the geological strata, comprising over a hundred zones, are without exception advantageous to man. This is a clear proof of the force of the Teleological argument in the inorganic realm.
 “We may otherwise make too much of the effect of the discovery of the principle of ‘natural selection’. It is very doubtful whether this principle will be found able to bear all the burden which some would place upon it. … It is by no means plain that current theories of ‘evolution’ have so disposed of the Argument for Design in every possible form as is sometimes hastily assumed” (Webb, Problems in the Relations of God and Man, p. 161).
 “There is a good deal of talk and not a little lamentation about the so-called religious difficulties which physical science has created. In theological science, as a matter of fact, it has created none. Not a solitary problem presents itself to the philosophical theist at the present day which has not existed from the time that philosophers began to think out the logical grounds and the logical consequences of Theism. … The doctrine of Evolution is neither theistic nor anti-theistic. It simply has no more to do with Theism than the first book of Euclid has” (Quoted in A. D. Kelly, ut supra, p. 37).
 For the general subject of Evolution and the Christian Religion see, in addition to the works quoted or referred to above: Stokes, Gifford Lectures, Second Series, Lecture 10; McCosh, The Religious Aspect of Evolution; Gurnhill, Some Thoughts of God, Chs. 7, 8; Gant, Modern Natural Theology, Ch. 1; Kennedy, Natural Theology and Modern Thought, Ch. 3; Salmon, Evolution and Other Papers, Ch. 1; Fairhurst, Organic Evolution Considered; Orr, God’s Image in Man, s.v. Evolution.
 “Considered as proofs, in the ordinary sense of the word, they are open to the objections which have been frequently urged against them; but viewed as an analysis of the unconscious or implicit logic of religion, as tracing the steps of the process by which the human spirit rises to the knowledge of God, and finds therein the fulfilment of its own highest nature, these proofs possess great value” (Caird, Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, p. 133). See also Litton, ut supra, p. 62 ff.; Webb, ut supra, pp. 154-188; Orr, ut supra, p. 94.
 “The old theistic proofs have their value. Yet it is doubtful how far, apart from revelation, reason can make us sure of a personal God; and it is certain that only revelation can do what is of vital importance for us – introduce us to God’s friendship. Moreover, Kant seems to strike the right note at least in this respect, when he tells us that we are concerned to be certain of God, of immortality, and of free will. The Christian knowledge of God (whatever previous elements it may take up into itself) is the knowledge of God in Christ as our Friend and our Saviour. Where do we see God acting a Father’s part? Where does He directly manifest Himself as a Person, personally interested in the welfare of beings who seem so often the sport of Nature’s laws? How can we obtain permanent, lasting assurance of His favour? There is only one answer” (Mackintosh, A First Primer of Apologetics, p. 38 f.).
 “But no one of these methods conducts a man to a true knowledge of the nature of God so long as he is ignorant of the revealed testimonies which Christianity awakens around us and in us” (Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, p. 74).
 W. Adams Brown, Christian Theology in Outline, p. 125. See also Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression.
 “Sanctioned by usage as it is, the distinction which the epithet connotes is open to question; Natural Religion, like the social contract, exists for thought rather than in things. … No one ever held or taught it: it is an abstraction or residuum left behind by concrete religions when the rest of the conception has been thought away. The evidences of religion are historical and psychological; religion is part both of civilization and of the furniture of the mind. But the isolation of such notions as God, freedom, and immortality is formal; the proofs, however irrefutable, do not convince” (Review of Mr. A. J. Balfour’s “Theism and Humanism” in The Nation, 2nd October 1915).
 Strong, ut supra, p. 2 f.
“To take a parallel case, the evidence for the existence of our own personality is of the same character as the evidence for the existence of God. It appears both as conclusion and as premiss. To prove the existence of my own personality, I must assume it. … The evidence we allege in proof of the fact proves also that the investigation is reasonable only when the fact is assumed – that is, that the existence of God is the hinge upon which the whole process turns” (Strong, ut supra, p. 3).
 Strong, ut supra, p. 7 f.
 Miller, Topics of the Times, “The Idea of God”, pp. 6-11.
 “A thoroughgoing denial of natural theology has usually proved a help to religious scepticism rather than to the assertion of revelation” (Mackintosh, ut supra, p. 33).
 Orr, God’s Image in Man, pp. 77-79, 111.
Chapter 18: Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation
4: True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Pick Up Your Sword and Fight « J.C. Ryle Quotes
We must to be diligent readers of our Bibles. The Word is the sword of the Spirit. We shall never fight a good fight, if we do not use it as our principal weapon. The Word is the lamp for our feet. We shall never keep the king’s highway to heaven, if we do not journey by its light. There is not enough Bible-reading among us. It is not sufficient to have the Book. We must actually read it, and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good, if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition. It can only be obtained by diligent, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
A little over a 130 years ago the erudite Philip Schaff in his A History of the Creeds of Christendom wrote that both Catholic and Protestant historians on the Continent ranked the Church of England among the Reformed Churches and distinct from the Lutheran Churches. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England were found in every collection of Reformed Confessions. In his work Schaff remarked upon how English writers have largely conducted the theological interpretation of the Articles in a controversial spirit rather than a historical one:
“Moderate High-Churchmen and Arminians who dislike Calvinism, represent them as purely Lutheran; Anglo-Catholics and Tractarians, who abhor both Lutheranism and Calvinism, endeavour to conform them as much as possible to the contemporary decrees of the Council of Trent; Calvinists and evangelical Low-Churchmen find in them substantially their own creed.” 
Schaff went on to demonstrate that the Articles are, with the exception the shape of the link between Church and state (Article XXXVII) and the acceptance of episcopacy (Article XXXVI), clearly within the Reformed mainstream. Schaff expressed his conclusion as follows:
“…the Articles are catholic on the Trinity and the Incarnation, borrowing phrases from the Lutheran confessions of Augsburg (1530) and Wurtemberg (1552)l they are Augustinian, as are all early Lutheran and Reformed statements on freewill, sin and grace; they are Protestant and evangelical, with all other Reformation confessions on Scripture, justification, faith and good works, and the church; they are ‘Reformed and moderately Cavinistic” on predestination and the Lord’s Supper, against the Lutherans; they are Erastian on the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical matters; and they are ‘purely Anglican’ on bishops.” 
Schaff quoted the letter from Bishop John Jewel to Peter Martyr at Zurich in 1562:
“As to the matter of doctrine, we have pared everything away to the very quick, and do not differ from you by a nail’s breadth.” 
For more, see:
Anglicans Ablaze: R is for Reformed
“A Colossal Fraud” by John MacArthur « Reformed Bibliophile
A Colossal Fraud”
Former NASDAQ chairman Bernie Madoff ran a ponzi-scheme swindle for nearly 20 years, and he bilked an estimated $18 billion from Wall-Street investors. When the scam finally came to light it unleashed a shockwave of outrage around the world. It was the largest and most far-reaching investment fraud ever.
But the evil of Madoff’s embezzlement pales by comparison to an even more diabolical fraud being carried out in the name of Christ under the bright lights of television cameras on religious networks worldwide every single day. Faith healers and prosperity preachers promise miracles in return for money, conning their viewers out of more than a billion dollars annually. They have operated this racket on television for more than five decades. Worst of all, they do it with the tacit acceptance of most of the Christian community.
Someone needs to say this plainly: The faith healers and health-and-wealth preachers who dominate religious television are shameless frauds. Their message is not the true gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing spiritual or miraculous about their on-stage chicanery. It is all a devious ruse designed to take advantage of desperate people. They are not godly ministers but greedy impostors who corrupt the Word of God for money’s sake. They are not real pastors who shepherd the flock of God but hirelings whose only design is to fleece the sheep. Their love of money is glaringly obvious in what they say as well as how they live. They claim to possess great spiritual power, but in reality they are rank materialists and enemies of everything holy.
There is no reason anyone should be deceived by this age-old con, and there is certainly no justification for treating the hucksters as if they were authentic ministers of the gospel. Religious charlatans who make merchandise of false promises have been around since the apostolic era. They pretend to be messengers of Christ, but they are interlopers and impostors. The apostles condemned them with the harshest possible language. Paul called them “men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5). Peter called them false prophets with “heart[s] trained in greed” (2 Peter 2:14). He warned that “in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (v. 3). He exposed them as scoundrels and dismissed them as “stains and blemishes” on the church (v. 13).
Those biblical descriptions certainly fit the greed-driven cult of prosperity preachers and faith healers who unfortunately, thanks to television, have become the best-known face of Christianity worldwide. The scam they operate ought to be a bigger scandal than any Wall Street ponzi scheme or big-time securities fraud. After all, those who are most susceptible to the faith-healers’ swindle are not well-to-do investors but some of society’s most vulnerable people—including multitudes who are already destitute, disconsolate, disabled, elderly, sick, suffering, or dying. The faith-healer gets lavishly rich while the victims become poorer and more desperate.
But the worst part of the scandal is that it’s not really a scandal at all in the eyes of most evangelical Christians. Those who should be most earnest in defense of the truth have taken a shockingly tolerant attitude toward the prosperity preachers’ blatant misrepresentation of the gospel and their wanton exploitation of needy people. “But we don’t want to judge,” they say. Thus Christians fail to exercise righteous judgment (John 7:24). They refuse to be discerning at all.
How many manifestos and written declarations of solidarity have evangelicals issued condemning abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and other social evils? It’s fine, and fairly easy, to oppose wickedness and injustice in secular society, but where is the corresponding moral outrage against these religious mountebanks who openly, brashly pervert the gospel for profit 24 hours a day, seven days a week on international television?
Advocates of abortion and euthanasia don’t usually try to pass their message off as biblical. The people who say we need to redefine marriage haven’t portrayed themselves as an arm of the church. But the prosperity preachers deceive people in Jesus’ name, claiming to speak for God—while stealing both the souls and the sustenance of hurting people. That is a far greater abomination than any of the social evils Christians typically protest. After all, what the prosperity preachers do is not only a sin against poor, sick, and vulnerable people; it also blasphemes God, corrupts the gospel, and profanes the reputation of Christ before a watching world. It not only tears at the fabric of our society; it also befouls the purity of the visible church and abates the influence of the true gospel. It is surely among the grossest of all the evils currently rampant in our culture.
In the weeks to come, we’re going to be looking at the preposterous claims and false teachings of some of religious television’s best-known figures. We’ll analyze why a disproportionate number of celebrity faith-healers and prosperity preachers have succumbed to serious immorality. And we’ll see what Scripture says about how Bible-believing Christians ought to respond. I hope this series will challenge you to take a more active stand against the phony miracles and false teachings that are being peddled in the name of Christ.
The Heart and Soul of Anglicanism: The Martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer « Awakening Grace
The Heart and Soul of Anglicanism: The Martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer
This morning during men’s group I shared the early history of the English Reformation, discussing the Gospel convictions of the early English reformers. As promised, below is an account of the martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer. Note Ridely’s remark at his last meal, that it was a “marriage feast.” That is, Ridley is having a banquet before the bride of Christ meets her husband. Read the whole account of the Marian persecutions here.
Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper’s wife) weep, “Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.”
The place of death was on the northside of the town, opposite Baliol College. Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.” He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal, the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood venerable and erect, fearless of death.
Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer.
Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out.”
When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, “Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.” Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, “O Father of heaven, receive my soul!” received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none.
Well! dead they are, and the reward of this world they have already. What reward remaineth for them in heaven, the day of the Lord’s glory, when he cometh with His saints, shall declare.
The Heart and Soul of Anglicanism II: The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer « Awakening Grace
The Heart and Soul of Anglicanism II: The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer
Below is an extended account of the trial and martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. The account picks up with his imprisonment and degradations and includes his famous recantations, where he repented of his previous reformation convictions. Nevertheless, as the account shows, Cranmer recovered his Gospel convictions at the hour of his death. His language about the Pope may be offensive to modern ears, however it must be remembered that for Cranmer, as for many of the Reformers, the Pope was thought to have instituted many practices that undermined the free grace of God in the Gospel. This doesn’t lessen the forcefulness of the language, however it does put it in context. Read the whole account of the persecutions that took place during “Bloody” Mary’s reign here.
Being sent back to confinement, he received a citation to appear at Rome within eighteen days, but this was impracticable, as he was imprisoned in England; and as he stated, even had he been at liberty, he was too poor to employ an advocate. Absurd as it must appear, Cranmer was condemned at Rome, and on February 14, 1556, a new commission was appointed, by which, Thirlby, bishop of Ely, and Bonner, of London, were deputed to sit in judgment at Christ-church, Oxford. By virtue of this instrument, Cranmer was gradually degraded, by putting mere rags on him to represent the dress of an archbishop; then stripping him of his attire, they took off his own gown, and put an old worn one upon him instead. This he bore unmoved, and his enemies, finding that severity only rendered him more determined, tried the opposite course, and placed him in the house of the dean of Christ-church, where he was treated with every indulgence.
This presented such a contrast to the three years’ hard imprisonment he had received, that it threw him off his guard. His open, generous nature was more easily to be seduced by a liberal conduct than by threats and fetters. When Satan finds the Christian proof against one mode of attack, he tries another; and what form is so seductive as smiles, rewards, and power, after a long, painful imprisonment? Thus it was with Cranmer: his enemies promised him his former greatness if he would but recant, as well as the queen’s favor, and this at the very time they knew that his death was determined in council. To soften the path to apostasy, the first paper brought for his signature was conceived in general terms; this once signed, five others were obtained as explanatory of the first, until finally he put his hand to the following detestable instrument:
“I, Thomas Cranmer, late archbishop of Canterbury, do renounce, abhor, and detest all manner of heresies and errors of Luther and Zuinglius, and all other teachings which are contrary to sound and true doctrine. And I believe most constantly in my heart, and with my mouth I confess one holy and Catholic Church visible, without which there is no salvation; and therefore I acknowledge the Bishop of Rome to be supreme head on earth, whom I acknowledge to be the highest bishop and pope, and Christ’s vicar, unto whom all Christian people ought to be subject.
“And as concerning the sacraments, I believe and worship int he sacrament of the altar the body and blood of Christ, being contained most truly under the forms of bread and wine; the bread, through the mighty power of God being turned into the body of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the wine into his blood.
“And in the other six sacraments, also, (alike as in this) I believe and hold as the universal Church holdeth, and the Church of Rome judgeth and determineth.
“Furthermore, I believe that there is a place of purgatory, where souls departed be punished for a time, for whom the Church doth godily and wholesomely pray, like as it doth honor saints and make prayers to them.
“Finally, in all things I profess, that I do not otherwise believe than the Catholic Church and the Church of Rome holdeth and teacheth. I am sorry that I ever held or thought otherwise. And I beseech Almighty God, that of His mercy He will vouchsafe to forgive me whatsoever I have offended against God or His Church, and also I desire and beseech all Christian people to pray for me.
“And all such as have been deceived either by mine example or doctrine, I require them by the blood of Jesus Christ that they will return to the unity of the Church, that we may be all of one mind, without schism or division.
“And to conclude, as I submit myself to the Catholic Church of Christ, and to the supreme head thereof, so I submit myself unto the most excellent majesties of Philip and Mary, king and queen of this realm of England, etc., and to all other their laws and ordinances, being ready always as a faithful subject ever to obey them. And God is my witness, that I have not done this for favor or fear of any person, but willingly and of mine own conscience, as to the instruction of others.”
“Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall!” said the apostle, and here was a falling off indeed! The papists now triumphed in their turn: they had acquired all they wanted short of his life. His recantation was immediately printed and dispersed, that it might have its due effect upon the astonished Protestants. But God counter worked all the designs of the Catholics by the extent to which they carried the implacable persecution of their prey. Doubtless, the love of life induced Cranmer to sign the above declaration: yet death may be said to have been preferable to life to him who lay under the stings of a goaded conscience and the contempt of every Gospel Christian; this principle he strongly felt in all its force and anguish.
The queen’s revenge was only to be satiated by Cranmer’s blood, and therefore she wrote an order to Dr. Pole, to prepare a sermon to be preached March 21, directly before his martyrdom, at St. Mary’s, Oxford. Dr. Pole visited him the day previous, and was induced to believe that he would publicly deliver his sentiments in confirmation of the articles to which he had subscribed. About nine in the morning of the day of sacrifice, the queen’s commissioners, attended by the magistrates, conducted the amiable unfortunate to St. Mary’s Church. His torn, dirty garb, the same in which they habited him upon his degradation, excited the commiseration of the people. In the church he found a low mean stage, erected opposite to the pulpit, on which being placed, he turned his face, and fervently prayed to God.
The church was crowded with persons of both persuasions, expecting to hear the justification of the late apostasy: the Catholics rejoicing, and the Protestants deeply wounded in spirit at the deceit of the human heart. Dr. Pole, in his sermon, represented Cranmer as having been guilty of the most atrocious crimes; encouraged the deluded sufferer not to fear death, not to doubt the support of God in his torments, nor that Masses would be said in all the churches of Oxford for the repose of his soul. The doctor then noticed his conversion, and which he ascribed to the evident working of Almighty power and in order that the people might be convinced of its reality, asked the prisoner to give them a sign. This Cranmer did, and begged the congregation to pray for him, for he had committed many and grievous sins; but, of all, there was one which awfully lay upon his mind, of which he would speak shortly.
During the sermon Cranmer wept bitter tears: lifting up his hands and eyes to heaven, and letting them fall, as if unworthy to live: his grief now found vent in words: before his confession he fell upon his knees, and, in the following words unveiled the deep contrition and agitation which harrowed up his soul.
“O Father of heaven! O Son of God, Redeemer of the world! O Holy Ghost, three persons all one God! have mercy on me, most wretched caitiff and miserable sinner. I have offended both against heaven and earth, more than my tongue can express. Whither then may I go, or whither may I flee? To heaven I may be ashamed to lift up mine eyes and in earth I find no place of refuge or succor. To Thee, therefore, O Lord, do I run; to Thee do I humble myself, saying, O Lord, my God, my sins be great, but yet have mercy upon me for Thy great mercy. The great mystery that God became man, was not wrought for little or few offences. Thou didst not give Thy Son, O Heavenly Father, unto death for small sins only, but for all the greatest sins of the world, so that the sinner return to Thee with his whole heart, as I do at present. Wherefore, have mercy on me, O God, whose property is always to have mercy, have mercy upon me, O Lord, for Thy great mercy. I crave nothing for my own merits, but for Thy name’s sake, that it may be hallowed thereby, and for Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ’s sake. And now therefore, O Father of Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” etc.
Then rising, he said he was desirous before his death to give them some pious exhortations by which God might be glorified and themselves edified. He then descanted upon the danger of a love for the world, the duty of obedience to their majesties, of love to one another and the necessity of the rich administering to the wants of the poor. He quoted the three verses of the fifth chapter of James, and then proceeded, “Let them that be rich ponder well these three sentences: for if they ever had occasion to show their charity, they have it now at this present, the poor people being so many, and victual so dear.
“And now forasmuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life past, and all my life to come, either to live with my master Christ for ever in joy, or else to be in pain for ever with the wicked in hell, and I see before mine eyes presently, either heaven ready to receive me, or else hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith how I believe, without any color of dissimulation: for now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have said or written in times past.
“First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, etc. And I believe every article of the Catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Savior Jesus Christ, His apostles and prophets, in the New and Old Testament.
“And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be; and that is, all such bills or papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire it shall first be burned.
“And as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine.”
Upon the conclusion of this unexpected declaration, amazement and indignation were conspicuous in every part of the church. The Catholics were completely foiled, their object being frustrated, Cranmer, like Samson, having completed a greater ruin upon his enemies in the hour of death, than he did in his life.
Cranmer would have proceeded in the exposure of the popish doctrines, but the murmurs of the idolaters drowned his voice, and the preacher gave an order to “lead the heretic away!” The savage command was directly obeyed, and the lamb about to suffer was torn from his stand to the place of slaughter, insulted all the way by the revilings and taunts of the pestilent monks and friars.
With thoughts intent upon a far higher object than the empty threats of man, he reached the spot dyed with the blood of Ridley and Latimer. There he knelt for a short time in earnest devotion, and then arose, that he might undress and prepare for the fire. Two friars who had been parties in prevailing upon him to abjure, now endeavored to draw him off again from the truth, but he was steadfast and immovable in what he had just professed, and publicly taught. A chain was provided to bind him to the stake, and after it had tightly encircled him, fire was put to the fuel, and the flames began soon to ascend.
Then were the glorious sentiments of the martyr made manifest; then it was, that stretching out his right hand, he held it unshrinkingly in the fire until it was burnt to a cinder, even before his body wa sinjured, frequently exclaiming, “This unworthy right hand.”
His body did abide the burning with such steadfastness that he seemed to have no more than the stake to which he was bound; his eyes were lifted up to heaven, and he repeated “this unworthy right hand,” as long as his voice would suffer him; and using often the words of Stephen, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” in the greatness of the flame, he gave up the ghost.
In Memoriam, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) - Reformation21
In Memoriam, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000)
Article by Rick Phillips June 2010
June 15 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of James Montgomery Boice, who was for thirty-two years the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, the dean of Reformed pastor-scholars in his generation, and my beloved pastor. The enduring image of Dr. Boice in my mind is also the first, when I had walked into Tenth Church for an evening service in 1990: standing in the pulpit preaching God's Word with authority, clarity, and both intellectual and spiritual power. The ten years since his death have seen little decrease in his standing and influence among evangelical Christians. Through his continuing radio ministry on The Bible Study Hour and especially through his writings, Boice continues not only to teach the Scriptures and its great doctrines, but he continues to anchor the commitment of his followers and admirers to the innerancy and sufficiency of God's living Word.
In my opinion, the reason for James Boice's influence and legacy is seldom understood. What was it about him that drew so wide an audience of pastors and laypeople? The answer is that as a Reformed theologian, James Boice was a Christian first. That is, the issues for which he stood were Christian issues: the inerrancy of Scripture, the gospel of faith in Jesus, the sin-cleansing power of Christ's blood, and the Christian witness for the salvation of the lost. It is true that Boice served this Christian and evangelical cause from a distinctively Reformed perspective, but his cause was simply that of Christ and his gospel. It is in this way that Boice so ably advanced the credibility of Reformed theology within evangelicalism, by showing that it is only the Reformed doctrine that can consistently uphold Christian distinctives. Boice taught, proved, and defended Calvinism by teaching, proving, and defending the Bible. On a personal level this Christ-centered priority was also true for James Boice. While Boice was a Calvinist through and through, his passion was for the person and work of Jesus Christ, and his labor was offered in personal service to his living and reigning Lord and Savior. Calvinism was ever the servant of Boice's passion for Jesus and never the master.
I think that James Boice's ministerial career can be seen in three phases. The first phase of his career, from the mid-1960's to around 1980, involved the defense of evangelical doctrine against liberal assaults. These were the years when Boice was wrapping up the education he received in liberal institutions like Princeton Seminary and the University of Basel. In his John commentary, dating from these early years, one will frequently read Boice defending the Bible from the interpretations of liberals like Rudolf Bultmann. These were also the years when Boice was ordained in the liberal United Presbyterian Church, so that the context for his ministry was that of opposition to liberal attacks on the Bible. It is no surprise that Boice's chief concern during these years was to defend the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, as seen in his leadership of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).
The second phase of Boice's ministry took place from around 1980-- when Tenth Presbyterian Church left the liberal UPC and eventually made its way into the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America -- until 1993. This phase of Boice's ministry focused on the teaching of Reformed theology within an evangelical context. Boice believed that the evangelical movement could only maintain its doctrinal moorings (and therefore its spiritual vitality) by standing on the foundation laid by the Protestant Reformers (and the apostles before them). The crowning achievements of this period of Boice's ministry were his four-volume commentary on Romans, which not only lays out the biblical basis for Reformed doctrine but also shows the necessity of these doctrines for Christian faith and life, and his lay-friendly systematic theology, Foundations of the Christian Faith.
The final phase of Boice's ministry can be dated from the publishing of David Well's book, No Place for Truth, in 1993, which uncovered the looming danger of worldliness in the faith and practice of evangelical churches. These years saw Boice emphasize not merely the inerrancy of the Bible but also the sufficiency of Scripture for the church's evangelism, holiness, guidance, and cultural impact. It was around this time, 1994, that Boice (along with Michael Horton) founded the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals, which carries on his work to this day. One of Boice's final and best books issued this clarion call to reformation, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? a book which retains every bit of its relevance today and will continue to be relevant for decades to come.
Was James Boice successful in his endeavors as a Christian statesman? I think the answer is that he was remarkably successful as God blessed his Bible teaching and statesmanship. As for his early defense of the Bible, Boice did not persuade the liberals, but his and others' efforts did anchor a generation of evangelicals to the inerrancy of Scripture. As for his middle years and their emphasis on Reformed doctrine as key to the gospel, Boice lived to see the beginnings of the Reformed awakening that is now in full bloom among so many evangelical Christians. When Boice founded the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology in 1974, experts insisted that no one wanted to hear Reformed teaching much less pay to attend such a conference. Today, not only is Boice's PCRT still going strong (with over 2000 people attending in 2010), but it has spurred a host of even larger conferences such as the annual Ligonier Conference and the more recent Together for the Gospel. Finally, as for Boice's later endeavors as a reforming leader, in this he also was blessed by God with considerable success. It is true that Boice, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and other like-minded groups have not stemmed the flood of worldliness and doctrinal infidelity in the broader evangelical world. But Boice did inspire a generation of young Christian leaders who are passionately committed to biblical fidelity and filled with gospel zeal. In the last couple of years of his life, Boice often spoke to me about his excitement for the future due to the emergence of so many fervent, well-grounded young pastors and lay leaders. Jim Boice did not die with a sense of failure but with a joyful optimism regarding what God would do in the coming years through the legion of fervent, Bible-believing, cross-exalting, sovereign grace-proclaiming Christians he saw coming behind him.
One way for me to eulogize James Montgomery Boice is to recount both the first and the last things he ever said personally to me. My first conversation with Boice took place at a congregational dinner of Tenth Church, shortly after I had been converted and joined the church. I remember arriving late for the meal in the church's crowed fellowship hall, filled with circular dinner tables, and seeing no available seat except for one directly next to the senior minister, Dr. Boice. I suppose others were too intimidated to sit next to the great preacher, but I was thrilled. During the meal I recounted to Boice how I had been growing under his preaching and especially how my reading of his books was enriching my soul and leading me into truth. After a bit of this, Boice interrupted me and said, "Young man, you are talking too much about me. I would suggest that you stop reading my books and start reading the Bible for yourself, focusing on the truth that Jesus will teach you by the Holy Spirit." At the time I was downcast over this reproof, but the episode left a permanent impact on me on the importance of being devoted to Christ and his Word rather than the teaching of any man.
My final meeting with James Boice took place about ten years later, just a few days before he died. A group of us from the church had gone to his home to see him for a last time and to sing some of the hymns he had written and which were set to music by Paul Jones. The last of these hymns we sang was in my view Boice's best: "Come to the Waters," a hymn gathering together all the "water of life" themes in the Bible as they flow from the gospel. (If you want to feel the very heart-beat of James Boice's ministry, just sing this hymn!) Sitting on the couch with Jim afterwards, he grabbed my arm and in his cancer-weakened voice he said to me, "Rick, do you see what I am saying in that hymn? It all flows to Jesus and out from him. Don't ever forget that!" By God's grace, I don't believe I ever will forget it, and I will certainly never forget the inspirational, Christ-centered life and ministry of my friend and pastor, James Montgomery Boice.
Not long after that final meeting, I had the privilege of preaching the evening sermon at Tenth on the Sunday after Dr. Boice died. Phil Ryken and I had scripted that Sunday, with him preaching a pastoral message of comfort to the congregation in the morning and with me preaching a memorial message that evening. I chose as my text 2 Kings 2:11-15, the ascension of Elijah in a chariot of fire. One reason for selecting this text was that when I had learned weeks earlier that Dr. Boice would soon die of cancer, I had gotten onto my knees and prayed for God to give me double the portion of the Spirit so as to be one of those who would carry on Jim's work. In the sermon I wanted to point out that we as a congregation could take up Boice's legacy, like the mantel that fell from Elijah's ascending chariot, and carry it on by holding forth the convictions he had taught us from God's Word. A couple of days before preaching the sermon, however, Phil Ryken gave me a cassette tape of a message Boice had preached on that passage. I had thought that Jim had never preached from that text, but it turned out that he had done so for his tenth anniversary as Tenth's pastor. In that sermon, Boice revealed that when he was a seminary student at Princeton in 1960, his father had called to tell him about the sudden death of Donald Grey Barnhouse, then pastor of Tenth Church and Boice's pulpit hero. Jim related how when he heard the news, he fell to his knees in his room and prayed for God to give him double the portion of Elijah if he was to take up the mantle of so great a man as Barnhouse. I ended up telling this story in my memorial sermon for Boice, pointing out that he was, like us, simply a man of faith who had prayed to be used by God. It is therefore our sovereign and gracious God who deserves the praise and glory for the life and ministry of James Montgomery Boice, as Dr. Boice himself would be the first to insist. If we will pray for the same - for God's mighty Spirit to equip us to minister the gospel truth to our generation - we can expect God to do great things through our labors as well.
Dr. Boice's favorite benediction from the Bible says of God that "from him and through him and to him are all things." Paul concludes, "To him be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36). It was James Montgomery Boice's own glorification to leave us and be with God, ten years ago today, having devoted his life and labors to the praise of God's glorious grace.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
For more, see:
Anglicans Ablaze: Episcopacy - the Mark of Anglican Identity...Right?
Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Helm's Deep: Gordon on Calvin
Among the deluge of Calviniana that appeared in his 500th anniversary year there are a number of biographical studies, of which this by Bruce Gordon (late of St. Andrews and now of Yale) is the most thorough and scholarly. It bears comparison with the work of the Reformation scholar Herman Selderhuis, John Calvin, a Pilgrim’s Life, (Leicester, IVP, 2009), if only because the two books have a similar structure. Each author has chosen to write in shortish sections within each chapter, though Gordon’s sections are longer. But both books give the impression of Calvin through his portrayal in short scenes, rather like videoclips. This style makes the books easy to pick up and put down, and gives their authors freedom to roam from topic to topic as he unfolds the life. Of the two, Selderhuis’s is lighter in tone, and may even make you laugh. Gordon sets out to be more serious, and he is certainly successful in that.
The present-day biographer of Calvin who aims to write for a general educated readership is faced with a dilemma. There is a good deal of drama to Calvin’s life. His career was adventurous, and so an account of it ought to make for a good read. His life even as a theologian, controversialist and bible commentator was lived at such a breakneck speed that by his early fifties he was worn out. (When he wrote about divine providence he advised the Christian to live prudently, to take note of the divinely-appointed connectedness of means and ends. But he resolutely failed to heed that advice himself, at least as regards his own health). But what explains the drama – his flight from France, and then from Geneva, the frequent political turmoil in that city, the quarrels, the swings of temper, his deliberate offensiveness to his opponents? Is there a connecting thread?
Yes there is, but now the biographers’ dilemma surfaces. For what made Calvin tick were ideas that now seem remote and unappealing to the modern sensibility, ideas about divine grace and sin, about who has the right to excommunicate a person from church, or about what exactly goes on in the Lord’s Supper. How could these ideas motivate a life, and lead a sensitive soul, with ambitions to be a reclusive scholar and nothing more, to take centre stage and to run himself into the ground for their sake? For Calvin, certain ideas had consequences, deeply personal consequences. Here at least there is consistency in the man. If the idea of your God is not one that can flit in the brain, then discipleship of such a God cannot be a fitful thing. Knowing this God is full-time work.
Bruce Gordon does a pretty good job, it seems to me, in producing a narrative of Calvin’s life that is intelligible in terms of the impact of his ideas upon his own unique personality. That is, he nearly always provides the reader with sufficient theological and religious background to make what Calvin did and suffered intelligible, and sets his activities in the context of his own conversion, even though the circumstances of that momentous change still remain shadowy, and this fact certainly does not help any biographer. To present such a man in such a way is a considerable and praiseworthy achievement. This is not a theological biography, but it is pretty clearly the biography of a theologian, one of the great doctors of the Church. So Professor Gordon does not simple chronicle events; he tells us, for example, the significance of Calvin’s commentary on Romans, and goes into Calvin’s relations with the various Swiss city churches with great thoroughness. He analyses the reasons for the unevenness of Calvin’s international impact, and goes into the printing and publishing of those works of Calvin’s which were rapidly translated and exported, and on which his reputation came to rest.
A couple of things puzzled me a bit. One is Professor Gordon’s claim, which he makes twice, that Calvin’s early book, Psychopannychia, written in 1534 but finally published (after going the rounds in manuscript to various of his friends) in an altered form in 1542, a work against the Anabaptist doctrines of soul sleep and ‘mortalism’ was in fact aimed at Michael Servetus. (43, 216) The reason for Calvin giving these doctrines priority remains something of a puzzle, but it is hard to believe that he already had Servetus in his sights. Servetus did agree to meet up with Calvin in Paris in 1534, an appointment which Calvin kept but he did not, to Calvin’s annoyance. The author provides no evidence for his claim that Psychopannychia, was ‘partly directed to Servetus and his circle in Paris’, or even for the view that Servetus had such a circle. Bernard Cottret, whose biography of Calvin is a good resource for this kind of thing, does not offer a hint of such a connection.
One place where (understandably perhaps) the author’s concern to provide his reader with theological content, or a theological context, seems to fail him is over Calvin’s controversies with the Lutheran theologian Westphal over the Supper. The author recounts in considerable detail each blow and counter-blow and counter-counter blow of this seemingly interminable debate. But he never tells us what the theological issues were between Calvin and Westphal, or how it came about that Calvin had such an ecstatic view of the significance of the Supper, ecstasy caught by his words from the Institutes quoted at length on page 303. The debates about the Supper were tragic enough, but there were real issues at stake, substantive differences . The author’s reluctance to tell his readers what these are makes it hard for them to judge his opinion that Calvin’s debate with Westphal was a personal defeat for him (249), or even what this means and how it could be identified as such.
Nevertheless, this is an excellent general biography of the Reformer, sympathetic, engaging and informative.
Comfortable Words» Blog Archive » Anthony Sparrow on an absolution from heaven itself
CONTINUING the theme of repentance and healing, in this evening’s first reading (2 Chron 33) we hear how after being briefly captured by the Assyrians, Manasseh, King of Judah, heartily repented of giving Israel over to non-Jewish worship.
AND when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
Affliction, repentance and confession form a key element in Christian healing too, according to St James in our second reading (Jas 5).
IS any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The Visitation Of The Sick provides for priestly Confession, and appoints the following Absolution to be read over those whom the priest judges are sincere in their repentance:
OUR Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
This authoritative priestly Absolution, given in the first person, differs superficially from the Absolution at Morning and Evening Prayer, which speaks in the third person of God’s forgiving character, assuring us that “He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel”.
Yet by ordering that the priest should stand, and that “If no priest be present the person saying the service shall read the Collect for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity, that person and the people still kneeling”, the Prayer Book strongly indicates that even here, there is a unique ministry of reconciliation, founded on our Lord’s words to his Apostles in this morning’s second reading (Jn 20:19-31):
AND this Absolution is an act of authority, by virtue of a power and commandment of God to his Ministers, as it is in the preface of this Absolution. And as we read, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted” (Jn 20:33). And if our confession be serious and hearty, this Absolution is effectual, as if God did pronounce it from heaven.
Bishop Anthony Sparrow (1612-1685). “A Rationale On The Book Of Common Prayer.” Morning Prayer: Of the Confession.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
James 3 in the First Sunday in Trinity: Comfortable Words» Blog Archive » Mark Frank on Christian civility
Mark Frank on Christian civility
The Revd Mark Frank (1613-1664)
ST JAMES warns in our reading at Evensong tonight (Jas 3),
THE tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature.
When we speak of Anglicanism as a via media or a religion of moderation, we should maybe bear this in mind.
IT IS none of Christ’s religion that teaches men to be uncivil; no, not to return one incivility with another: no, not “revile again though we be reviled,” says S. Peter (1 Pet 2:23), and brings Christ for an example. Others doing us wrong, nay shrewdly persecuting us too, will not authorize us to do it, to requite our very persecutors with any incivility.
A good memorandum for those who make it an especial sign of their being better Christians than others, to be rude and uncivil to their betters, to be saucy and unmannerly to any, to all that run not riot with them into the same madness and folly, sacrilege and heresy; that cannot be content to do men wrong, and rob them of their dues, but must do it with ill language and incivility.
They forget, sure, “the Lord is at hand;” that there is any such thing as a Lord, any superior above them, either at hand or afar off, either in this world or in the other. The Apostle’s επιείκεια is for moderation in this point too, civil and handsome terms, gestures, and carriage; that we should carry ourselves like men, at least, if we will not like Christians.
The Revd Mark Frank (1613-1664). Sermon for The Fourth Sunday In Advent
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Lord God, heavenly Father, at the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea, Your Church boldly confessed that it believed in one Lord Jesus Christ as being of one substance with the Father. Grant us courage to confess this saving faith with Your Church through all the ages; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The Christian Church’s First Ecumenical Council was convened in Nicaea (modern Isnuk, Turkey) in the early summer of AD 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The major intended topic was the ongoing Arian controversy.
The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of his righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Their version of what we now call the Nicene Creed was almost identical to what is now used in the Church until the third section, where the original ends, “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” It fell to the Second Ecumenical Council (First Council of Constantinople) to add what is now used. Therefore, the confession used in the churches may properly be called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The so-called filioque (where “and the Son” was inserted after the words about the Spirit proceeding from the Father) was only later added by the Roman Catholic Church and never accepted in the East.
The Council also saw the first major collaboration between Church and state since Christianity began and signaled a rise in imperial influence in affairs of the Church. Constantine called it, presided over the initial session, and, in many respects, set its agenda. While his personal religious beliefs may have been part of his reason, most scholars agree that his main fear was that a divided Christianity would result in a divided Empire. The historical irony is that the Roman Empire fractured before any major schisms in Christendom.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian [catholic] and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life ✠ of the world to come. Amen.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Southwark clergy write to The Times : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia
The above URL. Opposition to Reprobate Schori speaking at Southwark Cathedral.
From the website for Southwark Cathedral, we post this:
We know there has been a church on this site since AD 606. There may well have been a church here even earlier. Southwark Cathedral is the oldest cathedral church building in London, and archaeological evidence shows there was Roman pagan worship here well before that.
Significantly, Southwark stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal Thames at what was the only entrance to the City of London across the river for many centuries. It is not only a place of worship but also of hospitality to every kind of person: princes and paupers, prelates and prostitutes, poets, playwrights, prisoners and patients have all found refuge here.
Salvation, atonement and justification in the Book of Common Prayer
Address by The Revd Canon Eric Woods, Vicar of Sherborne Abbey in Dorset. Canon Woods was formerly a Trustee of the Prayer Book Society.
The Doctrinal Approach of the Reformers
Address by the Revd Dr Roger Beckwith, internationally known theologian and author and authority on the Reformation. Dr Beckwith is a Vice-President and a Trustee of the Prayer Book Society.