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Francis Schaeffer – A Dead, Ugly Orthodoxy

10 Aug

schaeffer

Let us emphasize again as we have before: we believe with all our hearts that Christian truth can be presented in propositions, and that anybody who diminishes the concept of the propositionalness of the Word of God is playing into twentieth-century, non-Christian hands. But, and it is a great and strong but, the end of Christianity is not the repetition of mere propositions. Without the proper propositions you cannot have that which should follow. But after having the correct propositions, the end of the matter is to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds. The end of the matter, after we know about God in the revelation He has given in verbalized, propositional terms in the Scripture, is to be in relationship to Him. A dead, ugly orthodoxy with no real spiritual reality must be rejected as sub-Christian.


~Francis Schaeffer




Two Contents, Two Realities, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (vol. 3, Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 416.

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Geerhardus Vos – Why Studying God is Different Than All Other Science

13 Jun
10143218

1862-1949. Dutch Reformed pastor who became professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Seminary. Known as the father of Reformed Biblical Theology.

From the definition of Theology as the science concerning God follows the necessity of its being based on revelation. In scientifically dealing with impersonal objects we ourselves take the first step; they are passive, we are active; we handle them, examine them, experiment with them. But in regard to a spiritual, personal being this is different. Only in so far as such a being chooses to open up itself can we come to know it. All spiritual life is by its very nature a hidden life, a life shut up in itself. Such a life we can know only through revelation. If this be true as between man and man, how much more must if be so as between God and man. The principle involved has been strikingly formulated by Paul: ‘For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God’ [1 Cor. 2.11]. The inward hidden content of God’s mind can become the possession of man only through a voluntary disclosure on God’s part. God must come to us before we can go to Him. But God is not a personal spiritual being in general. He is a Being infinitely exalted above our highest conception. Suppose it were possible for one human spirit to penetrate directly into another human spirit: it would still be impossible for the spirit of man to penetrate into the Spirit of God. This emphasizes the necessity of God’s opening up to us the mystery of His nature before we can acquire any knowledge concerning Him. Indeed, we can go one step farther still. In all scientific study we exist alongside of the objects which we investigate. But in Theology the relation is reversed. Originally God alone existed. He was known to Himself alone, and had first to call into being a creature before any extraneous knowledge with regard to Him became possible. Creation therefore was the first step in the production of extra-divine knowledge.

~Geerhardus Vos~


Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh, Scotland; Banner of Truth, 1975), p. 3-4.

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John Calvin – Doctrine and the Fear of God

1 Aug

No man can rightly handle the doctrine of godliness, unless the fear of God reign and bear the chief sway in him.

~John Calvin~







Calvin’s Commentaries – Acts (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software; 2010) Vol. 2, p. 312. Commentary on Acts 23:1

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Herman Bavinck – What Does Theology Aim For?

13 Feb

The Reformation admittedly recognized the supernatural character of revelation but nevertheless in fact brought about a great change. In the case of Rome, the mysteries are incomprehensible, primarily because they belong to another, higher, supernatural order, which surpasses the human intellect as such… But the Reformation replaced this contrast between the natural and the supernatural order by that of sin and grace. It located the essence of mystery, not in the fact that it is incomprehensible to human beings as such but to the intellect of the “natural” (i.e., unspiritual) person… But believers do know those mysteries; they are no longer a folly and an offense to them; they do marvel at God’s wisdom and love manifest in them. “The secret of God ought to produce earnest people, not hostile ones” (Augustine). It does not even occur to them, therefore, that the mysteries surpass their reason, that they are above reason; they do not experience them as an oppressive burden but rather as intellectual liberation. Their faith turns into wonder; knowledge terminates in adoration; and their confession becomes a song of praise and thanksgiving. Of this kind, too, is the knowledge of God theology aims for. It is not just a knowing, much less a comprehending; it is better and more glorious than that: it is the knowledge which is life, “eternal life” (John 17:3).

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 620-21.

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Herman Bavinck – The Task of the Thinking Theological Mind

8 Feb

It is the task of the thinking theological mind to gather up and recapitulate all truth in one system. System is the supreme desideratum in all science. Also theology does not rest until it has discovered the unity underlying revelation. It may not impose that system from without, nor press the truth into a philosophical system that is foreign to its nature. But it keeps searching until the system that is present in the object itself has been reproduced in the human mind.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 618.

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Herman Bavinck – We Can Know, But Not Fully Comprehend

30 Jan

The farther a science penetrates its object, the more it approaches mystery. Even if on its journey it encountered no other object it would still always be faced with the mystery of being. Where comprehension ceases, however, there remains room for knowledge and wonder. And so things stand in theology. Disclosed to us in revelation is “the mystery of our religion”: the mystery of God’s grace [1 Time. 3:16]. We see it; it comes out to meet us as a reality in history and in our own life. But we do not fathom it. In that sense Christian theology always has to do with mysteries that it knows and marvels at but does not comprehend and fathom.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 619.

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Herman Bavinck – Theology and Real Life

23 Jan

Every science, actually, has to take account of the demands of life. Similarly, theology does not occupy a position high above real life but is situated in its midst, in the life of the Christian community. The distorted relation that everywhere exists today between the church and theology is a disaster for both.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 616.

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Herman Bavinck – In Defense of Theology

31 Dec

After all, if revelation consisted only in the communication of life and religion, only in emotional states, there would be no room for real theology. But revelation is systematic disclosure of the words and deeds of God; it encompasses a world of thoughts and has its center in the incarnation of the Logos. And religion is not feeling and sensation alone but also belief, living for and serving of God with both heart and head. And that revelation of God can therefore be intellectually penetrated in order that it may all the better enter into the human consciousness. In that connection one cannot even take it ill of theology if it aims at clarity in thought, at making lucid distinctions and at precision in articulation. Such precision is pursued and valued in all the sciences; it is equally appropriate in theology. The danger of its degenerating into hairsplitting exists equally in other sciences, say, in jurisprudence and the study of literature. But no one would for that reason deny to these other sciences the right to exist. Also theology has its periods of florescence and decay. But it is misguided to condemn theology itself on account of the bad use that has been made of it. The abuse of it does not cancel out the use of it (Abusus non tollit usum).

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 605.

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Martin Luther – The Ninety-Five Theses

31 Oct

[Post 494 Years Ago Today]

DISPUTATION OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER CONCERNING PENITENCE AND INDULGENCES.

In the desire and with the purpose of elucidating the truth, a disputation will be held on the underwritten propositions at Wittemberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Monk of the Order of St. Augustine, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Reader of the same in that place. He therefore asks those who cannot be present and discuss the subject with us orally, to do so by letter in their absence. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying: “Repent ye,”1 etc., intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence.
2. This word cannot be understood of sacramental penance, that is, of the confession and satisfaction which are performed under the ministry of priests.
3. It does not, however, refer solely to inward penitence; nay such inward penitence is naught, unless it outwardly produces various mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty2 thus continues as long as the hatred of self—that is, true inward penit- ence—continues; namely, till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The Pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties, except those which he has imposed by his own authority, or by that of the canons.
6. The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except by declaring and warranting it to have been remitted by God; or at most by remitting cases reserved for himself; in which cases, if his power were despised, guilt would certainly remain.
7. God never remits any man’s guilt, without at the same time subjecting him, humbled in all things, to the authority of his representative the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and no burden ought to be imposed on the dying, according to them.
9. Hence the Holy Spirit acting in the Pope does well for us, in that, in his decrees, he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Those priests act wrongly and unlearnedly, who, in the case of the dying, reserve the canonical penances for purgatory.
11. Those tares about changing of the canonical penalty into the penalty of purgatory seem surely to have been sown while the bishops were asleep.
12. Formerly the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying pay all penalties by death, and are already dead to the canon laws, and are by right relieved from them.
14. The imperfect soundness or charity of a dying person necessarily brings with it great fear, and the less it is, the greater the fear it brings.
15. This fear and horror is sufficient by itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the pains of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven appear to differ as despair, almost despair, and peace of mind differ.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems that it must needs be that, as horror diminishes, so charity increases.
18. Nor does it seem to be proved by any reasoning or any scriptures, that they are outside of the state of merit or of the increase of charity.
19. Nor does this appear to be proved, that they are sure and confident of their own blessedness, at least all of them, though we may be very sure of it.
20. Therefore the Pope, when he speaks of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean simply of all, but only of those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those preachers of indulgences are in error who say that, by the indulgences of the Pope, a man is loosed and saved from all punishment.
22. For in fact he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which they would have had to pay in this life according to the canons.
23. If any entire remission of all penalties can be granted to any one, it is certain that it is granted to none but the most perfect, that is, to very few.
24. Hence the greater part of the people must needs be deceived by this indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalties.
25. Such power as the Pope has over purgatory in general, such has every bishop in his own diocese, and every curate in his own parish, in particular.
26. The Pope acts most rightly in granting remission to souls, not by the power of the keys (which is of no avail in this case) but by the way of suffrage.
27. They preach man, who say that the soul flies out of purgatory as soon as the money thrown into the chest rattles.
28. It is certain that, when the money rattles in the chest, avarice and gain may be in- creased, but the suffrage of the Church depends on the will of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory desire to be redeemed from it, accord- ing to the story told of Saints Severinus and Paschal.
30. No man is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of the attainment of plenary remission.
31. Rare as is a true penitent, so rare is one who truly buys indulgences—that is to say, most rare.
32. Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they are made sure of their own salvation, will be eternally damned along with their teachers.
33. We must especially beware of those who say that these pardons from the Pope are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to God.
34. For the grace conveyed by these pardons has respect only to the penalties of sacra- mental satisfaction, which are of human appointment.
35. They preach no Christian doctrine, who teach that contrition is not necessary for those who buy souls out of purgatory or buy confessional licences.
36. Every Christian who feels true compunction has of right plenary remission of pain and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and of the Church, given him by God, even without letters of pardon.
38. The remission, however, imparted by the Pope is by no means to be despised, since it is, as I have said, a declaration of the Divine remission.
39. It is a most difficult thing, even for the most learned theologians, to exalt at the same time in the eyes of the people the ample effect of pardons and the necessity of true contrition.
40. True contrition seeks and loves punishment; while the ampleness of pardons relaxes it, and causes men to hate it, or at least gives occasion for them to do so.
41. Apostolical pardons ought to be proclaimed with caution, lest the people should falsely suppose that they are placed before other good works of charity.
42. Christians should be taught that it is not the mind of the Pope that the buying of pardons is to be in any way compared to works of mercy.
43. Christians should be taught that he who gives to a poor man, or lends to a needy man, does better than if he bought pardons.
44. Because, by a work of charity, charity increases, and the man becomes better; while, by means of pardons, he does not become better, but only freer from punishment.
45. Christians should be taught that he who sees any one in need, and, passing him by, gives money for pardons, is not purchasing for himself the indulgences of the Pope, but the anger of God.
46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have superfluous wealth, they are bound to keep what is necessary for the use of their own households, and by no means to lavish it on pardons.
47. Christians should be taught that, while they are free to buy pardons, they are not commanded to do so.
48. Christians should be taught that the Pope, in granting pardons, has both more need and more desire that devout prayer should be made for him, than that money should be readily paid.
49. Christians should be taught that the Pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them, but most hurtful, if through them they lose the fear of God.
50. Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were acquainted with the exactions of the preachers of pardons, he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be burnt to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians should be taught that, as it would be the duty, so it would be the wish of the Pope, even to sell, if necessary, the Basilica of St. Peter, and to give of his own money to very many of those from whom the preachers of pardons extract money.
52. Vain is the hope of salvation through letters of pardon, even if a commissary—nay, the Pope himself—were to pledge his own soul for them.
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the Pope, who, in order that pardons may be preached, condemn the word of God to utter silence in other churches.
54. Wrong is done to the word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is spent on pardons than on it.
55. The mind of the Pope necessarily is that, if pardons, which are a very small matter, are celebrated with single bells, single processions, and single ceremonies, the Gospel, which is a very great matter, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, and a hundred ceremonies.
56. The treasures of the Church, whence the Pope grants indulgences, are neither suffi- ciently named nor known among the people of Christ.
57. It is clear that they are at least not temporal treasures, for these are not so readily lavished, but only accumulated, by many of the preachers.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and of the saints, for these, independently of the Pope, are always working grace to the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell to the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church are the poor of the Church, but he spoke according to the use of the word in his time.
60. We are not speaking rashly when we say that the keys of the Church, bestowed through the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that the power of the Pope is alone sufficient for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases.
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
63. This treasure, however, is deservedly most hateful, because it makes the first to be last.
64. While the treasure of indulgences is deservedly most acceptable, because it makes the last to be first.
65. Hence the treasures of the Gospel are nets, wherewith of old they fished for the men of riches.
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets, wherewith they now fish for the riches of men.
67. Those indulgences, which the preachers loudly proclaim to be the greatest graces, are seen to be truly such as regards the promotion of gain.
68. Yet they are in reality in no degree to be compared to the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to receive the commissaries of apostolical pardons with all reverence.
70. But they are still more bound to see to it with all their eyes, and take heed with all their ears, that these men do not preach their own dreams in place of the Pope’s commission.
71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolical pardons, let him be anathema and accursed.
72. But he, on the other hand, who exerts himself against the wantonness and licence of speech of the preachers of pardons, let him be blessed.
73. As the Pope justly thunders against those who use any kind of contrivance to the injury of the traffic in pardons,
74. Much more is it his intention to thunder against those who, under the pretext of pardons, use contrivances to the injury of holy charity and of truth.
75. To think that Papal pardons have such power that they could absolve a man even if—by an impossibility—he had violated the Mother of God, is madness.
76. We affirm on the contrary that Papal pardons cannot take away even the least of venial sins, as regards its guilt.
77. The saying that, even if St. Peter were now Pope, he could grant no greater graces, is blasphemy against St. Peter and the Pope.
78. We affirm on the contrary that both he and any other Pope has greater graces to grant, namely, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc. (1 Cor. xii. 9.)
79. To say that the cross set up among the insignia of the Papal arms is of equal power with the cross of Christ, is blasphemy.
80. Those bishops, curates, and theologians who allow such discourses to have currency among the people, will have to render an account.
81. This licence in the preaching of pardons makes it no easy thing, even for learned men, to protect the reverence due to the Pope against the calumnies, or, at all events, the keen questionings of the laity.
82. As for instance:—Why does not the Pope empty purgatory for the sake of most holy charity and of the supreme necessity of souls—this being the most just of all reasons—if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of that most fatal thing money, to be spent on building a basilica—this being a very slight reason?
83. Again; why do funeral masses and anniversary masses for the deceased continue, and why does not the Pope return, or permit the withdrawal of the funds bequeathed for this purpose, since it is a wrong to pray for those who are already redeemed?
84. Again; what is this new kindness of God and the Pope, in that, for money’s sake, they permit an impious man and an enemy of God to redeem a pious soul which loves God, and yet do not redeem that same pious and beloved soul, out of free charity, on account of its own need?
85. Again; why is it that the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in themselves in very fact and not only by usage, are yet still redeemed with money, through the granting of indulgences, as if they were full of life?
86. Again; why does not the Pope, whose riches are at this day more ample than those of the wealthiest of the wealthy, build the one Basilica of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with that of poor believers?
87. Again; what does the Pope remit or impart to those who, through perfect contrition, have a right to plenary remission and participation?
88. Again; what greater good would the Church receive if the Pope, instead of once, as he does now, were to bestow these remissions and participations a hundred times a day on any one of the faithful?
89. Since it is the salvation of souls, rather than money, that the Pope seeks by his par- dons, why does he suspend the letters and pardons granted long ago, since they are equally efficacious.
90. To repress these scruples and arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to solve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the Pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian men unhappy.
91. If then pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the Pope, all these questions would be resolved with ease; nay, would not exist.
92. Away then with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ: “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace.
93. Blessed be all those prophets, who say to the people of Christ: “The cross, the cross,” and there is no cross.
94. Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ their head through pains, deaths, and hells.
95. And thus trust to enter heaven through many tribulations, rather than in the security of peace.

~Martin Luther~


Ninety-Five Theses (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Christian Classics Ethereal Library; 2006) eBook: First Principles of the Reformation

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Herman Bavinck – Can We Comprehend the Mysteries of God?

3 Oct

Naturally it is also not the intent of Scripture to say that the believer grasps those mysteries [of God] in a scientific sense. We walk by faith, after all; we know in part and now see in a mirror dimly (Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7). But believers do know those mysteries; they are no longer a folly and an offense to them; they do marvel at Gods wisdom and love manifest in them. “The secret of God ought to produce earnest people, not hostile ones” (Augustine). It does not even occur to them, therefore, that the mysteries surpass their reason, that they are above reason; they do not experience them as an oppressive burden but rather as intellectual liberation. Their faith turns into wonder; knowledge terminates in adoration; and their confession becomes a song of praise and thanksgiving. Of this kind, too, is the knowledge of God theology aims for. It is not just a knowing, much less a comprehending; it is better and more glorious than that: it is the knowledge which is life, “eternal life” (John 17:3).

~Herman Bavinck~


Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 261.

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