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Who is God? (Trinity)

This paper is based on Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2. I have chosen to focus on the person of the Trinity and will be defending the statement that God is three persons and one God. 

“All salvation, every blessing, and blessedness have their threefold cause in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”(1) Each person of God is different and manifests themselves in different ways.

Bavinck explains the title of God the Father stating, “In its most general sense, this name refers to God as Creator of all his works, especially of humankind.”(2) We can, however, understand the term of Father in reference to the Son. Bavinck says, “but in a unique metaphysical sense God is the father of his Son.(3)” When reading the Scripture, it is important to have the understanding that God the Father has a relationship in which He is the Father of Israel, but the immediate implication at that of the Father and His Son. We gain a greater personal meaning seen in Scripture from verses like Romans 8:17 where we are faced with the reality that as the elect, we are heirs. And that is a result of John 3:16, and the love the Father has.

 Of the Logos Bavinck says, “Undoubtedly, however, the premise underlying this name is the consistent teaching of Scripture that both in the creation and re-creation God reveals himself by the word.”(4) It is clear that the Son would bear the name of Logos for by Him, the Word of God and creation is seen. “By the Word, God creates, preserves, and governs all things, and by the Word, he also renews and re-creates the world.”(5) The Logos was not created to become the Logos, nor was He designed by the Father to create. The Logos is part of God, never being created, always in perfect being, He never did not exist. John 1 shows that the Logos was there at creation. “In the beginning God…” is just that, God. God has always been and will always be. That includes Father, Spirit, and Son. All equal in their level of divinity. We understand that just as we need to have a proper metaphysical understanding of the Father, we must understand the title of Son. Bavinck writes, “But he is the Son of God in a metaphysical sense: by nature and from eternity.”(6) Christ’s level of power is over that of angels, Jesus is God. “He is equal to the Father in knowledge, honor, creative and re-creative power, activity, and dominion.”(7)

On the Holy Spirit, Bavinck clearly states, “At the very outset it is worth saying that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the same throughout the Scriptures of the Old and New Covenant.”(8) When reading the Bible, both New and Old Testament have accounts of the Spirit of God, which is the Holy Spirit. Clearly we receive a better understanding of the Spirit in the New Testament, but He is clearly seen within both texts. “And although the divine being we call God is “spirit” and “holy,” in the Scriptures the term “Holy Spirit” is still a reference to a special person in the divine being distinct from the Father and the Son. He owns this name to his special mode of substance: “spirit” actually means “wind,” “breath.” The Holy Spirit is the breath of the Almighty, the breath of his mouth.”(9)

It is important to mention Bavinck has much more on the differences and particular persons of the Trinity. I have only referenced some of his views to show the distinct persons of the Trinity and what they do. Throughout history, there has been a debate of trinitarian doctrine and from this, many people and works have been named heresies. The Council of Nicea in 325 deemed that Christ was equal with the Father in essence. Christ is not the first creation in the way we think of created items, rather Christ is just as much God as the Father. Just as there was not a time without the Father there has not been a time without the Son,( as well as the Spirit). “From the very outset it is clear that the dogma of the Trinity was not born from philosophical reasoning about the nature of God, but from reflection on the facts of revelation, specifically on the person and work of Christ.”(10) The thought of philosophy, although a major part of the foundations for many theological and hermeneutical explanations of Scripture, was not part of the establishing of trinitarian theology. It is clear from Scripture itself without the addition of human thought that there is a God, and He is seen in three parts – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The true and living God makes Himself revealed in many ways: Pillar of Fire (Exodus 13:21), Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-17), Logos (John 1), His Spirit (Acts 2), and many more ways at different times. “The whole Bible is a single, unified text with theological coherence, and in it, the one supreme and true God, the God who exists in the entirety of his being as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, reveals himself to his people in personal self-disclosure.”(11) Each time God is seen or felt, He impacts those around. The person of God has never changed, nor will He ever change. “The Father was always Father. Unlike human fathers, it belongs to his very nature to be Father (De decr. Nic. Syn., 12). Just as one cannot conceive of the sun apart from its light, nor of a spring apart from its water, so one cannot conceive of the Father apart from the Son.”(12) This is true for every part of God. 

A fight of the church has branched out and confronted branches of thought that are contradictory to Scripture itself. One such was Arianism. “The essence of Arianism is its denial of the Son’s consubstantiality with the Father; in other words, its assertion that the Father alone and in an absolute sense is the one true God.”(13) This denies the very divine nature of Christ. This is one of the main forms of heresies the Church has had to fight against. They claim that the divine nature of Christ is granted to him from the Father. This would reject the claims of John 1, and the claims of Jesus who said in John 10:25-30, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The idea of the creation of the Son is to say that the Son was formed by the Father. When hermeneutically reading Scriptures, we see that the persons of God have been from the beginning of time. 

So to whom do we pray? There are three persons to the GodHead, so what about prayer and worship?  Often people begin to pray by saying “God…,” it becomes very evident that as this person progresses in their prayer to whom they are praying because they say, “God thank you for sending your son,” etc. I am not trying to belittle anyone’s prayers, I just feel that it is important that we view God as God, the Father and Father, Son as Son, Spirit as Spirit, and all as God. Each person is referred to in different terms, so is it wrong to say God and be talking about the Father? No, I do not think it is a primary tier issue, this will not impact your salvation. You will not be living a life of sin. When you pray to God (in the correct biblical parameters, and with the correct heart, through the Spirit, in the power of Christ, etc.), I believe He hears. 

But even when Jesus prayed, he said, “Our Father”(Matthew 6:9). It is important that as Jesus is teaching His followers to pray he does not say, God, he says “Our Father.” The act of prayer is communication, we are actually talking with God the Father. It is not like we are sending a prayer and hoping God hears. We are in direct connection through Christ who died on the cross, and His mediation. First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” It is important that we follow the teaching of the New Testament which in Ephesians 6:18 says, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” The form of praying is clearly stated, “In the Spirit.” On the issue of who a Christian should pray to John Piper says this, “So, in general, pray to the Father; but occasionally, to express their Personhood and your own love for them, telling the Spirit and the Son that you love them and that you would like them to come in fullness is a good thing.”(14).

 Piper put it really well as he mentions we do not only talk to the Father, in fact, we have communion with the whole Godhead, but when praying the emphasis should be that we are talking to the Father. This is, of course, not to say that the Son or the Spirit are lower in value or are insignificant for that would be heresy. 

Bavinck does not give much insight into this problem in the book other than a few lines. Bavinck says, “The Holy Spirit dwells in and among us, with the result that our prayers are directed more to the Father and to the Mediator than to him. He is much more the author than the object of our prayer.”(15) Bavinck’s view would seem to conclude that it is both the Father and the Meditator (Son) to which we should pray. What I think Bavinck is saying here is not that we are specifically praying to the Son, but the fact that we are in use of the Mediator as we commune with the Father, through the Spirit. We must remember that in this section Bavink is not focused on the form in which, or by which we pray, rather he is focused on the persons of God. Nevertheless, it poses the question of who do we pray to. The person we pray to is important as the biblical model should be the model for our life, however, this has been adequately covered for the length of this research paper. 

Therefore, to deny the Trinity is to deny Christ. But we as Christians are to be students of the Bible. It is the Inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and as the children of God, we are to study it. The Word is one major form of communication with the triune God, the Creator of the heavens. Another form of communication is that of prayer which through Scripture we understand as to the Father. Each person of the GodHead is different, and yet the same. We should look at the Bible to understand the differences between each part of the holy, perfect, and awesome God whom we serve and from whom we are His image-bearers. It is imperative that the Church holds to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity or the Church will fall into heretical teaching. 

Footnotes

  1.  Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 270.
  2. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 272.
  3. Ibid 2.
  4. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 273.
  5. Ibid 4. 
  6. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 275.
  7. Ibid 6. 
  8. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 277.
  9. Ibid 8.
  10. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 280.
  11. Daniel L. Akin, ed., A Theology for the Church (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014), 165.
  12. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 286.
  13. Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 291.
  14. Does It Matter Which Person of the Trinity We Pray To?,” Desiring God, January 14, 2009, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-it-matter-which-person-of-the-trinity-we-pray -to).
  15.  Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 311.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Akin, Daniel L., ed. A Theology for the Church. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014.

Bavinck, Herman, John Bolt, and John Vriend. Reformed Dogmatics. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. 

Does It Matter Which Person of the Trinity We Pray To?” Desiring God, January 14, 2009. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-it-matter-which-person-of-the-trinity-we-pray-to.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2014.

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What happens if people do not hear the Gospel?

This paper was written as a case study for class at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to address more or less the question above.

God has allowed His children to hear the Gospel and accept its special revelation. As a believer, it is known that the Gospel is the Good News that comes to teach of Christ’s life and how He defeated sin. Sin and death are the bad news that the Gospel has come to fight against. The bad news is seen in Genesis 3 when man sinned and through all wickedness thereafter. The problem is that even though people have a knowledge of who God is, these people never knew Him in such a way as to worship Him. Romans 1:21 says, “ For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Mankind rejected God, they left Him who they knew to be real for idols of their own hearts. We cannot truly know and understand God without His Word, and so no one can get to heaven without God.

If people could get into heaven based on the things they did apart from Christ, there would be no need for Christ. However, Christians understand through Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All have sinned and deserve death (Romans 6:23). All are wicked, and Psalm 5:5 explains that “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” This verse tells readers that the Lord hates evil. Furthermore, remember that one is saved by faith, not works. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” helps put this in perspective. So no matter how good an individual has been or how much he worshiped something thought to be a god if it was not Christ; it can never save him from the wrath of God. Herman Bavinck said, “The Spirit of God lives and works in everything that has been created. Therefore there still remain in man certain traces of the image of God. There is still intellect and reason; all kinds of natural gifts are still present in him. Man still has a feeling and an impression of divinity, a seed of religion. Reason is a priceless gift. Philosophy is an admirable gift from God. Music is also a gift of God. Arts and sciences are good, profitable, and of high value.”

General revelation causes everyone to know in their heart that there is a god, whether or not they know the one True God.  Everyone knows fundamental right from wrong, and everyone has done wrong. Romans 1:21-22 reveals that “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” John Calvin helps us understand that even though God allows wicked people to live, He shares general revelation with them, but can choose not to give special revelation. “As by the revolt of the first man, the image of God could be effaced from his mind and soul, so there is nothing strange in His shedding some rays of grace on the reprobate, and afterward allowing these to be extinguished.”

A minuscule explanation of the wickedness of a person’s heart can be seen by a simple equation. If a person’s ancestors were to have lived 70 years, and they did wrong ten times a day, by the time they died, they would have sinned 255,500. Christians know that God is also seen in Luke 18:7 which says “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?” John 3:16 emphasizes God’s love for the world by saying “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” So even though He loves us, He cannot allow wicked people to stand and be counted as righteous in his holy judgment. Psalm 1:5 says, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” As a good judge, could God let someone who sinned 255,500 times and not asked God for forgiveness or even known God past the natural understanding be held as one who was righteous? Of course not, one sin is too many sins to be forgiven without Jesus. “The proper Christian focus is the wise one’s confession that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”(Prov 9:10).” Christians need to hold fast that God is good and in His sovereign plan there is a reason He allowed the ancestors to die without knowing Him. 

“The task of the church is to call out and equip disciples who can see the moon and the stars – and indeed all reality – as Jesus did and does.” The call of the missionary is to tell the Good News of what Christ has done. The idea that the world needs missionaries is because, without them, nobody would be sharing the Word. If people could be saved by actions apart from Christ, then there would be no reason to follow the rules and laws, everyone would be okay following his own heart and gut feelings. However, Jeremiah 17:9 explains, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  It is important to remember that human nature is wicked, mankind is drawn to sin, so sin corrupts man’s understanding of the natural law and what is holy vs. what is evil.  

BIBLIOGRAPHY

(3,4) Akin, Daniel L., ed. A Theology for the Church. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014. Pages 97, 101.

(1) Garber, Aaron. “Herman Bavinck on Common Grace.” Calvin Presbyterian Church (PCA). Calvin Presbyterian Church (PCA), March 9, 2011. http://calvinpca.org/news/2011/03/herman-bavinck-on-common-grace.

(2) Kuiper, Herman. Calvin on Common Grace. Goes (The Netherlands): Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1928.

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JONAH AND NAHUM

I am a firm believer that the Bible is the greatest piece of litterateur ever written. The way in which you can connect stories and people from book to book is unmatched. This post we are going to look at the books of Jonah and Nahum.

Jonah is a book that revolves around the judgment of God upon the wicked Assyrians who live in the city of Nineveh. Jonah chose to flee from God’s command for him to go and preach His message of grace and repentance. After Jonah finally makes it to Nineveh, he leaves and finds a place to watch the judgment of God fall on the Ninevites (Jonah 4:5). The message of God is that of grace and repentance, but the hope and thought of Jonah was destruction and punishment. Chisholm says “The Ninevites took the warning to heart and expressed their sorrow by donning sackcloth and declaring a city-wide fast.”(1) Because of the repentance of the people, God forgives them and stays his hand of wrath.

Nahum is an oracle or prophecy that gives information on the wrath of God and His power specifically in the destroying of Nineveh for their wicked acts and rejection of God. Chisholm says on the topic, “Anticipating Nineveh’s fall, he compares the city’s leaders to Shepherd’s who sleep on the job, allowing their sheep, who stand for the people of the city, to be scattered on the mountains, where they are vulnerable to predators.”(2)

 God’s wrath is poured out like fire (Nahum 1:6) and He will destroy His enemies. Even though God gave grace to Nineveh once through Jonah’s warning to repent. We see that this city has departed from God and are bound for destruction. They not only reject God, but they reject God after He had already given them a chance to repent and live right. Yet, like it was nothing, Nineveh rejects God again. The LORD foretells how He will kill and destroy the people of Nineveh. Nahum is this foretelling of the destruction that will befall the Empire of Assyria, starting with the main city Nineveh. 

What is the overall importance of these books? From Jonah, we see that God uses all, even those who run, for His greater good. God will make His plan occur above the will and actions of man.  Nahum shows the wrath of God. Even though this nation at one time came to God and repented, the actions described in Nahum clearly show how wicked the people are who lived in Nineveh. Nahum’s description of the Ninevites makes it is easy to understand why Jonah did not wish to follow the command of the LORD. However, the protection of God was upon Jonah and the grace of God upon His lips. Repentance came during Jonah’s time, but during the next generations they fell away. Salvation does not pass from one generation to another, but rather by believing and striving to follow God.

The books both show that God grants forgiveness and grace to those who seek it from Him, but grace comes by truly following God, seeking His ways, loving God, and not loving wickedness. These books have an important role in the life of a Believer as they show both wrath and grace. Jonah shows the acceptance of grace and the staying of wrath. Nahum shows the rejection of grace and acceptance of wrath. 

(1) Robert B. Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009). pg.413

(2) Robert B. Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009). pg.433

Bible used: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2014.

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THE ISSUE OF THEODICY

A REFLECTION PAPER SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
OLD TESTAMENT SURVEY II. (REVISED FOR THIS BLOG.)

The issue of theodicy is not so much an issue, as it is a failure to understand total depravity and the heart within. To be made in the image of God is not to be God Himself. We are not to assume power and glory given to God and blindly turn our eyes from the sin of oneself. I have often heard in churches that demons are the ones tricking us into sin and tempting us so that we fall. However, we know that where God indwells, there cannot be demonic power (2 Corinthians 3:17). This is a significant misconstruction of man for as long as they have been sinful. We give ourselves too much credit in the realm of resistances of sin. How can there be sin if God is good?


Remember, in the story of the fall (Genesis 3) that it was the Image of God which brought sin into the world, not God Himself. Due to this evil, we see that God pulled back from the physical relationship with His creation until Jesus. God used to walk in the garden (Gen 3:8), but we see after the events that unfold and the punishment of sin God is seen from a distance not up close. God now appears through a burning bush (Exodus 3) or as a cloud of smoke/fire (Exodus 13:21-22). This is not to reject God’s Omnipresence, but to say that if the question was merely how could God be okay with sin, He is not. The LORD punished the world (Gen 3:16-18) and destroyed the wicked (Gen 6:9-9:17)(Gen 19). Therefore, God is not okay with sin, but He will use it to get the most glory.


The Lord’s servant Job was not a perfect man, but a man who was by all earthly standards good and worthy of having a good life, family, and wealth. He had all of these things (Job 1:2-3). However, the Lord allowed the tragedy to come to him, even though Job appears to be a God-fearing man and someone devout in worship. Why would God let this happen, especially if God truly loves humankind (1 John 4:8)(John 3:16)? The story of Job shows a rare glimpse into the process of trials, some of which are formed from your actions, and some are allowed by God. The book of Job teaches that Job is righteous, that joy is in all things, and that God has not abandoned us. Even though Job faced many trials, he never blamed God. Job never outright blamed anyone. He understood that there was sin in the world and that people brought that sin into existence. Sin is the only thing God never created. Job understood this fact and, rather than blaming God; Job put his trust in Him.


The modern society we live in loves to ask, “How can God be good and allow bad things to happen?” They never ask the question, “How can God allow goodness in a world full of wickedness?” which is the proper question to ask. Common grace is the answer to the problem of theodicy. The grace which God gives to all men, such as a form of goodness, aesthetic beauty, love, emotions, and life, is revealed in the first chapter of Romans. Affirmation for this is in Psalm 145:9, which says, “The Lord is good to all; His compassion is over all that He has made.” This is good news! Because even though we know, we are wicked, God allows goodness into the world. This is not a question of Why does God allow sin, but thank you to God for allowing grace!


Through the book of Ecclesiastes, we see that everything is Hebel. Or in simple terms, life is not fair. The example which was given by Dr. Meek was just as Able was killed, even though he did nothing wrong and was in fact giving his best to God, he was murdered. And Cain moved on to have a family, start a city, and lived a long life. Just as this happened to Cain and Abel, life does not choose who it is going to favor and who is going to have it tough. Apart from God, all is wicked, all is Hebel, and all is without justice.

The fact that there is sin and wickedness also represented in Hebel is that the world, although it has good, the core is still vanity. All nature is corrupt apart from God.
God is not the one who created evil or tempts people. There is also the goodness that can bee seen in the sky, the birds, the lives of others, all is vanity, but there is still common grace. God allows this to happen as it is a result of man’s action in the Garden of Eden. Ecclesiastes focuses on the guide to a good life. This guide points future generations toward Yahweh by highlighting that life is not always going to go your way, a person is not going to be the best at everything, life is not fair, so things happen. “Good” people die, and bad people live.


The problem of theodicy is not one of a divine nature, but rather an issue of a personal misunderstanding of sin and how it affects every aspect of humanity. The church needs to reflect on Ecclesiastes and Job as it gives guidance for suffering and answers many deep physiological questions that arise in modern people’s minds. Bad things can and do happen to good people. Bad things happening is not to say that it is a punishment for something, but that life is a mix of ups and downs. The church deals with broken people. Life is a complex mixture of common grace and sin, with some divine grace mixed in. This side of heaven, we will always have pain, suffering, and wickedness plague us. By looking at the Old Testament, we see a guide on how to handle issues such as theodicy.

Bible Used: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2014.

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Analysis of Mary Did You Know

The song Mary did you know was written in 1984, by Mark Lowry, and music by Buddy Greene in 1991. This post is merely my view and analysis of Mary Did You Know.

“Mary Did, You Know”, is a song which many Christians have grown up hearing. This classic Christmas song is firmly fixed within the Southern Baptist community, but it raises the question; Mary, did you know? 

This is a question that at face value may be hard to answer. The words of the song walk through the life of Christ and repeatedly ask the question Mary, did you know?  I will break this question down into two different parts. 

1: Did Mary know who her child would grow up to be? 

Yes! The fact of the matter is that through Divine intervention, Mary was aware of what her child would do. And would ultimately fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 9. From this child, the new age would be ushered in, a period where Israel would last forever. Mary knew the child would be the king who sat on David’s throne. The culture Mary lived in would have to know the prophecies of Isaiah, as these things were not hidden from them. Mary would have quickly associated the words of the angel to the words spoken in Isaiah. This is to say that she would not have questioned the things her child was destined to accomplish. The question of if Mary comprehended that Jesus would be defeating sin and not just the Romans is answered by what the angel told Joseph, which was that Jesus had a clear purpose for coming (Matthew 1:21). The name God With Us embodies who Christ is. The deity of Christ was made known to Mary, Joseph, The Shepherds, and possibly the Magi (Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:20, Luke 2:16-18). 

Events in the Life of Christ would affirm who Jesus was time and time again and would point to who Jesus was. We can read in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” You would not soon forget if an angel appeared to you, your husband, and Shepherds telling you that your son (remembering Mary was a virgin) was the divine son of God. I doubt that Mary forgot the things said about Jesus, and the actions of Jesus as he grew up would have affirmed his divine nature and the Love he had for Yahweh, his Father. 
I could go on about the life of Christ, how Mary knew Jesus had power, and so on. But my last example is seen in John 2:1-11. When Mary requests Jesus to provide wine for the wedding, Mary does not question if Jesus could, nor is this a question of the power, wisdom, or understanding of Jesus. Instead, Mary asks her son, who she knows is God made flesh for help. 

2: Did Mary know the things her child would do?

Yes and no. I would say that Mary had a divine revelation(through the angel), and the ability to read/know Isaiah and other Old Testament texts would have been able to grasp that Jesus, the Christ would do many great things. To question Mary, did you know this? Or Mary did you know that? These questions are foolish statements as no mother can predict the actions of her children. Mary would have had a better understanding of what Jesus would do during his time on earth than modern mothers when looking at there children. 

If this song is a rhetorical question, it is poorly phrased. If this is a genuine question, we have to ask, in what sense? In the mind of, did she know she was kissing the son of God? Yes. Did she know he would walk on water? Probably not. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. 

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Scripture and discipleship: A brief look at the Sermon On the Mount

By Jacob Burlaga : Posted with full permission of the author.

Originally written for a class at Boyce college (PH311)

Scripture and discipleship: a brief look at the sermon on the mount
In this paper, the attempt will be to evaluate what a disciple looks like in regards to what the famous Sermon on The Mount teaches. This paper will evaluate 3 biblical texts and some comparative and contrasting on some genuine characteristics of a disciple.
Scripture and Discipleship


To begin with, Christians under persecution is a genuine reality. This is what Mathew 5:10 has to say in the context of the beatitudes, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” It is important to know that Christian suffering is inevitable, and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “Not recognition, but rejection, will be their reward from the world for their word and deed.”1 The Sermon on the mount teaches that those who identify with Christ are indeed those who are persecuted in this world. And, those who are not in identification with Christ are excused from persecution. But what does persecution look like? Persecution can be active as in someone slandering you or various trials through life and too an extreme it would perhaps result in something treacherous such as murder. But what is imperative to know is that persecution contextualizes with the given context of a situation. The persecution Christians had under Nero is probably a lot less than it is now in 21st century America. But the underlying factor that is present, is that there is a persecution that a believer undergoes, however big as in genocide, or as small as name calling— it is something the Lord of Glory assures for us to be jubilant in (5:12). It is also assured that the one who is not a disciple cannot have jubilancy in persecution, nor, do they endure persecution for the sake of righteousness. The text emphasizes a reality that the persecution comes by a means of righteousness; that righteousness is the faith of the saints. The dividing line is this: there is persecution endured for the sake of righteousness, and that is what separates the disciple from the one lacking true discipleship.


The second text to be brought about is Mathew 5:13 which reads, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Salt is a preservative, it preserves things such as food, and its use is for that. It is also used as well for taste; salt is used to make something more flavorful. Christians are thus that but in a spiritual sense. To elaborate more, they are in essence preservatives, and the flavor to the world of the gospel message that they proclaim. That is, calling people to repentance and preaching the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Christ. The true disciple is one distinct from the world; one with wholesome intentions, one that portrays an obvious distinction from the things of the world. As J.C Ryle says: “Then there must be a difference of habits, tastes and turn of mind, between us and those who think only of the world.”2 The salt as previously stated, is a preservative. The unbeliever does not provide salt, or so to speak, sustaining ability towards the world with the only thing that can sustain: the power of the gospel. The unbeliever cannot provide what needs to be provided for in a lost world; but contrarily, the disciple can. Though it is a truism that unbelievers can do very cordial acts— it is the job of the disciple to lead people to an eternal hope through the Gospel.


The final text to be examined is Mathew 6:1, the text reads: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” True disciples are quick to run from pride. Contrarily, the one who is not a disciple is very quick to give heed to attention given to him. Morally speaking, the ethical dilemma is brought about when someone attempts to appear righteous; but contrarily, the disciple does not have to make his character known— his righteousness is innate, and his ability to follow His Lord is given by His Lord, for the sole purpose of glorifying his Lord. The context of the aforementioned verse, in its transparency, is in regards to helping the poor. The Pharisees appear to be the godly men who are most important in the synagogues; those who are seen as the ones who give to the poor, but sadly, this is a mere cover up. It is a false scheme that they harbor, appearing godly, but denying their master, living in conscience rebellion yet claiming the faith. What is cardinal to know about these faulty disciples is that they do believe that they have a reward, and the text does teach that a reward is coming for those are in Christ. But, as for those who are not true disciples, their reward is not the kingdom of heaven, it is the applause of ignorant people and hypocrites.3

Conclusion
In conclusion, the Sermon on the Mount teaches one how to love people, and it provides a standard to live by. It is using the text as a guideline, for those disciples of Jesus who want to mirror their God. These texts are just the brink of all that the Sermon on the Mount entails and, its costly call to a world of discipleship.

(1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Discipleship. Fortress Press. 2003. 109.

(2) J.C Ryle, Mathew. Expository Thoughts on The Gospels. Chicago: Crossway Books. 1993. 28.

(3)John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mathew 1-7. Chicago: Moody Press.

  1. 354.

       bibliography

Bonhoeffer. Dietrich. Discipleship. Eds. Eberhard Bethget, Ernst Feil. Fortress Press, 2003,
MacArthur. John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mathew 1-7. Chicago: Moody Press. 1985.
Ryle. JC, Mathew. Expository Thoughts on The Gospels. Chicago: Crossway Books. 1993.

Limited atonement

by Jake Burlaga. ( In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for TH212 Boyce college) edited for this blog. Posted with approval of the author.

In this paper, the argument is that Jesus Christ died explicitly for the elect. The paper will be split into three parts. Concerning the first part of the paper, it will include an introduction. The second part of the paper will present the view of unlimited atonement while the third part will consist of a case for limited atonement and wrestle with the objection of the word “all” that is seen in scripture. Lastly, a conclusion will be provided.

The talk of atonement is all over history, it is a formulated doctrine that Christ died for sinners so that He can be their wrath bearing sacrifice. But what about the atonement’s extent? The talk of the extent of the atonement has in actuality proven to be something that Christendom has borne witness to in its roots. The doctrine of limited atonement has stirred up discussion dating back to classical antiquity and through the scholastic ages, leading up to the reformation and finally to the present day. The predominant view in Christian history was in fact that Christ died for all people everywhere, it seemed early on and in at least the first thousand years of Christianity that limited atonement was irretrievable– that only a select few through the ages held it tightly. Augustine and his camp had held closely to the doctrine, but when Aquinas had come on the theological scene, he revised it on the opposite side of the spectrum. Aquinas took the side of universal atonement and after a few hundred years, the reformation split the divide theologically.(1) The reformers held to their reformed theology such as divine grace while the Catholics held to their own theology which was not consistent with ideas such as grace alone. Both groups differed on the extent of the atonement, the reformers such as those affiliated with the Westminster confession and Canons of Dordt were deeply opposed to those parties of the Catholics, and Arminians.(2) Therefore, in history there were always two positions on the extent of the atonement, but never was the idea manifested this big until the reformation had occurred. 

The extent of the atonement is something that is under much debate in the talk of Christian theology, as just mentioned; it’s concept is innate in Christian heritage. The extent of the atonement matters in our day; it matters because Christians need to know who Christ actually died for. The topic matters because if Christ died for everyone, is everyone then saved? These are theological questions that people are proposing and looking for answers to in the present day. More so, the scriptures talk about how God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of him— it is very important to discern texts and infer from the text what is the case and what is the context and meaning. Christians strive to be the best stewards of their bibles and, deep study is required to be able to know the text and the argument. It is also worthy of discussion because monumental figures of the church such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin had taken up dialogue to discuss these matters of atonement and specifically its extent. 

One thing to be aware of is that both sides of the argument find agreement on imperative doctrinal beliefs in the Christian faith about the extent of the atonment. Those beliefs include such things as the Holy Trinity, the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and imputed righteous. Now, the focus will be on the positions of its extent. 

The position of the atonement of Christ being universal. 

The position of universal atonement is held by many theologians. These theologians argue that Jesus did not only die for the elect but also for all of the sin of mankind. Theologians in support of this positon argue their belief based on many scriptures. Some of the texts that universal atonement theology would site are: John 1:29, John 3:16, 2:9, 1 Tim. 2:4-6. 1 John 2:2. To look at a few, John 1:29 reads: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  In the context of this verse, the text indicates that this was the day after John had been baptizing and made his famous statement, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: make straight the path of the Lord” (John 1:23). This verse was declared when Jesus had just arrived on the scene. In the very same chapter it declares that he is indeed the Word incarnate. Universal atonement theologians take John 1:29 to mean that Jesus died for the whole world, and in fact, the text shows that he is God’s lamb— commissioned to take the sins of the world wholly.

To mention another text from the Apostle John, John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the iconic Christian verse in all its beauty and truth. And, its interpretation is open for discussion on its view of the extent of the atonement.  Many theologians suggest that just like the last text, this text is referring to the truth that God has given his only Son to the world. They infer that the Son was given for the entirety of the world. In order that those who believe will make the atonement complete. They suggest Christ’s life is given for all, but one must believe to receive its benefits. Those benefits of course are the propitiation made by the Lord Christ applied to the believers’ account. 

The next text to look at which is used for this position is 1 Timothy 2:4-6, it reads: “Who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man is Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” This text clearly indicates God’s own heart and reveals the divine intentions of God. And it is true, God sincerely desires all men to be saved, the scripture attests to it directly above. God desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to know him. The argument presented is that since God desires all to be saved and that in the same context it says that Christ has given a ransom for all, it can be said that Jesus did in fact die for all peoples everywhere. Though the text is clear about a universality of the word “all” is also shows an interesting characteristic of God’s eternal wills. Theologians have classified there to be two types of divine wills; they have suggested a decreed will and a moral will.(3) The moral will includes God’s desire for us to obey, and His desires in general that do not come to pass. The decreed will is the will of God in which always comes to pass, an example would be in Ephesians 1 of how God has predestined some for eternal salvation. Scripture is clear that not everybody will be saved, yet God desires all men to be saved. Thus is can be concluded that the divine desire of God for all men to be saved is harbored in his moral will. Furthermore, in reference to the above text, the one in support of this position of the atonement’s extent believes Christ’s death to be the function that pays the ransom for sin.(4) Of course both parties agree on penal substitution— the atonement being deposited to the believer’s account when he is born again. However, those in support of this positon believe that even if those for whom Christ died reject him, they will be cast to hell. Thus God desires all men to be saved but his decreed will also reveals not all will be saved. 

One of the most used texts in favor of limited atonement is in 1 John 2:2, it reads: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Propitiation simply means wrath bearing sacrifice, and theologians use this text to infer that Christ has actually made a propitiation not only for those who are Christians but the entirety of the world. This interpretation of scripture is very clear about the reference to the whole world. These Theologians suggest the word “world” in this verse is implying the totality of those who live, will live, and who have lived. Since John is writing to the gentile nations, he infers that “all” must be in reference to the propitiation of all men.(5) These are some of the texts that are the main thrust of the argument for limited atonement.

Why Christ’s death was limited

As mentioned prior, there is much discrepancy on this topic and some scriptures seem to be in support of unlimited atonement. While some scriptures seem to indicate that the atonement had an extent— it appears to be ambiguous. An example that was just analyzed in the first section is 1 John 2:2, the text seems to indicate a universal atonement. An example in favor of limited atonement would be Mathew 1:21, it reads: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This text shows a declarative act, something that will in fact happen. Theologians classify this as a definite atonement. What is clear in this text is that the word “might” is not found in regards to the salvation of God’s people. Contrarily, there is a “will” in regards to the salvation of God’s people. Christ did not potentially save his people, but he completely saved them unto salvation by the accomplished work on the cross. As John Murry says: “Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people.” (6)Limited atonement stresses in its core that Christ has purchased a people, a people who can only belong to him. It stresses that his mission cannot fail, that means that those he died for will in fact be saved. In universal atonement theology Christ died for many who are in hell. In limited atonement theology Christ specifically died for his elect, and his mission cannot fail, as Mathew 1 says above, they “will” be saved from their sins. 

Another text that suggests limited atonement is John 6:38-39, it reads: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” The context of this verse is when Jesus exhorts why he is the bread of life, following the event when Jesus had fed the five thousand and walked on water. The above text is exhorting that Jesus in fact cannot lose those that the Father has given him, and in fact they were given to him for him to directly save. If indeed universal atonement was true, then surely Christ would not be able to keep all those he died for; but, the text explicitly exhorts that Christ will bring them to heaven on the last day because He accomplished his mission. As John Murray says on this specific text: “Security inheres in Christ’s redemptive accomplishment. And this means that, in respect of the persons contemplated, design and accomplishment and final realization have all the same extent.” Thus the hope of the believer, is in the truism that Christ has bought that person individually, as well as directly, and that they can look forward to a home in heaven. 

Another text to be used in support of limited atonement is in John chapter 10. This text of course was written by the same author as the last text analyzed; that author is the Apostle John. Specifically, verse 11 reads: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In the context of this verse Jesus is describing how he is the good shepherd, and Jesus is the fulfilment of the Shepard that is spoken about in Ezekiel 34. In the passage of John 10 Jesus is describing himself in a parable. This text immediately follows after Jesus heals the blind man in chapter 9. But, in the above text what is evident is that the shepherd, who is Jesus, lays down his life for the sheep. It can be said that Jesus only lays down his life for the sheep. In verse 16 it describes that Jesus will lay his life down for other sheep who are not from the fold; Jesus is simply referring to future gentile believers. Overall, believers are the sheep and the Lord Christ is the shepherd, it can be inferred that in fact, Jesus had only died for those he calls his sheep. The texts are very clear.

Another text that is very clear in regards to limited atonement is John 17. The content of John 17 is Jesus praying his high priestly prayer in the garden of gethsemane, and the context is that this event is taking place the night before his crucifixion. John 17:9-10 reads: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” It would be indubitable to infer anything other than that would be to say that this prayer is not personal and intentional. The prayer of the Lord Christ is extremely intentional and directed towards a specific people who belong to the Father and the Son. Specifically, Jesus had said that he is not praying for the world, but those the Father has given him. As just analyzed in John 10, those whom the Father gives the son are sheep and thus believers. Jesus claims he is not praying for the world, which means he is not praying for those whom the Father has not chosen. As Louis Berkhof says in regards to this passage: “Why should He limit His intercessory prayer, if He had actually paid the price for all?”(7) He is on a mission and his divine intention is to save those whom heaven has been prepared for. His intercessory power is limited, thus his atonement must be. The text also instructs that Jesus is glorified in those whom he is praying for. If he was praying for the unbelievers, which he is not, how then can he specifically be glorified in those who reject him if the text says otherwise? In other words, Jesus cannot be glorified by those who are in the world, namely unbelievers. Then why would he die for them? More so, looking at the overall context of the passage, this is taking place the night before he is to die. His intentions in this recorded prayer seem to indicate that his motive of dying is for those whom he loves— which are those who are his sheep. His sheep are on his mind the night before the crucifixion. Thus it is without question that when the Father sent the Son, the Son specifically was intentioned to accomplish the mission of a definite atonement. 

All over scripture is the idea of a definite atonement. The act of salvation is the act done by God to save sinners, scripture presents salvation to be the object of what completely saves unbelievers from God’s own wrath. Romans 5:10 reads: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” And also, Galatians 1:4: “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our god and Father.” In the act of salvation, it is a complete declaration. It has always been God who declares it, and since God declares it, He always provide it in its full measure. God provides the atonement Christ made to be the full sacrifice for sins. In scripture there is a definite atonement; Christ died alone for the elect and in no way, shape, or form can his death be in vain under any circumstance. A denial of limited atonement is an agreement that Christ’s death was in vain for many. Arthur Pink puts it clearly:

For according to their theory God has only provided a precarious salvation, which is offered to the caprice of man’s acceptance, a mere possibility, which can only become actual through the sinner’s compliance with certain conditions; a possibility, which when properly examined, is seen to be an impossibility. How vast the difference between precarious salvation, and an infallible one! (8)

Pink is exactly right in his words, there is a complete distinction in actuality and potentiality. God has completely saved his people, and the mindset of a precarious salvation is troublesome for any believer. It is a definite atonement. 

Lastly, before the objections are dealt with, the problem that should be explored is the lack of consistency of those in support of universal atonement. If in fact Christ died for all people, and that atonement has been made for all people, wouldn’t that infer that every person’s sin has been atoned for? The issue with universal atonement is that it logically leads to universalism. If atonement is made for all, then why would Paul exhort believers to preach Christ crucified and what would be the point of the boldness of the Apostles in the book of Acts? Furthermore, there is an inseparable nature between the atonement and the bestowal of the atonement.(9)  Thus one cannot have one without the other, if one believes that an atonement has been made for everyone, than one has to believe the bestowal of the atonement has been poured over everyone. The advocate of this view must take his positon down the road it leads, and not try to nuance it. Louis Berkhof had mentioned: “it is impossible that they for whom Christ paid the price, whose guilt He removed, should be lost on account of that guilt.” It is impossible for those who have been atoned for their sin to be damned to hell on account for that sin. That thinking is completely contrary to the character and justice of God, because God in turn would charge someone guilty who had no sin. God would then be unjust to cast someone to hell if the atonement has been provided. These are the main points of the argument against universal atonement, and its frightening implications.

Dealing with the word “all”

One of the monumental concerns of limited atonement is in reference to the word “all” as examined in the presentation of the universal atonement positon. The word all is their support of their position; they believe all to include the totality of the human race. The word “all” in scripture has been rendered in very distinct ways. In Luke 2:1 Caesar Augustus initiates a census and claims that all the world should be registered. History shares that Rome did not own the entirely of the world, or even the entirety of the Greco-Roman world. Thus the “all” must be interpreted as a few. Again, in Romans 5 it is clear that the word “all” is used in two different connotations. When Paul mentions that death has spread to all men, the immediate inclination is to believe that all men have sinned— which is correct of course. But, when Paul mentions that one righteous act leads to righteousness of all men the inclination is to not believe the word “all” is really meaning all in that context. Thus both connotations of the word “all” in Romans 5 mean two different things, scripture is clear that “all” is never a definitive in meaning the whole world.

In John 1:29 the verse that was presented for the argument of universal atonement, the word “all” is used in reference to Jesus taking away the sin of the world. As mentioned, the word “all” is ambiguous and has a plethora of interpretations in scripture. If one holds that this verse is implying a removal of the sin of the world, then the verse analyzed in John 6:33-34 implies all will be saved which is something that goes far beyond what the universal atonement supporters hold. Also, there is a truism in this verse that God will take away the sin of the world completely in a final consummation of all things when a New Heaven and earth will be established. Thus one must infer that the meaning of this text cannot be what it may appear to say, God in fact does take sin away. He takes sin away from his saints who are in the world.

John 3:16 is one of the most famous texts in all of scripture, this verse is used in defense of universal atonement. The text shares a bit of the character of God; it shows that he loves, it shows the moral will of God, and it shows that he invites all to come. That is the beauty of the gospel, that God invites all to come to him! But, in no way does this text infer that Jesus has died for everyone; but what it does say is that for all of those who believe they will have eternal life. Only the elect will believe in the gospel, and have true faith so that can believe in it. So this verse means exactly what is says. God in fact will save those who come to him, and save them completely; scripture is clear of a definite atonement. 

In 1 Timothy 2:4-6 the text shows the moral will of God as analyzed as well as the word “all” in regards to the atonement of Christ. John Calvin, a monumental figure in Christian history, interpreted this text to mean all kinds of men instead of all men.(10) Calvin believes that not every human will be saved, but that a few from each segment of humanity would be saved.(11) This appears to be a solid interpretation of this verse, Calvin notes that Paul is not talking about individual men in the reference to “all” but believes Paul to be saying that no one group of people is excluded from the salvation of Christ(12).  Also, the great commission in Mathew 28 exhorts believers to go to every tribe, nation, and tongue preaching the gospel. There are other places in scripture as well that make clear that there will be a representative of every nation in heaven. Calvin affirmed this passage to be in the context of particular redemption. 

Lastly, in regards to the verse in 1 John 2:2 the verse actually gives off a different connotation after the first glance. As Pink says: ‘The very first word of this verse shows that Christ is the “propitiation” of those only for whom He is an “advocate with the Father,” and John 17:9 proves that He prays for no one but the elect.” Pink suggests that John wanted to show internal to the Jewish community that Christ died for the sins of the Jewish community; that’s why he says “our” and then immediately suggests that the whole world must mean the other believers scattered amongst the world.(13) In other words, since John is referring to Jewish believers when he says “all,” he certainly must be referring to believers everywhere when he says “the whole world.” More so, since believers are classified as having Christ as there advocate with the Father, which is language the Apostle John uses throughout his writings, it can be inferred that Christ obviously cannot be the advocate for everyone since some are damned. Thus Jesus cannot be the advocate, or so to speak, atonement for those who are in the whole world but only those who are abiding in Christ and resting in his advocacy. Overall, it can be said that the “all” nature in texts that refer to the whole world can be interpreted by the fact that God has extended his grace to the nations beyond Israel. A helpful example of this is in the latter half of chapter two of the book of Ephesians. God had extended his kindness and the mystery of salvation to the gentiles. 

Conclusion

In conclusion it can be said that God has saved a specific redeemed people. He is Lord over them, and in His kindness he has intentionally provided himself as the wrath bearing sacrifice that is needed. More so, the believer can glory in the fact that they have been intentionally bought in love, and that they will never be snatched out of the hands of God because of this particular redemption. Particular redemption is biblical, it is joyful, and it is an eternally comforting truth.  

Bibliography

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Carlisle, PA. Banner of Truth Trust, 2012.

Lee, John. For whom did Christ die? An Exegetical and Theological Defense of the Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement. Master’s Thesis. Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. 2007.  ATLA. 

Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955.

Pink, Arthur. The Satisfaction of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1955

Rainbow, Jonathan, H. The will of God and The Cross: An Historical and Theological study of John Calvin’s Doctrine of Limited Redemption. Alison Park. Pennsylvania: Pickwick Publications. 1990. 

  1.  Jonathan H. Rainbow, The will of God and The Cross: An Historical and Theological study of John Calvin’s Doctrine of Limited Redemption., Alison Park, Pennsylvania: Pickwick Publications. 1990. 38.
  2. Ibid. 1.
  3. John Lee, For whom did Christ die? An Exegetical and Theological Defense of the Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement, Master’s Thesis, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. (2007), ATLA, 23.
  4. ibid 23
  5.  Ibid40
  6. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955. 63
  7.  Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology. Carlisle, PA. Banner of Truth Trust, 2012. 395.
  8. Arthur Pink, The Satisfaction of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1955. 243.
  9.  Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology. Carlisle, PA. Banner of Truth Trust, 2012. 395.
  10. Rainbow, The will of God and the Cross. 142.
  11.  Ibid. 142.
  12.  Ibid. 141.
  13.  Pink, The Satisfaction of Christ. 262.

Analytical Summary and review of “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness” by C.S Lewis

C.S. Lewis, “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’” (1963).

Analytical Summary and review

This article was initially written for PH103, Boyce college, and has been edited for this blog. 

C. S. Lewis is a world-renowned author and leader in the Christian faith. In this short essay written by Lewis, we learn about problems facing his neighbors in the ’60s. Lewis contemplates the statement, so often believed by modern generations, that “we have a right to happiness.” Afterthought and deliberation, Lewis finds his answer that this statement is false, and he uses ethical and social examples to explain his conclusion.

C. S. Lewis presents the modern view of reality that people desire to be happy above all else. People use this belief to justify and, in some cases, flaunt their immoral actions. Lewis uses an example that shows this by sharing the story of one of his neighbors. This gentleman, whose wife had cared for him during a severe sickness for many years and gave birth to and raised his children, decided to leave her because she was no longer as energetic or attractive as she had when they were first married. This shows this gentleman’s reality is based on a worldview that is wholly vain. He determines the value of things, such as relationships on what is best for him. 

The author bases the authority of Scripture and on traditional ethical views. Whereas he gives examples of non- ethical people in his story, he does not believe that their beliefs come from actual authority. Lewis makes an argument that if society is looking at a person’s right to be happy on the law, then it is true that the authority of the law gives a legal right to people to partake in legal activities that can lead to happiness. However, Lewis rebuttals that the law is not the ultimate authority, but one must look at what is right and moral when deciding what one should do. Lewis shows that laws apart from God will ultimately be broken and that real joy can never be discovered without God. 

In the story of the man who left his wife, we later see his view of more than just metaphysics, but what his thought of what the good life is. We learn of this through his attitude when discussing his ex-wife’s death. Lewis shares that the man’s ex-wife committed suicide after he left her for another woman. The man feels, although shocked by this, shows no remorse or responsibility in her death, but says “But what could I do?…. A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came” (794). This presents his view of ethics that his happiness has more value than those around him. Lewis’s response to this is that culture accepts sexual immorality if it is portrayed as the only way that an individual can find happiness. He later goes on to say that people have come to a point where they believe that happiness cannot be separated from sexual desires. Lewis disagrees with this, arguing that sexual desires themselves do not bring lasting joy if sought after in an improper manner. He states that the culture is very lenient in this area of people’s self-control; however, society is more critical of other areas that display a lack of self-control.

 There are two views evident in this essay, the secular and the Christian. The secular view says that to be human is to do what they desire and to pleasure their senses. This view does not believe that natural instincts should be controlled as they bring happiness. In contrast, the Christian view says that ultimately what it means to be human is to do what is right and ethical. He does not mention that these fundamental guidelines are visible in Scripture, but there is an underlying sense that his views come from his Christianity.

 Lewis’ message is clear that true love and joy does not come through sexual pleasure, but that it is a new lie that ensnares his generation. Lewis makes it known that he disagrees with this mindset, and that he holds to a more traditional and biblical-based view. Through Lewis’s use of stories about his neighbors, he grasps the reader’s attention and leads them to find the truth. 

 In conclusion, this essay focuses on the ethical situations of society. Lewis uses an authentic and practical story about his neighbors to explain a significant issue facing society at his time and also today. Lewis points to the reasons that one should not solely follow one’s desires in the pursuit of happiness. 

Why the history of the Ancient Near Eastern matters.

Written for class (HS105) at Boyce college, edited for this blog. 

A knowledge of Ancient Near Eastern History is essential for evangelical Christians to have so that they will have a better understanding and grasp of the ancient cultures, environments, and religions/folklore. By studying Ancient Near Eastern History, an individual can look back in time and see a culture radically different from today’s, while simultaneously witnessing the similarities in human nature across the ages. The history of the world and Scripture are in the study of the Ancient Near East. 

As Christians, this history should be relevant to us as this is the history of the Old covenant. All too often, we brush aside and ignore the Old Testament and the history of this period. However, this is the time when humanity received covenant law from God. Many of the requirements of our time have their origins founded in the God-given ordinances seen in the Old Testament. 

By understanding the Ancient Near East, we can better grasp the ideology and customs which were relevant at the time, such as seen in Genesis 24:9, where one reads about an inner thigh covenant that occurs between Abraham and his servant. While researching the Ancient Near East, an individual can better understand why certain rituals, what they stood for, and the unique role they play. For example, the researcher could learn what an inner thigh covenant was and what it signified to Abraham. With this knowledge, a person would have a better understanding of how this is relevant to believers today. 

As we research ancient sources, we must be mindful of the environment that the people group was in because it will have a direct impact on the terms used and their mindset of different rituals. If a person is from a fishing village, he will likely use an adage or saying that relates to life on the water and about fishing. Likewise, a person who is in a desert plain will use terms understood by him and the surrounding people, like speaking of the struggles of a sandstorm or finding an oasis. Either way, it is crucial to know the geography of the particular culture you are researching and from which you are deciphering a text.

Many Christians are confused about what to believe when they are researching ancient times. It is the different approaches of historiography that can lead to this confusion. The dictionary says historiography is “the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources.” Historians do not always begin with the same beliefs when they start researching and therefore place a different value upon the various sources. Insufficient knowledge about ancient texts, not just Biblical books but those of other religions and cultures, can often confuse historians and create a perplexing challenge to knowing what is right. Archaeological discoveries can also affect how history is written or rewritten. 

The first thing we must do when researching sources as Christians is to compare them to Scripture; this will not check if they are correct. Instead, they show if they are wrong. As evangelical Christians, we affirm the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which means it has no flaws. Thus, if something contradicts Scripture, we would know it had to be faulty. Next, we must accumulate information about the region, cultures, and environment to fully understand the correlations between their lifestyle and the modern archaeologist. We should, however, believe if a source does not disagree with the Bible, that we can assume it to be valid until proven false.

Suggested reading list

Here is my suggested reading list for December- January.

(1) The Screw Tape Letters, by C.S Lewis.

This book, while a swift read, is full of convection, and helps the reader to envision the powers of darkness, how they think, and how they react to God’s grace. This book is not a biography. This book is a fiction and should be handled as such; do not hold these words in high reguard or biblical law as they are only the speculations and imagination of C.S. Lewis. 

(2) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

This book is one to bring joy and lightheartedness to you. This book can be read in under 5 hours and is a masterpiece of literary genius. Though this book is not a book of Theology and I do not suggest reading it as an allegory, it is beneficial to kick back and enjoy the ride as Dickens takes us for an adventure into London. 

(3) Humble Calvinism, J. A. Medders

This book is one of love, grace, and conviction. Medders make’s a point to show appreciation for Calvinists (like himself) while pointing out the struggles which plague the modern movement. Humble Calvinism is a book I wish I had read when I was 16, as it shows that even when you are theologically correct, it is easy to find your self focusing on converting people to follow John Calvin rather than Christ. 

(4) All of Grace, C.H Spurgeon.

All of Grace will make your heart feel alive. This is a book that helps the brokenhearted find joy in Christ, restores the hatred of sin, and helps Christians to follow God with a genuine heart of grace. If you are or have struggled with the feeling that habitual sin is swallowing you, and there is nothing you can do, Spurgeon’s All of Grace will help you find joy in life through the Scripture.

(5) Church in Hard Places, Mez McConnell & Mike McKinley.

Church in Hard Places will break your heart for your brothers who are pastoring in broken and sorrow filled places. And for sister churches who are being planted in the hardest areas on the planet. After reading this book, you will have a more significant appreciation for ministries, such as 20 Schemes, who deal with places such as these. 

As you read these books, please pray for the people groups mentioned within the pages, pray for conversion, pray that the Lord opens your heart and that you are changed by reading these texts. 

Grace and peace be to you.

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