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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Common Grace by Louis Berkhof

Louis Berkhof said this about possible objections to the doctrine of common grace:

3. Another objection to the doctrine of common grace is that it presupposes a certain favorable disposition in God even to reprobate sinners, while we have no right to assume such a disposition in God. This stricture takes its starting point in the eternal counsel of God, in His election and reprobation. Along the line of His election God reveals His love, grace, mercy, and long-suffering, leading to salvation; and in the historical realization of His reprobation He gives expression only to His aversion, disfavor, hatred, and wrath, leading to destruction. But this looks like a rationalistic over-simplification of the inner life of God, which does not take sufficient account of His self-revelation. In speaking on this subject we ought to be very careful and allow ourselves to be guided by the explicit statements of Scripture rather than by our bold inferences from the secret counsel of God. There is far more in God than we can reduce to our logical categories. Are the elect in this life the objects of God´s love only, and never in any sense the objects of His wrath? Is Moses thinking of the reprobate when he says: “For we are consumed in thine anger, and in thy wrath are we troubled”? Ps. 90:7. Does not the statement of Jesus that the wrath of God abideth on them that obey not the Son imply that it is removed from the others when, and not until, they submit to the beneficent rule of Christ? John 3:36. And does not Paul say to the Ephesians that they “were by nature children of wrath even as the rest”? Eph. 2:3. Evidently the elect can not be regarded as always and exclusively the objects of God´s love. And if they who are the objects of God´s redeeming love can also in some sense of the word be regarded as the objects of His wrath, why should it be impossible that they who are the objects of His wrath should also in some sense share His divine favor? A father who is also a judge may loathe the son that is brought before him as a criminal, and feel constrained to visit his judicial wrath upon him, but may yet pity him and show him acts of kindness while he is under condemnation. Why should this be impossible in God? General Washington hated the traitor that was brought before him and condemned him to death, but at the same time showed him compassion by serving him with the dainties from his own table. Cannot God have compassion even on the condemned sinner, and bestow favors upon him? The answer need not be uncertain, since the Bible clearly teaches that He showers untold blessings upon all men and also clearly indicates that these are the expression of a favorable disposition in God, which falls short, however, of the positive volition to pardon their sin, to lift their sentence, and to grant them salvation. [See: Common Grace, by Louis Berkhof].


Apparently Berkhof thinks that logic is not part of God's special revelation. Scripture reveals the fact that God hates the reprobate. (Romans 9:11-13; Psalm 58:3). Surely the ultimate end is what matters. God no more loves the reprobate than George Washington loved the traitor he was about to execute. The fact is it is true that the elect were objects of God's wrath just as the others were prior to the conversion of the elect. (Ephesians 2:3). But the plan of God from before creation was to damn the reprobate. (Acts 4:27-28; 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:22; Jude 1:4). We know this because election takes place before creation. (Ephesians 1:3-5, 11; Romans 9:11-13). Apparently for Berkhof Scripture itself is "rationalistic" since it is Scripture that teaches that God hates the wicked and the reprobate. God's general providence does indeed give certain benefits to all men but these benefits merely serve to store up God's wrath against the reprobate since they refuse to accept the Gospel when it is preached to them. Furthermore, God is under no obligation to save anyone even if they have not heard the Gospel. The "light of nature" serves only to prove they are guilty of rejecting God and they are guilty of idolatry. General revelation can never lead to saving faith.

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion alludes to Acts 4:11-12 when it says:

Article XVIII

Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ

They also are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

De speranda aeterna salute tantum in nomine Christi

Sunt et illi anathematizandi qui dicere audent unumquemque in lege aut secta quam profitetur esse servandum, modo iuxta illam et lumen naturae accurate vixerit: eum sacrae literae tantum Iesu Christi nomen praedicent in quo salvos fieri homines oporteat.

Provenance

Composed in 1552/3 by the English reformers and unchanged since.


The irony here is that Scripture is perfectly clear on the matter but because of the neo-Calvinist "rationalism" that says that divine revelation cannot possibly be logical or rational then the neo-Calvinist argues that theologians like Gordon H. Clark is a rationalist. It is the Arminian and the semi-Arminian neo-Calvinists who are rationalists because they cannot let Scripture speak for itself. Nowhere does Scripture imply that God has divine favor of any sort for the reprobate:

And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? 23 And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory-- 24 on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24 CSBO) [Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2005]


The ultimate end is what God has predetermined and planned in eternity before creation. Therefore any idea of common grace as a divine favor is misleading since God plans eternal punishment for the reprobate. Common grace undermines this preterition and decree to reprobation and tries to find common ground with the Arminian and the semi-pelagian. The fact is "common grace" is only mentioned as an error of the Arminians in their theory of natural light in creation/common grace:

Rejection 5

That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, namely, the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on His part shows Himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since He applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion. For the experience of all ages and the Scriptures do both testify that this is untrue. “He sheweth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for His judgments, they have not known them” (Ps. 147:19, 20). “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). And: “Now when they (Paul and his companions) had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not” (Acts 16:6, 7). [V. Rejection of Errors, Third and Fourth Head of Doctrine].


The neo-Calvinists wish to turn an error into an affirmative. The fact is that natural light and common grace are both rejected as Arminian errors as the context clearly shows. The other nations in the Ancient Near East did not receive God's graces but only the nation of Israel. When the Arminians refer to "common grace" they understand this to be the "light of nature". The Apostle Paul says that the revelation of God in nature serves only to bring damnation on the reprobate because they commit idolatry and are ungrateful and unthankful to God for His mercy. (Romans 1:18-32). Clearly "by which they understand the light of nature" refers to the Arminians since "they" is contrasted with "we". The active voice refers to the second person plural, namely the Dutch Reformers. "They" refers most obviously to the Remonstrandt opponents.

Article 5

In the same light are we to consider the law of the decalogue, delivered by God to His peculiar people the Jews by the hands of Moses. For though it discovers the greatness of sin, and more and more convinces man thereof, yet as it neither points out a remedy nor imparts strength to extricate him from misery, and thus being weak through the flesh leaves the transgressor under the curse, man cannot by this law obtain saving grace.


Thus, in 3rd and 4th Heads of Doctrine, Rejection of Errors 5 refers to "common grace" as a doctrine of the Arminians/Remonstrandts and is NOT a positive affirmation of the doctrine as modern revisionist neo-Calvinists assert.


See:

Common Grace by Louis Berkhof






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