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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, December 01, 2011

Growing in Knowledge: An Internal Good Work? Gordon H. Clark, Quote of the Day

Now morality is indispensably important.  But not all good works have the form of external action.  It is no invitation to steal, if one insists on internal good works--on thinking correctly.  In this verse the words say, "growing in the knowledge of God."  Gordon H. Clark


Recently I had a dispute with a Presbyterian pastor over why his church did not teach new members of his congregation the theology of the Westminster Larger or Shorter Catechism.  His response was that this constitutes "legalism".  I was suprised by this assertion, needless to say.  Why the surprise?  Well, during my many visits to the church in question the pastor continually pounded the congregation with the third use of the moral law:  "This is your duty!  Abstain from evil.  Do good.  Come to church!  Tithe!"  Etc., et. al. ad infinitum ad nauseum.

Gordon H. Clark makes some interesting comments in this regard in his commentary on Paul's epistle to the church at Colossae:

[Colossians 1:10]  [so as] to walk worthily of the Lord, toward all pleasing, in every good work, bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God . . .

Although the knowledge of God in the previous verse cannot be limited to the commands of morality, the knowledge is designed to promote morality.  We must try to please the Lord in all things.  The translation above is awkward, but the phrase "toward all pleasing" is a faithful reproduction of Paul's wording.   . . . We are required to do every good work.  Good works are those prescribed by the Ten Commandments and their implications as given in all the precepts throughout the Bible.

In the history of the church, every so often, groups emerge that consider an emphasis on God's commands as legalistic and non-Christian.  "Free from the law," they sing,  "O blessed condition:  I can sin as I please and still have remission."  What these people do with chapters 6, 7, and 8 of Romans is hard to understand.  Here in Colossians Paul urges us to every good work, producing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God.

. . . Paul prays that God may grant increase of knowledge to the Colossians.  And with this, the New Testament emphasis on knowledge also increases.

Contrasted with those who hold the law in contempt are others who, rightly enough, condemn murder, adultery, and theft, and stress holy actions:  but here they stop; and this, however, is not enough.  The text speaks of "every good work."  Now morality is indispensably important.  But not all good works have the form of external action.  It is no invitation to steal, if one insists on internal good works--on thinking correctly.  In this verse the words say, "growing in the knowledge of God."  Gordon H. Clark, Colossians:  Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Message.  (Jefferson:  Trinity Foundation, 1979), pp. 26-27.

My response to the pastor in question was that I find it strange that you object to the third use of the moral law in relation to the study of the Reformed catechisms when it seems to me that your major emphasis in your ministry in the pulpit is in fact the preaching of the third use of the law!  Is it not a command of God that Christians should learn wisdom and knowledge and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  (2 Peter 3:18).  It seems to me that a more balanced approach to pastoral ministry and the pulpit would include instruction in the Reformed standards and the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.   To emphasize the moral law above all else tends toward the very legalism the pastor is protesting against.  All knowledge would include the logical system of theology drawn from Scripture, the system we know as the Westminster Standards.  When so-called "Presbyterian" churches are ashamed of their own doctrinal standards and hide them to gain new members they are being indirectly dishonest.  If the sound preaching of Scripture is important, it follows that preaching the whole counsel of God is required, not simply highlighting morality or moralism.  The doctrine of particular atonement, the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ and a whole host of other doctrines and logical propositions in Scripture undergird the morality of the Ten Commandments.  As Gordon H. Clark rightly pointed out: 

The trouble with Judaizers and the later Jews was not their divorce of religious knowledge from life, but the fact that their ethical theory was not Christian.

Christianity also obligates us to certain norms of morality.  But without the intellectual orthodoxy, the Ten Commandments cannot be defended.  (Ibid., pp. 25-26).

It would do the modern Judaizers good to remember that morality is impossible without the doctrines of grace as they are expounded in the various Reformed confessions and creeds, including the Westminster Standards, the Anglican Formularies, and the Three Forms of Unity.  The emphasis on a mystical union with Christ without such intellectual content is in essence anti-intellectualism and irrationalism.  In the end it turns out that the theology of Cornelius Van Til has been more influenced by Neo-Orthodoxy than by classical Reformed theology and the doctrinal standards of classical Calvinism.

May the peace of God be with you!

Charlie
--
Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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