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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

Monday, August 07, 2006

Questions on Calvinism and Herman Ridderbos

Regarding your question about God's sovereignty in election, you're very correct. God before the foundation of the world and before creation elects those who will be saved by His sovereign and secret will. This is true whether you take the infralapsarian view or the supralapsarian view. This is merely a distinction between two views of God's decree to elect. One view is that in logical sequence God made the decree of election and reprobation prior to the decree to allow the fall of man (supralapsarianism). The other is the infralapsarian view, the most common view, which says that God decreed to elect after the decree to allow the fall, which is more consistent with the biblical text.

What you are neglecting to see is that according to the Bible, men are in total bondage to sin such that they are unable to come to Christ on their own. Thus, they must be regenerated or raised from the dead spiritually prior to their conversion, a special grace given to the elect to bring them to saving faith. Even repentance is a gift from God. The bondage of the will is a primary and essential doctrine of the Protestant Reformation and is held by practically all the Reformers and even by Arminians, though Arminians believe prevenient grace is given to all mankind and not just to the elect.Also, I might add that you're oversimplifying the Reformed position.

Additionally, you have neglected to note that the Westminster Standards place a heavy emphasis on human accountability and responsibility. Man is fully accountable for his rebellion against God because men willingly and freely choose to rebel against God as free moral agents. The bondage of the will does not mean that men are not free to choose what they will do but that their choices are always to react in rebellion unless they receive a divine intervention. The Arminian view does not solve this dilemma because even by the Arminian view the prevenient grace does not work in most cases. Men still refuse to accept Christ and they go on their merry way to hell. Furthermore, God would be leaving salvation up to capricious and sinful men if grace can be resisted. The real question is why grace is so ineffective in such a view since most men go to hell even by the Arminian view.

The Calvinist view is that God is just in damning all to hell. The fact that He decides to give particular grace to unworthy sinners shows He is merciful. If we got justice, then God would damn all of us and quite justifiably so. The destruction of the whole earth in the ancient flood is proof enough of this.The appointed means that God uses to awaken the elect to saving faith is the preaching of the Gospel:

Question 60

Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?

Answer:

They who, having never heard the gospel, (Rom. 10:14) know not Jesus Christ, (2 Thess. 1:8–9, Eph. 2:12, John 1:10–12) and believe not in him, cannot be saved, (John 8:24, Mark 16:16) be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, (1 Cor. 1:20–24) or the laws of that religion which they profess; (John 4:22, Rom. 9:31–32, Phil. 3:4–9) neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, (Acts 4:12) who is the Savior only of his body the church. (Eph. 5:23)

The larger catechism : With scripture proofs. 1990 (3rd edition.). Atlanta, GA: Committee for Christian Education & Publications.

Also, God does not force the wicked to be wicked. He simply turns them over to their own depraved and corrupt nature (see Romans 1:18ff). Neither does God force the elect to be converted but He instead gives them a grace which awakens them to the truth and they freely and willing come to Him in faith after they have seen the light. Reminds me of a line in Amazing Grace: Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. And "Was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see."

Furthermore, the Westminster Confession takes great care to distinguish the fact that God does not violate man's will even in making His decrees:

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: (Eph. 1:11, Rom. 11:33, Heb. 6:17, Rom. 9:15,18) YET SO, AS THEREBY NEITHER IS GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN, (James 1:13,17, 1 John 1:5) NOR IS VIOLENCE OFFERED TO THE WILL OF THE CREATURES; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (Acts 2:23, Matt. 17:12, Acts 4:27–28, John 19:11, Prov. 16:33) Chapter III, Of God's Eternal Decree, Section 1.

The Westminster confession of faith : An authentic modern version. 1985 (Rev. EPC ed.). Signal Mountain, TN: Summertown Texts.

I think if you will study the Westminster Confession in it's entirety you will see that it establishes both God's sovereignty AND man's accountability. While these seem on the surface to be contradictory, they only appear so to us from our limited human perspective. While we don't fully understand yet, we must accept what Scripture says. Since the Bible teaches both God's sovereignty in election and man's accountability to choose Christ, we must accept both as true.

Regarding Ridderbos, I'm not sure that I would agree that modern Reformed theologians are all faithful to the classical doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. Of course there are neo-orthodox theologians who claim to come from the Reformed tradition, including the American neo-orthodox theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. I'm not that familiar with Ridderbos but judging from the article you gave in the link, he is not neo-orthodox at all but rather a conservative. There's nothing said in the article that would contradict the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

As far as I can tell, however, Ridderbos is an Evangelical/conservative Reformed theologian as noted here:

3. Redemptive–Historical Approaches to Scripture One final trajectory of theological reflection upon the nature and meaning of Scripture is that which focuses on redemptive history. Arising in the critical milieu of the late eighteenth and pioneered by figures such as J.P. Gabler, this approach made a distinction between the categories and methods of systematic theology and those of biblical theology, the latter being conceived as a discipline which was shaped less by synthetic categories and more by the shape of biblical history. In the nineteenth century, Geerhardus Vos of Princeton, a friend of Warfield, baptised this paradigm into a traditional evangelical framework, emphasising that the meaning of the Bible was to be found essentially in the story of Israel which culminated in Jesus Christ. Scripture was thus authoritative both because it was divinely inspired (i.e., according to its mode of delivery) and because it focused authoritatively on Jesus Christ (i.e., according to its content). This method has been fruitfully expanded and developed in the last fifty years in evangelical circles by scholars such as Herman Ridderbos, Willem VanGemeren, and Graeme Goldsworthy.

From: http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:IDwrw6LueAwJ:www.uccf.org.uk/yourcourse/rtsf/docs/statusofscripture.pdf+Ridderbos+on+Barth&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=7

I would be more than glad to answer any questions you might have about Calvinism as I have been a dedicated Calvinist since about 1996 or so.

Sincerely,

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