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 Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Westminster Larger Catechism: Question 14

Question 14

How doth God execute his decrees?

God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will. (Eph. 1:11)

The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

OK, I just cannot resist the temptation to slam once again those who push the doctrine of common grace as if it were somehow a "Reformed" distinctive which was "implicitly" taught by John Calvin or at least anticipated by him.  Some scholars, like Dr. R. Scott Clark of the Heidelblog, insist that common grace is just "general" providence.  But the Larger Catechism defines God's decrees as relating to "whatsoever comes to pass," not just a "general" providence.  (See Westminster Larger Catechism, Questions 12 and 13).  Those who have a high view of human reason advocate "natural law" as the Lockean understanding of ethics and morality by which the worldly kingdom is governed and only the church is obligated to abide by God's moral law.  

R. Scott Clark seems to hold this view since he believes that natural revelation in the divine image and likeness in humans constitutes a knowledge of good and evil and is sufficient to rule the worldly kingdom.  (Cf. Romans 2:1-29; Romans 3:9-20).  Anyone reading Romans 1:18-3:20 can see that Paul is not advocating the idea that salvation is possible apart from special revelation.  The Law reveals everyone to be utterly sinful (Romans 3:23).  N. T. Wright's contention that Romans 2 refers to Christian Gentiles who keep God's law by nature flies in the face of Romans 3:9-23.  Romans 3:23 makes it clear that none are righteous and the law can only point out the lostness of all mankind (Romans 6:23; 7:7).  The Gospel is therefore only of free grace (Romans 3:20-26).

Additionally, the Westminster divines seem to hold a different opinion.  The doctrine of providence is particular and not general.  "Whatsoever comes to pass" is ordained by God, including the evil actions of nations against other nations.  That would include wars.  If war is a part of "common grace," which no Calvinist I know of would advocate, then you could say that providence is the same thing as "common grace."  Otherwise one has to question the sincerity and the deductive powers of those who say that common grace and "general" providence are the same thing.  I would never call providence a "general" providence in the first place because God is sovereign over "whatsoever comes to pass."  (WLC, Question 12).  He "unchangeably foreordains" everything that happens "in time," according to the WLC, Q12.  That's not "general" providence.  It is "particular providence."  Providence is not general anymore than the atonement is general or universal.  The doctrine of God's sovereignty means that absolutely every detail of every detail down to the most minute detail of what happens in real time is in God's control and is foreordained to happen just exactly as it comes to pass.  If you do not believe that then I would suggest that your views are more in line with Arminianism or Molinism or Semi-Pelagianism.

The bottom line here is that due to man's total corruption there is no knowledge of God or God's will and only by special revelation will human societies and nations obey God (Romans 1:18-21).  Of course, human reason maintains some vestiges of truth.  For whatever reason, God has ordained modern nations as they exist, and there is some semblance of morality evident in the criminal law codes.  But on the other hand much evil is tolerated by society today and some evil is encapsulated and sanctioned by the laws of modern nations.  The blatant endorsement of homosexuality is one example of that.  I guess, following the logic of the advocates of common grace, that civil laws which approve of civil unions and gay marriage are part of God's "common gifts" to humanity?  What a gift!  Such gifts are not gifts but are in fact evidence of God's hardening of the reprobate.  (Cf. Romans 1:18-32).  So much for common grace.  (Romans 9:11-13).

Addendum:  For a good sermon on Romans 1:18-32 click here:  Covenant Presbyterian Church

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