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

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Common Grace Refuted: Romans 1:18-25

By Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

There are those who advocate the heresy that God loves all mankind.  The Protestant Reformers did not hold to such irrational and contradictory theology.  They were trained in logic and understood that Scripture does not contradict other Scriptures.  Instead they advocated the principle of sola Scriptura or "Scripture alone" as the final authority in all doctrinal disputations.  That being the case, the Reformers held that Scripture interprets Scripture.  The whole counsel of God is to be consulted in the interpreting of propositions in Scripture.  The Scriptures can be systematically organized into a system of theology.  That systematic confession of faith for the Puritans in England was the Westminster Confession of Faith.  As the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark said, Calvinism is Christianity.  Clark boldly defined Christianity by the systematic exposition of Scripture in the Westminster Confession  For Clark the Bible is the very words and thoughts of God in propositional form.  Scripture is univocally the very words of God  in written language.

Unfortunately, the theology of the late Cornelius Van Til became predominate in more "conservative" American Reformed denominations.  With Van Til's theology comes the undermining of Scripture as the plenary verbal Word of God, fully inspired and completely infallible and inerrant in every word and proposition.  For Van Til, like the neo-orthodox, the Bible is not the very words of God in the univocal sense.  Rather, Van Til said that Scripture is but an analogy of God's revelation, not the revelation itself.  Although Van Til rejected equivocal interpretations of Scripture, his theology of analogy made truth two-fold.  Man can never know anything God knows.  What this effectively means is that Scripture is not revelation after all.  Scripture is simply a human product and a human interpretation of revelation.  Revelation itself can only be known by God Himself.  According to Van Til, this is because of the distinction between the creature and the Creator.  Total transcendance means that God is completely unknowable.  For Van Tilians, then, Scripture does not literally make God knowable.  Scripture is a reflection or an analogy of God's thoughts but not God's thoughts in any univocal sense.  Van Tilians disguise this departure from the Reformers' theology of Scripture by saying that Scripture is "unequivocally" the Word of God.  But this is not the same thing as "univocal" at all.

This brings up the issue of common grace.  Since Van Til could not believe that Scripture is univocally a direct revelation of God in rational language, his followers took the logical leap to accept common grace as a means of knowing God that is equal to Scripture.  The three points of common grace became the doctrinal position of the Christian Reformed Church at a synod at Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1924.  Van Til himself was from the Christian Reformed Church and therefore favored the common grace position.  This was one of the reasons that Van Til and his followers opposed the ordination of Gordon H. Clark in 1940.  Van Til called Clark a rationalist because Clark upheld the classical Calvinist position that rejected common grace.  Common grace opened the door for higher biblical criticism, theistic evolution, egalitarianism, female ordination, and the acceptance of unrepentant homosexuals in the Christian Reformed Church.  That denomination is now fully liberal.

Another issue that involves common grace is whether or not God desires to save the reprobate, a contradiction to His eternal decrees.  Arminians, Neo-Calvinists, and Van Tilians claim that 2 Peter 3:9 expresses God's desire to save the unsavable.  They are unsavable because God has decreed it to be so.  But 2 Peter 3:9 is written to Christians suffering persecution and who are tempted to commit apostasy.  It is not written to unbelievers.  This can be clearly seen in 2 Peter 1:1-3.  Furthermore, Matthew 5:44-48 is often used to prove that God loves the unjust or the reprobate.  But this is to do what Van Tilians accuse Clarkian presuppositionalists of doing--confusing the creature with the Creator.  God is not subject to any law, including the command Jesus gives us, namely to love our enemies.  God is under no obligation whatsoever to love His enemies.  In fact, Scripture over and over affirms that God hates the wicked.  (Psalm 5:5; 11:5).  The most compelling Scripture that refutes the misinterpretation of Matthew 5:44-48 as "common grace," however is Romans 1:18-25.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:18-25 NKJ)

Unequivocally and univocally the Scriptures teach that creation and general providence only leave the reprobate without excuse.  God never intended from the beginning to save them and therefore God could not have desired to save the reprobate as these semi-Arminians contend from verses like 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Isaiah 46:13, 48:9.  However, Isaiah 14:24,  46:9-10 proves that the end result was God's decretive will and predetermined purpose from before creation.  Acts 2:23, 4:27-28 show this is the truth in regards to the suffering and atonement of Christ as well.  

Therefore, it is a logical absurdity to claim that God intends good for the reprobate while they are on earth.  Everything that happens in temporal time on earth is meant for good for the elect and for the destruction of the reprobate (Romans 9:11-13, 16-22; Proverbs 16:4).  Dissimulators wish to confuse and muddy the issues by equivocation.  They will appeal to "apparent" paradox so often that it becomes actual paradox.   It was Gordon H. Clark's position that there are no paradoxes in Scripture.  Presupposing that there are "apparent" contradictions in Scripture that have no solutions is the same, for all practical purposes, as saying that there are real paradoxes in Scripture.  It is my contention, therefore, that Van Til's view leads to liberalism and/or neo-orthodoxy.  The starting axiom for the Christian is the proposition that Scripture alone is the univocal Word of God.


Anonymous said...

Completely agree. I have read Van Til and Bahnsen and continue to find more and more areas where I question the typical Van Tillian apologetic. I am close to simply dedicating my time to better understanding Dr. Clark.



Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks for comment, brother. Basically, Clark's position is that logic is embedded in Scripture. Scripture does not contradiction itself. (Law of contradiction). The architecture of God's mind is Logic (John 1:1) and all men are made in the image of God (John 1:9).

Van Til, on the other hand, said that logic does not apply to God or Scripture. For Van Til all Scripture is paradoxical. This can only mean that for Van Tilians the only option is the neo-orthodox heresy. If you listen to Mike Horton, he is constantly emphasizing the "story" and not the propositional truth claims or doctrinal content of Scripture. For Horton, Scripture is an inspired myth. He tries to soften the position by saying that it is a myth that is a "fact" but he never defines for us what a fact is or what he means by "history." He might just as well redefine history as Barth does; that is there are two or three kinds of history and the Bible is simply mythological history, not real time history.


samir salve said...

is this "Mike Horton" Michael Horton?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Yes, Michael Horton.

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