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Predestination and grief

January 31, 2008

Blaise Pascal wrote this to a bereaved friend, comforting him with the Calvinist doctrine of predestination:

“If we regard this event, not as an effect of chance, not as a fatal necessity of nature, but as a result inevitable, just, holy, of a decree of His Providence, conceived from all eternity, to be executed in such a year, day, hour, and such a place and manner, we shall adore in humble silence the impenetrable loftiness of His secrets; we shall venerate the sanctity of His decrees; we shall bless the acts of His providence; and uniting our will with that of God Himself, we shall wish with Him, in Him and for Him, the thing that He has willed in us and for us for all eternity.”  (quoted in Loraine Boettner: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 330)

Boettner observes,

“Since the true Calvinist sees God’s hand and wise purpose in everything, he knows that even his sufferings, sorrows, persecutions, defeats, etc., are not the results of chance or accident, but that they have been foreseen and foreappointed, and that they are chastisements or disciplines designed for his own good.  He realizes that God will not needlessly afflict His people; that in the divine plan these are all ordered in number, weight, and measure; and that they shall not continue a moment longer than God sees necessary.”  (loc cit.)

Gratitude and morality

January 26, 2008

“Love and gratitude to God for what he has done for us is the strongest possible and only permanent basis for morality.”  –Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The paradox of sovereignty and liberty

January 18, 2008

“In one sense we can say that the kingdom of heaven is a democratic kingdom, paradoxical as that may sound.  The essential principle of a democracy is that it rests on ‘the consent of the governed.’  Heaven will be truly a kingdom, with God as the supreme Ruler; yet it will rest on the consent of the governed.  It is not forced on believers against their consent.  They are so influenced that they become willing, and accept the Gospel, and find it the delight of their lives to do their Sovereign’s will.”  (Loraine Boettner: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, pp. 209-210)

There is no inconsistency between free agency and God’s absolute sovereignty over every thought, action, and event.  As Boettner observes,

“…the Scriptures contain predictions of many events, great and small, which were perfectly fulfilled through the actions of free agents.  Usually these agents were not even conscious that they were fulfilling divine prophecy.  They acted freely, yet exactly as foretold. . . .It is plain that the writers of Scripture believed these free acts to be fully foreknown by the divine mind and therefore absolutely certain to be accomplished. . . .The doctrines of God’s foreknowledge and foreordination stand or fall together.”  (loc. cit.)

The value and limitation of the atonement

January 14, 2008

“When the atonement is made universal its inherent value is destroyed. If it is applied to all men, and if some are lost, the conclusion is that it makes salvation objectively possible for all but that it does not actually save anybody. According to the Arminian theory the atonement has simply made it possible for all men to co-operate with divine grace and thus save themselves–if they will. . . .The nature of the atonement settles its extent. If it merely made salvation possible, it applied to all men. If it effectively secured salvation, it had reference only to the elect. As Dr. Warfield says, ‘The things we have to choose between are an atonement of high value, or an atonement of wide extension. The two cannot go together.’ The work of Christ can be universalized only by evaporating its substance.” (Loraine Boettner: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, pp. 152-153)

Christians are not called to be Stoics

January 4, 2008

From Calvin, on the subject of what we might call “standing tough” in the face of adversity:

“Now, among the Christians there are also new Stoics, who count it depraved not only to groan and weep but also to be sad and care ridden.  These paradoxes proceed, for the most part, from idle men who, exercising themselves more in speculation than in action, can do nothing but invent such paradoxes for us.  Yet we have nothing to do with this iron philosophy which also by our Lord and Master has condemned not only by his word, but also by his example.  For he groaned and wept both over his own and others’ misfortunes.  And he taught his disciples in the same way:  ‘The world,’ he says, ‘will rejoice; but you will be sorrowful and will weep’ [John 16:20].  And that no one might turn it into a vice, he openly proclaimed, ‘Blessed are those who mourn’ [Matthew 5:4].  No wonder!  For if all weeping is condemned, what shall we judge concerning the Lord himself, from whose body tears of blood trickled down [Luke 22:44]?  If all fear is branded as unbelief, how shall we account for that dread with which, we read, he was heavily stricken [Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33]?  If all sadness displeases us, how will it please us that he confesses his soul ‘sorrowful even to death’ [Matthew 26:38]?”  (Institutes III.VIII.8)

Grow, Christian!

December 29, 2007

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive… (Ephesians 4:14)

Dr. Gordon Clark, Loraine Boettner, and B. B. Warfield arguably were our era’s greatest advancers of Christian epistemology.  Dr. Clark, in particular, decried the anti-intellectualism that threatens to subsume doctrinal integrity in today’s emotional religious movements. 

“A recent convert is ipso facto immature,” says Dr. Clark.  “He is a babe in Christ; and this is no disgrace.  But it becomes a disgrace if he never grows up.  We are to advance beyond the elementary lessons of Christianity…”  (Gordon Clark: Ephesians, 4:14)

Dr. Clark is the author of numerous commentaries on Scripture and other doctrinal works, available through The Trinity Foundation.

On the difference between Christian marriage and modern marriage

December 26, 2007

“The great difference between modern marriage and Christian marriage, and therefore the insistence on ‘rights’ rather than on duties, is that Christian marriage is based on love ’till death us do part,’ and modern marriage is a legal contract of temporary convenience.  If there is love, it is not Christian love, and therefore this secular marriage can survive neither the occasional severe strains of life nor even boredom and a roving eye. 

“Paul teaches that the husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church.  The church has not always been very lovable.  But Christ gave his life for it.” 

(Gordon Clark: Ephesians, 5:25)