Category Archives: Puritanical

Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Puritans. (And those of their theological ilk.)

“The Gospel is a joyful tiding for the whole groaning creation” by Herman Bavinck

“God so loved the world, the cosmos, that He sent His only Son, the one by whom all things were created. Granted, the word ‘world’ can have unfavorable connotations in the New Testament.

It can signify the organic unity of all created reality as instrument of sin in opposition to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This ‘world’ lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), has ‘the devil as its prince’ (John 14:30; 16:11), who is ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

This world knows neither God nor His children (John 17:25; 1 John 3:1). In fact, it hates the followers of Jesus as it hated Him (John 15:18,19; 17:14). For this reason ‘the world and its desires’ must be resisted and overcome by faith (1 John 2:15-17; 5:4).

It is undeniable that Jesus and his apostles after Him were drawn to the ‘foolish and the weak’ of the world, to ‘publicans and sinners.’ There is a real fear reflected in their repeated admonitions to be alert to the temptation found in abundance of possessions and in the reminders that this life is one filled with anxiety.

Christianity is the religion of the cross; the mystery of suffering is its center. An aesthetic enjoyment of the world as in the Hellenic tradition is not possible.

This single notion of ‘world’ shows us clearly how wide a gulf exists between the Christian and the classic worldview. And yet, the reverse side is not absent.

It is true that the Cross casts its shadow over all creation but so does the light of the Resurrection.

On the one hand, the kingdom of heaven is a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price for which a man sells everything he has in order to buy it; at the same time it is also a mustard seed that grows into a tree in which the birds of the air build nests and a yeast that a woman takes and hides in three measures of flour until it is all leavened.

While the world is thoroughly corrupted by sin, it is precisely this sinful world that is the object of God’s love.

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting its sins (2 Cor. 5:19).

Jesus, who came to the world not to condemn it but to save it (John 3:16,17; 12:47), is the light (John 1:12), the life (John 6:33), the Savior of the world (John 4:14).

Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

In Christ all things are reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), and under Him brought together in unity (Eph. 1:10).

The world, created by the Son (John 1:3), is also created for Him as its heir (Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2).

The kingdoms of this world shall eventually become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).

A new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells is coming (2 Peter 3:13).

It is impossible to express the thoroughgoing universal scope of the Christian faith in words more powerful and beautiful than these. Christianity knows no boundaries beyond those which God Himself has in His good pleasure established; no boundaries of race or age, class, or status, nationality, or language.

Sin has corrupted much; in fact, everything. The guilt of human sin is immeasurable; the pollution that always accompanies it penetrates every structure of humanity and the world.

Nonetheless sin does not dominate and corrupt without God’s abundant grace in Christ triumphing even more (Rom. 5:15-20). The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, it is able to restore everything.

We need not, indeed we must not, despair of anyone or anything.

The Gospel is a joyful tiding, not only for the individual person but also for humanity, for the family, for society, for the state, for art and science, for the entire cosmos, for the whole groaning creation.”

–Herman Bavinck, “The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church,” Calvin Theological Journal 27 (1992): 223-224.

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“Christian faith emerges out of the shock of the gospel” by John Webster

“Christian faith, and therefore Christian theology, emerges out of the shock of the gospel.

Christian faith, and therefore Christian theology, takes its rise in the comprehensive interruption of all things in Jesus Christ, for He, Jesus Christ, now present in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the great catastrophe of human life and history.

In Him, all things are faced by the One who absolutely dislocates and no less absolutely reorders. To this regenerative event, this abolition and re-creation, Christian faith, and therefore Christian theology, offers perplexed and delighted testimony.

That perplexity and delight– that sense of being at one and the same time overwhelmed and consumed yet remade and reestablished– are at the heart of the church, or as we might call it, Christian culture.

Christian culture is the assembly of forms and practices which seeks somehow to inhabit the world which is brought into being by the staggering good news of Jesus Christ, the world of new creation.

‘Behold,’ says the enthroned One in the climactic scene of the Apocalypse, ‘I make all things new’ (Rev. 21:5).

Christian theology is an activity in a culture which reaches out toward that miracle, sharing that culture’s astonishing new life.”

–John Webster, “Culture: The Shape of Theological Practice,” The Culture of Theology, Eds. Ivor J. Davidson and Alden C. McCray (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2019), 43.

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“The spring and cause of our everlasting blessedness” by John Owen

“The sight of the glory of Christ is the spring and cause of our everlasting blessedness.

‘We shall ever be with the Lord,’ (1 Thess. 4:17), or ‘be with Christ,’ which is best of all, (Phil. 1:23). For there shall we ‘behold His glory,’ (John 17:24); and by ‘seeing Him as He is, we shall be made like Him,’ (1 John 3:2);– which is our everlasting blessedness.

The enjoyment of God by sight is commonly called the BEATIFICAL VISION; and it is the sole fountain of all the actings of our souls in the state of blessedness: which the old philosophers knew nothing of; neither do we know distinctly what they are, or what is this sight of God.

Howbeit, this we know, that God in His immense essence is invisible unto our corporeal eyes, and will be so to eternity; as also incomprehensible unto our minds. For nothing can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite, but what is itself infinite.

Wherefore the blessed and blessing sight which we shall have of God will be always ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’ Therein will that manifestation of the glory of God, in His infinite perfections, and all their blessed operations, so shine into our souls, as shall immediately fill us with peace, rest, and glory.

These things we here admire, but cannot comprehend. We know not well what we say when we speak of them: yet is there in true believers a foresight and foretaste of this glorious condition.

There enters sometimes, by the Word and Spirit, into their hearts such a sense of the uncreated glory of God, shining forth in Christ, as affects and satiates their souls with ineffable joy.

Hence ariseth that ‘peace of God which passeth all understanding,’ keeping ‘our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ,’ (Phil. 4:7). ‘Christ,’ in believers, ‘the hope of glory,’ gives them to taste of the first-fruits of it; yea, sometimes to bathe their souls in the fountain of life, and to drink of the rivers of pleasure that are at His right hand.

Where any are utterly unacquainted with these things, they are carnal, yea, blind, and see nothing afar off. These enjoyments, indeed, are rare, and for the most part of short continuance. ‘Rara hora, brevis mora.’ (‘A rare hour but quickly gone.’)

But it is from our own sloth and darkness that we do not enjoy more visits of this grace, and that the dawnings of glory do not more shine on our souls.”

–John Owen, The Works of John OwenVolume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 292-293.

 

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“The task of the theology” by Herman Bavinck

“Doubt has now become the sickness of our century, bringing with it a string of moral problems and plagues. Nowadays, many people take into account only what they can see; they deify matter, worship Mammon, or glorify power.

The number of those who still utter an undaunted testimony of their faith with joyful enthusiasm and complete certainty is comparatively small.

There is much noise and movement, but little genuine spirit, little genuine enthusiasm issuing from an upright, fervent, sincere faith.

Nowhere is this more true than among theologians. They are the most doubting, vacillating group of all. They have plenty of questions, doubts, and criticism to offer.

But what we expect from them more than from anyone else– unity of outlook, consistency of method, certainty of faith, eagerness to give an account of the hope within them– for these traits we often look in vain.

Theology must lead us to rest in the arms of God.

Theology must prescribe medicine for the ailments of the soul. It must be able to say how and in what way we can be freed from our guilt, reconciled with God, attain to patience and hope amidst life’s tribulations, and find reason to sing praises in the face of death.

A theology that does not concern itself with these things and only dedicates itself to critical and historical studies is not worthy of the name theology.

And a theologian who is acquainted with all the latest issues of his science but who stands speechless at a sickbed and knows no answer to the questions of the lost sinner’s heart isn’t worthy of his title and office.”

—Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith, trans. Harry der Nederlanden (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1891/1980), 8, 9, 17, 18.

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“A Christian” by Herman Bavinck

“A Christian has found his standpoint in the promises of God’s grace in Christ. The foundations of his hope are fixed, for they lie outside him in God’s Word, which will never be moved. He doesn’t need to constantly examine the genuineness and strength of the foundation on which the building of his salvation has been built.

He is a child of God not on the basis of all kinds of inner experiences but on the basis of the promises of the Lord. Assured of this, he can now freely look around and enjoy all the good gifts and the perfect gift that descends from the Father of lights. Everything is his because he is Christ’s and Christ is God’s. The whole world becomes material for his duty.

Religious life does have its own content and independent value. It remains the center, the heart from which all the Christian’s thoughts and acts proceed, by which they are animated and given the warmth of life. There, in fellowship with God, he is strengthened for his labors and girds himself for the battle.

But that mysterious life of fellowship with God is not the whole of life. The prayer chamber is the inner room, although it is not the whole house in which he lives and functions. Spiritual life does not exclude family and social life, business and politics, art and science. It is distinct from these; it is also of much greater value, but it does not stand irreconcilably opposed to it. Rather it is the power that enables us to faithfully fulfill our earthly calling, stamping all of life as service to God.

The Kingdom of God is, to be sure, like a pearl more precious than the whole world, but it is also like a leaven that leavens the entire dough. Faith isn’t only the way of salvation, it also involves overcoming the world. The Christian, as he is drawn in Scripture and as he speaks in the Heidelberg Catechism, stands and works in this conviction. Reconciled with God, he is also reconciled with all things. Because in the Father of Christ he confesses the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, he cannot be small-hearted and constricted in his affections.

For God Himself so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And this Son came to earth not to condemn the world but to save it. In His cross heaven and earth are reconciled. Under Him all things shall be gathered together with Him as head.

The history of all things proceeds according to His counsel toward the redemption of the church as the new humanity, toward the liberation of the world in an organic sense, toward the new heaven and the new earth. Even now, by rights, everything in principle belongs to the church, because it is Christ’s and Christ is God’s. As a priest in the temple of the Lord, he who believes this is king over the whole earth.

Because he is a Christian, he is a human in the full, true sense. He loves the flowers that grow at his feet and admires the stars that sparkle overhead. He does not disdain the arts, which are to him a precious gift from God. Nor does he belittle the sciences, for these, too, are a gift from the Father of lights. He believes that everything God has created is good and that, taken in thanksgiving, nothing is condemned.

He labors not for success and doesn’t work for wages, but he does what comes to hand, seeing, by means of God’s commandments, though ignorant of what the future may bring. He does good works without thinking twice and bears fruit before he realizes it. He is like a flower that spreads its fragrance unawares.

He is, in a word, a man of God, perfectly equipped to all good works. And while for him to live is Christ, in the end to die is gain.”

—Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith, trans. Harry der Nederlanden (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1891/1980), 95-97.

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“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied” by Jonathan Edwards

“Heaven is that place alone where is to be obtained our highest end, and highest good. God hath made us for Himself: ‘of God, and through God, and to God are all things’ (Rom. 11:36).

Therefore then do we attain to our highest end, when we are brought to God. But that is by being brought to heaven, for that is God’s throne; that is the place of His special presence, and of His glorious residence.

There is but a very imperfect union with God to be had in this world: a very imperfect knowledge of God in the midst of abundance of darkness, a very imperfect conformity to God, mingled with abundance of enmity and estrangement. Here we can serve and glorify God but in an exceeding imperfect manner, our service being mingled with much sin and dishonoring to God.

But when we get to heaven, if ever that be, there we shall be brought to a perfect union with God.

There we shall have the clear views of God’s glory: we shall see face to face, and know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12).

There we shall be fully conformed to God, without any remains of sin: ‘we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2).

There we shall serve God perfectly. We shall glorify Him in an exalted manner, and to the utmost of the powers and capacity of our nature.

Then we shall perfectly give up ourselves to God; then will our hearts be wholly a pure and holy offering to God, offered all in the flame of divine love.

In heaven alone is attainment of our highest good. God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of Him is our proper happiness, and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.

To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here: better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any or all earthly friends.

These are but shadows; but God is the substance.

These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun.

These are but streams; but God is the fountain.

These are but drops; but God is the ocean.

Therefore, it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end, and proper good, the whole work of our lives; and we should subordinate all the other concerns of life to it.

Why should we labor for anything else, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The True Christian’s Life a Journey Towards Heaven,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1730–1733 (ed. Mark Valeri and Harry S. Stout; vol. 17; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1999), 17: 437–438.

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“This first” by Martin Luther

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.

This first.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 11: First Lectures on the Psalms II: Psalms 76-126 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 11; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 11: 245–246.

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