Tag Archives: Theology

“Scripture is the handmaiden of Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“If Scripture is the account of the revelation of God in Christ, it is bound to arouse the same opposition as Christ himself who came into the world for judgment (κρισις) and is ‘set for the fall and rising of many’ (Luke 2:34).

He brings separation between light and darkness and reveals the thoughts of many hearts. Similarly Scripture is a living and active word, a ‘discerner’ of the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

It not only was inspired but is still ‘God-breathed’ and ‘God-breathing.’ Just as there is much that precedes the act of inspiration (all the activity of the Holy Spirit in nature, history, revelation, regeneration), so there is much that follows it as well.

Inspiration is not an isolated event. The Holy Spirit does not, after the act of inspiration, withdraw from Holy Scripture and abandon it to its fate but sustains and animates it and in many ways brings its content to humanity, to its heart and conscience.

By means of Scripture as the word of God, the Holy Spirit continually wars against the thoughts and intentions of the ‘unspiritual’ person (ψυχικος ἀνθρωπος). By itself, therefore, it need not surprise us in the least that Scripture has at all times encountered contradiction and opposition.

Christ bore a cross, and the servant (Scripture) is not greater than its master. Scripture is the handmaiden of Christ. It shares in his defamation and arouses the hostility of sinful humanity.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 439-440.

 

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“An ever-continuing battle” by Herman Bavinck

“All believers have the experience that in the best moments of their life they are also most firm in their belief in Scripture. The believer’s confidence in Christ increases along with their confidence in Scripture and, conversely, ignorance of the Scriptures is automatically and proportionately ignorance of Christ.

The connection between sin and error often lies hidden deep below the surface of the conscious life. One can almost never demonstrate this link in others, but it is sometimes revealed to our own inner eye with respect to ourselves.

The battle against the Bible is, in the first place, a revelation of the hostility of the human heart. But that hostility may express itself in various ways. It absolutely does not come to expression only—and perhaps not even most forcefully—in the criticism to which Scripture has been subjected in our time.

Scripture as the word of God encounters opposition and unbelief in every ‘unspiritual’ person. In the days of dead orthodoxy, an unbelieving attitude toward Scripture was in principle as powerful as in our historically-oriented and critical century. The forms change, but the essence remains the same.

Whether hostility against Scripture is expressed in criticism like that of Celsus and Porphyry or whether it is manifest in a dead faith, that hostility in principle is the same. For not the hearers but the doers of the word (James 1:22) are pronounced blessed. ‘The servant who knew his master’s will but did not make ready or act according to his will will receive a severe beating’ (Luke 12:47).

It remains the duty of every person, therefore, first of all to put aside his or her hostility against the word of God and ‘to take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5). Scripture itself everywhere presses this demand.

Only the pure of heart will see God. Rebirth will see the kingdom of God. Self-denial is the condition for being a disciple of Jesus. The wisdom of the world is folly to God. Over against all human beings, Scripture occupies a position so high that, instead of subjecting itself to their criticism, it judges them in all their thoughts and desires.

And this has been the Christian church’s position toward Scripture at all times. According to Chrysostom, humility is the foundation of philosophy. Augustine once said: ‘When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, ‘Delivery’; what was the second rule, ‘Delivery’; what was the third rule, ‘Delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, ‘Humility.’ ” Calvin cites this statement with approval. And Pascal cries out to humanity: ‘Humble yourself, powerless reason! Be silent, stupid nature!… Listen to God!’

This has been the attitude of the church toward Scripture down the centuries. And the Christian dogmatician may take no other position. For a dogma is not based on the results of any historical-critical research but only on the witness of God, on the self-testimony of Holy Scripture.

A Christian believes, not because everything in life reveals the love of God, but rather despite everything that raises doubt. In Scripture too there is much that raises doubt. All believers know from experience that this is true. Those who engage in biblical criticism frequently talk as if simple church people know nothing about the objections that are advanced against Scripture and are insensitive to the difficulty of continuing to believe in Scripture. But that is a false picture.

Certainly, simple Christians do not know all the obstacles that science raises to belief in Scripture. But they do to a greater or lesser degree know the hard struggle fought both in head and heart against Scripture.

There is not a single Christian who has not in his or her own way learned to know the antithesis between the ‘wisdom of the world’ and ‘the foolishness of God.’ It is one and the same battle, an ever-continuing battle, which has to be waged by all Christians, learned or unlearned, to ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).

Here on earth no one ever rises above that battle. Throughout the whole domain of faith, there remain ‘crosses’ that have to be overcome. There is no faith without struggle. To believe is to struggle, to struggle against the appearance of things.

As long as people still believe in anything, their belief is challenged from all directions. No modern believer is spared from this either. Concessions weaken believers but do not liberate them. Thus for those who in childlike faith subject themselves to Scripture, there still remain more than enough objections. These need not be disguised. There are intellectual problems in Scripture that cannot be ignored and that will probably never be resolved.

But these difficulties, which Scripture itself presents against its own inspiration, are in large part not recent discoveries of our century. They have been known at all times.

Nevertheless, Jesus and the apostles, Athanasius and Augustine, Thomas and Bonaventure, Luther and Calvin, and Christians of all churches have down the centuries confessed and recognized Scripture as the Word of God. Those who want to delay belief in Scripture till all the objections have been cleared up and all the contradictions have been resolved will never arrive at faith. ‘For who hopes for what he sees?’ (Rom. 8:24).

Jesus calls blessed those who have not seen and yet believe (John 20:29).”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 440-442.

 

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“Arise, arise” by George Herbert

“Arise, arise;
And with His burial-linen dry thine eyes:
Christ left His grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears, or blood, not want an handkerchief.”

–George Herbert, from ‘The Dawning” in Herbert: Poems (Everyman Library) (New York: Knopf, 2004), 131.

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“The Infinite One” by Mark Jones

“The doctrine of God’s infinity gives us great joy because it assures that our sins are forgiven, due to the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice. Additionally, we can rejoice that we as finite creatures can never comprehend the infinite.

Far from being a problem, this doctrine is a delight, for we shall one day be given glorious resurrected bodies. As Paul says, ‘Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven’ (1 Cor. 15:49).

In this exalted state, we will be able to perfectly apply our minds to the knowledge of God and Christ by means of the Holy Spirit illuminating our spiritual and intellectual faculties. We shall spend an eternity knowing God, because He is the infinite God.

Yet even for all eternity, we shall never fully comprehend God. Still, this impossibility remains our delight insofar as we have so much to look forward to in what awaits us.

By knowing God, I do not mean merely coming to a greater awareness of who He is but also coming to a greater awareness of all that He has done and will continue to do for us, including our understanding of His attributes displayed in the new creation.

We all, for example, shall be true scientists of the highest order. But we should always remember our established place as creatures. We serve an infinite God, and our praises in this life come so very short of what is due to Him.

But He accepts our praises, despite our weaknesses. The Infinite One stoops and stoops and stoops in order to raise us to places that are undeserved.

Our union with the infinite Son of God puts us in the most privileged place possible for a human being– far more privileged than Adam’s place in the garden. We belong to an infinite God who will satisfy us forever because He alone is in the position to pour out everlasting blessings on His creatures.”

–Mark Jones, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 48-49.

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“The most impressive feature of his preaching” by Mark Jones

“J.I. Packer once mentioned to me what he thought was the most impressive feature of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s preaching: ‘He brought God into the pulpit.’ How many preachers today bring God into the pulpit?”

–Mark Jones, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 212.

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“Nothing may be put on a level with Scripture” by Herman Bavinck

“Church and confession must yield to Scripture. Not the church but Scripture is self-authenticating (αὐτοπιστος), the judge of controversies (iudex controversiarum), and its own interpreter (sui ipsius interpres).

Nothing may be put on a level with Scripture. Church, confession, tradition—all must be ordered and adjusted by it and submit themselves to it…

Scripture alone is the norm and rule of faith and life (norma et regula fidei et vitae). The confession deserves credence only because and insofar as it agrees with Scripture and, as the fallible work of human hands, remains open to revision and examination by the standard of Scripture…

All Christian churches are united in the confession that Holy Scripture is the foundation of theology, and the Reformation unanimously recognized it as the only foundation (principium unicum).”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 86-87.

 

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“A doxological tone that glorifies Him” by Herman Bavinck

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.

Theology is about God and should reflect a doxological tone that glorifies Him.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 61.

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