Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Verbal Inspiration - Clark/Berkhof

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2Peter 1:19-21

The idea that God gave his words to the prophets seems to many liberals a mechanical and artificial theory of revelation. God, they tell us, is not to be pictured as a boss dictating words to his stenographer. And further, the writings of the prophets show clearly the freedom and spontaneity of personal individuality. Jeremiah’s style is not that of Isaiah, nor does John write like Paul. The words are obviously the words of John and Jeremiah, not of a boss dictating to several stenographers. The stenographers of one boss will turn out letters of the same literary style; they do not correct his English.

. . .

How then are the differences of style to be accounted for, and what does verbal inspiration mean? The answer to these questions, involving the relation between God and the prophets, takes us quickly away from the picture of a boss and a stenographer.
When God wished to make a revelation, at the time of the exodus or of the captivity, he did not suddenly look around as if caught unprepared and wonder what man he could use for the purpose. We cannot suppose that he advertised for help, and when Moses and Jeremiah applied, God constrained them to speak his words. And yet this derogatory view underlies the objection to verbal inspiration. The relation between God and the prophets is totally unlike that between a boss and a stenographer.

If we consider the omnipotence and wisdom of God, a very different representation emerges. The boss must take what he can get; he depends on the highschool or business college to have taught the stenographer shorthand and typing. But God does not depend on any external agency. God is the creator. He made Moses. And when God wanted Moses to speak for him, he said, "Who has made man's mouth? . . . Have not I, the Lord?" Therefore verbal inspiration, like every other particular doctrine, must be understood in connection with the complete system of Christian doctrine. It may not be detached therefrom, and a fortiori it may not be framed in an alien view of God. In particular, verbal inspiration can be more clearly understood – and can only be properly understood – in its relation to the Presbyterian, the Reformed, the Calvinistic doctrines of the divine decree, providence, and predestination. When the liberals surreptitiously deny predestination in picturing God as dictating to stenographers, they so misrepresent verbal inspiration that their objections do not apply to the Calvinistic viewpoint. The trouble is not, as a liberals think, that the boss controls the stenographer too completely; on the contrary, the analogy misses the mark because the boss hardly controls the stenographer at all.

Put it this way: God from all eternity decreed to lead the Jews out of slavery by the hand of Moses. To this end he so controlled history that Moses was born at a given date, placed in the water to save him from an early death, found and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, given the best education possible, driven into the wilderness to learn patience, and in every event and circumstance so prepared that when the time came, Moses’ mentality and literary style were the instruments precisely fitted to speak God's words.

It is quite otherwise with dictation. A boss has little control over a stenographer except as to the words she types for him. He did not control her education. He cannot trust her literary style. She may be totally uninterested in his business. They may have extremely little in common. But between Moses and God there was an inner union, an identity of purpose, a cooperation of will such that the words Moses wrote were God's own words and Moses’ own words at the same time.

Thus, when we recognize that God does his will in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the Earth, when we understand that God works all things after the counsel of his own will, when we see God's pervading presence and providence in history and in the life of his servants, then we can realize that business office dictation does not do justice to the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit dwelt within these men and taught them what to write. God determined what the personality and style of each author was to be, and he determined it for the purpose of expressing his message, his words. The words of Scripture, therefore, are the very words of God. 

Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, in "The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark Vol. 4, Christian Philosophy" (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), 185-187.

Concerning "organic" inspiration, Louis Berkhof says in his Manual of Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1987), p. 42-43:

I agree with Dr. Berkhof when he says that God used the prophets just as they were, but I also agree with Dr. Clark when he says that God made the prophets just as they were.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:13-16

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." 

Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." 
But the LORD said to me: "Do not say,`I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. 
Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD. 
Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 
See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant."  
Jeremiah 1:4-10

"The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. 2Samuel 23:2

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Know God is your God - Sibbes

Another sign and evidence that God is our God is victory over our base corruptions in some measure. This you have in Rev. xxi. 7: ‘He that overcometh it shall inherit all things; I will be his God, and he shall be my son.’ How shall I know that God is my God, and that I am his son? If by the power of his Spirit I am able to overcome and conquer in some comparable measure base tentations and my base corruptions and lusts; when I lie not as a beast or as a carnal man under sin, but God hath given me in some measure spiritual strength over sin.

Undoubtedly these and such like works of the Spirit, together with the testimony of the Spirit, will be wheresoever God is our God.

In a word, to name no more trials but this, whosoever God is a God to, there will be a transforming unto God, a transforming unto Christ, in whom God is our God. For we must know that we are renewed according to the image of the ‘second Adam.’ Our comfort is by God revealed in Christ. If God be our God in Christ, we will be like to God; and that will be known that we are like to God, if we be like to God in the flesh, God incarnate. For we are predestinated to be like God incarnate. God, first he is Christ's God before he is ours; and as Christ carried himself to God, so if we be God’s , we must carry ourselves like Christ, be transformed unto him. How did Christ carry himself to God? God was his God. ‘My God, my God,’ saith Christ upon the cross. Now the gospel sheweth that he obeyed his Father in all things, in doing and suffering; ‘Not my will, but thy will be done,’ Luke xxii. 42. You know how full of mercy and compassion he was; how he prayed all night sometimes. Though he knew God would bestow things on him without prayer, yet he would pray in order to God's appointment. You know how full of goodness he was, going about continually doing good, Acts x. 38; and that in obedience and conscience to God's command. In a word, look how Christ made God his God, and carried himself to God. So must we; for we are predestinated to be transformed to the image of the ‘second Adam,’ Christ. Especially observe one thing – I touched it before – whom we run to and trust to in extremity, is our god. Christ in extremity, when he felt the anger and endured the wrath of God, being a surety for our sins, yet ‘My God, my God’ still. So if we make God our God, chiefly in the greatest extremity, in the time of desertion, as Christ did, it is a good sign. I do but touch these things. The point, you see, is large. I only give you matter of meditation. You may enlarge them yourselves in your own thoughts. These I think sufficient trials, whereby you may know whether God be your God.

Having now thus unfolded these terms, let us see what we may draw from thence for our use and comfort.

First, then, if by these trials we find that God be not, or have not been, our God, alas! let us never rest till we make good that God is our God. For what if we have all things, if we have not God with all things? All other things are but streams; God is the fountain. If we have not spring, what will become of us at last? Ahithophel had much wit and policy, but he had not God for his God. Ahab had power and strength, but he had not God for his God. Saul had a kingdom, but he had not God for his God. Herod had eloquence, but he had not God for his God. Judas was an apostle, a great professor, but he had not God for his God. What became of all these? Wit they had, strength they had, honor they had, friends they had, they had not God; and therefore a miserable end they made. What miserable creatures are all such, when they shall say, Friends have forsaken me, wealth hath forsaken me, and health hath forsaken me; terrors lay hold upon me, the wrath of God hath overtaken me. But they cannot say, God is my God. Oh, such are in a miserable case, in a fearful estate indeed. Nay, suppose they have all these, suppose they could say they have a world of riches, they have inheritances, they have friends, &c., yet if they cannot say, God is my God, all is vanity. The whole man is this, to have God to be our God. This is the whole man, to fear God and keep his commandments, Eccles. Xii. 18. If a man has all the world, and have not God for his God, all is but vanity and vexation of spirit. Never rest therefore till we can prove ourselves to be in the covenant of grace, till we can say, God is my God.

But, secondly, when we have found God to be our God, then make this use of it, a use of resolution. Is God my God? then I will result to please him, though all creatures be against me. This was their resolution in Micah iv. 5, ‘Every nation walketh in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.’ Resolve with Joshua and others to please God, whosoever saith the contrary; to walk after the commandments of God, whatsoever others do or say. In all discouragements from men or devils, let us set this as a buckler, God is my God. Arm ourselves with resolution against all fears and threatenings of men, of men of terror, against the arm of flesh. They say they will do this and this; ay, but God is my God. All that they do they must do in his strength. Arm ourselves with this against the power and gates of hell. Fear not the devil. If we fear man or devil more than God, fear them so as to do anything to displease God, we make them god. If our conscience rightly tells us that what is to be done by us is the will and command of God, and that herein I serve God, we need not fear any opposer; but oppose this as an armor of proof against all creatures, against all discouragements whatsoever. And certainly experience telleth us, and approveth it to be true, that nothing can dismay a man that doth things in conscience to God, and knows God will bear him out in it, though not from danger in this world; and yet for the most part he doth that too. Those that are the stoutest men for God are as oftentimes most safe, always freed from inward dejection. Yet God disposeth of it so as that he that keeps a good conscience shall always be a king, and rule over the world; and therein he performs his promise. Whatever discouragements he endureth outwardly, yet no discouragement can cast down that soul that looks to God. In his conscience he knows that he takes God to be his, that he serveth him, and that it shall go well with him at last, that God will be all-sufficient to him; and this raiseth him above all, makes him rule and reign over his enemies, and be a terror to those that do him harm.

Richard Sibbes, “The Faithful Covenanter,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, p. 14-16.

The Bondage of the Will, Discussion: Second Part, Section CVII - Luther

Sect. CVII. ó BUT let us, I pray you, suppose that God ought to be such an one, who should have respect unto merit in those who are to be damned. Must we not, in like manner; also require and grant, that He ought to have respect unto merit in those who are to be saved? For if we are to follow Reason, it is equally unjust, that the undeserving should be crowned, as that the undeserving should be damned. We will conclude, therefore, that God ought to justify from merit preceding, or we will declare Him to be unjust, as being one who delights in evil and wicked men, and who invites and crowns their impiety by rewards. ó And then, woe unto you, sensibly miserable sinners, under that God! For who among you can be saved! Behold, therefore, the iniquity of the human heart! When God saves the undeserving without merit, nay, justifies the impious with all their demerit, it does not accuse Him of iniquity, it does not expostulate with Him why He does it, although it is, in its own judgment, most iniquitous; but because it is to its own profit, and plausible, it considers it just and good. But when He damns the undeserving, this, because it is not to its own profit, is iniquitous; this is intolerable; here it expostulates, here it murmurs, here it blasphemes! You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, together with its friends, do not, in this cause, judge according to equity, but according to the feeling sense of their own profit. For, if they regarded equity, they would expostulate with God when He crowned the undeserving, as they expostulate with Him when He damns the undeserving. And also, they would equally praise and proclaim God when He damns the undeserving, as they do when He saves the undeserving; for the iniquity in either instance is the same, if our own opinion be regarded: ó unless they mean to say, that the iniquity is not equal, whether you laud Cain for his fratricide and make him a king, or cast the innocent Abel into prison and murder him!

Since, therefore, Reason praises God when He saves the undeserving, but accuses Him when He damns the undeserving; it stands convicted of not praising God as God, but as a certain one who serves its own profit; that is, it seeks, in God, itself and the things of itself, but seeks not God and the things of God. But if it be pleased with a God who crowns the undeserving, it ought not to be displeased with a God who damns the undeserving. For if He be just in the one instance, how shall He not be just in the other? seeing that, in the one instance, He pours forth grace and mercy upon the undeserving, and in the other, pours forth wrath and severity upon the undeserving? ó He is, however, in both instances, monstrous and iniquitous in the sight of men; yet just and true in Himself. But, how it is just, that He should crown the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, but we shall see when we come there, where it will be no longer believed, but seen in revelation face to face. So also, how it is just, that He should damn the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, yet, we believe it, until the Son of Man shall be revealed!

Martin Luther

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Institutes, III, xxiii, 2: God's Will is the Rule of Righteousness - Calvin

(First objection: the doctrine of election makes God a tyrant, 2-3)
2. God's will is the rule of righteousness

Foolish men contend with God in many ways, as though they held him liable to their accusations. They first ask, therefore, by what right the Lord becomes angry at his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomever he pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge. It therefore seems to them that men have reason to expostulate with God if they are predestined to eternal death solely by his decision, apart from their own merit. If thoughts of this sort ever occur to pious men, they will be sufficiently armed to break their force even by the one consideration that it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God's will. For his will is, and rightly ought to be, the cause of all things that are. For if it has any cause, something must precede it, to which it is, as it were, bound; this is unlawful to imagine. For God's will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever he wills, by the very fact that he wills it, must be considered righteous. When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply: because he has willed it. But if you proceed further to ask why he so willed, you are seeking something greater and higher than God's will, which cannot be found. Let men's rashness, then, restrain itself, and not seek what does not exist, lest perhaps it fail to find what does exist. This bridal, I say, will effectively restrain anyone who wants to ponder in reverence the secrets of his God. Against the boldness of the wicked who are not afraid to curse God openly, the Lord himself will sufficiently defend himself by his righteousness, without our help, when, by depriving their consciences of all evasion, he will convict them and condemn them.

And we do not advocate the fiction of "absolute might"; because this is profane, it ought rightly to be hateful to us. We fancy no lawless god who is a law unto himself. For, as Plato says, men who are troubled with lusts are in need of law; but the will of God is not only free of all fault but is the highest rule of perfection, and even the law of all laws.* But we deny that he is liable to render an account; we also deny that we are competent judges to pronounce judgments in this cause according to our own understanding. Accordingly, if we attempt more than is permitted, let that threat of the psalm strike us with fear: God will be the victor whenever he is judged by mortal man [Ps. 51:4; cf. 50:6, Vg.].

* "Therefore, with reference to the sentiments of the Schoolmen concerning the absolute or tyrannical will of God, I not only repudiate, but abhor them all, because they separate the justice of God from his ruling power."

John Calvin

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Luther on God's Wondrous Works

Psalm 29:1 A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array.
3The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters. 4The voice of the LORD is powerful, The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve, And strips the forests bare, And in His temple everything says, "Glory!"
10The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever. 11The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace. (NAS)

. . . Everyone now and at all times understands, has understood, and will understand this text all too well – except for myself alone and a few poor sinners and fools, like Moses, David, Isaiah, and such people (among whom I can only boastfully place myself by saying: Nos poma natamus ["I am floating along with the other apples"] – [that is,] like horse dung among apples). These people consider God to be a man of wonders and say that His creation is nothing but wondrous works. Yet very few see God's wondrous works, though everyone sees His creation and cannot help but grasp and feel it, as St. Paul says in Acts 17 [:26–27]. However, I, too, am one of the coarse fellows who do not yet comprehend His creation, and (as I said) I have just begun to believe this, so that, as an old student and a doctor now almost at the end of my days, I must rightly wonder at how the people in our time know everything that the Holy Spirit knows as soon as they have so much as sniffed at a book. Yet they go off on their way and see nothing of the things God does daily before our eyes, which are both terrifying and comforting. They give it no heed, as if it were all a charlatan’s trick. Through Adam's sin human nature has fallen so far from God and his image – that is, from knowing Him [cf. Col. 3:10] – that we also do not understand our own body and life, how wonderfully these are daily created, granted, and preserved by God. Therefore, is it any wonder if we are obstinate, stubborn, utterly blind, and [insensible] logs toward His other wondrous works, which He reveals to us in all creatures, besides our own body and life?

Martin Luther, “Preface to Ambrosius Moibanus, The Twenty-Ninth Psalm, On the Power of the Voice of God in the Air, 1536.” Page 119 in vol. 60 of Luther’s Works, American Edition. Edited by Christopher Boyd Brown. St. Louis: Concordia, 2011.

Taken from Dr. Martin Luther’s preface to Ambrosius Moibanus’ exposition of the twenty-ninth Psalm of David; the exposition was inspired by a severe storm that ravaged Silesia in the summer and autumn of 1535. It distressed Moibanus when so few recognized God's almighty hand at work in the storm, and instead, interpreted it as a natural phenomenon or the work of the devil.  Moibanus was a leader of the Lutheran Reformation in his native homeland of Breslau (common day Wrocław, Poland), and studied in Wittenberg where he came in contact with Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and Johann Heß, among others. It is interesting to note that for Luther this was a subject he struggled with all throughout his life, and only began to accept its full significance toward the end of his days, as he so modestly reflects above. It is a hard pill to swallow indeed, to say that, for example, a tsunami affecting hundreds is somehow connected to an act of God upon unrepentant sinners. Later on Luther seems to say that men are pretentious to accept divine help, while shunning the divine calamity. How true of us today. Let us learn from this Psalm of David that the Lord sends blessings and strength to His people, as well as shaking the ground beneath our feet. 

Luther on Hus and the Council of Constance

I do not doubt that whoever reads or hears these letters, if he is reasonable or has any conscience before God, will have to say that there was an extraordinarily great spirit in this man, John Hus. He wrote and taught in such a Christian manner. He fought so valiantly against the trials of death. He suffered everything so patiently and humbly, and in the end he so manfully accepted the most shameful death for the sake of the truth. There were so many great and powerful people of high estate gathered from all over the world, and he stood there among them alone, like a little lamb among many lions and wolves. If he is to be considered a heretic, then surely there has never been a true Christian on earth. For by what fruits will one recognize a true Christian, if not by these fruits of John Hus?

He had done nothing worse than to teach that if the pope is not righteous, then he is not head of the holy Church. He allowed the pope to remain a head of the church, but not of the holy Church, just as a wicked pastor is a pastor, but not a member of the true saints in his parish. John Hus also said, "If the pope is a scoundrel, then he is not righteous even though he is supreme in the church." It is just as if you or I were to say, "If Judas is a thief and traitor, then he is not righteous, even if he is an apostle." But he ought to have said, "Even if the pope is a scoundrel and a villain, he is nevertheless holy and cannot err, and whatever he does or says is holy and right, nothing less than an article of faith." That is what the Lord's in the Council of Constance wanted to hear, no matter that they themselves surely condemned and deposed three popes as scoundrels, and yet no one was allowed to burn for that. But when John Hus said it, he had to submit [to the flames].

For the source of the conflict was that the pope had announced indulgences to the world and appointed a golden year at Rome in order to build the church of St. Peter, etc. And among other Roman and papal innovations the pope in his bulls promised all those who died on their way to Rome that they would immediately ascend to heaven and, in addition, that he (as an earthly god and God's vicar) had power to command the angels to lead such souls of the dead to heaven straightaway, just as Tetzel, who was selling the cardinal of Mainz’s indulgences, also taught that whenever a penny clinks in the chest, straightaway a soul flies from purgatory to heaven. Then they put away those pipes, and still keep them stored away, until they are able to pipe up such a dance again. . . .

. . . John Hus took a stand against these things in Prague . . . and he reproved them, saying that the pope did not have the power to do these things and had acted unjustly in these and other matters. . . . And when he was being led to the fire, he always had on his lips: "O Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me." And when he saw the stake, upon which he was to be burned, he fell to his knees and called out: "O Jesus, Son of God, who suffered for us, have mercy on me.”. . .

. . . However, if [Hus] is not a great martyr of Christ – a man able in death to call earnestly upon the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, who suffered for us, and to go into the fire for such a cause and with such a faith and confession – then no one can be saved. For [Jesus] says, "Whoever confesses Me before the world, him will I confess" [cf. Matt. 10:32]. In sum, the pope makes many saints, and who knows whether they are in hell? And he has thrown this man into hell, who certainly must be in heaven. So let the devil be your saint, and you be the saint of the devil, dear pope!

Martin Luther, “Preface and Afterword to John Hus, Three Letters Written to the Bohemians from Prison at Constance by the Most Holy Martyr [1415], 1536/1537.” Pages 126-128, 132, 133 in vol. 60 of Luther’s Works, American Edition. Edited by Christopher Boyd Brown. St. Louis: Concordia, 2011.