A Summary of the Communicable Attributes of God

God’s communicable attributes are those that belong to God alone but are also predicable of creatures in an analogical sense.

I. Omniscience and Omnipotence: God’s Knowledge, Wisdom, and Power
God is all-knowing. Our knowledge is partial, ectypal, composite, and learned, but God’s is complete, archetypal, simple, and innate. God’s knowledge and wisdom are true (logically as well as ethically) because God is truth. God’s knowledge is consistent with all his other attributes; he knows independently, eternally, and unchangeably, in harmony with his wisdom, power, and faithfulness. God’s knowledge of creaturely existence and history is exhaustive because he has decreed all things from the beginning and works all things according to his will (Eph. 1:11).

A. Free Agents and the Infinite-Qualitative Distinction
Debates over divine and human freedom often share a problematic assumption that “freedom” is the same sort of reality for God and for humans. Hyper-Calvinists and Arminians (especially open theists) are both wrong in supposing there is only one “freedom pie” that must be apportioned between God and us. “Freedom” is analogically rather than univocally applied to God and humans: God has all the freedom appropriate to him as God, and we have all the freedom appropriate to us as (fallen) creatures who live and move and have our being in God and his sovereign, good purposes Just as in the paradigmatic examples of Joseph’s slavery in Egypt (Gen. 50:20) and the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23), God’s free decree does not take away human freedom or moral responsibility but establishes it.

B.  Sovereignty and Omniscience
God knows our thoughts completely, but his are inaccessible to us apart from accommodated revelation—and his way of knowing transcends us entirely. On one hand, Scripture teaches that God has predestined the free acts of human beings; on the other hand, God manifests himself as a genuine partner in human history. God genuinely invites the whole world to salvation in his Son yet effectually calls and gives faith to all and only those whom he has elected from eternity. Though God’s revealed purposes are sometimes thwarted or changed, his unchanging purposes (the “secret things” of God, Deut. 29:29) cannot fail.

C. Sovereignty and Omnipresence
Because God is Trinity, he acts not only upon creation externally but also with and in it—not only causing but winning and effecting real creaturely willing and consent. A biblical view of God’s sovereignty must recognize the following three correlatives.

  1. Only when we see that God is qualitatively distinct from creation can we see that he is free to be the Creator and Redeemer, while we are free to be creatures and the redeemed.
  2. Only when we understand God’s sovereignty in light of his simplicity can we avoid the notion of divine despot, with an absolute will unconditioned by his intrinsic character.
  3. We must always bear in mind that in every exercise of will and power, God is not a solitary monad but Father, Son, and Spirit; sovereignty is not brute force or unmediated control.

II.       Goodness, Love, and Mercy
God’s knowledge, wisdom, and power are inseparable from his goodness, love, and mercy. God is independent in his goodness and love and thus is free to be good to all he has made and to love even his enemies. We can never pit God’s love against his other attributes, idolizing “love” in a way that marginalizes God’s sovereignty or goodness (including his righteousness, holiness, and so on). The clearest witness to the complete consistency between all God’s attributes is the cross. If God’s love could trump his other moral attributes, the cross represents the cruelest waste. Rather, what makes God’s love so comforting is that it is unconditioned by anything in us, expressed out of satisfied abundance rather than lack or fear. While God is not free to be unmerciful, he is free to decide whether he will have mercy on some rather than others—this is, after all, the opposite of every sinner’s just deserts. Indeed, grace is not something (else) that God gives but God’s own redeeming favor shown to the undeserving on account of Christ.

III.     Holiness, Righteousness, and Justice
At the same time that God is good, loving, and merciful, he is holy—distinct from all creatures in his being, majesty, and ethical purity. The merciful character of God’s holiness reveals his movement toward impure creatures in covenant love, setting apart a holy people for himself. In the Old Testament righteousness is both a forensic and relational term—a “right relationship.” Although God’s righteousness is intrinsically related to his mercy (since he is just and the justifier of the ungodly), his righteousness cannot be collapsed into his mercy. As the revelation of his moral will (law), God is perfectly righteous to condemn all as transgressors; as the revelation of his will to save (gospel), God is perfectly just to forgive and redeem through faith in Christ. In both cases, God upholds his righteousness.

IV.     Jealousy and Wrath
Like his mercy and grace, God’s jealousy and wrath are displayed only in response to an offense. God does not need to show mercy or wrath in order to be who he is, but these are the responses we should expect from God who is good, holy, and just. The doctrine of analogy again proves fruitful in considering God’s jealousy and wrath, which carry almost entirely negative connotations in our human experience. Instead of denying these clearly biblical attributes of God, we must reinterpret our understanding of according to how God has described himself to us. God’s wrath always expresses his wisdom and love, which have been spurned and transgressed by those whom he created to love. God who is holy, righteous, and loving must exercise wrath against sin, injustice, and hate. The unique lordship of YHWH is a constant theme in Scripture, as is God’s jealousy for his name, his glory, and his people’s covenantal allegiance. God’s jealousy must be understood in light of his exclusivity: God is God alone. In us, jealousy is often a form of coveting that which is not really ours; in God, jealousy is a form of protecting his character and his people, which are both precious to him.

(HT: A summary of Michael Horton’s, The Christian Faith, Chapter Seven)

Advertisements

The Doctrinal and Practical Standards for Local Church Membership According to the Bible and the Second London Confession of Faith

James M. Renihan writes,

The first standard for membership must be a living faith in Jesus Christ, evidenced in the baptismal commitment. As we shall see, this does not mean or imply a full-blown theological understanding of the Christian faith. It simply means that every individual must be able to express his or her conviction that God has saved them through Christ… Here is a second standard; in the case of Saul, it was ethical. A man who was notorious for his hatred of Christ and his church, even to the point of persecution, was held away from membership. Evidence of genuine submission to the Lordship of Christ is essential prior to acceptance into his church.

Those that know of, or run in the Reformed Baptist (Confessional) circles know there are commonly two sides of RB’s in America today. Some have generalize by classifying them as heavy eldership (Al Martin) and those that see the primary role of the elder as a servant (Walter Chantry). While trying to engage myself with Reform Baptists Churches in the past (two for the record), I came away with the same concern from both – their theology of church membership, or the lack there of. While some became members within weeks, others became members after jumping through hoops, then occasionally there is the seminary graduate that was rung through the mill, theologically examined, and given a checklist of do’s and don’ts in order to become a member of God’s church. There was no standard, no consistency, and no understanding (or very little) of the confessional stance on permitting members into a RB church. I had not, till this morning read James M. Renihan’s very helpful article from the 2005 ARBCA General Assembly on “The Doctrinal and Practical Standards for Local Church Membership According to the Bible and the Second London Confession of Faith.” I imagine the world a much better place if ARBCA churches actually held to this understanding of membership in the 1689.

You can read the full article via PDF here.

HT: The Confessing Baptist


God’s Covenant with Adam

I found this quote by John Murray very helpful in understanding Adam’s role in Covenant of Works during Sunday-school this morning. Thought I’d share it.

The obedience rendered would not have been meritorious. Adam owed God whole-hearted obedience. All Adam could have claimed on the basis of equity was life as long as he obeyed. That Adam would be secured in life was gracious. The probation was God’s gracious way of securing mankind in indefectibility.”

Taken from John Murray’s “The Adamic Administration.” Collected Writings of John Murray. Vol. 2, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977. pp. 47-59.

For a deeper study and read on the topic read Chalres Hodge, “Covenant of Works.” Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003. pp. 117-122. If you have other articles, essay’s or reads you’d suggest, please leave them in the comments below.


What Really is a Reformed Baptist Church Anymore?

What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? William Payne

What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? Jim Savastio

Who Are The Reformed Baptists? Poh Boon Sing, Damansara Church, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Earl M. Blackburn,Heritage Baptist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana

What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? Reformed Baptist Church of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? Andrew Kerkham, Tauranga Reformed Baptist Church, Papamoa, Tauranga, New Zealand


L.S. Chafer Compared to Charles Hodge

DISPENSATIONALISM AND COVENANT THEOLOGY

The following are the major differences between these two systems of theology. They represent the mainstreams of both systems, though there are variations in each. Representative systematic theologies are those of L.S. Chafer and Charles Hodge.

DISPENSATIONALISM

COVENANT THEOLOGY

1. May be Arminian or modified Calvinist.   Almost never 5-point Calvinist. 1.Always Calvinist.  Usually 5-point.
2. Stresses ‘literal’ interpretation of the Bible. 2.Accepts both literal and figurativeinterpretation of the Bible.
3. Usually does not accept the idea of the ‘Analogy of Faith.’ 3. Almost always accepts the idea of The ‘Analogy of Faith.’
4. ‘Israel’ always means only the literal, physical descendants of Jacob. 4. ‘Israel’ may mean either literal, physicaldescendants of Jacob or the figurative,spiritual Israel, depending on context.
5. ‘Israel of God’ in Gal. 6:16 means physical Israel alone. 5.  ‘Israel of God’ in Gal. 6:16 means spiritual Israel, parallel to Gal. 3:29; Rom. 2:28029, 9:6; Phil. 3:3.
6. God has 2 peoples with 2 separate destinies: Israel (earthly) and the Church (heavenly). 6.  God has always had only 1 people, the Church gradually developed.
7. The Church was born at Pentecost. 7.  The Church began in O. T. (Acts 7:38) and reached fulfillment in the N. T.
8. The Church was not prophesied as such in the O.T. but was a hidden mystery until the N.T. 8.  There are many O. T. prophecies of the N. T. Church.
9. All O.T. prophecies for ‘Israel’ are for literal Israel, not the Church.’ 9.  Some O. T. prophecies are for literal Israel, others are for spiritual Israel.
10. God’s main purpose in history is literal Israel. 10.  God’s main purpose in history is Christand secondarily the Church.
11. The Church is a parenthesis in God’s program for the ages. 11.  The Church is the culmination of God’s saving purpose for the ages.
12. The main heir to Abraham’s covenant was Isaac and literal Israel. 12.  The main heir to Abraham’s covenantand was Christ and spiritual Israel.
13. There was no eternal Covenant of Redemption within the Trinity. 13.  The eternal Covenant of Redemption was within the Trinity to effect election.
14. There was no Covenant of Works with Adam in the Garden of Eden. 14.  God made a conditional Covenant of Works with Adam as representative forall his posterity.
15. There was no Covenant of Grace concerning Adam. 15.  God made a Covenant of Grace with Christ and His people, including Adam.
16. Israel was rash to accept the Covenant at Mt. Sinai. 16.  Israel was right to accept the Covenant Mt.  Sinai.
17. The ‘New Covenant’ of Jer. 31:31- 34 is only for literal Israel and is not the New Covenant of Lk.22:20. 17.  The ‘New Covenant’ of Jer. 31 is the same as in Lk. 22; both are for spiritual Israel according to Heb. 8.
18. God’s program in history is mainly through separate dispensations. 18.  God’s program in history is mainly through related covenants.
19. Some Dispensationalists have said that O. T. sinners were saved by works. 19.  No man has ever been saved by works, but only by grace.
20. Most Dispensationalists teach that men in the O.T. were saved by faith in a revelation peculiar to their dispensation, but this did not include faith in the Messiah as their sin-bearer. 20.  All men who have ever been saved have been saved by faith in Christ as their sin-bearer, which has been progressively revealed in every age.
21. The O.T. sacrifices were not recognized as the Gospel or types of the Messiah as sin-bearer, but only seen as such in retrospect. 21.  O. T. believers believed in the Gospel of Messiah as sin-bearer mainly by the sacrifices as types and prophecies.
22. The Holy Spirit indwells only believers in the dispensation of Grace, not O.T. and not after the Rapture. 22.  The Holy Spirit has indwelt believers in all ages, especially in the present N. T. era, and will not be withdrawn.
23. Jesus.made an offer of the literal Kingdom to Israel; since Israel rejected it, it is postponed. 23.  Jesus made only an offer of the spiritual Kingdom, which was rejected by literal Israel but has gradually been accepted by spiritual Israel.
24. O.T. believers were not in Christ, not part of the Body or Bride of Christ. 24.  Believers in all ages are all ‘in Christ’ and part of the Body and Bride of Christ.
25. The Law has been abolished. 25.  The Law has 3 uses: to restrain sin in society, to lead to Christ, and to instruct Christians in godliness.  The ceremonial Laws have been abolished; the civil laws have been abolished except for their general equity; the moral laws continue.
26. O. T. laws are no longer in effect unless repeated in the N.T. 26.  O. T. laws are still in effect unless abrogated in the N.T.
27. The Millenium is the Kingdom of God. Dispensationalists are always Pre-Millenialand usually Pre-Tribulational. 27.  The Church is the Kingdom of God.  Covenanters are usually Amillenial, sometimes Pre-Millenial or Post-Millenial, rarely Pre-Tribulational.
28. The O.T. animal sacrifices will be restored in the Millenium. 28.  The O. T. sacrifices were fulfilled and forever abolished in Christ.
29. The Millenium will fulfill the Covenant to Abraham. Israel has a future. 29.  Christ fulfilled the Covenant to Abraham.  Some Covenanters believe in a future forliteral Israel, most don’t.
30. David will sit on the Millenial throne in Jerusalem. 30.  Christ alone sits on the throne. Saints rule under Him.

Happy Reformation Day!

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.” Martin Luther

Eph. 2:8-10: “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – The Apostle Paul


The Necessity of Doing Theology

The necessity of self-defense.

The church dwells in the midst of the world and is not of the world. Her testimony causes all kinds of reactions. Often the church must confess that there is a lethargic spiritual life, that there are all kinds of divisions. There is conformity to the world. There are other sorrowful matters and these all cause the church too often to place her confession and faith underneath a bushel. The strength of her testimony was gone.

Too often the church has withdrawn herself into a self-satisfied retreat from the world and sought her strength in her isolation. Then the church herself was the cause that the world forgot the church and had no interest in her message.

But everywhere where the church confesses and stands in the midst of the world with her confession, then the world cannot live undecided towards the church. Her testimony is too intrusive, too divisive, and too radical according to the standards of the world. Then the church does not allow people to have a calm conscience if they live outside of the Lord. The result is that hate scorn and suffering are laid upon the church.

The church may then never defend herself with carnal weapons or with sword, but with the clear testimony of the truth. To glorify her king the church will testify of God’s Word, prove her innocence and publicly proclaim what doctrine she propagates.

The church has to defend also changes and reformations why certain matters are changed.


The Necessity of Confessions

The existence of the church itself calls for confessions to be written…

The faith that is within the believers has to be confessed. The heart is full of it and must be pronounced. That counts for the individual believer but also for the church as a whole. In the Scriptures the mysteries of godliness are reflected and they are embraced by faith in the heart. The result is that the believer confesses these matters with his lips. The church knows about God, and Divine matters, about the creation and fall and sin and reconciliation through the mediator and His blessed work and about the future judgment and the final condemnation of the wicked. These matters are perfectly well known and must be confessed. Because the church exists therefore confessions must exist. It is a given.  There have to be clear delineated concepts of the truth. This is not a matter that she can take or leave; it is an essential aspect of being a church. Otherwise she ceases to be a church.


Reformation Worship Conference

The Reformation Worship Conference is an outstanding opportunity for pastors, elders, leaders, and church members to gather to hear some of the leading experts in Reformed Worship. The Conference will be held in suburban Atlanta, Oct. 21-24, featuring Hughes Old, Terry Johnson, T. David Gordon, Mark Ross, Roy Taylor, Carl Robbins, Jon Payne, and others. Special sessions for church musicians will be held, and embedded within the conference is a seminary course by Dr. Hughes Old (also available for D. Min. credit).

Early registration is available until Aug. 31, so don’t miss this opportunity to bring many from your church or presbytery for this outstanding conference.


Happy Reformation Day!


Extra Theology

These were some links on my old blog that I would like to carry over, in case one might want to use this as a data base. They are listed below.