Archive for January, 2011

“All men live in order that they might know God”

You cannot find a man anywhere, however uncivilised or wild, who is without some idea of religion. This is because we have all been created to know the majesty of our Creator and, in knowing it, to think more highly of it than anything else. We are to honour it with all awe, love and reverence.

Unbelievers seek only to wipe out all memory of this sense of God which is planted in their hearts. Leaving them aside, we who claim to have a personal religion must call to mind that this present life will not last and will soon be over. We should spend it thinking about immortality.

Now, eternal and immortal life can be found nowhere except in God. It follows, then, that the main care and concern of our life should be to seek God. We should long for him with all the affection of our hearts, and not find rest and peace anywhere except in him alone.

—John Calvin, Truth For All Time: A Brief Outline Of The Christian Faith

This is how Calvin begins this amazing little book, which is his summary of the Christian Faith for the common person. It’s fairly short, coming in at 140 or so small pages with a large font, but it does an outstanding job of essentially summarizing his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which, in case you’ve just tuned in, is quite long. I highly recommend it!

“What is Love?”

In La Vita Nuova Dante speaks of a sonnet he wrote in response to a friend that asked him what Love was. This is the poem.

Love and the noble heart are but one thing,
Even as the wise man tells us in his rhyme,
The one without the other venturing
No more than reason from a reasoning mind.
Nature, disposed to love, creates Love king,
Making the heart a dwelling-place for him
Wherein he lies quiescent, slumbering
Sometimes a little, now a longer time.
Then beauty in a virtuous woman’s face
Pleases the eyes, striking the heart so deep
A yearning for the pleasing thing may rise.
Sometimes so long it lingers in that place
Love’s spirit is awakened from his sleep.
By a worthy man a woman’s moved likewise.

In his explanation of the poem, he divides it into two larger sections. “In the first I speak of Love as he is in potentiality; in the second I speak of him as potentiality made actual. The second part begins: Then beauty…” [emphasis mine]

Love as an abstract is not to be considered, because Love and a noble heart are like Reason and a reasoning mind. Love considered as potentiality is potential in the noble heart, asleep. Nature ordered this so. Love then awakens by the ministration of the spirit of the eyes and become actuality. Any other thoughts? This is not a cross post for my class. Though I may after corrective/refining comments do so.

Confessional Baptism

You tell me what to think from these variety of Confession/Catechetical formulations of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Article 34: The Sacrament of Baptism

We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, in whom the law is fulfilled, has by his shed blood put an end to every other shedding of blood, which anyone might do or wish to do in order to atone or satisfy for sins.

Having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, he established in its place the sacrament of baptism. By it we are received into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may be dedicated entirely to him, bearing his mark and sign. It also witnesses to us that he will be our God forever, since he is our gracious Father.

Therefore he has commanded that all those who belong to him be baptized with pure water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.^76

In this way he signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.

This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharoah, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.

So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies– namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works.

For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it– for we cannot be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.

For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.

And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults.

Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, just as the Lord commanded in the law that by offering a lamb for them the sacrament of the suffering and death of Christ would be granted them shortly after their birth. This was the sacrament of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the “circumcision of Christ.” -Belgic Confession

Chapter XVIII – Of Baptism

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,[1] not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church;[2] but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[3] of his ingrafting into Christ,[4] of regeneration,[5] of remission of sins,[6] and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.[7] Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.[8]

II. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called thereunto.[9]

III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.[10]

IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ,[11] but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.[12]

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[13] yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it:[14] or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.[15]

VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;[16] yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.[17]

VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.[18] – Westminster Confession of Faith

Q. 165. What is baptism?

A. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,[1058] to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself,[1059] of remission of sins by his blood,[1060] and regeneration by his Spirit;[1061] of adoption,[1062] and resurrection unto everlasting life;[1063] and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church,[1064] and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.[1065]

Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?

A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him,[1066] but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.[1067]

Q. 167. How is our baptism to be improved by us?

A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others;[1068] by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein;[1069] by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements;[1070] by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament;[1071] by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace;[1072] and by endeavoring to live by faith,[1073] to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness,[1074] as those that have therein given up their names to Christ;[1075] and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.[1076]

Q. 176. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?

A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God;[1137] the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits;[1138] both are seals of the same covenant,[1139] are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other;[1140] and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.[1141]

Q. 177. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?

A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ,[1142] and that even to infants;[1143] whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul,[1144] and to confirm our continuance and growth in him,[1145] and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.[1146] – Westminster Larger Catechism

Of Holy Baptism

Question 69. How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?

Answer: Thus: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, (a) adding thereto this promise, (b) that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, (c) as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away.

Question 70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?

Answer: It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ’s blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross; (a) and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives. (b)

Question 71. Where has Christ promised us, that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism?

Answer: In the institution of baptism, which is thus expressed: “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”, Matt.28:19. And “he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”, Mark 16:16. This promise is also repeated, where the scripture calls baptism “the washing of regenerations” and the washing away of sins. Tit.3:5, Acts 22:16. (a)

Question 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?

Answer: Not at all: (a) for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin. (b)

Question 73. Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism “the washing of regeneration,” and “the washing away of sins”?

Answer: God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; (a) but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water. (b)

Question 74. Are infants also to be baptized?

Answer: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; (a) and since redemption from sin (b) by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; (c) they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers (d) as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, (e) instead of which baptism is instituted (f) in the new covenant. – Heidelburg Catechism

 

Q. 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

 

A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Westminster Shorter Catechism

So, it’s the Incarnation again. What can I say? I could ponder this mystery endlessly. In this catechism answer, I’m particularly intrigued by the part about a reasonable soul. What is a soul? Are there unreasonable souls?

God in Himself

Can someone clearly define “knowing God as He is in Himself”? I would postulate that you cannot know God as He is in Himself in the sense that we do not have the ability to comprehend God’s thoughts about Himself (perfect and exhaustive knowledge). But for all intents and purposes, we can know God as He is in Himself in the sense that the Spirit relates to us the “Deep Things of God” in revealing Christ in His Glory, which allows us to know the Father because, if we have seen Him, then we have seen the Father. That sort of Trinitarian Knowledge I am fine with. But the Enlightenment style of objective knowledge of God as He is in Himself is absurd and prideful if you ask me…

Just the facts, ma’am.

Can a fact be separated from its interpretation?

Epistemological Ethics

So, here’s another vague, thought-provoking post where I won’t actually give any context or input in the actual post (I’ll wait for the comments section):

Is epistemology (the theory of knowledge, how we know what we know) a branch of ethics?