What is a Human Being?

What a chimera is man!  What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy!  Judge of all things, an imbecile worm, a depository of truth, and a sewer of error and doubt – the glory and refuse of the universe. – Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

The Ecclesiological Significance of the Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection is of the greatest significance not only for believers personally, but also for the church as church.  The church is the church of the resurrection!  Without Christ’s resurrection, the existence of the church would be an enigma.  In the absence of the redemption fact of His resurrection, there would be no church!

On the day of His resurrection, the Savior was already gathering His followers.  Today, He carries on with His work of gathering His church.  The King of resurrection gathers His church in the unity of the true faith.

He who has all power commanded all nations to be made His disciples and added the promise: “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28.18-20).  This command must be seen in the context of Christology and, in its execution, the church is dependent on the Holy Spirit (see John 20.22; Acts 1.8).  Then, the apostles give their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus “with great power” (Acts 4.33).

The proclamation of salvation that is given to us in His resurrection culminates in the exhortation to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15.58).  It is the work of the Lord because He stands behind it and it is done at His command.  We may know that it is not in vain in the Lord.

From: Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema; translated from the Dutch by Gerrit Bilkes and Ed M. van der Maas (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), p. 496.  Dutch original published in 1992.

On the Atonement

The enmity between God and us began on our part.  The peace which He has made begins and ends with Himself. – John Owen (1616-1683)

The wrong that man had done to the divine majesty should be expiated by none but man, and could be by none but God. – John Howe (1630-1705)

The Correct Question

The Lord “answered” Job (verse 1).  In speaking to Job, God never addressed the problem of suffering, though He gave him the answer he needed.  Job and the other men had been trying to answer Why?  But this was the wrong question, which accounts for all their wrong answers.  The right question was not Why? but Who?  Once Job understood who he was (verse 2; 42.3) and who God is (verses 5-6; etc.), all was well.  The ultimate answer to all our questions about evil and suffering is not information, but a person: the Lord Himself.  The heart cry of believers is always to see the glory of their God and Savior.  One day, that cry will be answered forever (John 17.24; Titus 2.13).

From: Family Bible Worship Guide, Joel R. Beeke, general editor (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), p. 344.  The quoted text is comment #2 for Job 38.

What Would You Do With Hezekiah’s Additional Fifteen Years?

Were I to enjoy Hezekiah’s grant and to have fifteen years added to my life, I would be much more frequent in my applications to the throne of grace.  Were I to renew my studies, I would take my leave of those accomplished trifles – the historians, the orators, the poets of antiquity – and devote my attention to the Scriptures of truth.  I would sit with much greater assiduity at my divine Master’s feet and desire to know nothing but “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2.2].  This wisdom, whose fruits are peace in life, consolation in death, and everlasting salvation after death – this I would trace, this I would seek, this I would explore through the spacious and delightful fields of the Old and New Testaments. – James Hervey (1714-1758), commenting on Psalm 119.97.

For the Lord’s Day (484)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So, death is at work in us, but life in you.  (2 Corinthians 4.7-12)

Matthew Henry (8)

Let us learn, hence, to cast our care upon providence, to follow and attend the motions of it, composing ourselves into an expectation of the event, with a resolution to acquiesce in it, whatever it be.  Sometimes that proves best done for us that is least our own doing.  “Sit still,” therefore, “and see how the matter will fall,” and say, “Let it fall how it will, I am ready for it.” – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on Ruth 3.14-18.

Patience

Patience is that virtue which had rather suffer evil and do none than do evil and suffer none. – Thomas Adams (1583-1652)

The Highest Form of Wisdom

The highest form of wisdom accessible to man is theological wisdom, but no single theology could possibly exhaust the truth content of Scripture.  Indeed, if this were possible, it would mean that the human mind could attain a knowledge of God which would be equal in perfection to the knowledge of God Himself.  Hence, a plurality of Christian theologies, each of which represents a distinct attempt on the part of human reason to gain a finite view of an infinite object.  These attempts are not all equally successful nor are we left to ourselves in the task of determining their respective values. . .

From: The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine by Etienne Gilson; translated from the French by L. E. M. Lynch (New York: Vintage Books, 1960), p. viii.  The translation is of the second French edition of 1943.

Etienne Gilson (1889-1978) was a French Roman Catholic philosopher, historian of philosophy, educator, and author.  He was elected to membership in the French Academy in 1946.

The Value of the Church Fathers for Systematic Theology

Systematic theology is a fallible discipline; only the Bible is an infallible guide for faith and practice.  However, theology should not be done in a vacuum – just as we can see farther spatially if we stand on the shoulders of giants, we likewise can see further theologically if we stand on the shoulders of the church fathers.  One ignores the works of these great teachers at his own peril.  As with other disciplines, he who ignores the past is condemned to repeat its errors.

Considering seriously the enduring teachings of the orthodox Fathers of the past is essential in constructing a viable evangelical systematic theology for the present.  The church has struggled long and hard with understanding God’s revelations to us and, as a result, the historic orthodox expressions of Christian truth have stood the test of time.  To summarize, an adequate evangelical theology must be molded in the context of the ecumenical truth of the historic orthodox Christian church.

While not everything that every orthodox Father said on every theological topic is binding on contemporary evangelical theology, nonetheless, no one has any right to claim orthodoxy for any teaching that has been condemned by any of the ecumenical creeds, confessions, or councils of the church of the first five centuries.  Likewise, any teaching not addressed in the ecumenical creeds and councils that is contrary to the universal consent of the Fathers should be considered highly suspect.  The burden of proof rests on anyone who wishes to hold to any such precepts; he must have overwhelmingly clear and convincing evidence from infallible Scripture.

These tests for orthodoxy can be summarized as follows: (1) What is contrary to ecumenical creeds, councils, and confessions is certainly unorthodox; (2) What is not addressed in the ecumenical creeds, councils, and confessions but is contrary to the universal consent of the Fathers is almost certainly unorthodox; and (3) What is contrary to the general consent of the Fathers is highly suspect.  It is within these parameters that we employ the use of the teachings of the great theologians of the historic Christian church.

From: Systematic Theology (in One Volume) by Norman L. Geisler (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), pp. 163-164.