God’s Acts of Providence (54)

1024px-caravaggio_incredulityMeditation on God’s Providence (11)

The Scale of Doubt and Faith (2)

My point is that, if God did indeed choose to create a faith that required the invasion of a divine act, called grace, by which it could become active and effective within an elect group, wouldn’t it be consistent to make that faith impossible to accept by reason alone?  I believe so.  For as much as the historical events argue for the amazing proof of God’s truth and power at work in Christ and the creation of His Church to the redeemed, they look like so much superstitious, irrational drivel to the unredeemed.

This is a hard conclusion for some Christians to accept, for it places them on the “wrong” side of our society’s norms, which stress rationality and science as the ultimate values for members in good standing.  The militant atheism at play now is simply the confident resurgence of latent doubt that has always been there, but that has been previously repressed in the West (and the United States particularly) due to the dominance of Christian mores.

The Apostle Paul knew well the radical disconnect between Christ’s Gospel and the expectations of the world.  He also knew what would be the response to such a proclaimed belief, and in 1 Corinthians 4:9,10, speaks down through the centuries to us.

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  

We still desire greatly for the larger society to judge us as wise and honored in Christ.  They may appear to do so if they fear our power to effect their funding or otherwise impair their material well-being.  In some cases, the course of events intersecting with Christianity’s moral teaching may indeed yield admiration.

But deep down, at the hidden place where souls are laid bare in the unreachable depths of God’s eternal decree, we stand alone at the precipice of a mystery that no reason can penetrate.  Those who are saved unto eternal life find a strange but beautiful Truth growing within our minds, a power not of us transforming our very bodies and souls at work.

We should know better than to speak of anyone else as outside of God’s grace, for it is only for God and Him alone to know and act so as to bring this grace into lives as He sees fit.  But we do observe that what appears clear and powerfully true to us is nothing short of incomprehensible, if not folly, to some to whom we would like to communicate its presence.  The words of Scripture fall to the ground as empty fables.  We are as if living in different worlds.

And so, I end this section with the seemingly harsh words of John Calvin[1].  We call him harsh because he followed the logic of Scripture to where it apparently led, to the best of his ability.

J. I. Packer,[2] in his Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ[3] had this to say about Calvinistic theology:

Now the real nature of Calvinistic soteriology[4] becomes plain. It is no artificial oddity, nor a product of over-bold logic. Its central confession, that God saves sinners, that Christ redeemed us by His blood, is the witness both of the Bible and of the believing heart. The Calvinist is the Christian who confesses before men in his theology just what he believes in his heart before God when he prays. He thinks and speaks at all times of the sovereign grace of God in the way that every Christian does when he pleads for the souls of others, or when he obeys the impulse of worship which rises unbidden within him, prompting him to deny himself all praise and to give all the glory of his salvation to his Saviour. Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ…

I’m not one bit against examining Calvin’s theology or the Confession’s doctrinal conclusions with Scripture as our guide.  What I do object to is the arbitrary walling off of certain theological lines of thought because they conflict with our own conceptions of justice.  To accept this position is to unseat God as king and relegate His Word to irrelevancy.

So, finally, Calvin may speak.

In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom He would admit to salvation, and whom He would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on His gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom He devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals His elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of His name and the sanctification of His Spirit, He affords an indication of the judgment that awaits them.


[1] John Calvin (July 10, 1509 – May 27, 1564) was a French Protestant theologian during the Protestant Reformation and was a central developer of the system of Christian theology called Calvinism or Reformed theology. In Geneva, his ministry both attracted other Protestant refugees and over time made that city a major force in the spread of Reformed theology. He is famous for his teachings and writings, in particular for his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

[2] James Innell Packer (born July 22, 1926) is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is considered one of the most influential evangelicals in North America.

[3] 1958 reprint

[4] so·te·ri·ol·o·gy n

the Christian doctrine that salvation has been brought about by Jesus Christ [9]

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