Monday, May 29, 2017

WCF LC Commentary

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Westminster Larger Catechism # 20

Q20. What is the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?

Answer: The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing of him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

References: Gen. 2:8,15-16; Gen. 1:28; Gen 1:26-29; Gen. 3:8; Gen. 2:3; Gal 3:12; Rom. 10:5; Gen. 2:9; Gen. 2:17

How many hours could one spend and but touch the surface of this statement. Dr. Green in his “Harmony of the Westminster Presbyterian Standards” touches only the covenant aspect of this portion of the standards. Personally, I find the question out of place under “providence” though all things happening since the creation are God’s upholding all things He has proposed through the power of His word alone, and thus this can be loosely considered providence. Nonetheless the personal communion mentioned and the continued direct interaction of God with His creation at this point in history (time) isn’t the “invisible” ordering of daily events so that all fall into place toward the glory of God, and the accomplishment of His holy purpose that I would normally use to define providence either special or common.

Though we see the beginning of the history of man, and the grace of God toward man shown from the beginning in the creation story, and providence was already in place since God had rested, along with the first covenant between God and man, and it is here we see the TULIP of the Reformed faith planted by the hand of God, I choose to focus on another aspect of this statement than the providence here revealed.

This concise statement gives to us the whole of the creation of man, and the economy wherein he was set to labor, and the setting of the stage for the promise of the redeemer first mentioned in the midst of the curse (seed of woman). Other than the finer detail of the creation, and its ordering as such, the Divines have given us the whole story in one short paragraph.

Whether by direct operation or providence isn’t an issue and is only pointed out to be complete as we move through the history of God’s revelation of Himself in history and the planting, watering, and growth of the Reformed TULIP. Yet in this ordering we see some of the greatest controversies of the theological world. These have raged from the beginning, referring to the differing interpretations of the Jewish schools as well as the Christian schools to appear after Christ. The only truth that can be known is that which God has revealed to begin with, and then only understood by the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit to remove the scales of sin so man can see clear enough to grasp the revealed truth.

An example is a controversy that has raged for decades, that of Infra/Supra- Lapsus, words meaning before or after the fall of man in the creation event, and referring specifically to the question; in the counsel (mind) of God, whether God thought of the election or the fall first. Scripture clearly states that none have ever known the mind of God. Some things God did not reveal to angels, and even the second person of the Trinity was not privy to all things (the date and time of the second coming). Each side righteously points to the verses wherein God’s word “seems” to favor one or the other ordering of this counsel (God’s way of thinking) of God as He ordered the events of creation, fall, election and redemption in history (time). Such is the nature of systematic theology and the way man thinks. We do need to try and divide things which I believe were instantaneous with God who works outside the binding of time, that we might understand and then apply His truth to life. Yet I think we must be careful not to infringe into areas God has chosen to let remain veiled. For this purpose the “theologians” of each generation are raised up by God, that we might have a contemporary voice to point to the ancient landmarks and guide us through the snares of the tempter for the present generation. I do not think undue attention to such detail, so as to distract the body of Christ should be undertaken by the untrained, nor be made part of public debate. Let the theologians do their duty, as the body as a whole goes about the work of the Lord.

How clear the trumpet of the Divines then sounds when compared with the modern’s attempt to rewrite the ancient creeds that we might understand them better. Surely they were guided in their work by the hand of God. Though their sessions were many and the arguments long and detailed, the result was a statement that reduced the volume of the Holy Writ without sacrificing one great truth. This lack of clarity of the warning trumpet of the modern church has seen her diminish almost to the point of death, as she sinks once more into the quagmire devised of hell and surely would be lost except for the declaration of victory that came from the lips of our Savior Himself that the gates of hell should not prevail against her. God warned of the consequences of removing the ancient landmarks to the church in the wilderness of the Old Testament, and this seems to be a warning ignored today. The movements abound today that call for a new creed all can embrace; we have sunken so low as to have those who would rewrite the Scared Word itself excluding what in “their mind” isn’t really from God. Not to be children! Harken once more to the voice of the fathers and let us fully understand from whence we came before we venture into whatever days the Lord has chosen to yet be before that final trumpet sounds. We need not a new creed when we neither understand nor heed the old. We cannot guide this family of God into the future without the ancient landmarks to set course by. Only where the Divines have missed Scripture do we have warrant to debate, and in this chapter I believe they have laid in place firm boundary lines that clearly show forth the Word of God in a way even a child might understand.

I am sure the academic wars will continue, and I know Satan must smile within to have the doctors of the church so involved in minutiae that they don’t see that he is moving the ancient boundaries before their eyes. So it is that our theologians have a double duty then. To help chart the course of the church, which requires delving into the most obscure and smallest of jots in the Holy Writ, and beyond. Nonetheless, they remain also as the teachers of our teachers, and must not lose sight of the duties of an overseer in the biblical sense. So it must be that they find time to lay pens aside and go to their knees, that they may rightly see what the duty of an overseer is, and reach into the next millennium with the concise clarity of these saints of old. Armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, may they rightly divide this word of truth and sound a new call to battle from a trumpet that sounds true. That all in hearing will understand, and gather for the battle of the King of Kings. Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly!

And what of the TULIP in this statement? Again we see God’s sovereignty as Creator and Sustainer shine forth as in the fifth petal. Knowing the whole story we can see the rest burst forth and once more in the beauty of the first garden the TULIP stands as one of God’s brightest flowers. In the statement as given, we do not yet have her necessity, but she has already been planted in anticipation of that need yet to come as our God holds true to Himself by first providing whatsoever He requires of His creation. How wondrous and infinite the grace and love of God toward man.

Dr. Chuck Baynard

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