Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WCF LC Commentary

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Westminster Larger Catechism #2

Question 2: How does it appear that there is a God?

Answer 2: The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God;[1] but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.[2]

As we began, the first thing I would like to do is tie this to the TULIP, sovereignty, and Scripture as the heart and soul of Reformed theology. Obviously the issue of Scripture, while lying at the foundation of all we do, for there cannot be any truth about God except that which He has revealed, and that most clearly in Scripture, is one of the two faces of the knowledge of God addressed in this question. Let us simply here agree that there is no other guide for faith or life than the Bible. The Bible is God’s progressive revelation of Himself, ending in the prophecy of the book of Revelation concerning the end times and return of Christ. While I believe that there is no issue of life here or afterwards that the Bible does not sufficiently address, its primary purpose is to reveal enough of God to His creation, that all would bow their knees in worship. Not parallel, but interwoven with this revelation of Himself, God sets forth His plan of salvation. His sovereignty ends all controversy of other ways to ascend this divine stairway. Jesus Christ, the substitutionary atonement being the only way. Thus the place of Scripture and God’s sovereignty are clear here. What about the TULIP? Which of these classic keys do we find being applied in question two?

First, we find the first petal leaping from the page as we see the inability of the creature to see this divine revelation, despite the clarity of the presentation in both nature (within and without mankind) and the Word of God. Total Depravity reigns supreme in man apart from the gracious and efficacious application of the Holy Spirit in regeneration of man.

Second, we find the petals unfolding in order as it is easily ascertained that it is only by unmerited and unconditional love God has chosen to so reveal Himself to man. The third petal likewise in turn spreads out its beauty before us since it is obvious that not all will accept this truth revealed by God Himself for the benefit of mankind. So, it would seem silly indeed to argue for anything other than a Limited Atonement.

As God’s revelation is progressive and perfectly ordered by God, we find our forefathers have so ordered the TULIP in this question. Petal four bursts forth at the exact place and time it should in consideration of this question. That none would understand and believe is the clear word of God in Romans 1:19-20. Were the creature able to resist, none would ever grasp the majesty of God’s glory He has chosen to reveal to all. Nonetheless, except with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, this revelation is in vain. Irresistible Grace remains a necessity if any are to be saved from themselves. Alas, we don’t see the Tulip burst into full bloom here, as it would be a stretch to bring in Perseverance of the Saints at this point.

The biggest theological argument at this point will however hinge on petal one and the depravity of man. This is usually presented as the ability versus inability of fallen man to see the revelation of God in both nature and Scripture. The liberal will deny God’s sovereignty and avow man has the ability to see and decide all things about God from the evidence thus presented. They will consistently declare man the sovereign of his own destiny. The hyper-Calvinist will claim man is so depraved he has a complete inability to know God exists from nature and cannot accept this truth in any way from Scripture. He removes from man any “free will” whereas his liberal counterpart gives man total control of his will. The Reformed truth lies somewhere between these points in a way that must surely remain one of the secret things of God. Scripture teaches of man’s free will, but just as clearly teaches of man’s inability to see, understand, or apply God’s truth in a way that will lead to salvation. “God working within you his good pleasure, both to will and do.” is not a verse that the limited mind of man can easily explain. My preferred wording is that God makes us willing to be willing through the providential care over the events in our lives. While some things are improper in and of themselves and are to be avoided, the end does not justify the means; I find that in the vast majority of life, the extreme of anything is bad for us. I think this is true with the debate of the ability of the creature to make all choices, or no choices in their lives concerning God’s revelation and His salvation of the elect.

This however doesn’t affect the truth of the material in question two. The devil himself acknowledges that God exists and trembles. God has shown himself to us in the nature of the creature (man) through the natural “instinct” we see in every culture to leave its traces on earth to worship. To worship seems to be the point of light remaining in the fallen human race. As with the answer to LC 2 so eloquently declares, Scripture energizes this spark so that it breaks forth as bright as the sun in the heart of God’s chosen ones. We also see the glory and power of God in all of creation around us. Even fallen man will admit the beauty and glory came not by chance (evolution) but surely had a designer. The existence of the order in the universe not only declares, but makes God a necessity. Scripture takes this natural revelation of God to its conclusion in the salvation of man through Jesus Christ.

by Dr. Chuck Baynard

[1]  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. {in them: or, to them} For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: {so…: or, that they may be} (Romans 1:19-20 AV)

<<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.>> The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. {where…: or, without these their voice is heard: Heb. without their voice heard} (Psalms 19:1-3 AV)

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:28 AV)

[2]  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 AV)

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. {throughly…: or, perfected} (2 Timothy 3:15-17 AV)

As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.  (Isaiah 59:21 AV)

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