A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yes, You Can Know Reality!

The Age of Irrationalism

There is a light that lights every man that comes into the world, according to the Apostle John, who was not a
fool [John 1:9]. In fact, John wrote in his first epistle that he and the other apostles had intimate knowledge of
that Light:

(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life,
which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we
unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his
Son Jesus Christ. –1John 1:2,3

John and the apostles were not ontological agnostics, which is the reigning religion of the modern world. The
ontological agnostic [the OA] cannot not say anything about reality, but only can give you his view of it. 
“That’s my opinion and you have yours,” is the way he puts it, humbly, of course, for he really knows that he
is humble, and those who are certain of things are proud and pushy. He wouldn’t dare be pushy and proud
because his opinion is that pushy and proud are bad.

It seems very humble to him—did I already say that?—to think that the real truth about God cannot be
known. There is so much strife and trouble when people get certain about God, and the OA hates religious
strife. He doesn’t like people who are not OA’s and tends to shun their company. The better educated the
OA is the more settled he becomes in his opinion that there is nothing true that can be said about God except
that nobody should say anything about God, for he has heard many learned and profound lectures to packed
classrooms about God and His infinite unknowability. The subject is very deep and only a very learned
person could say so much about that of which nothing can or should be said.

“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his
might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and
knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth:
for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24)

It is a good thing to glory in the knowledge of God and foolish to deny its truth, especially that God is active
in the world in kindness, judgment, and righteousness. There are those who know these things for they seek
for wisdom as for hidden treasures. [Proverbs 2] Others are willingly ignorant. [2Peter 3:5]

Very Religious.
The OA is religious, of course, and feels awe at the great abyss in his mind that he calls God. He might get tears
in his eyes at the wonder of the utter void and bottomless grandeur of what he doesn’t know about God—
the glory of undifferentiated meaning. As I said, he is very religious, muttering about mystery, myth, and

Called to Non-Thinking?
The call of the Gospel is for men to forsake their thoughts and their unrighteous deeds, but the Gospel is not
a call to non-thinking or non-doing. Because God is often silent doesn’t mean that He has no Word. [Psalm

Jesus assumed that a rational man would know that his soul was worth more than the whole world. Just as
Nebuchadnezzar knew that his dream of the great tree in Daniel 4 was expected to make sense to him, so
there are things revealed in the very being of man which man must understand. Jesus’ words and
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were expected to connect to things in a man that only a fool would deny. It is the
fool who says there is no god, precisely because he is a fool and out of touch.

It just doesn’t make sense to gain the world and lose the soul. As Hamlet’s friend told him, “It takes no ghost
from the grave to tell us this, m’Lord.” The Apostle Paul put it this way, “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:” (Ro 1:20 av)

What Are You Worth?
Why wouldn’t anyone know that a man is worth more than a sparrow? Of course, a mind so steeped in
idolatry that it can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw, might argue for equal rights for the sparrow, but the Lord
doesn’t try to prove the obvious. He assumed that nobody but a fool would deny that a man is worth many
sparrows. From this sensible concept He argued that the God that takes care of the sparrows will certainly
take care of men who are worth more than sparrows. Only an OA would doubt the force of the argument.

In the same way, when our Lord was accused of practicing medicine arts on the Sabbath by healing a poor
sick woman, He argued that this daughter of Abraham was worth far more than an ox. “Which of you,” He
said, “would not get your ox out of the stall on the Sabbath and lead him away to watering?” He called them
hypocrites, and they were, for they knew that the stupid stuff they were advancing as godliness was stupid
stuff. Jesus’ words didn’t make the stuff stupid; He is the Light that exposes stupid stuff.

As if this were not enough, Jesus went after those who worried more about clothes than the body. How
stupid is that? “Is not the body more than raiment?” He asked. Is not the body the instrument by which we
connect to other minds? Shouldn’t we, therefore, take more care of the body than we do of our clothes? But
you have to know what the body is, before you can figure that out. But with all their folly, didn’t even the
ancient pagans know that the mind was more than the body?

And what of life itself? Are w given the great gift of life to stuff our bodies with food? Isn’t life more than
food? Only by non-thinking can the Christian be stupid enough to say, “You cannot trust your thoughts,” and
go through the motions of life without study of his Bible. Real study makes you think and meditate, but some
really are convinced that those who think do not truly believe. Only the blind leading the blind would advise
not thinking in the reading of the Bible.

Isn’t It Insane? Jesus said that a sensible man should know the difference between a gnat and a camel: that
law, mercy, and judgment are more important than the tithe of mint, anise, and cumin. Jesus reveals sin as a
kind of insanity, a suspension of reason, a mental sickness. It is precisely this suspension of thought that the
Light came to change: to deliver man from the darkness corrupting his mind—this disconnection from reality.

Forsake Wicked Thoughts; Not Thinking.
The unrighteous man is called to forsake his thoughts, but not to forsake thinking. The Lord told the man who
buried his talent that he should have put the money out to usury. But wait! Didn’t the law forbid usury? He is
faulted precisely for his rebellious ignorance. Blind obedience is not obedience, not for a man created in the
image of God. It is a great fool who would strain out the gnats and swallow camels. Only those bereft of
reason would do so. We are warned of being like horses and mules, whose mouths must be held in with bit
and bridle. They need bits and bridles precisely because they have no understanding. [Psalm 32:9]

It is not true that man cannot know the nature of things. He can know what a pig is, what a cow is, and
which one not to milk. It is childish not to know: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age,even
those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 5:14)

Soundness of mind is the gift of the Spirit. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of
love, and of a sound mind.” (2Ti 1:7). The Holy Spirit does not trade in madness. “Hear now this, O foolish
people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:” (Jer 5:21

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Do You Access the Grace of God?

Access into Grace

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we 
have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. --Romans 

In the theological battles that followed the Protestant Reformation none were more important than the 
struggle over the relationship of faith to the salvation of the soul. Against Rome the Reformers insisted that 
salvation was by faith alone. Against the Reformation, Rome expressed her doctrine clearly at the Council of 
Trent: Sixth Session:

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that 
nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in 
any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

The issue was, and is, not unimportant. Rome has never yielded on this, for to do so would eliminate the 
whole system upon which her wealth and influence depend.

But a major crack soon appeared in the ranks of those who opposed Rome. The Remonstrance [followers 
of Arminius] and the Socinians [Unitarians] brought in a deadly error that has become widespread in 
evangelical circles in America. This was the idea that faith takes the place of righteousness in the eyes of 
God. The faith of the individual substitutes for Christ’s righteousness. Subjectivism replaces the objective 
anchor of the obedience of Christ.

Although there were many variations of the error, the essentials were something like this: “God knows that no 
sinner can do that which will make him just before God. Obedience to all the precepts of the Law of God 
lies beyond man. Man would therefore be without hope, if God did not require of him something which man 
could do. 

In mercy and grace, God sent His Son into the world to show man that He loved him. If man 
would just open his heart and believe that God loves him, then God would accept his faith instead of 
obedience to His law. Like a bankrupt, man cannot pay the whole bill, but God will accept what man can 
pay. Man can choose to believe, and God accepts that faith in place of righteousness. God accepts man’s 
good intentions of which faith is the prize and gem.”

The doctrine does not bear the weight of the examination of Scripture. The Bible is clear. It is the 
righteousness of Jesus Christ, and His perfect obedience to the law, including suffering its penalty on the 
cross, which clears man’s debt and sets him free. God cannot deny Himself, and He cannot pretend that man 
has fulfilled the law when man hasn’t done so. Justification is not based upon some pretense in God or some 
overlooking of transgression. This would require God to deny His own word: Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy 
for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ; visiting 
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the 
fourth generation. The mercy that God shows does not involve clearing the guilty.

The text quoted above gives the true doctrine. It is by faith that we have access into the grace wherein we 
stand. It is grace that brings us to Jesus Christ, and it is His righteousness that satisfies the debt we owe to 
God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the 
righteousness of God in him.

The righteousness which the redeemed offer to God has nothing of them, but is wholly the perfect 
righteousness of Jesus Christ. He took our sin, so that His righteousness could be imputed to us. Paul clearly 
makes the case in Romans 7:18,19 “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to 
condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made 

Just as the sin of Adam came upon all men to condemnation, so the righteousness of Jesus Christ comes 
upon all those who believe in Him. By faith we see that Christ died for our sins and we give assent to the 
verdict of God concerning His Son: Galatians 2:19-21 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might 
live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life 
which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I 
do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The doctrine of the Arminians and Unitarians has been devastating on morality and decency among those 
who are in error. Good intentions replace obedience, and good feelings are offered in place of good deeds 
and sound doctrine. If God will settle for some human-generated good feelings concerning Jesus Christ apart 
from union with Him, then why shouldn’t my neighbor be satisfied with my good intentions? “I am convinced 
that I had no idea I was breaking the law,” becomes the excuse for every crooked politician who corrupts 
the law. “He is such a loving man,” is a justification for every kind of misdeed among the clergy. Truth gets 
overwhelmed with globs of sentiment and professed intentions. “God knows my heart,” is supposed to cover 

But doesn’t Paul say that Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness (Romans 4:22)? The great 
theologian Charles Hodge wrote on this verse: “Faith justifies by appropriating to ourselves the divine 
promise. But if that promise does not refer to our justification, faith cannot make us righteous. The object of 
justifying or saving faith, that is, of those acts of faith which secure our acceptance with God, is not the divine 
veracity in general, nor the divine authority of the Scriptures, but the specific promise of gratuitous 
acceptance through the mediation and merit of the Lord Jesus Christ.” {Charles Hodge, Commentary on 
Romans 4:22)

Abraham was justified by faith because his faith united him to Jesus Christ, who was present in the promises 
of the Old Testament. Just as Paul wrote to the Galatians: And the scripture, foreseeing that God would 
justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be 
blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. [Galatians 3:8,9] Abraham by faith 
looked forward to the coming Redeemer, just as we look back to Him.

As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it:

Q61: Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?

A61: Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the 
satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; [1] and I can receive the 
same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only. [2]

1. I Cor. 1:30; 2:2

2. I John 5:10; Isa. 53:5; Gal. 3:22; Rom. 4:16

There is a great difference between the reality itself and the means for attaining the reality. As far as salvation 
is concerned, the reality is Christ. He is obtained only by faith. Those who trust their faith will not be saved.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Father, Forgive Them, for They Know not what They Do.

Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this
expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb,
which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold,
(53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with
God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly
tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil
for evil, (1 Peter 3:9;) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by
the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and
did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with
having God for his avenger (1 Peter 2:23.) But this is a far higher
and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies.

If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter’s sentiment,
which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was
moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his
persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous
judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and
obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the
soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not
excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor.

Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of
judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to
restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of
their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the
protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness
of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under
the burden of the cross.

Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and
Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his
persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their
welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises
against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for overcoming
temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those
who fight against God in our persons.

For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when
solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand,
daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see
themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to
raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were,
from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be
their strength and resources, still they know not what they do.

It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately,
but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by
inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the
scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for
hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be
doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this
was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the
blood which they had shed.    John Calvin, Commentary on Luke 23:34


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