Humble Pie: An Apology for Swiftness

13 May

Those of you who follow the comments section of this blog will have seen rjs1 staunchly defend the work of Hodge. I feel in light of this I need to make a public apology.

Rebuke

Before I do I’d like to encourage rebukes like rjs1’s. His rebuke was humble and gentle but firm and I welcome this. I do not want to be propagating error. I want to know and tell what is true in the Scriptures. So if you feel it is necessary do rebuke.

My Sinful Attitude

As I was writing the previous post I suddenly became a bit concerned that I hadn’t quite got to the bottom of the ideas about the Trinity.

I had considered not posting or skipping the part quoting Hodge, yet in my sinfulness I posted.

One may argue, there are no problems with working through these things and inviting comments, but the public isn’t the place. These post can be read by many and so I should be certain before I post.

The Trinity

The fact I am uncertain about these things shows a BIG gap in my own theology. I’ve never looked in great depth at the Trinity, and what a thing to miss, the very nature of God.

So over the summer (when I will have more free time) I intend get stuck into this doctrine and get my head around it. If I ever do I will post my thoughts. I have taken rjs1’s advice and ordered Robert Letham’s book as well as John Owen’s on Communion with God, I’m going to study various systematic theologies I have got too.

However I’m going to postpone this series on the trinity and start posting on things I’m certain about. I apologise for being so undiscerning for you readers and can only hope I won’t do so again.

If anything this shows how sinful I am, but how great God is in that even though I fail there is still redemption for me through the blood of Jesus. Thanks be to God.

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4 Responses to “Humble Pie: An Apology for Swiftness”

  1. Tim Wilson May 13, 2008 at 5:12 pm #

    Also just to add, because of the uncertainty that led to it I will be removing the Systematic Idolatry post by tomorrow. If you wish to read it do so before then. But it would be irresponsible of me to leave it up otherwise.

    However, I will copy and paste rjs1’s comments to this post to aid me in keeping humble.

  2. rjs1 May 13, 2008 at 5:36 pm #

    Tim,

    You are to be commended for this! I am sure you will enjoy Owen and Letham. They have helped me greatly.

    Incidently:
    A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity by John Owen
    An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity by Jonathan Edwards
    An Introduction To the Doctrine of the Covenant by Rev Dr Iain D. Campbell

  3. Tim Wilson May 14, 2008 at 6:28 am #

    Rjs1’s first comments:

    Tim,

    Please don’t take offense at what I say, I really want to encourage you in your studies!

    I am not sure who Mike Reeves is but I am certainly aware of Charles Hodge. Nor can I grasp why he would wish to set Hodge in his sights, it can hardly be said that he was heterodox but quite the opposite. We know God through his self revelation through his word, whilst it is indeed true that God is known by his relationship with mankind, not mere attributes, and yet we find YHWH speaking to Moses revealing his attributes thus:

    “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exo 34:6)

    Earlier in Exodus we would have read the following dialogue:

    “And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Exo 3:12-15)

    So what is my point? Briefly, if Reeves actually argued that there is no biblical support for “a divine substance” then he is simply wrong. Further, to argue that Hodge was an idolator is simply absurd. He was a confessional theologian. The Westminster Confession of Faith (ii.3) teaches us that, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:16, 17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 John 5:7). The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father: the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son (John 1:14, 18).”

    The Westminster Larger Catechism teaches us, “God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. There is but one only, the living and true God. There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.”

    It is in that context that Hodge taught:

    A. “It is a great mistake to regard that doctrine [of the trinity] as a mere speculative or abstract truth, concerning the constitution of the Godhead, with which we have no practical concern, or which we are required to believe simply because it is revealed. On the contrary, it underlies the whole plan of salvation, and determines the character of the religion (in the subjective sense of that word) of all true Christians.” (pp. 442-3)

    B.“In the Bible all divine titles and attributes are ascribed equally to the Father, Son, and Spirit. The same divine worship is rendered to them. The one is as much the object of adoration, love, confidence, and devotion as the other. It is not more evident that the Father is God, than that the Son is God; nor is the deity of the Father and Son more clearly revealed than that of the Spirit.” (pp. 444)

    C.“The unity of the Divine Being; the true and equal divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit; their distinct personality; the relation in which they stand one to the other, and to the Church and the world, are not presented in a doctrinal formula in the Word of God, but the several constituent elements of the doctrine are asserted, or assumed, over and over, from the beginning to the end of the Bible. It is, therefore, by proving these elements separately, that the whole doctrine can be most satisfactorily established.” (pp. 446)

    I certainly hope that one of those books in your pile to read is Robert Letham’s The Holy Trinity.

  4. Tim Wilson May 14, 2008 at 6:30 am #

    Rjs1’s second set of comments:

    Tim,

    Thank you for your gracious spirit. I certainly do not wish to come across as lecturing you, I just get very worried when I hear about people (Reeves, not you) rejecting teaching that is historic catholic doctrine and which Reformed theologians have always taught. Other than disagreeing with the Westmister Standards he would also be going against all of the Reformed Creeds as well as the Ancient Creeds.

    You say that “Reeves argument on the substance thing was that at certain times Jesus doesn’t fit the substance category (i.e. not knowing when the second coming would be seems to undermine his omniscience).”

    If I understand you correctly, Reeves was arguing that the Son is not omniscient and because the substance of God is omniscient therefore the Son cannot be of the same substance with the Father?

    If that is what he is saying then we have BIG problems, not least because that would be denying the deity of Christ.

    The answer to Christ’s not knowing when the second coming would be not to deny the omniscience of the Son but to step back into eternity past and the pactum salutis otherwise called the Covenant of Redemption. In this the Father and the Son agreed that the person of the Son would humble himself and take upon him human nature and keep the law, die and be raised again as a Mediator and surety for the elect. So, at times Jesus speaks as man and at other times he speaks as God. Therefore he can say both “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) as well as declaring that the Father is greater than he is (John 14:28), and that the Father has sent him (John 6:57; 8:18).

    The comments by John Gill on Mark 13:32 are spot on: He write that this refers to,

    “Christ, as the son of man; though he did know it as the Son of God, who knows all things, and so this; but as the son of man, and from his human nature he had no knowledge of any thing future: what knowledge he had of future things in his humanity, he had from his deity; nor, as man, had he any commission to make known, nor did he make known the day of God’s vengeance on the Jews:”

    Calvin explains it similarly:

    “As to the first objection, that nothing is unknown to God, the answer is easy. For we know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially the Divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of Mediator. There would be no impropriety, therefor in saying that Christ, who knew all things, (John 21:17) was ignorant of something in respect of his perception as a man; for otherwise he could not have been liable to grief and anxiety, and could not have been like us, (Hebrews 2:17.)…I have no doubt that he refers to the office appointed to him by the Father as in a former instance, when he said that it did not belong to him to place this or that person at his right or left hand, (Matthew 20:23; Mark 5:40.) For (as I explained under that passage ) he did not absolutely say that this was not in his power, but the meaning was, that he had not been sent by the Father with this commission, so long as he lived among mortals. So now I understand that, so far as he had come down to us to be Mediator, until he had fully discharged his office that information was not given to him which he received after his resurrection; for then he expressly declared that power over all things had been given to him, (Matthew 28:18.)”

    I hope that is helpful!

    —————
    Richard

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