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Calvin commentary Romans 9:14

October 31, 2009 Comments off

Rom 9:14  What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

The flesh cannot hear of this wisdom of God without being instantly disturbed by numberless questions, and without attempting in a manner to call God to an account. We hence find that the Apostle, whenever he treats of some high mystery, obviates the many absurdities by which he knew the minds of men would be otherwise possessed; for when men hear anything of what Scripture teaches respecting predestination, they are especially entangled with very many impediments.

The predestination of God is indeed in reality a labyrinth, from which the mind of man can by no means extricate itself: but so unreasonable is the curiosity of man, that the more perilous the examination of a subject is, the more boldly he proceeds; so that when predestination is discussed, as he cannot restrain himself within due limits, he immediately, through his rashness, plunges himself, as it were, into the depth of the sea. What remedy then is there for the godly? Must they avoid every thought of predestination? By no means: for as the Holy Spirit has taught us nothing but what it behoves us to know, the knowledge of this would no doubt be useful, provided it be confined to the word of God. Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther. But as we are men, to whom foolish questions naturally occur, let us hear from Paul how they are to be met.

Is there unrighteousness with God?

Monstrous surely is the madness of the human mind, that it is more disposed to charge God with unrighteousness than to blame itself for blindness. Paul indeed had no wish to go out of his way to find out things by which he might confound his readers; but he took up as it were from what was common the wicked suggestion, which immediately enters the minds of many, when they hear that God determines respecting every individual according to his own will. It is indeed, as the flesh imagines, a kind of injustice, that God should pass by one and show regard to another.
In order to remove this difficulty, Paul divides his subject into two parts; in the, former of which he speaks of the elect, and in the latter of the reprobate; and in the one he would have us to contemplate the mercy of God, and in the other to acknowledge his righteous judgment. His first reply is, that the thought that there is injustice with God deserves to be abhorred, and then he shows that with regard to the two parties, there can be none.

But before we proceed further, we may observe that this very objection clearly proves, that inasmuch as God elects some and passes by others, the cause is not to be found in anything else but in his own purpose; for if the difference had been based on works, Paul would have to no purpose mentioned this question respecting the unrighteousness of God, no suspicion could have been entertained concerning it if God dealt with every one according to his merit. It may also, in the second place, be noticed, that though he saw that this doctrine could not be touched without exciting instant clamours and dreadful blasphemies, he yet freely and openly brought it forward; nay, he does not conceal how much occasion for murmuring and clamour is given to us, when we hear that before men are born their lot is assigned to each by the secret will of God; and yet, notwithstanding all this, he proceeds, and without any subterfuges, declareswhat he had learned from the Holy Spirit. It hence follows, that their fancies are by no means to be endured, who aim to appear wiser than the Holy Spirit, in removing and pacifying offences. That they may not criminate God, they ought honestly to confess that the salvation or the perdition of men depends on his free election. Were they to restrain their minds from unholy curiosity, and to bridle their tongues from immoderate liberty, their modesty and sobriety would be deserving of approbation; but to put a restraint on the Holy Spirit and on Paul, what audacity it is! Let then such magnanimity ever prevail in the Church of God, as that godly teachers may not be ashamed to make an honest profession of the true doctrine, however hated it may be, and also to refute whatever calumnies the ungodly may bring forward.

Categories: Commentary, Election Tags: ,

Calvin commentary 1Peter 5:7

October 29, 2009 Comments off

1Pe 5:7
7 Casting all our care

He more fully sets forth here the providence of God. For whence are these proverbial sayings, “We shall have to howl among wolves,” and, “They are foolish who are like sheep, exposing themselves to wolves to be devoured,” except that we think that by our humility we set loose the reins to the audacity of the ungodly, so that they insult us more wantonly? But this fear arises from our ignorance of divine providence. Now, on the other hand, as soon as we are convinced that God cares for us, our minds are easily led to patience and humility. Lest, then, the wickedness of men should tempt us to a fierceness of mind, the Apostle prescribes to us a remedy, and also David does in Psa_37:5, so that having cast our care on God, we may calmly rest. For all those who recumb not on God’s providence must necessarily be in constant turmoil and violently assail others. We ought the more to dwell on this thought, that God cares for us, in order, first, that we may have peace within; and, secondly, that we may be humble and meek towards men.

But we are not thus bidden to cast all our care on God, as though God wished us to have strong hearts, and to be void of all feeling; but lest fear or anxiety should drive us to impatience. In like manner, the knowledge of divine providence does not free men from every care, that they may securely indulge themselves; for it ought not to encourage the torpidity of the flesh, but to bring rest to faith.

Categories: Commentary, Providence Tags: ,

Modern madness

October 17, 2009 Comments off

by David Crabtree

One day as I entered the university library I read the words carved in the stone above the doors, “Ye shall know the truth. . . and the truth shall set you free.” And then I imagined the gargoyles above laughing deafeningly.

These words seem very out of place in the modern American university. The modern mind associates Truth with tyranny rather than freedom. Truth is, after all, very restrictive. If green is green, then green cannot be white or blue or red; it is green and only green. Truth eliminates a myriad of tempting options. Such a situation is deemed intolerable; so Truth is willed out of existence.

While discussing “national character” with a student one day, I argued that it is not inconceivable to me that in ethnic groups certain characteristics might come to predominate such that we come to associate those characteristics with that group. Furthermore, it is not inconceivable that some of those characteristics could be heritable. For example, we associate blue eyes and blond hair with Germanic peoples, dark skin and curly black hair with Negroid peoples, etc. I continued my argument by saying that it seems quite plausible that the disproportionate number of blacks in professional basketball is due, in part, to anatomical advantages characteristic of blacks.

My interlocutor was appalled by what I was suggesting: “Don’t you see what that thinking could lead to? Someone could argue that blacks have other genetically determined characteristics–like low intelligence. That could lead to systematic, institutionalized discrimination. . . . It can’t be true!”

“I am not trying to justify discrimination,” I responded. “How people would or should respond to such differences is a completely different matter. I am simply raising the possibility that ethnic groups may have genetic differences. If it is true, then it is true, and we must incorporate it into the way we see the world.”

“It can’t be true. It is too dangerous,” were her final words.

I understand and sympathize with her concerns about how my line of reasoning could be used for evil purposes. But I have recounted this discussion for another reason. This student’s response was refreshingly honest. She was rejecting my line of thinking not because she had evidence that I was wrong, but because she was unwilling to accept the implications. The rejection of certain propositions because they contradict cherished beliefs is more common than we realize. We underestimate the extent to which our desires influence what we accept to be true. We conceive of ourselves as eminently rational; everything we hold to be true is considered the most reasonable position. This is an illusion, however. In our saner moments we all realize that it takes little or no evidence to convince us of what we dearly want to be true, while no amount of evidence will convince us of what we can not accept. To pursue the truth sincerely takes a great deal of integrity and bravery. One must be committed to following the truth no matter where it leads.

I am certain that picking and choosing what part of Truth we are willing to accept is endemic to man. Modern society, however, is unique in its rejection of Truth as a valid category. Over the last two centuries a large scale assault by scientists, philosophers, and scholars has provided plenty of support for the belief that Universal Truth does not exist; there are only personal perceptions of reality, with no one perception any more valid than any other. Having slain Truth, man is freed from its tyranny, and each individual has the freedom to construct his own “reality.” But “reality” crafted in the imagination of an individual is actually very unrealistic; it is a dream, a fantasy divorced from reality. Loosing touch with reality is the very essence of madness.

Typically, one who has rejected the existence of Truth and constructed a customized “reality” will not admit to being a dreamer. Quite the contrary, such a person will likely boast in his empirical scrupulousness. He will insist that a sober assessment of the evidence shows there is no Truth, there is no God, there are no moral absolutes. But such protestations are hollow. He is like the hunter who stomps boisterously into the woods and then emerges a short time later confidently to proclaim the woods devoid of game. Truth hides from the arrogant and the distrustful.

At the heart of our society’s rejection of Truth is its aversion to moral absolutes. But God, the architect of the cosmos, built moral values into reality; so we ignore those values at our peril. The natural consequences of violating God’s moral laws are just as certain as the consequences of ignoring natural laws. We can deny the existence of gravity, but if we step off a cliff we will still fall. If we ignore the moral absolutes God has built into the cosmos, we will suffer. You would expect such suffering to awaken us to our delinquency, but typically it does not. Ingeniously, we find more palatable explanations for the suffering: The rise in teenage pregnancy results from a lack of information about sex and contraception rather than a failure to confine sex to marriage; The rise in the number of avowed homosexuals is attributed to an increased willingness of gays to come out of the closet rather than an increasing failure of normal human relationships to be what God intended; The failure of the welfare system is the result of administrative inadequacies rather than the inevitable consequence of a society lacking in true charity. This misdiagnosis of the root problem leads to an endless series of futile treatments. Until the real problem is acknowledged, no real solution to our social problems is possible. The result is a kind of madness. As a society we are always tilting at windmills, always finding problems where they aren’t , oblivious to the problems that really plague us.

This kind of madness is not just pathetic; it is dangerous. C. S. Lewis, writing in the 1950s, expressed his concern about the changes taking place in British society regarding the handling of criminals. He noticed a major shift in the way society thought of criminals, away from the traditional view that criminals had done something wrong and therefore owed a debt to society. The wrongness of the act could be determined by anyone (as represented by jurors), and each crime had a set penalty assigned to it. When the penalty was paid, the criminal was free to go.

Lewis detected a new perspective supplanting the traditional one. Having rejected the existence of moral absolutes, people were unwilling to call crimes wrong-doing; crimes were just anti-social behaviors, and criminals, therefore, were not to be punished, but cured. Given this shift in perspective, experts are now required to determine who is a criminal and the length and nature of the treatment. The potential abuses of this new perspective are alarming. Only experts can determine who needs treatment, and the length of treatment can be unending. Only when the one being treated repents of his anti-social behavior is he “cured.” Given this perspective, all the safeguards protecting the individual from the arbitrary use of state power are undermined, and the ultimate crime becomes rebellion against the state. Thus measures taken to make the treatment of criminals more humane–measures informed by this madness born of rebellion against God–turn out to be cruel and inhumane. Solutions based on folly not only fail to solve problems; they exacerbate them.

At the root of man’s problem is an insufferable arrogance. Man was created by God to live in obedience to his maker, but from the beginning man has had higher ambitions. Man would like to be God. Man would like to determine for himself what is right and what is wrong. And modern man finally has the philosophical justification for the kind of freedom he has been seeking for millennia. But there is a cruel irony in all this. Having rejected the existence of moral absolutes, man has only one basis on which to determine right and wrong: his passions. “If it feels good do it,” has become the motto of our age. To do whatever one feels like doing would seem to be complete freedom, but just the opposite is true. Man’s passions are cruel in the extreme; habitual liars, they promise the world, but never deliver. Speaking of erotic passion C. S. Lewis says, “To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of the beloved will confer, not merely frequent ecstasies, but settled, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness. Hence all seems to be at stake. If we miss this chance we shall have lived in vain. At the very thought of such a doom we sink into fathomless depths of self-pity.”1 Although the passions have always lied, man always believes the next. Where else would he turn for fulfillment? His passions, his desires are his only hope. So having been freed from God’s standard of right and wrong, man is enslaved to his passions.

Man is but a lowly creature with the appetites of a god. No wonder the gargoyles are laughing.

Source

Laziness – Spurgeon

October 11, 2009 Comments off

“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes–than seven men who answer discreetly.” Proverbs 26:16

Many have no better work–than killing time. Beware of ‘the evil of doing nothing’. Idleness is the key of beggary–and the mother of all evil. It is through ‘the door of sluggishness’, that evil enters the heart!

Lazy people like the caterpillars on the cabbage, eating up the good things; or like the butterflies, showing themselves off but making no honey!

Every man ought to have patience and pity for poverty; but for laziness–a long whip would be better!

Everything in the world is of some use; but it would puzzle a philosopher, to tell the good of idleness! There is something to be said for moles, and rats and weasels–they are a pretty sight when nailed up on our old barn; but as for the sluggard–the only use for him is in the grave–to help to make the churchyard fat.

Laziness is bad–and altogether bad! Sift a sluggard grain by grain–and you will find him to be all chaff!

“As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes,” so is the sluggard to every man who is spending his sweat to earn an honest living, while these lazy fellows let the grass grow up to their ankles, and stand cluttering the ground!

In idle men’s imaginations, the devil hides away unseen, like the old serpent that he is. A man who wastes his time and his strength in sloth–offers himself to be a target for the devil, who is a wonderfully good rifleman, and will fill the idler with his shots! In other words, idle men tempt the devil to tempt them! He who plays when he should work–has an evil spirit for his playmate! A sluggard is fine ‘raw material’ for the devil–he can make anything he likes out of him! If the devil catches a man idling–he will set him to work, find him tools, and before long pay him wages!

Sure enough, our children have our evil nature in them, for you can see sloth growing in them like weeds in a garden! My advice to my boys has been, “Get out of the sluggard’s way, or you may catch his disease–and never get rid of it!” I am always afraid of their learning the ways of the idle–and am very watchful to nip anything of the sort in the bud; for you know, that it is best to kill the lion, while it is still a cub! Bring them up to be ‘bees’, and they will not become ‘drones’!

As to having lazy employees–I would prefer to drive a ‘team of snails’, or go out rabbit hunting with a dead hound! Why, you would sooner get blood out of a gatepost, or juice out of a rock–than work out of some of them! I wonder sometimes, that some of our employers keep so many cats which catch no mice! I would as soon throw my money in the fire–as pay some people for pretending to work.

Lazy people never put a single potato into the nation’s pot–but they take a good many out! They eat all the bread and cheese–but never earn a bite of it! Yet Scripture gives us this rule, “If a man will not work–he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Source: Charles Spurgeon – Plain Advice for Plain People