Non Sequitur

Although there has been much interchange between orthodox evangelical brethren (and I use “orthodox” as a courtesy) and those who hold to the doctrine of the church as expressed in highly valued church confessions (and rightly so – these confessions, for the most part (depending on the confession) hold the doctrines of Scripture), I have been surprised that there are those who disagree with the established doctrine of God and the Trinity.

After all, what could be more plain than that which all the Reformed confessions – well – confess, about the most important doctrine of our faith?

Let’s review:

WCF — Chapter II: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity SDFO — Chapter II: Of God and of the Holy Trinity LBCF/PCF — Chapter II: Of God and the Holy Trinity

1. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his won glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

1. There is but one only living and true God; who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure Spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

1. The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in, and of himself; and is alone, in, and unto himself, all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures, which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being. of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service or obedience, as creatures, they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.

2. God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth; in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain; he is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands; to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.

3. 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. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the HolyGhost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

3. In the unity of the God-head there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the HolyGhost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. Which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence upon him.

3. In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the HolySpirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations;which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.

If there is any disagreement with the Nicean understanding of our Triune God in these three statements of our faith, I do not find it.

By the way, the LBCF goes further than the others, but in no manner disagrees with them, nor would our brothers of those confessions find anything to disagree with in the 1689.

It appears that all historical, confessional believers are in agreement on these matters (excepting those who claim to subscribe to a Scriptural confession, but redefine it to their ends – but that is beyond the scope of this bit of blurb article)

The problem, therefore, is a lack of being anchored to what the apostolic doctrine, handed down by faithful men to other faithful men who have passed it down to other faithful men have consistently taught (2nd Timothy, anyone?).

Not all catholic doctrine is to be mindlessly adhered to – in fact, those on this site hold to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith – but that doctrine which we agree upon with our brethren has been well stated.

When it comes to the doctrine of God – Theology Proper – all the confessions hold to that which was first stated in Nicea, and confirmed again in Chalcedon. There has been no ambiguity regarding the most important doctrine of our faith for years, until the 20th and 21st centuries.

This article is not a scholarly treatment of the questions and arguments which have been put forward, but it does affirm that which has been passed down by faithful men of God to other faithful men of God, up to the present.

When it comes to Scripture, we are quick, as the body of Christ, to affirm there is no error in it, but when it comes to the Doctrine of God, although innovation of the same was handled in the early church, apparently, it is fair game, and we are left to wonder why such is the case.

Mystery surrounds our God, but not in the manner some have re-imagined. He is so clear in His communication to us – His Scripture – that it boggles the minds of we who hold to sound doctrine regarding His self revelation, which was challenged by heretics in the early church, and soundly defeated by good men of God. He stated that He is all that He is, uncreated. He stated that He does not change, and He stated that such is true of Him in all His Persons, undividedly.

He has further stated that the Son and the Spirit are co-eternal with the Father. These are unequivocal truths found in Scripture.

What has been contested is that which was defeated in the early church, namely, that God has any properties aside from His nature, and that in the Trinity, the Son, who is equally God, has been eternally subjugated to the Father.

Scripture, and the orthodox Reformed confessions, are ever agreed on these matters, as should all believing Christians always be.

God, before creation, was eternally, unchangeablely, blessed and happy within Himself. Being perfection, He had no  need of a perfunctory order where either the Son or the Spirit submitted to the Father. As the confessions state, soundly based upon the early creeds, which in turn were based on Scripture, God was complete within Himself. There was no need for subjugation of one divine person to another, nor should we expect such was true of our unchangeable God.

The eternal Son being ever subject to the eternal Father is a man-made construct, based on the understanding of God by equating the Triune Being to those whom He created.

Likewise, as has been said by very many Reformed theologians of the past (and many today) “all that is in God is God.” There is no room for “added properties”, whether they are called “creational properties,” or “covenantal properties.”

Man cannot understand the relations within the Triune God by imposing those relations of the created creature which are made known to man by natural revelation – it simply will not work. God, as He has revealed Himself in Special Revelation – i.e., Scripture – is not subject to the changes and vagaries of man’s existence. God is unique, and man is created.

These innovations by contemporary theologians trying to explain God’s relationality and the Son’s subjection to the Father according to human philosophies, and/or seeking to exegete the Scripture as if it contradicted itself (which is contrary to orthodox Reformed hermeneutics) in order to match those philosophies (which really results in eisegesis), are simply misplaced. When Scripture states that God does not change, and another passage in Scripture seems to say that He did change, in contradiction to the fact that God does not change, the primary passages which define God’s being, substance and character take precedence over those passages defining things about God in human language, for this – human language – is accommodated to our finite understanding in order to communicate to us things which are true of God in a manner which we would normally associate with other finite beings, not to inform us that God did, indeed, change. Thus, we may view His anger as abating, His love as increasing or decreasing, and such things, when in fact, these are simple finite expressions of His infinite, unchanging existence and being. Since this is a brief article, we will not go more into this now. (There are other articles on this site which speak to this a bit more, as well as books recommended which speak to these things extensively.)

Returning to the main thrust of this article, to say God changes and does not change, and that the Son has the same relation to the Father from everlasting as He took on as the God-man through the incarnation, as the title of this article says, simply does not follow from Scripture. Non Sequitur.

 

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Interruption With Our Sermon Audio Account

We are having trouble with our Sermon Audio account, but since we are now paying for this web page, I thought I would check to see if it allows audio uploads.

Thankfully, it does. I have to get word to our deacon, but in the meantime, enjoy this sermon by Pastor Richard Barcellos from the 2014 Founders Conference on Baptism As A Means of Grace.

Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Problem of Making the Gospel Conform to Societal Mores

I do not keep up with trends – by saying that, I mean that I do not industriously, attentively, devote my concentration and thoughts to what is popular in either the world or the church. To further expand on that, I do not scour the landscape of the news and social media to determine what is considered to be “new” and so, all too often, “better.”

Now, when I say the above, some will, no doubt, dub me a poor judge to say what is meant by socializing the gospel, since I do not assiduously follow all the latest fads; notice, however, I said I do not follow them, not that I was unaware of them. For instance, I am aware of the dearth of good preaching among the greater Christian Church (and I use that name for convenience sake, not to actually say that the greater part of the church is Christian), and how that dearth of good preaching has led to shallow, superficial understandings of the great doctrines of Christianity.

For instance, a god of love is set forth – a god who loves all without the condition that sin must be dealt with – and so the churches who promote such a god, rather than knowing the Triune God of the Scriptures, build a god in their own image, exactly turning backwards the order of creation. In this, the creatures become the Creator, and the Creator becomes subservient to what they perceive they need from this caricature of the true God. The setting forth of a god who matches the perceived needs and desires of people as they are entirely misses the problem – the underlying condition which all people have who have not been saved – of being born as depraved sinners, dead in their sins. Instead, forming such a god, who resembles the created creatures, caters to those things which are the symptoms of their sin, and articulates a policy of acceptance of that sin, or those sins, which they particularly favor, or want to be accepted according too.

A clear example of this is the “many genders” teaching which even some evangelical churches have embraced. To say that this militates against Scriptural teaching, and so reality, is a roaring understatement, at best, and a horrid teaching of the enemy, at worst – actually, it is both, and more. It is the result of the error of what man determines is right and wrong, rather than accepting that which the Creator of man has said is right and wrong.

Only one passage in the New Testament is necessary to show that such a teaching has no place in the revelation of our God and Lord, and in fact, goes against that very teaching, where our Lord speaks to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:3-6.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

It is plain that “from the beginning [God] made them male and female,” and “what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” One can choose any good English translation (or if another language is what they read in, a good translation in that language) and the language, and the meaning of the language, simply does not change. God made man male and female, and in marriage, they are considered to be joined in the marriage bond as one flesh. There is absolutely no room to seek to wiggle in additional genders here – our Lord Jesus Christ’s words are far too plain for such self-serving maneuvers. Despite all the “I can’t believe that God would not honor love between two people, no matter their gender,” such statements simply do not fly in the face of these words of the Son of God. Two men cannot become one flesh; two women cannot become one flesh, and such “joinings” are only to serve the desires of the creature which come from their unregenerate sin nature, not through any teaching of the Word of God. God IS love (1 John 1:8), but the context of that verse is in the midst of warnings to not adapt to the world, and additionally, the verse is not to be taken in isolation from the rest of Scripture, where God is also called jealous, considering worship of idols (Exodus 1:4-6), and he is also called a consuming fire for those who are among actual or alleged Christian congregations yet fail to follow His gracious prescriptions for worship in reverence and fear (Hebrews 12:29).

These descriptors of the attributes of our Triune God barely scratch the surface of what He has made known to us of His uncreated, unchanging, infinite, eternal Self, as far as our finite minds are able to comprehend Him. It is when we go beyond His descriptors of Himself via His revelation of Himself and His revelation of ourselves to us that we fall into trouble, and a very real danger.

Since this is a form of socializing the gospel – that is, making the Gospel of God conform to human societies morals, which change with the wind – we gave it that title of caution about doing just such a thing, for societies wants and desires do not dictate God’s commands and the decreed order He, as Creator over all things, has established firmly.

To know God as He is, we must read and study and think on the Scriptures. For this to happen, we must be members of a good, Bible-believing, gospel preaching church of believers. While God providentially makes allowance for those whom He providentially hinders from being able to make regular meetings of His church in a local congregation as already described, that is not the norm, and for most of us, it is only our sin which keeps us from such participation in a healthy body of believers in a local church.

One last word – the Pharisees were looking for a way to circumvent the Law of Moses regarding divorce, and when they asked the Lord Jesus Christ, after His masterful response to them, why Moses allowed a certificate of divorce , He answered that it was because of the hardness of their hearts. In other words, God had not commanded that a man put away his wife in divorce from the beginning of creation, but in His changeless decree, had made allowance for the hardness of the Israelites, under Moses at that time when they were first becoming a people and a nation, to do so, not as a justified practice, but as a proof that they misunderstood the very nature of what marriage, as it was from the beginning of creation, to be. They imagined God would allow them that which their calloused hearts desired – Jesus tells them God’s allowing divorce was rather a proof of their insensitive, uncaring hearts.

Modern society changing the True God into a god who is imagined after the designs of the creature He alone created has no such caveat. There is no allowance for adding to the design God gave mankind for marriage, including two members of the same gender co-habiting together. Although all sin is “because of the hardness of our hearts,” this does not mean God either overlooks or condones the sin, and here, concerning that which He created from the very beginning for man, there are no side exits or back doors. Those who suppose and propose such a god who is no god at all are playing with their eternal souls.