October 16, 2010

I Love Your Law: A Sermon about law and grace

Filed under: Sermons — William Witt @ 2:04 am

Ps. 119: 97-104
Jer. 31:27-34
2 Tim. 3:14-4:5
Luke 3 18:1-8

MosesThere is a common theme to the readings from the Psalm, the Old Testament reading, and the epistle this morning. It is a theme that would be tempting to overlook. One could preach on the gospel, which is about prayer. The epistle is the classic text for the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. The Jeremiah passage is about another central theme in Christian theology, the new covenant. Better to stick with one of these.

However, I am a glutton for punishment. And the passage that keeps nagging me is the Psalm. In the revised lectionary reading for this morning, the selection begins at verse 97. “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Verse 104 concludes, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” One could choose almost any passage from Psalm 119 and find the same theme: Verse 72 states “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” In verse 127 we read, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above all fine gold.” In case, you have missed it, the Psalmist loves God’s law the way that other people love money or mouth-watering desserts. If he were writing today, he might say, “I love your law more than a double shot Cafe Latte.”

And the Psalmist does not love the law because it shows him how sinful he is, how far below the standards of the law he has fallen, and how he needs to throw himself on God’s mercy. No. He loves the law because he keeps it, and he intends to keep on keeping it: “Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.” (v. 22) And again, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.” (v. 33) Anyone who has read Psalm 119 all the way through notices that it is one long meditation on God’s law, how the author delights in it, and how he intends to keep it.

If we think that we can get away from all this talk about law by turning to the New Testament gospel of grace, we are simply mistaken. (more…)

October 7, 2010

Determinism? It’s a heresy, why?

Filed under: Calvinism,Metaphysics,Theology — William Witt @ 3:48 am

I think I must be in a cranky mood today. At any rate, the following is also something I originally put on a certain (NeoCalvinist) Anglican(?) blog in response to the following:

The man born blind in John 9 was not an accident of biology. He was born blind so that the Lord Jesus could give him sight. Joseph was not sold into slavery by accident. He was sold into slavery by the express intended purpose of God to redeem many. The Assyrians did not destroy Israel on their own accord. They came as the arm of God to punish. The Lord Jesus was not crucified by fortunate happenstance. The men who delivered Him up and killed him did so by divine decree. There are no random molecules in the universe. Everything is governed by the decretive will of God. Nothing happens except that He has decreed it from the beginning. No death, no misfortune, no suffering, no sorrow, no misery is beyond his reach, or outside the scope of His will. That is why we can say that everything has purpose in this life, and that everything will eventually reveal the glory of God. We do not have to understand. It is sufficient that God understands.

Providence means that God is capable of bringing good out of evil. But God does not decree or create evil. Evil is entirely the result of the rebellion of creatures, which God permits, but does not cause. Certainly “No death, no misfortune, no suffering, no sorrow, no misery is beyond his reach, or outside the scope of His will.” It does not at all follow that “Nothing happens except that He has decreed it from the beginning.”

God does not decree sin. God hates sin, and his Son died to redeem us from that sin which God hates. To state that God decrees sin is to place on God the responsibility for that which he hates, and condemns, and the effects of which his Son died to alleviate.

Hooker was a Calvinist . . . Right?

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 3:10 am

On a certain Neo-Calvinist, but (ostensibly) Anglican blog, someone recently posted the following:

At least one scholar to my knowledge has pointed out that Richard Hooker was more Calvinist than the Puritans

Say Whattt???!!!

My response:

To have actually read Hooker is to know otherwise. Hooker’s position could be desccribed as Reformed Catholic. With the continental Reformers, he affirmed the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture, as well as justification by faith. He also endorsed Calvin’s distinction between justification and sanctification.

However, Hooker’s understanding of law—which is central to his entire project—depends on Thomas Aquinas, not the Reformers. Hooker always speaks positively on law, and there are no parallels to the Reformers’ (especially Luther’s) negative assessment.

Hooker affirms a high doctrine of eucharistic presence, although he declines to speculate as to the “how.” Of course, Calvin himself affirmed a doctrine of presence through the Holy Spirit—which echoes the Orthodox rather than Roman position. (Neither was anything like a Zwinglian.)

Hooker’s doctrine of sanctification has parallels to the Orthodox doctrine of deification, and the Roman Catholic doctrine of infused grace. Indeed, he uses the term infusion in reference to sanctification. He interprets sanctification in terms of (ontological) union with Christ’s ascended humanity, and draws a close connection between sanctification and partaking of the body of Christ through participation in the Lord’s Supper. (more…)

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