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EPILOGUE on YEARNING, BURNING, TURNING
Looking at Love from the Scriptural Side
If the judgment is dire and terminal, for mankind now, just as it was dire and all but interminable for Israel when they rejected Him, yet He died before ever that last was so; and long before our own last days before His return arrived, as they now have, to confront us as a race. His death long precedes the ultimate rigours for the felled and steadfastly fallen human race. For long He acted in advance, by prophecy announcing again and again, in multitudes of ways, direct, formal, carefully phrased, pointedly piercing and penetrating, beautiful and enticing, corrosive of fraud and cleansing in conception, the way in which return would be covered, so that any at any time might come. It was all covered from of old. Now it is covered by the active redemption of Christ, and now this too is of old, millenia ago.
As Peter put it, Don't think the Lord is slack in not returning yet, for a day is as a thousand years. In this scope, that is the time frame, and now it is two such days, and the time is near (Answers to Questions Ch. 5), on so many counts that you almost need to be a mathematician to follow them all simultaneously, but they are there, pregnant, bursting with child, or more precisely, with the news of His impending return. The case is covered and if any one is not, then in the end, it is sin which is uncovered, discovered, relentless, immovable, inveterate, unhallowed and inexorable sin; and not even the white flag of surrender is to be seen, in the morass, the moraine or the mess.
Judgment according to truth in love became the crucifixion; but judgment without it, by unbelief, brings one who in sin is inadequate to receive it, who for pride or other seduction of spirit, refuses what is infinite in cost, pervasive in love, freely provided, disproportionate in mercy, accurate in truth, filled with competence and completeness (II Cor. 5:17ff., I John 2:2). Despised, as the foundation of life, is the sacrifice in anguish intense of the life of the Creator, clad in flesh; and this, it was not as a put-on, but as an embarkation through birth into the restraints of time and space, that as man He might cover man. That ? it was in the only way effective: by being one to show the grace and life of God direct, to show the very heart of God, then being judged to show the heart of man to man, and Himself, though innocent, taking judgment for every one who receives Him, that all in all, He might be Lord and Saviour (Hebrews 2:9-18, 9:12-10:14).
Ephesians 1:18-23 presents this aspect in this way.
"... The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
that ye may know
what is the hope of his calling, and
what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and
what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,
according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ,
when he raised him from the dead,
and set him
at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion,
and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
and has put all things under His feet,
and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that fills all in all."
Paul thus prays "that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of God which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God" - as seen in Ephesians 3:18-19
Thus, over all, through all is the love of God. It is not another name for slackness, or slant. The X-factor sort of misconception, where God is drawn to some because of some differential (they are not blanks) in whatever garb it is put, is wholly unscriptural; nor is it the self-revelation of God (Predestination and Freewill p. 82, 28-42, 116-148, incl. pp. 121ff., The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, pp. 57ff.). The love of God is merely not a love of things right because they are right, for man as sinner is categorically NOT right (Romans 5:8ff.); nor is a matter of applying such a principle to things better, rather than worse, in the mess; for the generic rule concerning all of fallen man is this: alienation from the life of God (Ephesians 4:17ff.). Indeed, being dead in sin has no glamour, for in death is no distinctive (Ephesians 2)!
The love of God is pure, unselfish (I Corinthians 13), not a matter of self-gratification but of desire for good, for reality and realisation, for kindness and removal of corruption, for pardon and mercy for ALL! This is the uniform definition of the Bible; and what is 'hated' is so only where refusal of restoration makes it a consignment in, from and for sin.
In fact, predestination itself is consequent logically on foreknowledge (Romans 8:29ff.), and this does not relate to merit, but to the understanding of Him who in love neither forces nor favours, but seeks ( To Know God ... Ch. 1).
Either this love is made insipid as by some, as if there were no sovereign majesty, wisdom or knowledge in God, and it were not true that those come to Christ whom the Father GRANTS (John 6); or else it is distorted as if sovereignty of some peculiar character is to replace the word of God and select on some basis not recorded in the scripture, and contrary to it. The truth is in neither of these. The exclusion agent cited by God is the human will (John 3:19), and this is the criterion of rejection in the light and face of the fact that Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.
It is necessary to be clear, not shielded from that white light of biblical truth by things traditional or positional. It must be followed if you are to find the rigorous vigour of the light of life.
Thus, Calvin has deftly woven a system that is basically sound in the so-called TULIP, where God alone CAN bring sin-felled man to Himself, since sin excludes the wisdom to understand at this level (I Cor. 2:14, John 1:12!). But that theologian has gone far too far in making a philosophy which would have clear scriptures to be tormented into a shape they cannot bear (Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, End-note 1). That sovereignty does not deny but executes what He has sovereignly stated about His own desire and the work of the human will; all things He states must be taken, not some, preferring this one, a teeny bit or that one, like some society lady trying to influence your food selection.
God does the choosing; the nature of His perception of the human will is statedly the criterion, and He would like all.
Calvin has unfortunately, in doing a great service to the Church, in failing in this point, done a considerable disservice also. It is wise to be thankful for the curry, not to praise the warts on the face of the waiter. Calvin-ism or any man-tagged -ism is FORBIDDEN ( I Cor. 3); and this is just as well; for without this caveat, fallen man, even if saved, being not perfected as yet, becomes a clay vessel with particles adhering. It is not well to follow the clay. In this case, Wesley stressed the scope of the love, while Calvin indicated the strength of the system. Each as a contributor in the specific field does well; neither covers all and so all should depend on the word of God, give thanks for the good each does, and add nothing, crimp nothing, being amplified in the liberty which the word of God provides.
As to the fallibility of man, corrected only by insistent, persistent return to His word written, ALL of it without slighting or twisting, ignoring or torturing any of it, this shows us to be humble, to love one another as brethren and to concentrate on God Himself, where the life of all is to be found, or not at all, and on His version of salvation, not that of man.
It is entirely different when God sees fit to DELIVER HIS WORD through His prophets (I Peter 1:10ff., II Peter 1:19ff., I Cor. 2:9ff.). Just as man is shown as inept as the one to trust, only God being this (Jeremiah 17), so God is shown able to use even man, when He so chooses, to deliver His word in its foundations, and to make this His own speech. A man can use a pen if he will, and God can so imbue a man with His Spirit and so lead him that he can be used with both the THINGS provided made clear, and the words with which to present them enabled to be found and written. This is called inscripturation.
If God uses His power in this way to bring accurately the good news of salvation, the tasks of edification and the form of illumination, that shows His majesty and the fall of all barriers before His will; if on the other hand, having done this, and indeed having even sent His only begotten Son in flesh to do the work for so long foretold, He allows even the most gifted to err here or there, it is to show that though man can be USED, it is God ONLY who is to be trusted.
In the merely theological field, what we have is what ? It is then an interpretation, and while the word of God is in itself perspicuous, we sinners have to watch our way and especially avoid contradictions such as those which Calvin practised, for all his excellent facility and contribution in so many ways and things, relative to that divinely granted word, the Bible of divine deposition.
Thus, the love of God must be seen in the WHITE LIGHT, and so must the sovereignty and the desire, and the purity, all things together: it must not be philosophically man-ipulated (if you forgive the pun), for there is no mandate for that. Let us then move to Psalm 106 to consider a point in this context, and ponder the plight of those who in this, as often in other ways, fall for an -ism. In so doing, we shall be able to apply the above.
Looking at Psalm 106 for the Perspective Provision
In Psalm 106, as expounded in *2A, we saw the practise of burning children in the fire. While the SA Education Ministry (DECS) does this spiritually in a fashion both horrific and apparently inveterate, by prosletysing through a program of debased, subjectivistic if not existential religiosity, in which it merely defames any religion such as Christianity, based on observable facts, superior verificatory performance, the power of God and the exhibit of the same according to His word: it is not alone, though near the front of such outrage.
On that, see TMR Ch. 8,and on the factual side, The gods of naturalism have no go! and TMR Ch. 1, with SMR Chs. 4 and 5. There is however a milder but still dangerous fire to be faced. It comes from a misuse of some of the great gifts given to the Church, which as so often, can lead to a scripturally forbidden concentration on the man concerned, as a criterion (I Corinthians 3), so that his -ism comes ruinously to rule. In this way, what was a blessing from God, through undue adulation if not idolatry, becomes nearer to a curse.
In a fire not so complete in its conflagration, but still burning flesh near the heart, is the error of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. It is grievous; for the 1901 Constitution of that body specifically and brilliantly excludes such a 'burning' and amplifies the Westminster Confession with biblical breadth; but through Assembly fiat, in 1991, they have now removed such point from view: on which see Biblical Blessings Ch. 11.
In brief, on this topic, there is an enormous Biblical emphasis on the love of God, that He IS love, that He did NOT come to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved, that He would have all men to be reconciled to himself, indeed all in heaven or earth; and this has been detailed with scriptural ground given in detail, in such sites as SMR Appendix B, Great Execrations, Great Enervations, Greater Grace Chs. 7 and 9, with The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3 including Appendix.
What then ? Through a strange binding akin to Confessionalism, that sad substitute of tradition plus the Bible for the latter alone, using men's formulations not as helps (as the Westminster Confession prescribes, for the limit) but binding in detail, what has this Church done ? It has has put its opinions where they do not belong, defiling by defining in its own Confessional terms. Again, this is contrary to its Constitution, as something that rules, instead of the Bible as final and only court of reference at the decisive level (The Biblical Workman Ch. 8).
The net result is this, that the love of God is NOWHERE affirmed in its full biblical perspective, in the synthesis of tradition and Bible which now rules. In this case, we now find the former limiting the latter, so that is biblically expressed, even to the point of reconciliation to God, towards all in heaven and earth, becomes not a highway but a minor road! The biblical scope of the love of God does not now appear.
It is a weakness of the Confession, despite its good system of doctrine, that this, before any system, is not in it. It is however in the Bible; so that the net result is that a form of barren Calvinism, which like so much else in this world, has some excellent features but in a serious lapse crimps the love of God, so that predestination, instead of being the godly assurance that the Lord looses none of His own, becomes a nightmare exclusion in what is called 'mystery', misplaced, and a ‘decretum horribile’ as if the horrible had any place in God; for there is no mystery in what the Lord Himself says about His heart, purpose and program in this particular, and only goodness so that God IS love!
That HE foreknows in logical order before He predestines (Romans 8:29ff.), that He is not bound by the invasive denudations of sin, like waters on the Dutch coastline, as man so readily is (I Cor. 2:14); that He is able to know man apart from the superior-inferior results of sin, where direct vision is on what being free is elemental, that He can love all and find some in this circumstance, apart from works and all their pomp and mischief, meritoriousness and meretriciousness: this is a simple matter… for Him. MAN cannot manipulate his own fallen will concerning God, but God knows. He needs no aid indeed, and implements truth with His elemental vigour (as in John 6).
All of this is expounded in detail either in the above references, with particular reference at Biblical Blessings Ch. 11, and The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, or with further on Calvin's error (amidst his vast and effective contributions) at sites such as
Christian Pilgrimage Ch.
Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2,
Ineffable Peace ... Ch. 2,
Outrageous Attitudes ...Ch. 9,
Cascade ... Ch. 9, Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Part II, Ch.. 6, and Supplement 2, Repent or Perish Ch. 1, esp. *1, News 112, Great Execrations Chs. 7, 8 and 9, Grand Biblical Perspectives Ch. 7. The last is of quintessential importance for a full understanding.
With this unfortunate error of Calvin thus restored to life, contrary to the Constitution in the PCA, we have a very sad excision. It reminds one of the old idea of removing tonsils en bloc, as if they were a needless appendage; whereas this is not known now to be the case!
In the flush of 'knowledge', it is so very easy to over-simplify, or over-codify, or over-generalise, or frankly as with Calvin, pointedly bypass an element which on occasion may be essential. As Spurgeon pointed out, it is one thing to say that it is all of grace and that it comes without merit as a ground; and another to say that when salvation does NOT come, this is the inverse of the all grace case!
It is a pointed lack of grace ? Not so. Grace is the life of love, and refusal is the essence of liberty, of being in God's image; and where pathology ruins its relevant exercise, it is not God who is imperilled in His exercise of love. It is merely man who is disenabled, leaving all in the hands of God, as indeed it was at the creation, and God in the hands of none, no, not even some 'sovereignty' which is strangely imagined to be free, as if to rule Him contrary to His express and repeated protestations that He would have ALL to be reconciled.
When a system starts denying the facts, in this case those of the Bible, at ANY point, it is then that you must abandon the system or correct it. In the case of the PCA, the Declaratory Statement constitutionally required to be read with the Confession to protect 'tender consciences' being now aborted by having the love of God containerised into the Confession's expression, the former fidelity is lost, the constitutional purpose is contravened and the Bible is misrepresented on this point. The 1991 Assembly's declaration that the Declaratory Statement adds nothing to the Westminster Confession, haplessly and retrogressively omits this provision for conscience.
There is thus loss of precisely what was at the outset, and what is still constitutionally presented from the word of God, as it exercised those who received the Constitution in 1901. Now the fire of misplaced sovereignty, out of order in its supposed nature, contrary in its mode of effect to the word of God Himself, is imported from philosophy, and the exuberant grandeur of the love of God is re-made, not after His image, but after man's imagination.
It is crimped. It becomes like the old-age crimpings on the mouths of the aged; losing its essential vitality and divinely defined totality in scope from the outset. God says I WOULD HAVE ALL RECONCILED IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH: the other ? HE WOULD NOT! Who knows best ? He or they! For me, God every time.
Such things, then, tend to distort the conceptions of the young, as if they were given chocolate milk ( with the tax for taste added), which really wasn't even chocolate, but an emetic. One can but pity them and seek a better way, as in the former day. With God, nothing shall be called impossible. He cares for His lambs, even beyond even well-intentioned but unbiblical efforts of those whose philosophy gains access where it ought not. Whether the philosophy distort something of His majesty, dispel something of His love, or delight to delete His majesty direct as at Calvary, it is all one in this: the white light of truth becomes coloured this way or that, or discoloured and so brings but confusion to those who mistreat its source.
To be sure, when you turn your face away from the truth, there is no solution. When the word of God is rejected outright, it is just judgment that ensues. When it is not, what is needed is continual pondering and meditation in it, delighted seeking of the Lord's face and application of His word, as He works in you (Psalms 1-2,27), providing that reasonable service, that living sacrifice which Christian life exhibits (Romans 12:1). You need no other name than that of Christ, in which to work (Acts 4:11-12, Matthew 23:9-10, Colossians 3:12-17), purged through His blood (Ephesians 1), fortified by His word (Matthew 7:21ff.), purified by His Spirit (Titus 3:3-7), through Him giving praise to the Father of lights for ever and ever (Psalm 145).
With God, it is FACT, knowledge and wisdom; not surmise and contention, modes and models from the imagination of man.
When God speaks, listening is the relevant art.