The Vindication of God and the Vicarious Sufferings of Christ

Two messages by Paul Washer:

1. The Vindication of God in the Gospel, from the Behold Your God National Conference in Memphis, Tennessee, January 21—23, 2013.

Session 3 — Paul Washer: The Vindication of God in the Gospel from Media Gratiae on Vimeo.

2. The Vicarious Sufferings of Christ

Session 7— Paul Washer: The Vicarious Sufferings of Christ from Media Gratiae on Vimeo.

Jesus, I my cross have taken

Jesus, I my cross have taken
All to leave and follow Thee
Destitute, forsaken
Thou from hence my all shall be
Perish every fond ambition
All I’?ve sought or hoped or known
Yet how rich is my condition
God and heaven are still my own

Let the world despise and leave me
They have left my Savior, too
Human hearts and looks deceive me
Thou art not, like them, untrue
O while Thou dost smile upon me
God of wisdom, love, and might
Foes may hate and friends disown me
Show Thy face and all is bright

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather
All must work for good to me

Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’?er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station
Something still to do or bear
Think what Spirit dwells within thee
Think what Father?’s smiles are thine
Think that Jesus died to win thee
Child of heaven, can’st thou repine?

Haste thee on from grace to glory
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer
Heav’n?s eternal days before thee
God?s own hand shall guide thee there
Soon shall close the earthly mission
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days
Hope shall change to glad fruition
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise

John Calvin: Master Theologian

Calvin09In an article entitled “Theologian for the Ages: John Calvin” Dr. Steve Lawson a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, and a valiant Reformer, Calvin is seen by many as the greatest influence on the church since the first century. Apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands as the most influential minister of the Word the world has ever seen. Philip Melanchthon revered him as the most able interpreter of Scripture in the church, and therefore labeled him simply “the theologian” (J. H. Merle d’Aubigné, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, Vol. 7 [1880; repr., Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle, 2000], 82). And Charles Spurgeon said that Calvin “propounded truth more clearly than any other man that ever breathed, knew more of Scripture, and explained it more clearly” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Laus Deo,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached by C. H. Spurgeon, Vol. 10 [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim, 1976], 310).

Calvin was born on July 10, 1509, to Gerard and Jeanne Cauvin in the French cathedral city of Noyon, some sixty miles north of Paris. Gerard was a notary, or financial administrator, for the Roman Catholic bishop of the Noyon diocese and, thus, a member of the professional class. At age fourteen, John entered the leading educational institution of Europe, the University of Paris, to study theology in preparation for the priesthood. There, he was immersed in the principles of the Renaissance, humanism, and scholarship. A serious and remarkably learned young man, he graduated with a master’s degree (1528).

Soon after Calvin’s graduation, Gerard fell into a conflict with the bishop of Noyon, and this falling-out with the church caused him to redirect his brilliant son to the study of law at the universities of Orléans (1528) and later Bourges (1529). Calvin learned Greek and sharpened his skills in analytical thinking and persuasive argument, skills he would use with great effect in the pulpit in Geneva. But when Gerard unexpectedly died (1531), Calvin, twenty-one years old, moved back to Paris to pursue his great love, the study of classical literature. He would later return to Bourges, where he completed his legal studies and received his law degree in 1532.

Suddenly Converted

While he was a student at the University of Orléans, Calvin encountered some of the early reform ideas through Martin Luther’s writings, which were widely discussed in academic circles. Subsequently, Calvin was converted to Christ. Calvin recorded a testimony of his conversion in the preface to his Commentary on the Book of Psalms (1557):

To this pursuit [of the study of law] I endeavored faithfully to apply myself, in obedience to the will of my father; but God, by the secret guidance of His providence, at length gave a different direction to my course. At first, since I was too obstinately devoted to the superstitions of popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, I yet pursued them with less ardor. (John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003], 1:xl–xli)

In November 1533, Nicolas Cop, rector of the University of Paris and a friend of Calvin, preached the opening address of the winter term at the university. The message was a plea for reformation on the basis of the New Testament and a bold attack on the Scholastic theologians of the day. Cop encountered strong resistance to his “Luther-like” views. Calvin is believed to have collaborated with Cop on the address, as a copy of the manuscript exists in Calvin’s handwriting. As a result, Calvin was forced to flee Paris before he could be arrested. He withdrew to the estate of Louis du Tillet, a well-to-do man who was sympathetic to the Reformation cause. There, in du Tillet’s extensive theological library, Calvin read the Bible along with the writings of the Church Fathers, most notably Augustine. By hard work, genius, and grace, Calvin was becoming a self-taught theologian of no small stature. Continue reading

Heinrich Bullinger

Dr. Steve Lawson writes:

Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575) is regarded as the most influential second-generation Reformer. As the heir to Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, shop Switzerland, he consolidated and continued the Swiss Reformation that his predecessor had started. Philip Schaff writes that Bullinger was “a man of firm faith, courage, moderation, patience, and endurance … [who was] providentially equipped” to preserve and advance the truth in a difficult time in history (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VIII: Modern Christianity: The Swiss Reformation [1910; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984], 205). During his forty-four years as the chief minister in Zurich, Bullinger’s literary output exceeded that of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Zwingli combined. He was of monumental importance in the spread of Reformed teaching throughout the Reformation. So far-reaching was Bullinger’s influence throughout continental Europe and England that Theodore Beza called him “the common shepherd of all Christian churches” (Theodore Beza, cited in Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VIII, 207).

Bullinger was born on July 18, 1504, in the tiny Swiss town of Bremgarten, ten miles west of Zurich. His father, also named Heinrich, was the local parish priest, who lived in a common law marriage with Anna Wiederkehr. This practice was officially forbidden by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but Bullinger’s father had received permission to enter into such a relationship by agreeing to pay his bishop a yearly tribute. The younger Heinrich was the fifth child born of this illegitimate wedlock. The marriage between Bullinger’s parents was eventually formalized in 1529, when the elder Bullinger joined the Reformed movement.

Young Heinrich’s father groomed him for the priesthood from a very early age. At age twelve, he was sent to the monastic school at Emmerich, known as the School of the Brethren of the Common Life. This school was a citadel of the via antique, the “old way” of learning that was stressed by the theologians of the High Middle Ages, such as Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) and John Duns Scotus (ca. 1265–1308). There, Bullinger received an advanced education in humanistic principles, especially Latin. At the same time, he came under the influence of the devotio moderna, the “modern devotion,” a medieval emphasis on the Eucharist and the deep spiritual life. Augustine and Bernard were among the earlier leaders of this pietistic movement, and it had been revived by Thomas á Kempis in his book The Imitation of Christ. Bullinger was attracted to this movement’s stress on meditation and the search for a personal spiritual experience with God. Also at this time, Bullinger began displaying a remarkable aptitude for scholarship.

The University of Cologne

Three years later, in 1519, Bullinger proceeded to the University of Cologne, where he began studying traditional Scholastic theology. Cologne was the largest city in Germany, and Roman Catholicism was deeply entrenched there—papal superstitions ran high in the city and German mystics gathered there in large numbers. Aquinas and Scotus had taught there earlier, and their Scholastic influence remained firmly embedded in Cologne. But Bullinger was convinced of the humanist approach. In his studies, he pursued the writings of the Church Fathers, especially Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Augustine. Their insistence on the priority of Scripture moved him to study the Bible for himself. Such a pursuit, he later admitted, was unknown to most of his fellow students.

While at Cologne, Bullinger was exposed to the teaching of the leading humanist of the day, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (ca. 1466–1536). Erasmus had elevated the Scriptures over Aristotelian logic and sought to reform the church through humanistic scholarship and the moral teachings of Christ. But it was Luther’s works that most challenged Bullinger’s thinking. Luther’s books were being burned in Cologne, which only piqued Bullinger’s interest in their content. Soon his mind was captured by Luther’s ideas. He also studied Philip Melanchthon’s Loci communes (1521), the first systematic treatment of Lutheran theology. In it, Melanchthon treated the Reformed hallmark doctrines of the bondage of the will and justification by faith alone. This work further impacted Bullinger. Seeds of reform were being sown in his mind. At age seventeen, he embraced the pivotal truth that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. Amid this personal transformation, Bullinger gained his master’s degree. Continue reading

Abraham was Right

in which God commands him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:2). One might think that Evans writes to lament the weakness of her faith compared to Abraham’s. Instead, she celebrates the superiority of her refusal to do what Abraham did, since from her moral perch God is wrong and disobedience to him is right.

She summarizes:

“This is a hard God to root for. It’s a hard God to defend against all my doubts and all the challenges posed by science, reason, experience, and intuition. I once heard someone say he became an atheist for theological reasons, and that makes sense to me. Once you are convinced that the deity you were taught to worship does evil things, it’s easier to question the deity’s very existence than it is to set aside your moral objections and worship anyway.”

There are some obvious questions to ask Mrs. Evans. The first is where she derives her moral objections to the actions of God. She later states that her stance comes from “being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ,” as if Jesus had some objection to the God of the Bible. What Jesus is she referring to? Is he a Jesus of her own projection or the Jesus of Scripture? Since Evans, in the same article, denounces the idea of Old Testament holy war and the New Testament doctrine of hell, does she accept or reject the Jesus of Revelation 19:11, who sits on a white horse “and in righteousness he judges and makes war”? Is this her Jesus, or does she decide who Jesus is, just as she decides what God is allowed to do?

Speaking of Scripture, we ask a second question. What does it mean to be a Christian who responds to the Bible with antipathy and condescension? Jesus declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (Jn. 5:24). According to Jesus, faith in him is faith in his Word. Is not his Word revealed in Scripture? Jesus said his followers must believe “him who sent me,” i.e. the God of the Old Testament, who Evans purports to revile and reject. Is Evans’ Christianity something different than what Jesus described? I say this not to attack Mrs. Evans, who I do not know, but to express concern for what seem to be the inevitable implications of her declarations. Is she not abandoning what the biblical Jesus describes as Christianity for a different religion based on “science, reason, experience, and intuition”? As I read Evans, and her apparent hermeneutical mentor, my old professor Peter Enns, they are not at all charting new territory of spiritual authenticity but serving up old-fashioned unbelieving liberalism, which according to J. Gresham Machen is simply a different religion from biblical Christianity.

Having asked some questions regarding Rachel Held Evans’ view of God, let me take my own stab at this subject. For I pray that I would pass Abraham’s test and I applaud Abraham for doing so. Evans states that while she is not yet a mother, she knows “deep in my gut” she would sooner turn her back on God and be struck dead than obey such a command. Writing as the father of five dearly beloved children, I counter that Abraham was right to obey and I would hope to do likewise in his place. Why was Abraham right? Let me briefly offer four perspectives and reasons: Continue reading