Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Exposition of The Grace of God

The following is a few excerpts from A.W. Pink's "The Attributes of God" from the chapter on the grace of God, Pinks exposition is very telling of the natural man's tendencies toward theologies of glory (theologies that exalt man) and hatred of the theologies that exalt God and Christ and abase man:

"Eternal life is a gift, therefore it can neither be earned by good works, nor claimed as a right. Seeing that salvation is a "gift," who has any right to tell God on whom He ought to bestow it? It is not that the Giver ever refuses this gift to any who seek it wholeheartedly, and according to the rules which He has prescribed. No! He refuses none who come to Him empty-handed and in the way of His appointing. But if out of a world of impenitent and unbelieving, God is determined to exercise His sovereign right by choosing a limited number to be saved, who is wronged? Is God obliged to force His gift on those who value it not? Is God compelled to save those who are determined to go their own way?

But nothing more riles the natural man and brings to the surface his innate and inveterate enmity against God than to press upon him the eternality, the freeness, and the absolute sovereignty of Divine grace. That God should have formed His purpose from everlasting without in anywise consulting the creature, is too abasing for the unbroken heart. That grace cannot be earned or won by any efforts of man is too self-emptying for self-righteousness. And that grace singles out whom it pleases to be its favored objects, arouses hot protests from haughty rebels. The clay rises up against the Potter and asks, "Why hast Thou made me thus?" A lawless insurrectionist dares to call into question the justice of Divine sovereignty.
[...]
The grace of God is proclaimed in the Gospel (Acts 20:24), which is to the self-righteous Jew a "stumbling block," and to the conceited and philosophizing Greek "foolishness." And why so? Because there is nothing whatever in it that is adapted to gratify the pride of man. It announces that unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. It declares that apart from Christ, the unspeakable Gift of God’s grace, the state of every man is desperate, irremediable, hopeless. The Gospel addresses men as guilty, condemned, perishing criminals. It declares that the chastest moralist is in the same terrible plight as is the most voluptuous profligate; that the zealous professor, with all his religious performances, is no better off than the most profane infidel.

The Gospel contemplates every descendant of Adam as a fallen, polluted, hell-deserving and helpless sinner. The grace which the Gospel publishes is his only hope. All stand before God convicted as transgressors of His holy law, as guilty and condemned criminals; awaiting not sentence, but the execution of sentence already passed on them (John 3:18; Rom. 3:19). To complain against the partiality of grace is suicidal. If the sinner insists upon bare justice, then the Lake of Fire must be his eternal portion. His only hope lies in bowing to the sentence which Divine justice has passed upon him, owning the absolute righteousness of it, casting himself on the mercy of God, and stretching forth empty hands to avail himself of the grace of God now made known to him in the Gospel." (Pg67-70 The Attributes of God)

The Biblical reality that salvation is from the beginning to end all of God is in reality detestable to the natural man. Unfortunately for the Church we are simultaneously sinners and saints, so the theologies that currently dominate American evangelicalism are those that exalt man. We really think far too highly of ourselves and rather lowly of God. The predominate view of God's grace is one that puts the sinner in the neutral decision land where he can say "yes" or "no" to accepting Jesus in his or her heart. So we have "seeker friendly" services and all sorts of gimmicks to nudge the "seeker" toward a decision.

The reality of scripture is that no one seeks after God, and that the things of God are complete foolishness to the natural man. The only way God becomes desirable or the things of God no longer seem to be foolishness is that we have been born again and are no longer slaves of sin. This is done by the Sovereign God who is Himself the seeker who seeks and saves the lost by grace alone.

8 comments:

TheChristianAlert.org said...

As you make your way through the book, keep an eye open for any comments on "Sinful Nature" and its relation to "Human Responsibility"...

I'm still not sure how we're responsible for our sins when our human nature was created by God. Not only that, how am I responsible for a human nature that was given to me or passed on by this dude "Adam"?

I've been googling it without success.

Perhaps my phrasing it is not correct. Or perhaps there's no easy answer either.

If you find something on the topic, blog it for us.

natamllc said...

The mystery abounds and the debate grows.

For me, simply stated, God is. God was. God will always be God.

God is Holy.
God is Pure.
God is Love.

The Devil was someone else until he did something.

Was it God's fault?

I am not in a position to know such things.

I know now what I know, not because I knew it and lost it and then found it.

I know now that I did not know.

How do I know now what I did not know before?

The difference is evident.

I was lost. I am found. Who lost me? Who found me?

As I had nothing to do with my birth, and any one of a sound mind pondering the birth of a child will easily see that, so equally I had nothing to do with being "found" and reborn. I had nothing to do with my rebirth.

To question God with regard to these things is tantamount to being in a right relationship with God and then, 'it's a mystery', turn away for God, Who is Holy, Who is Pure, Who is Love and then receiving His judgment for such eternal grave error!

God presents Grace to the Hearer.

The hearer either receives Grace or not.

God presents Faith to the receiver.

The receivers receives Faith or not.

I know that I know that I know that my Redeemer exists.

Let's take heed to the words of the Revelation and continue to Love God with a Love given to us to Love Him with, without wrath or doubting and both exists too:::>

Rev 20:10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Rev 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
Rev 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

You can take the test if you want too:::>

2Co 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2Co 13:6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

godma said...

natamllc said something very smart that people don't take to heart enough:
I am not in a position to know such things.

I strongly agree with that. This is foundational to my thinking.

The same reasoning behind that remark should also apply to the nature of God. We are in no position to determine God's attributes.

The original post itself also alluded to this problem somewhat (man's natural tendency to see things as he wishes them to be, not as they "are"). None of us are in a position to know anything about God, since He is infinite and we are finite. How can a finite being ever "know" anything infinite? They cannot. They can try to imagine it...but that's the best that can be hoped for.

But man manages to convince himself that he knows the infinite anyway (as God, His attributes, or absolute reality in general).

I think one of the greatest obstacles to our seeing reality clearly is our own wishful thinking. How can one know whether their belief (in God, His attributes, or anything else) is well justified, independent of their own innate propensity to see things as they want to see them?

Either one must delude himself/herself or weaken their standards of justification (by using "faith", for example).

Bob said...

Well it is interesting to see how the thoughts from this post have "evolved" in the comment section.

Edgar, I will definatly get a post together in the next day or so to try to answer your question the best I can. But the quick punch response to this question:

Not only that, how am I responsible for a human nature that was given to me or passed on by this dude "Adam"?

I would simply respond that you are responsible for your fallen depraved nature inherited by being in Adam's lineage just like how Christ became responsible for all the sins of His elect. Or on the flip side just like how in Christ you are now righteous by imputation of His righteousness. That's the brief answer I can give, but you are right these are tought things to grasp.

Hey Michael, I was thinking about this very subject you brought up earlier today when I was listening to lectures on Augustine while working:

"The Devil was someone else until he did something.

Was it God's fault?

I am not in a position to know such things."


Well Augustine wrestles with the problem of the origin of evil and finds an answer as to how a perfect being (unfallen Lucifer could sin) he did not actually choose evil per se rather he chose a good (himself) but it was a lesser good then God. Thus in exalting a lesser good and shunning the greater evil was born. Evil is not so much a thing but the absence of good, just like darkness is not a thing but the quality of a lack of light. I thought this was rather insightful.

Godma, hey good to hear from you again, sorry for not getting back to you in the other post, I actually have been meaning to it is just that I genuinely do have time restraints and that thread of thought isn't as hot in my mind as it was a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway you said some interesting things:

"The original post itself also alluded to this problem somewhat (man's natural tendency to see things as he wishes them to be, not as they "are"). None of us are in a position to know anything about God, since He is infinite and we are finite. How can a finite being ever "know" anything infinite? They cannot. They can try to imagine it...but that's the best that can be hoped for."

I think you are correct, although some attributes of God made there way into your knowladgable claim that God is by definition unknowable. God would be wholly unknowable to finite man apart from revelation. Now as a Christian I believe God has revealed Himself and made Himself known through prophets and ultimately through the Person of Jesus Christ. So we are not left to blindly grope and make conjectures about who/what God is like the analogy of the 10 blind men describing an elephant.

Rather God although He is transcendent has made Himself known and revealed Himself to man. Not exhaustively but truly. That is an important distinction. I agree that no one knows all there is to know about God, not even the angels that have dwelt with Him all their existance. But to know someone or to know what someone is like does not require exhaustive knowledge. If that is the case we couldn't properly say we know anyone.

So when I say that "I know my wife" it is not a false statement because I don't know everything about her (that would require infinite knowledge even though she is finite). Neither is it "delusional" to say that I know God even though this knowledge is not exhaustive, again I agree that no one has exhaustive knowledge of God, however through God's self revelation in the Bible and in the Person of Christ we do have true knowledge about who God is and His character. And ultimately we know who we are as fallen creatures in light of God's revelation and the plan of salvation God has made through Christ and all who hope in Him.

godma said...

Well said. I appreciate the response you gave. No hurry on the other thread, although I am still interested in continuing it if you are too.

Regarding the comparison of knowing your wife to knowing God, I agree with you that complete knowledge is impossible for both, for obvious reasons. In the same way, complete knowledge of anything is also impossible for us.

However, the point I had in mind about God is a bit more subtle than perhaps I worded it before, so let me try again:

Whereas we define a person as having certain finite attributes (whether they truly do or not, that's the definition we operate under), we define God as having only infinite attributes in various directions, right? (regarding knowledge, power, benevolence, etc.) God, by our definition, has no finite attributes, only infinite ones. I'm curious whether you agree with me on this or can provide a good counterexample.

So, while our inability to know God completely is similar to our inability to know anything completely, it is a different story when we drop the "completeness" aspect and just talking about partial knowledge.

The fact is that certain aspects of your wife can be known to a great extent by you because you both occupy a similar scale in almost every quantifiable respect. But since God, by definition, is infinite and unquantifiable in every dimension, there is no hope of this. I'm actually of the opinion that to claim such knowledge is idolatrous, since such knowledge is only of a human conceptualization (and thus a limited and false idol) of "God".

Regarding your point about revelation versus other supposed sources of knowledge, I can't argue strongly to that point because revelation is a private thing and I can't see inside your mind. However, I'll just point out that our minds are extremely susceptible to various well-known cognitive biases, and thus we should be careful not to blindly trust what our minds tell us - without independent and public corroborating information. If we really want to know the "truth", we should work to mitigate these natural biases.

natamllc said...

Bobby

yes and amen!

It is amazing that we who "have" the Holy Ghost, think a lot alike and have no dispute.

On the other hand, it is not so amazing to me that those who "have not" the Holy Ghost, think a lot alike and have a dispute!

Amazing, isn't it?

I believe Bro. Augustine was born into the world just at the time he was needed, then, and now for us to know and understand, as we move into the time when we need "wisdom" from the ages already past to deal with this age we find ourselves in!

To God be the Glory, then, now, and forever more!

One final thought on this comes from the ancient words of King David, and as then, so as it was, so it is, revelant today:::>

1Ch 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth.

And as Tom Baker teaches about the king of the Word; Scripture interprets Scripture, 1 Chronicles 16:31 can be understood by Eph. 1:3:::>

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

And it is so that here I "find" my answer to prayer!

Our prayer should bring about "LIGHT" or "spiritual blessings" which disspells the spiritual darkness both in the "heavens" written about there by King David and by Paul some centuries later.

As it was for King David then, and later on for Paul after, so it is so for us today that we too can lift up our voices in prayers of exclamations to Our Blessed God, "blessing" Him in the purpose of Christ Jesus Our Lord, asking Him for our days to be filled with earthly and "spiritual blessings" which, of course, we do not deserve!

Let the heavens then be indeed GLAD and the earth indeed filled with JOY and indeed let men say among the nations, all nations, without exception, LET MEN DECLARE THAT THE LORD REIGNS, THAT THE LORD REIGNS, THAT THE LORD REIGNS!!!

Onward Christian Soldiers, as we too in our day endure hardship like good soldiers!

Bob said...

Godma-
Hey for someone who says there is no God you seem to make a decent theologian. I would say with Paul that is because you really do have a knowledge of God. Your statements are very insightful as you write:

"Whereas we define a person as having certain finite attributes (whether they truly do or not, that's the definition we operate under), we define God as having only infinite attributes in various directions, right? (regarding knowledge, power, benevolence, etc.) God, by our definition, has no finite attributes, only infinite ones. I'm curious whether you agree with me on this or can provide a good counterexample."

I do agree, I do think that to know any particular finite fact exhaustively would still require an infinite knowledge. The only analogy that is swirling about in my head that might shed light on this does not refer particularly to knowledge but to show that infinites cut both ways, both in the macro and micro and thus exhaustive knowledge even of a finite:

Suppose you are 10 feet away from a friend and with your first step towards this freind you travel 4 feet. All of the following steps towards this friend are half as much as the previous so 2', 1', 1/2'...the point is that you will never reach the goal because you will eventually be taking steps that are 0.0000000005' long. Thus within the finite distance of 10' there is an infinite number.

Now as far as my wife and knowledge say of her life, it would require to know an infinite number of factors of her history from second to second through her 28 year life, thus even to have an exhaustive knowledge of a finite requires an infinite knowledge.

"So, while our inability to know God completely is similar to our inability to know anything completely, it is a different story when we drop the "completeness" aspect and just talking about partial knowledge."

So based on what I said above I would say that all our knowledge is partial. But it does not follow that simply because our knowledge is partial that our knowledge is in any way defective. So If I read you correct Godma I think we are in agreement.

Now this is where I think my analogy of an infinite within a finite comes into play:

"The fact is that certain aspects of your wife can be known to a great extent by you because you both occupy a similar scale in almost every quantifiable respect. But since God, by definition, is infinite and unquantifiable in every dimension, there is no hope of this. I'm actually of the opinion that to claim such knowledge is idolatrous, since such knowledge is only of a human conceptualization (and thus a limited and false idol) of "God"."

I again agree, I am moved by the fact you would call certain dogmas about God idolatrous. Because of course any molding or shaping of a god is idolatry.

I do again think that although the attributes of God are infinite in their perfection (which is what will make heaven quite enjoyable by the way...it won't be eternal golf or bowling like so many seem to invision, it will take an eternity of standing in awe of God and His attributes to plumb the depths of them) it still dow not follow that we can not have true knowledge of them. Now I agree that without revelation any attributes to God we may ascribe are just forms of idolatry.

Now when I speak of revelation I do not primarily mean personal revelation (although that is part of it) I mean the self disclosure of God in the Bible. Now we come to the Bible as subjects so I don't deny that there are aspects of subjectivity here, God by His grace needs to open our eyes that we might see the Bible as more then just a dead book of crazy stories and rules but as the very word of God and a testimony of God's acts in time and space.

"Regarding your point about revelation versus other supposed sources of knowledge, I can't argue strongly to that point because revelation is a private thing and I can't see inside your mind. However, I'll just point out that our minds are extremely susceptible to various well-known cognitive biases, and thus we should be careful not to blindly trust what our minds tell us - without independent and public corroborating information. If we really want to know the "truth", we should work to mitigate these natural biases."

You really have described the dilemma for fallen man in knowledge of God. Based on the Bible the natural man hates God and creates gods to rival and suppress knowledge of the true One. My advice to you Godma is ultimatly to get on your knees and plead with God to reveal Himself to you.

What was said above by you yourself is why I don't give classical evidential proofs for the existance of God, because no matter what the natural man can just say "Naw, don't buy it." I argue for God's existence due to the impossibility of the contrary. My argument is simply that without presupposing the existence of God we can't know anything.

As for revelation I think there are three areas of revelation:
1.Nature
2.The Biblical testimony
3.God's Spirit changing the hearts of God haters.

Without the Spirit there can never be a sure knowledge of God merely from the other two. Deists create a god based upon natures need of an author/designer (pitfall of the ID movement). Fallen men twist and wrangle the Bible to make the god that suits them. Men born of Spirit submit to the God of the Bible and see things in light of His revelation in the Bible.

This is more of a description of my epistemological system in knowledge of God and an exhortation for you to pray that God open your eyes then really answering anything in particular you raised at this point.

godma said...

Hey for someone who says there is no God you seem to make a decent theologian.

Thanks, I think. In my opinion it's more about anthropology and psychology, though, since what I'm talking about is the human concept of divinity, not divinity itself in any sense of having an independent real existence. Although I don't think God is real, I can still try to understand people's relationships to the concept.

I am moved by the fact you would call certain dogmas about God idolatrous. Because of course any molding or shaping of a god is idolatry.

It is interesting that we can share this concept of idolatry to a large extent, although in your case it is a sin against a deity, but in mine it merely leads to false confidence that one knows something they don't and can't. In either case, though, we seem to agree that it is essentially a matter of mistaking a man-made concept for actual reality (if there is such a thing...maybe that's just a bogus human concept itself).

But my point in bringing up idolatry was that you yourself are idolatrous whenever you conceptualize any attribute of your God, since such concepts are unavoidably tied to the limitations of the human imagination and judgement. Any description of God is idolatrous, including those in the Bible (at the very least because it was written by men).

You write about revelation as if it is a way to avoid this. I have to admit that I don't understand revelation, or at least I don't buy into it being what you think it is. To me it (like faith) just seems like a convenient place for people to hide their cherished beliefs so that they are protected from outside challenge. It seems to me that you can claim to be true whatever you want just by convincing yourself and/or others that you've had a revelation that it is so. How can you tell the difference between divine revelation and mere wishful thinking? What tests will distinguish between a true revelation and a false one?

If I had something that I thought was a revelation, I would not immediately trust it, but would first test it for consistency with the rest of what I can verify about the world. I would try very hard to make sure I wasn't just fooling myself. Particularly if the revelation told me something I already dearly wished were true...that would just increase my suspicion that it might be a product of wishful thinking. But all that is not to suggest that I would automatically judge all personal revelation to be false. I would just be suspicious...because, above all, I want to know the truth, if such a thing exists. And that requires not confusing my own desires for reality itself.

My argument is simply that without presupposing the existence of God we can't know anything.

This is far from simple or obvious. How is God required for us to have knowledge? What is knowledge, by your definition?

Surely you would agree that there is such a thing as false knowledge? That being the case, how can you know whether we actually "know" anything or not? Maybe all our supposed knowledge is merely false belief. Would such false knowledge require God too, in your opinion?