“Judge by a supernatural light”


Thomas Manton (1620–1677)Thomas Manton deduces three rules for making sound judgments in accordance with the apostle James’s command to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2 ESV). The second is as follows:

Judge by a supernatural light. Christ’s eye-salve must clear your sight, or else you cannot make a right judgment: there is no proper and fit apprehension of things till you get within the veil, and see by the light of a sanctuary lamp: 1 Cor. ii. 11, ‘The things of God knoweth no man, but by the Spirit of God.’ He had said before, ver. 9, ‘Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,’ &c.; i.e., natural senses do not perceive the worth and price of spiritual privileges; for I suppose the apostle speaketh not there of the incapacity of our understandings to conceive of heavenly joys, but of the unsuitableness of spiritual objects to carnal senses. A man that hath no other light but reason and nature, cannot judge of those things; God’s riddles are only open to those that plough with God’s heifer: and it is by God’s Spirit that we come to discern and esteem the things that are of God; which is the main drift of the apostle in that chapter. So David, Ps. xxxvi. 9, ‘In thy light we shall see light;’ that is, by his Spirit we come to discern the brightness of glory or grace, and the nothingness of the world.

—Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 4, A Practical Commentary: or an Exposition with Notes on the Epistle of James (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), 22.

“Who is God save our God?” ‖ “What is God?”


In light of the odium commonly hurled against classical Protestant doctrine by modern Protestant theologians it is interesting to compare one of Augustine’s definitions of God with that of the Westminster Divines:

Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong, stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know it not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, Thy purpose unchanged; receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet exacting usury. Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe; and who hath aught that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, owing nothing; remittest debts, losing nothing.

—Augustine, Confessions I.4.

God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

Westminster Larger Catechism 7; cf. Westminster Confession of Faith II.

Does the Trinity matter for true worship?


I testify to every man who is confessing Christ and denying God, that Christ will profit him nothing; to every man that calls upon God but rejects the Son, that his faith is vain; to every man that sets aside the Spirit, that his faith in the Father and the Son will be useless, for he cannot even hold it without the presence of the Spirit. For he who does not believe the Spirit does not believe in the Son, and he who has not believed in the Son does not believe in the Father. For none “can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3), and “No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten God which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him” (1 John 1:18).

— Basil of Caesarea, De Spiritu Sancto, § 27.

“Jonathan Edwards and the Absence of Free Choice” by Richard A. Muller

I noted earlier that the audio recording of Richard A. Muller’s lecture, “Jonathan Edwards and the Absence of Free Choice: A Parting of Ways in the Reformed Tradition,” is freely available thanks to the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS (MP3; 66 MB):

The lecture is now available in the inaugural issue of Jonathan Edwards Studies, an online journal sponsored by the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University:

Richard A. Muller, “Jonathan Edwards and the Absence of Free Choice: A Parting of Ways in the Reformed Tradition,” Jonathan Edwards Studies 1, no. 1 (2011): 3–22.

Access to the article is free, but you must register an account in order to view it. The abstract is as follows:

Jonathan Edwards, frequently identified in modern discussions of his thought as the “greatest American theologian” and often regarded as an epitome of Calvinism for his teaching on the freedom of will, was, in his own time and for a century after his death, a much-debated thinker whose views had a polarizing effect in Reformed circles. Scholars have examined the reception of his ideas in America and have noted a rather pointed opposition both in New England and in the American South. The reception of Edwards’ thought in Britain, however, has received far less attention, even though it offers a rather significant perspective on Edwards’ place in the Reformed tradition.

Zuidema on Kuyper and common grace

Unlike some anglophone scholarship on Kuyper (which seems to have no qualms about offering sweeping judgments about the man’s thought without engaging his primary sources), the following translation of S. U. Zuidema’s “Common Grace and Christian Action in Abraham Kuyper” is well worth reading. (Translated by Harry Van Dyke presumably for Communication and confrontation; a philosophical appraisal and critique of modern society and contemporary thought; originally published in Anti-Revolutionaire Staatkunde 24 (1954): 1–19, 49–73.)

Reading this piece should at least cause the thoughtful Reformed anglophone to think twice before dismissing Kuyper as a “transformationalist,” as has become quite fashionable in some American Reformed circles.

Review: King, Priest, and Prophet — by Robert Sherman

King, Priest, and Prophet: A Trinitarian Theology of Atonement
By Robert Sherman
New York and London: T & T Clark International, 2004
ISBN: 0567025608 (WorldCat, Google Books, Book Mole)

Summary: Sherman’s presentation of a trinitarian doctrine of the atonement that is rooted in historic Christian orthodoxy provides many laudable features. He robustly affirms, for example, the importance and relevance of the doctrine of the trinity as the cornerstone of the modern church’s faith and life. Likewise he strongly asserts that God’s Word is the primary source and norm of theology and that theology, contra Kant and modernist critiques, offers not just subjective faith but objective truth. He provides thoughtful critiques, furthermore, of (1) the reduction of Christianity to ethics or politics, (2) the Enlightenment and feminist critiques of classic theology, and (3) the demythologizing of classical Christology. Moreover, his explications of selected correlations of Bible texts offer intriguing trinitarian insights.

Nevertheless, there are at least four aspects of Sherman’s book that I found to be unsatisfying:

  1. his ambiguous and hence unsound use of trinitarian distinctions,
  2. his scant development of the mediator’s nature in relation to the mediator’s work,
  3. his superficial engagement with the Reformed tradition,
  4. and his complete omission of God’s law in relation to sin.

Download my full review (5 pp. PDF; 135 KB).

Richard Muller’s Lecture on Jonathan Edwards’ View of Free Will

Professor Richard Muller’s 29 Sept. 2010 lecture entitled, “Jonathan Edwards and the Absence of Free Choice: A Parting of Ways in the Reformed Tradition,” is freely available thanks to the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS:

Download MP3 (66 MB)

The abstract of the lecture is as follows:

Jonathan Edwards is often regarded as an epitome of Calvinism for his teaching on the freedom of will, though he was, in his own time and for a century after his death, a much-debated thinker whose views polarized Reformed circles. This lecture will concentrate on Edwards’ reception in Britain, which has received little attention despite its significance in the Reformed tradition. Concentrating on two historical contexts, Dr. Muller will consider the mixed reception of Edwards’ thought, note differences between Edwards and the older Reformed orthodoxy, and point to a parting of the ways in the Reformed tradition that took place largely in the eighteenth century.

Learn more about the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS.

“Even when He hated us, He loved us”

The love, therefore, wherewith God loveth, is incomprehensible and immutable. For it was not from the time that we were reconciled unto Him by the blood of His Son that He began to love us; but He did so before the foundation of the world, that we also might be His sons along with His Only-begotten, before as yet we had any existence of our own. Let not the fact, then, of our having been reconciled unto God through the death of His Son be so listened to or so understood, as if the Son reconciled us to Him in this respect, that He now began to love those whom He formerly hated, in the same way as enemy is reconciled to enemy, so that thereafter they become friends, and mutual love takes the place of their mutual hatred; but we were reconciled unto Him who already loved us, but with whom we were at enmity because of our sin. Whether I say the truth on this, let the apostle testify, when he says: “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He, therefore, had love toward us even when we were practising enmity against Him and working iniquity; and yet to Him it is said with perfect truth, “Thou hatest, O Lord, all workers of iniquity.” Accordingly, in a wonderful and divine manner, even when He hated us, He loved us; for He hated us, in so far as we were not what He Himself had made; and because our own iniquity had not in every part consumed His work, He knew at once both how, in each of us, to hate what we had done, and to love what He had done.

Augustine of Hippo, NPNF, VII:411.

Books by Augustine

Atheism Controverts Nature; Nature Controverts Atheism

Atheism is not proper to man by nature, but develops at a later stage of life, on the ground of philosophic reflection; like scepticism, it is an intellectual and ethical abnormality, which only confirms the rule. By nature, in virtue of his nature, every man believes in God. And this is due in the last analysis to the fact that God, the creator of all nature, has not left himself without witness, but through all nature, both that of man himself and that of the outside world, speaks to him. Not evolution, but revelation alone accounts for this impressive and incontrovertible fact of the worship of God. In self-consciousness God makes known to us man, the world, and himself.

Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation: The Stone Lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908), 79. (Read online at Google Books and Internet Archive.)

Bavinck Books