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Entries in Sproul (5)



In Chapter 10, Section 2 of the Westminster Confession, the subject matter is the effectual calling of God:

This effectual call is God's free and special grace alone, not from anything foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

In his book Truths We Confess, R.C. Sproul expands on this section, laying out the difference between monergism and synergism. Monergistic work is done by one person alone; synergistic work is co-operative. The work of salvation in the believer's heart is a monergistic work according to the Confession. There are those, of course, who do not believe the Confession, but rather believe that the individual demonstrates some sort of co-operation; his co-operation is that final 1%.

Sproul reminds us at the end of the chapter:

We enter the house of God as people who understand that once we were dead, and now we are alive. We were blind but now we see. We had no affection in our heart for the Lord Jesus Christ, and now our heart pants for the Lord even as a deer pants for the water brooks. This is not because we pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but because God, in his great love and mercy that he has poured out upon us, has rescued us from the grave.

I remember distinctly the night I was converted. I had been reading the bible for the past number of weeks. I had questions. I wanted to ask the woman who gave me the bible to answer some questions, but it was only Wednesday and I would not see her until the weekend. I wandered around my house pre-occupied, wrestling with those questions. Finally, later that evening, I could not take it any longer. Questions or not, I wanted to be called one of Christ's. I bent by my bed, and in a very ineloquent prayer asked God to do to me whatever it took to make me belong to Him. I repented of my sinfulness and asked to be acceptable to Him. 

I suppose some would say I "co-operated" by praying. But who gave me the desire to pray? Who was compelling me to? I had been thinking about it for quite a while; why that night?

I know spiritually blind people. One whom I've known a very long time is very polite when we talk of spiritual things. She doesn't object, she nods her head, and she is very agreeable. But she is blind. She does not see her need, and she does not become agitated when the reality of sin is discussed. I can see in her eyes that she has no idea what I'm talking about. Perhaps her time is coming. Perhaps she will have her eyes opened somewhere down the line. For now, it is not a matter of her resisting God's grace. She simply isn't seeing or hearing it.

When I look back at what I was like before I was converted, I see my blindness. I knew there was a problem, alright, but I had no idea what it was. I needed to have my eyes opened to what the situation was. That night, twenty-nine years ago, my eyes were opened to my sin. I was blind no longer. I was compelled to believe. Those words in my bible cried out for a response in a way they had not before.

This, like Sproul says, should generate gratitude. It should squash my pride and self-sufficiency. It seems to me that believing that I had some sort of role in my own salvation interferes with real gratitude. From death to life; from blindness to sight. It was all of God.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved. (Eph. 2:4-5)


The difference is the reason why

I just finished reading the first volume in R.C. Sproul's commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Truths We Confess.

The more I read the Confession, the more I see it as an amazing piece of writing. And Sproul's well thought out commentary is very helpful.

The very last section of the book, Chapter 8, Section 8 of the Confession, deals with the matter of definite (or limited) atonement. This, of course, is the doctrine that makes a lot of people squirm. 

Sproul makes helpful distinction regarding the difference between Reformed theology and Arminians:

Universalism teaches that everybody is saved. Particularism teaches that only some people are saved. The difference between Reformed theology and Arminianism, then, is the explanation of why some are not saved. Arminians say that some people are not saved because they do not co-operate with the grace of God in order to be saved. The Reformed believe that some are not saved because God has not given them the effective grace to be saved.

The problem always comes when we go to extremes. The extreme application to Arminianism is "try harder." We may feel that we have not done enough to "win" that person to Christ. The risk of the Arminian view seems to me to be an inflated importance on the human witness to others. If our child has not become redeemed, it is because we did not share the gospel enough. If our friends are not saved it is because we did not do enough. This just leads to a lot of unnecessary guilt. It also downplays the utterly lost state of the one we're witnessing to. They just don't understand; they need it explained a different way. That may be true, but it may be because they are blind and no amount of discussion will remove that blindness; only the Holy Spirit will, and we may not be the vessel God uses to effect that removal.

The extreme with the Reformed view is that of apathy and laziness. We think we have no control over salvation, so we do very little, or maybe nothing at all. We become complacent about sharing the gospel, or we give up entirely, thinking that no matter what we say, God's going to do it, anyway. We have to remember that because we don't know who is elect and who is not, preaching the gospel whenever we can is important.

Human agency in evangelism is crucial, but we must not take anything to an extreme. As those who bear the gospel, we must be dliigent to preach the gospel message, but confident enough in God to have peace that He will bring about what He has ordained.


My favourite fight song

R.C. Sproul, from Truths We Confess, in discussion about the Arian controversy:

The Arians used a method common in their day to circulate their ideas. They composed rousing songs that promoted their views and insulted the Trinitarians. The Trinitarians responded by writing their own song, and historians tell us that at the height of the controversy the Arians stood on one side of the river and sang, while the Trinitarians stood on the other side and sang. The Trinitarians' sons was the Gloria Patria: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen." Today we tend to sing this song in somber reverence, whereas it was originally composed as a fight song.


You can't have one without the other

It seems like the topic of wisdom is everywhere I read.

In Truths We Confess, Sproul comments on God and the Trinity. In the first section of chapter 2, he addresses the fact that God is called "most wise."

Some think that you can have wisdom without knowledge, but you cannot. That is why we must study God's Word diligently. We need to know the things of God, remembering that even if we get knowledge, we can still lack the wisdom. We cannot get the wisdom without the knowledge. Knowledge is a necessary condition for wisdom, but not a sufficient condition. God not only knows all things, but also knows what to do with them. He knows how to exercise his government over them. He has never made a foolish decision or conceived a bad plan. He is completely enveloped in pure wisdom, knowing the right things to do.

We have all the wisdom we need for godly living in the person of God. Through Christ, we can live righteously, with ability and skill. But we must know the Word. And that often takes work. And it takes time and patience. It's a life long pursuit.


Be preoccupied

From Truths We Confess, Volume I. Sproul addresses the second chapter of the Westminster Confession, God and the Holy  Trinity:

We should never consider the character of God to be too deep to think about. The more we reflect on his greatness, the more our souls are inflamed to adore him and worship him for his magnificence.

This is why I would rather dwell on a "dry" theological point: so that my soul is inflamed to adore God.

So many things preoccupy our thoughts: issues, news stories, debates, competitions, ourselves. May God's greatness be among that which preoccupies our thoughts.