Two Cities or One?

Michael Sean Winters thinks Bishop Robert McElroy’s article on the religious duties of voters has merits, but I wonder after reading this paragraph:

Most important, a spiritual political conversion requires the orientation of soul that flows from the principle of solidarity that St. John Paul II powerfully outlined as a fundamental element of Catholic social teaching. This orientation reminds us that in society we must always understand ourselves to be bound together in God’s grace and committed, in the words of “On Social Concerns,” “to the good of one’s neighbor, with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to lose oneself for the sake of the other rather than exploiting him.”

The implications of such a spiritual stance for discipleship in voting are clearly reflected in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The principle of solidarity requires that men and women of our day cultivate a greater awareness that they are debtors of the society of which they have become a part.”

I get having a sense of belonging to the rest of the people in the society of which I am a member. I don’t get what grace has to do with this.

Is it really true that Christians understand themselves to be bound together with non-Christians in God’s grace? Or if we apply the antithesis that Augustine affirmed in his formulation of 2 cities, then are we only bound together in society with other Christians? That was the construction that led European Christians to wonder about where Jews and Muslims fit in Christendom, and John Calvin to wonder about where Michel Servetus fit in Geneva.

So once again, perhaps the Bishop needs to make clear the difference between the two kingdoms, one that affirms a spiritual antithesis and a social commonness. Blurring the two will get us to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

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58 thoughts on “Two Cities or One?

  1. dgh—“I get having a sense of belonging to the rest of the people in the society of which I am a member. I don’t get what grace has to do with this.”

    Those who confuse our providential situation with “grace” are those who profane “grace” much like those who teach that Christ died for everyone are profaning the blood of Christ. But these false teachers cannot change either the justice or the sovereign effectiveness of the cross, for even their false teaching has been ordained by the same God who designed the glorious death of Christ.

    It does not follow that we who believe the true gospel have no need to refute the false teaching. Our prayer is that we ourselves have been predestined to expose any and all attempts to make God’s grace common.

    Christ’s death is not common for every sinner. Christ’s death does not have the common ordinary effect of “creating an opportunity for salvation” conditioned on what sinners do with grace.
    But in our post-Barth/Torrance world, it is more and more common to think of all sin (even the sin of those not yet justified) as sin against grace. This tends to remove the antithesis between law and gospel. We are given the guilt trip of “you killed Jesus attempting to love you and offering to save you”.

    Mark Jones has such a “common” notion of grace that he extends the idea of “grace” to the relationship between God the Father and God the Son—“Divine grace is not merely God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, and thus a characteristic of how he relates to finite creatures, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam. In the “wilderness,” the grace of God is upon his Son, the second Adam. ”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/can-humans-merit-before-god-2.php

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  2. McElroy:

    Such a spiritual conversion to solidarity is not alien to the American political tradition. The founders of the United States called it civic virtue, and they believed that it was absolutely essential for the success of the new experiment in democracy that they were launching. The founders generally believed that religious belief was one of the few foundations in the hearts of men and women that could produce enduring civic virtue and the self-sacrifice that at times it demands. It was their hope that a culture of civic virtue would lead to a politics of the common good.

    A Moral Conversion to the Common Good

    The core concept of the common good is simple. Rooted in the dignity, unity and equality of all people, the concrete common good is the set of social conditions at a given historical moment that will best allow all people in a society to attain their fulfillment as individuals and groups.

    Sounds like the founding fathers were separated brethren.
    https://oldlife.org/2015/12/do-americans-and-christians-worship-the-same-god/

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  3. “Is it really true that Christians understand themselves to be bound together with non-Christians in God’s grace?”

    Um, no. And duh. That is only now bandied about because Rome has essentially sold out to Modernist assumptions on one level, because JPII, an apparently noble soul, was like Obama (also quite likely petty decent guy) is an overrated modern thinker who confirms people in sentiments they want to believe. ‘Theology of the Body’ is a hot mess, and whatever he taught about social teaching is likely as confused as his death penalty schmaltz. I’d argue JPII was the George use of Catholicism… great guy, dod some good things, but also was a philosophical mixed bag.

    As for “Catholic Social Teaching,” I would also argue its authority is about as bogus as many of the ‘Gospel-centered’ crowd… It’s the Pope’s New Robes, or something like that.

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  4. Joe M: “Is it really true that Christians understand themselves to be bound together with non-Christians in God’s grace?”

    in a sense

    Bible topperism: While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous; if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?

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  5. Ali, that passage didn’t say anything about grace. God’s sun and rain are not God’s grace. Even if sun and rain are “grace in some sense,” how much sun and rain do you need in order to be saved?

    If you say there are two kinds of God’s grace, are these a result of two kinds of God’s love? So does God love everybody? What about Esau?

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  6. Walton: Ali, that passage didn’t say anything about grace.

    it didn’t?

    Walton: God’s sun and rain are not God’s grace.

    it isn’t?

    you don’t like those words of God’s, Walton, or do you just what to discuss further “making clear the difference -between spiritual antithesis and social commonness”.

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  7. Ali, nope and nope. God’s word says God gives sun and rain to everybody and God gives grace to his people. You’re the one who decided sun and rain is grace.

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  8. Also, I am aware that the Reformed tradition isn’t monolithic on this topic. I have a genuine question though for the more common grace leaning people here. If the doctrine of common grace (in part) is based on people’s knowledge of God and morality (Romans 1), which is only sufficient to condemn, how can it be grace? That sounds more like common “law.”

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  9. Walton: Ali, that passage didn’t say anything about grace.
    Ali:it didn’t?
    Walton: nope

    Being kind to all isn’t gracious? being kind to all isn’t only possible by God’s grace?

    Walton: God’s sun and rain are not God’s grace.
    Ali: it isn’t?
    Walton: nope

    well, hope the Lord doesn’t take away the sun and the rain today or we’re toast.

    Walton, I think it is probably ingratitude to God to say your ‘nopes’ above. Believers know that every good gift is from God. Not only do they know it; they acknowledge it; and they give thanks to God for it. Unbelievers…not so much, or at all.

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  10. Walton,

    In the Reformed tradition, some have denied common grace outright, but that’s a minority position as far as I know. Things such as sun and rain are usually included in common grace, at least as fruits or evidence of some kind of divine benevolence toward all people. Sinners don’t deserve the rain to make their crops grow, so that God still sends it is a gracious act. What sinners deserve is drought and famine.

    One can also see the knowledge of God and His law as an aspect of grace. With respect to our justification, the law is only sufficient to condemn. But the law also serves to restrain sinners from being as bad as they could be. In that sense, law would be a gift of grace to the sinner. God doesn’t have to put any restraint on us; He could let us be as bad as we could be. It is what we deserve. But He doesn’t. He holds us back, and one of the ways He does that is through the law on the conscience. So in that sense, the gift of the law is a manifestation of grace.

    Hope that helps.

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  11. Included in this idea of common grace is not only the idea that God treats sinners better than they deserve in this life, but that he has a disposition of love toward all his image bearers that does not compromise his special love that results in only electing some.

    Geerhardus Vos – “We certainly have a right to say that the love which God originally bears toward man as created in His image survives in the form of compassion under the reign of sin. This being so, when the sinner comes in contact with the gospel of grace, it is natural for God to desire that he should accept its offer and be saved. We must even assume that over against the sin of rejection of the gospel this love continues to assert itself, in that it evokes from the divine heart sincere sorrow over man’s unbelief. But this universal love should be always so conceived as to leave room for the fact that God, for sovereign reasons, has not chosen to bestow upon its objects that higher love which not merely desires, but purposes and works out the salvation of some. It may be difficult to realize from any analogy in our own consciousness how the former can exist without giving rise to the latter; yet we are clearly led to believe that such is the case in God. A logical impossibility certainly is not involved, and our utter ignorance regarding the motives which determine the election of grace should restrain us from forming the rash judgment that, psychologically speaking, the existence of such a love in God for the sinner and the decree of preterition with reference to that same sinner are mutually exclusive.”

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  12. Robert, which is why some have sided with the CRC in affirming the concept of common grace (in opposition to the PRC which has denied it), but chosen the language of providence. Better to employ the language of grace with respect to justification, providence with respect to creation. Otherwise it’s confusing.

    So, Ali, it’s not a matter of ingratitude on Walton’s part, it’s a matter of wanting to be more clear. Sun and rain are better described as God’s kindness (not grace).

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  13. Thanks Robert. And Zrim, I tend to prefer providence as well. The law is good. The law serves a redemptive purpose even. But the law is not grace.

    And sinners don’t deserve to continue enjoying their sin. But God allowing them to continue sinning (especially the non-elect) is not grace, is it?

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  14. Zrim and Walton,

    Substituting providence for grace does not answer the key question. Providence only answers the what, what is God doing in the world to both elect and non-elect. The question common grace seks to answer answers is the why, why is he doing it. Is there a gracious disposition in God towards the non-elect? The 1948 OPC report on the free offer sees this as the crux of the matter.

    “Again, the expression ‘God desires,’ in the formula that crystallizes the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all the `seeming’ attitude of God but a real attitude, a real disposition of lovingkindness inherent in the free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture proffered and the invitation given…This passage (Matt 5:44-48) does not indeed deal with the overtures of grace in the gospel. But it does tell us something regarding God’s benevolence that has bearing upon all manifestations of divine grace. The particular aspect of God’s grace reflected upon here is the common gifts of providence, the making of the sun to rise upon evil and good and the sending of rain upon just and unjust.”

    There should be no fear in speaking of this disposition referred to above as grace because words have a range of meaning and usage. In the same way Agape in the NT has a large semantic range, at times referring to the Father’s love for His Son (John 5:20), to God’s love for his redeemed people (Rom. 8:37), to the love Demas had for the world (II Tim. 4:10). We still use the same word, and the context determines the distinction between types of love.

    If God has compassion for the lost, and the compassion is undeserved, it is a gracious compassion. As for the term “common grace” confusing people, it is not healthy when conservatives fear nuance. I think most Christians can understand these distinctions without being confused.

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  15. I think whether we are bound together with nonChristians in God’s grace depends on the context and the kind of grace. But the paragraphs in question seemed to say something a bit different:


    This orientation reminds us that in society we must always understand ourselves to be bound together in God’s grace and committed, in the words of “On Social Concerns,” “to the good of one’s neighbor, with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to lose oneself for the sake of the other rather than exploiting him.”

    Being bound to the good of one’s neighbor seems a bit different from being bound to one’s neighbor.

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  16. Todd, I’ve had multiple people recommend that OPC report (both majority and minority) so I should probably get on that.

    I think providence definitely shifts the tone though. Providence conveys a creational ordering as opposed to a redemptive one. Texts like Matt 5:44-48, and “you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children” seem to be about “just getting along.” God has preserved creation after the fall so that people can continue functioning in society. This seems especially implied by the familial context of the latter verse.

    I have not considered that interpretation of Matthew 5 though. The parallel between God’s action towards the evil and the command to love your enemies is more pronounced than I had realized. I’ll definitely check out those OPC reports.

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  17. Walton: If the doctrine of common grace (in part) is based on people’s knowledge of God and morality (Romans 1), which is only sufficient to condemn, how can it be grace?

    mcmark–good question.

    Zrim–Better to employ the language of grace with respect to justification, providence with respect to creation. Otherwise it’s confusing.

    mcmark—-Amen.

    If “restraining providence” is grace, then who gets the grace? The ones who sin less than they would have, or the ones who get sinned against less, or both? If there is “grace” before the fall, did that “grace” fail when Adam sinned?

    William Young (The OPC Minority Report)—“In some Calvinistic circles there is an identification of preaching the gospel to everyone with an alleged desire that all who are called externally should be saved. Those who fail to find Scripture warrant for such a claim are sometimes regarded as denying the gospel command and even the gospel itself.”

    “It should be pointed out that there are ambiguities in the claim itself. Some who are well-instructed Calvinists may use the word “desire” to mean nothing other than the revealed will of God in the commands, promises and invitations of the gospel. Others appear literally to suppose a frustrated desire as an emotion in God in tension with the decree to save the elect.”

    http://reformedpresbyterianveritasdocuments.blogspot.com/2009/01/free-offer-of-gospel-dr-william-young.html#more

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  18. Mark Jones —“Divine grace is not MERELY God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, and thus a characteristic of how God relates to finite creatures, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam.

    Mark Jones–” In the wilderness, the grace of God is upon his Son, the second Adam. ”

    Mark Jones–“The incarnation as it happened gives us so much, is so rich in gifts of divine friendship and intimacy, that it cannot be explained as MERELY a divine countermeasure against sin. …I am so impressed with the Christ as he is that I argue that the category of redemption is not rich enough to explain the wonder of his presence”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/incarnation-apart-from-sin.php

    more from William Young (the opc minority report) —To add texts like Matthew 5:45 which do not refer to the way of salvation, but to rain and sunshine, is hardly to present cumulative evidence for a thesis nowhere plainly taught in Scripture, and contrary to Scripture when intended to conflict with the immutability of God’s counsel. The accumulation of a series of zeros, however elaborated, is, after all, only zero.

    OPC minority–“The desire to avoid extremes in declaring the truth is no doubt commendable, but yielding to the tempting claims of the opposite extreme even in minor matters has proved repeatedly in the history of the Church to be a step in the downward path to apostasy. The rampant evils of Arminianism among Evangelicals and Amyraldianism among Calvinists are only encouraged by adopting and even stressing the pet slogans with which they attack or obscure the doctrines of grace.”

    OPC minority–“Strangely, one favorite text of those who have throughout the history of Christianity insisted that God wants all men to be saved is not appealed to at present by Calvinists who use such expressions. Can it be that they realize that to take 1 Timothy 2:4 in a universalistic sense requires understanding verses 5 and 6 to teach a universal atonement, even if the will in 2:4 were taken as simply the will of command?”

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  19. Zrim,

    Robert, which is why some have sided with the CRC in affirming the concept of common grace (in opposition to the PRC which has denied it), but chosen the language of providence. Better to employ the language of grace with respect to justification, providence with respect to creation. Otherwise it’s confusing.

    I suspect the language of providence is confusing as well, since providence doesn’t necessarily imply divine benevolence.

    Maybe we should come up with a whole new term.

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  20. Does “common grace” make it a sin for the citizen of one city to not be a citizen in a second city? Is it the “duty” of those thus “graced” to vote in the decision-making done by all other sinners?

    John Bolt, Common Grace, Theonomy, and Civic Good: The Temptations of Calvinist Politics
    (Reflections on the Third Point of the CRC Kalamazoo Synod, 1924)

    “That Hoeksema’s denial of the doctrine of common grace might have led him to deny the legitimacy of a civil regime that was not explicitly Christian is suggested by an interesting public episode in the early years of his ministry. After three years, Hoeksema asked that a recently placed American flag be removed from the church sanctuary during worship.The date was February 10, 1918. Three days later, the of February 13, 1918 carried an front page article that claimed the following: ” H. Hoeksema, pastor of the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church, believes that the American flag has no place in a church and that the national anthem should not be sung there” .

    The president of Hope College, G.J. Diekema. President Diekema was quoted in the Sentinel:
    “If at this crisis we spend our time in theological hair-splitting instead of patriotic devotion we are near to treason. After a beautiful eulogy on the Stars and Stripes, Mr. Diekema said, “If the flag stands for all that is pure and noble and good, it is worth of being unfurled in any building on the face of the earth. The very portals of heaven would welcome such an emblem.”

    Similarly, the pastor of Hope Reformed Church, Rev. P.P. Cheff, insisted that “it is not only not wrong to display the flag in church and to sing the national anthems there, but in times of national stress like these it is a positive duty.”

    The national crisis of course was World War I and “feelings of national patriotism were running explosively high all over the country” In fact Gertrude Hoeksema recounts a story of her father-in-law refusing “to preach under the American flag in the Christian Reformed Church of Pella” (Iowa). She also notes here that “the resident minister in the nearby town of Peoria had also refused to have the flag in his church for the same reasons that Pastor Hoeksema had refused. His church building burned to the ground”
    http://www.prca.org/articles/bolt.html

    more from the Minority Report—God “freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ” (WCF 7:3). The following words “requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved” are naturally read as in apposition, explaining the nature of the offer. The promise to give the Holy Spirit to the elect is a promise to the Redeemer – not an element of the offer, but what provides the faith required in it.

    Minority Report—“What does add to the authentic Confessional doctrine is the 1903 addition of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in its Chapter 35, Of the Love of God and Missions: “In the Gospel God declares His love for the world and His desire that all men should be saved…” The purpose of the 1903 additions to the Confession of the P.C.U.S.A. was to facilitate union with an Arminianising denomination, which had abandoned explicitly in the former instance and implicitly in the latter, the Calvinistic doctrines of the eternal decree and of particular redemption.”

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  21. Paul Helm—“We may note that one thing that the Amyraldian proposal does is to weaken connection between the plight of the race in the fall of Adam. For now the responsibility of each of the non-elect comes simply from hearing and not receiving the message of grace.”

    http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2015/04/amyraut-one-more-time.html

    So is Mark Jones correct to claim that God showed grace to Jesus Christ? Is the sin of the non-elect sin against grace?

    Richard Gaffin, by Faith not by Sight, p 103–”The law-gospel antithesis enters NOT BY VIRTUE OF CREATION but as the consequence of sin.”

    So does the OPC agree with Gaffin that the law to Adam before sin (do not eat of the one tree) was not law? Or was the law to Adam before sin also grace? Was law grace and grace law?

    These questions might be important to answer after twenty years or so.

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  22. correct, not a sin for Jesus not to side with the occupation of Jerusalem or with those rebelling against that opposition….

    But Mark Jones says that grace is for the sinless, not only Adam but also Jesus.

    Luke 12: “And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. 5 But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into Gehenna after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear!

    Luke 12: 11 Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.” 13 Someone from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 “Friend,” He said to him, “who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”

    One of the reasons I oppose the profaning of “grace” is that it’s used to justify the Arminian hope in man’s “consent”.

    William Lane Craig, (In Pinnock, The Grace of god and the Will of Man, p 157)—-“God desires and has given sufficient grace for all people to be saved. If some believe and others do not, it is not because some received prevenient grace and some did not. The efficacy of God’s grace is UP TO US, because every person is moved by God in a measure sufficient for salvation.”

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  23. D. G. Hart Ali, have you ever heard of providence?

    !…Thanks for asking. I thought I had, DG, but I maybe not, so could you explain further. (prooftexts, of course, please) I never would have said it was a nuanced word for God’s favor, and I agree with Todd: “ As for the term “common grace” confusing people, it is not healthy when conservatives fear nuance.”

    But what I’m thinking is not healthy is ‘nuancing’ God’s incredible unmerited grace, His favor, His giving what we do not deserve and His mercy, His withholding of what we do deserve; and not dissimilar in the ‘Where’s Jesus’ discussion, some One mainly) having to ‘nuance’ the magnitude of the crushing of Jesus for our iniquities.

    We exist. Today we have breath. Most have way more. We have nothing that we have not been given. And despite that the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually and that the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, grieving in His heart, Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD; and in the Lord’s great forbearance and provision, we have too.

    Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Ps 145:3; Rom 11:33

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  24. Robert, but if “providence” has been sufficient for the confessional writers to convey those ideas (WCF 5 and Belgic 13, why the need to either come up with new terms or seek to align certain words and phrases to those concepts? Can you really read those chapters and conclude that “providence doesn’t necessarily imply divine benevolence”?

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  25. As for the term “common grace” confusing people, it is not healthy when conservatives fear nuance. I think most Christians can understand these distinctions without being confused.

    Todd, my point isn’t to fear nuance. It’s why mix and match terms with when there is seemingly little reason to do so, i.e. why say the rain and sun are provided from his grace when from his kindness works just fine? Plus, the confessional writers don’t use “grace” or its derivatives to substantively describe the providence of God, e.g. “the almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence,” so…

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  26. Darryl,

    If grace is only forgiveness and renewal, salvific categories, how was God gracious to Israel as a nation? Psalm 111 among others speaks of God’s grace (chen) to the nation.

    Zrim,

    I can live with kindness, I think, but I don’t want to give anything away to those who want to deny a general love of the Creator for all his image-bearers, which many who do not like the term common grace seek to do. I don’t think the term common grace in any way compromises the truth of divine election or saving grace. On the other hand, a term in itself is not worth dying over, as long as the meaning is maintained, so I would not quibble with divine benevolence or kindness.

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  27. Todd, I didn’t say it was only that. But the difference between forgiveness and sun illustrates the difference between grace and providence. So does Israel being in a covenant with God, one that didn’t shine on the rest of the nations as part of providence.

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  28. D. G. Hart Ali, providence is different from grace. Sun and rain are providence. Forgiveness and renewal are grace.

    still not clear – seems like it’s providence & grace -sun and rain are providence & grace; forgiveness and renewal are providence & grace

    providence & grace? (egs from todays’ reading)….
    Genesis 45: 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.

    Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.9 The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works… 15 The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time.16 You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing…17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.

    sun … Son… providence & grace …

    He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. Ps 19:4-6

    Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,79 TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

    For the LORD God is a sun & shield; The LORD gives grace & glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Ps 84:11

    But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; & you will go forth & skip about like calves from the stall. Mal 4:2

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  29. It is more clear to me than it was that we need to define our terms when we speak of grace and/or providence. Even among those who reject the two will theory, where command is confused with a desire for the salvation of the non-elect, many have no problem (as I do have) with the idea that the non-elect experience ” blessings of grace”. Nor is there any criticism of the notion that Christ’s death purchased “non-saving benefits”. for the non-elect.

    God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ. Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

    On what basis would God bless the ungodly, who are outside the elect church of Christ by God’s own decree of reprobation? SinceChrist died only for the elect, is this a case in which God’s grace ignores and does not need Christ’s righteousness?

    If God can bless guilty sinners apart from the cross of Christ in earthly things, why cannot God also extend …eternal life to them apart from the righteousness of the death of Christ?”

    Psalm 73 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are.

    To think in economic terms (in this season of democratic masquerade) the prosperity of the non-elect is not random. Their prosperity is God’s doing. Sometimes (not always, since non-elect Syrians are starving and being killed every day) the non-elect have no pangs of conscience, and then die without much trouble–often an “easy death”.

    On the level of “ressentiment” , we can say that they are deeply unhappy on the inside, and that they know enough by ‘general revelation” to know that God exists and that they are in trouble (and will be). They are going to ‘get theirs”! Leave the wrath to God, and it will be the worse for them.

    But on another level, some of these non-elect boldly ask: How can God know? They think there is no god, or if there is a god, then this god “has no clue”. Many of these non-elect are Kantians who claim that being moral should never be contaminated by any thought of blessing or reward. The only way to be completely self-less, they say, is to be atheist and to deny any future beatitude ((or condemnation).

    On the other hand, they say,those who believe the gospel are not getting paid for it. But on the other hand, they say, like Satan said to God about Job, —nobody really is moral, because everybody does what they do to get paid, so take away Job’s blessing and he won’t be moral anymore.

    So some of us are getting paid, and it’s not those who are trying to be moral! These unbelievers have not considered the Psalm 73 idea that God is on purpose INCREASING THEIR PROSPERITY ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SIN, which is the opposite of what you would expect.

    Less sin, more prosperity, we tend to think, when we are not trusting God. But here’s a “double bind”. God increases the prosperity of the non-elect not only because of their sin but also in order to make them more sinful and hard. What a fearful thing this is.

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  30. McMark, good post. BTW, I am just over half through with the Denault book on 1689 Covenant theology. Very interesting.

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  31. Some people find out about law and sin from the gospel

    And maybe it’s true that no non-elect person ever really knows what sin is. Since there is no grace for the non-elect, possibly this mean that the non-elect never have true knowledge of sin

    Fleming Rutledge –There is no way to help people to the knowledge of sin except to offer the news of God’s “prevenient” purpose in overcoming sin through the cross of Christ. It is with a sense of lightheartedness that one comes before the mercy seat of God, but none can understand this until the light of grace dawns upon them.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/behemoth/2016/issue-39-january-7-2016/hallelujah-im-miserable-sinner.html

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  32. McMark, anything wrong with CofF?

    1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

    2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

    3. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.

    4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

    5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

    6. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasions of sin; and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

    7. As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.

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  33. 5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

    Thanks for the question. I cannot comment in full, but will type some hasty (random) thoughts—

    In the hands of some puritans who qualify to be Job’s friends, the section above is used to turn this present age into purgatory.

    Providence cannot be explained only in terms of God’s law. God sent the troubles to Job not because of Job’s sins , or even in order to more fully bless Job. The problems of Christians and non-Christians are not Dueuteronomic direct judgments upon specific sins. If there were some obvious correlation (poetic justice), parents of “covenant children” could be blamed for their children not continuing to meet those conditions.

    So am I advocating no-fault parenting, or no fault-sinning?

    God is not slumbering. God is controlling every detail in the lives of both elect and non-elect. God has not merely “allowed or permitted” sin to develop and reveal itself for what it is.” God’s purpose is that some slide into destruction. Psalm 73: 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.

    Sure, it’s fun to see Clinton and Bush fall. But we all deserve nothing. All our repentance is inadequate. Therefore We should not say –God stopped the chastening because I repented. or Therefore—God started my chastening because i started (or did not stop) this sin.

    Romans 6—“Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?”

    There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace.

    Romans 6: 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order to abolish sin’s dominion over the body.”

    Zero plus Christ’s death equals “grace reigns, not under the law”

    A million plus obeyings and repentings added to Christ’s death equals “grace reigns, not under the law”

    we cannot make grace go up by sinning more

    we cannot make grace go down by sinning less

    The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia), by Theodore Dwight Bozeman, p 20:

    “Penitential teaching expressly echoed and bolstered moral priorities. In contrast, again, to Luther, whose penitential teaching stressed the rueful sinner’s attainment of peace through acknowledgment of fault and trust in unconditional pardon, many puritans E included moral renewal. In unmistakable continuity with historic Catholic doctrine that tied ‘contrition, by definition, to the intention to amend,’ they required an actual change in the penitent. For them, a renewal of moral resolve was integral to the penitential experience, and a few included the manifest alteration of behavior. They agreed that moral will or effort cannot merit forgiveness, yet rang variations on the theme that repentance is ‘an inward sorrow . whereunto is also added a . . . desire to frame our life in all points according to the holy will of God expressed in the divine scriptures.” However qualified by reference to the divine initiative and by denial of efficacy to human works, such teaching also adumbrated Puritan penitential and preparationist teaching of later decades.”

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  34. That being said, and i must go to dinner, the abuse of a thing does not prove the thing wrong.

    Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009)

    The hearer (of neo puritan preaching) falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ.

    “No one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)

    The “jeremaids” are bad enough when they are harangues to the heavenly city on earth, but even worse when the “second other city” is being told off. http://heidelblog.net/2009/08/interpreting-providence/

    I wonder if Scott Clark has ever done what John Piper has done in regard to reading providence.

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  35. Calvin (on Leviticus 26):—“But if ye will not hearken unto me. Thus far a kind invitation has been set before the people in the shape of promises, in order that the observance of the Law might be rendered pleasant and agreeable; since, as we have already seen, our obedience is then only approved by God when we obey willingly. But, inasmuch as the sluggishness of our flesh has need of spurring, threatenings are also added to inspire terror, and at any rate to extort what ought to have been spontaneously performed. It may seem indeed that it may thus be inferred that threats are absurdly misplaced when applied to produce obedience to the Law, which ought to be voluntary; for he who is compelled by fear will never love God; and this is the main point in the Law.

    But what I have already shewn, will in some measure avail to solve this difficulty, viz., that the Law is deadly to transgressors, because it holds them tight under that condemnation from which they would wish to be released by vain presumptions; whilst threats are also useful to the children of God for a different purpose, both that they may be prepared to fear God heartily before they are regenerate, and also that, after their regeneration, their corrupt affections may be daily subdued. For although they sincerely desire to devote themselves altogether to God, still they have to contend continually with the remainders of their flesh. Thus, then, although the direct object of threats is to alarm the reprobate, still they likewise apply to believers, for the purpose of stimulating their sluggishness, inasmuch as they are not yet thoroughly regenerate, but still burdened with the remainders of sin.

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  36. D. G. Hart Ali, okay. Wallow in the blur. I’m sure that feels more pious.

    wallow in proof texts DG and show ‘piety’ (reverence)!!

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  37. D. G. Hart: Ali, sometimes you need to interpret the texts.

    that’s why I said —-D. G. Hart Ali, have you ever heard of providence? Ali !…Thanks for asking. I thought I had, DG, but I maybe not, so could you explain further. (prooftexts, of course, please)

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  38. Ali, I supplied most of the contents from the Confession of Faith on providence. What is objectionable about that (other than no proof texts)? How is that in any way like the Covenant of GRACE?

    3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

    4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

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  39. That “covenant of grace” sure sounds a lot like the “new covenant” to me. Maybe Abraham was justified by the righteousness of Christ’s death satisfying all the “conditions” of the new covenant.

    If i steal at my job at the store, that does not change the job and the pay?

    1. It was never my job to get immortality for myself, and I was never going to be paid with immortality.

    2. Even if the job does not change, the person doing the job will change—I will be fired

    3. The next person won’t do the job for me so I get paid

    4. The law demands my death, but my death won’t get me paid.

    5. It’s beginning to look like my only hope would be the bloody death of the new covenant.

    The providence that caused me to be born in a city in North Carolina to a family with a father who was born out of wedlock is not to be confused with the “grace” which has brought me into the city which is the new covenant.

    Hebrews 11: 35 Women received their dead—they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did NOT receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

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  40. DG: How is that in any way like the Covenant of GRACE?

    hey, no fair-ies changing the scope

    but anyway then- providence is to grace; as grace is to the covenant of grace

    have a good day.

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  41. D. G. Hart:Ali, changing the scope? As if you didn’t do a little scope-bending by suggesting nature is grace.

    nature, grace, prooftext, musing….

    “ Swafford is at his best in the (comparatively few) places he talks Bible. That leads to a modest plea: Might we, in trying to work through these complicated issues, try the experiment of sticking to Scripture and Scripture’s categories. At least at the beginning. Let’s see how that might shift the terms of the debate. It might untie some knots and solve some dilemmas.” http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2014/07/nature-and-grace

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  42. I can live with kindness, I think, but I don’t want to give anything away to those who want to deny a general love of the Creator for all his image-bearers, which many who do not like the term common grace seek to do. I don’t think the term common grace in any way compromises the truth of divine election or saving grace. On the other hand, a term in itself is not worth dying over, as long as the meaning is maintained, so I would not quibble with divine benevolence or kindness.

    Todd, interesting. From where I sit, it seems as if it’s those who want to deny the general love of the Creator for all his image-bearers, who I think we’d both agree tend to be the theos (whom we both oppose) who want to bring divine judgment to provisional life are the ones who tend to mix and match creative and redemptive terms. Which is to say, when I hear the parlance of “common grace” I hear the language of the theos soft and hard, which makes me reach for my gun, which is a weird analogy for a non-gunnie. So I see some vested interest in keeping these categories clean in such ways as to deny the theos any chance of borrowing redemptive capital to spend on temporal life.

    Still, your point about terms and their quibbling is well taken.

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  43. Scott Clark—“We might say that God graciously promised life to Adam, before the fall, on the basis of perfect and personal obedience to the covenant of works, the covenant of law, or the covenant of nature. The Westminster Divines, however, quite wisely avoided injecting grace into the covenant of works by speaking of God’s “voluntary condescension” in making a covenant of works with Adam (and with us in him). The effect of this expression is to focus attention on God’s freedom but without introducing his favor to sinners which, properly, was not yet in view inasmuch as Adam was not a sinner when God made the covenant of works.”

    http://heidelblog.net/2016/02/reconsidering-the-covenant-of-works/

    We don’t need two different kingdoms, with one law for one kingdom and another law for another kingdom. But we do need law and gospel and the distinction between the two.

    The OPC Minority Report was not written by theonomists. Yet it correctly denies that God loves all the little children of the world. And it very much “quibbles” when the will of God’s command is confused with the idea that God does not get to happen what God wishes to happen.

    The ability of God to condemn Adam for Adam’s first sin does not depend on Adam’s ability to not sin. The ability of God to condemn us for Adam’s first sin imputed to us does not depend on the law God gave to Adam being thought of as “grace”.

    God’s law is not based on our ability. It’s Pelagian to say that law given means ability given.

    You don’t have to say there’s ability to keep the law in order for the law to be law. This is one of the reasons why the requirement for Christians to obey law should NOT be based on the fact that these Christians are “able not to sin”.

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  44. @Robert,

    Hi there, I saw your comment on another thread, on how converts identify the church and it seems that you make finding her appear a circular pursuit.
    If it were only round and round, a convert could never identify her. And if it was a matter of finding her based on only one’s reading of scripture, you could end up in many places along your journey, naming those places”church” until you read the writings of another leader and confessions promulagated by him or a group of his.followers( those who agree with his interpretation).
    Now if you assume one divinely authorized authority ,then you won’t be able to drop the usage of “church”( which is unsuitable in the protestant lexicon and therefore in its paradigm) but you also can’t find that divinely instituted location( and for it to be church, it must be) by starting with your interpretation of scripture.

    To show you how this is ignored or missed by protestants I give you some topological examples from a lecture.
    I ask that you listen and tell me if the Catholic Church is wrongly self referential to see itself as the ark that was a type in the OT.
    The OT writer( Moses) didn’t know the fulfillment of the typology. It could only be understood in light of its fulfillment.
    The point, I’m trying to make is that it isnt crazy ( given the biblical language of “one church” with divine authority to be church) to be not be looking for sects that agree with my interpretation of scripture.
    And the reason it is wise to believe that there is only one divine authorized visible church is because all other competing so-called churches can’t be divinely authorized yet disagree with each other as signified by there existing followers of different people( Luther, Calvin etc…) A group of divinely inspired institutions isn’t biblical, or logical if they all don’t have the same earthly head to hold it together( in which case it wouldn’t be plural institutions anyways). If a visible authority exists it has to be divinely authorized. Can any institution on earth fill that?

    I have read a lot Christian authors and all of them had something good, helpful and God glorifying to offer, but no one elucidates scripture better than Catholic theologians, and that was a big motive of credibility to me.

    [audio src="http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/S1L06TypologyGenesis.mp3" /]

    Wish you peace on your journey,
    Susan

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  45. Robert,

    Let me for clarity add that every denomination and cult that claims to be the church, isn’t and can’t be the church, but “the church”, if it exists( and I contend of course that it does)must be self -referential.

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  46. Susan,

    Let me for clarity add that every denomination and cult that claims to be the church, isn’t and can’t be the church, but “the church”, if it exists( and I contend of course that it does)must be self -referential.

    Sure. The problem I have isn’t the self-referential nature. The problem I have is acting as if the motives of credibility aren’t at least broadly circular. You don’t know what the motives are unless Rome tells you what they are, and the evidence doesn’t point you to Rome unless you accept Rome’s interpretation of them. That doesn’t make them necessarily bad. What it does mean is they aren’t the objective ace in the hole that Bryan Cross and CVD think they are.

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  47. Robert,

    “You don’t know what the motives are unless Rome tells you what they are, and the evidence doesn’t point you to Rome unless you accept Rome’s interpretation of them. That doesn’t make them necessarily bad.”

    I don’t know what all the MOC are and I never heard the term used until I converted. I only believed in the idea of invisible church because that was what I was told was the case. When that paradigm failed I stopped listening to those who propagated it. I then began to assume the opposite of an invisible church because my faith began to strengthen that God would not fail to give us visible authority rather than moral, spiritual and interpretive anarchy.
    What the RCC has is a claim which few vyie for, and she precedes all others in order of time. That is a historical and logical fact.
    I can only see the situation differently when I assume that the early church was nothing like the SVC today, but since ancient people would be more, not less religious, and since the record had icons of Mary and Jesus early on, I don’t have proof that the early church looked more Protestant than Catholic. If I were in doubt, I could look at the EO and yes, they too look more Catholic than protestant.
    I have no reasonable reason from history, the scriptures, the fathers, or anywhere to believe that Luther and Calvin were right about their ecclesiology, their ideas against the sacrifice of the mass, scripture as the sole authority, the canon, etc. etc.

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  48. Susan, “What the RCC has is a claim which few vyie for, and she precedes all others in order of time. That is a historical and logical fact.”

    STOP! THINK!

    Jerusalem came before Rome and Jesus never set down in Rome. What Rome has is a delusional claim that you gulp down each and every day.

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  49. Susan,

    I then began to assume the opposite of an invisible church because my faith began to strengthen that God would not fail to give us visible authority rather than moral, spiritual and interpretive anarchy.

    But that’s what you have with Rome—moral, spiritual, and interpretive anarchy. No discipline. Bishops looking the other way when theologians at RC universities teach all sorts of nonsense. Rampant nominalism. Politicians quoting the fathers to support abortion. And on and on and on. And when I and others bring this up, the response is always “Well they’re not good RCs.” Okay, according to who? It comes down to “according to whatever Susan thinks as she privately applies the Magisterium.”

    What the RCC has is a claim which few vyie for, and she precedes all others in order of time. That is a historical and logical fact.

    As noted, Jerusalem came first, actually.

    I can only see the situation differently when I assume that the early church was nothing like the SVC today, but since ancient people would be more, not less religious, and since the record had icons of Mary and Jesus early on, I don’t have proof that the early church looked more Protestant than Catholic. If I were in doubt, I could look at the EO and yes, they too look more Catholic than protestant.

    The fact that ancient people were more religious tells you nothing about the truth of their practice. Those ancient Canaanites and Israelites were very religious. I guess that means cult prostitution is okay?

    And this business of “looking more Protestant than RC or more RC than Protestant” is historically naive, not to mention outright false. It simply isn’t the case that the early church looks “more RC.” Definitive RC beliefs simply weren’t there. Why does your side feel the need to make Augustine a Tridentine Father instead of the fifth century North African that he actually was?

    I have no reasonable reason from history, the scriptures, the fathers, or anywhere to believe that Luther and Calvin were right about their ecclesiology, their ideas against the sacrifice of the mass, scripture as the sole authority, the canon, etc. etc.

    I have no reasonable reason from history, the Scriptures, or anywhere to believe that conservative RCs are right about their ecclesiology, mass, Scripture, etc. In fact, given how much weight I’m supposed to put in the Magisterium, it is telling that actual Magisterium approved historians don’t find the Roman Catholic Church in AD 200.

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  50. D. G. Hart: THINK Jerusalem.
    D. G. Hart: Robert, this is not Jesus in my heart. It’s church in my heart.

    Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in… IT… will not be disturbed.

    Eph 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ JESUS Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

    1 Peter 24 And coming to ..HIM.. as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through.. JESUS Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: “ Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in …HIM… will not be disappointed.
    9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of …HIM …who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

    JESUS

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