From DGH on Knowing Jesus Submitted on 2014/09/25 at 9:58 am

Mark, since Ref21 doesn’t take comments, I’ll carry the discussion on over here at OL. I am responding to your latest post, which appears to address my (and others, not all about me this time) insufficient knowledge of Christ.

That may not be the way you meant it — to prompt me to doubt myself. But I do wonder why you don’t see how inadequate you can make a believer feel — yes, I am capable of them (or maybe I’m supposed to question whether I’m a believer):

There can be little doubt that almost all Christians are content to have won Christ, and thus receive the gift of eternal life. But how many are equally concerned to know him? How often we cut Jesus in half, wishing to know that we are saved, and all is well with our destiny, but forgetting that to be truly saved means we must truly know him.

Well, actually, I do doubt that people who have won Christ and have eternal life somehow don’t “know” Christ. Why would you separate salvation (eternal life) from knowing Christ. When Calvin writes about the verse you cite (John 17:3) in your post, he doesn’t separate faith from knowing Christ:

He [John] now describes the manner of bestowing life, namely, when he enlightens the elect in the true knowledge of God; for he does not now speak of the enjoyment of life which we hope for, but only of the manner in which men obtain life And that this verse may be fully understood, we ought first to know that we are all in death, till we are enlightened by God, who alone is life Where he has shone, we possess him by faith, and, therefore, we also enter into the possession of life; and this is the reason why the knowledge of him is truly and justly called saving, or bringing salvation. Almost every one of the words has its weight; for it is not every kind of knowledge that is here described, but that knowledge which forms us anew into the image of God from faith to faith, or rather, which is the same with faith, by which, having been engrafted into the body of Christ, we are made partakers of the Divine adoption, and heirs of heaven.

Now I am not the historical theologian that you are, but Calvin doesn’t seem to make knowledge of Christ different from faith in him. So why would you? And why don’t you see that this bears a remarkable similarity to the Wesleyan scheme of holiness — where sanctification, which is different from justification, leads us to a fuller experience of holiness?

By the way, your quotation from Rutherford, despite my (perhaps deluded) capacities for feeling, did not move me:

Put the beauty of ten thousand thousand worlds of paradises, like the garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing would that be! And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths.

That sort of thing may kindle your religious affections, but quoting a line that is unconvincing to others is not the best rhetorical strategy. Rutherford strikes me as a tad sentiment and suffocating. Sorry, but I prefer Luther’s and the Dutch Calvinists’ earthy piety.

I wonder too why in a post about knowing Christ you didn’t mention the means of grace — the word, sacraments, and prayer, especially the former two — those places where we know Christ. Without those means of grace, those witnesses to Christ that stand apart from us, you recommend a thought experiment:

All of us share guilt in our sinful refusal to know Christ better. But guilt simply cannot rectify this seemingly universal problem in the church. There must be other solutions, even apart from the significant fact that we are forgiven for our lack of love and knowledge of God and his Son.

One solution not immediately obvious to most Christians, but certainly compelling when one thinks about it, is to turn our thinking for a moment on Christ. Of all the human desires that Christ retained as he entered his glorified state in Heaven, surely few exceed his desire to know his people.

Christ, the Lord of Glory, supremely satisfied in the love of the Father, Holy Spirit, and elect angels, remains unsatisfied if he cannot know, love, and ultimately be with his people. How can a good husband enjoy life apart from being together with his wife?

As Jesus continues his high priestly prayer in John 17, he makes a most remarkable statement in verse 24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

In his heavenly glory, Christ meditates upon his people. He desires not only to know us, but also to be with us. When Christ calls one of loved ones home to be with him we must always remember that he has gained more than what we have lost.

Do you mean to suggest that if we think about the way Christ wants to be with us — which is different from the knowledge he already has of us — that then we will want to be with Christ as well? But again, wanting to be with Christ, which I pray continually, “thy kingdom come,” is not the same as knowing Christ. I can want to know Christ better and I can desire more to be with him — which might be valuable if it prevented me from blogging — but are you implying that my current knowledge and desire is inadequate? Inadequate for what? Salvation? True faith? Holiness? A higher life? And is it true that an idea (read thought experiment) can be more effectual than the means of grace?

So, tagline or not, I wonder if you have thought that what you consider to be encouraging really brings some of us down. It would help if you could tell us more about how Christ saves us from our inadequate knowledge and desire and less about how we don’t measure up to Christ or to your heroes of the faith.

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We're Not In Scotland Anymore

Crawford Gribben explains why:

This reading of Rutherford’s Free Disputation, set in the context of its times, challenges any idea that the modern, politically passive Presbyterian main- stream can be identified either with the theology of the Westminster Confession or that of its most influential divines.'”s Rutherford’s commitment to shaping an entirely Presbyterian world, where public deviations from orthodox faith or practice should be met with the most severe of legal consequences, is a world away from the political complacency of modern evangelicalism and the self- justifying myth it sponsors of the pluralistic benevolence of the Scottish Cove- nanting movement. Rutherford did believe in “liberty of conscience,” but, as the Confession argued, this was a liberty that provided no license to sin (WCF 20.3-4).

It is certainly true that we cannot simply read the Confession as a summary statement retaining the unqualified approval of all those who participated in its negotiation. The final text of the Confession was “a consensus statement, broad enough to be agreed with by Divines who held somewhat different views of the contemporary applications of the Mosaic judicial laws.” Rutherford seems to stand at one extreme of the Assembly’s range of opinions, arguing, with the apparent approval of the Commission of the Kirk’s General Assembly, that the OT judicial laws ought indeed to be the basis of the Presbyterian state for which they were working. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that Rutherford’s theonomic opinions were shared by many puritans who could not have endorsed his narrow ecclesiastical ambitions. Even those who favored a broader toleration of those orthodox Calvinists outside the Presbyterian system looked to the OT judicial laws as their program of action. Cromwell’s Rump Parliament established the death penalty for incest, adultery, and blasphemy.'” John Owen was prepared to argue that some of the judicial laws were “everlastingly binding.” The Fifth Monarchist radicals were famous exponents of a Hebraic legal renaissance.

However we understand the text and context of the Westminster Confession, therefore, we must recognize that the Confession is not committed to the separation of church and state in any modern understanding of that idea. The doctrine of the “two kingdoms,” where church and state operated independently but with mutual reliance on the law of God, did not at all favor a religiously neutral state. Thus the Confession charged the state with the highest of responsibilities: “The Civil Magistrate. . . hath Authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that Unity and Peace be preserved in the Church, that the Truth of God be kept pure, and intire; that all Blasphemies and Heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in Worship and Discipline prevented, or reformed; and all the Ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed” (WCF 23.3). (Crawford Gribben, “Samuel Rutherford and Freedom of Conscience,” Westminster Theological Journal, 2009, 372-73)

All that pining for Constantine or Christendom that you hear from Peter Leithart or Doug Wilson should always evaporate after a weekend with Rutherford or the Stuart monarchs.