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The Trinitarian Controversy and the Problem of Shallow Roots

by Tom Chantry

I was looking at the enormous Norway Maple in my backyard the other day, and a question occurred. How deep are its roots? Living as we do in the age of Google, I soon found myself reading this fascinating and instructive article on the question of root depth.

Apparently there has been some dispute over the natural root depth of trees. Back in the 1930s, scientists investigated this question by digging out the root systems of large trees. The answer that they reached is one you may have seen in textbooks when you were a kid: that the root system of trees is as extensive as the branch system. Indeed, reports exist of such trees to this day.

However, this was not the end of the question. Many assumed that trees could not be grown in modern cities because the typical soil composition would not allow for the development of such elaborate root systems. It turns out, though, that those 1930s scientists had understandably chosen trees for their study which were planted in easily dug soil such as loess (sediment deposited by wind). The more diggable soil allowed for careful extraction of a tree’s root system. It turns out, though, that in such soil trees tend to grow deeper roots, but that the same variety of trees may also grow tall with roots stretching out horizontally.

Today, urban arborists often explain that trees don’t require deep soil, and common opinion has turned against the old deep-root theory. The correct conclusion, as expressed by James Urban of the American Society of Landscape Architects is this: “Trees are genetically capable of growing deep roots, but root architecture is strongly influenced by soil and climate conditions.” Specifically, soil which is compacted and has poor drainage creates a poor environment for root depth. This does not mean, however, that trees cannot grow, only that they may grow without deep roots.

Yet all may not be well. A tree may look tall, full, and impressive, but its root system may prove insufficient. A tree with shallow, horizontal……

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Attributes of God: Unity- Book 2- Chapter 2-Section 1

Book Second

CHAPTER II.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.

As we acquire knowledge of other beings, and of the relations which they hold to us, opportunity is given for the development of our moral principles, and the exercise of our moral feelings. It accords with the dictates of individual conscience, and with the moral judgments common to mankind, and with the teachings of God’s word, that the feelings which we exercise, and the actions which we perform towards others, should have regard to their characters and their relations to us. To understand our duty towards God, we must know his character. It is not enough to believe that he exists, but we should labour to acquire a knowledge of him. Let us, then, reverently inquire, Who is the Lord?

SECTION I. – UNITY.

THERE IS BUT ONE GOD.[1]

The heathen nations have worshipped many gods; but the inspired volume throughout inculcates the doctrine, that there is but one God. Moses said, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;”[2] and, in the New Testament, the same truth is taught: “There is one God, and one Mediator;”[3] “To us there is but one God.”[4] It is not clear that the unity of God can be proved by natural religion. In some of the reasonings which have been relied on, the thing to be proved is assumed. The most satisfactory argument is derived from the uniformity of counsel, which appears in the works of creation and providence. The same laws of Nature prevail everywhere; so that, in passing from one region to another, we never feel that we have entered the dominion of another Lord. Light which emanates from the remote fixed stars, possesses the same properties, and obeys the same laws, as that which comes from the sun of our own system.

The proof from revelation is clear and decisive. It is true, that plural names of the deity are frequently used in the Old Testament; but it is manifest that they were not designed to teach the doctrine of polytheism. In Deut. vi. 4, the word “God” is plural, in the original Hebrew; but the whole passage contains the most unequivocal declaration of the unity of God. In Gen. i.1, the name “God” is plural, but the verb “created” is singular, and therefore bars out all inference in favour of polytheism. In several passages, plural pronouns are used when God speaks of himself. “Let us make man;”[5] “Let us go down;”[6] “The man is become as one of us;”[7] these passages, and especially the last of them, cannot well be reconciled with the doctrine of God’s unity, so abundantly taught elsewhere, without supposing a reference to the doctrine of the trinity, which will be considered hereafter.

The unity of God renders his moral government one, uniting the subjects of it into one great empire. It leaves us in no doubt to whom our allegiance is due; and it fixes one centre in the universe to which the affections of all hearts should be directed. It tends to unite the people of God: as we have “one God,” so we have “one body, and one spirit.”[8]

[1] Deut. vi. 4; Ps. lxxxvi. 10; Mark xii. 29, 32; John xvii. 3; Gal. iii. 20; Eph. iv. 6; 1 Tim. ii. 5; James ii. 19.

[2] Deut. vi. 4.

[3] 1Tim. ii. 5.

[4] 1 Cor. viii. 6.

[5] Gen. i. 26.

[6] Gen. xi. 7.

[7] Gen. iii. 22.

[8] Eph. iv. 4, 6.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

So You Want to Understand Impassibility

ImpassibilityMany of my readers will be aware that during the last few years a theological controversy has arisen over the doctrine of divine impassibility. Impassibility is the teaching that God, being perfect and immutable, cannot be moved. The idea is expressed within many of the Reformed confessions by the assertion that God is “without passions.” The idea is that God, who in his essence is perfectly blessed, can never suffer any loss. Therefore the experience of suffering is contrary to the divine nature; God cannot suffer. It is imprecise to say that God has no emotions; what in us may be called an emotion (such as love) is a virtue in God. However, whereas in us emotion involves fluctuation and change in our disposition, God is changeless. His love is like his power, his wisdom, and indeed his very being; it is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.

In the Spring of 2014 the question of impassibility became the focus of an open debate within the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America when that association’s Theology Committee reported that one of the member churches evidently did not hold to the 1689 Confession’s teaching on impassibility. This was the result of an ongoing process in which the committee had been assigned to investigate the writings of one officer of that church. They had earlier found his writing contrary to the confession at two points (although he and his church had by 2014 come to a mutual agreement with the committee on the proper confessional expression of the other point). Rejection of the confession is grounds for exclusion of a church from ARBCA, and the association found itself at an impasse while some – but not all – argued that associational documents required that this action be taken.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

SCRBPC 2015 Panel Discussion on Divine Impassibility

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 3-Chapter 3-Adorning The Doctrine of God Our Saviour

December 11, 2015 Leave a comment

CHAPTER 3-ADORNING THE DOCTRINE OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR

The emphasis of Paul’s letter to Titus is “Good Works.” In #Tit 1:16 he writes of those who profess a knowledge of God, but are unto “every good work” reprobates. In #Tit 2:7 he exhorts Titus to be a pattern or example of good works. In #Tit 2:14 he says that Christ redeemed us that He might have a people of His own “zealous of good works.” In #Tit 3:1 the exhortation is to obey civil rulers and be “ready to every good work.” However, in #Tit 3:7 he makes it plain and positive that we are not saved by works of righteousness, but according to His mercy. In #Tit 3:8 believers are to “be careful to maintain good works.” And in #Tit 3:14 we are enjoined to “maintain good works for necessary uses.”

Titus, a young Greek, was one of Paul’s aides, and was given some hard assignments. He appears to have been stronger than Timothy, both in health and courage. The Gospel of Christ must have first been preached on Island of Crete by the Jews who were at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Paul and Titus had evidently gone there to develop the work, and when Paul left, Titus remained to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (#Tit 1:5). In other words. Titus was assigned the task of organizing the believers into churches with elders or bishops as leaders and overseers. The date of the letter was about 65 A.D., some thirty years after the death of Christ.

In this epistle Titus is given the message for various ages and groups: the old, the young, and the slaves. And the motive for all the good works is that the word of God be not blasphemed (#Tit 2:5), and that the doctrine of God our Saviour might be adorned (#Tit 2:10).

It is a wonderful hope to hold up before Christians, that they may adorn the Gospel of Christ. And this hope was first held up to slaves on the corrupt Island of Crete. It was not the hope of gaining their political and social and economic freedom, but of adorning the doctrine of our Saviour. This is a good place to say that with the Christian it is “Pie in the sky bye and bye.” What the believer hope for is laid up for him in heaven “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;” (#Col 1:5). Our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (#1Pe 1:4). Christ did not die to guarantee an easy time down here, but to assure us of a glorious time throughout eternity. This is not to say that Christians should not be interested in human rights and social justice for all people without respect to color, race, or culture. The true believer is conscious of his obligations to do good to all men.

1. THE POSSIBILITY OF ADORNING THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.

The world judges the church by the way it’s members live. Every Christian is a working model of what the church teaches. If you have money to invest, and a promoter comes to you with a fine invention on paper and urges you to help him put it on the market; if you are wise, you will ask for a working model of it. If you had a cancer and someone recommends a certain remedy, you would want to know if there are actual cases of cure. So when a Christian professes he has something that will make a man better-something that will fill a man with new desires, new hopes, and new joys—something that will make one different from his former self, it is quite fair for the world to ask: “Is this so? Has it changed your life? Is your life a working model of Christianity?” The greatest motive any believer can have is to so live that the world will have to admit that there is something to the religion of Jesus Christ.

The thought is this: The doctrine of God our Saviour is more beautiful when embodied in a life. Practice must match profession. The best illustrated Bible is the good works of those who profess to take it as their guide and way of life.

2. THE SOLEMN ALTERNATIVE.

We either adorn the doctrine of God or we give occasion for others to blaspheme it. We are living for Christ or we are against Him. We are a credit to the gospel, or we are a reproach to it. There is no neutral corner, we are either fighting the good fight of faith, or we have surrendered to the devil, the flesh, and the world. There is no sitting on the fence; we are either in the field of GRACE, or in the devil’s field of DISGRACE. On the Lord’s Day we are in God’s house with God’s people, or where we should not be; that is, unless providentially hindered.

At a meeting of the Alcoholic Anonymous in Louisville several years ago, the leader went from man to man, and asked, “Why are you here?” And every man gave the same answer: “If I were not here, I would be somewhere drunk. It is my only protection against getting drunk.”

What pastor has not been embarrassed by charges brought against his church because of the way members live? Living a godly life may not help you in the eyes of the world, but it will help the church, and keep the doctrine from being blasphemed.

3. THE KIND OF LIFE THAT ADORNS THE DOCTRINE OF GOD.

It must be a life that is uniformly and consistently guided by the Word of God. A life is basically different from the ways of the world. A life that is so conspicuous that a microscope is not needed in order to find Christian principles in it. Too many of us appear to be Christians on certain occasions and something else at other times. Like the Galatians, who did run well, but were soon slowed down. Or like Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, as unstable as water: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch” (#Ge 49:4), no dependence to be put in him. It has been well said that the best ability is dependability. Suppose everybody who has ever joined our church had been faithful to the end—what a church we would have. Nearly everybody, at some time or other, has dabbled in religion, but so many are superficial and do not persevere. Christ said to some Jews who believed on Him. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” #Joh 8:31. Persevering attachment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is the grand mark of a born again believer.

Living the Christian life is somewhat like saving money: look after the pennies, nickels, and dimes, and the dollars will take care of themselves. Look after the homely virtues, such as sound speech, honesty in money matters, keeping one’s word, dependability in church attendance, constancy in prayer and Bible reading—and the great things will fall in line.

Look how these slaves on the island of Crete were to adorn the doctrine of God. They were to be obedient to their own masters, doing what they were told without any back talk. They were not to steal from their masters, but show fidelity-and in this way they would adorn the doctrine. Christian slaves, and there were many of them in the early church, were different from other slaves. Whatever our relation in society is, we must be different from the outside world, and thus adorn- -beautify the Gospel of Christ.

And now in conclusion.

4. HOW IS ONE ABLE TO ATTAIN SUCH A LIFE?

How will one get the moral and spiritual strength for such a life? Let it be remembered that no one is able of himself for a life that will adorn the doctrine. Christ said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: For without me ye can do nothing” (#Joh 15:5). There must be secret communion with Christ, if we are to beautify the Gospel. He must first beautify us before we can beautify Him. We must be on the mountain like Moses in fellowship with Him if we are to come down and walk among men so as to radiate the principles of true religion and adorn the doctrine of God.

The story is told of a 51 year old widow in Oklahoma City who was told by her doctor that because of a heart ailment she had only one year to live. She had worked hard and had saved some money. When she learned of her fate she set aside $10,000 to spend on herself in search of happiness. She asked for advice on how she might spend the money. She was told to travel but she did not like to travel. She was told to buy a new house and a new car, but she said the ones she had were good enough. She was told to go in for night life and “live it up.” But she said that when she gambled she always won. Poor deluded woman! And how typical of multitudes who have much to live ON, but nothing to live FOR: no worthy motive and objective in life. Oh, that Grace may be given to both writer and reader, that we might live so as to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour!

“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou are mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more”.

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 3