Sabbath as Discipline: Outward and Ordinary Vs. Inward and Extraordinary

 

 

Equally detrimental to Sabbath observance has been the widespread popularity of revivalism. Not only have churches used revivals as a means to convert the lost and gain new members, but revivals have become the chief means for determining genuine spirituality. These intense and earnest times of spiritual awakening have been used to distinguish the saved from the lost. They are times when believers reaffirm their faith and sense once again the saving power of God. In other words, revivals indicate when the Spirit of God is at work. This way of thinking about revivals has contributed to the notion that genuine piety and spiritual growth come through the quantifiable means of church programs and the intensity of religious experience. Mountaintop experiences are assumed to be necessary for spiritual growth, and consequently churches respond by offering activities that produce experiences.

Compared to these high-octane experiences, the Sabbath seems boring. The Bible and Reformed confessions, however, describe very differently the spiritual disciplines essential for the Christian life. In Exodus, just as Moses was descending from Mount Sinai, God reiterated the Sabbath command in his parting instructions: “You shall surely observe My Sabbaths” (31:13). The Sabbath is a “perpetual covenant” for all generations (31:16). God’s intention was to bless his people through the constant and conscientious observation of the day,, week after week and year after year. Believers are sanctified through a lifetime of Sabbath observance. In other words, the Sabbath is designed to work slowly, quietly, seemingly imperceptivity in reorienting believers’ appetites heavenward. It is not a quick fix, nor is it necessarily a spiritual high. It is an “outward and ordinary” ordinance (WSC 88), part of the stead and healthy diet of the means of grace.

North American Protestants, we have noted, are generally not in sync with this rhythm. Attracted to the inward and extraordinary, they commonly suffer from spiritual bulimia, binging at big events, then purging, by absenting themselves from God’s prescribed diet. The problem with the spirituality of mountaintop experiences is that no one can live on the mountain. We all have to return to our day jobs. When people leave the retreat or Bible camp, or even the midweek small group, they discover their life is still the same: jobs are unpleasant, marriages are shaky, sickness and disease afflict. In contrast, the Sabbath is supposed to be a discipline that provides an oasis in the desert for pilgrims, whose life is marked by suffering. Unlike the church activities that clutter the rest of the week, the Sabbath is when believers spiritually assemble on Mount Zion to meet with their God, to hear him speak, and to partake spiritually of their Savior’s body and blood.

With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, D.G. Hart and John R. Muether, pgs. 65-66.

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45 Responses to Sabbath as Discipline: Outward and Ordinary Vs. Inward and Extraordinary

  1. Lacie says:

    Why the bifurcation?
    One can have revival in an ordinary church service.
    And if our weekly Sabbaths are “the” means, then why did Calvin have services (or at least sermons) on other days as well? There’s never too much of a good thing. The problem as I see it is, no one becomes converted from weekly preaching in our typical conservative Presbyterian churches. I wonder why?
    Faith is “ordinarily wrought (by the Spirit) by the ministry of the word” WCF 14.1, which does not exclude extraordinary means. The the ministry of the word may be wrought in a Bible study, while privately reading the Word, or while someone (other than an ordained elder) explains the Word.

  2. cath says:

    @Lacie, just since I’m here — The Reformed position has never been that the Spirit cannot use extraordinary means, but that we mere mortals must stick to the ordinary means. (And if seriously nobody is being converted under the weekly preaching, then the situation in America’s conservative Presbyterian churches must be much worse than I thought.)

    But what I actually came here to say was that this quote gives me great hope that we really only have a definitional problem in all this talk of revials. It is completely unthinkable in the revivals-not-revivalism perspective that anyone experiencing a Good Revival would abandon the weekly sabbath or lose any respect for the ordinary means of grace. In fact, if it was a Good Revival, it probably happened in an ordinary sermon anyway. As soon as there’s any mention of big events and church growth programmes, we’re not talking about revivals any more: we’re firmly in the domain of revivalism.

  3. Zrim says:

    Lacie,

    First, I happen to take exception to the prevailing notion that there is never too much of a good thing. Some fellow Sabbatarians, in response to the fairly widespread neglect of the second service, will say, “The question isn’t why two services but why not three or more.” The reasoning seems close that other Americanism, “If one pill is good, two or more should be great.” But macho self-medicating is a bad idea, and bringing strange fire is as well. Also, those who oppose weekly communion use this in their arguments: if weekly, then what stops you from going daily, etc. But to both those who would neglect the Sabbath, or at least emphasize six day activities over against Sabbath day ones, and its resident activities (second service, communion), and to those who over-compensate, I think the answer is simply this: God has prescribed a regular but limited set of elements.

    Second, with regard to your suggestion that “no one becomes converted from weekly preaching in our typical conservative Presbyterian churches,” I wonder if you have a revivalist notion of conversion at play instead of a Calvinist one, as long as we’re invoking Calvin:

    As Bouwsma also observes, Calvin was not enthusiastic about conversion as a precise event in his discussions of Christian piety. He “always emphasized the gradualness rather than the suddenness of conversion and the difficulty of making progress in the Christian life.” In a statement that many contemporary Presbyterians would deem nonsensical, Calvin wrote that “we are converted little by little to God, and by stages.” In his commentary on Acts, Calvin was even reluctant to attach much significance to Paul’s encounter with Christ on the way to Damascus. “We now have Paul tamed,” he wrote, “but not yet a disciple of Christ.”

    Maybe there’s more than meets the eye in conversion?

    It is completely unthinkable in the revivals-not-revivalism perspective that anyone experiencing a Good Revival would abandon the weekly sabbath or lose any respect for the ordinary means of grace.

    Cath, this is a good point. But I alluded to an answer in my response to Lacie, and it’s a matter of emphasis. Reformational confessionalism doesn’t exclude six-day activities but places the accent on Sabbath day ones, whereas Reformed revivalism doesn’t exclude Sabbath day activities but places the accent on six-day ones. Moreover, the way the former defines six-day piety has more to do with family worship than men’s, women’s or youth group canticles.

    And, like I’ve said before, I don’t know how one distinguishes easily between revival and revivalism. To my confessional mind, this is like trying to distinguish between evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. In both, and my guess is that you’ll not like this, the latter is the former on steroids.

  4. cath says:

    Well, again, the brand of “Reformed revivalism” that you describe is not the same thing as I’m thinking of. Identifying the proliferation of men’s/women’s/whoever’s groups as a regrettable drift from the commitment to ordinary sabbath-day preaching is something that I entirely agree with. (It’s worrying that so many congregations need ‘bible studies’ in addition to the sermon, as though they weren’t quite managing to study the bible enough in church.)

    But the danger i think is of veering towards a position where you say that in the use of ordinary means, you only get ordinary effects. Whereas the reason for the due use of ordinary means has always been, because that’s where God blesses us. The due use of ordinary means is always with a view to receiving something divine. This something divine is often gradual and almost imperceptible (like the “conversion” (which may well mean more like “sanctification”) in the Calvin quote you cite), but it is not an automatic effect of the means: it is divine and it is gracious. If what is normally gradual – effectual calling, sanctification – is sometimes more rapid, or sometimes more intense, than at other times (or, in some people rather than in others), in both cases the spiritual effect is divine, gracious, and not to be attributed to the means.

    It is entirely understandable and right to bring people’s focus back to the ordinary means of grace, but it is not for the sake of the means themselves, but rather with a view to raising people’s esteem for the means for the authority of God behind them, and raising their expectations of how God can and does bless the means.

  5. Lacie says:

    It’s funny to read Zrim. The way he looks at things you’d think he’s admitting that Sabbath day preaching is the most boring, “ordinary”, thing in the world, but one “up with which one must put” because it is commanded. Maybe that’s why the preaching is so bad in so many presbyterian and reformed churches…they have such low expectations. (“We’re here again at 11 o’clock, doing our duty…and come back at 6 p.m.”) They’d like to believe that something amazing happens when they meet with God (and when they DO meet with Him, it is amazing), but so often the preaching lacks the power of the Holy Spirit, the forms are so stilted, the lack of Bible reading during worship in favor of the catechisms and creeds, the lack of the Word of God sung in favor of the doxology and the gloria patri & Isaac Watts, the law is not taught as a way of life for grateful pilgrims.

    To the extent that the Bible is downplayed and the Confessions are exalted, so will real conversion diminish (and I never said conversion=regeneration, i.e., that it must be instantaneous).

    There are certain shibboleths now–and sadly revival & Edwards are two of them.

  6. Zrim says:

    Lacie,

    I’m glad to provide some comic relief to you.

    But I don’t really recognize my outlook in your interpretation of what I am saying. The Reformed liturgies I have in mind are saturated with Scripture reading and fairly devoid of hymnody, and utilize the law in both its second and third use.

    And I don’t think love and duty are as mutually exclusive as you seem to suggest I suggest. Often times, duty is the height of love expressed. Were it not so we’d’ve never been saved.

  7. RubeRad says:

    Really! Lacie, your idea of reformed worship is such a caricature, I wonder if you’ve ever been in a reformed church! Certainly not mine. In a debate my pastor was in with an anti-confessionalist, he said “I’ll stand our bible-saturated church services against any other”; and went on to list a huge pile of scriptures from all across the bible that were used in our most recent service (not just the sermon, but from the call to the benediction and everywhere in between).

    And we don’t have a “lack of Bible reading during worship in favor of the catechisms and creeds”. In our particular congregation, our use of catechism and creed in worship has risen dramatically over the last few years, from zilch, up to about 5 minutes in a ~90min service.

  8. Lacie says:

    RR: Glad to hear of the Word of God being exalted in your worship services. FYI, I’ve been in many Reformed churches (over a period of 35 years). Some are better than others.

    Z: Love and duty are not mutually exclusive. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” And while I have always attended two services on the Christian Sabbath, I don’t think you can find it actually prescribed in Scripture. And I hold to the RPW probably more strictly than you do.

    Cheers…

  9. Zrim says:

    And I hold to the RPW probably more strictly than you do.

    Could be, Lacie. But one test is to see how much one applies it to worship as opposed to all of life. And I find that those who think of all of life is worship also think RPW when they should be thinking Christian liberty and Christian liberty when they should be thinking RPW.

  10. Lacie says:

    The RPW applies to worship, or else you could call it the RPL. But I hope you are not one of those “Insufficiency of Scripture” guys, who says the Bible is not sufficient for “faith and life”; it is only sufficient for “religious faith and life.”

  11. Zrim says:

    Sorry to disappoint, Lacie, but yes, I think general revelation governs civil tasks and special revelation governs ecclesial tasks.

  12. Lacie says:

    Z: How can general revelation inform (let alone govern) “civil tasks.” (Please as you answer this question, be sure to define what you mean by “civil tasks.”)

  13. Zrim says:

    Lacie,

    If general revelation cannot inform or govern civil tasks the question remains: what’s the point of general revelation? But Article Two of the Belgic Confession seems to suggest that there are two books and both have distinct purposes:

    We know him by two means:

    First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

    All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
    Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

    So it seems to me that the basic building block of any form of 1K is to deny the sufficiency of general revelation to inform general tasks, which seems as non-sensical as saying that the book of rules governing the game of tennis is insufficient to govern the game of tennis—we need the book of rules governing the game of racquetball, too. Instead of defining “civil tasks,” maybe examples would suffice: General/civil tasks run the temporal gamut from salad making and car manufacturing to child rearing and education to medicine and statecraft. Basically, anything that isn’t ecclesiastical.

  14. Lacie says:

    So Romans 1:20, i.e., His eternal power and divinity, tells us how to make salads?

    To answer your question as to the “why” of general revelation, it is as the BC says, to leave men without excuse.

  15. Zrim says:

    No, Scripture doesn’t tell us how to make salads or craft public policy. By 1K views it does.

    One reason for GR is to leave mean without excuse. But it’s also there to tell us how to make salads and states. So what we need SR for is to know how to supernaturally solve our natural problem, not make salads or states.

  16. jedpaschall says:

    Lacie,

    I think one aspect that gen. rev. naysayers neglect is the progressive nature of how humans discover and interact with the natural world. Of course the bible doesn’t tell us how to make salads, neither does GR explicitly. We discover and progress, and sometimes even regress over time, as far as how they use the physical stuff God has made for technological, vocational, and avocational use. There are no manuals, but part of the imago dei is that humans are given the capacity to read “nature’s book” so to speak and figure out what to do with it. It’s taken us a few millenia to figure out molecular biology, neurology, cardiology, mechanical engineering and so on, but the inherent processes of these disciplines are scientifically, and mathematically embedded in nature so that we could discover them.

    So I’d say it’s better to view GR as a puzzle rather than a manual. In either case, rarely does scripture speak to the mechanics of these processes, so it is best to view SR within the confessional lines of revealed knowledge pertinent to life and salvation before God. Not as a book full of salad recipes (sorry I couldn’t resist).

  17. Lacie says:

    Z & Jed: You’re setting up straw men. Name one person who has ever said anything as looney as what you are supposedly knocking down. As John Frame said, while Scripture doesn’t tell us how to wield ours sculpting tools stroke by stroke, we don’t want to end up with a work of art which portrays a nihilistic worldview. Scripture informs and governs all of life. GR gives us a world to work with, gaze at and analyze, but what tells us how to approach these tasks? It is Scripture. May I use my film experience to make pornography? Or shall I gaze at it when others have made it? Shall I perform experiments that test how humans do when left in freezing water for 30 minutes? No, I shan’t. How do I know this? Because (sorry if it sounds trite, but it’s true)–the Bible tells me so.

  18. Jed Paschall says:

    Lacie,

    Straw men or no, you are loony if you think that scripture tells us how to approach GR tasks with any sense of specificity at all. I get that there is a sense where SR helps us understand that all we do, no matter what task is to be done to God’s glory.

    There are plenty of filmmakers out there who don’t do porn without consulting the bible. There are plenty of scientists and doctors out there who come to an understanding of hypothermia w/o imperiling human life. Why, because the basic reality of NL ingrained in the human conscience keeps them from doing so.

    I won’t go round and round with you on this point, because I have found that GR/NL deniers are almost intractable because of prior philisophical commitments and biblical presuppositions. But the fact remains, like I have reiterated with others who hold this view; excellence in any line of work, by any normal standard of measure, such as results, has less to do with religious devotion and more to do with skill and commitment.

    I took my infant son to one of the nations top pediatric cardiologists in the nation when he needed a heart surgery. Do you think I asked him if he was using scripture as a framework that governed his surgical approach? Absolutely not, I wanted to see his credentials, and experience, and I wanted to know exactly how he was going to go about fixing my son’s heart. Frankly the whole SR/GR debate was laughably irrelavent to the situation.

    The problem with your view is that it sounds good in a church discussion group, or in a Christian college. But frankly, in the real world, where most of us live and work, it is ethereal nonsense. The world I live in rewards people for doing their jobs well, it doesn’t really ask what level of devotion or what kind of spiritual framework has been applied in order to to reflect a worldview. Most of us aren’t artists or sculptors or filmmakers, we hold jobs that aren’t out to transform society Lacie, we just need paychecks to feed our families in jobs that we can hopefully find some satisfaction. Why isn’t that glorifying to God?

  19. Zrim says:

    Actually, Lacie, the notion that general revelation is insufficient and needs the help of special revelation necessarily entails saying that the latter is needed for tasks that are general, which includes making salads (or paving roads: see OldLife on that example). Nobody is knocking down any straws here, just pointing out the inconsistency (and folly) of saying that SR informs and governs all of life.

    Have you considered that unbelieving filmmakers also don’t make porn or that unbelieving scientists also don’t perform torture on human beings? How do they know to avoid evil? Because their conscience tells them so. God gave them a conscience to avoid evil just as much as he gave them eyes to avoid running into stacks of straw. The difference between unbeliever and believer is that the former use the conscience to justify themselves while the latter use it to glorify God.

  20. Lacie says:

    I live in the real world, too. I don’t think that SR was laughably irrelevant to surgery. I don’t ask for religious devotion from practitioners before I employ them. You underestimate the impact that Scripture and Christianity has had on our culture. Food for thought (as I don’t want to go round and round either): look at people in the most “natural” –perhaps that would be aboriginal culture 50 years ago–you can find and see what you find.

  21. Lacie says:

    Z: Already read the macadam/concrete straw man. (Incongruous, eh?).

    I believe that people miss two important things that Klooserman and Frame have noted on the topic. 1. Mankind’s will is affected by the Fall and 2. Mankind’s knowledge is affected by the Fall.

    Why do unbelievers sometimes do right things? Sometimes it’s conscience (and they have enough conscience of right and wrong to hold them accountable. See BC). Sometimes it’s something else. See if you can think of it. Maybe while you’re tempted to laugh about the relevance of the Bible to all of life.

    Ultimately our consciences must be governed by Scripture. I think you would agree that some have consciences that tell them all alcohol intake is wrong, while others’ consciences say moderate alcohol use is OK; drunkenness is absolutely wrong. How do we judge? By what standard? The Bible.

  22. TurretinFan says:

    “The world I live in rewards people for doing their jobs well, it doesn’t really ask what level of devotion or what kind of spiritual framework has been applied in order to to reflect a worldview.”

    This is not intended to be a rebuttal to your comment, but simply an observation: what a sad and meaningless world you live in!

    The world in which I live is one in which every action we take is supposed to be done to the glory of God, guided by God’s revelation of Himself (all of it, not just the parts that unbelievers accept). May I invite you to my world?

  23. Jed Paschall says:

    Turretin Fan,

    You must misunderstand my point. I firmly believe that God is glorified when we offer our best in our vocations, and that this has been enabled directly through the mediatorial work of Christ who can present my feeble offerings as acceptable and pleasing before the Father.

    Just because something is ordinary, as opposed to sacred doesn’t mean that there isn’t dignity and a certain glory in it. But often, I think we overstate the value of our passing work, it is not the work itself that has intrinsic lasting value, it has value because it is subsumed in the whole life we live before our God.

    Overstating the value of temporal vocations, or conflating how believers can glorify God in their work with how that work is skillfully discharged can lead to at least the appearance of arrogance. Simply because in common vocations, believers do not have a corner on the skill market, and there are many cases where unbelievers can do a better job than believers, even when the believer is putting forth his best efforts.

  24. Jed Paschall says:

    Lacie,

    To your point, yes, Christianized society has in the past made many important cultural, and technological advances. However, what of the technology of pagan societies such as ancient China, Greece, or Rome, they made advances too. Heck, it was the Arabs that gave us our numerals, and important stuff like say Algebra. So you are in a bit of a conundrum if you think that faith somehow sets us apart from other cultures capacities to understand and apply nature’s book.

    Give me some sort of indication on how Scripture speaks to surgery, and I will honestly consider it. I will concede that it does indirectly, as it can be a means that God brings to bring healing that wouldn’t otherwise come. However, there is no direct indications in Scripture that speak to the inner workings of a bypass surgery, or how to address arterial stenosis. And the fact also remains that the Christian has no special privilege to hidden skill that the non-Christian surgeon does.

  25. TurretinFan says:

    There is a lot of wisdom in your comment, “it has value because it is subsumed in the whole life we live before our God.”

    William Perkins put it this way: “The meanness of the calling does not debase the goodness of the work … for God looks not at the excellence of the work but the heart of the worker. And the action of a shepherd shearing a sheep, performed as I have said, in his kind, is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge giving sentence … or a minister preaching … Now if we compare work with work, there is a difference betwixt washing dishes and preaching the Word of God; but as for pleasing God, there is no difference at all.”

    Or as Paul explains:

    Ephesians 6:5-8
    Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

    And again:

    Colossians 3:22-25
    Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

    All of life has value, precisely to the extent that it is subsumed in service to God, and the rule of faith and life is the Word of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Thus, Scripture guides and governs all of life. That doesn’t mean it tells you how to shear sheep, or even how to organize your sermons notes.

    It doesn’t guarantee that professing Christians will be the fastest sheep shearers or the best orators. After all, those forms of excellence are not what matters most – they are not what gives meaning to life.

    The Christian life has different objectives from the life of the unbelievers:

    Proverbs 23:4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

    And again:

    Proverbs 30:8-9
    Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

    But someone who taken your wisdom, and Perkins’ wisdom, and the wisdom of Paul and of Solomon (indeed the wisdom of God who inspired them) to heart would not find in life then a bifurcation such that: “general revelation governs civil tasks and special revelation governs ecclesial tasks.”

    Special revelation illuminates general revelation and guides all of our tasks. We lead only one life – a life whose true value is measured with reference to God.

    A dog-catcher must serve God in his post, the town councilman must serve God in his post, the housewife must serve God in her post, and the minister must serve God in his post.

    There are tasks specifically related to the worship of God, such as preaching a sermon – and there are tasks that have no direct relationship to worship (such as shearing sheep). The former category of tasks are not free from God’s revelation of himself through nature, conscience, etc. and the latter category of tasks are not free from God’s revelation of himself through Scripture.

    Does that make sense?

  26. Zrim says:

    Tfan,

    The point of saying that general revelation governs civil tasks and special revelation governs ecclesial tasks isn’t to unnecessarily bifurcate matters. It’s simply to say that God has two kinds of servants who need two different books to govern the different assigments he has respectively given. The unique nature of the believer is that he is both kinds of servant. Sure, figuratively speaking, he carries special revelation with him into his civil tasks because that is inevitable, but, literally speaking, he consults general revelation to execute his tasks because that is necessary. Unless you actually think the Bible should be placed on the syllabus for medical training?

    Also, believers don’t glorify God by doing good work. They glorify him by doing all things from faith, even bad work. If good work were the cause of glorifying God (instead of faith) then unbelievers who outpace believers would be said to glorify God. But unbelievers can never glorify God because they have no faith; at best they can only do good work. That should come as enormous comfort to believers who who fail to make better mousetraps than unbelievers.

    The idea that good work glorifies God instead of or, more craftily along side of, faith is a variant of law/gospel confusion. We are justifed by faith alone, and we glorify God by faith alone. Neither are done by good works.

  27. Lacie says:

    Jed: To get back to the discussion of general vs. special revelation. Does general revelation govern civil tasks, while special revelation governs ecclesial (sic) tasks? A few thoughts:
    1. General revelation is God’s making Himself known in creation and history.
    2.Special revelation is God’s making Himself known in His Word.
    Therefore, how can general revelation tell me how to do heart surgery? How does the heavens declaring God’s glory give me the information needed to use diesel or regular gas? How does the knowledge that there is a God and He is powerful tell me how to make a PowerPoint presentation?
    Now the straw man you seek to build in order to topple is that I said that the Bible (special revelation) tells us these details. Again, to mention Frame’s words, the Bible doesn’t tell us what sculpting strokes to make, but it does inform and enlighten and govern how we use those skills (in a way that glorifies Him, proclaims His goodness, so that our witness is a letter to be read by others, etc.).

    So how do we learn how to make presentations, do heart surgery, or figure out which kind of gas to pump? Through God’s providential dealing with us. The intelligence He gives is not general revelation (which, to belabor the point) is a revealing of Himself. What governs this providential dealing? It should be His Word. How do we use the intelligence God gave us? According to His Word. Why do some nonbelievers do right? Conscience of right and wrong, yes. But if all men have consciences, then why don’t all men do right? A most beautiful work of art is veiled and the audience awaits it unveiling so its beauty can be appreciated. It is unveiled, but it can’t be seen correctly because the audience is visually impaired. Fault the artwork? No, fault the audience.

    Only the enlightenment by the Holy Spirit can heal our consciences. Even then, sin intrudes to some degree.

  28. Zrim says:

    “Sometimes”? Pagans give me correct change and deal with me well constantly.

    But plenty of unbelievers know that drunkenness is wrong without cracking a Bible, just like they naturally know murder and stealing and adultery are wrong. God gave them a conscience to figure these things out, just like he gave them feet to walk across a room. Nobody needa a Bible to figure out right and wrong. If that were the case then unbelieving criminals could plead not guilty by reason of never having read the Bible. That’s, ahem, insane. I don’t think you realize how your outlook would make law and order dicey.

  29. Lacie says:

    Good works are only good if they spring from faith. Even then they are not meritorious, but are accepted as God looks upon them in his Son.
    No brainer.

  30. Jed Paschall says:

    Lacie,

    What’s with all the straw man stuff, sheesh. Any time someone makes any sort of analogy with you that you find disagreeable you call it a straw man. Analogies have limits, and limitations do not a straw man make.

    I think you are drawing an unnecessarily narrow view of GR here. It might be more helpful to distinguish functions of GR: 1)GR functions to tell us that there is a God who created the universe in it’s entirety, and we are obligated to him as such (See Romans 1:18ff). I think we are in total agreement here. 2) GR also functions as “nature’s book” and can be used by man to figure out how the material world works, and what potential uses might have. This is tied into the cultural mandate of subduing the earth. Part of subduing is figuring out how it works.

    To the second point, fallen man has access to GR even from his fallen vantage points in such a manner that yields amazing results. Cain’s fallen sons in Gen. 4 managed to figure out animal husbandry, metallurgy, music, and city-building. Though these cultural and technological components are developed in a fallen context, there is no explicit condemnation of these in the text. Furthermore, Seth’s elect line is not said to have any special privilege in the quality or content of cultural and technological proliferation. It seems that “nature’s book” exists in the realm of common grace and can be used by fallen men for good purposes or bad, but either way making discoveries of the inner workings of GR has advanced human civilization on many fronts.

    In truth, the Bible *can* give some sort of indication of how general tasks should be undertaken. However, these are often very tangential to the task, having to do more with the devotion due to God in these tasks. This gives a certain spiritual value to what we as believers do in our vocations. However, even if God receives the fruit of our labors as we offer them in faith, that doesn’t mean that the intrinsic quality of the labor was superior to that of the unbeliever, it just means it is spiritually accepted on the basis of a mercy of God.

    In the common sphere, I purchase goods and services based on quality rather than spiritual acceptability. What the producer of the good, or the practitioner of the service’s spiritual acceptability of the work is between the provider and God. That is why we, as much as possible deal on the basis of quality and merit in the common sphere. It can be wreckless in important procedures like heart-surgery or bridge building to insist on anything less than the highest quality, spiritual value notwithstanding.

  31. Zrim says:

    So, Lacie, what about bad works that are done in faith? And when my pagan neighbor does good work I call that good work. Do you see something wrong in saying that faith alone glorifies God? If so, why? Faith alone justifies us so why can’t faith alone glorify God?

  32. TurretinFan says:

    There’s no law/gospel confusion in saying either that good work or good works glorify God.

    WCF, Chapter 16, Paragraph 2: “These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.”

    What we do, we do to God’s glory.

    1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

    And this is one of the ends to which we have been regenerated:

    Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

    In fact, that’s one of the purposes of Scripture, to equip us in that way:

    2 Timothy 3:16-17
    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    We are specifically taught to glorify God in our body:

    1 Corinthians 6:18-20
    Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    Jesus own lips taught us:

    Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    And likewise, we are taught by the Holy Spirit through Peter:

    1 Peter 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    Most of that, of course, deals with good works, as distinct from good work. But we recognize good work as good for a reason.

    Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

    Similarly, we likewise value things like beauty:

    Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    Time and space would fail me to go on at length, but there is virtue and praise to be had in strength, speed, intelligence, and skill, notwithstanding the fact that by comparison all those things are vanity:

    Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    -TurretinFan

  33. TurretinFan says:

    “2) GR also functions as “nature’s book” and can be used by man to figure out how the material world works, and what potential uses might have.”

    There’s a name for this that doesn’t rely on metaphorical uses of “book”: reason.

    -TurretinFan

  34. Zrim says:

    Tfan,

    As you suggest, when I say “good works” I don’t mean something of a moral nature. I mean something like building mousetraps. So if a believer and a non-believer both build a mousetrap, and the unbeliever builds a good one and the believer builds a bad one then the unbeliever performed a good work (but didn’t glorify God) and the believer glorified God (but built a bad product).

  35. Lacie says:

    Z: It looks like the WCF quoted above by T-fan answers most of your questions to me.

    Jed:
    You’ve gotten the mistaken impression that I think work/products/activities in general done by believers are automatically superior in quality to that of unbelievers. I don’t think that (don’t think I ever said that).

    My point plain and simple is that Scripture is sufficient to govern our work/activities. We use intelligence (which God provided in creation and continues to supply according to His will in providence) to make things, fix things, invent things. That’s not general revelation (which is how God reveals Himself in creation and history). And here I rely on the Belgic Confession definition which is pretty standard. See B.B. Warfield also. But what is necessary to inform/govern our activities? It must be the absolutes of the Bible. It’s not just for religious devotion. It’s not just that we do all to God’s glory (of course, minimally it is that). And if people don’t do things for God’s glory, it doesn’t necessarily make their work bad. An unbelieving midwife who knows her stuff may be (unwittingly) used by God to bring His elect into the world. He can use what He likes.

    Our consciences can be ill-informed. We all, believer or nonbeliever, need the Bible to teach us. In every endeavor believers should find wisdom and moral absolutes in the Bible.

    Pick almost any endeavor and you can think of Biblical implications for it. “Worldly wisdom” won’t do. How do we know when divorce is right and when wrong? Don’t look at the vast majority of people who are doing it–even if they think their consciences are telling them it’s OK. The Bible tells us about how to speak to others, how we treat our animals, how we make our sculpture, how we pave our roads.

  36. Zrim says:

    But the authors Belgic 2 relied on metaphysical use of “book”:

    We know him by two means:

    First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

    All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

    Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

  37. Bruce Settergren says:

    Lacie: You said: “Scripture is sufficient to govern our work/activities. We use intelligence (which God provided in creation and continues to supply according to His will in providence) to make things, fix things, invent things. That’s not general revelation ”

    Well, that’s not Scripture either.

    You also said, and I’m paraphrasing: “The Bible must be necessary to inform/govern our activities”.

    I’m not sure how you use the word “must” up there. Are you using it in the sense that it’s so logically true that it just has to be the case, therefore it “must” be. Or are you using it in the sense that it is one of God’s laws that we use the Bible to inform/govern our activities and to fail in that regard is therefore sin?

    I can tell you one thing, I never use the Bible to inform or govern 99% of my activities. That’s just a fact.

  38. Zrim says:

    Lacie, when I suggested that your view implies that the Bible tells us how to make salads (or pave roads) your reply was, “You’re setting up straw men. Name one person who has ever said anything as looney as what you are supposedly knocking down.”

    Then you assert, “The Bible tells us about how to speak to others, how we treat our animals, how we make our sculpture, how we pave our roads.”

    So, first, what you have demanded you have also provided here (how very godly of you). Second, to the looney assertion: how in thee heck does the Bible tell us how to treat animals, make sculptures or pave roads?

    You might get a pass for asserting that the Bible tell us how to treat others. But then you don’t sound very different from the Kantian Liberals who reduced special revelation to mere ethics and divorced imperatives from their indicatives. Do you realize how Liberal it really is to despise general revelation and say that special revelation covers all bases?

  39. Lacie says:

    No one says that the Bible provides stroke by stroke information on how to sculpt (to use John Frame’s example) but the finished sculpture should not reflect a nihilistic worldview. So that’s how it informs and/or governs everyday activities in that area of life. Frame does a great job of defeating the 2K view (see link below)

    Frame says, “But good art will be art that recognizes the comprehensive lordship of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t imply that there are distinctively Christian and non-Christian brush strokes. It does imply that a Christian artist should not be mistaken for a secular nihilist, or Muslim, or new-age Monist. But given these distinctions, we should confess that culture is Jesus’ culture. To paraphrase Kuyper, as Jesus looks at our culture, he will always say, “Mine!!”

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2010VanDrunen.htm

    I can barely believe you don’t catch on yet.

  40. Jed Paschall says:

    Lacie,

    The problem with Frame’s distinction on art is that so much of art is a communication predicated on taste that outside of a few biblical indicatives that might ban say sexually-explicit “art”, the bible doesn’t actually have anything to say to this cultural phenomenon.

    Take Frame’s Christian/Muslim distinction into architecture: Is an Arabic arch designed by a Muslim somehow superior to a Gothic arch designed by a Christian church architect? Is Van Gogh to be lauded for the quality of his art, or derided for his abandonment of Christianity?

    Whose poetry is better: Pulitzer winner, Lisel Mueller, or emphatically religious John Donne. The problem is that they are dealing with entirely different subject matter, so you might have two believer’s of differing taste arguing for the merits of one’s poetry versus the others.

    There might be a good reason why we haven’t caught on. We think Frame is wrong.

  41. Zrim says:

    But, Lacie, much as I can appreciate short hand, surely you can see how saying “the Bible tells us how we make our sculpture” sounds like a stroke for stroke notion? I mean, you wanted me to point out where someone says that, and it was you.

    But I’ll try to be charitable, overlook your putting into bald assertion what is implied by your outlook and say that I also understand that you don’t mean to say the Bible is a handbook for common endeavor. I guess what Framians mean to say is that when believers make culture it shoudn’t look like what unbelievers make. But how are we supposed to do that when finished products demand pretty concise traits? How do believing carpenters make a house that looks different from a house built by unbelievers? I mean, if our art is supposed to be different then shouldn’t our houses? What does a Christian house look like?

    See, like Jed points out, the problem with Framians using the example of art is that art is pretty subjective. It’s pretty easy to say, “This painting is Christian, not pagan.” Uh-huh, yes, I see that. I daresay, the Framian argument is what lies behind the general phenomenon of C grade artists charging lots of money for so-called art.

    But if you want the Framian argument to apply to subjective work it also must apply to objective work as well (every square inch, remember?). And here is where the test goes pretty south for you guys, because you know as well as we do that, while there are such things as Christians making them, there is no such thing as a Christian house…or road…or car…or salad. And I’ll raise the ante: while there is such a thing as Christians doing education, medicine or statecraft, there is no such thing as Christian education, medicine or states.

  42. Lacie says:

    I agree there is not such thing as “Christian medicine”, but there are Christians who work in the fields of medicine, education, etc. As believers they will approach their endeavors differently than an unbeliever because (to the extent they are faithful) they will be more or less biblical.

    You keep wanting to try to hold Frame and those who agree with him to a Biblical “stroke by stroke” guidance as opposed to what is actually being said. I believe that is because that is what you can defeat, not the real position of Frame. Ditto for the “every sqare inch” remark as you and other 2Kers apply it without regard to its metaphorical intent.

    General revelation refers to how God reveals Himself, not how to pave roads and make salads, contra your positions. Please don’t assume that if something doesn’t derive from general revelation then it must derive from special (emphasis on the word “derive”). Man’s reasoning ability and creative gifts were given in creation and are continued in God’s providential governing of all He has made. The Bible, i.e., God’s special revelation is sufficient to inform and govern how to use this reasoning and gifts.

  43. Lacie says:

    Sorry, didn’t complete the last post.

    Let me take your view–that the Bible is sufficient for (religious) faith and life. But is it? I don’t think so.

    1. It’s not sufficient because it doesn’t give me eyes to read or ears to hear. Nor does it give me reasoning ability to understand the words.
    2. It doesn’t teach me Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
    3. It doesn’t teach me how to interpret its poetry, narrative, history, prophecy as genres.
    4. It doesn’t give me the Holy Spirit.
    So, according to your reasoning (which I disagree with), the Bible is insufficient for even religious faith and religious life.

    But of course it’s not. It’s sufficient for both faith and life (not just religious) just as the WCF teaches.

  44. Zrim says:

    I agree there is not such thing as “Christian medicine”, but there are Christians who work in the fields of medicine, education, etc. As believers they will approach their endeavors differently than an unbeliever because (to the extent they are faithful) they will be more or less biblical.

    You keep wanting to try to hold Frame and those who agree with him to a Biblical “stroke by stroke” guidance as opposed to what is actually being said. I believe that is because that is what you can defeat, not the real position of Frame. Ditto for the “every sqare inch” remark as you and other 2Kers apply it without regard to its metaphorical intent.

    Well, I’m just trying to get it, Lacie.

    As you champion the Framian outlook, you have explicitly said that the Bible tells us how to make art and pave roads. For my part, I think that makes the implications of your view pretty honest. But, then, you turn around and fault me for saying Framinism wants to say the Bible provides stroke-by-stroke guidance. But that’s what you said it says. So, I can’t tell now if I’m coming or going with you (it’s like you’re at once gesturing me to come hither and go away). But your escape hatch seems to be something about “metaphorical intent,” which I gather has something to do with creating redemptive versions of creational endeavors.

    But then that brings us back to notions of Christian you-name-it. But you agree that while there are such things as Christians doing you-name-it there is no such thing as Christian you-name-it.

    Nevertheless, you say that believers will approach their endeavors differently that unbelievers. Can you explain how measuring 2x4s or hammering nails into the right place will be approached differently by the two or how one is doing these things biblically?

  45. Lacie says:

    Interesting question about hammers and nails. Jael comes to mind 😉 Now there’s a woman who wielded a hammer for the glory of God…

    Yes, the teaching of God’s Word has implications for all of life (I Cor. 10:31 & 2 Cor. 10:15). There is one realm, that of creation, and all are under obligation to believe in Jesus Christ, trust in His sacrificial provision and obey Him.

    Until you see that you will be endlessly caught in your loop about which is what and what is which. The WCF divines were spot-on. The Scripture is sufficient for faith and life.

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