Thursday Theological Corrections

There are those who abuse the ideas of predestination, and in doing this they do the doctors of the church a disservice. This includes those who deny the divinity of Christ. The good schoolmaster takes them out the back for some sharp correction.

Thanks to Dr Briggs, who asks we pray for a woman held in torment. For her we should all pray for deliverance.

I’m quoting more Aquinas than I would usually as Briggs does this well, but this is excellent and repetition us useful


1 Now, certain men, who perversely presumed to measure the truth of this doctrine by their own comprehension of it, conceived on the points just mentioned opinions both vain and various.

2 Some among these took into consideration Scripture’s custom of calling those who are justified by divine grace “sons of God,”, as in John (1:12): “He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name.” And Romans (8:16) says: “The Spirit Himself gives testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” And 1 John (3: 1) : “Behold what manner of charity the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God.” And Scripture does not hesitate to call these “begotten of God,” for it says in James (1:18): “For of His own will bath He begotten us by the word of truth”; and 1 John (3:9) says: “Whosoever is born of God commits not sin: for His seed abides in him.”

Also, to the same men, which is more marvelous, the name of “divinity” is applied. For the Lord said to Moses: “I have appointed you the God of Pharaoh” (Ex. 7:1); and the Psalmist says: “I have said: You are gods and all of you the sons of the most High” (Ps. 81:6); and, as our Lord said: “He called them gods, to whom the word of God was spoken” (John 10:35).

Notes Overloading metaphors in common in language; why some pretend otherwise when examining scripture is curious.

3 After this fashion, therefore, they formed the opinion that Jesus Christ was pure man, that He had had a beginning from the Virgin Mary, that by the merit of His blessed life He had received the honor of divinity above all others; and they thought that He was, like other men, a son of God by the spirit of adoption, begotten of God by grace, and by a kind of likens to God called God in Scripture not by nature, but by partaking in the divine goodness, just as it says of the saints in 2 Peter (1:4): “That by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world.”

4 Such was the position they were trying to establish by the authority of sacred Scripture.

5 For our Lord says in Matthew (28:18): “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth.” But, if He were God before all times, He would not have received power in time.

6 Again, Romans (1:34) says of the Son: “Who was made to Him,” to God, namely, “of the seed of David according to the flesh”; and says that He was “predestinated the Son of God in power.” But what was predestinated and was made seems not to be eternal.

7 The Apostle also says (Phil. 2:8): “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also bath exalted Him, and bath given Him a name which is above all names.” From this it appears clear that by the merit of His obedience and passion He was given divine honor and was exalted above all things.

Notes Obedience to rightful authority may be this generation’s largest difficulty.

8 Peter also says: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know most certainly, that God bath made both Lord and Christ, this same Jesus, whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Therefore, it seems that He was made God in time, not born before time.

9 They also bring in to shore up their opinion whatever Scripture says which seems to imply a defect in Christ: that He was carried in a woman’s womb, that He progressed in age, that He suffered hunger, was wearied with fatigue, and was subject to death; that He advanced in wisdom, confessed He did not know the day of judgment; that He was stricken with the fear of death; and other things of this sort which could not be in agreement with a God existing by His nature. Hence their conclusion: that by merit Christ acquired divine honor through grace and that He was not by nature divine.

10 Now, this position was first invented by certain ancient heretics, Cerinthus and Ebion. Later, Paul of Samosata renewed it; and later it was strengthened by Photinus, so that those who dogmatize thus are called Photinian.

11 However, those who diligently examine the words of sacred Scripture do not find in them the meaning which these men have by their own opinion constructed. For, when Solomon says: “The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived,” (Prov. 8:24), he makes it clear enough that this generation existed before all bodily things. Hence, it follows that the Son begotten by God received no beginning of being from Mary.

To be sure, they endeavored to debase these and other like testimonies by their perverse exposition.

These, they said, should be understood after the manner of predestination: that before the foundation of the world it was arranged that a Son of God should be born of the Virgin Mary, not that the Son of God had been before the world. But they are refuted by this: Not only in predestination, but in reality as well, He had been before Mary. For after the words of Solomon just quoted this is added: “When He balanced the foundations of the earth: I was with Him forming all things” (Prov. 8:29-30); but if He had been present in predestination only, He would have been able to do nothing.

One gets this also from the words of John the Evangelist, for, when he had first set down: “In the beginning was the Word” (by which name the Son is understood as was shown) to keep anyone from taking this as predestination, he adds: “All things were made by Him: and without Him was made nothing” (1:1, 3); and this could not be true if He had not really existed before the world. Again, the Son of God says in John (3:13): “No man has ascended to heave except He who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven”; again in John (6:38): “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” Clearly, therefore, he was before He descended from heaven.

Aquinas, Summa Theologica,Book 4

Briggs says this is heavy reading. Calvin would have said to him hold my red, and get a glass for yourself (his remuneration for pastoring in Geneva included booze by the barrel. He was French. Beer was for Luther, the English, and not for him).

Evil is by our will: God can and will make good out of evil, but do not say that evil is in the plan of God and should not be condemned.

4. As regards future events, Solomon easily reconciles human deliberation with divine providence. For while he derides the stupidity of those who presume to undertake anything without God, as if they were not ruled by his hand, he elsewhere thus expresses himself: “A man’s heart deviseth his ways but the Lord directeth his steps,” (Prov. 16:9); intimating, that the eternal decrees of God by no means prevent us from proceeding, under his will, to provide for ourselves, and arrange all our affairs. And the reason for this is clear. For he who has fixed the boundaries of our life, has at the same time entrusted us with the care of it, provided us with the means of preserving it, forewarned us of the dangers to which we are exposed, and supplied cautions and remedies, that we may not be overwhelmed unawares. Now, our duty is clear, namely, since the Lord has committed to us the defence of our life,–to defend it; since he offers assistance,–to use it; since he forewarns us of danger,–not to rush on heedless; since he supplies remedies,–not to neglect them. But it is said, a danger that is not fatal will not hurt us, and one that is fatal cannot be resisted by any precaution. But what if dangers are not fatal, merely because the Lord has furnished you with the means of warding them off, and surmounting them? See how far your reasoning accords with the order of divine procedure: You infer that danger is not to be guarded against, because, if it is not fatal, you shall escape without precaution; whereas the Lord enjoins you to guard against its just because he wills it not to be fatal. These insane cavillers overlook what is plainly before their eyes–viz. that the Lord has furnished men with the artful of deliberation and caution, that they may employ them in subservience to his providence, in the preservation of their life; while, on the contrary, by neglect and sloth, they bring upon themselves the evils which he has annexed to them. How comes it that a provident man, while he consults for his safety, disentangles himself from impending evils; while a foolish man, through unadvised temerity, perishes, unless it be that prudence and folly are, in either case, instruments of divine dispensation? God has been pleased to conceal from us all future events that we may prepare for them as doubtful, and cease not to apply the provided remedies until they have either been overcome, or have proved too much for all our care. Hence, I formerly observed, that the Providence of God does not interpose simply; but, by employing means, assumes, as it were, a visible form.

5. By the same class of persons, past events are referred improperly and inconsiderately to simple providence. As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will. Why, then, they ask, should the thief be punished for robbing him whom the Lord chose to chastise with poverty? Why should the murderer be punished for slaying him whose life the Lord had terminated? If all such persons serve the will of God, why should they be punished? I deny that they serve the will of God. For we cannot say that he who is carried away by a wicked mind performs service on the order of God, when he is only following his own malignant desires. He obeys God, who, being instructed in his will, hastens in the direction in which God calls him. But how are we so instructed unless by his word? The will declared by his word is, therefore, that which we must keep in view in acting, God requires of us nothing but what he enjoins. If we design anything contrary to his precept, it is not obedience, but contumacy and transgression. But if he did not will it, we could not do it. I admit this. But do we act wickedly for the purpose of yielding obedience to him? This, assuredly, he does not command. Nay, rather we rush on, not thinking of what he wishes, but so inflamed by our own passionate lust, that, with destined purpose, we strive against him. And in this way, while acting wickedly, we serve his righteous ordination, since in his boundless wisdom he well knows how to use bad instruments for good purposes. And see how absurd this mode of arguing is. They will have it that crimes ought not to be punished in their authors, because they are not committed without the dispensation of God. I concede more–that thieves and murderers, and other evil-doers, are instruments of Divine Providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the Judgments which he has resolved to inflict. But I deny that this forms any excuse for their misdeeds. For how? Will they implicate God in the same iniquity with themselves, or will they cloak their depravity by his righteousness? They cannot exculpate themselves, for their own conscience condemns them: they cannot charge God, since they perceive the whole wickedness in themselves, and nothing in Him save the legitimate use of their wickedness. But it is said he works by their means. And whence, I pray, the fútid odour of a dead body, which has been unconfined and putrefied by the sun’s heat? All see that it is excited by the rays of the sun, but no man therefore says that the fetid odour is in them. In the same way, while the matter and guilt of wickedness belongs to the wicked man, why should it be thought that God contracts any impurity in using it at pleasure as his instrument? Have done, then, with that dog-like petulance which may, indeed, bay from a distance at the justice of God, but cannot reach it!

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1 Chapter 17

This drives me to the prayer given to us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom and power and glory are yours. Amen