Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Divine Counsel

"The Son did not move the Father to love; electing love arose from the Father himself. Scripture, accordingly, everywhere teaches that the cause of all the decrees does not lie in any creature but only in God himself, in his will and good pleasure (Matt. 11:26; Rom. 9:11ff; Eph. 1:4ff). For that very reason, both for unbelievers and believers, the doctrine of election is a source of inexpressibly great comfort. If it were based on justice and merit, all would be lost. But now that election operates according to grace, there is hope even for the most wretched. If work and reward were the standard of admission into the Kingdom of Heaven, its gates would be open for no one. Or if Pelagius's doctrine were the standard, and the virtuous were chosen because of their virtue, and Pharisees because of their righteousness, wretched publicans would be shut out. Pelagianism has no pity. But to believe in and to confess election is to recognize even the most unworthy and degraded human being as a creature of God and an object of his eternal love. The purpose of election is not -- as it is so often proclaimed -- to turn off the many but to invite all to participate in the riches of God's grace in Christ. No one has a right to believe that he or she is a reprobate, for everyone is sincerely and urgently called to believe in Christ with a view to salvation. No one can actually believe it, for one's own life and all that makes it enjoyable is proof that God takes no delight in his death. No one really believes it, for that would be hell on earth. But election is a source of comfort and strength, of submissiveness and humility, of confidence and resolution. The salvation of human beings is firmly established in the gracious and omnipotent good pleasure of God."

Herman Bavinck
Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2: God and Creation

If you have made it this far, congratulations... not because the above is difficult reading, but it means you have an interest in what is being said -- so congratulations.

This particular section in this volume, which covers far more than the small quote above, is one of the clearest and most helpful discussions on the decrees of God and particularly election and reprobation that I have ever read.

If you are not a theologian, but want to understand some difficult subjects, Bavinck is your man. He is challenging, but very clear and as you can tell from the above quote, often very practical in his dealings with topics in systematic theology. He is quickly becoming my favorite theologian, not only because of his clarity and practicality (and the fact that he's right a lot), but also because he engages the Reformation tradition from the inside in a way that is refreshing and incredibly helpful.


Nathan said...

I couldn't agree more about Bavinck. Theology should be rich and uplifting, not stale and dry. Every time I read Bavinck, I wish there were more like him.

Jonathan Foster said...
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Jonathan Foster said...

It's interesting that he says he doesn't believe that salvation is by merit. Does thing include the merit of Christ, because he affirms the covenant of works in other places.