Category Archives: Doctrine of Man

“Christians today often speak less about saving the lost than about conquering the world” by J.V. Fesko

“In the church’s efforts to defend the faith, Christians must always take a humble stance toward the world. Like the sons of Zebedee, whom Jesus nicknamed “the Sons of Thunder,” we can be all too eager to call down fire on unbelievers (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54).

Add in the misguided claim that the Bible provides a comprehensive view of life and the world that encompasses all knowledge, and this can easily turn into Christian imperialism.

Christians today often speak less about saving the lost than about conquering the world.

Especially in the secularized West, the problem with such rhetoric is that it does not align with the more modest claims of the Bible.

The church is a pilgrim people: this world is not our home. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were princes among the people of God and were heirs of the covenant promises, yet they dwelled in tents.

As the book of Hebrews tells us,

“By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9-10).

Too often, Christians thunder about transforming and conquering the world, but such rhetoric is far from Christ’s conduct. Rather than seeking to conquer the world, Christians in defending the gospel must be willing to roll up our sleeves, drop to our knees, and wash the feet of unbelievers.

Even Christ washed the feet of Judas, one who would eventually betray him.

To claim, as Van Til does, that no true learning occurs outside of Christian education, casts an unintended but nevertheless real shadow of contempt on God’s natural gifts, which He has abundantly given to the world, even to the apostate line of Cain.

Christians have much to learn from the unbelieving world about many things: science, mathematics, engineering, literature, art, music, and even ethics. Acknowledging that Christians have something to learn from unbelievers does not require that we embrace in toto what unbelivers claim.

Rather, to learn from the unbelieving world ultimately means to submit to God’s natural revelation in the world and the general wisdom He has so liberally bestowed on His good but nevertheless fallen creation.

We dig amid the muddy soil of this sin-marred world in search of pearls and gems of God’s wisdom.

We must always interrogate and compare any claim against the canon of Scripture to determine whether truth-claims are accurate. In our use of the book of nature, we must never set aside the book of Scripture.

Scripture must always regulate our understanding of the book of nature, lest we abandon the truth and imbibe the world’s erroneous and sinful interpretations of the book of nature.

But we must not forget that all truth is God’s truth, regardless of its human point of origin.

It is true that those who hold the truth in unrighteousness resist the very source of the order, pattern, purpose, freedom, and beauty in nature. They ineluctably presuppose the theism that they willfully distort and resist.

Nevertheless, nowhere in the New Testament do we find language touting the superiority of Christian knowledge, claiming that Christians understand math or science better than unbelievers.

Instead, we encounter the humility and love of Christ for sinners, the same characteristics that should mark the church. Hence, Peter counsels Christians to adopt a humble posture in the face of persecution as they testify and give a defense for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

We do not conquer through cultural domination and making claims about the world’s ignorance.

Rather, if love is one of the goals of epistemology, and epistemology is ultimately the submission to God’s authoritative revelation, then we are not cultural conquerors but beggars showing other beggars where they can find a meal.

We conquer the world by laying down our lives in testimony for and defense of the gospel, not in making claims of cultural conquest or epistemological superiority.

As a pride of ferocious lambs, Christians testify to and defend the truth of the gospel with the books of nature and Scripture always in hand.

Christians need not shun the book of nature. We can rejoice because Christ looks out on the creation and all truth and rightfully claims “Mine!” Every square inch belongs to Christ, and therefore every square inch belongs to Christians.

But just because it all belongs to Christ does not mean that Christians are somehow automatically intellectually or culturally superior to their unbelieving counterparts.

Christians know the right motivational foundation and teleological goal of all knowledge, though they frequently forget them, and never succeed this side of glory in living in full conformity to them.

Nevertheless, with this proper understanding of epistemology, we can fruitfully interact with unbelievers, because we share the image of God.

We can defend the gospel, knowing that apologetics can clear away intellectual obstacles to the gospel, clarify our own understanding of the truth, protect the church from false teaching, and encourage our own hearts as we further immerse ourselves in the truth.”

–J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2019), 215, 217, 218-219.

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“A continual desire” by John Owen

“Our Lord Jesus Christ alone perfectly understood wherein the eternal blessedness of them that believe in Him doth consist.

And this is the sum of what He prays for with respect unto that end,– namely, that we may be where He is, to behold His glory. (John 17:24)

And is it not our duty to live in a continual desire of that which He prayed so earnestly that we might attain?”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 388-389.

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“This is heaven, this is blessedness, this is eternal rest” by John Owen

“Alas! We cannot here think of Christ, but we are quickly ashamed of, and troubled at, our own thoughts; so confused are they, so unsteady, so imperfect.

Commonly they issue in a groan or a sigh: Oh! when shall we come unto Him? When shall we be ever with Him? When shall we see Him as He is?

And if at any time He begins to give more than ordinary evidences and intimations of His glory and love unto our souls, we are not able to bear them, so as to give them any abiding residence in our minds.

But ordinarily this trouble and groaning is amongst our best attainments in this world,– a trouble which, I pray God, I may never be delivered from, until deliverance do come at once from this state of mortality; yea, the good Lord increase this trouble more and more in all that believe.

The heart of a believer affected with the glory of Christ, is like the needle touched with the loadstone.

It can no longer be quiet, no longer be satisfied in a distance from him. It is put into a continual motion towards him.

This motion, indeed, is weak and tremulous. Pantings, breathings, sighings, groanings in prayer, in meditations, in the secret recesses of our minds, are the life of it.

However, it is continually pressing towards Him. But it obtains not its point, it comes not to its centre and rest, in this world.

But now above, all things are clear and serene,– all plain and evident in our beholding the glory of Christ.

We shall be ever with Him, and see Him as He is. This is heaven, this is blessedness, this is eternal rest.

The person of Christ in all His glory shall be continually before us; and the eyes of our understandings shall be so gloriously illuminated, as that we shall be able steadily to behold and comprehend that glory.

But, alas! Here at present our minds recoil, our meditations fail, our hearts are overcome, our thoughts confused, and our eyes turn aside from the lustre of this glory.

Nor can we abide in the contemplation of it.

But there, an immediate, constant view of it, will bring in everlasting refreshment and joy unto our whole souls.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 385.

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“Because Christ is there” by John Owen

“Here our souls are burdened with innumerable infirmities, and our faith is clogged in its operations by ignorance and darkness.

This makes our best estate and highest attainments to be accompanied with groans for deliverance: “We which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” (Rom. 8:23).

Yea, whilst we are in this tabernacle, we groan earnestly, as being burdened, because we are not “absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” (2 Cor. 5:2, 4, 8).

The more we grow in faith and spiritual light, the more sensible are we of our present burdens, and the more vehemently do we groan for deliverance into the perfect liberty of the sons of God.

This is the posture of their minds who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit in the most eminent degree.

The nearer anyone is to heaven, the more earnestly he desires to be there, because Christ is there.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 384.

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“One pure act of spiritual sight in discerning the glory of Christ” by John Owen

“One pure act of spiritual sight in discerning the glory of Christ,– one pure act of love in cleaving unto God,– will bring in more blessedness and satisfaction into our minds than in this world we are capable of.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 381-382.

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“As a man sees his neighbour face to face, so shall we see the Lord Christ in His glory” by John Owen

“Christ Himself, in His own person, with all His glory, shall be continually with us, before us, proposed unto us.

We shall no longer have an image, a representation of Him, such as is the delineation of His glory in the Gospel.

We “shall see Him,” saith the apostle, “face to face,” (1 Cor. 13:12);—which he opposeth unto our seeing Him darkly as in a glass, which is the utmost that faith can attain to.

“We shall see Him as He is,” 1 John 3:2;– not as now, in an imperfect description of Him.

As a man sees his neighbour when they stand and converse together face to face, so shall we see the Lord Christ in His glory. And not as Moses, who had only a transient sight of some parts of the glory of God, when He caused it to pass by him.

There will be use herein of our bodily eyes, as shall be declared. For, as Job says, in our flesh shall we see our Redeemer, and our eyes shall behold Him, (Job 19:25–27).

That corporeal sense shall not be restored unto us, and that glorified above what we can conceive, but for this great use of the eternal beholding of Christ and His glory.

Unto whom is it not a matter of rejoicing, that with the same eyes wherewith they see the tokens and signs of Him in the sacrament of the supper, they shall behold Himself immediately in His own person?

But principally, as we shall see immediately, this vision is intellectual.

It is not, therefore, the mere human nature of Christ that is the object of it, but His divine person, as that nature subsisteth therein.

What is that perfection which we shall have (for that which is perfect must come and do away that which is in part) in the comprehension of the hypostatical union, I understand not.

But this I know, that in the immediate beholding of the person of Christ, we shall see a glory in it a thousand times above what here we can conceive.

The excellencies of infinite wisdom, love, and power therein, will be continually before us.

And all the glories of the person of Christ which we have before weakly and faintly inquired into, will be in our sight forevermore.

Hence the ground and cause of our blessedness is, that “we shall ever be with the Lord,” (1 Thess. 4:17),—as Himself prays, “that we may be with him where He is, to behold His glory.” (John 17:24)

Here we have some dark views of it;– we cannot perfectly behold it, until we are with Him where He is. Thereon our sight of Him will be direct, intuitive, and constant.

There is a glory, there will be so, subjectively in us in the beholding of this glory of Christ, which is at present incomprehensible. For it doth not yet appear what we ourselves shall be, (1 John 3:2).

Who can declare what a glory it will be in us to behold this glory of Christ?

And how excellent, then, is that glory of Christ itself!

This immediate sight of Christ is that which all the saints of God in this life do breathe and pant after.

Hence are they willing to be dissolved, or “desire to depart, that they may be with Christ,” which is best for them, (Phil. 1:23).

They choose “to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” (2 Cor. 5:8); or that they may enjoy the inexpressibly longed-for sight of Christ in His glory.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 378-379.

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“Herein is He glorious in the sight of God, angels, and men” by John Owen

“The establishment of the righteousness of God on the one hand, and the forgiveness of sin on the other, seem so contradictory, as that many stumble and fall at it eternally. (See Rom. 10:3-4).

But in this interposition of Christ, in this translation of punishment from the church unto Him, by virtue of His conjunction therewith, there is a blessed harmony between the righteousness of God and the forgiveness of sins;– the exemplification whereof is His eternal glory.

“O blessed change! O sweet permutation!” as Justin Martyr speaks.

By virtue of His union with the church, which of His own accord He entered into, and His undertaking therein to answer for it in the sight of God, it was a righteous thing with God to lay the punishment of all our sins upon Him, so as that He might freely and graciously pardon them all, to the honour and exaltation of His justice, as well as of His grace and mercy, (Rom. 3:24–26).

Herein is He glorious in the sight of God, angels, and men.

In Him there is at the same time, in the same divine actings, a glorious resplendency of justice and mercy;– of the one in punishing, of the other in pardoning.

The appearing inconsistency between the righteousness of God and the salvation of sinners, wherewith the consciences of convinced persons are exercised and terrified, and which is the rock on which most of them split themselves into eternal ruin, is herein removed and taken away.

In His cross were divine holiness and vindictive justice exercised and manifested; and through His triumph, grace and mercy are exerted to the utmost.

This is that glory which ravisheth the hearts and satiates the souls of them that believe.

For what can they desire more, what is farther needful unto the rest and composure of their souls, than at one view to behold God eternally well pleased in the declaration of His righteousness and the exercise of His mercy, in order unto their salvation?

In due apprehensions hereof let my soul live.

In the faith hereof let me die.

And let present admiration of this glory make way for the eternal enjoyment of it in its beauty and fulness.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 358-359.

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