Predestination by A.A. Hodge
THIS is a subject which is very little understood, even by those Christians who profess to embrace it in their creed. This is due in part to the nature of the subject, to its profundity, and to the infinite range of its complications with other important truths. But it is also in large measure due to inattention, and to the general prevalence of a natural though an unfounded and ignorant prejudice. This prejudice has become in many quarters an epidemic irresistible to persons of more zeal than judgment. Now, I wish to urge a plea in favour of an earnest, frank, patient study of the subject. Vague prejudice unsupported by definite knowledge has no value. It is unquestionable that the Scriptures do teach some doctrine of predestination, and a very strict doctrine of unconditional election has been held by the greatest and most thoroughly biblical theologians, and by whole denominations of Christians most conspicuous for their evangelical character and fruitfulness. It will not do for any of us to dismiss such a subject with supercilious impatience. We should at the very least do our best to secure a clear conception of the doctrine, and of its relation to other doctrines, before we make ourselves sure that it is not true.
I. In the first place, it should be clearly understood that this great principle of divine predestination is held in two entirely different connections and interests. It has by a great many been discussed simply as a question of transcendental theology, as concerning the acts of God enacted in eternity in a sphere above and behind the external phenomena which are obvious to our senses. If there be a God, he necessarily exists in eternity, while the creation exists in the successions and limitations of time. The universe as a whole and all the parts of it originate in him and depend upon him, and therefore are determined by him. According to the precise language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Ques. 7, “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he bath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” This sweeps the whole universe, and is a proposition of the highest and most general speculative importance. This position is unquestionably, in this form, true and logically involved in all scriptural views of the doctrine of grace in all its elements. It is therefore rightly embraced in our Confession of Faith, and the present writer with all his heart believes it to be true. It is in this spirit and from this speculative point of view that Zwingli discusses this subject in his De Providentia. And it is this aspect of the question which is habitually considered by the general Christian public in their hostile criticisms of this doctrine. Now, I am perfectly free to confess that however true this view of the general principle of predestination is, and however much it is logically implicated in the essentials of the Christian doctrines of grace, nevertheless this transcendental way of conceiving of the matter is more speculative than practical. Although I heartily accord with the view in my own mind, I feel no disposition to insist upon the assent of any Christian brother as a matter of loyalty to the Christian faith. No element of the Creed is essential unless it practically determines the attitude of the soul in its relations to God through Christ. And only those aspects and modes of conceiving Christian truth should be insisted upon and imposed upon others as obligatory which do directly determine this Godward attitude of our souls, or, in other words, which directly enter into and give form to our religious experience.
On the other hand, Calvin presents his characteristic doctrine of eternal election in living connection with the great practical experimental questions of personal salvation and of divine grace. If we are sinners, it is evident that the practically essential thing in religious experience is to appreciate truly our guilt, unworthiness, and helplessness before God, and God’s free grace toward us to its full extent. If God is infinitely gracious and just, if at measureless expense he redeemed us at the cost of the pain, shame, and death of his Son, it follows that any failure in our appreciation of our own unworthiness and helplessness, or of God’s gracious activity in our salvation, would be absolutely insufferable. To claim more for ourselves or to ascribe less to God than the facts of the case justify would he the greatest of all sins, and would be the very thing to make salvation impossible. The sense of our own guilt, pollution, and impotence, and of the absolute unconditioned freeness of the grace which saves us, is involved in every case of genuine religious experience.
Free Will and Moral Responsibility by John Frame
About ten years ago I interviewed John Frame. I was just starting to become familiar with his work and I am so glad I was introduced to him. John Frame is one of the clearest, precise, and critical thinkers of our time. John Frame is so committed to the authority of scripture he will uphold this over any confession written by man. I truly appreciate this about John Frame. He is not simply a man who try's to uphold a confession, but scripture. The following is an article he wrote about Free Will and Moral responsibility.
I highly recommend his Systematic Theology which is the magnum opus of his life work.
There are two theories of free will that are often discussed in relation to ethical responsibility. The first is usually called “libertarianism,” and it is typical of Arminian theology. Many philosophers have also argued for it, from Epicurus in ancient times to C. A. Campbell, H. D. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga and many others recently. Indeed, it seems to be something of a consensus among Christian philosophers today that one cannot do justice to moral responsibility without presupposing a libertarian view of freedom.
The libertarian view states that some human decisions and actions, particularly moral and religious decisions, are strictly uncaused. In the most sophisticated forms of libertarianism, these decisions are not even caused by our desires or character. They are very insistent on this: a truly free act is not an act which carries out our strongest desire; it rather, typically, goes against our strongest desire. The libertarian is aware, of course, that our desires are largely a function of our heredity, environment, past decisions and so on. If free decisions are based on desires, he thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused.
The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he “could have done otherwise.” If I am strapped to a robotic machine which, using my arms, robs a bank, I am not to blame for robbing the bank. I “could not have done otherwise.” Such is the libertarian argument.
I have always felt that this position lacked cogency. For one thing, it denies the rule of God’s sovereignty over the hearts and decisions of human beings, a rule which I find abundantly attested in Scripture (see my lectures on the Doctrine of God). Indeed, in saying that human actions can be “uncaused,” it attributes to man ultimate causality; but in Christianity, only God is the first cause.
For another thing, libertarianism seems to me to be unintelligible on its own terms, for it makes our moral choices accidental. R. E. Hobart, in a famous article from the 1930s, wrote to the effect that on the libertarian basis, a moral choice is like my feet popping out of my bed without my desiring them to, and carrying me where I don’t want to go. The attempt to separate decisions from desires is psychologically perverse.
Further, libertarianism, rather than guaranteeing moral responsibility, actually destroys it. How can we be held responsible for decisions, if those decisions are “psychological accidents,” unconnected with any of our desires? Indeed, such a situation would, precisely, negate all responsibility. Certainly it is difficult to imagine being held responsible for something we really didn’t want to do.
Regeneration by Charles Hodge
The following excerpts are from an essay written by Charles Hodge entitled "Regeneration and The New Divinity Trend" taken from the Princeton Review: First Series, published in New York by Wiley and Putnam in 1846. It was written in review of "Regeneration and the Manner of Its Occurrence, A Sermon from John 5:24". Preached at the Opening of the Synod of New York, in the Rutgers Street Church, on Oct 20 1829, by Samuel H. Cox, D.D., Pastor of the Laight Street Presbyterian Church. Hodge takes on some common philosophic arguments against the doctrine of monergistic regeneration. He successfully refutes the synergistic teaching that the natural man's decision to trust Christ must come from an indifferent moral disposition, as often claimed. Hodge shows that the only reasonable explanation for holy decisions is that they must spring from holy first causes and inclinations. The ideas in the following excerpts of Hodge's fine essay must be mastered by anyone who intends on teaching a gospel that is faithful to the Scripture. The essay is not a biblical exposition (that is done elsewhere), but rather, a response to philosophical opposition to the truth of the Spirit's monergistic work of grace in the soul of the elect.
...[Jonathan] Edwards not only admits that moral principles and habits may and must exist in the soul prior (in the order of nature) to moral action, but his whole system of practical theology, as it seems to us, rests on this foundation. The great fundamental principle of his work on the affections is this: All gracious or spiritual affections presuppose and arise from spiritual views of divine truth. These views the natural man neither has, nor can have, while he remains such. Hence arises the necessity of such a change of being wrought in the state of the soul that it can perceive the beauty and excellence of divine things. This change consists in imparting to the soul what he calls 'a new sense' or a new taste, or relish, or principle, adapted to the perception and love of spiritual excellence.
...After having stated that the exercises of the true Christian are specifically different from those of unsanctified men, he infers that if the exercises are different, the principle whence they proceed must be different, or there must be, 'as it were, a new spiritual sense, or a principle of a new kind of perception of spiritual sensation.' And he hence explains why it is that 'the work of the Spirit of God in regeneration is often in Scripture compared to giving a new sense, giving eyes to see and ears to hear, unstopping the ears of the deaf and opening the eyes of them that were born blind, and turning them from darkness to light....'
...[The question is] why does one man see and feel a beauty in certain objects when others do not? Is there is no difference between the clown and the most refined votary in the arts, but in their acts? Is any man satisfied by being told that one loves them, and the other does not; that it is in vain to ask why; the fact is enough, and the fact is all; there is no difference in the state of their minds antecedent to their acts; there can be no such thing as a principle of taste of sense of beauty, distinct from the actual love of beauty?
We are disposed to think that no man can believe this: that the constitution of our nature forces us to admit that if one man, under all circumstances and at all times, manifests its quick sensibility to natural beauty, and another does not, there is some difference between the two besides their acts; that there is some reason why, when standing before the same picture, one is filled with pleasure and the other is utterly insensible. We cannot help believing that one has taste (a quality, principle, 'or inward sense') which the other does not possess. It matters not what it may be called. It is the ground or reason of the diversity of their exercises which lies back of the exercises themselves, and must be assumed to account for the difference of their nature.
Constraining Love By J. Gresham Machen
This sermon was preached at the communion service that preceded the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1939) on November 12, 1936. It appeared in the Presbyterian Guardian, December 12, 1936. Dr. Machen died on January 1, 1937.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Cor. 5:14-15)
In these great verses Paul speaks of love as a constraining force. Love, he says, hems us in. There are certain things which love prevents us from doing.
Earlier in the passage, he has spoken of another restraining force—namely, fear. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord," he says, "we persuade men." Since we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, it behooves us to stand in fear of him; and there are many things which, because we shall stand before his judgment seat, we are afraid to do.
That motive of fear is used in many places in the Bible. It is used in the Old Testament. It is used in the New Testament. It is used with particular insistence in the teaching of Jesus. I think it is one of the strangest of modern aberrations when men say that it is a degrading and sub-Christian thing to tell man to stand in fear of God. Many passages in the Bible might be summarized by the words: "The fear of God constraineth us."
"The Love of Christ Constraineth Us"
In our text, however, it is something other than fear that is the thing that is said to constrain us or hem us in. It is love. "The love of Christ," Paul says, "constraineth us."
What then is here meant by the love of Christ? Our first impulse, perhaps, might be to say that it is our love of Christ, the love which we bear to Christ, the love in our hearts for Christ our Savior. The comparison with verse 11 might perhaps suggest that view. As there the fear which is in our hearts when we think of our standing before the judgment seat of Christ constrains us from doing things that we might otherwise do, so here the love which is in our hearts when we think of what Christ has done for us might seem to be the second constraining force of which Paul speaks.
Now if that is the right interpretation, the verse tells us something that is certainly true. It is certainly true, and eminently in accordance with Paul's teaching elsewhere, that the love of Christ which we have in our hearts restrains us from doing things which otherwise we might do. We refrain from doing those things not only because we are afraid to do them, but also because we love Christ too much to do them. Ah, how powerful a restraining force in the Christian's life is the love he bears to Christ, his Savior! That love in the Christian's heart is a restraining force even more powerful than any fear.
As a matter of fact, however, that is not Paul's meaning here. The love of Christ which he here says constrains us is not our love for Christ, but it is Christ's love for us. We are restrained from doing evil things, Paul says, by that unspeakable love which Christ manifested when he died for us on the cross.
5 Hours on the Dividing Line
JS - As you might already be aware, for the last couple of weeks I have had the distinct honor and privilege of hosting Dr. James White's "Dividing Line" broadcast while he was away on a ministry trip to Europe. For those of you would wish to have all five youtube videos at one internet link, here they are:
Hour 1. "Law and Gospel."
Hour 2. "The Five Solas of the Reformation."
Hour 3. The "T" in the TULIP, "Total Depravity:
Hour 4. The "U" in the TULIP, "Unconditional Election."
Hour 5. The "L" in the TULIP, "Limited Atonement."
Limited Atonement on the Dividing Line
This afternoon I once again I had the privilege of hosting Dr. James White's Dividing Line broadcast. Today's topic was the "L" in the TULIP, "Limited Atonement." - JS
Unconditional Election on the Dividing Line
Continuing the discussion of the Doctrines of Grace on Dr. James White's "Dividing Line" broadcast, here is the latest study on "Unconditional Election," highlighting Acts 13:48, John chapters 6, 8, 10 and 17, as well as Romans 8:28-38. - JS
The End of the Incarnation By B.B. Warfield
“For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me; and this is the will of Him that sent me, that of all that He hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”—John 6:38–39
In the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand our Lord presented Himself symbolically to man as the food of the soul. For, as Augustine reminds us, though the miracles wrought by our Lord are divine works, intended primarily to raise the mind from visible things to their invisible author, yet their message is not exhausted by this. They are to be interrogated also as to what they tell us about Christ, and they will be found to have a tongue of their own if we have skill to understand it. “For,” he adds, “since Christ is Himself the Word of God, even a deed of the Word is a word to us.” One of His miracles is accordingly not to be treated as a mere picture, which we may be satisfied to look upon and praise; but rather as a writing, which we are not content to praise though we delight in its beauty, but find no satisfaction until we have read and understood it. We may possibly consider somewhat fanciful Augustine’s detailed decipherment of the signs in which this miracle is written. He discovers in it a complete parable of the salvation of man and of men. But we can scarcely refuse, as we read it in the pregnant record of John, to say in Pauline phrase, “these things contain an allegory.”
As such, indeed, John presents it. This is the meaning of his care to tell us, as he introduces his recital, that “the passover was at hand”: not a mere chronological note, we may be sure; nor yet merely an explanation of the presence of the multitude, gathered for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem ; but a premonition of what is to come,—John’s account of the occasion and meaning of the miracle, which itself was the occasion of the great discourse on the bread of life. Christ, the true passover, chose the passover time, when men’s minds were upon the type, to present the anti-type to them in symbol and open speech. It was therefore also that He tested His disciples with searching questions, designed to bring them to the discovery of whether they yet knew Him; and that He taxed the people that “signs” were wasted upon them (verse 26), and that while they were demanding a sign that they might see and believe (verse 30), the sign had been given them, and though they had seen, they did not believe (verse 36). It was therefore above all, that Christ followed up the miracle with the wonderful discourse in which He explains the sign, and declares Himself openly to be “the bread of God that cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world.” This is the tremendous truth which miracle and discourse united to proclaim to the multitudes gathered on the shores of Gennesaret at that passover season; but which, despite type and sign and teaching—each a manifest word from God,—they could neither receive nor understand. And this is the blessed truth which our text,—taken from the center of the discourse and constituting, indeed, its kernel,—presents to our apprehension and belief anew to-day. May the Spirit of truth, who searches all things, even the deep things of God, illuminate our minds and prepare our hearts, that we may understand and believe.
I. Let us begin by observing the testimony borne by our Lord and Master here to His heavenly original and descent: “I am come down from heaven,” He says. And the truth here declared is the foundation of the entire discourse: the whole gist of which is to represent Jesus as the “bread out of heaven,” “the true bread out of heaven,” “the bread of God that cometh down out of heaven,” which the Father hath given for the life of the world. I need not remind you how this representation pervades John’s Gospel,—from the testimony of the Baptist (3:31), that He who was to supplant him “cometh from above,” and is therefore “above all,” to Jesus’ own triumphant declaration at the close of His life, that, His work being finished, He is ready to return to the Father who sent Him, and to the glory that He had with Him before the world was (17:5, 11). Our present asseveration is but a single instance of the constant self-testimony of the Son of Man to His heavenly original and descent.
The older Unitarianism was prodigal of miracle. It was not the supernatural, but the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the God-man that were its scandal. When brought face to face with such passages as these, it was wont, therefore, to explain that Jesus, born miraculously of His virgin mother, but a mere man, was taken up to heaven by the divine power to learn the things of God; whence He again descended to bring divine teaching to men. To the newer Unitarianism, on the other hand, it is precisely the supernatural which is the offence. Its philosophical forms might hospitably receive such mysteries as the Trinity and the God-man, if only they may be permitted to run freely into their moulds. But divine interventions of any kind, and most of all the descent of a personal God from heaven to earth, to be incased in flesh and to herd for a season among men, it cannot allow. It, therefore, attacks our passages with a theory of ideal, not real, preexistence, and teaches that Jesus means only that, in the thought and intention of God, His advent into the world had long been provided for, and that, in that sense, He was with God and came forth from God.
Jeremiah's Plaint and Its Answer- Geerhardus Vos
The Princeton Theological Review 26:481-495. 
In the third verse of the 31st chapter of Jeremiah we have a prophet’s report of divine speech heard in a revelation-sleep. The content of what was related after the awakening holds a peculiar place among the prophecies of Jeremiah: “Jehovah appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn out long lovingkindness unto thee.” Whilst a large part of the discourses of this prophet is given to rebuke of sin and prediction of judgment, the message here is one of promise. It transports us into the final world-order, when the chaos and ruin, the sin and the sorrow shall have been overpast, nay changed into their opposites. No wonder that one, who had had to deliver so many prophecies of woe and destruction, should have delighted in seeing and reproducing this vision of restoration and blessedness, that after having been so long employed in rooting up and plucking out, he should have rejoiced more than ordinarily in this planting of new hopes, a pause of rest and healing also for his own weary and distracted soul.
In taking the comfort of the prophetic promises to our hearts we do not, perhaps, always realize what after the tempests and tumults, in the brief seasons of clear shining which God interposed, such relief must have meant to the prophets themselves. For they had not merely to pass through the distress of the present; besides this they were not allowed to avert their eyes from the terrifying vision of the latter days. In anticipation they drank from the cup “with wine of reeling” filled by Jehovah’s hand. Nor did the prophets see only the turbulent surface, the foaming upper waves of the inrushing flood, their eyes were opened to the religious and moral terrors underneath. The prophetic agony was no less spiritual than physical: it battled with the sin of Israel and the wrath of God, and these were even more dreadful realities than hostile invasion or collapse of the state or captivity for the remnant. In a sense which made them true types of Christ the prophets bore the unfaithfulness of the people on their hearts. As Jesus had a sorrowful acquaintance with the spirit no less than the body of the cross, so they were led to explore the deeper meaning of the judgment, to enter recesses of its pain undreamt of by the sinners in Israel themselves.
In Jeremiah’s ministry these things are illustrated with extraordinary clearness, partly owing to the individual temperament of the prophet, partly also to the critical times in which his lot had been cast. His was a retiring, peace-loving disposition, which from the very beginning protested against the Lord’s call to enter upon this public office: “Ah Lord Jehovah, behold I know not how to speak, for I am a child” (1:6). An almost idyllic, pastoral nature, he would have far preferred to lead the quiet priestly life, a shepherd among tranquil sheep. Why was this timid lad chosen to be a fortified brazen wall to his people, to hammer out words of iron against the flinty evil of their hearts? And though he surrendered to God for the sake of God, there always seems to have remained in his mind a scar of the tragic conflict between the stern things without and the tender things within. His soul sometimes found it difficult to enter self-forgetfully into the message. A strange compulsion directed his thought and forced its utterance. He sat alone because of God’s hand, filled with indignation. In painful experience he learned that the way of man is not in himself to order his steps. When the impulse of his innermost heart led him to intercede for Israel, the answer would sometimes come: “Pray not thou for this people” (7:16; 11:14; 14:11). There is something Job-like in the cry: “Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me, a man of strife and of contention to the whole earth” (15:10). Even to the perilous verge of remonstrance with Jehovah did the prophet go in some of these extreme moments: “O Jehovah, thou hast [over-]persuaded me, and I let myself be persuaded; thou are stronger than I and hast prevailed” (20:7). And when actually out of the urge of such nascent revolt, the idea of future refusal of himself to Jehovah assumed form, threatening, “I will not make mention nor speak any more in his name” (20:9), it turned within him as a burning fire shut up in his bones, which he could not contain. Nor was the inner aversion on such occasions confined to his own role in the sad drama, it sometimes reached the point of taking issue with Jehovah on behalf of the people: “Ah Lord, thou has greatly deceived this people, saying, ye shall have peace, whereas the sword reacheth unto the life” (4:10). And surely, in view of the deep chasm in the prophet’s mind, these expressions, and others like them, were, if not excusable with reference to God, yet understandable from Jeremiah’s human standpoint. It was not sinful pessimism, nor morbid world weariness that made the prophet exclaim: “Oh that I could comfort myself against sorrow; my heart is faint within me; oh that I had in the wilderness some lodging-place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them!” (8:18; 9:2).
Of course we must not for a moment forget that, mingling with this, there was always much of an opposite character, something that made the prophet put himself in Jehovah’s hand, and, forgetful of all else, approve from the heart whatever it was God’s good-pleasure to do or purpose. At such times his soul was as a weaned child within him. Not away from God, but in God he discovered his wayfarer’s lodge with its profound peace. The bitter words were sometimes found and eaten, and turned, as by a miracle of transmutation, into a joy in the heart. But such seasons seem to have been sporadic, and carried no guarantee that, in close succession to them, the opposite state of mind would not gain control, finding utterance in words like these: “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable? Wilt thou be indeed unto me as a deceitful brook, waters that fail?” (15:18).
Read more here.
TULIP on the Dividing Line