Robert Reymond on Mockers of Genesis 3

What follows is a section from the late Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian faith. Oftentimes, the fall is presented as a mere silly myth with no real depth to it. Reymond makes an interesting case that there is deep meaning tied to the sin of our first parents, namely, their rejection of the authority of God:

How shallow, then, is the oft-heard mockery of the whole situation in Genesis 3 that ascribes to God a ‘tempter tantrum’ merely because someone committed the picayunish act of ‘eating a piece of apple.’ The transgression of Adam was far more than that; it was at its core the creature’s deliberate rejection of God’s authority and an act of willfull rebellion against the Creator. It was man claiming the stance of autonomy and freedom from God. It was man believing that he had the right to determine for himself what he would be metaphysically (“You will be like God”), what he would know epistemologically (“Like God, knowing good and evil”), and how he would behave ethically (“she took and ate….her husband ate”). It was man heeding Satan’s call to worship the creature rather than the Creator. Authority was the issue at stake, and man decided against God and in his own favor.

(Robert Reymond. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Hendrickson Publishers, 1997. Pgs. 446-447).

Distinguishing the Effectual Call, Regeneration, and Definitive Sanctification

Distinguishing between these various aspects of our redemption is a high delight of the soul, whereby we are moved and induced to joyfully praise God for the glorious salvation as we behold the beauty of the salvation He has wrought and conveyed to us in Christ. Thus, the purpose of this short article is to distinguish between three intimately related concepts in Reformed Theology – the effectual call, regeneration, and definitive sanctification. 

The argument is as follows – (1) the effectual call, regeneration, and definitive sanctification are all parts of the same substantial act of God wherein He, effectually and without a mediator, turns the soul of man from sin to Himself in conversion. (2) Though each of these aspects of conversion happen at the same time chronologically, they do admit of a logical order – i.e. the effectual call precedes regeneration which precedes definitive sanctification. In a word, the elect soul is called to life by God in God’s good timing (effectual call), and so necessarily comes to life (regeneration), and is thereby definitively freed from sin in an irrevocable fashion (definitive sanctification). 

The Effectual Call: The effectual call is the converting act of God in the soul considered from the perspective of God’s own evoking power. Evoke comes from the latin evocare which means to call out of. Evoke, therefore, as I use it, refers to God’s powerful calling forth of the individual soul to life and to trust in His Son thereby. As God called forth the world by His own power, so too He calls forth life in the elect soul by the Spirit through the Word of His power (John 11:42-44; Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 10). 

Regeneration: Regeneration is the converting act of God in the soul, considering the result of the effectual call on the soul itself, wherein it is moved by God from a state of death to that of life. The Bible repeatedly refers to the human soul as born dead in sin; regeneration refers to the fact that said soul has been made alive by God alone and so disposed to see Christ for all that He actually is – in short, glorious and desirable. (Ephesians 2:4-5; Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 13, 1). 

Definitive Sanctification: Definitive Sanctification is the converting act of God viewed from the perspective of the now regenerated man’s relationship with sin. He is now definitively set free from the sin which formerly enslaved him. Sanctification is derived from the Latin sanctus “Holy.”  Sanctification means to “make holy,” or to consecrate as holy. Though progressive sanctification is a lifelong process of being transformed more and more into Christ’s likeness, definitive sanctification refers to the freedom from sin’s dominion that all believers share in definitively being effectually called and regenerated by God. (Romans 6:18). 

He has called us with the powerful preaching of the Gospel, not only outwardly but also inwardly, according to His own will and pleasure (effectual calling). Through His call, our souls have been made alive. Christ, who was formerly repugnant to us, has become to us the pearl of great price (regeneration). And sin, which formerly reigned over us in such a way that we could never overcome it, nor wanted to overcome it, has been laid to rest by the serpent crushing, bond breaking power of the risen Lord Jesus (definitive sanctification). May His name be praised.

TURRETIN’S TAKE: A Journey Through Francis Turretin’s Institutes, 1: Should Christians use the word Theology?

One of the most renowned texts in Reformed theology is Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. In his Institutes, Turretin addresses twenty topics across the whole range of systematic theology. A unique feature of the Institutes is that they address each topic through a series of questions. After each question, Turretin proceeds to provide an answer and a defense of his answer.   

Coming in at over 2,000 pages in three volumes, it is not an easy feat to work one’s way through this tome. The purpose of this series to is to provide brief and accessible summaries of Turretin’s work. Each post will cover an individual question and answer. This post will summarize the first question under the first topic, theology.

Turretin begins his Institutes in a unique way. He begins with answering the question of whether or not Christians should use the word “theology” and how to best understand the word. Part of the reason Turretin begins with this question is because of the importance of providing definitions of words. In a 3-volume book on theology, it’s important to know what is meant by theology. Another reason for starting here is that some people thought it was not appropriate for Christians to use the word “theology”.

There are two main arguments against the use of the word “theology” that Turretin responds to. The first argument is that the word isn’t used in the Bible. Since it isn’t used in the Bible, Christians should use other words that are used in the Bible. The second argument is that non-Christians use the same word for their systems of belief that contradict the Christian system. Therefore, they believe it is inappropriate to use that word.

In response to the first argument, Turretin points out that the absence of a word in Scripture doesn’t mean the word is unbiblical. He says, “It is lawful sometimes to use words which are not found there if they are such as will enable us either to explain divine things or to avoid errors.” (Institutes 1:1) Words such as “Trinity” or “original sin” enable us to more clearly communicate the truth that the Scripture teaches, even if it doesn’t use those particular words.

Turretin’s response to the second argument points out that the Scripture itself uses the same word to designate true Christian realities and false things. The word “god” itself is used to designate the true God of the Bible and false gods. Since Scripture sees fit to use the same terms as non-Christians to describe true things, it isn’t inappropriate for Christians to use the word “theology” when speaking of God and the things of God.

Having dealt with the question of whether or not Christians should use the word “theology”, Turretin turns to the issue of how the word has been used. Two of the ways it has been used are as a part of philosophy (by Aristotle) and in reference to the deity of Christ (by various church fathers). For Turretin, he defines theology as, “A system or body of doctrine concerning God and divine things revealed by him for his own glory and the salvation of men.” (Institutes 1:2)

Finally, there is one particular statement that Turretin makes in this section that is worthy of individual focus. Turretin says, “…we cannot speak concerning God without God; so that [theology] may be termed the science which is originally from God, objectively treats concerning and terminatively flows into and leads to him…” (Institutes 1:2) This statement is important because it draws our attention to the fact that theology goes beyond the mere study of facts and knowledge. Theology should inevitably result in an encounter with God himself. He is both the object and the goal of theology. This is the gloriousness and danger of studying theology. It is glorious, because God is glorious. It is dangerous, because God is dangerous to sinners. This shouldn’t be a deterrent from pursuing theology, but it highlights the weightiness of the task and the sobriety that should be exercised by those who would pursue it and meet God.

Charles Hodge on the Messianic Kingdom of Christ

Introduction

Theologians distinguish between God’s sovereign rule over the whole earth as king as abstracted from a particular historical context and Christ’s sovereign rule over a redeemed humanity and cosmos redemptive-historically. The former refers to God’s lordship over the world at all times and everywhere as the sovereign who possesses all authority and control. The latter refers to the incarnate manifestation of the messianic kingdom of Christ in time and space whereby Christ both secures and realizes his lordship redemptive-historically. In order to better understand the messianic, redemptive-historic kingdom of Christ, I explicate Charles Hodges’ doctrine below. Hodge was a systematic theologian at Princeton Seminary before its demise in succumbing to the sweeping tide of liberalism.  

The Old Testament Promise of the Messianic Kingdom

Promised in the Old Testament, the Kingdom of God, as a progressively inaugurated reality is a central theme in Biblical Theology. The center of that kingdom is Jesus Christ, the promised king. It was revealed that he would possess all dominion, authority, and power. Generating from the line of Solomon, and in accordance with that covenant given to Solomon, the Son is to be arrayed, finally, in all glory. His coming will be marked by judgment of all his enemies, the glorification of his church, and the consummation of his kingdom.

The Terminology Predicated of the Messianic Kingdom

This kingdom is revealed in the Scriptures through synonymous terms: the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of the Son of man. Gloriously described, the biblical writers and prophets grasp at its meaning through language reminiscent of the paradisiacal state of man in Eden and the theocratic glory of Solomon in his time of blessing.

Theanthropos: The Lord of the Messianic Kingdom

The Lord and sovereign of this kingdom is the magnificent Christ – the God-man – who rules over his kingdom, not as the Logos (the second person of the Trinity considered before the incarnation), but in his Theanthropic state. The word “Theanthropic” is composed of two root words, Theos (meaning God), and anthropos (meaning man). Together constituted, Hodge refers to the magnificent reign of the Lord Jesus over the kingdom of God as the God-man.   

The Foundation of the Messianic Kingdom

The foundation of this kingdom is two-fold: (1) The infinite glory of the Son of God as God and (2) the redemption of Christ realized through the incarnation. Due to the Logos’ infinite condescension in the incarnation and his perfect obedience in life, God has given him a name which is above every name. The infinite worthiness of Christ is the basis of his infinite condescension (the greater the glory, the greater the humility). This worthiness in relation to his condescension, even unto death on the cross, is the two-fold basis which constitutes his worthiness. Due to his worthiness, and the actual accomplishment of redemption for his people, he is fit to attain a glorious exaltation. This exaltation consists in his resurrection, ascension, enthronement, intercession, and, ultimately, his second coming.  Hodge writes,

“It is because He being equal with God ‘humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,’ that ‘God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (ST: Vol 3. 855).

Key Aspects of the Messianic Kingdom

Hodge describes this redemptive-historical kingdom as “being presented in different aspects in Scripture.” Referring to its extent over all creatures, Hodge refers to it as a “kingdom of power.”  Christ will deliver up to his father after finishing his present work of intercession (his work as a priest before God on the church’s behalf, always praying for them at the right hand of God, even now; 1 Cor 15:24). Referring to God’s people on Earth, the church militant, it is a kingdom characterized chiefly by grace. Hodge refers to Christ as the “absolute proprietor” and “sovereign.” “Proprietor” refers to an ultimate owner. For example, a sole owner of a local business would be its proprietor. “Sovereign”, on the other hand, is a title used in reference to a king. In this respect, Jesus is the Lord God almighty, reigning and ruling over his church as his kingdom even on earth. Finally, regarding the future consummation of that kingdom in the new heavens and earth, the kingdom is a kingdom of glory, an everlasting kingdom. Christ’s headship over his consummate kingdom will continue forever.

The Definitive Aspect of the Messianic Kingdom

Hodge affirms that, in a sense, God has always had a kingdom on earth. Yet, he distinguishes the general category of kingdom, which transcends all history, with the “messianic” kingdom of Christ. He believes the messianic aspect of this kingdom began at the incarnation of Christ. He bases this on our Lord’s own preaching of the kingdom in the Gospels (Luke 4:43, 8:1), Jesus’ own pronouncements that He is a king (John 18:37), and the apostolic proclamation consisting in the kingdom of God (Acts 23:23). Men are called to “seek the kingdom” as a present reality. For Hodge, those who receive Jesus truly constitute his earthly kingdom – those who profess allegiance to Christ as king constitute his visible church. Due to the present nature of the kingdom, Hodge pronounces a condemnation on modern eschatological systems denying Christ’s present reign. He states,

“Nothing, therefore, can be more opposed to the plain teaching of the New Testament, than that the kingdom of Christ is yet future and is not to be inaugurated until His second coming. This is to confound its consummation with its commencement.” (ST: Vol 3: 857)

The “Other-Worldly” Nature of the Messianic Kingdom

Central to biblical ethics is the notion of Hodge that this kingdom is essentially “other-worldly.” In other words, the kingdom differs substantially in the present age from the kingdoms of men. It is not a kingdom of earthly power, wealth, and success; rather, it is a kingdom consisting in righteousness, peace, and the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is primarily an internal reality which has external ramifications in the present age. For Hodge, the “conditions of admission” to this kingdom are regeneration (John 3:5), conversion (Matthew 18:3), and holiness of life (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).

The Consummate Aspect of the Messianic Kingdom

This presently inaugurated messianic kingdom will ultimately be consummated by Christ at the end of the age. Those who are alive on the earth and believe in Jesus will be transformed into his image and likeness. Having beheld the glory of the Lord, they will be beatifically transformed into his image. Other joys the saints will experience in heaven include the manifestation of the glory and love of God, “the indefinite enlargement of their faculties” (their entire person will be made stronger), exemption from sin and sorrow, increase in their knowledge and love of God, and being in the presence of the brethren forever.

The Progressive Aspect of the Messianic Kingdom

In addition to the present/final aspects of the kingdom of God, Hodge teaches that there is a foretaste of the ultimate kingdom which is progressively realized through history. In an “already/but not yet” sort of fashion, the kingdom “gradually progresses” like a “grain of mustard-seed, which is indeed the least of all seeds; but when it is grown…is the greatest among herbs…” (ST Vol 3: 856). For Hodge, the inward grace of regeneration made manifest through the church’s proclamation of the Gospel has practical ramifications regarding the day-to-day experience and enlargement of the kingdom of God on earth.

Postmillennialism

In this vein, Hodge is what theologians refer to as “Post-Millennial.” This means he believes that the second coming of Christ will follow a “thousand year” golden age of Gospel/Moral triumph on earth preceding the second coming of the Messiah. Though many theologians disagree with Hodge as to his views of the millenium, it is hard to disagree exegetically with the overall optimism of his eschatology. The view that there is going to be a future epoch wherein God’s blessings are poured out to a remarkable extent is called “golden age” Postmillenialism (the golden age refers to that epoch of great blessedness). “Golden Age” Postmillenialism is distinguished from a generally optimistic “Postmillenialism” which maintains Hodge’s optimism and kingdom focus, but rejects the so-called “golden age.” In support of the latter view, I would contend that when our Lord and Master bids us to pray that his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, he is not only referring to his ultimate consummate kingdom but also that the kingdom of heaven might be realized, progressively even now.

Conclusion

Hodges’ general eschatological thrust is that of glory regarding the kingdom in substance, righteousness regarding the kingdom morally, and hope regarding the kingdom in its progressively realized and ultimately consumated aspects. Hodge’s kingdom doctrine centers around the sovereign, definitively actualized, progressively realized, and ultimately consummated rule of Jesus Christ over all the world in power, his sheep in grace, and his heavenly delivered people in glory.

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  1. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2013.

A Brief Introduction to the Doctrine of Union with Christ

The doctrine of Union with Christ is central to the Biblical doctrine of salvation. Therefore, with extreme brevity, I intend to explain aspects of union with Christ, that you might delve more deeply into the Scriptures and the treasures of Reformed Theology.

Union with Christ in Eternity: Union of Election

Election is that act of God whereby he chooses some from the mass of mankind to be recipients of his salvation in Christ. This union is, in one sense, the union of necessary realization. Though united to Christ in election, all mankind is born “in Adam.” The elect are likewise born children of wrath. Yet, due to God’s purpose in election, they are given the gift of salvation at some point in their lives (Ephesians 1:4).

Union with Christ in History: Union of Redemptive-History

The redemptive historical union is that union realized in the incarnation, wherein Christ took upon himself our human nature and became unto us the perfect representative in our place. He fulfilled God’s law as our representative and, most intimately, our sin was united to Him on the cross. “He became sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This union is redemption accomplished.

Union with Christ in Personal Experience: The Existential Union

This union is the union of personal experience. Through the existential union, all the benefits of salvation are conveyed to the person. These benefits include regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, ect. All the benefits of salvation applied are rooted and grounded in our union with Christ by the Holy Spirit.   

Union with Christ in the Church: The Covenantal Union

Though none who are united to Christ, mystically and salvifically, can fall away, there is a type of union with Christ’s body in Scripture which is terminable. This is the union of persons to the institutional church as the body of Christ. In short, you can be united to Christ in the sense of being united to his external body, the church, and not be united to him vitally (John 15:1-11, Romans 11:16-24, 1 John 2:19, Hebrews 10:26-31).

Union with Christ Forever: The Eschatological Union

Eschatology is the study of the end things. Union with Christ pertains to Eschatology, and the Christian believer, because it is in the consummation of the age that the believer realizes the most intimate union with Christ, that of being with Him for eternity (Colossians 3:4).

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For More on the Doctrine of Union with Christ see:

A Puritan Theology: The Puritans on Union with Christ, Justification, and Regeneration, Mark Jones and Joel Beeke, Pgs 481-491.