LBCF 1689 Reflections (part 33)



Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. 23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. This will be my personal reflections on this beloved written codification of the Christian faith according to a Baptist flavor. 





Paragraph 1: “…yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein…”


When we speak of God as the sovereign he is our minds always have questions. We must all be taught by God. Some questions need answering. God is sinless. He has never sinned. This is certain. It is also certain that no sin can occur without his knowledge or, dare I say while shimmying out onto a limb in modern thought, his approval. Just for a moment consider Job’s story. The devil could do nothing to him, no matter how bad, without God’s prior approval, Job 1:12; 2:6, et al. Approval here does not connote joy or delight on God’s part such as when he extends mercy, but it is approval nonetheless in the same vain perhaps as God’s pleasure in crushing Jesus on the cross, Isaiah 53:10. Was God “happy” to lay the wrath of hell upon the Son that morning? No, but there was a pleasure in its purpose that the mature bow under in impassioned understanding. Bottom line: God consciously upholds atomic power. Nothing happens without him either bad or good. Job knew it, Job 2:10. Isaiah knew it too, Isaiah 45:7.

     I am more and more certain as the years tick by that the Fall of mankind into sin was absolutely ordained of God. I’ve become more comfortable using the term “ordained” in regard to it. I do not see God as caring over wise. I don’t see his plan of redemption therefore as reactive for sinners; it was proactive for his glory. The great mystery of sin’s creation in the universe is one we’re not given much insight into. We do not know the precise mechanics of it. How did Lucifer, a perfect being, corrupt himself with no outside influence? This is a shrouded subject, and one I long to ask Jesus about personally one day. We see some details in the Bible about how pride was Satan’s fall and how his beauty was a snare to him (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-17; 1 Timothy 3:6) but this was the first time such things were traps. How such a creature’s fall happened is not possible to be certain about because God has not seen fit to tell us with detail. God is the only being who is immutable (un-changeable). Adam’s fall occurred through Eve stemming from the outside influence of the evil one. Satan had no outside influencer. He corrupted himself.

     God is not the author of sin. I understand the need to affirm this. I find myself nonetheless working to maintain God’s control of it more than many of my Reformed family. In Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (1994, pg. 321-22) he attempts to articulate God’s sinless interaction with sin. Indeed it is a deep question full of difficulty, but Grudem speaks analogously with the book Macbeth. In short he asks if Shakespeare could or should be charged with the murder of King Duncan? The idea goes: if the fictitious character Macbeth kills King Duncan in the story, and he is not aware of Shakespeare scripting the murder, who actually did it? Shakespeare or Macbeth? Grudem goes on to affirm that, in one sense, yes, Shakespeare killed Duncan, but that no one would argue that Macbeth is to be held solely liable as the actual perpetrator. Macbeth killed Duncan because he wished to. He was not “bound” in any way against his will to do so by Shakespeare. Hypotheticals like this find their place in our theology because they can help us answer tough questions like this.

     Who killed Jesus? Was it a) the Jews, b) the Romans, c) all of our sin, d) God the Father himself? While all are true answer “d” is the most accurate. God delivered his Son up to death and performed it at the hands of or on account of a, b and c, Acts 4:27-28, Genesis 3:15. So who killed Jesus? Are we not responsible as a, b and c because of d? Of course not. We are the guilty.

     God did not “force” Eve to eat the fruit. He did not force Adam to rebel against the command. They did it “of their own free will” and now, as a consequence, none of us have a free will today.

     God does not delight in sin. He is not in cahoots with the devil in it. Nonetheless I am quick to affirm what Luther said when he said, “The devil is God’s devil.” The devil is no rogue on par with God occasionally winning battles in the war. He is a defeated end giving people what they want under God’s plan for a time. The devil will be crushed in the end for good. He will be in hell with all those who do not love God.

     I end this entry by pointing to the answer to it all. I believe that God resolves the tensions of such questions in our hearts through various means in time as we draw near to him in search of the truth. Paul knew this. When he writes of the absolute sovereignty of God to do with us whatsoever he wishes he doesn’t get into his top 12 answers to the objection, he instead simply points any honest questioner to the lord himself. The dishonest questioner will also be taken care of by this action. Both questioners will be pointed, however, to the only way such questions can ever really be answered- by God himself. In Romans 9:19-21, after 18 straight verses of affirming God’s prerogative to do whatever he wishes with us all as individuals or nations he says, “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” He points us to God personally here. It’s as if Paul is saying, “Look, you want the answer, talk to God.” This is not to arrogantly deflect any honest questioner. He gives great evidence here. Paul does this is TO INVITE QUESTIONERS TO THE ONE WITH THE ANSWERS! An answer without God is as incomplete as heaven without him present.

     See, you can’t explain the tree in itself, you have to go to the tree maker. Similarly, you cannot explain such things as evil without its Creator God. This confession’s writers here affirm that God is God in relation to evil. We are evil, he isn’t, but he made us nonetheless. There is the will of the creature. It operates under the will of the Creator, but the two are not necessarily the same and should not be indistinguishable in our thinking.

     John Piper's short book Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ was incredibly helpful on this subject. It's even available in PDF format on this link. I highly recommend it.

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