The Trinity in Scritpure: The Comfort of God

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [παρακλητον] , that he may abide with you for ever… But the Comforter [παρακλητος] , which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:16,26)

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate [παρακλητον] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous… (1John 2:1)

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort [παρακλησεως]… (2Corintihians1:3)

If you have been long in the faith you have probably heard the explanation about “another” in John 14:16. Greek has two words to express the idea of another: another of the same kind and another of a different kind. It is something like the difference between “another” and “an other.” Jesus uses the first type of word: the word that indicates that the Holy Spirit is the same kind of comforter that Jesus is. The apostles have no reason to worry or fear. The Holy Spirit stands in the place of Christ and offers the comfort that the physical presence of Jesus would no longer provide. The Holy Spirit mediates between the Son and his disciples. He is sent to the disciples to draw them closer to Christ.

While John 14 is based on the assumption that Jesus is a comforter, the apostle John goes ahead and makes it clear in 1 John 2:1. Jesus is our comforter in our relationship to the Father. Jesus has borne the wrath of God against sin and presents us faultless before the throne of God. Jesus mediates between his disciples and the Father. He was sent into the world to rescue a people from sin, drawing them into fellowship with God.

The Father is the God of all comfort. A slightly different, but obviously related word is used here. Whereas the Son and Spirit are both a comforter (personal noun); the Father is the source of all comfort (impersonal noun). The Father is the source of all comfort. He eternally begets the Son who is our comforter before the Father. The Father is the source of all comfort: the Sprit eternally proceeds from him comforting God’s people with the presence of Christ.

This is yet another way we see the illumination of two truths that seem to be in tension. We are told by the more careful theologians that the Trinity acts in concert: what One does the Three does. Yet we also see individual “actions” each member performs. Most notably, it is only the Son who died for the salvation of humanity. But the death of the Son was a death to the Father in the Spirit. These passages remind us that the Trinity is a God of comfort. The comfort the Trinity offers to man is the comfort that the Three offer as One. The Spirit comforts us with Christ who comforts us with the Father who comforts us with the Son and Spirit.

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John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 4: with thoughts on the Trinitarian significance of the phrase “only begotten Son.”

As with the third sermon, Chrysostom offers little new in the form of argument in the fourth sermon in his series On the Incomprehensible Nature of God.  In the first 10 paragraphs Chrysostom recapitulates the argument of the previous sermon.[1] The final 19 paragraphs are a pastoral exhortation to attend carefully and reverently the service of the church. In the intervening paragraphs Chrysostom again attempts to advance the argument that the angels cannot comprehend God.

In sermon 4, Chrysostom returns from the speculative arguments in his previous sermon to more exegetically sound footing. He begins with thoughts on Ephesians 3:8-10:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Again we see that an aspect of God is described as unknowable: his riches in Christ. And again the argument is pressed, “If the riches are unfathomable, how could he who gave the gift of the riches fail himself to be unfathomable?” (15). Beyond this, we see that God is using the church to teach the angels about his own wisdom. Therefore the same type of argument pursued so effectively in sermon 1 applies to angels as well: if they do not know the wisdom of God they “do not have a perfect comprehension of God’s essence” (13).

Unfortunately, this treatment is all too brief (11-16) for in the remaining chapters the preacher falls into the same errors as he did in the previous sermon. Paragraphs 17-31 are an exposition of John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Chrysostom offers the standard explanation to harmonize this verse with those passages that speak of individuals “seeing” God: namely, that God manifested himself in an act of condescension without revealing his eternal essence. As in the previous sermon, when Chrysostom sticks to the intended referent of the text (i.e. man) he does well, but when he attempts to apply it to angels he goes off-track. In trying to argue so strongly for his position, he actually weakens it. The preacher would have been better served devoting more time to passages the clearly speak of the ignorance of angels (Eph. 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12); or on passages that speak of the exclusivity of God’s knowledge of himself.

Nevertheless, Chrysostom does offer some thought worthy commentary on the title, “only begotten Son.”

The name son belongs to men and it belongs to the Christ. But it belongs to us by analogy; it belongs to Christ in its proper sense. The title only begotten is his alone and belongs to no one else, even by analogy. Therefore, from the title which belongs to no one but to him alone you must understand that the title Son, which belongs to many, is his in its proper sense and meaning. This is why John first said, “only begotten,” and then, “Son.” (26)

While this series of sermons is identified as On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, the Anomoeans had more problems than the belief they could know God as God knows himself. They were Arians and so regarded Christ as less than God. Chrysostom will address this aspect of their heresy in later sermons, but he is already laying the groundwork for that.

Speaking of the Trinity is inherently dangerous, yet it is even more dangerous not to speak of it. Almost everything that can be said rightly about the Trinity can be taken the wrong way, or understood incorrectly. The most biblically accurate way we can speak of the Trinity is in the terms, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Yet there are potential pitfalls even here. If there is “Father” and “Son” there must be a time when the Son was not. If there is “Father” and “Son”,  and “Holy Spirit” can we really consider the Spirit a person? Chrysostom begins to address this difficulty by reminding us of the true nature of the analogical language used of the Trinity.

When we speak of a son of a father we naturally understand that there was a time during which the father existed and the son did not. Until 1974, my father existed and I did not. The Arians took this analogically and applied it to the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son: there was a time when the Son was not. But Chrysostom reminds us that they are reversing the analogy. Jesus is not the Son to the Father in all the ways that I am son to my father. Rather, I am son to my father in ways that Jesus is Son to his Father. I love my father, I trust my father, I seek to please my father, I have my father’s nature. These, and not procreation, are essential to the nature of “sonship.” If procreation were essential to sonship, we would not have adoption.

The use of “only begotten” simply reinforces this. “From this title you may believe that the common title of son is not common but is peculiar to him and belongs to no other as it does to him. Mysteriously, “only begotten” and “son” combine to teach us to put aside as untrue one of our certainties when consider the relation of the Father and the Son. If Jesus is the only Son of the Father, the Father and Son must both be eternal. If God is Father of only one Son, and if he is eternal, he must be eternally a Father of that Son. If the Son did not exist, neither would the Father. How is he Son? Because he is begotten. How is he without beginning? Because he is only begotten.

 


[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God: Sermon 3 Angels do not know God, if man cannot bear the presence of angels how can be bear the presence of God?

Sermon 3 in Chrysostom’s series On the Incomprehensible Nature of God is considerably shorter than the first two. Additionally in the final third of the sermon Chrysostom departs from the theme to exhort the congregation to faithful attendance to all aspects of the church’s worship.[1] Though brief, there are several things worthy of attention.

Chrysostom begins doxologically: half praying half sermonizing. There is a reminder of the aseity of God.

 For no one can do God harm by dishonoring him nor can anyone increase God’s glory by blessing him. God always abides in his own glory; to bless him does not increase it, to curse him does not make it less. Men who glorify God as he deserves or, rather—since no man can give him such glory—those who glorify him to the best of their ability reap the profit of the praise they give him. But those who curse and disparage him compromise their own salvation. (3)[2]

Shortly thereafter, the preacher successively states his overriding thesis and introduces the argument he is about to advance:

 Let us call upon him, then, as the ineffable God who is beyond our intelligence, invisible, incomprehensible, who transcends the power of mortal words. Let us call on him as the God who is inscrutable to the angels, unseen by the Seraphim, inconceivable to the Cherubim, invisible to the principalities, to the powers, and to the virtues, in fact, to all creatures without qualification, because he is known only by the Son and the Spirit. (5)

Chrysostom introduced the idea that God is inconceivable to the angels in his first sermon, but now he intends to develop that idea. From a logical position, if this idea can be proved it would powerfully support the preacher’s overriding thesis. After all, if angels who have existed ages longer than individual man; who have no sin; who dwell in heaven; if angels cannot know God perfectly, what is man to claim that he can?

 

Chrysostom begins the sermon by surgically examining the passage of Scripture: “he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”[3] In his brief exposition Chrysostom offers something of an exegetical tour de force.

God “dwells in unapproachable light.” The fact that God’s dwelling is unapproachable demands that “much more so is the God who dwells in it” (11). If his dwelling is unapproachable how can it then be comprehensible?

A thing is said to be incomprehensible when those who seek after it fail to comprehend it, even after they have searched and sought to understand it. A thing is unapproachable which, from the start, cannot be investigated nor can anyone come near to it. We call the sea incomprehensible because, even when diver lower themselves into it waters and go down to a great depth, they cannot find the bottom, We call that thing unapproachable which, from the very start, cannot be searched out or investigated. (12)

But one wonders if Chrysostom does not overplay his hand in answer to the objection that he himself foresees: the text says that no man can approach to God, but says nothing about angels. The preacher replies, “Paul did not add this qualification nor did he say: ‘Who dwells in a light unapproachable to men but which the angels can approach’”(13). When he is basing his argument on what Scripture says, Chrysostom stands on firm ground. When he starts arguing from what Scripture does not say, things start going awry.

Nevertheless, Chrysostom does seek more sound exegetical support for the proposition that angels cannot know God perfectly. His first line of defense are the two theophanies recorded  in Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1 in which the Seraphim veil their faces (Is. 6:2) and the Cherubim covered their body (Ezek. 1:23) when in the presence of God (15,26). As far as his treatments of the texts are concerned, Chrysostom’s exegesis is sound. What is lacking, however, is consideration of texts that seem to contradict his thesis that angels cannot approach to God. Particularly damaging would seem to be Job 1 and 2 when the “sons of God” including “the Adversary” appeared before God. While not addressing this, the preacher does seem to provide a way out by asserting that “God condescends whenever he is not seen as he is, but in the way of one incapable of beholding him is able to look upon him. In this way God reveals himself by accommodating what he revels to the weakness of vision of those who behold him.” But I would find it hard to disagree with those who might consider this special pleading.

But in between discussing those two passages Chrysostom returns to firmer argument. The preacher spends time examining Daniel’s interaction with the anger recorded in Daniel 10 (18-23). If Daniel, one of the few men that Scripture offers no negative accounts of, could not bear the presence of an angel, how could any man claim to be able to penetrate into the mysteries of the Lord of angels?

 But these Anomoeans, who are so far removed from the virtue of that just man, profess to know with all exactness the highest and first of essences, the very essence of God, who has created myriads of these angels. And yet Daniel did not even have the strength to look upon a single one of them. (23)

Though he had more to say on the subject, Chrysostom proclaims his inability to proceed and cuts his meditation short (30). The third sermon is something of a mixed bag. Chrysostom certainly does not do enough to prove the proposition of the individual sermon, i.e. that not even angels can approach God. Yet his treatment of 1 Tim. 6:15-16 and Daniel 10 are extremely persuasive in regards to his overall thesis, i.e. that God is incomprehensible. Anyone who claims the capacity to know God completely must deal with Chrysostom’s exposition of Paul’s statement that God dwells in unapproachable light. Anyone who claims the ability to traipse boldly into God’s presence to contemplate God’s essence must wonder why men in Scripture cannot bear the presence of angels, but they are allowed into the Divine mystery. Sermon three offers Chrysostom’s strongest and weakest arguments.


[1] It is interesting to note that the people were gathering in large numbers to hear the “service of the Word” and then, apparently, departing before the “service of the Table.”

[2] All parenthetical references are paragraph numbers in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[3] 1 Tim. 6:15-16

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 2

In sermon 2 Chrysostom does not leave any doubt about his feelings toward the Anomoeans. In the previous sermon they were seen as guilty of madness, obstinacy, and folly.  In the very first sentence of the second address they are described as “unbelieving and infidel.” Chrysostom goes on to say they are guilty of dishonoring the faith and disgracing themselves (1)[1]. Yet even with such harsh words, Chrysostom insists he is acting gently. He encourages his hearers to treat the Anomoeans “as you would treat people who have suffered a mental illness and lost their wits” (51). Indeed, the claim to be able to comprehend God is one of insanity.

The preacher rightly identifies one of the consequences of this false belief: the elimination of faith (6). If God can be known completely; known for who he is in his essence; what room is there for faith? For mystery? For wonder? As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the underlying questions in the debate about the knowability of God is, “What kind of God is God?” Again, if God can be comprehended, is he that much of a god?

Unlike the first sermon, Chrysostom does not base this address on a single passage of Scripture. Rather, he uses multiple Scriptures to prove his point. In his first sermon, the preacher demonstrated the incomprehensibility of God by focusing on the Scriptural teachings of his attributes. The Bible consistently says that even God’s individual attributes are incomprehensible, so how much more sure is it that God himself is incomprehensible? In this sermon Chrysostom turns from the attributes of God to his actions. If what God does cannot be understood, how can God himself be understood? He will also turn attention to the nature of man. How can the finite grasp the infinite?

Chrysostom’s first example is the angelic announcement of John’s conception to his father Zechariah (9-16). While the preacher makes a few historically inaccurate statements[2], his treatment of the substance of the Scripture is sound and supportive of his thesis. Zechariah was judged by God because he was not content to take God at his word and wanted to know how God was going to accomplish the sign spoken of. The Anomoeans display the same lack of faith and sense. Not content to trust the word of God, the press on to find out the unknowable.

Before treating even more Scripture, Chrysostom mentions the summary of the Anomoeans’ error (17). He describes it as a destructive force and root of all their evils. The claim of the Anomoeans is: “I know God as God himself knows himself.” It is hard to disagree with the preacher’s statement that the mere repetition of this belief demonstrates its folly (18). If such an affirmation were indeed true, the Anomoeans are rightly called godless. Since it is clearly untrue, they are certainly guilty of “unpardonable madness, a new kind of impiety and godlessness.”

Chrysostom then changes track and concentrates on the nature of man (19-22). The preacher ransacks Scripture to describe man as “dust and ashes, flesh and blood, grass and the flower of grass, a shadow and smoke and vanity…” And just in case anything is left out “…and whatever is weaker and more worthless than these.” These attributes are shown in stark contrast to the nature of God who simply looks at the earth and it trembles.

This leads the preacher into a lengthy meditation on the smallness of man in nature (23-31; 49-50). The heavens have stood gloriously for 5,000 years.[3] The mountains and seas of earth dwarf man. Yet all these are accounted as nothing before their Maker: no wider than his hand; dust on the scales; drops in the palms. Man does not even know his home, but has the audacity to claim full knowledge of its Maker?

Following this, there is argument from the book of Romans (32-39). Chrysostom reminds his hearers that they are but clay in the potter’s hand. As such, they have no foundation from which to question the work of God. In Paul’s hypothetical dialogue, the question was not over God’s nature, but his decisions of judgment and mercy. If man has no way of knowing the mysteries of God’s sovereign decrees, what hope has he of knowing the essence of God himself?

 When Paul did not permit the Romans to meddle in these matters, what about you Anomoeans? Do you not think that you deserve to be seared with ten thousand thunderbolts? You are being meddlesome and pretending to know that blesses essence which manages all the universe. Is this not a mark of ultimate madness?[4]

Chrysostom spends the rest of the sermon bringing up other Pauline statements of ignorance. Devoting most of the discussion to Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” and the surrounding context. If the apostle Paul could only claim informed ignorance, who can dare say he knows God as God knows himself?

As in the first sermon, Chrysostom concludes by exhorting his hearers to be gentle but direct when dealing with those “blasphemers” (55). Yet their interaction must be guarded. Weaker believers in the truth should flee the heretics and have nothing to do with them. Indeed, all the faithful should “avoid any association with them” but instead

 …only pray for them and beseech the loving-kindness of God, who wishes all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, to free them from this deceit and snare of the devil, and to lead them back to the light of knowledge, that is, to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in union with the all holy Spirit, the giver of life, to whom be glory and power now and forever, world without end. Amen.[5]


[1] All parenthetical references refer to chapter divisions in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] i.e. that Zechariah was high priest and was in the holy of holies.

[3] An indication that John Chrysostom understood Genesis 1-11 literally.

[4] §39 pg. 86

[5] §55 pg. 93-94.

Game Theory and My Children

Playing Sorry! with my 7, 5, and 3 year-old. Their vocalized object is to team up to beat daddy. I do not like to lose. And I cannot fathom what it would be like to lose to a 7, 5, and 3 year-old. But 1 against 3 in Sorry! is not exactly very promising.

Should I just get angry and bully my way into “persuading” to play fair?

Nope. Just let it ride. This is what I want from them. I want them to want to win. And I want them to team up to beat a stronger opponent. So even if I lose, I still win.

But I didn’t lose.

 

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God: Introduction and Sermon 1

John Chrysostom delivered the series of 12 sermons known as On the Incomprehensible Nature of God over the course of the years 386 and 387. The target of the addresses was the heretical group known as the Anomoeans. Johannes Quasten describes the first five sermons in which Chrysostom:

…attacked the Anomoeans, the most radical of the Arian parties which pretended to know God, as God knows Himself (Hom. 2,3), and maintained not merely the inequality but the dissimilarity of the Son’s nature to that of the Father. Their founder was Aetius, but their chief teacher Eunomius, from who they were also called Eunomians. Chrysostom castigates their blasphemous arrogance which dares to confine God to the limits of human reason and to empty out the mystery of divine essence. He defends the ineffable, inconceivable and incomprehensible nature of God against these rationalistic tendencies, which deny the transcendence of the Christian religion. At the same time he points out the co-equality of the Son with the Father.[1]

The claim of the Anomoeans was that they were able to “know God as perfectly as God knows himself.”[2]

The nature of the discussion touches on multiple themes: theological, philosophical, epistemological, etc. At the risk of over-simplification, however, the core issue is the extent of man’s knowledge of God. The argument is not over whether man is able to know anything true about God. There are knowable and certain truths about God that man may confidently cling to. There are two main questions in the debate. Can man know God completely? Or, in other words, is man’s knowledge of God comprehensive? Can man know everything there is to know about God? A first grader flies through simple addition problems and says he knows math. But give him a calculus book and see how far he gets. Secondly, and closely related, can man know God in His essence? Whereas the first question addresses the extent of man’s knowledge, the second addresses the depth of man’s knowledge.

The text of Chrysostom’s first sermon is 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” Chrysostom’s proposition is that the passing away of knowledge refers to the passing away of our imperfect knowledge (10-12).[3] Support for this proposition is drawn from verses 10-12 and the illustration of growing from childhood to adulthood. The statement of Scripture that offers the most support of Chrysostom’s argument is, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully.” So it is not that all knowledge will pass away when “the perfect comes”, it is imperfect knowledge passing away to mature knowledge.

The content of paragraph 19 is crucial to understanding the entire discussion of the knowledge of God. It is one of the mail pillars of the patristic teaching on the nature of man’s knowledge of God:

 I, too, know many things but I do not know how to explain them. I know that God is everywhere and I know that he is everywhere in his whole being. But I do not know how he is everywhere. I know that he is eternal and has no beginning. But I do not know how. My reason fails to grasp how it is possible for an essence to exist when that essence has receives its existence neither from itself nor from another. I know that he begot the Son. But I do not know how. I know that the Spirit is from him. But I do not know how the Spirit is from him.[4]

These words demonstrate the tension of truth at the foundation of this subject: truths about God are known, but not understood. God has revealed truth that can be known, but God cannot be comprehended. Until and unless this distinction is understood progression in this debate is impossible.

Moments later (21) Chrysostom offers some a jaw dropping bit of logic that simultaneously eviscerates the position of his opponents and supports his interpretation of 1 Cor. 13:8. If man has perfect knowledge of God now; and in the future that knowledge will pass away; then what knowledge will there be left to had? It is only his position, that imperfect knowledge will pass away, that makes sense of the passage.

While Chrysostom’s concern and tone throughout the series of sermon is intended to be winsome, pastoral, and rehabilitative (38-40, 45-48), he is not afraid to be direct in his description of the error of the Anomoeans. Those who would claim to know God completely, or know the essence of God are “obstinately striving” in “ultimate madness.” It is the “very height of folly” to claim to know God fully (23).

Chrysostom then begins a discussion of the Scriptural evidence to support the proposition that God is incomprehensible (24-30). When David considers the knowledge of God he can only say, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Ps. 139:6). The prophet Isaiah rhetorically questions the one who could declare God’s generation (Is. 53:8)? Paul rhapsodizes that the judgments and ways of God are inscrutable and unsearchable (Rom. 11:33). The rewards of God are unimaginable (1 Cor. 2:9). The peace of God passes understanding (Phil. 2:9). The gift of God is indescribable (2 Cor. 9:15). Chrysostom concludes the discussion,

 What are you heretics saying? His judgments are inscrutable, his ways are unsearchable, his peace surpasses all understanding, his gift is indescribable, what God has prepared for those who love him has not entered into the heart of man, his greatness has no bound, his understanding is infinite. Are all these incomprehensible while only God himself can be comprehended? What excessive madness would it be to say that?[5]

Before concluding his first sermon, Chrysostom briefly makes use of a line of argument that will appear more fully in later sermons: the relation of angels and God (34-37). If the angels in God’s presence are unable to even look upon God, who is man to say that he can know God completely?

In concluding the first sermon, Chrysostom again asserts his desire to win back heretics to the true faith but warns his hearers that they must shun those who show persistence in pursuing error (43).

As mentioned earlier, this type of discussion necessarily enters multiple fields. In the area of theology, the question must be asked, “What type of God is worthy of worship?” Is a God that can be fully comprehended really worth pursuing? Could such a God even be considered God in any meaningful sense? Along these lines, a vivid quote is provided in a footnote from Gregory of Nyssa describing the man who approaches God:

 He finds himself, as it were, on a steep cliff. In fact, let us imagine a smooth and precipitous rock whose bulk sinks down into the sea to a limitless depth and raises up its ridge on high, whose summit plunges down from its brink into a yawning abyss. Then, what generally happens to a man  whose toes touch the brink which overhangs the abyss but find no support for his foot nor grip for his hand, this same sensation which has gone beyond any place where it  had a footing as it searched for the nature which is before time  and cannot be measured by space. Since this soul no longer has anything on which to take hold—neither place, not time, nor measure, nor anything else—it no longer finds any support for its thoughts. As it feels that what is incomprehensible is slipping away on all sides, the soul is gripped by dizziness and it has no way to get out of its difficulty.[6]

 

 


[1] Johannes Quasten, Patrology vol III The Golden Age of Greek Patristic Literature (Utrecht/Antwerp: Spectrum Publishers, 1963), 451.

[2] Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, The Fathers of the Church A New Treanslation (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984), 28.

[3] All parenthetical references to the content of the sermon refer to Harkins’ translation cited above.

[4] Ibid, 57-58. Cf. paragraph 33 p. 65.

[5] Ibid, 64.

[6] Ibid, 61.

A.H. Strong and B.B. Warfield on Infant Baptism

In working on this week’s Family Worship Guide, I was looking through some old material I put together for a series of lessons on salvation in the Old Testament and came across the following interaction between the Baptist A.H. Strong and the Presbyterian B.B. Warfield on the subject of infant baptism.

In his Systematic Theology, Strong asserts,

(a) Infant baptism is without warrant, either express or implied, in the Scripture.
(b) Infant baptism is expressly contradicted [by Scripture].[1]

To which, B.B. Warfield replied,

 In this sense of the words, we may admit his first declaration—that there is no express command that infants should be baptized; and with it also the second—that there is in Scripture no clear example of the baptism of infants, that is, if we understand by this that there is no express record, reciting in so many words, that infants were baptized.[2]

I am just wondering: when your opponent’s first two arguments against you are that there is no Scriptural warrant for your practice and you proceed to agree with him, are you really sure you want to proceed with arguing for that practice? I don’t know. Was there a moment when Dr. Warfield paused and really contemplated the force of Dr. Strong’s arguments and the implications of his own admission to the veracity of those arguments? I mean, if I was in a discussion with someone and they said, “The Bible says nothing to support your position and in fact speaks against it.” I would hope that I would not reply with, “Yeah, but…”


[1] A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1979), 951-952.

[2] B.B. Warfield, Studies in Theology “The Polemics of Infant Baptism” (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 395.

Augustine on how to know when you are thinking and speaking rightly of God

 What then, brethren, shall we say of God? For if you have been able to comprehend what you wanted to say, it is not God; if you have been able to comprehend it, you have comprehended something else instead of God. If you have been able to comprehend Him as you think, by so thinking you have deceived yourself. This then is not God, if you have comprehended it; but if it is God, you have not comprehended it. How therefore would you speak of that which you cannot comprehend?

How do you know if you are thinking and speaking rightly of God? In short, when you know that you do not know what you are thinking and talking about. Is knowing God possible? Yes, but only in the sense that He may be apprehended, but never comprehended.