The Dogmatician: The Target, the Arrow, and the Archer of Truth

The aim of theology, after all, can be no other than that the rational creature know God and, knowing him, glorify God (Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 3:17). It is his good pleasure to be known by human beings (Matt. 11:25, 26). The object of God’s self-revelation, accordingly, is to introduce his knowledge into the human consciousness and through it again to set the stage for the glorification of God himself. But that divine self-revelation, then, cannot end outside of, before, or in the proximity of human beings but must reach into human beings themselves. In other words, revelation cannot be external only but must also be internal. For that reason a distinction used to be made between the external and the internal principle of knowing, the external and the internal word, revelation and illumination, the working of God’s Word and the working of his Spirit. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Pilgrim: He Opened their Minds to Understand (Luke 24:45)

Now, after the feast was over, Emmanuel was for entertaining the town of Mansoul with some curious riddles of secrets drawn up by his Father’s secretary, by the skill and wisdom of Shaddai: the like to these there is not in any kingdom. These riddles were made upon the King Shaddai himself, and upon Emmanuel his Son, and upon his wars and doings with Mansoul.

Emmanuel also expounded unto them some of those riddles himself; but, oh! how they were lightened! They saw what they never saw; they could not have thought that such rarities could have been couched in so few and such ordinary words. I told you before whom these riddles did concern; and as they were opened, the people did evidently see it was so. Yea, they did gather that the things themselves were a kind of a portraiture, and that of Emmanuel himself; for when they read in the scheme where the riddles were writ, and looked in the face of the Prince, things looked so like the one to the other, that Mansoul could not forbear but say, ‘This is the lamb! this is the sacrifice! this is the rock! this is the red cow! this is the door! and this is the way!’ with a great many other things more. —John Bunyan, The Holy War

Son Blindness (Matthew 20:29-34)

If someone is blind to the Sun, they cannot see anything. It is only by seeing the Sun, in a sense, that one can see anything else. We don’t see illuminated objects except by the reflection of light. If you cannot behold anything by the greatest light, lesser lights will prove insufficient.

The crowd doesn’t see the Son, and Son blindness is total blindness. A physically blind man who sees the Son, sees more than a spiritually blind man who can see the Sun. Spiritual sight is superior to physical sight. A child of God who knows that Yaweh created the heavens sees them more clearly than the most brilliant astronomer. Certainly, by God’s grace, an astronomer can learn things that we do not, things that could further fuel our worship, but the believer has an epistemological trump card he can always play, “Yes, but I know the one who made that star and why He ultimately made it.” The unregenerate astronomer may be able to tell us all kinds of whats, and hows, but only a child of God knows the ultimate why. Certain archeologists could stun you with their knowledge of Stonehenge and how it relates to light, solstices and such, but dig up some chap that was alive and participated in whatever it was that went on there, resurrect him, and he has that trump card. His knowledge may be far less sophisticated and exact, but he knows why.

When you make an idol of creation, when you make it god, you end up enjoying it less, not more. If someone tries to enjoy a hammer as a screwdriver, they will enjoy it less. When you try to make creation god, you don’t see creation as it is. It isn’t illuminated by the Son. They don’t see that all things are from, through, and to the Son. The light comes from Him, and is reflected back to His glory. If you are blind to the Luminous, you cannot behold the illuminated. Thus the superiority of spiritual sight.

Satan most deeply labors to blind us not from the blazing Sun at the center of our solar system, but the all glorious Son at the center of the universe. Before these blind men see, they appear to have already received the greater sight.

[T]he god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. —2 Corinthians 4:4-6 (ESV)

If you see the Son, even if you remain blind until the kingdom fully comes, you see everything more clearly.

The emanation or communication of the divine fullness, consisting in the knowledge of God, love to him, and joy in him, has relation indeed both to God and the creature: but it has relation to God as its fountain, as the thing communicated is something of its internal fullness. The water in the stream is something of the fountain; and the beams of the sun are something of the sun. And again, they have relation to God as their object: for the knowledge communicated is the knowledge of God; and the love communicated, is the love of God; and the happiness communicated, is joy in God. In the creature’s knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in, and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged, his fullness is received and returned. Here is both an emanation and remanation. The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, are something of God, and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God; and he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end. —Jonathan Edwards

Matthew 16:13-20 & Damnation by Imagination

When asked who people say Jesus is, the disciples only give the “good answers.” They don’t include the bad ones; they don’t mention the Pharisees’ blasphemous accusations of Jesus’ casting out demons by Beelzebul. Yet, none of the “good answers” are good enough. You can’t get partial credit on this test. This is a true or false question. Jesus is a prophet, but saying He is Elijah or Jeremiah doesn’t count for even 33%. The crowds are in awe of Jesus, and they flunk. “Who do you say Jesus is?” This is the one question test that everyone either eternally passes or fails.

There is a contrast here, but not between the crowd’s awe-filled speculations and the Pharisees’ jealously-filled accusations; it is between the crowd’s opinions and the disciples’ confession. It does not matter how great you think Jesus is, if you think Him to be less than He is. Drop Him the slightest notch and you will find yourself falling endlessly into a bottomless pit.

Imagine you are talking on the phone with your wife. You use the most flowery language to express your endearment to her, you press the limits of poetry to convey her beauty, but you do this using another woman’s name and attributes. It matters not how highly you praise her blond hair when it’s brown. Think Jesus less than He is, and He is not flattered.

Do you believe in Jesus, or do you believe in the Jesus you believe in? An imaginary Jesus produces only imaginary salvation. This ain’t Peter Pan; just because you believe it don’t make it fly. We do not preach faith in faith. We do not preach, “believe and you can fly.” We do not preach, “believe and you will be saved.” We preach Christ and Him crucified. We preach, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”

“Oh, I believe in the Jesus of the Bible. I believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Ok, let me push a bit. What does that mean? If you can’t fill in the lines, you’re still trying to fly using your own magic fairy dust.

If you rebut that Peter didn’t understand everything his confession meant I would retort, “You can be confused with Peter, but can you understand with him?” Sure, Peter didn’t understand everything this meant, but he did understand truth as to what it meant, and this truth was being given to him by Jesus’ Father. The confession that saves is a confession that is understood, and it is understood because it is revealed by the Father. Any thing less than this, is at best, damning.

Matthew 16:1-12 – Don’t Ride with Stupid

You’re riding in the back. Driving the car is a politician. Acting as navigator and “back-seat driver,” annoying the politician thoroughly, is an intellectual. They hate each other. You are on the interstate heading from San Antonio desiring to reach Corpus Christi. Just outside of San Antonio you see the typical green sign with white lettering that reads, “Corpus Christi – 137 miles.” Signs update you of the closing distance at several intervals. As you get closer you see a sign that reads, “Corpus Christi, Exit I-37, right lane, 3 miles.” Shortly, more signs read the same, except the numbers slowly countdown, “2, 1, ¾, ½, ¼.” Surprisingly, your seemingly competent driver and navigator pass the exit and continue south on I-69 towards “Nowhere, TX” missing Corpus Christi – “the body of Christ.” You ask, “What are you doing? You missed your exit.” “No we did not, we haven’t seen any signs.” “What! There have been plenty, they are green and white along the side of the road!” The politician exclaims, “I hate green signs and pay no attention to them. I’m looking for a sign in the heavens.” “I do not agree with you about the green,” interrupts the intellectual, “I hate signs with white lettering, but you are right on one count, I too am looking for a sign in the heavens.”

You are riding with a Sadducee and a Pharisee. Although they hate each other, there is a deep kind of stupid that unites them. Discontent that heaven has come down, they want an aerial banner to give them driving directions. With their arrogant noses turned up, they look only to the heavens – this is a deadly way to drive.

Like a wise parent Jesus tells us, “Don’t ride with stupid. They can’t get you to Corpus Christi, the body of the Christ. They always take a wrong turn.” This isn’t judgmental arrogance, its recognizing danger. It is recognizing the fool of Proverbs and avoiding him as instructed.

The Pharisees can interpret the sky regarding weather, but their spiritual barometers are broke. They don’t sense the force heaven is exerting downward. They don’t realize the sky is falling. There are signs, “signs of the times,” Jesus calls them, but they are blind to the green and white that the Authority has posted. They don’t want to bow to the authority, they want to be the authority. They want to be the teachers and make Jesus wear the dunce hat.

It does not matter if you turn up the volume for the deaf, or get a bigger screen for the blind. To believe, man needs not a miracle on the outside, but on the inside. Say you are a morning person and your spouse is not. You want them to know the glory and joy of a fresh bright morning. So you turn the lights on and commence whistling a tune. This unleashes their fury. You reason, “They love the day, so more light will make them love the morning.” To the previous day’s exercise you add throwing open the room darkening shades to let the blazing morning sun burst in. There is more light, but you discover you can’t make a morning person by more light. More light only exacerbates the problem.

There must be light within as well as without. Fallen man does not need new signs, he needs a new heart.

This is why we should avoid Pharisees and Saducees, for if the blind lead the blind, they never reach Corpus Christi, they will never confess, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Liberals and Conservatives

Liberals and conservatives both try to solve “sin” by law. Liberals think the solution is government, conservatives, a recovery of morality. Both are right and both are wrong. Liberals are right in recognizing that a solution needs to be found outside of us; conservatives are right in seeing that the problem is us, but the solution is further up, and the problem deeper within. The problem is the human heart, and the solution is the God of heaven. Only gospel light can eradicate the darkness.

The darkness in the hearts of men
Is not illuminated form within
It takes a sword to break the skin
And let the healing sunlight in
– Justin McRoberts, A Hope Deferred

Matthew 13:10-17 & Revealing and Concealing

Jesus’ speaking in parables both conceals and reveals. In the same act, Jesus reveals the mystery of the kingdom to his disciples, though He will have to explain the meaning later, and conceals the mystery of the kingdom from the crowd. So while this revealing and concealing is simultaneous, it is not symmetrical. Jesus reveals by giving, He conceals by withholding. If light is present, God is to be praised. If darkness is present, self is to be blamed.