Hi “A Reformed Observer”-
Thanks for writing. You asked:
I’ve been lightly aware of your work for a couple of decades, but I’ve only just now read the Christian Confession of Faith. I ask the following questions because 1) I assume they have been asked before and that you have well-considered answers to them, 2) I have no idea what your answers are, and 3) I would like to know what those answers are:
1) Given CCF II.A.1, what are some examples that you see of God’s being impossible for humans to understand?
Here is section II.A.1:
- God is an infinite being and is therefore impossible for finite beings to fully comprehend. [1Ki 8:27; Job 9:10; Isa 40:28; Isa 46:9; Joh 1:3; Act 17:24-25; Rom 11:33-36]
Here, the CCF says that God is impossible for humans to understand fully. God is infinite, and so, impossible for finite minds to fully comprehend. In the next section, the Confession goes on to state that “God is not unknowable”, because he causes his people “to understand His infinite glory, divine nature, and perfect attributes through the Scriptures.” So, for example, his knowledge and judgements cannot be “searched out” (Isa 40:28), but he has chosen to reveal some of them to his people (Psa 98:2, Psa 103:7, Psa 147:19, Rom 3:2, Rom 9:4, 2Ti 3:15).
2) What knowledge about God can be obtained via the scientific method?
Nothing. You cannot look at the magnitude, intricacy, and beauty of the world and the universe, and logically infer that it all must have been created by a higher power. And if you can’t even gain that much from the scientific method, then there is no possibility of using it to discover the holiness, justice, mercy, or love of God.
3) What knowledge about God’s creation can be obtained via the scientific method?
Again, nothing, because the scientific method typically takes the form of, “If X is true, then Y is true; Y is true, therefore X is true” — which is invalid, because Y could potentially be true for reasons other than X being true.
4) Given the first phrase of CCF II.A.7, in what way(s) is it logical for Jesus to be both infinite and finite?
Because this concept is foundational to the Gospel. First, Jesus must be infinite, because only an infinite sacrifice could atone for the sins of God’s people, since their sins are an offense against the infinite, and infinitely holy God. (Jos 24:19, 1Sa 2:2, Psa 22:3, Isa 6:3, Amo 4:2, Hab 1:13, 1Co 6:9-10, Rev 21:27)
Second, Jesus must be a finite human being, because only a human could be the atonement for the sins of humans. (Act 20:28, 2Co 5:21, Gal 4:4, Php 2:6-8, Heb 1:1-5, Heb 2:14-15, Heb 4:15, Heb 7:26, 1Jo 3:5)
Third, Jesus must be both Man and God, because only someone who is both would be able to “lay his hand” on both Man and God, and secure peace between Man and God. (Job 9:32-33, Zec 6:13, Eph 2:14-18, 1Ti 2:5, Heb 9:15)
5) How was Abraham (or anyone mentioned in Hebrews 11) justified prior to the time of the establishment of Christ’s righteousness during His incarnation?
Abraham, and all the saints, were justified by Jesus’ death on the cross. (Job 19:25-27, Psa 16:10, Psa 32:1-2, Joh 8:56, Rom 4:6-10, 21-22). The fact that it happened in time after the death of Abraham is irrelevant. It was so sure to happen that God accepted it as the propitiating sacrifice for Abraham’s sins, even then.
6) It seems clear to me how 1 Corinthians 5.11 relates to CCF V.E.3, but less so how verse 12 does so. Can you clarify that point?
First, section V.E.3 says:
For these reasons, as well as to witness the gospel to the lost, it is necessary for believers to make judgments concerning who is unregenerate (including who are false Christians) and who is regenerate. The standard by which believers are to make these judgments is whether or not the person being considered believes the gospel. [Isa 8:20; Isa 45:20; Mat 7:15-20; Mar 16:16; Luk 6:43-45; Joh 7:24; Rom 10:1-3; 1Co 5:11-12; Gal 1:8-9; 1Jo 4:1; 1Jo 4:6; 2Jo 1:9]
Paul is showing two things in 1Co 5:11-12. First, that he was sometimes willing to base his judgements on people’s character and conduct (especially regarding sexual immorality, but also other sins). He judged those who commited such things to be lost. But he also showed that those kinds of judgements were reserved for people who claimed to be Christians (from the phrase “if anyone is called a brother”, in verse 11). He didn’t need to judge the actions of people who didn’t even claim to believe the Gospel, because they showed by their confession that they were lost. This shows that when believers make judgements, the standard they are to use is the Gospel; and if someone doesn’t confess a belief in the Gospel, then that is conclusive proof that they don’t believe the Gospel. But if someone does claim to believe the Gospel, then believers are to judge that person’s character and conduct.
7) Specifically at the end of CCF V.E.4, in what ways is “the gospel” distinct from the CCF itself?
The CCF identifies and explains the various doctrines of the Gospel, but is not the Gospel itself. The Gospel is found in the pages of Scripture; however, when most people read Scripture, they only see the meanings they themselves have imposed on the text — as, for example, when they read Rom 9:13, and come to the conclusion that God actually loves Esau, but loves him less than Jacob. Human nature is eager to read things in Scripture that exalt human nature. The Confession explains the true nature of those verses, and the Gospel.
8) What are the sin leading to death and the sin not leading to death in 1 John 5.16-17, and how shall one distinguish between them?
I believe the sin leading to death is that of confessing the true Gospel, and then renouncing it. See Heb 6:4-6.
9) Is it correct to infer from the Preface that any doctrines NOT set out in the Confession are non-essential matters on which true Christians can disagree? Or is this a misreading?
For the most part, yes, if we left out a doctrine, we considered it non-essential. Doctrines such as the mode of baptism, or the nature of the millenium, were deliberately left out, where other confessions retain them. Christians can disagree over these things, since they are not foundational to the Gospel.
However, if someone could identify a doctrine that was not included in the CCF, but was foundational to the Gospel, I would be willing to consider it, and perhaps even change the Confession. There would have to be full agreement among those of us who subscribe to it, however, that that doctrine really was foundational to the Gospel.
10) What is your understanding of the interaction between John 17.14-16 and 2 Corinthians 6.14-16? (I don’t see those particular verses from John 17 cited as a proof text anywhere, and certainly not in conjunction with the verses from 2 Corinthians 6, so I don’t think I can gauge the answer from reading the Confession itself.)
Let’s look at the two verses:
John 17: (14) I have given them Your Word, and the world hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (15) I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil. (16) They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
2 Corinthians 6: (14) Do not be unequally yoked with faithless ones. For what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? (15) And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believing one have with a faithless one? (16) And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are a temple of the living God, even as God said, “I will” dwell in them and “walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Joh 17:14-16 is a plea for God to keep his people separate from the world, and its evil, without entirely removing them from it.
2Co 6:14-16 is an admonition for Christians to have no fellowship with the ungodly, because their goals and motivations are radically different from a Christian’s goals and motivations. This is why it is a sin for a Christian to knowingly, say, marry a non-Christian, or enter a business partnership with a non-Christian.
Both verses involve keeping oneself separate from the evil of the world, without completely removing oneself from the world, in much the same way as the observance of the weekly Sabbath, the kosher dietary laws, and other practices of the Jews kept them separate from the nations that surrounded them.
11) What is your understanding of the paired statements in the second half of 2 Peter 3.8? (Again, that particular verse does not show up in any of the proof texts. The verse before and several verses after do, but they differ enough from the end of verse 8 in their content that I don’t think I can gauge the answer from reading the Confession itself.)
Here is 2 Peter 3:8:
2 Peter 3:8 But let not this one thing escape your notice, beloved ones, that one day with the Lord is “as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Psa. 90:4
This verse isn’t referenced directly in the Confession; however, Peter seems to be quoting from Psa 90:4, which is referenced in II.C.1:
God is all-knowing, everywhere present, unchangeable, and not able to be limited. He existed before time began and will exist forever. Because of His infinite holiness, He is infinite in justice, righteousness, love, mercy, and grace. His infinite glory is manifested in these attributes. [Exo 20:5-6; Num 23:19; 1Sa 15:29; 1Ki 8:27; Job 26:6-14; Psa 44:21; Psa 90:2-4; Psa 103:17; Psa 136:1-16; Psa 136:17-26; Pro 8:22-31; Isa 6:3; Isa 57:15; Lam 3:22-23; Hab 1:12-13; Mal 3:6; Jam 1:17; 1Jo 4:8]
I’m not sure how 2Pe 3:8 escaped our notice; it would make a good addition here, I think.
You may reply (or not) at your leisure.
A Reformed Observer
I hope this helps!