What we need more than anything is to marinate more deeply in the truth of God’s word, to let those unbelieving thoughts be driven out by reality. Because what God says is reality, and we cannot and should not want to opt out of it. God says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)
When I was a young mother with an overflowing stroller, accustomed to strangers counting my children aloud, I could not have been more aware that this particular kind of fruitfulness was not generally admired in the world. I received vast amounts of godly encouragement from my husband, from the word, and from the church — but I was also very clear on why I needed that kind of encouragement.
Believing that what God says about children is true is not the same as living like it is true. As it turns out, this tremendous blessing of children that God sent into my life was the ground on which I learned the glorious truth that baskets full of fruit are heavy. Glorious, bountiful, fruitful, faithful living does not feel easy, carefree, relaxing, simple, or streamlined. The life of faithful mothering, it turns out, must actually be full of faith.
Mothers need to believe that the work we are doing is important, that it honors God, that it matters eternally that we do it well. And we need to remember these things when we are physically exhausted, emotionally frazzled, and spiritually thin. It can be hard to believe — in the middle of a wild day of toddler life in your little home — that what you are doing is kingdom-building, dragon-slaying, gospel-proclaiming, glorious work.
The flesh wants to see the Cheerios and the sippy cups and the sticky floors, and it wants to wallow in feelings of not being seen or understood. The flesh wants to believe that what can be seen easily by tired eyes is the extent of the matter. This is all. You, the bedraggled mother of all these dirty children, are wasting your life. You settled. You have been deceived, and now you are being shown to have been a fool with no ambition.
But the flesh, like always, is not on our side. It must be overcome by faith. It must not be listened to, put in an authoritative position, or believed.
Games We Play with Kids
I am sure that mothers throughout all of history have struggled with being discouraged, but our time is actually unique in the momentum that goes against the basic, faithful fruitfulness of Christian marriage. There were other eras when fruitfulness and fertility were still admired by the world. The flesh would not have needed to stand up to so much in that context, and the devil would have found other ways to keep women off task. But in this time, in our era, we are surrounded by a world that thinks it is inventing itself.
A young Christian couple can get married today and announce, without pushback, what their goals and dreams are. Essentially, this is our board game of life, and these are the rules we are playing with.
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By Eric Davis — 10 months ago
Attempts by men and nations to prevent God’s sovereign purposes, not the least of which are conversion, are so pathetically impotent that God laughs at them. No nation ever has, and no nation ever will, hinder God from accomplishing his sovereign purposes.
Much attention has been given to Canada’s recently passed, “Bill C-4.” Reportedly, some 4000 pastors expressed their willingness to protest the bill from pulpits last Sunday. If you are not familiar, among other things, it criminalizes “conversion therapy” of people in homosexuality and transgenderism. I spoke with a long-time Canadian citizen last week who said that the Bill is intended to forbid things like actual physical harm, torture, kidnapping, and assault on children under the guise of “conversion therapy.” Obviously forbidding those things is necessary.
However, the wording of the Bill is not only ominously broad, but seems to target God’s definition of gender and sexuality. For example, the Bill’s Preamble declares that it is a “myth” to believe that “heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” Thus, according to Canadian law, God’s good and loving design for marriage sexuality, and gender (Gen 1:26-27, 2:24), is a myth. The Bill goes on to define conversion therapy as, “a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual; change a person’s gender identity to cisgender; change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth.”
With the passing of Bill C-4, Canada has criminalized the evangelism, counseling, and shepherding of people in homosexuality and transgenderism. According to the Bill, it is a criminal offense, punishable with up to five years in prison, to be used of God in bringing the incredibly loving news of Christ crucified in our place and risen from the dead to such individuals. Let’s be clear what Canada has done. In passing this Bill, Canada announced, and sanctioned, its hatred for people involved in homosexuality and transgenderism. Conversion to faith in Jesus Christ meets the greatest need of the human race; it is the zenith of God’s love extended to a person. So, to forbid this from individuals is to hate them.
Before getting into what the Bill can and cannot do, let’s consider the unspeakable deluge of God’s love in conversion; how loving God’s conversion is. In converting the sinner, God sets his unshakable love on us though we had not loved him (Rom 5:8). Then, God imputes all of our sin to the perfect, sinless, glorious Person of Christ in his death at the cross (1 Pet 2:24). He also imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us, the sinners, though we have only lived in sin (2 Cor 5:21). As if that was not enough, we are then made spiritually alive by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), thereby having the power to be transformed out of previously enslaving sins (Rom 6:6-7). What a blessing that is! To finally have the ruthless shackles of sin shattered from our souls; to be rescued from Satan’s brutal lordship over us; to be converted from our sprint into hell’s ruin! There is nothing better than being converted to Christ! Nothing better, absolutely nothing! What a blessed God he is to love us enough and care about us enough to convert us to faith in Jesus Christ! Glory to God for his grace and mercy and kindness in conversion. But there is more: consequent of conversion to Christ, we are at peace with God (Rom 5:1). We thereupon have hope; real hope that hinges, not on us, but on the Person and finished work of Christ (Rom 8:25). Instead of a terrifying doom and inescapable finality, death becomes a door to greater blessing whereafter we will live in the bliss, joy, peace, and happiness forever with Christ and God’s glorified people (2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21, 23; 1 Thess 4:16-17; 1 John 3:1-2; Rev 21:3-4). And this whole package of salvation; this consequence of conversion; all of this is permanent, irreversible (though we will still sin), and instantly gifted to us simply on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9). Blessed be God for his love of conversion. This conversion cannot be accomplished through any kind of physical force or coercion. It is only by the power of God (1 Cor 1:30-31).
Now, as we think about this, it behooves us to consider, what can and can this Bill actually do?
What Bill C-4 Can Do
This Bill can effectually bring about the imprisonment of anyone (Christian or not) who would counsel, speak, teach, preach, or communicate, in such a way as to encourage those in homosexuality and transgenderism to embrace heterosexuality and/or their actual gender. The wording of the Bill is general enough to open the door for that. So, Christians, and others, will almost certainly face imprisonment at some point.
Consequently, the Bill can, in effect, separate parents from their kids, husbands from wives, pastors and teachers from churches, counselors from hurting people, and friends from one another. In doing so, the Bill can cause tremendous and unnecessary hurt and suffering.
The Bill can, and has, declared its hatred for God and his word. Canada’s government has, in effect, slapped God in the face and trampled underfoot the Person and work of Christ by criminalizing Christian conversion.
The Bill can, and will, store up God’s wrath for the governing officials responsible for the Bill, should they refuse to repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness. Canada’s governing officials responsible for this are under God’s judgment and will stand before him one day for a reckoning (Rev 20:11-15).
What Bill C-4 Cannot Do
As much harm as this Bill can do, there are things that it cannot do.
This Bill, and any like it, cannot and will not stop a single individual in homosexuality and transgenderism in Canada from converting to faith in Jesus Christ. Not one person, not a single one, will be stopped from repenting of sin and embracing Christ as Lord and Savior. How do we know that?
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).
By Richard B. Gaffin Jr. and David B. Garner — 7 months ago
Written by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. and David B. Garner |
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
The adopted sons’ predestined sharing by resurrection in a human nature like that of the glorified firstborn Son rests on and derives from the adoptive significance of the Son’s own resurrection, when by the Spirit he was effectively declared/appointed what he was not previously (in his human nature), “the Son of God in power” (Romans 1:4).
This article responds to the recent article by Joshua Maurer and Ty Kieser, “Jesus, ‘Adopted Son of God?’ Romans 1:4, Orthodox Christology, and Concerns about a Contemporary Conclusion.” While we commend these authors’ desire to promote orthodox Christology, we correct their misreading of our own positions, particularly our view regarding the adoption of the divine Son according to his human nature, an adoption essential for the perfecting of the Son in accomplishing the salvation applied to believers. We conclude with an important pastoral observation concerning the adoption of the Son for the adoption of believers.
We appreciate the evident concern for orthodox Christology in the article by Maurer and Kieser, “Jesus, ‘Adopted Son of God?’”1 We assure readers that we share this concern. Also, we appreciate the tone of the article and take at face value their saying that they are not accusing those whose views they critique—including us—of heresy (p. 328, n. 53). However, despite this distinction intending to de-escalate, an unavoidable conclusion remains, even though the authors do not choose to draw it: If the positions they attribute to us are in fact ours, then we are guilty of serious heresy and in fundamental violation of our ordination vows as ministers of the gospel.
The whole of the article seeks to show that our views are “incompatible with orthodox Christology” (p. 328) and “unlike the affirmations of orthodox Christianity” (p. 332, emphasis original). Having made these general assertions, they specify our alleged kinship with particular heresies:
Adoptionism. “The only possible means to affirm Jesus’s adoption is to deny that Jesus was the Son of God before the resurrection” (p. 327), and Gaffin and Garner argue for “a change in Jesus according to his divine nature” (p. 331).
Nestorianism. Gaffin and Garner “incline toward affirming two sons, two persons” (p. 331); “the only way to speak of filial progress is to introduce a second Son” (p. 332); and “the implication here is that the ‘eternal Son’ and ‘economic Son’ are distinct persons, two Sons” (p. 332).
Kenotic Christology. “These accounts could appeal to some version of Kenoticism” (p. 331, n. 70).2
It is difficult to see how the quotations they selected, let alone the fuller body of our writings, could possibly be aligned with the Christological errors they attribute to us. We are disappointed by the massive misreading of our work that has led to the alien views imposed upon us.
Where the authors get untracked and are wrong in their basic assessment of our views is signaled in the final, summarizing sentence of their opening paragraph: “Paul, they suppose, spoke of the eternally divine Son’s ‘adoptive divine sonship’” (p. 320). Put in quotation marks yet without any indication of a source, “adoptive divine sonship” presumably highlights their own representation of the basic view they are intent on critiquing as erroneous: that the Son’s divine nature is not immutable but changes.
“Adoptive divine sonship” occurs multiple times in characterizing our views: in the introduction (1 time), in section 1.1. in relation to Gaffin (3 times, in two of which “adoptive” is italicized) and in section 1.3 in relation to Garner (1 time in the body, 1 time in n. 26; in each occurrence “adoptive” is italicized).
Suffice it to say, at no place have we ever spoken or written of “divine adoptive sonship” or of “Jesus’s acquiring of divine sonship.”3 As an encapsulation of our view we reject such language as thoroughly misleading.
In what follows, we reply further to Maurer and Kieser’s critiques. Gaffin responds first to the authors’ critique of his view. Then Garner addresses their assessment of his position and offers some observations about issues related to orthodox Christology raised by their article. Finally, together we offer concluding remarks concerning some pastoral implications of adoption.
1. Response from Gaffin
Maurer and Kieser summarize my view of Jesus’s sonship as follows in their article:
We see evidence of something like this alteration of the Son in Gaffin’s argument that Romans 1:4 “teaches that at the resurrection Christ began a new and unprecedented phase of divine sonship. The eternal Son of God … has become what he was not before.” Gaffin assigns this change to the “eternal Son” and his “divine sonship” (rather than his humanity) and thereby seems to fall into the ditch of a Son whose divinity changes. (pp. 330–31)4
This quotation and the conclusions the authors draw from it prompt several observations.5
First, this is what I actually wrote in The Centrality of the Resurrection: “Verse 4 teaches that at the resurrection Christ began a new and unprecedented phase of divine sonship. The eternal Son of God, who was born, lived, and died κατὰ σάρκα, has been raised κατὰ πνεῦμα and so, in his messianic identity (of the seed of David), has become what he was not before: the Son of God in power.”6 Further, to reinforce what is meant by these two sentences, I directly appended this footnote from Geerhardus Vos: “‘From resurrection-beginnings, from an eschatological genesis dated the pneumatic state of Christ’s glory which is described as sonship of God ἐν δυνάμει.’”7
To say that there is a considerable difference between the way Maurer and Kieser have quoted me and what I wrote is an understatement. I have puzzled over what prompted them to elide the material they did (italicized for easy reference above) and without any indication why they had done so. Presumably, it is to find an instance of the notion of “adoptive divine sonship” they are concerned to critique as erroneous and unorthodox.
However, in the second sentence of what I wrote, the relative clause they elided (“who was born…”) is not there as dispensable filler material that can be ignored without drastically changing the meaning of the sentence as a whole. Nor can “the Son of God in power” be omitted as they did without removing the specific bottom-line conclusion of both sentences taken together. The elided material is essential to the meaning of the two sentences. The way the authors have quoted me so substantially changes what I wrote that they do not simply obscure its meaning, but give it a sense it does not have.
At the end of the excerpt quoted above, Maurer and Kieser append footnote 67: “Gaffin shows that he is aware of, and willing to, predicate particular attributes to Jesus according to one nature and not the other (Gaffin, Centrality, 105). Yet, he (curiously) does not make these same qualifications for adoption” (p. 331).
To this I can only say that what they find “curiously” to be the case is because in quoting me (see above) they have deleted from their consideration the relative clause in the second sentence. There “…born, lived, … died, … raised, …, (of the seed of David)” are true and can only be true of Christ, the eternal Son of God, according to his human nature, not his divine nature. The sense of the sentence, particularly when it is read within its immediate and the broader context of the book, is accurately restated by substituting “according to his human nature” for the relative clause: “The eternal Son of God, according to his human nature, has become what he was not before: the Son of God in power.” The two sentences, properly cited and read, do not by any stretch of sound reasoning provide evidence of attributing change to the deity of the Son (rather than his humanity), or, as the authors think, of seeming “to fall into the ditch of a Son whose divinity changes” (pp. 330–31).
In Romans 1:3–4, there is indeed a change in view for God’s Son, a change that is at the heart of the gospel, a change without which there is no gospel (note how these verses connect with vv. 1‒2 and that the gospel is a primary focus of vv. 1‒4). That change is this: In his human nature the eternal Son of God, the person of the divine Son, “for us and for our salvation” (Nicene Creed), having persevered in his state of humiliation (v. 3), entered his state of exaltation (v. 4).
The authors’ concern for orthodox Christology is commendable. Their misreading of my view is regrettable.
2. Response from Garner
2.1. Adoptive Divine Sonship Predicated upon Eschatological Sonship
As previously noted, Maurer and Kieser designate our positions with the formula “adoptive divine sonship”—a phrase likely drawn from Michael Peppard.8 Whoever is the source, the quotation deserves attribution. More pertinent to my response here, however, is the unorthodox theological baggage toted in the phrase, since Peppard rejects the pre-existent sonship of Christ and openly aligns himself with the adoptionism of James D. G. Dunn.9 Just as Maurer and Kieser do with Gaffin, they impose the phrase and its objectionable theological baggage upon me.
The authors write, “He [Garner], like Gaffin, understands Romans 1:3–4 ‘is an epochal designation of historically attained sonship rather than an ontological one concerning the hypostatic union.’”10 Then, deploying their refrain of choice, Maurer and Kieser draw the following conclusion: “This means that Jesus’s adoptive divine sonship is, therefore, properly predicated only to this ‘eschatological’ sonship” (pp. 324–25, their emphasis).
In this quote, as in the one from their note 67, referenced in Gaffin’s response above, the writers here employ a grammatically strained formulation of a matter predicated “to” something rather than “on” or “upon” something.11 If what they mean here is that Christ’s divine sonship is predicated upon his adoption, the response is an emphatic no to such Christology from-below argumentation. Jesus is the divine Son from eternity past and remains ever so. He does not and cannot acquire, obtain, mature into what he already is eternally as “very God of very God” (Nicene Creed), the only-begotten Son of God.
Jesus’s divine sonship does not derive from his incarnational experience or eschatological sonship, formulations more reflective of Pannenberg than of Paul. Contrary to Maurer and Kieser, who seek to demonstrate that I make Christ’s divine sonship contingent upon his resurrection, I openly contend precisely the opposite: Christ’s human sonship experience is only properly predicated upon his antecedent divine sonship.
In fact, the chapter in Sons in the Son from which the selected quotation comes begins with an extensive treatment of the deity of the Son of God.12 I affirm the tried, tested, and trusted Christological creeds of Nicaea and Chalcedon, and applaud the brilliant summation of orthodox Christology in the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 8. In this same chapter of Sons in the Son, I further counter the heterodox and heretical Christology from-below paradigms, which predicate any notion of divinity upon his humanity. Instead, “the Son of God is ‘very and eternal God’ who took ‘upon him man’s nature. Christ’s divinity lies antecedent to his humanity.”13
Maurer and Kieser further misconstrue my view when they degrade my approach to Christ’s eternal sonship: “As Garner admits, ‘this sending does not create sonship, but presupposes it’” (p. 333). As the structure, argument, and tone of Sons in the Son unequivocally manifest, never do I “admit” the eternal sonship of Christ. Mere admission of Christ’s divinity strikes the protological and doxological heart of faithful Christology. As I make explicit, “The Logos asarkos precedes and qualifies the Logos ensarkos.”14 For this reason, the sentence immediately following their chosen quote from Sons in the Son cites Herman Ridderbos affirmingly: “The divine glory of Christ, even already in his pre-existence with the Father prior to his redemptive revelation, determines and underlies the Pauline Christology.”15 It is the divine Son that became incarnate, not a human son that became divine. This theological priority we must celebrate and effectuate, and never moderate or merely tolerate.
By Kevin D. Gardner — 8 months ago
Written by Kevin D. Gardner |
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Christ came to save sinners, and He has surely accomplished what He set out to do. That salvation is not hypothetical; it is not contingent. It will not be undone when God realizes what big sinners we are.
If you were to survey people about why Jesus came to earth, you’d probably get a variety of answers. I did this very thing a few years ago with some high school kids when I was on staff with Young Life. They gave answers they’d heard from people at various times.
You can probably guess the answers they gave. Some people thought Jesus came to show us a better way to live. He came as an example of love, and He wanted to call us to a higher, more loving way of life. Others said He came to shine a light on the plight of the less fortunate. He came as a sort of social activist, to right the wrongs in society. Some said He came as a liberator, to free slaves and women and downtrodden people from their oppressors.
There may be a grain of truth to each of these views, but they tend to miss the clear teaching of Scripture in passages such as 1 Timothy 1:12–17:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Why did Jesus come into the world? Paul tells us in verse 15: to save sinners. In this series on 1 Timothy 1:12–17, we’re looking at Paul’s paradigm of salvation, how it gives us the what, the how, and the why of salvation. We’ve previously covered the what of salvation, and in this installment, we’re going to look at the how.
Paul introduces this statement by calling it “trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” This statement summarizes the gospel in just a few words. And its applicability is immediately obvious. If you are a sinner, this statement has meaning for you. We need someone to save us. And Jesus came to do just that.