For the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr. (Editor), Scott F. Sanborn, J. Peter Vosteen
Typing and formatting: Tin L. Harrell

1. WITH THE WILD BEASTS.......................................................................................................................................................3

Brian D. Vos

2. TOMORROW SHALL BE MY DANCING DAY....................................................................................................................13

3. BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY..............................................................................................................................................16

James T. Dennison, Jr.

4. IN THE FIELDS OF BOAZ......................................................................................................................................................26

Charles G. Dennison

5. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD................................................................................................................................................28

Jeong Woo ("James") Lee

6. JOHN CALVIN ON ESCHATOLOGICAL PILGRIMS..........................................................................................................37

7. AUGUSTINE AND GRACE.....................................................................................................................................................38

James T. Dennison, Jr.

8. BOOK REVIEWS.....................................................................................................................................................................53

KERUX is a publication of Northwest Theological Seminary and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037-7431. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $20.00 (U.S. and Canada); $25.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in New Testament Abstracts, Cambridge, MA, Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.

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ISSN 0888-8513
Vol. 18, No. 3
December 2003


With the Wild Beasts

Mark 1:12-13
Brian D. Vos


"With the Wild Beasts." That is the title I have given this sermon. Perhaps when you first read it, you thought you would be hearing a Christmas sermon on the scene at the manger—that scene so beautifully captured for us in the well-known Christmas hymn: "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head; the stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes . . . ." The hymn paints a most idyllic scene: Jesus surrounded by the beasts of burden—the animals of the manger—those beasts included in nearly every nativity scene. Perhaps when you first read the title of the sermon, you thought you would be hearing a Christmas sermon on the scene at the manger, complete with cattle lowing.

I hope I do not disappoint you, but that is not the scene I have in mind. I turn your attention not to the manger, but to the wilderness—not to the beasts of burden, but to the wild beasts.

In recording the temptation of Jesus, Mark is the only gospel writer who makes specific mention of the wild beasts. Matthew makes no mention of the wild beasts. Luke makes no mention of the wild beasts. John makes no men-


tion of the wild beasts. (In fact, John does not even make mention of the temptation—his purpose is different). Mark is the only gospel writer who makes specific mention of the wild beasts: "Jesus . . . was with the wild beasts."

Now perhaps you think we are making too much of that statement. Is it not a rather trivial piece of information? Is it not a rather irrelevant detail? Would we not do better to simply read the statement and move on? Why "waste" an entire sermon (and that a "Christmas sermon" no less) on this rather inconsequential statement?

To ask the question is to answer it. No portion of Scripture is inconsequential. No portion of Scripture is irrelevant. No portion of Scripture is trivial. This is the Word of God—this is his revelation. God does not waste time with trivial matters—God does not waste time with irrelevant matters—God does not waste time with inconsequential matters.

Mark's statement, "[He] was with the wild beasts," has bearing upon the history of redemption; it has to do with your salvation. In fact, Mark's statement, "[He] was with the wild beasts," is a statement of great consequence, of great relevance, and of great importance. To that statement we turn our attention.

I. In His Suffering

The scene begins in verse 12, where we read, "Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness." That same Spirit who descended upon Jesus like a dove at his baptism (v. 10), now drives him into the wilderness.

Here we find Jesus reliving the history of Israel. As Israel was baptized in the waters of the Red Sea, so Jesus is baptized in the waters of the Jordan. As God said of Israel, "My son," so the Father says of Jesus, "My Son." As Israel was led through the wilderness by God's glorious Spirit-presence, so Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Spirit. As Israel was tried and tempted in the wilderness for forty years, so Jesus is tried and tempted in the wilderness for forty days. Jesus relives the history of Israel.


That is necessary for Jesus. He has been baptized. In his baptism he has consecrated himself—he will be obedient in life: he will keep the covenant (his active obedience)—he will be obedient in death: he will die at the cross undergoing the curse of the covenant (his passive obedience). His humiliation and suffering began with his holy conception, continued in his virgin birth, continues now even further in his temptation in the wilderness. Jesus suffers in the wilderness.

That suffering is set before us in those words, "The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness." The Greek word is ekballei, which literally means "to cast out." The Spirit cast him out. The Spirit cast Jesus out. The Spirit cast the Second Adam out. Yes, it is the same word used in Genesis 3.24 (LXX), where we read, "So He drove out the man . . . ."

As Jesus is cast out into the wilderness, Mark points us back to the Garden; Mark points us back to Adam. Adam was tempted in the garden—Adam was placed on probation in the garden—Adam failed in the garden—Adam was cast out of the garden. Jesus is now cast out into the wilderness—Jesus must not fail in the wilderness—Jesus is placed on probation in the wilderness—Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. Jesus is cast out into the wilderness—that place where there is no food to eat, no trees, no fruit. Jesus is cast out into the wilderness—that place where there is no water to assuage one's thirst, no rivers flowing with pure water to drink. Jesus is cast out into the wilderness—that place that has not been subdued by man, that place over which man exercises no dominion. Jesus is cast out into the wilderness—that cursed un-subdued place—that cursed waterless place—that cursed food-less place. Jesus is cast out into the wilderness—that cursed place—that cursed garden! What, after all, is the wilderness, but a cursed garden?

Mark points us back to the garden—that garden from which Adam was cast out. We would almost expect to see the cherubim—we would almost expect to see them with flaming swords flashing back and forth—yes, we would almost expect to see the angels. Jesus is cast out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. That is suffering for Jesus. That is humiliation for Jesus. He subjects himself to the temptations of Satan—and that not in a garden, but in the wilderness, a cursed garden.


His sufferings are made all the more acute as we learn that he was with the wild beasts. Again, think back to Adam; think back to his creation. What does God say to him? "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Genesis 1.28). You might remember also the words of Psalm 8: "You have made him a little a lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen _ even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas" (vv. 5-8).

Man was created to have dominion over the works of God's hands, even the beasts of the field. They were to be subject to man. In the garden, then, there were no wild beasts. Every beast was tame. Every beast was subject to man. Every beast was under the dominion of man. Jesus submits himself, however, not to a garden, but to the wilderness, a cursed garden. Jesus submits himself to the wilderness, where the beasts are indeed wild—they are not subject to man—they are not under the dominion of man. Jesus subjects himself to the realm of the curse: he was with the wild beasts. This was suffering for Jesus.

That it was suffering for Jesus is evident also from the presence of the angels—those angels who ministered to him (v. 13). I have in mind here the words of Hebrews 1:14, where the angels are described as "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation." Here Jesus Christ, the King of the angels, subjects himself to the ministry of angels—those angels who minister to the inheritors of salvation! Do you see the point? Jesus so identifies with sinners that he subjects himself to the ministry of angels! Indeed, here in Mark 1:12-13, we find that Jesus is already now "being made a little lower than the angels, and that for the suffering of death," Hebrews 2:9. Jesus subjects himself to the realm of the curse: the angels of heaven must minister to him. This was suffering for Jesus.

Furthermore, that suffering is seen through the silence of the Father. It is not the Father who ministers here, but the angels. Only a few verses earlier as Jesus came up out of the waters, the heavens were torn open, and the Father spoke, declaring his verdict upon the Son, "You are My beloved Son, in whom


I am well pleased." Now it is not the Father who ministers to him, but the messengers of the Father. The Father is silent, and that is suffering for Jesus.

The wilderness, then, is a place of temptation. It is a place of suffering.

II. In His Victory

The wilderness is also a place of victory. Here too, in the wilderness, we begin to see the pattern of redemption: from suffering to glory—from the cross to the crown—a bruised heel will crush the head of the serpent.

How do we see the victory of Jesus here in the wilderness? We see it in the wild beasts. To be sure, we see the suffering of Jesus in those wild beasts, but we see his victory as well. These wild beasts do not attack Jesus; they do not harm him; they are wild but they do not attack him. The bulls do not surround him. The strong bulls of Bashan do not encircle him. The lions do not rage at him. The lions do not roar at him. The lions do not gape at him with their mouths. The dogs do not surround him. The mouth of the lions is not opened against him. The horns of the wild oxen are not brought against him. The wild beasts do not harm him. The wild beasts do not attack him. He subdues them. They are subject to the second Adam. The second Adam exercises dominion over them. That speaks to us of his victory.

That it was victory for Jesus is evident also from the presence of the ministering angels. To be sure, those ministering angels speak to us of his suffering, but they speak to us of his victory as well. There would be no angels to minister to Jesus had he not won the victory. It tells us that he is still in contact with heaven. That speaks to us of his victory.

That victory is seen further still in the silence of Satan. You notice there is no dialogue in Mark's account of the temptation. Read Matthew's account of the temptation; he records the dialogue. Read Luke's account of the temptation; he records the dialogue. But here in Mark's account, you read no dialogue. Mark records no dialogue, and that, at least in part, to underscore the victory of Jesus. He has silenced Satan.


So while the wilderness is the place of suffering, it is also the place of victory. But that victory in Mark's gospel is open-ended. You read Matthew's account of the temptation, and there is no question about it: Jesus has won the victory! Jesus' final words to Satan in Matthew's account: "Away with you Satan!" Satan departs. You read Luke's account of the temptation, and there is no question about it: Jesus has won the victory! Satan departs. But in Mark, you do not have the same sense. There is no mention of Satan departing. You do not have the same sense of victory. Why not? Because in Mark's gospel, the battle continues. The battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan continues. The battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent continues. The battle between Jesus and Satan continues—continues all the way to the cross.

III. Bringing Us to the Cross

Ever so subtly, then, Mark is pointing you in verses 12 and 13 to the cross. He does it by mentioning the wild beasts and the ministering angels.

Did you ever consider the cross of Jesus Christ in light of the wild beasts? The psalmist directs you to do so.

Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. Save Me from the lion's mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! (Psalm 22:12-21)


Jesus' suffering at the cross is described to you in terms of wild beasts! Psalm 22 is the cry of Jesus from the cross. But for Jesus there will be no deliverance. He will undergo the sword. His life will not be saved. He will not be rescued. The wild beasts will consume him.

Did you ever consider the cross in terms of the ministering angels? Mark directs you there as well. The scene at the cross directs you there. Angels are present at many points in the life of Jesus. They announce his birth. They minister to him in the wilderness. They strengthen him in Gethsemane. They are present at the opening of the tomb. But at the cross, no angels! No cherubim flanking him on either side—no cherubim on the right, no cherubim on the left. In fact, the cherubim have been replaced by thieves, one on his right, one on his left, and Jesus in the midst.

It is at the cross, then, that Jesus undergoes the sword of the cherubim. It is there that he undergoes the sword of the cherubim to bring man back into the Presence of God—back into the Paradise of God—back into the rest of God. Is that not where Mark points you?! You read in the 15th chapter, he "breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom"—that veil that stood before the Holy of Holies—that veil woven with cherubim. Jesus has undergone the sword of the cherubim to bring his people into the true Holy of Holies.

The point, beloved congregation of Jesus Christ, is this: Jesus has done what Israel could not do. Jesus has done what Adam failed to do. For it was there at the cross that Jesus raised his bruised heel and crushed the head of the serpent. It was there at the cross that Jesus, in raising his bruised heel to crush the head of the serpent, passed the probation. He passed the test. He bound the Strongman. It is his obedience, then—his obedience in life, his obedience in death—that has earned for us the right to enter the eternal rest of God!

Jesus Christ has secured for us a position beyond probation. By his death our sins have been removed, and his perfect righteousness is imputed to us. It is the active and passive obedience of Christ that settles our standing before the throne—you cannot lose the righteousness of Your Savior?! No, it is impossible that you should lose it!


You know, of course, that that is the way it must be. Does not Israel in the wilderness teach you the impossibility—the utter impossibility—of you settling your standing before the throne? Does not Adam in the garden teach you the impossibility—the utter impossibility—of you settling your standing before the throne? Does not Adam in the garden/Israel in the wilderness teach you that with man salvation is impossible?!

If our standing before God depends in any way upon our obedience, if it depends in any way upon our ability to withstand temptation, then before God we have no hope. You know how it goes. You give in to temptation—you fall again into familiar sins—and you say that from now on it is going to be different: you are not going to give in to that temptation again; you are going to live a more righteous life, you are going to live more piously. But then you fall again . . . .

And what is your confidence? What, dear child of God, is your confidence if your standing before the throne depends upon your ability to withstand temptation, upon your ability to live a righteous life, upon your ability to live piously? If your standing depends upon these things, you have no confidence!

But our confidence rests in Jesus Christ—the One who was obedient in life, the One who was obedient in death—the One who has lived our life, the One who has died our death—he is all our confidence before the throne of God! He is the One who brings us through the sword of the cherubim into Paradise, even the Presence of God.

Consider the way in which Isaiah describes the inheritance earned for you by Christ.

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise (Isaiah 43:19-21).


A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:8-10).


"With the wild beasts." That is the title I have given this sermon. Perhaps when you first read it, you thought you would be hearing a Christmas sermon on the scene at the manger, with the beasts surrounding Jesus. These are not the beasts of which Mark writes. No, Mark writes of the wild beasts in the wilderness.

"He was with the wild beasts." A trivial piece of information? An irrelevant detail? An inconsequential statement? Not at all. It is a statement that sweeps you into the history of redemption; I trust it does not disappoint you!

Mark has set the wild beasts before you to tell you that here in the wilderness Jesus began to wage war for your soul and mine. Here he began the battle that would bring him to the cross. Here as we read of his obedience, we read of that work that will secure for us the Paradise of God—that Paradise described for us in the words of Isaiah:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall


be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious (Isaiah 11:6-11).

Beloved child of God, because of the obedience of Christ in life and in death, that resting place is yours! And in that place, where there are no wild beasts, the angels will join you in worshiping the King who has dominion over all!

Trinity United Reformed Church

Caledonia, Michigan


Tomorrow Shall Be My

Dancing Day

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance:
Thus was I knit to man's nature,
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

In a manger laid and wrapp'd I was,
So very poor, this was my chance,
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass,
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then afterwards baptized I was,
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father's voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.


Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance:
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance;
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold,
The same is he shall lead the dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
When Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then on the cross hanged I was;
When a spear to my heart did glance,
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.


Then down to Hell I took my way,
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance,
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then up to Heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance,
On the right hand of God, that man
May come into the general dance.
Sing oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

—Traditional Carol


Born of the Virgin Mary

Matthew 1:1-25
James T. Dennison, Jr.*

You have come today with your face towards Christmas. You have come longing for a Savior—possessing a Savior. With your face toward Advent, you have come today yearning for salvation from your sins—possessing salvation from your sins. You have come to this place today hoping for the fulfillment of the promises—participating in the fulfillment of the promises. You have come today with your face fixed towards the incarnation—longing for the union of God and man—by faith, possessing union with God through the man—the God-man—Jesus Christ.

Are you then Abraham's covenant seed, looking for the miracle child, the son of the promise? Jesus is son of Abraham!

Are you then David's royal seed, yearning for the child who is King of kings, royal son of the everlasting covenant? Jesus is son of David!

Are you then sons and daughters of exile—captivity—seed of the death of a nation, looking for liberation, yearning for life out of death? Jesus is son of captivity—seed of exile—child of death and resurrection!


* A sermon delivered to the New Life Mission Church (PCA) of La Jolla, California on December 22, 2002.


Like Mary and Sarah and Rebekah and Leah—are you daughters of the covenant—women filled with your esteemed role in the history of the seed—the seed of the woman?

Like Joseph and Isaac and Jacob and Judah—are you sons of the covenant—men satisfied with your venerable role in the history of the seed—sons and fathers, fathers and sons of the seed?

Jesus is the seed of the woman; the manchild from the fathers!

Are you seeking today to be included—included in the blessings of the covenant family with Tamar and Rahab and Ruth and Bathsheba—outsiders from the nations grafted in to the covenant family?

Are you stangers from the nations seeking to come home—to come home to the family covenanted with eternity? Jesus is the gathering of the nations; Jesus is the discipler—the baptizer of the nations. Jesus commissions the nations with a great and everlasting covenant.

Are you seeking to find the Holy Spirit at work in you? To find yourself new created—a new creation by the Holy Spirit hovering, brooding, shadowing creation-life over you, within you? Jesus is born of the Spirit. Jesus gives the Spirit without measure!

You have come today with your face towards Christ, looking for God, longing for God with you—yearning for God the Son with you. Jesus is God, God with you, God the Son with you!

That which you seek today; that for which you long this Advent season; that for which you yearn this Christmas is here—here in Matthew 1—here in the first miracle of the New Testament: this miracle conception, this miracle child, this son of Abraham, son of David, son of the Exile, son of the covenant genealogy, seed of the woman, Savior of sinners, Savior of the nations, born of the Holy Spirit, Immanuel!

This is your story—you with your face towards Christmas—your face towards Jesus—your face towards the Savior—your face towards God, God the Son. Indeed, this old, old story has become yours by the birth of the Holy Spirit.


Matthew's Hooks and Pegs

Matthew 1 is a story of hooks and frames; yes, a story of frames and hooks. Hooks to hang and connect and peg things to—to peg and connect and hang—to hook yourself to.

Matthew 1 is a story of frames—frames to outline and enclose and encase things in—to encase and enclose and outline—to frame yourself in.

The hooks to which you may peg yourself—connect yourself—hang with are in the genealogy, verses 1-17. The hooks with which to connect yourself begin in verse 1—the first clause—"the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ." Matthew begins by connecting you with the central figure in his story—the first name—the chief name in his drama—the most important person in the narrative is Jesus Christ. Indeed, hooked up with Jesus, you are connected to the central figure in all history. Matthew tells you so from the beginning.

But from the center of history, Matthew moves to the past—to David, to Abraham. And you will notice his method is to work backwards—back in the history of redemption to the great kings of Judah—to the great patriarchs of Israel. Jesus, the central figure, is pegged, hooked, to the great figures of Israel's past. And the name that ends verse 1? Is the name that begins verse 2. Matthew in verse 1 having related Jesus to the past retrospectively—backwards—now in verse 2 reverses direction and moves forwards—prospectively—from Abraham to David (v. 6) to the Babylonian Exile (v. 12) to Christ (v. 16). Hooked to the Abraham at the end of verse 1 is the Abraham at the beginning of verse 2. Having returned from Jesus to Abraham (v. 1), Matthew proceeds from Abraham to Jesus (vv. 2-16).

And as he moves forward in the history of redemption, you will observe another hook. Matthew pegs every genealogical relation to the phrase "was born": to Abraham was born Isaac (v. 2); to David was born Solomon (v. 6); to Josiah was born Jeconiah or Jehoiachin (v. 11). The formula "to X was born Y" is a hook pattern connecting father and son from Abraham to Joseph (v. 16), "the husband of Mary." But there—in verse 16—the hook pattern is broken! You see it, don't you! Verse16—"to Jacob was born Joseph" (hook pattern) "the husband of Mary by whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." No


hook—no peg! The pattern is broken!! Not—to Joseph was born Jesus, but "Mary by whom was born Jesus."

Now why does Matthew suspend his pattern? For fifteen and a half verses, he hooks X to Y, father to son. But abruptly in verse 16b, he breaks the pattern; he does not hook Jesus to Joseph. Every other name in his genealogy of Jesus is connected father to son. Why not Joseph the father of his son Jesus? Because Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, as the rest of chapter 1 makes clear. Verse 18—before Joseph had sexual intercourse with Mary, she was found to be pregnant. Verse 25—Joseph had no sexual intercourse with Mary until after she gave birth to Jesus; he kept her a virgin until then. The birth of Jesus occurred in this way—he was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by no natural power; he was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by supernatural power. The virgin birth of Jesus is more accurately called the virginal conception of Jesus. Conceived supernaturally in the womb of a virgin, Jesus is fathered by no natural human male. This child in utero is a miracle child. The first miracle of the New Testament is not by Jesus; the first miracle of the New Testament is by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. The sharp break in the hook pattern from verse 2 to verse 16 is an emphatic declaration of the supernatural, miraculous, preternatural conception of Jesus Christ. Matthew affirms the virgin birth of Jesus—his supernatural conception and subsequent birth from a virgo intacta—intact virgin.

Having concluded with Christ in verse 16, Matthew once again focuses our attention on the central figure in the history of redemption as he did at the inception in verse 1: Jesus Christ at the beginning of his gospel; Jesus Christ at the conclusion of his genealogical summary of the history of Israel. As if Matthew wishes to sum up all of Israel's history from Abraham to Jesus in Jesus himself. The genealogy of Israel's history culminates in Jesus. Is Matthew attempting to indicate at the outset of his gospel that Jesus is the true Israel? truly Abraham's son, truly David's son, truly the son of the Exile and return? I believe he is. Matthew pegs the genealogy of Jesus to the genealogy of Abraham's Israeli seed in order to proclaim Jesus as the eschatological Israel. Israel's patriarchal history; Israel's royal history; Israel's exilic and post-exilic history is summed up once and for all in Jesus—son of the Exile, son of David, son of Abraham, Son of God.


We noted the change in direction in verses 1 and 2: Jesus, back to Abraham; Abraham, forward to Jesus. Now, in verse 17, we change directions again, but this time there appears to be no hook. The summary of the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus is replayed in patterns of fourteen: fourteen generations from Abraham to David; fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian Exile; fourteen generations from the Exile to Jesus. We move from the past history of redemption to the present: from Abraham to Christ. As the detailed genealogies go (verses 2-16) so goes the summary of the genealogies (v. 17)—backwards point to forward point. And the summary in verse 17 ends as the detailed list in verses 2-16 ends—it ends in Christ. There is the hook! The central figure in Matthew's story—the central figure in the history of redemption—is the final, climactic figure in his genealogical register. Christ at the end of verse 16; Christ at the end of verse 17; Christ at the beginning of verse 1—Christ, Christ, Christ! Matthew wants our eyes fixed on Christ.

The hook and the pegs in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus have connected us to the history of redemption—to the story of the patriarchs of Israel, to the story of the kings of Israel, to the story of remnant Israel. And finally, in the fullness of time, the fullness of the history of redemption: Matthew's genealogy has connected us to Jesus himself.

Matthew's Frames

We now move from hooks to frames: verses 18-25. This section contains a series of diminishing frames. They are like smaller and smaller framed pictures or photos laid inside one another—as if from largest framed picture to smallest framed picture, they are attempting to direct our attention more narrowly, more precisely. Matthew's frames are pictures of the drama and meaning surrounding the birth of Jesus.

The largest frame—the most widely framed photo is the family photo: Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus. This photo has borders of verse 18 and verse 25. At the beginning of his birth narrative, Matthew gives us a shot of the family (v. 18); and at the conclusion of his birth narrative, Matthew again gives us a shot of the family (v. 25). The term "birth" is the label on this photo: birth at its inception (v. 18) and birth at its completion (v. 25). Incidental to the


birth is the fact that Mary was a virgin (v. 18) and remained (or was kept) a virgin until after his birth (v. 25). The birth of Jesus and the virgin Mary and Joseph are the first large-frame picture of Matthew's birth narrative.

The second frame is smaller, more narrowly focused. Its borders are verses 20 and 24. The label on this frame is: Joseph, sleep and the angel. In verse 20, an angel appears to Joseph as he is sleeping. The dream vision is the means of communicating precious information about Joseph: he is a "son of David" (v. 20). Joseph is himself hooked into the genealogy of redemptive history. And the dream vision is the means of communicating precious information about Mary—she is without blame in the matter of her pregnancy and still eligible as a virgin to be Joseph's wife, for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And the dream vision is the means of communicating precious information about the child in Mary's womb—what she is about to deliver is a miraculously generated baby.

This second framed picture narrows the focus upon Joseph and his response to the supernatural conception. A supernatural assurance assuages confusion, hesitancy, even fear. Joseph is comforted by a heavenly messenger even as his fiancée carries heaven's only-begotten Son. Joseph awake (v. 24) acts on Joseph asleep (v. 20). He does what the angel tells him: note carefully the parallels. He took his wife (do not be afraid to take your wife, v. 20); he took her as his wife (v. 24). Righteous Joseph (v. 19) does as God by his angel instructs him (v. 24). Joseph is outlined in this frame photo as a man obedient to heaven's instructions. Joseph becomes a part of the story when heaven descends to him by supernatural messenger, even as Mary becomes part of the story when heaven descends to her by supernatural Holy Spirit conception.

Our frames have shrunk from larger to smaller; from family photo to Joseph photo. But the smallest frame remains. We are somewhat surprised by this frame because it is a border around a center—and a surprising center at that. Verses 21 and 23 definitely provide the final frame in Matthew's birth narrative. But at the center of the frame, surrounded by the verse 21 and verse 23 border is verse 22: "now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled." Strange! The border of our last photo frames a statement about prophetic fulfillment. Odd. Very odd! Or so it seems.


Let's examine the border of this last, this smallest of the frames in Matthew's story. The label on the border of this frame is Jesus—Jesus and his names. How many names of Jesus have we already had? son of Abraham, son of David, son of remnant Israel. But the name in verse 21 is the etymology—the definition—of his name "Jesus". You shall call his name Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew). Why? because Jesus-Yeshua means "Savior". In this child, salvation—salvation from sin. In this child—forgiveness, cleansing, justification, atonement for his people's sins. The name Jesus frames the top of this picture—the name Savior frames the top of this picture—the name Redeemer from sin frames the top of this picture. You shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins. Now there is a photo into which to place yourself—your sinful self in that frame with Jesus who declares he is born to save you from your sins—to deliver you from guilt and condemnation and eternal wrath. Matthew frames this portrait of the name of Jesus so that you may stand in the picture—so that you may stand with the sinners whom the Savior saves from their sins—so that you, yes, you, may stand with Jesus whose name—whose blessed, precious, sweet name means "my Savior"—Jesus my Savior!

And the bottom of this frame? this frame whose topmost label is Savior Jesus—the bottom of this photo frame is Immanuel (v. 23). And just as he did in verse 21, Matthew provides the etymological explanation of the name: Immanu El. Again, the name is Hebrew: immanu ("with us") El ("God"). This child is God—God with us. This child is God—God the Son come to us. This child is the Son of God—very God himself—incarnate for us. The bottom frame of this last photo is the most magnificent: God with us. None other than God himself—the Son of God who is himself God—none other than he has come to dwell with us, to live among us, to be our God and our Savior. The Son Mary bears is Jesus which means "Savior" (v. 21). The Son which the virgin bears is Immanuel which means "God with us" (v. 23). Jesus Savior is Immanuel God with us. Surely this is the focal frame; this smallest frame is the central frame in Matthew's birth narrative. A frame which declares that in fulfillment of his promises given through the prophets down through redemptive history—Mary's child, Mary's boychild is Jesus the Savior—is Immanuel—is God—God with us!


Now put yourself into that frame. Jesus is God with you. Jesus is Savior because he is God; and as Savior God, while he is with us, it is equally true that we are with him. The smallest of frames is to frame you with Jesus—to frame you within the border which is Jesus—to put you into the picture with the Savior, with God the Son, with Immanuel who is your God, your Savior, your Forgiveness.

Birth by the Holy Spirit

The virgin birth, or more precisely the virginal conception, is the inaugural miracle in a flurry of supernaturalism at the fulfillment of the history of redemption. And why not? God has come to us. God has taken flesh upon himself—incarnatus est—he has been enfleshed. God the Son has joined with his divine nature our human nature. But Mr. Dennison, you say, would that not make Jesus, God's incarnate Son, a sinner like us? And then, you say, how could a sinner like us save us from our sins? As a sinner like us, he would need salvation from sin just like we do.

Have you not heard; have you not seen that the narrative of father begetting son is not found in the birth of Jesus (again I refer you to verse 16)? Have you not heard; have you not seen that the virginal conception is precisely adapted to exempt Jesus, God's Son, from the guilt of sin—original and actual sin? Have you not heard; have you not seen that Christ's miraculous birth—his birth from heaven by the Holy Spirit—that Christ's supernatural birth is nothing less than a new creation—a new birth—a new generation—a new beginning in the history of redemption. As Adam in the garden was generated by God immediately without the substance of a woman, so this second Adam is generated in the flesh by God immediately without the substance of a man. A supernatural creation of the protological Adam; a supernatural creation of the eschatological Adam! And as that first Adam came from the omnipotent hand of God sinless, so this second Adam recapitulates the first Adam coming from the omnipotent hand of God sinless. And that sinless Jesus—that pure, sinless Son of God—that unblemished, unspotted man from heaven is able to save to the uttermost the sinful sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.


Do you not see that Matthew's story of the genealogy and conception of Jesus is nothing less than a new creation—a birth from above—an eschatological birth from above at the climax—at the fullness of the history of redemption?

And do you not see yourself framed by Matthew's story of the virgin birth—the supernatural, heaven-descended birth of Jesus? And do you not pray—have you not prayed—Jesus, Savior, Immanuel, God with us—be born—yes, be born in us today that we may be reborn from heaven—reborn sons and daughters of the last Adam—reborn sons and daughters of the true Israel—sons and daughter of Abraham, David, remnant Israel—sons and daughters of the end of the age, the fullness of the times—sons and daughters of God.

And shall you not live as these heaven-born, new created, saved and delivered, God-with-you sons and daughters? Shall you not live as though God is with you and you—yes, you—are with God? Shall you not live as those saved from your sins by Jesus and you—yes, you—no longer living to the sins of the flesh, but living forgiven, cleansed, redeemed, justified, sanctified lives before the face of heaven?

Shall you not live as Joseph and Mary? Doing as you have been commanded by Jesus, your Lord, your God? fearing not the scoffing and scorn of the world. A virgin birth? Humbug! A miracle child? Nonsense! God in the flesh? Absurd! Fearing not such scorn and scoffing—such tragic, pathetic, desperate kicking against the pricks—kicking against the virgin-born child—Immanuel—Savior—son of David—son of Abraham—Son of God.

I leave you today with your face towards the virgin birth—possessing the virgin-born child. I leave you today framed, enclosed, enwrapped by the child born of the virgin Mary. I leave you today pegged, hooked, connected to the line of Jesus—Jesus the Christ. Cradle this child in your arms of faith. Hold this virgin-born infant in your heart of love. Lean upon this miracle baby as you press him to your breast. Walk before this virgin conceived child as one born of the Holy Spirit, even as he.


I leave you today participating in the story—the story of the birth of Immanuel—Jesus—your Savior.

Northwest Theological Seminary

Lynnwood, Washington


In the Fields of Boaz

Charles Gilmore Dennison

Strange approach that anyone would
think Bethjeshimoth a haven
or Bozrah, north of the Arnon;
this land that sought sanctuary
from the contemptuous nation
only to find it in the lap
of an incestuous drunk.
And now she, a most uncommon

woman, steps across the river
back toward a distant modesty.
She gains for herself a mother
for the other turned granular,
pillarlike; thus, she arches
over generations to touch
more closely the father of faith
and find her way into his tents.

Past Pisgah and Nebo, over—
past the currents of death for the
ascent to the fields of Boaz.
There, not known to her, he rules
his realm, where all the rushes of
grain overflow—the gleanings hers;
his angels hover near that not
a thread of her hem be disturbed.


In Moab stone Chemosh breaks; she
beholds the clutter at her feet,
while Boaz strokes her dark cheek and
her humble eyes lift to meet his.
She falls to his embrace but more
to the coming grace of her son,
her Lord. She loves him and knows this
is all she ever wanted.



"I AM the Good Shepherd"

John 10:1-30
Jeong Woo ("James") Lee

Let me tell you very briefly how things used to be in Palestine during Jesus' time. I believe it will help you have a better understanding of some of the things that Jesus says in our text.

At the time of Jesus, most of the shepherds had small flocks, maybe twenty or thirty in number (Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, p. 371). So a group of shepherds often would share a sheepfold. They might even have a doorkeeper in charge of the fold. The sheepfold could be connected to the house or it could be an enclosure in the middle of an open field. In the evening, after a whole day of grazing, the sheep would be brought to the sheepfold. Different flocks, then, would spend the night together in one fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come and call out their own flocks, even by their individual names. Each sheep would hear the voice of its own shepherd and follow him.

John 10:1-30 is Jesus' self-revelation. Jesus tells his audience who he is. In our text he refers to himself as two things; he is the door to the sheepfold; he is the good shepherd. But the dominant image used in our passage is that of Christ being the good shepherd. So we will focus on Jesus Christ as the good shepherd.

Jesus distinguishes between a shepherd and a thief and a robber. The shepherd enters by the door and the doorkeeper opens the door for him. A


thief, a robber, does not enter by the door; he climbs up some other way (v. 1). He does not enter by the door because he is not a legitimate shepherd. He is not allowed in because he comes only to steal and kill and destroy (v. 10). He does not care for the sheep. He only cares about his gain; his quick, easy profit, his illegal, illegitimate gain. Because what he intends to do is criminal; because if he is caught, he is subject to punishment, he does not enter through the door. He climbs up when no one is watching, like a snake, ever so secretly, silently, deliberately, murderously. He must come that way because the sheep do not know him. They do not know his voice. They will run away from him. So he must come secretly, silently to attack from behind while the sheep are unaware.

Jesus also distinguishes between a shepherd and a hireling. A hireling is not a true shepherd. A hireling is not the owner of the sheep. For a hireling, shepherding is just a job. He does it to earn his living. It is just a means for his end and nothing more. So when he beholds the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and flees. The Mishnah ("the first part of the Talmud, containing traditional oral interpretations of scriptural ordinances [halakhot], complied by the rabbis about 200 A.D.") prescribed that one could run away from his sheep and not sin if two or more wolves came and attacked (Leon Morris, p. 379). But Jesus says that a hireling runs away as soon as he sees the wolf coming. Why? Because he cares not about the sheep. He cares not that the wolf will snatch away the sheep he's been shepherding, that they will be scattered without any protection. And we have heard much about how dumb the sheep are. The sheep lost in the wilderness without the shepherd will not know what to do and how to survive.

In telling us that he is the good shepherd, Jesus tells us what he is not. He is NOT a thief and a robber. He is NOT a hireling. HE is the good Shepherd. Notice: he does not just say that he is a shepherd. He declares that he is the good shepherd. He is not just a shepherd. He is a good shepherd. But he is more than just a good shepherd. He is the good shepherd. By calling himself a good shepherd, he is distinguishing himself not only from a thief and a robber, not only from a hireling, but also from bad shepherds. Jesus does not explicitly mention bad shepherds in our passage, but they are definitely implied when he calls himself a good shepherd. We read about the bad shepherds in Ezekiel 34. Listen to what God said to Ezekiel:


Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, Thus says the Lord God, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. And they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill, and my flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one to search or seek for them" (vv. 2-6).

There we have God's piercing indictment against the leaders of Israel, bad shepherds. They are worse than thieves and robbers, much worse than hirelings. Thieves and robbers are expected to steal, kill and destroy. There is nothing surprising about hirelings running away from the sheep at the first sign of danger. But the shepherds of Israel? They were entrusted with the task of taking care of God's flock. They were to make sure that the sheep of God's pasture lacked nothing. They were to make them lie down in green pastures. They were to guide them beside quiet waters. They were to refresh them and lead them in the paths of righteousness. With rod and staff, they were to protect and comfort the flock of God from all dangers. They were to strengthen the sickly. They were to heal the diseased and bind up the broken. They were to bring back the scattered and seek the lost.

But what did they do? Instead of feeding the flock of God, they feasted on them. Instead of taking care of them, they fleeced the sheep and clothed themselves with wool. Instead of caring for the sickly and diseased, they neglected them and ignored them.

So what should God do? God will surely judge the bad shepherds of Israel with terrifying judgments. And God himself will be the Shepherd of his flock. He will judge the bad shepherds of Israel and be the good Shepherd. So we read in Ezekiel 34:11-16,


Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for my sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down in good grazing ground, and they will feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest . . . . I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick . . . .

How touching and comforting are these words!

But God's promise in Ezekiel has an interesting clause added. God says in vv. 23-24, "Then I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken." David, spoken of here, of course, is not the David that died, whose grave is still in Palestine. But how appropriate it is for God to call the designated shepherd David! Was David not a shepherd boy, who was called to rule over Israel as its shepherd-king?

But here in Ezekiel 34, we have God as the true Shepherd of Israel and the David-figure as the one shepherd over Israel. Then who is the shepherd of Israel—God or David? Of course, for the Old Testament Jews, this was not a problem. They simply understood that God would be the Shepherd of Israel through his servant David. For such was the "normal" way things were done in the Old Testament. The prophets, priests and kings were God's human agents, through whom God ruled over Israel. So it would be with David, the designated shepherd of Israel.

But we know better, don't we? When Jesus says that he is the good shepherd, we know what God really meant by the promise in Ezekiel 34! God


himself will be the Shepherd of his people by coming to be with them in the flesh! He will not work through a human shepherd while he himself is sitting on the heavenly throne, far away from his people! He will come into the world as the promised David and walk among his flock and personally care for them.

And this amazing, mind-boggling promise has been so wonderfully and fully realized in Jesus Christ! Jesus is the eternal Word, the divine Word, the begotten God, who became flesh and dwelt among his sheep. Jesus Christ is the divine Shepherd. Jesus is the promised David. So then, in Jesus Christ, who is the God-man, who is both perfectly God and perfectly man, God himself is the Shepherd of his flock as the David-figure. Jesus is the good shepherd, in whom both God and David are the Shepherd of God's flock.

What is more, when Jesus said that he was the good shepherd, how could we not be reminded of the most famous of the Psalms, which begins, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall now want"? Especially in the Gospel of John, when Jesus says, "Ego eimi," Jesus refers to his divine being. Ego eimi is translated as "I am"—ego is "I" and eimi is "I am". As you can see, ego eimi is an emphatic form. In Greek, to say "I am", all you need to say is eimi. The proper way to translate ego eimi would be, "I myself am". But when Jesus says those words, it means more. Earlier in John, Jesus said to the Jews, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." When he said this, the Jews tried to stone him to death? Why? For what Jesus said spoke clearly, at least to the Jewish mind, that he was God. For God called himself, "I am that I am." And Jesus presented himself as the eternal God by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am." So when Jesus says in John, "I am [something]," his divine nature is implied. And when Jesus says that he is the good Shepherd, it means more than that he is a great leader of people; it means that he is God, who came to shepherd his flock.

Let us go back to Jesus' self-designation as the GOOD Shepherd. Throughout the Scriptures, we do not find this expression "good shepherd" anywhere except here in Jesus' reference to himself. We have descriptions that show how good a shepherd is, but never is anyone called a good shepherd, not even God. We read in Isaiah 40:11, "Like a shepherd he will tend his flock, In his arm he will gather the lambs, And carry them in his bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes." But God is not called a good shepherd. What about Ps.


23? There we have a truly beautiful picture of God the Shepherd of David. But even there, despite all the wonderful things that God as David's Shepherd did for him, God was not called a good Shepherd. David simply says, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." The goodness of the Lord as David's Shepherd is implied and described, but the Lord is not called a good Shepherd. God in the Old Testament was never called a "good Shepherd".

But Jesus calls himself the GOOD Shepherd. How could he be so daring?

Jesus says in v. 11, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." Jesus lays down here the unique qualification to be a good shepherd: a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. This is far beyond what is expected of a shepherd, isn't it? A shepherd is to feed the sheep on green pastures. He is to bring them to quiet waters (because the dumb sheep are scared of drinking from the running water). He is to seek out the lost sheep, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick. He must fend off wild beasts and relentless predators. He must stay with the sheep through rain and storm, heat and cold. This would require from the shepherd much time and attention, much effort and energy, even courage to brave many dangers. But laying down his life for the sheep?

This is where all the romantic notion of shepherding bursts. It may be good to talk about shepherds diligently and responsibly taking care of the sheep. But how far are they supposed to go? Shepherds understand the dangers and challenges involved in shepherding the flock. But they do not think about dying for the sheep, however responsible they are, however much they love their flock. They go out to the open field, into the wild, because they think that they will be back home at the end of the day. The ultimate question is, "Does the shepherd exist for the sheep or the sheep for the shepherd?" And the answer is obvious. No sheep is worth the life of the shepherd. Even the Mishnah allowed the shepherd to run for his life if more than one wolf attacked the flock. The romantic notion of the shepherd's care for the sheep has an obvious limit. The sheep will eventually have to be fleeced for the wool. The sheep will have to be sold or slaughtered for sacrifice or for food. For the shepherd to lay down his life for the sheep is ridiculous, utterly foolish.

But what is the core of the good news that we call the gospel? Why is the gospel newsworthy to be proclaimed throughout the world above all other


news? Why is it called AMAZING grace? Isn't it precisely because the goodness of Jesus Christ is out of the ordinary in a most mind-boggling manner—so extraordinary as to be deemed foolish in the eyes of the world? So Paul said, "The word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:18, 21). For the foolishness of God is wiser than men. The gospel is the greatest puzzle, the most baffling mystery of all. "Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered: for man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth, God intercedeth" (Johann Heermann's hymn, "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended")! It is the destiny of the sheep to be fleeced, to be slaughtered, to be sacrificed. But Jesus, the good Shepherd, took upon himself the dismal fate of the sheep. Like a lamb, he was led to slaughter. Like a sheep he was led to the shearers in silence.

But why? Here we must leave the pastoral imageries of shepherd and sheep. They have served their function in pointing out the sheer absurdity of the gospel: the Shepherd laying down his life for the sheep. But, after all, man is not a sheep. Sheep were created to be fleeced and sacrificed for man. Man was created in the image of God, to glorify him and to enjoy him forever. But sin entered into the world and man's fellowship was broken. Rather than worshipping the Creator God, man began to worship creatures. Rather than listening to the word of God, man obeyed the voice of Satan. Rather than enjoying God as his chief delight and fellowshipping with him, man formed an alliance with Satan against God and his Anointed. Thus man became a slave of Satan. He was shackled in the bondage of sin and death, guilt and condemnation. He incurred the debt of sin, which is death and eternal punishment.

And Jesus loved his people. But what did it mean for him to love the unlovable, the rebellious, the guilty and the condemned? What would it cost him to redeem them from their bondage, from their slavery; to restore their guilt-ridden souls, to bind their wounds, to raise them up from the dead? Would it be enough for him to come as a healthy doctor to heal the sick? Would it be enough for him to come as a wealthy person and simply pay the debt for his


people? No, the debt of his people was so great that he would have to give all he had, even his life. His soul had to be afflicted with the agony of being abandoned by God; his body had to bear the punishment of sin, the wrath of God against his sinful people; he had to taste the bitter torments of hell upon the cross! He the good Shepherd had to lay down his life for his rebellious sheep. He the Son had to sacrifice his life for the servants. He the Judge had to bear the punishment of man, the sinner. He, who is God, had to become man and endure the worst of man's lot. Jesus is the good Shepherd for offering himself for this unthinkable sacrifice.

But there is yet another dimension to Jesus' being our good Shepherd. Some see the meaning of the word, "good", as "beautiful" or "winsome". It may be so. But the text seems to suggest a more viable interpretation of the word.

What does it mean to be a good shepherd? It doesn't just mean that the shepherd is attractive and winsome. When the word "good" is attached to a job title, it no longer means "nice" or "pleasant". A good typist is not necessarily a nice person; a person is called a good typist because she types very fast and accurately. In the same way, when we call someone a good shepherd, it means that he is good at shepherding. What does it mean to be good at shepherding? Jesus says in vv. 27-28, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand." Jesus is the GOOD Shepherd because he does not lose his sheep. No one can snatch his sheep from him. He gives eternal life to his sheep and none of them will perish. Jesus is good at shepherding. He is perfect at shepherding.

This is why he laid down his life for his sheep. In order that he might not lose any of his sheep, Jesus was willing to lay down his life. He protected his sheep even at the cost of his own dear life. And he, who was willing to protect his sheep even at the expense of his life, will not allow any of his sheep to be lost. He was willing to lay down his life for his sheep because there was no other way for our sins to be paid for. If so, will he not, as the resurrected Lord of glory and power, use everything at his disposal to preserve and protect the ones he died for?


Oh, how great his love is for his sheep; for you, who have professed your faith in Jesus Christ! Jesus the good Shepherd knows his sheep. He knows you. He calls you by your name. You are not just a number to him, just one of the millions he saves. Before he formed you in the womb he knew you, and before you were born he consecrated you (Jer. 1:5). Before the mountains were born, before he gave birth to the world and to the earth; before the foundation of the world, he knew you. He knew you not with the cold, disinterested omniscience of God. He knew you as his beloved children, as his beloved bride. He has always been mindful of you. He has cared for you as the apple of his eye. He chose you from the foundation of the world. He has called you by your name. If you are here in the household of God, it is only because God has called you by name! Esther, Jane, Tim, John . . . .

You have heard his voice. Trust him. Follow him. Do not depart from him. Do not fear even if you have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He has overcome death itself when he rose again from the dead. He knows the way to heaven. He alone can take you to the quiet waters and green pastures of heaven. If you hear his voice and follow him, you are his sheep and his goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. Yes, he came, lived, died and rose again from the dead in order that he might give you eternal life and to give it abundantly. And he cannot fail. So, stay close to him. Never go astray. Listen to his voice and follow him. Yes, read his word, meditate upon his word and let his word guide your every step. Fill your mind with his word and let it be the strength of your life. And he shall lead you to the quiet waters and green pastures of heaven.

New Life Mission Church (PCA)

La Jolla, California


John Calvin on Eschatological Pilgrims

Let us always look at our Lord Jesus Christ. And for as much as we know that God's Son is come down hither, and will hereafter receive us into his glory, yea, and that God hath made him head of the angels as well as of us: let us assume ourselves that although we be here in this world, yet notwithstanding, we be but as pilgrims and cease not for all that to be citizens of heaven whereunto we be led by hope. And for the same cause he saith in another place that we be set already in the heavenly places. And how? By hope.

—John Calvin, "Sermon 16 on Titus 3:4-7" in Sermons on the Epistles to Timothy and Titus (facsimile of the 1579 edition reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1983) 1235.


Augustine and Grace

James T. Dennison, Jr.

More than one hundred years age, B. B. Warfield wrote the introduction to volume five of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Saint Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings ("Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy," pp. xiii-lxxi). In that essay, Warfield traced the concept of the sovereignty of grace in Augustine's intellectual and spiritual odyssey. Warfield followed up with studies of Calvin and Augustine (essays gathered in his Calvin and Augustine [1956], but originally penned between the years 1905 and 1909). Warfield was persuaded of the magisterial Geneva reformer's dependence on the magisterial Bishop of Hippo; and both "masters" dependent on the magisterial apostle Paul.

The publication of the massive Augustine Encyclopedia1 affords the opportunity to examine the assessment of the Bishop of Hippo by scholars of the late 20th century. Is it the case that Augustine is still regarded as the theologian of sovereign grace by the scholarly community? And what of the so-called semi-Augustinian tradition? Dismissing those such as Elaine Pagels, who regard Augustine as responsible for all modern ills (defined by her as all opinions not culturally or politically correct), what do students of Augustine have to say about the North African church father nearly sixteen centuries after his death in 430 A.D.?


1 Allan D. Fitzgerald, ed., Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999. 902 pp. Hardcover. ISBN:0-8028-3843-X. $75.00



First, let me describe the features of this volume. Augustine is covered from A to Z (actually A to W, "Abortion" to "Worship"). Each article is authored by a recognized Augustine scholar. We have, for example, Gerald Bonner (author of one of the standard biographies of Augustine, St. Augustine of Hippo, 3rd edition 2002) on several of Augustine's works penned during the semi-Pelagian controversy (426-529 A.D.). J. Patout Burns contributes the article on "Grace" (Burns himself the author of a major book on the subject—The Development of Augustine's Doctrine of Operative Grace [1980]). Eugene TeSelle (author of Augustine the Theologian [1970]) is a contributor, as is Roland Teske (Paradoxes of Time in Saint Augustine [1996]). Rebecca Weaver's important Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (1996) has earned her a spot in our encyclopedia. Other noteworthy contributors include: Brian Daley, Angelo Di Berardino, G. R. Evans, Boniface Ramsey, Tarsicius van Bavel and Maureen Tilley. From the Reformed perspective, Richard Muller of Calvin Theological Seminary offers "Reformation, Augustinians in the" (pp. 705-7) and Ronald Nash of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando writes "Illumination, Divine" (pp. 438-40) and "Wisdom" (pp. 885-87). But we miss Peter Brown. Strange!

The encyclopedia contains a complete list of Augustine's works: by Latin abbreviation (pp. xxxv-xlii) and by full Latin title (pp. xliii-il). The full list includes the date in which the work was written and a short explanation of each treatise's contents. The abbreviated list includes a table identifying standard sources (Migne, CSEL=Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum) and English translations where available (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 [NPNF1]; Fathers of the Church [FC]; Ancient Christian Writers [ACW]; Library of Christian Classics [LCC]; and the New City project (Works of St. Augustine) which aims to publish English translations of the entire Augustine corpus—to date 26 volumes.2 The 396 sermons of Augustine are listed in full on pp. 774-89 of the encyclopedia, complete with source, place and


2 A CD-ROM version of the first 20 volumes is available for $300.


time of delivery. In short, the encyclopedia provides complete access to the bibliography of Augustine's Opera.

There is an entry for every major work written by Augustine in this volume. They are listed alphabetically by the Latin title with a discussion of date, context and content. This provides a superb summary of the thought of Augustine book by book (scholarly bibliographies are also attached to each article). The personalities in Augustine's life are also covered from Adeodatus (son of his concubine) to Monnica (his devout mother) to Ambrose (his father in the faith) to Pelagius (his nemesis) and more. There is even coverage of post-Augustinian personalities (and movements): Calvin, Carolingian Era, Erasmus, Kierkegaard, Scholasticism, Thomas Aquinas. The editor has attempted to provide broad and thorough coverage of Augustine in his own time and context, as well as Augustine down through church history. That goal has been remarkably achieved making this volume the place to start when orienting the student to Augustine's life, his work and his thought.

Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians

But what of the assessment of the great African bishop? The evaluation of Augustine's thought began even in his own lifetime. Pelagius was insulted by Augustine's doctrine of grace and 5th century monks of southern France branded him an extremist. Since the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian controversies treat the heart of the gospel of salvation by grace, we will assess the content of our encyclopedia by tracing the details of the semi-Pelagian debate in particular through its pages.

Augustine testifies that the conflict with Pelagius originated when the latter objected to Augustine's statement, "Give what Thou commandest [O God] and command what Thou willest" (cf. On the Gift of Perseverance[=De Dono Perseverantie], 20.53; NPNF1, 5:547). The North African was acknowledging his inability to comply with the demands of God and his complete dependence upon God to supply the ability which he demanded. For Augustine, "ought" does not imply "can"; ought is demand, compliance is graciously supplied to sinful man. Pelagius was angered by this total dependence. For Pelagius, God's demand is based on man's ability ("ought" requires "can"). If


God requires it, the sinner is able to perform it. Obviously this threw into question the whole matter of divine grace. Was grace a divine sufficiency (as over against sinful human insufficiency)? or was grace a reward for human sufficiency and ability? In short, was grace deserved/merited or was grace undeserved/unmerited?3 Augustine vigorously argued the former; Pelagius the latter.4

Following the inception of his conflict with the British moralist in 411, Augustine's triumph over Pelagius was complete by 416 (Pelagius was condemned at the Councils of Carthage and Milevis [cf. "Milevis, Council of," p. 562, of our encyclopedia]). Pelagius, having fled to Palestine, disappears from history in 419 when the weight of Zosimus (Bishop of Rome, 417-18) and Honorius (Roman Emperor in the West, 395-423) is arrayed against him.


The fading of the Pelagian controversy was reversed in 426 when the monks at Hadrumetum (also spelled Adrumetum, now Sousse in Tunisia, North Africa) disagreed about Augustine's anti-Pelagian teaching on grace. The specific spark of the controversy was the discovery by a monk named Florus of a letter Augustine had written in 418 at the close of the Pelagian controversy (Letter 194 to Sixtus). To Sixtus, Augustine affirmed that grace is wholly gra-


3 "This grace . . . is not rendered for any merits, but is given gratis, on account of which it is called grace"—Augustine, On Nature and Grace(=De natura et gratia), 4; NPNF1, 5:122.

4 "[God] knew that nature as he had made it was quite adequate as a law for them [men] to practice justice"—Pelagius, "Epistle to Demetrias," in J. Patout Burns, Theological Anthropology (1981) 50. "We act like lazy and insolent servants, talking back to our Lord in a contemptuous and slovenly way: 'That is too hard, too difficult! We cannot do that! We are only human; our flesh is weak!' What insane stupidity! What impious arrogance! We accuse the Lord of all knowledge of being doubly ignorant. We assert that he does not understand what he made and does not realize what he commands. We imply that the creator of humanity has forgotten its weakness and imposes precepts which a human being cannot bear . . . The just one did not choose to command the impossible; nor did the loving one plan to condemn a person for what he could not avoid," ibid., p. 53.


tuitous excluding all human merit.5 When Florus forwarded a copy of this letter to the monks at Hadrumetum, the "revolt of the monasteries" began.

The monks believed that Augustine's doctrine threatened (if it did not actually annul) human agency and freedom. Monkish striving for perfection through prayer, work, self-denial was seemingly made void. Valentinus, Abbot of Hadrumetum, dispatched two brothers, Cresconius and Felix, to visit Augustine in Hippo and ask for clarification. Augustine's reply was addressed in two letters to Valentinus (Letters 214 and 215; cf. NPNF1, 5:437-40). In addition, Augustine included a book which he wrote for the monks at Hadrumetum—On Grace and Free Will(=De gratia et libero arbitrio)(cf. NPNF1, 5:443-65). In the book, Augustine attempted to steer between two errors: (1) those who think grace annuls free choice (or free will); (2) those who think free choice/free will makes grace unnecessary or that grace is given on account of human merit. Bonner's encyclopedia article on this work (pp. 400-401) leaves the impression that for Augustine grace is a helper or an assistant to free will after the Fall into sin. In fact, Augustine emphasizes the impotence of the fallen will and the absolute necessity of transformation by divine grace: "Thus it is necessary for a man that he should be not only . . . changed . . . but that even after he has become justified by faith, grace should accompany him on his way, and he should lean upon it"—On Grace and Free Will, 6.13 (NPNF1, 5:449). Bonner seems to lean towards the so-called semi-Pelagian interpretation of Augustine in which grace is necessary, but the


5 "And when they affect to believe that God is a respecter of persons, because without any antecedent merits of theirs 'He hath mercy on whom he will,' and calls whom He deigns to call and makes righteous whom He will, they overlook the fact that a deserved penalty is meted out to the damned, an undeserved grace to the saved, so that the former cannot complain that he is undeserving nor the latter boast that he is deserving. Where one and the same clay of damnation and offense is involved, there can be no respect had of persons, so that the saved may learn from the lost that the same punishment would have been his lot, also, if grace had not rescued him; if it is grace, it is obviously not awarded for any merit, but bestowed as a pure act of bounty;" "Letter 194 to Sixtus," Saint Augustine: Letters, vol. 4 (FC) 303.

"What we seek to know is how this hardening is deserved, and we find it to be so because the whole clay of sin was damned. God does not harden by imparting malice to it, but by not imparting mercy. Those to whom He does not impart mercy are not worthy, nor do they deserve it; rather, they are worthy and do deserve that He should not impart it. But when we seek to know how mercy is deserved we find no merit because there is none, lest grace be made void if it is not freely given but awarded to merit;" ibid., p. 310.


fallen will is able to choose it; or, put another way, the modern dialectical paradox maintains the ability of (fallen) free will and the gratuity of conversion. Augustine does not deal in such paradoxes: the impotent, fallen will freely chooses enmity with God until transforming grace potently converts it. Our encyclopedia leans towards the semi-Augustinian pole.

When his book was received at Hadrumetum, one monk refused moral and spiritual rebuke on the grounds that he could not be blamed for (sinful) failure if perseverance in good is due to grace. Augustine then wrote a second book, On Rebuke/Correction and Grace(=De correptione et gratia; NPNF1, 5:471-91). Here Augustine uses the famous phrase aguntur enim ut agant ("for they [men] are acted upon that they may act," 2.4; NPNF1, 5:473) to indicate the sufficiency of grace in human action. Whereas the monks viewed the will as undergoing a gradual process of conversion through their monastic regimen, Augustine emphasized the sovereign transformation of the will by the grace of regeneration and conversion. Correction or rebuke is an instrument of the divine agency; and it is an instrument subordinated to God's decree of election. In other words, as B. B. Warfield points out, election, transforming grace, free choice, correction run concurrently (Latin concursus). The choice of God (election) fixes on changing the sinner's nature (regenerating grace) liberating his enslaved will (free choice) to receive rebuke (correction): and all concurrently. Our encyclopedia once again diminishes Augustine's emphasis on sovereign, electing (monergistic) grace by alluding to the perseverance of the saints, i.e., some men persevere and others do not. That is, the encyclopedia (p. 245) implies that the "mystery" of persevering grace (i.e., citing Augustine's inability to explain why one perseveres rather than another) jeopardizes Augustine's emphasis on sovereign grace (dialectics again!). The "mystery" in Augustine's doctrine of perseverance tips the balance (per our encyclopedists) from divine monergism to human synergism (or worse).

The second book written for the monks at Hadrumetum apparently resolved the tensions, pacified the consciences and laid the antinomies to rest. As Peter Brown notes in his magnificent biography of Augustine, the monks were content with "all-or-nothing grace" (Augustine of Hippo: A Biography [1967] 403). The further silence of the monks at Hadrumentum represents the


conclusion of the first stage (post Pelagius) in the reaction to Augustine's doctrine of grace.

Southern France

But when De correptione et gratia made its way across the Mediterranean to southern France (ancient Gaul), a very different response erupted. Stage two of the contention over Augustine's teaching on grace and predestination is, in fact, the inauguration of the semi-Pelagian controversy. I must pause here to acquaint the reader with the currently accepted scholarly protocols. The label "semi-Pelagian" is no longer acceptable in scholarly discourse. It is a misnomer, too pejorative and smacking of a benighted half-way paganism or anti-Christian heresy. Our encyclopedia labels the term an "anachronism", coined in the heated debates of the 16th century between Molinists (followers of Luis de Molina, Spanish Jesuit) and his Dominican opponents (p. 761). Further, according to our encyclopedia, John Cassian (ca. 360-ca. 435; cf. pp. 133-35, of our encyclopedia) and Faustus of Riez (ca. 405-ca. 490; cf. pp. 356-58, of our encyclopedia), the main protagonists in stage two of the controversy, were not disciples of Pelagius and thus do not deserve the negative association with the heretic suggested in the label "semi-Pelagian". It is clear that our modern revisionists do not want even the half-way association with a confirmed heretic. So they banish the term "semi-Pelagian" and replace it with the designation "semi-Augustinian" or "centrist" or something less inflammatory. I will point out below that these modern scholars hold on to key elements of Pelagius's case for (sinful) human ability, while claiming the Augustinian emphasis on grace (though it must be admitted that J. Patout Burns's article on "Grace" is a refreshing exception, pp. 391-98, albeit even he flinches when he writes, "Still, he [Augustine] allowed that humans must respond by cooperating with God's gift"—p. 394). As Augustine himself understood, such a half-way house is a rejection of grace and an affirmation of the moral ability of the fallen man. Augustine would be as hostile to this revisionism as he was to Pelagius himself. But back to our story.

The leader of the debate in France was John Cassian. Maintaining a centrist position, he argued that he did not endorse Pelagius nor was he anti-


Augustine. Cassian's opponent in France was Prosper of Aquitaine (ca. 390-after 455; cf. pp. 685-86, of our encyclopedia), a layman who devoured the writings of the Bishop of Hippo. In 426/427, Prosper wrote a letter to Rufinus (otherwise unknown) in which he focused on predestination—the issue of sovereign grace. In 428, Prosper sent a letter to Augustine informing him of resistance to his book On Correction and Grace. In 429, Augustine responded with the last two works to issue from his pen: On the Predestination of the Saints(=De praedestinatione sanctorum; NPNF1, 5:497-519); and On the Gift of Perseverance(=De dono perseverantiae; NPNF1, 5:525-52).6 With the Vandal invasion of Africa imminent,7 the latter became an exhortation even to its aged author.

Responding to the charge that his doctrine of predestination was fatalistic, Augustine admitted that early in his career he had believed that faith was the product of human effort and that that effort was itself prior to saving grace. But he was dumbstruck by 1 Corinthians 4:7: "for what do you have that you did not receive?" And having been stopped by the inspired apostle, Augustine repudiated his earlier opinion and taught that faith is the result of grace, not the cause of grace. The sinner first received the gift of grace and thus had faith (grace "goes before" [Latin prevenio] or precedes faith). Divine election could not therefore be based on foresight or foreknowledge of faith, i.e., God looks forward and sees who will have faith and requites their work of faith with election. The (former) Augustine thus taught election on the basis of the merit of faith; the (later) Augustine saw that election was on the basis of undeserved grace. Augustine's Gallic opponents however were maintaining that the sinner's will has power to act prior to and apart from grace. Grace is gained by a prior act of the will. Citing the passage "believe and thou shalt be saved," Augustine's opponents argued that a sinner was able to believe, else the command was meaningless. Augustine's response to these semi-Pelagians was his response to the Pelagians: God gives what he commands. Supernatural grace moves the sinful will in such a way that it believes—"our sufficiency, by which we


6 The book against Julian of Eclanum remained unfinished at his death; cf. Contra Julianum opus imperfectum(=Against Julian, an Unfinished Work), pp. 480-81, of our encyclopedia.

7 Gaiseric (or Genseric), King of the Vandals, crossed into North Africa from Spain in 429. By May/June of 430, his barbarian bands were in Hippo.


begin to believe, is of God" (On the Predestination of the Saints, 2.5; NPNF1, 5:500). If faith preceded grace, it would merit God's life—"which assuredly is not grace if any merits precede it" (ibid., 3.7; NPNF1, 5:501).

That which Augustine rejected in his treatise On the Predestination of the Saints was embraced by John Cassian. Prosper suspected Cassian of being neither a Pelagian (since he agreed with Augustine on the necessity of grace for salvation) nor an Augustianian (since he agreed with Pelagius that the sinful will has the ability to perform spiritual good). Suggested Prosper, Cassian was a tertium quid (a "third thing" altogether). Standard historians of doctrine have labeled this semi-Pelagianism (Robert A. Markus has recently labeled it the "Gallic orthodoxy"). If contemporary revisionists prefer semi-Augustinianism, they must still admit that Cassian endorses positions Augustine rejects and rejects positions Augustine embraces. Gerald Bonner writes that Augustine himself "had also asserted the power of free choice, by which an individual may believe and receive grace, and had even spoken of grace being given as a reward for the faith which God foresees that an individual will have—precisely the view of the monastic theologian John Cassian (c. 365-c. 453) and his fellow divines of Marseilles, which Augustine would reject" (Expository Times 109:295). Bonner's article on De praedestinatione sanctorum in our encyclopedia (p. 669) is not quite as blunt, but it is a competent description of the book in its context. Cassian contrives the 5th century via media. He rejects absolute sovereign grace (Augustine) and he rejects the absolute primacy of free will (Pelagius). He straddles the antipodes—not the transformation of a dead will (Augustine), but the assistance (through grace) of a crippled will. For Cassian, the sinful will is not in as bad a state as Augustine imagines; nor is it in as good a state as Pelagius imagines. For Cassian, salvation begins in the proper use a sinner makes of the natural ability of his free will. Having inclined himself to good by his (naturally able) free will, the sinner is assisted by divine grace to complete the journey. Cassian calls the fallen will "weak". It is the role of grace to "cooperate" with man's weak will thus "assisting" it to salvation (cf. his Conferences 13; NPNF2, 11:427-30).8 Is grace irresistible


8 Boniface Ramsey, who authors our encyclopedia's article on Cassian, is the translator of the most recent edition of his Conferences (ACW=Ancient Christian Writers Series, Volume 57). Ramsey admits that the famous thirteenth conference which I have cited is "an intentional reply to Augustine;" in fact, "a negative response to Augustine's teaching on grace," p. 10.


because omnipotently efficacious (Augustine)9; or is grace resistible because man must begin the process of salvation by the potency of his (fallen) free will (Cassian)?10

Cassian also suggested that 1 Timothy 2:4 ("[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth") teaches universal salvation. "How can we imagine without grievous blasphemy that He does not generally will all men, but only some instead of all to be saved?" (Conferences 13.7; NPNF2, 11:425). The argument over grace is now shaping the intention of Christ's death on the cross.11 With the departure from the bondage of the sinner's will comes a view of grace which is ameliorative, assistive, responsive. And that requires a redefinition of the cross of Christ from particular-elective to universal-meliorative.

France and North Africa

Augustine died at Hippo in 430 with the Vandals besieging the gates. Cassian succumbed in 435 at Marseilles. Prosper survived to 455 (or beyond) dying probably in Rome. By mid-5th century, the issues were: if salvation is predestined, grace is absolutely unmerited; but if salvation is universal (or the will to salvation is universal), grace is, in some sense, merited. Augustine and the strict Augustinians argued that grace is the effect of election. The semi-Pelagians argued that grace is a foreseen reward or gift for those using their


9 "It is not then to be doubted that men's wills cannot, so as to prevent His doing what he wills, withstand the will of God," On Rebuke and Grace, 45; NPNF1, 5:489.

10 "But who can easily see how it is that the completion of our salvation is assigned to our own will," Conferences 13.9; NPNF2 11:426. " . . . for when God sees us inclined to will what is good, He meets, guides, and strengthens us," 13.11; ibid., 11:428.

11 Augustine had declared, "Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6), and the unworthy, while being worthy himself . . . Because of your pity, Lord, deliver us. Not because of any previous merits of ours, but because of your pity, Lord, deliver us . . . not because of our merit. Obviously, not because of the merit of our sins, but because of your name. I mean, the merit of our sins, of course, is not reward, but punishment;" "Sermon 293," The Works of Saint Augustine: Sermons, vol. III/8 (1994), p. 152.


free will well. The Pelagians had argued that grace is a mere adjutorium ("helper"/ "assister") and man is fully capable of saving himself without it.

The next phase of the controversy over predestination, grace and free will occurs with the rise of Faustus of Riez (ca. 405-ca. 490; pp. 356-58, of our encyclopedia) and his nemesis, Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/68-527/33; cf. pp. 373-74, of our encyclopedia). Riez (Reii) is a town in Gaul where Faustus rose to become the most famous preacher of the day. In his major work, De gratia ("On Grace"), written about 422/23, Faustus declared that he was taking the via media between Pelagius (man's efforts are adequate for salvation) and the Augustinians (divine grace is the sole effective power in man's salvation). Our encyclopedia article on Faustus informs us that the great history of dogma writers—Adolf von Harnack and Reinhold Seeberg—regarded him as the quintessential representative of the semi-Pelagian position.

Rebecca Weaver says that Faustus, with John Cassian, affirmed that "all is to be ascribed to grace and all is to be ascribed to free will" (Weaver, op. cit., 165). Since Christ died for all mankind (a la 1 Tim. 2:4), salvation is a combination of grace and works. Christ's mission is to "empower human self-reformation" (Weaver, ibid., 169).

For Faustus, divine predestination proceeds on the foreknowledge of human desert/merit (i.e., election succeeds human volition). He rejects total inability or total depravity arguing that the Fall rendered man merely weak. Faith unto salvation then is not a new creation or regeneration gift; it is a natural human capacity and ability merely requiring the proper assistance, direction and example. Because human freedom is absolute and indelible, man's free will—even in the fallen state—is fully able to choose God's will. He even declares that if faith is a gift, it loses its value. Our encyclopedist vainly seeks to sanitize this heresy by suggesting (with the great orthodox scholar of the 16th century, Erasmus!) that Faustus is more Augustinian than Pelagian (or semi-Pelagian). Surely Augustine would shudder at such a conclusion!

Faustus received the reaction he deserved from Fulgentius of Ruspe. Ruspe (Byzacena) is a village in North Africa where Fulgentius became bishop ca. 502. His call to the monastery and episcopacy stemmed from Augustine's


Ennarationes on Psalm 36. Our encyclopedia article recounts his double exiles to Sardinia at the hands of the Arian Vandals and his stirring public defense of Nicene Trinitarianism. But he was equally vigorous in his defense of Augustine on whom he "depends faithfully, almost slavishly." Fulgentius penned two works against Faustus: Contra Faustum Gallum ("Against Faustus, the Gaul")—a work now lost; and De veritate predestinationis et gratia Dei ("On the Truth of Predestination and the Grace of God"). Fulgentius attacks Cassian and Faustus asserting the Augustinian tenets of divine sovereignty (grace) and human impotence (free will). The fallen will is not free to choose good because it is impotent. Apart from supernatural grace, the will is free only for evil. It is liberated and inclined to good only when transformed by grace. He explains the controverted 1 Timothy 2:4 by suggesting that "all" means all varieties or all kinds of persons (persons from all kinds of nations, all kinds of conditions, all kinds of age brackets, etc.). And the fruits of election and the gracious regeneration of the will? good works, perseverance and assurance. The latter are the fruits of the former, absolutely dependent on their primacy and never making the former dependent on the latter.


The final stage in this debate occurred at the Second Council of Orange in 529 (cf. pp. 250-51, of our encyclopedia).12 Presiding over the Council is Caesarius of Arles (ca. 470-543; cf. pp. 115-16, of our encyclopedia), the apparent champion of Fulgentius and Augustine. And so our encyclopedia entry on Caesarius reads: "he takes an extreme Augustinian position on the impotence of nature, without grace, with regard to salvation." And the canons of Orange II have been regarded by many historians of Christian dogma as a vindication of Augustine Augustinianism and a condemnation of semi-Pelagian Augustinianism. Rebecca Weaver has cautioned that there are two sides to Caesarius: the moralistic side evident in his voluminous sermonic corpus; the sola gratia Caesarius evident in his major theological tome, De gratia. The


12 The canons are printed in J. Patout Burns, Theological Anthropology (1981) 112-18.


homiletic moralism admonishes the hearer to practical application, i.e., the activism of human agency. The centrality of grace is subdued (even buried) in these hortatory addresses. Yet in De gratia the gratuitous nature of grace is enunciated with attendant Augustinian emphases explicit. This latter work has shaped the interpretation of the canons of Orange (529) and the sympathies of her presiding bishop. But a careful reading of the canons leaves the strict Augustinian wondering.13 The priority of grace is present, but emphasis on predestination and election is absent. (Would Augustine have neglected these had he written the canons?) Free will is conferred in baptism (grace). Grace subsequently assists man's efforts. Is this in essence a reduction of salvation to a reward for the baptized making proper use of their wills? Consistent with Caesarius's homiletic agenda, Orange II may be a subtle affirmation of moral exemplarism and human ability with the pious linguistic trappings of some (but not all) Augustinian vocabulary.


Using the Augustinian/Pelagian/semi-Pelagian controversy as a barometer, we look back on our excursion through the Augustine Encyclopedia with critical appreciation. The articles are thorough, well-written and accurate from the standpoint of names, dates, works, sequence of events, relevant issues and bibliography. Coverage is excellent (though not definitive—could it ever be?) in all areas of Augustiniana. On these scores, the encyclopedia rates exceedingly high.

But what we encounter in the assessment and evaluation of Augustine's thought is reflective of the battles over the great African bishop which have dogged his works since before his death. The polarizations remain: some read Augustine and believe he is paradoxical—affirming the antinomies of divine (even sovereign) grace and human ability; some read Augustine and believe


13 Some have suggested they represent an "intermediate Augustinianism". "The faith of Orange was neither Pelagius' nor Augustine's"; cf. R.A. Markus, "The Legacy of Pelagius: Orthodoxy, Heresy and Conciliation," in Rowan Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy: Essays in Honour of Henry Chadwick (1989) 227.


he is antithetical—affirming the antithesis of divine grace and human ability; some read Augustine through the eyes of later semi-Augustinians—affirming a middle way which reduces divine monergism and advances human synergism. In general, the Augustine Encyclopedia favors the way of paradox and the way of synthesis (via media). B. B. Warfield would be disappointed14; orthodox Calvinists in general are disappointed; I am disappointed. Augustine does not in the final analysis speak for himself. Augustine speaks with the voice of the modern scholar whose pride will not permit him to assert absolute divine sovereignty in predestinating/electing grace and absolute human depravity and inability in salvation. Such a portrait of man is as offensive to modern (scholarly) man as it was (in essence) to Pelagius and his semi-Pelagian followers of old. And so it must be massaged to render it more palatable to modern natural man. Alas, it is not only homo scholasticus who is affected with this self-sufficiency; it is also endemic to homo ecclesiasticus as well. A more optimistic, more activistic, more universalistic notion of fallen man's native abilities is popular currently, as it continues to be epexegetical of the natural man generically before and after Augustine. "Miserable sinner Christianity", as Warfield pointed out in another context, is never popular in the church or the academy.

Augustine requires a confession of absolute dependence on the electing grace of God in Christ Jesus. And the natural man from Augustine to the present is too self-sufficient to confess his utter dependence on what lies outside himself. No, the modern man replies, Augustine can't be right; I can't be as bad as all that; surely I am better, more virtuous, more able to commend myself to the deity than he allows. Augustine is too severe, too extreme, too relentless.

But Augustine still speaks; his works still speak. They speak with the voice of another theologian, the apostle Paul: "you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . but God being rich in mercy . . . even when we were dead


14 His succinct outline of "The Theology of Grace" in Augustine is superb (ibid., pp. lxvi-lxxi). Note how Warfield highlights a potential ambiguity (even problem) in Augustine's notion of free will as a state of indifference (p. lxvii)—a concept with which the even more magisterial Augustinian, Jonathan Edwards, would not agree.


in our transgressions, made us alive—by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:1, 5, 8, 9). That is the gospel of Paul, which gospel Augustine believed and taught; which gospel still beckons to sinners unable to save themselves—yet sinners graciously chosen, powerfully regenerated, wonderfully enabled to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. Grace alone has veritably raised them up from the dead!

Northwest Theological Seminary

Lynnwood, Washington


Book Reviews

Arthur C. Cochrane, Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century. Louisville: KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2003. 336 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-664-22694-9. $24.95.

The republication of Cochrane's compilation makes available, once more, this collection of Reformation era confessions. Although several of these are available in other collections (notably volume 3 of Philip Schaff's The Creeds of Christendom), five are not: The Tetrapolitan Confession (1530); The First Confession of Basel (1534); The Lausanne Articles (1536); The Geneva Confession (1536); and the Confession of the English Congregation at Geneva (1556). Each creedal statement is introduced with a short narrative of origin, author(s) and context. A bibliography is attached for further research. Since the original edition of this work appeared in 1966, the latter area (bibliographies) is somewhat dated. Nevertheless, Cochrane provides an excellent overview of each document so that we get the flavor of the theological issues in those turbulent and exciting times. B. B. Warfield once noted that the reading of the Reformed confessions is wonderfully edifying. In an era of shoddy Reformed theology, these confessions take us back to our roots (ad fontes). Perhaps this reprint can be of use in reminding us of our glorious confessional tradition and assisting us in reclaiming it.

James T. Dennison, Jr.


Hans-Josef Klauck, The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Graeco-Roman Religions. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003. 516 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8006-3593-0. $30.00.

The release of Klauck's books in paperback by Fortress Press is a distinct boon. Originally published in hard copy (T. & T. Clark—now out-of-print) in 2000 with a hefty price tag of more than $60, this affordable edition is welcome.

The subtitle says it all. Klauck has provided a near definitive vade mecum of Greek and Roman religions in the era of early Christianity. What indeed were our fathers and mothers in the faith up against in their own religious environment? The answer is a plethora of religions as numerous as the plethora of (pagan) gods and goddesses. There is a religion for every Graeco-Roman taste: the Eleusian Mysteries; the Dionysius cult including Orphism (Orpheus in the underworld); the Attis cult (beloved of Cybele); Isis (Egyptian goddess—wife of Osiris); Mithraism (Klauck is very helpful here with a most mysterious, but powerful devotion); claimants of miracles (Epidauros and Apollonius of Tyana); magic; astrology; emperor worship (Greek and Roman); and the philosophies which mimicked religion (Stoicism, Epicureanism, Platonism). Finally, there is Gnosticism which continues to fascinate and mislead scholars of our own generation.

With respect to the latter, our readers will be pleased to note the reference to the work of Dr. Edwin Yamauchi (p. 455) and Klauck's conclusion—"we have no literary testimonies to a developed gnosis that can be dated indubitably to the first century CE or even earlier" (p. 458). He further scorns the notion of a pre-Christian gnosis—a theory beloved by the history of religions school (Rudolf Bultmann, one of its mature members) as a basis for New Testament Christianity. Says Klauck, "There did not exist the kind of pre-Christian gnosis that the older history of religions posited, chronologically antecedent to the New Testament and providing one of its intellectual presuppositions" (459).

Such fairness, accurate reading of the primary documents and refusal to stray where the data do not go make this an insightful if not revisionist volume. We appreciate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the onto


logical Son of God, all the more for reading about those religions that early Christians formerly embraced—cults from which the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord had set them free. How greatly we treasure the witness of the early saints—they had been translated out of death into life by the supernatural power of heaven. Surely nothing less broke the bondage of the gods!

James T. Dennison, Jr.

Cornelius G. Hunter, Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2001. 192 pp. Paper. ISBN: 1-58743-053-3. $12.99.

The debate over Darwinian evolution has raged ever since Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859. There is considerable discussion today, especially on college campuses, between scientists, philosophers, and theologians. Some of this intercourse is conducted in a professional, academic style, with cogent arguments presented in public forums such as the journal Creation/Evolution. But the interchange often becomes heated and pejorative, with argumentation centered on name-calling rather than logic. This is because the idea of evolution (as well as Christian faith) is ripe with metaphysical assumptions about our world, and thus is fraught with emotion.

It is an unfortunate reality that the academic endeavor often strays from its stated mission—namely the quest for truth—and becomes embroiled in personality, politics, and ultimately the desire for self-glorification. Anyone who has even perfunctorily traced the evolution debate will observe an elitist, pugnacious spirit in the self-declared priests of this world—the cult of Darwin. They decide what constitutes science, they decide what constitutes adequate substantiation of scientific claims, and they decide what ideologies will be transmitted to our citizens's children in our public schools. The lack of objectivity, so necessary to intellectual enterprise, is a disturbing reminder that the fall of man has infiltrated all aspects of human culture; perhaps most of all, it has affected the ivory tower.


Those who adhere to the traditional Christian faith know that Darwinian evolution is just another lie of Satan, because the consequences of this religion—namely the lack of purpose in history, the impotence of God, and the vanity of human existence—are in direct contradiction to the basic principles of the Way. But without an extensive education in biology, perhaps extending to concepts propounded in graduate school, the average Christian is ill equipped to contend with a Darwinian priest on their own terms, i.e., in their own syntax of biological terminology. Cornelius Hunter advances a thesis that makes this knowledge largely unnecessary, and thus fortifies his brothers with efficient armor for spiritual combat.

Hunter effectively argues that Darwinian evolution is steeped in metaphysical suppositions about the nature of God. For naturalists, i.e., those who seek an explanation of the natural world without reference to God, these assumptions about God's character, together with the scanty biological supporting evidence, move evolution from the realm of possibility to plausibility. But it is more than fact—it is an explanatory paradigm against which all other fields of human knowledge are to be measured. The persuasiveness of evolutionary theory for natural man, built on speculation and science fiction, becomes salient: to forsake this cult is tantamount to abandoning the humanistic project of attaining knowledge independently of God.

I am not an expert on biology, and am unaware of predecessors to Hunter's position. From the discussion in his book, it seems that most attacks on Darwinian evolution historically have centered on the weakness of the evidence, as well as its unattractive corollaries, e.g., the redefinition of love as a meaningless chemical response, which is merely the unlikely outcome of time and chance.1 So it may well be that Hunter's contention—that Darwinism is founded on certain humanistic notions about God's character—is entirely new. I will summarize the main argument below; the book contains many pertinent aspects of the debate that the interested reader may pursue on their own.

Hunter traces the trend in theological thought up through the nineteenth


1 It is interesting that love, as Christ defines it, does not entail survival. Christian ethics are precisely the antithesis of "survival of the fittest," because they entail suffering and contempt in this world.


century in Europe, in order to give the context for Darwin's conception of God. This is not the God of the Scriptures: he is omni-benevolent, and after Darwin is through, omni-impotent. Having completely ignored the important doctrine of the Fall, the Victorian culture sought to explain God's tolerance of moral evil through various philosophical speculations. In the same vein, Darwin examined the problem of natural evil—the waste, futility, and violence of nature. In order to preserve the axioms of God's unlimited love and wisdom, it was necessary to completely remove him from any interaction with the observed world. Under this Gnostic solution, he becomes a transcendent (and irrelevant) being.

This metaphysical belief is found not only among Darwin's own writings (and is actually used throughout the Origin of Species to justify the theory he advances), but is also encountered among all his intellectual descendents. And indeed, this argument from a non-Scriptural conception of God continues today among the priests of this world. If any of you have ever pinned a Darwinian against the wall in debate, exposing the utter frailty of biological evidence, you may have experienced their ultimate defense: "What's the alternative? Creationism?" Implicit in this response is the idea that 'God would not have created things the way they are.'

Hunter sticks to his main point—that Darwinism is steeped in ideas about God, and thus is metaphysics rather than science—and adroitly avoids the temptation to digress into a destruction of the evolutionary position point by point; this would have constituted another book. Some of the material is technical (for example, Chapter Two), though the majority should be accessible to Christians with a Reformed education. Again, I have no formal training in biology, but was able to follow his arguments easily.

This is an excellent book, but it is necessary to offer a few criticisms. Hunter subscribes to the common opinion that Milton was a latent Arminian, and makes a dubious parallel between him and Darwin on this basis. According to Hunter, Milton's difficulties with the doctrine of the Trinity are paralleled by Darwin's difficulties with the doctrine of God's sovereignty. To one that understands the orthodoxy of Milton, this connection seems unconvincing, as well as largely irrelevant to the main argument.


On a much deeper level, there are some elements of the book that may seem problematic to adherents of Van Til's thought. Science is indeed wedded to metaphysics—and this book's study of the evolution of Darwinian thought is an excellent example of this; in particular, our conceptions of God affect how we interpret empirical data, from which scientific hypotheses are formulated and tested. Certainly, all science is utterly dependent on the principle of the constancy of natural law (in a normal course of events), and this postulate was originally formulated in the late medieval ages as a corollary of God's own rational, semi-comprehensible character. (The same postulate is currently maintained by naturalist priests who have dispensed with the previous validating axiom of God's existence and order-loving personality.) Hunter's main thesis is that Darwinian thought is essentially grounded in metaphysical ideas about God, and is therefore not science. But is not the validity of science grounded in the attributes of God—namely that he is orderly and rational? Thus, a disciple of Van Til will argue that the flaw in Darwinism is not the dependence on metaphysics per se, but the dependence on incorrect metaphysics. That is, evolution is not invalidated because it relies upon some conceptions of God, but because it relies on the wrong conceptions of God. But Hunter, in some parts of his book, seems to advance the idea that whenever scientific inquiry relies on metaphysical assumptions, it is invalid. For example: "When assumptions about God are made before science begins, the result is not science, no matter how much science follows" (p. 158). But this presuppositional approach is precisely what 16th and 17th century scientists took, and this reviewer believes that science is meaningless and vacuous without the assumptions of God's existence, wisdom, and semi-communicability with man. However, in other parts of the book, Hunter appears to be more in line with Van Til's position; I wonder what his views precisely are?

It seems one can say little about the biblical theological implications of this work; Hunter's argument is mainly negative, and he does not stray far into Christian views of science. Such views of science, to be properly Christian, must not merely take the rational, omnipotent God as their metaphysical presupposition, but must take into account the earth-shattering significance of Christ's resurrection. In my opinion, more scholarship should be devoted to the impact of new creation motifs on science. This is definitely not the focus of Hunter's book.


This book helped me to see the futility of convincing Darwinists of their flawed view—their beliefs run as deep as natural philosophy and the fundamental rebellion of man against his Creator; thus, rescuing a person from the cult of Darwin is tantamount to conversion of their soul. Almost.

Another tactic for debate has occurred to me, which is the intermediary argument of intelligent design. When a Darwinist is cornered by flimsy evidence, and they retort, "What is the alternative to evolution?" then one may reply: "Intelligent Design." Note that this does not necessarily mean creation by God, because it includes more far-fetched ideas, like genetic engineering by extraterrestrial life forms. Convincing a Darwinist of the plausibility of intelligent design moves them onto more neutral ground, from which one can then argue that the simplest and most elegant formulation of intelligent design is that of a benevolent, wise deity who has cursed the earth with futility and entropy. Of course this tactic is similar to that of classical apologetics, which argues first for theism before moving towards the Christian God; thus it may not be appealing to die-hard presuppositionalists.

In the last analysis, it may very well require a gracious act of God to rescue man from such a pernicious and blasphemous belief system as Darwinism; and Christians should expect the cult of Darwin to continue until all the principalities of darkness are brought into subjection beneath Jesus' feet at his parousia.

Tucker McElroy