My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed.

In Genesis it is Eve who is the main actor of the epochal event named the fall. In God’s recreation that is redemption the second Eve, Mary, is front and center. Mary, is the antithesis of Eve. Mary bows to God’s word (Lk. 1:38) where Eve questioned God’s word (Gen. 3:6). Eve bears sin into God’s garden temple, while Mary is the Christ bearer in God’s work to re-make His garden temple. Eve’s action leads to curse for all who belong to Adam while Mary’s actions leads to blessing for all who belong to the second Adam. The first Eve was taken out of the first Adam and was the source of life for all Adam’s seed. The second Adam is taken from the second Eve and is the source of life for all His people.

It is also interesting as we examine the Magnificat that Mary understands all that is happening as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (vs. 55). Hence we see that there is covenant continuity between Genesis 12, 15 & 17 and what is happening to and through Mary. Mary, like Zechariah, does not see discontinuity between old covenant promise and new covenant fulfillment.

Finally, a brief word regarding Mary herself. Protestants typically don’t do the saint thing and for good reason. Still, Mary should be esteemed no differently then any other saint in the Scripture. Certainly she is no co-redemptrix as some Roman Catholics believe and praying to Mary (or any other saint) would be sin but respecting and honoring Mary for her faith is perfectly fitting and proper.

** — An interesting ‘for whatever its worth’ observation.

Most scholars believe it very likely that Mary was very young (between 14-16) when all this happened. Obviously Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s Mother, was well advanced in years (Lk. 1:7). It must have been quite a study in contrast to see this young girl and this older matron both pregnant at the same time. God takes a child who has never known a man and a dried up prune who is past child bearing and takes the things that are not and makes them to bear the greatest prophet in the Old Covenant and the Messiah who gives life to the world.


It is interesting that Luke bookends a similar idea in his gospel. In Luke 2 Luke records Zechariah’s prophecy and in verse 70 Zechariah can say, in reference to the advent of the Messiah, ‘As He (God) spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the World began.’ Clearly Zechariah is teaching us here that the Scriptures of the Old Covenant spoke of and taught Jesus the Messiah, and that from the very beginning.

Luke makes this same observation again at the end of His gospel (24:27) when he records Jesus, following His resurrection, leading a bible study on the road to Emmaus with two disciples who had missed how the redemptive events were spoken of in the Old covenant Scriptures.

It is obvious that Luke is telling us that the old covenant Scriptures, were, in the phrase of the Puritans, ‘the cradle where one would find Christ.’ All the Scriptures, from Genesis 3:15f are first and foremost about Christ and tell God’s story of how He does all the work in redeeming a people of His own choosing to be their covenant faithful God. We do a great disservice to Scripture when we use it to cram God into our story instead of seeing that God uses Scripture to tell His story — a story that the redeemed are swept up into as so many leaves are swept up into a tornado. God’s story is objective but as men, in each generation, are placed into its storyline by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, that objective story continues to change everything in its path in each generation.

Zechariah was part of Redemptive History. His prophecy was part of God’s objective story of God’s raising up a horn of salvation for His people (2:69). His recognition that all of Scripture was teaching the story of Christ is our good news. BUT Zechariah also understands that this good news is done for a couple of purposes. The first purpose was so that God would be seen as faithful to His promises and covenant (vs. 72). The second purpose was that God’s people might serve Him without fear (vs. 74).

In God’s story when God provides salvation, one purpose of that provision is that God’s people might live in a covenantal faithfulness that echos back God’s covenantal faithfulness to His name and His people. When God’s elect are swept up into His story it is always with the consequence of having been freely saved they will now freely serve according to God’s standards.

Calvin can say at this point on this idea,

“Zechariah’s point was, that, being redeemed, they might dedicate and consecrate themselves entirely to the Author of their salvation. As the efficient cause of human salvation was the undeserved goodness of God, so its final cause is, that, by a godly and holy life, men may glorify his name.”

Calvin then goes on to talk about our responsibility to live a life of service to God, citing the abundant scripture that teaches this truth and ends by saying,

Scripture is full of declarations of this nature, which show that we “frustrate the grace” (Gal. 2:21) of Christ, if we do not follow this design.”

So Zechariah’s Benedictus (Luke 2:67-79) teaches us that God does all the saving but also that those who are saved serve God in every area that God has dominion over. We do disservice to this idea when we do one of three things,

1.) Forget that the Scriptures are first and foremost about God’s work of doing all the saving.

2.) Forget that Scripture do not end with souls saved but rather speak clearly of what the redeemed life looks like in every area of life.

3.) Invert the order so that we do not realize that #2 is always the consequence of #1 being rightly set forth and so speak as if #1 is dependent upon number 2.

There is no ‘I’ in Ego

“Plagued by anxiety, depression, vague discontents, a sense of inner emptiness, the ‘psychological man’ of the twentieth century seeks neither individual self-aggrandizement nor spiritual transcendence but peace of mind, under conditions that increasingly militate against it. Therapists not priests, or popular preachers of self-help or models of success like the captains of industry, become his principal allies in the struggle for composure; he turns to them in the hope of achieving the modern equivalent of salvation, ‘mental health.’ Therapy has establish itself as the successor both to rugged individualism and to religion; but this does not mean that the ‘triumph of the therapeutic’ has become a new religion in its own right. Therapy constitutes an anti-religion, not always to be sure because it adheres to rational explanation or scientific methods of healing, as its practitioners would have us believe, but because modern society ‘has no future’ and therefore gives no thought to anything beyond its immediate needs. Even when therapists speak f the need for ‘meaning’ and ‘love,’ they define love and meaning simply as the fulfillment of the patient’s emotional requirements. It hardly occurs to them — nor is there any reason why it should, given the nature of the therapeutic enterprise — to encourage the subject to subordinate his needs and interests to those of others, to someone or some cause or tradition outside himself. ‘Love’ as self-sacrifice or self-abasement, ‘meaning’ as submission to a higher loyalty — these sublimations strikes the therapeutic sensibility as intolerably oppressive, offensive to common sense and injurious to personal health and well being. To liberate humanity from such outmoded ideas of love and duty has become the mission of the post-Freudian therapies and particularly of their converts and popularizers, for whom mental health means the overthrow of inhibitions and the immediate gratification of every impulse.”

Christopher Lasch
The Culture Of Narcissism — pg. 13

Several things to note regarding this quote,

1.) Lasch’s point denying that the triumph of the Psychological, while replacing religion, is not a religion, is based upon the observation that Therapeutic man has no teleology. Whereas religions and ideologies speak of future conditions to which man is moving (be it Heaven, or Nirvana, or Utopia, etc.) therapeutic man embraces a substitute religion whose goal is not some future state, but rather, teleologically speaking, only has the modest goal of making its worshipers properly adjusted to the here and now. Now, Lasch is correct about Therapeutic man having no teleology, classically speaking, but He is wrong in suggesting that the absolutization of the Therapeutic is not a religion or is, in his words, an anti-religion. Lasch would have been more correct to note that ‘Psychologicalism’ is the anti-religion religion. Because it has no transcendent, its teleology is completely imminent with the results that man needs not to move towards a higher and better destination because this life is the higher and better destination. Teleology has not been removed from the religion of Psychologism, but rather it has been realized. Psychologism is the religion of modern man, it’s Priests, as Lasch notes, are the ubiquitous therapists, it’s Temples masquerading as local Schools, Universities, Corporate Headquarters, area Churches and Government buildings, it affords its sacraments in its confessional booth and in its personality tests, it provides catechism sessions to countless Freshman orientation classes across the country, as well as the employee meetings that corporate Human Resources organizes for its company employees, and its salvation — the same salvation that the serpent offered to Eve, is found in the ascendancy of the sovereign self.

2.) Lasch subtly suggests that Psychologism is not as rational nor as scientifically grounded as it holds itself to be. Indeed, Psychology is a faith discipline that originally, in its modern embodiment, was developed in order to provide insights into the individual quite apart from the reality of God. The denial of God is the presupposition that it was originally rooted in, and any rationality that it aspires to, is only the rationality of a system that defines the beginning of rationality as being apart from God. Except in a few rare cases, Psychology remains a anti-Christ discipline, to often propped up as legitimate in the Church by Christian practitioners who have not understood the anti-theistic basis of their chosen discipline. The real danger of Psychologism is that it is ever seen as being ‘scientific.’ It’s lifeblood of existence is its sundry personality tests which by their very design makes man, in his corporate expression, the measure of what is normal, which is a most curious thing for any Christian to accept. The Science of Psychologism amounts to taking subjective surveys and turning those subjective results into objective measuring standards by reifying the abstract numbers and pretending that they have concrete existence and that they mean something. In short, the tests and their results become the transcendent point of reference by which Psychologism measures people. This is nothing but finding truth by counting noses, and it is an embarrassment to God’s people that the church has so readily glommed on to this idolatrous humanistic methodology as seen by the introduction of Psychologism into the ordination process and the missionary candidate schools. Lasch was correct to hint that Psychologism is neither rational nor scientifically driven. It remains today as legitimate as it was when it started with phrenologists feeling the bumps on peoples heads in order to gain personality insights.

3.) It’s ascendancy, as Lasch hints at, is to create a culture of self-centered, childish, whiny and weak people whose greatest goal in life is to be seen as a victim. Out of its concern for personal health and well-being it has contributed to our culture of political correctness where the apex of propriety is to be sensitive and so not offend anybody by saying anything that anybody would find offensive for any reason. Those who will not play by its rules will discover that like all Worldviews it will destroy others in order to protect itself.

Anyway … I have only finished the first few chapters of Lasch’s work, and already I would recommend it for those who desire insights into our current culture. I have read several of Lasch’s work, and I have not found him yet to be disappointing.

“In various forms, the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions of knowledge and meaningful experience. To put it another way: the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything.”

Dr. Gregg Bahnsen
Always Ready — pg. 122

The Problem of Evil II

Dear Freddy,

I hope to be able to wrap up answering your question regarding the problem of evil with this post. I have been laboring to show how Scripture sets forth God’s absolute sovereignty. Today I am going to try and show how God’s absolute sovereignty neither makes God the author of evil (though we admit He is the cause of evil) while at the same time making the case that God’s absolute sovereignty doesn’t take away human responsibility or human free agency.

Now we turn to the issue of the will. Libertarian ‘Freedom of the will’ (the ability to choose or not choose options based quite apart from any consideration of God’s predestining will)was introduced into Christian Theology in the attempt to rescue God from the charge of being ‘not nice’ or ‘not fair’ as well as to try and make room for human culpability. We have seen already that the problem with absolute human free will is that where humans have a freedom that is independent of God the result is that God’s Freedom is sacrificed with the further result that man is given a sovereignty over God’s sovereignty.

Some contend that it is better to craft a theology that denies what Scripture teaches on God’s omnipotence if the cost of following what Scripture teaches on God’s omnipotence is that men can not be held responsible for their evil actions. Those who reason this way, reason that it is better to degrade God to a finite level who, like Mick and the boys, ‘can’t always get what he wants’ then it is to have a theology that putatively undermines human responsibility.

So Freddy, how do Biblical Christians avoid the charge that the Biblical doctrine makes puppets out of men? Well first we contend that God’s work of predestination upon men is not physical in the way that that planets are predestined to follow their orbits. Biblical Christians do not believe in a kind of materialistic determinism. Biblical Christians do believe that the natural liberty of the will consists in freedom from this kind of physical necessity. Our wills and the choices arising from our wills is not determined as the planetary motions are. However, their are other kinds of determinism then materialistic determinism. We can speak of a psychological determinism that allows us to deny free will while at the same time speaking of a natural liberty. This observation frees us from any idea that Biblical Christians believe that men are stocks and stones who act by compulsion, though we are still able to embrace the idea that all that men do they do by necessity.

Let us discuss that distinction for a moment. Remember this is all in pursuance of embracing what the Scripture teaches concerning the absolute sovereignty of God while answering at the same time how this affirmation leaves men as free human agents (which is different than saying that men has free human wills).

We have said that Biblical Christians deny the idea that all things happen by compulsion while affirming that all things happen by necessity. What is the difference? Necessity is defined as that by which whatever comes to pass cannot but come to pass, and comes to pass in no other way than it does. The reason that we introduce this distinction between compulsion and necessity is so that we may see that predestination can be affirmed while at the same time affirming that men remain free human agents who are not puppets. To say that all things happen by the infallible certainty of a predestining necessity gives us both a high doctrine of God’s sovereignty while at the same time allowing that humans can be held responsible for their actions. Such a distinction allows us both to affirm that Judas acted voluntarily and without compulsion in betraying Jesus and yet remains the son of perdition who was predestined from eternity past to be the traitor that had to be present in order for prophetic Scripture to be fulfilled (John 17:12).

So, what we are seeking to do here is to make a distinction between free human agency and libertarian free will, the former which we embrace the latter which we reject as un-biblical since it teaches that there is no determining factor, including God, which operates on the human will. Free will means that either of two incompatible choices are equally possible while free human agency acknowledges that all choices are inevitable and yet the choices made are made by agents who themselves desire what they choose.

You see free agency teaches voluntary action and this every Biblical Christian believes. Every Biblical Christian believes that all men make choices wherein they consciously initiate and determine a further action. A choice is a deliberate and conscious volition on the part of the chooser even if the chooser could not have chosen differently. Biblical Christians believe that Judas acted voluntarily without the kind of compulsion by which a puppet acts, while at the same time believing that what Judas chose happened by necessity and was predestined from eternity past. Judas had a will. Judas used his will in a way to make a choice. Judas’ will however was not acting independently of God’s will, though it was acting contrary to God’s commands and as such Judas is responsible to God for his sin against God’s command because Judas was the sole author of his action — a action that in God’s sovereignty could not have been other than it was. Judas’ choice (like all human choices) was a deliberate volition on the part of the chooser, even if it could not have been different.

Now in protest some will object against the idea of necessity at this point claiming that they know that their will is absolutely free because they do not sense any necessity informing it. This is a short-sighted protest. There are many common things that influence our will without us being conscious of it. When we have been up 36 hours straight our wills are affected by exhaustion. The actions of our wills are different after going 4 days without food then they would be if we were making choices after a Thanksgiving feast. All education is predicated on the reality that the will is not absolutely free and can be trained and molded. Do we really believe that our wills are free from all outside influence? Do we really believe that we have enough knowledge of what outside influences are working on our wills in order to bend them in the direction that they are bent? If little matters like lack of sleep, or lack of food, or training, or external conditions can delimit the notion of libertarian free will then why are we so insulted at the notion that the sovereign God delimits our free will, when scripture clearly teaches that He does (Proverbs 21:1)?

In the end, humans assert libertarian free will, but it is an assertion quite beyond their ability to know. In order for men to know they have this kind of freedom of the will they would have to know and be conscious of every kind of influence in the entire universe and this would require omniscience. Their assertion of libertarian free will is really a manifestation of God’s determining will that they would believe that which is not possible.

Now, we move on to the issue of responsibility. Some would contend that free will is the basis of men being responsible to God but Scripture seems to teach otherwise. Romans 1 seems to indicate that one foundation of men being responsible before God is that they acted against a better knowledge,

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they(AN) became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

But Freddy, Scripture also teaches that we are responsible to God for reasons beyond our actions and beyond the suppressing of what we know to be true and are yet held responsible for knowing. Scripture also teaches that quite beyond our choices (free or otherwise) men are held responsible before God because Adam’s sin has been imputed to them (reckoned to their account). Men are accountable to God because of Adam’s sin as Romans 5 (esp. vs. 19) teaches. Adam was our covenant head and when Adam acted we acted in Adam, and so when Adam sinned we sinned in Adam and became guilty with our Father Adam, so that it is just and proper for God to be displeased with us and hold us responsible if only because we are Adam’s seed. Now, typically, most Christians will insist that this is not any more fair of God than not giving men libertarian Free will but fortunately truth isn’t arrived at by counting noses.

So, we have seen a couple reasons why God’s predestining will is not inconsistent with human responsibility. Humans are still free agents even if they don’t have absolutely libertarian free will and consistent with that we have seen that the necessity of something happening is not the same as those necessary things happening by compulsion. Free human agents earnestly and genuinely pursue what God has willed and so remain the author of their evil decisions.

Let us press on to look at another reason why it remains just for God to judge those who have necessarily walked contrary to His divine commands. It is just of God to hold men responsible for their actions simply because God is God. Scripture teaches that God is just in all His ways (Psalm 145:17). Whatever God does is just, if only for the reason that He does it. Was it unjust of God to harden Pharaoh’s heart? Was it unjust of God to hate Esau before He was born? Was it unjust of God to plague Job? Was it unjust of God to carry Joseph to Egypt by way of slavery, bondage, and mistreatment? Was it unjust of God to ordain the cruel death of His Son? Why should we think that the sense of justice that belongs to fallen men has a right to condemn He who is by definition always just all the time? Scripture teaches us that God is just. How could we ever charge Him with injustice? Shall the clay say to the potter, ‘you’re not just because you made me this way?’ So, we are saying that it is just of God to hold men responsible for their actions of necessity because God says that all of His ways are righteous.

There is another thing we might say at this point Freddy that could help with our sense of outrage over the very real cruelties we see in this world. All of us at times struggle with evil. There have been times in the ministry where I have seen it face to face. The funeral of a infant killed by its parents. The death of a suicide victim. The long misery of an ugly cancer. The abuse of a child or woman by a man. I have seen, wept, and agonized over a great deal of the evil for which men rage at God, and the sum of what I have seen has not left me without scars nor has it left me unchanged. By God’s grace, however, I don’t rage at God and charge Him with fault, but trust in His goodness, for He has taught me, and I accept by Faith, that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil that exists. Now, I don’t know what that reason is but I accept, because of the testimony of Scripture, that God is good and just in all of His ways and so I believe, by faith, that God has a morally sufficient reason for all the wickedness and evil that people can name. In the end Freddy, if, in order for God to be just, His sovereignty must be limited, why would I worship or trust such a divine being? If God isn’t absolutely sovereign than I would be better served by arming myself to the teeth and trusting myself since a non-sovereign God isn’t much help in a tight situation.

I hope we have said enough to show that God is not the author of sin while still remaining the cause of sin. What I mean by this Freddy is that since God is the cause of all that is (Romans 11:36) we affirm that God must be the cause of all evil. However, all because God is the cause of all evil, does not mean He is the author of all evil. We can say that because Scripture clearly teaches the idea of secondary causes. If I knock a cup of Tea off my desk and it spills into my computer thus destroying it I might hold gravity accountable (dumb gravity, if it didn’t exist the cup would not have fallen) or I might hold whoever placed the cup on my desk accountable (dumb person put that tea in a place it didn’t belong) or I might hold myself accountable (dumb me, I should have been more careful). All of these realities were causes but the most natural idea is to hold myself responsible as the author of my spillage. Similarly when we say that God is not the author of sin we mean that God is not directly responsible for the wicked actions of free human agents. Men themselves remain the immediate cause of their sins and so remain the author of their sin but all because men are the author of their sin doesn’t mean that there aren’t other causes and since God is the ultimate cause of everything and nothing could exist except that God caused it we must say that God is the cause of evil without being the author of evil.

Now, we have spent some time on this and perhaps I have given you more then you could have wanted. Still, in order to be direct let me turn to your questions one last time and give you a direct answer the brevity of which can be understood in light of all that has now been said.

You asked,

“If God created the heavens and earth why did he create sin?”

The answer is that God created the Devil who instigated sin because He determined that by creating such a being as the Devil He would gain more glory than by not creating a being such as the Devil.

You also asked,

“If He didn’t create sin then why did He allow the possibility of sin?”

The answer is that He not only allowed for the possibility of sin but He also determined that it would exist and He did so in order that men might marvel at His greatness.

Please forgive me if I have given you to much. If you have any further questions I would be pleased if you would ask them.

Pastor Bret