Saturday, November 19, 2011

Horton on Divine Causality.

Horton makes a good observation.  Historically, many Christian theologians have been struck by the false dilemma of divine determinism or quasi-deism.  This arises from Christians taking over Aristotelian concepts of cause.  God is conceived of as a cosmic mechanic, pulling the gears and levers of creation.  God is either applying force (wherein you are unfree and determined) or he is letting the machine run by itself (deism).  A more biblical manner of conceiving human freedom and divine causation is to conceptualize it as God's effective speech.  God speaks forth his Word and it gives creature their own capacities which they act out of.  The Word is creative and formative of freedom, while not coercing the creature.  For example, in Genesis 1 God states that vegetation of the earth should bring forth fruit and so they do.  The Word creates plants as beings that do this sort of thing.  They do so spontaneously out of their own nature.  Nevertheless this nature is created and formed by God's creative address.  We can see the same principle at work in the question of free will and grace.  Rome, thinking in mechanical terms, always insisted that the Reformation's monergism was coercive and destructive of the human will.  The Reformers (Luther in particular) always conceived the Word as living and effective.  Human beings are determined in their freedom so that they are re-created by God by his effective address as beings who out of their own spontaneity trust and love God.  


  1. Hence the Luther quote: "The Law says, 'Do this! And it is never done.' The Gospel says, 'Believe this! And everything is done already."

    The "New Obedience" of AC6 from "beings who out of their own spontaneity trust and love God" is not "obedience" as the world understands obedience--it is "being-ness." The "New Being" never hears the Law's "Do this!" as demand or accusation--not even as "information" or "education" as what it should be doing. The New Being hears what the sinner calls Law and says "Been there,done that." To the New Being the Law is only descriptive of what is the person's past. Again, a Luther quote from the Antinomian Disputations: "Of course, the Law is eternal. It is eternally before the old sinner demanding to be fulfilled; or it is eternally behind the new creature already fulfilled in the new creature's being."

    We have great arguments of the "so-called Third Use" of the Law just because it sounds as if Third Use proponents are trying to apply the law as demand, information, or education of the saint. Once Justification and Sanctification are held together as the simultaneous event of God establishing the person before him in divine righteousness--which we have for now as the "totus/totus" of the "simul," then the person knows there is also a CIVIL righteousness of "partim/partim" in the "simul" before the neighbor--which, as long as flesh endures--will be the Holy Spirit's training of vocation in the midst of this creation's estates.

    Insofar as the simul is totus/totus before God in divine righteousness, the Law has its two uses of "ordering sinners within this creation" and of "ordering sinners to death in this creation." The Gospel then does its work of raising up the saint to life in the new creation which for now is hid in Jesus Christ. Insofar as the simul is partim/partim before the neighbor in civil righteousness, then the neighbor can indeed use the law upon the person and "order" them to behave righteously as neighbors. These demands will be the death of you; they are the "cross" borne in the midst of vocation.

    The law is never left in the hands of sinners as a way to measure and gauge their righteousness before God--only faith established by the Holy Spirit working in the Word accomplishes that divine righteousness. God uses the law to order sinners: 1) out of chaos; 2) down to death. The so-called Third Use doesn't put the law in the hands of sinners as a way of righteousness either; it gives it to neighbors who use the law in the same kind of uses God does upon sinners: 1) to order their lives together as neighbors; 2) to order them until they go down to the dust.

  2. Timothy, very nice clarification of the third use. The third use as I've pointed out has often been distorted as a way of making up for the ineffectiveness of the gospel or as something friendly and fun. The law can never be that way because it is God's living Word. Moreover, God's Word of the gospel both justifies and sanctifies. The third use can only apply the force of the first use to Christians and give clarity regarding what "channel" the new being's gratitude is to be directed through.

  3. Nice post, man. I think it's fair to say I look forward to reading other posts.