Part 2 of the first weekly update!
Key reading for this week has been Ken Stebbins’ helpful book Christ Freely Offered, Covenanter Press, 1996 (available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom). Stebbins looks at three questions posed by the Protestant Reformed Church (Herman Hoeksema’s denomination) and analyses them in some detail. His analysis of topics such as the love of God, common grace, the will of God and the free offer of the Gospel contain some helpful historical (and exegetical) material.
There are a number of particularly helpful features in Stebbins’ book:
* His historical survey demonstrates that the preponderance of reformed theologians have believed that God desires the salvation of all men. What makes this admission refreshing is that when moving to a dogmatic evaluation Stebbins does not like the word ‘desire’ but prefers ‘delight’. It is always refreshing to read a book which can not be summed up with “See, all the good guys agree with me.”
* His evaluation of the Puritan John Owen’s exegesis of some key texts (e.g. Ezek 18:23) exposes one of the few weaknesses in Owen’s otherwise fine defence of definite atonement “The Death of Death” (http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/item_detail.php?4552). He also notes inconsistencies in Owen’s exegesis in DoD and in his use of texts in his later sermons. That Stebbins takes the time to step back and critically evaluate the arguments in the DoD which is a “sacred cow” amongst the books defending definite atonement is again most welcome. Stebbins also critically engages Owen’s absolute dichotomy between the secret and revealed will of God. Again this willingness to probe and question is a delight (not a desire)!
There are, as in all works of men, a few weak points. One I would highlight is that I don’t agree with his criticism of the Marrow Men (Boston, the Erskines, etc) as somehow deviating from orthodoxy in their theology. Also I should highlight Stebbins’ preference for “God delights in the salvation of all men” as opposed to “God desires the salvation of all men”.
Work done this week:
Read the majority of Stebbins’ book
Progressed with re-reading Durham’s Christ Crucified (Sermons on Is. 53) taking proper notes this time
Progressed with gleaning useful tit-bits from Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology
Key work to do next week:
Make significant progress on note taking on Durham’s Christ Crucified (some “exciting” quotes from this work next week).