Archive for the ‘Preparationism’ Category

Rev 3:20 & Preparationism Again

August 30, 2008

I’ve discussed “preparationism” before here (along with some definition).  Recently while looking for some more Puritan works on Rev 3:20 I came accross this quote which combines an understanding of Rev 3:20 as a “conversionist appeal” with a disavowal of preparationism:

Fifthly, Get this principle riveted in your hearts, That the want of preparations or qualifications that many men lay great stress upon, shall be no impediment to hinder your soul’s interest in Christ, if you will but open to Christ, and close with Jesus Christ.  Rev 3:20, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open to me, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’  Pray tell me at whose door was this that Christ stood and knocked?  Was it not at the Laodicean’s door?  Was it not at their door that thought their penny was as good silver as any? that said they were rich and had need of nothing, when Christ tells them to their very faces, ‘that they were poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.’  None more unprepared, and unfitted for union and communion with Christ than these lukewarm Laodiceans; and yet the Lord Jesus is very ready and willing that such should have intimate communion and fellowship with him.

‘If any man will open, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’  The truth if this you have further evidenced, Prov i. 20-24, and viii. 1-6, and ix. 1-6.  All these scriptures with open mouth speak out the truth asserted, viz. That the want of preparations or qualifications shall not hinder the soul’s interest in Christ, if the soul will adventure itself by faith upon Christ.  I pray, what qualifications and preparations had they in Ezek. xvi., when God saw them in their blood, and yet that was a time of love…

Thomas Brooks, Works 3:204-5

So we see an evangelistic or conversionist use of Rev 3:20 in yet another Puritan and also we see Brook’s denial of “preparationism”.  None of this is to denigrate the importance of preaching the law or of conviction of sin – but neither of these is the warrant of faith.

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Are You “Prepared” For This?

April 19, 2008

The rise and development of preparationism is an interesting subject.  Key in studying this, of course, is an accurate definition of what preparationism is and what it is not.  I take the following as the key point of genuine preparationism:

  1. The gospel offer is restricted to the “thirsty” or to those who have a “sense of sin” i.e. “sensible sinners”.
  2. The sinner must therefore be prepared before accepting the gospel offer by finding within himself an appropriate degree of conviction of sin.
  3. Consequently, the warrant to accept the offer of the gospel is placed within the sinner, for the gospel is only offered to sinners that are qualified or prepared.

My point in raising the issue of preparationism is to note how alien it is to Durham’s system of theology.  He explicitly denies this:

Grace does not stand precisely on forepreparations (where souls honestly and sincerely come), such as saying that you have not been so and so humbled, and have not such and such previous qualifications as you would have. Nay, in some way it excludes these, as offering to bring money and some price, which would quite spoil the market of free grace; nay yet, I say further, if it were possible that a soul could come without sense of sin, grace would embrace it…
Unsearchable Riches of Christ (rept.; Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 2002),156-7

There are some important elements here but the key point is that free and sovereign grace excludes the idea of “forepreparations”.  It is those without money who are invited to come and preparationism inverts this by demanding that a certain warrant must be produced by a sinner before they can come to Christ.  In another place Durham notes:

There is this prejudice in some that they think none can go and warrantably take hold of God’s covenant till they are so humbled, that they cannot go with convictions or challenges till they get some more deep heart work or are in a better and more tender frame … This in particular is one great prejudice that the devil labours deeply to possess the minds of awakened sinners with, to make them think that it is presumption for them … to come to Christ and by faith to close with Him unless they be so and so qualified.
Ibid
, 225-6

We see here Durham’s pastoral application of his anti-preparationism.  Sinners somehow feel that they have to produce a certain amount of conviction of sin before they can come to Christ but this is nothing more than a “great prejudice that the devil labours deeply” to drive into the minds of sinners.  It is therefore to be utterly rejected.

Now in saying all this I’m not denying the place of the law and of conviction of sin – indeed I would argue that the poverty of much modern evangelical (and dare I say Reformed) spirituality and theology is due to a lack of conviction of sin and consciousness of God’s holiness.  Again, I am not denying that it is only the sick who will seek a doctor.  (It is because people like Durham emphasised this truth that they are sometimes falsely called preparationists.)  But I am arguing that in no way is this a preparation for salvation in the sense of providing a warrant for us to come to Christ – all men have sufficient warrant to come by virtue of the free offer of the gospel (God’s hearty invitation, to use the phraseology of the Sum of Saving Knowledge).

This is the first time I’ve posted on Durham in ages – maybe this is the James Durham thesis after all 🙂