Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rutherford: Rebuttal as if in anticipation of the "faith" and "grace" heresies

While reading Rutherford's excellent but extremely taxing book, The Covenant of Life Opened, I came across a rebuttal which Rutherford apparently meant to use against the Antinomians of his time, which is still relevant, in fact more relevant, for us today:

21. It were good to pray much, and to be dead to prayer; One of the main causes why we cry and pray much and are not heard, Psalm 22:2; Psalm 69:-3, is, because that which is proper to God the hearer of prayer, to wit, confidence and hope, we give to prayer which is not God. We pray to our own prayers and to our own wrestling [in earnest prayer] often, rather than to God: and we believer [sic believe] praying does the business and works the charm, as if prayer were Omnipotency itself.

22. Nor are we dead to faith and hope, but we believe in faith an [sic] in believing, and we hope in our own hoping in God. But [sic] was crucified for you? How many fetch peace, pardon and righteousness, not from Christ, but from their act of believing? Hence a case, whether some may not fervently pray and believe strongly, and yet be disappointed in the particular they pray for and believe they shall have? Certain it may be, especially when we are dead to Omnipotency and alive to praying and believing, and lay more weight on faith in God than on God, and on praying to God then [sic] on God himself. What Antinomians say unjustly we give to works, to wit, or peace with God, they and many unduly give to faith, not to Christ.

— Samuel Rutherford, C. Matthew McMahon (Ed.), The Covenant of Life Opened (New Lenox, IL, USA: Puritan Publications, 2005, Original 1654), p. 397

Sounds like an exact description of the "faith" (Word-faith) and "grace" (Joseph Prince and NCC) movement today, doesn't it? Truly, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).

See also:

On the efficaciousness of Prayer— Does prayer operates Ex Opere Operato?

6 comments:

Phil said...

I thought it was a good thought in the quote Daniel, but surely you know that Joseph Prince says exactly the same thing in his book? In fact, I've seen him say just that - that people teaching 'faith' as if it is a work that manipulates God are missing it. Faith finds merit in its Object. To 'see' genuine grace is to have faith, which then naturally proceeds to good works/fruit...as to Word-Faith, I know he has those roots, but I think that his take is rather not that faith itself does the work, but that faith lays hold on the spiritual blessings already laid up in Christ, by 'seeing' them. Faith of this sort being the vehicle for the manifestation of grace upon grace, out of the fulness of the finished redemption, from glory to glory.

Phil said...

I would say as well, that God always 'hears' his children's prayers, but they need to get their hearts more and more established in the gift of righteousness, which is their confidence at the throne of grace, to see the blessings manifest according to God's wisdom. It's all about upholding the only ground for communion, which is Christ's righteousness as ours before the Father. God wants his children to trust him, and this is how He grows them in grace, even as He rooted them in it.

PuritanReformed said...

Phil:

Prince does ask believers to focus on Christ; that's true. But he also tells people to have faith in God's "promises" even when such "promises" are not made to them (ie certain healing). When you believe that you must have faith for something because God calls upon you to have faith and will grant that thing to you if you have enough faith, then you are having "faith" in "faith"; believing that your amount of faith will determine God's response.

PuritanReformed said...

Faith is a gift (Ephl. 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 12:9), so trying to muster up faith would necessarily creates faith in faith.

Phil said...

Daniel, I agree with what you said about faith. I do think, though, that Joseph focuses on what is laid up in God's grace for the eye of faith to 'see'. When we see God's grace, he sees our faith, and reckons the blessings ours through the vehicle of faith. Not because the faith is inherently meritorious, but because the exerciser of the faith is reckoning on God's goodness and power. I totally agree that if the stress is such that a fleshly mustered 'faith' puts God under obligation to us, that's very wrong. God is no man's debtor. However, at the same time, God is a faithful Creditor out of the infinite worth of his Son's sacrifice. Under necessity of his very nature, he honours that in his loving wisdom. And I do think as we grow in both the knowledge of Christ, and our knowledge of our qualification 'in him', we naturally exercise more faith, more purely, and God honours that-not because it puts him under obligation out of debt to our faith- but because He's put himself 'for' the one who counts on his goodness out of the super-abounding riches laid up in Christ. The believer with the smallest faith has access to the fulness of those riches, but their manifestation in the present-grace upon grace-requires faith in 'the faith of Christ'...Don't want to make 'faith' a work, but at the same time, don't want to think that because it's a gift, that means it doesn't proceed to a volitional, active element, and God doesn't 'answer' it as such...I think Calvin was right to say that true faith is first passive, then active. And he was talking about faith itself, without smuggling works into the definition, then, I presume?...of course, that then naturally proceeds to true works, in which we are thus first passive, then active...One thing that illustrated Joseph's focus on grace producing faith I think, was when he talked about the error and unkindness - which he said he used to do, too- of telling people they weren't healed because they didn't have enough faith. He said that God let him know that he was turning faith into a work that was disqualifying people from laying hold on what had been laid up for them as qualified in Christ...Not a comment on healing per se, but on the nature of faith...I do think as well, that as all the promises are yes and amen in Christ, that any promise rightly discerned through a new covenant lens is God's word of confirmation to us concerning his character and provision in Christ us-ward. God's promise is sure as He is sure, but he gives the promise, the word of his oath, as a covenantal confirmation for our sake, not his. To help our faith, laying hold on who is and what he has done/is doing/will do because of it.

PuritanReformed said...

Phil:

Next time please write coherently.

Either you do not know what Prince actually teaches, or you are purposely being misleading.