justice and grace

There is a passage in the epistle to the Romans which states that the provision of redemption in Christ Jesus, and the setting forth of Christ to be a propitiation, is emphatically something which shows God to be just, as well as the justifier of those that believe in Jesus. Two comments on this passage are as follows.

In The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement, George Smeaton says this.

“The allusion is to the concurrence or harmony of these two attributes of God. The word just, applied to God, means that he asserts just claims and inflicts just punishment. …
This determines the character of the atonement. Such language would be unmeaning, if it were not admitted that the atonement is in the proper sense of the word a satisfaction of divine justice. … And when the apostle adds, ‘that he might be just, and the justifier,’ he alludes to the fact that these two apparently conflicting perfections, justice and grace, meet in full harmony on the cross: justice suffers no violence, and grace has full outlet.”

Matthew Henry in his Commentary says this.

“He declares his righteousness, first, in the propitiation itself. It appears [or is made apparent] that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. Finding sin, though but imputed, upon his own Son, he did not spare him, because he had made himself sin for us. Secondly, [he declares his righteousness] in the pardon upon that propitiation. It is now become not only an act of grace and mercy, but an act of righteousness, in God, to pardon the sins of penitent believers, having accepted the satisfaction that Christ by dying made to his justice for them. He is just, that is, faithful to his word.”

Two things need to be borne in mind in considering God’s justice in the scheme of vicarious atonement. One is what the puritans spoke of as the exceeding sinfulness of sin, which the whole discussion makes no sense without. The other is the concept of imputation, and the reality of the transaction that that term describes. Neither of which I’m in a position to develop right now, but it’s worth putting the markers down.

NB: I’m unlikely to be back online now until Wednesday at the earliest. Feel free to carry on, but I might not read it till Thursday.

making us unfree

Here’s a recent article by AC Grayling on the government’s latest effort to chip a little bit more away from our freedoms: “In the Queen’s speech this autumn Gordon Brown’s government will announce a scheme to institute a database of every telephone call, email, and act of online usage by every resident of the UK. It will propose that this information will be gathered, stored, and “made accessible” to the security and law enforcement agencies, local councils, and “other public bodies”.”

He says,

“This fact should be in equal parts incredible and nauseating. It is certainly enraging and despicable. Not even George Orwell in his most febrile moments could have envisaged a world in which every citizen could be so thoroughly monitored every moment of the day, spied upon, eavesdropped, watched, tracked, followed by CCTV cameras, recorded and scrutinised. Our words and web searches, our messages and intimacies, are to be stored and made available to the police, the spooks, the local council – the local council! – and “other public bodies”.

[Our politicians claim to be protecting us:] protecting us – by making us all suspects, all potential criminals and terrorists – from terrorism and criminality. Well: the first duty of our politicians should be to protect our liberties, and to encourage us to see that liberty carries risks, which we should be trusted to understand and accept so that we can make our own lives our own way. But no: these politicians – Brown and Labour, once the party of the people – are going to keep us safe by not keeping our liberties safe; they are going to keep us safe by making us unfree. Yet the putative benefit of protecting us from terrorism and crime is unattainable. They themselves say ‘there is no 100% guarantee of safety’: but they are going to spy on us all anyway! In fact they are going to create crime: a huge new criminal industry awaits for stealing, copying, falsely creating and manipulating that newly-created precious commodity, “identity”. A huge new impetus awaits for techno-crime to disrupt the monitoring and data storage systems on which the government intends to spend billions of our tax money, creating its unblinking eye in our bedrooms. As surely as night follows day, the new surveillance society will do more harm than good.

the grammaticality fairy

Over on Language Log, Geoff Pullum argues that this sentence is “clearly ungrammatical”:

  • This accounts for the fact that family sizes of seven, eight, or nine children were common in the nineteenth century but rare today.

– he argues that it doesn’t conform to the syntactic conditions on ellipsis (ie when you supply “were”, you end up with “family sizes of seven … were rare today”, which is illegitimate in English). The facts of syntax, he says, demand that when you have sentences of the form Verb1 + Adjective-phrase + Coordinator + Verb2 + Adjective-phrase, then Verb1 and Verb2 must share the same tense inflection (or both must be untensed) in order for the ellipsis to be possible (ie Verb + Adjective-phrase + Coordinator + Adjective-phrase).

There are several serious commenters expressing reluctance to accept this – and I hate to say it, but I can’t help agreeing. Shimon Edelman says,

The ontological status of “facts of syntax” (or grammaticality that’s independent from acceptability) is the same as that of the tooth fairy: there is no independent empirical evidence for it, and phenomena attributed to it can be better explained by other means.

It’s also reminiscent of this discussion we had earlier in a more phonology-oriented context:

As John Cowan says, “what people (as opposed to parsers) make when they react to natural-language utterances are not grammaticality judgements but acceptability judgements.”

Also a heads-up: I’ll be away from the computer all day tomorrow, and probably for most of Wednesday as well.

the means are decreed

Having just quoted what Boston says on how to live and act within a providence – and a scheme of redemption – that has been foreordained down to the last detail, I’ve now unearthed a note of something similar to go along with it.

God, having most certainly decreed everything, executes everything irresistibly – not in an unnatural, compulsory manner, but in harmony with the nature of his creatures.

Keep yourselves from using unlawful means, for then you are losing sight of God’s decree, thus expecting it from the means.

Use lawful means, and use them with the desire that God’s counsel would be accomplished, rather than having the intent to change it.

It was apparently said by Wilhelmus à Brakel (although I’m afraid I don’t have a reference for it in his own works).

the means he has appointed

Here is a lengthy excerpt from Thomas Boston’s famous book – the part where he explodes the myth that since sinners are so sinful as to be unable to save themselves, therefore there is no need to concern ourselves about our own salvation. He clearly explains that we must have a care for our own souls, and that we must express that care by making use of the ways and means that are provided in the gospel for sinners to draw near to God – particularly, reading the scriptures and praying for help.

Objection 3: But all this is needless, seeing we are utterly unable to help ourselves out of the state of sin and wrath.

Answer: Give not place to that delusion, which puts asunder what God has joined, namely, the use of means and a sense of our own impotency. If ever the Spirit of God graciously influence your souls, you will become thoroughly sensible of your absolute inability, and yet enter upon a vigorous use of means. You will do for yourselves, as if you were to do all, and yet overlook all you do, as if you had done nothing. Will you do nothing for yourselves because you cannot do all? Lay down no such impious conclusion against your own souls. Do what you can; and, it may be, while you are doing what you can for yourselves, God will do for you what you cannot. ‘Understandest thou what thou readest?’ said Philip to the eunuch; ‘How can I,’ said he, ‘except some man should guide me?’ (Acts 8:30-31). He could not understand the Scripture he read, yet he could read it: he did what he could, he read; and while he was reading, God sent him an interpreter. The Israelites were in a great strait at the Red Sea; and how could they help themselves, when on the one hand were mountains, and on the other the enemy in pursuit; when Pharaoh and his host were behind them, and the Red Sea before them? What could they do? ‘Speak unto the children of Israel,’ said the Lord to Moses, ‘that they go forward’ (Ex. 14:15). For what end should they go forward? Can they make a passage to themselves through the sea? No; but let them go forward, saith the Lord: though they cannot turn the sea to dry land, yet they can go forward to the shore. So they did; and when they did what they could, God did for them what they could not do.

Question: Has God promised to convert and save those who, in the use of means, do what they can towards their own relief?

Answer: We may not speak wickedly for God; natural men, being strangers to the covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12), have no such promise made to them. Nevertheless they do not act rationally unless they exert the powers they have, and do what they can.

For, 1. It is possible this course may succeed with them. If you do what you can, it may be, God will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves. This is sufficient to determine a man in a matter of the utmost importance, such as this is (Acts 8:22), ‘Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee.’ (Joel 2:14), ‘Who knoweth if he will return?’ If success may be, the trial should be. If, in a wreck at sea, all the sailors and passengers betake themselves each to a broken board for safety, and one of them should see all the rest perish, notwithstanding their utmost endeavor to save themselves, yet the very possibility of escaping by that means would determine that one still to do his best with his board. Why then do not you reason with yourselves, as the four lepers did who sat at the gate of Samaria? (2 Kings 7:3-4). Why do you not say, ‘If we sit still,’ not doing what we can, ‘we die;’ let us put it to a trial; if we be saved, ‘we shall live;’ if not, ‘we shall but die?’

2. It is probable this course may succeed; God is good and merciful; He loves to surprise men with His grace, and is often ‘found of them that sought him not’ (Isa. 65:1). If you do this, you are so far in the road of your duty, and you are using the means, which the Lord is wont to bless for men’s spiritual recovery: you lay yourselves in the way of the great Physician, and so it is probable you may be healed. Lydia went, with others, to the place ‘where prayer was wont to be made;’ and ‘the Lord opened her heart’ (Acts 16:13-14). You plough and sow, though nobody can tell you for certain that you will get so much as your seed again: you use means for the recovery of your health, though you are not sure they will succeed. In these cases probability determines you; and why not in this also? Importunity, we see, does very much with men. Therefore pray, meditate, desire help of God, be much at the throne of grace, supplicating for grace, and do not faint. Though God regard you not, who in your present state are but one mass of sin, universally depraved, and vitiated in all the powers of your soul, yet He may regard prayer, meditation, and the like means of His own appointment, and He may bless them to you. Wherefore, if you will not do what you can, you are not only dead, but you declare yourselves unworthy of eternal life.

Thomas Boston, Human Nature in its Fourfold State. First published Banner of Truth

theta rolls for phonologists

While Antony Worrall Thomson recommends spicing up your salads with henbane, the Linguist List has some alternative suggestions.

Assimilation Delish

1 small vocalic system
2 voiceless obstruents
2 alveolar sibilants
1 tsp of homorganic riser

Cooking Instructions
First, carefully wash all vowels until all nasality disappears.
Fully open the mid-high vowels over a white cloth, and let them settle until the drift subsides. Heat up a large, non-stick syllabic structure (CCVCC works best). When smoking, carefully place all the vowels in cardinal order (important!) and let them lengthen a little. Place the voiceless obstruents in between the gaps, stirring slowly with a wooden palatograph. When the obstruents voice, place the alveolar sibilants on top of the front vowels and press firmly until all sibilants palatalize.
Remove from system before general unrounding occurs.
Accent to taste with homorganic riser and serve hot by itself or as an accompaniment to dialect soup.

See also Diglossia with Onion Rings and Post-Creole Continuum Roll

Apologies to the non-linguists.

little sinners

Robert Traill says:

“The greater the sinner be, the greater is his need of a Saviour, and the saving of the chief of sinners brings the chief honour and glory to the Saviour. … Though there be greater and smaller sins and sinners, yet no man ever did, or can, believe as a little sinner.

Least, and less than the least, of all saints, we find [a great saint saying], Eph 3:8. But never did any true saint either think or call himself a little sinner. For as no man that seeth sin truly can call any sin small or little, so no man that seeth himself to be a sinner really can count himself a small or a little sinner. Nor can it ever be, till there be a little law to break, a little God to offend, a little guilt to contract, and a little wrath to incur. All which are impossible to be, blasphemy to wish, and madness to expect.”