Bavinck Blessings

I recently picked up Herman Bavinck’s substantial work Reformed Dogmatics. It is highly acclaimed as a must-have in works on theology. A fellow blogger and friend added me to a group in which readings are assigned and discussions can begin about the readings. The chapter to be read this week is chapter 5, God’s Communicable Attributes. I am about 4 pages in, but it is excellent.

While I am not a Bavinck scholar, I do want to share blessings that I receive as I read it. What is the first Bavinck blessing?

He writes, “Unlike human knowledge, God’s is not based on observation; it is undivided, simple, unchangeable, eternal.” (179)

That statement is dense, philosophically and theologically. However, it is also dense practically. That is to say, it is a wide-ranging truth that involves our lives. This thought is not simply for ivory tower theologians, it is for the mom of four children. It is not for the erudite scholar, it is for the mechanic.

What is the blessing? God is. There is no aspect of time, past, present, or future that is outside of God’s present being. This has enormous implications and too many for us to unpack in a brief post. However, I want to focus on one thing. In this period of US history, the times are unparalleled (though some could argue it is not, I have not experienced such a monumental shift in culture and society like the last ten years have witnessed). While theologically most Christians will acknowledge that God knows this, Bavinck expands this to a level that is at our grasp (at least in a limited fashion, He is, after all, infinite). His knowledge, contrasted with the limited knowledge of humans, is not based on observation. It incomprehensible, and this is what its practicality lies. He knows all, He is presently in all tenses of time, without any hinderances. What a comfort that is to the believer! As we look to the future, uncertain of the present, and longing for the past, God’s knowledge is undivided, simply, unchangeable, and eternal.


You can purchase Reformed Dogmatics here.

Guided by Gurnall: Part Thirteen

It has been a while since I picked up William Gurnall’s mammoth book, The Christian in Complete Armour. However, I began reading it again, and as usual, my soul is blessed. I want to share a few quotes from the small section I read for your benefit. Let me encourage you, purchase this book! It will be a blessing to your soul as well.

In this section, Gurnall is describing the reason why Christians must be armed against the enemies of our souls. He divides this section up in various ways, but the section I read today addressed the stratagems of Satan. He offers five stratagems. We will not reiterate them here, but I do want to highlight a few.

First, he speaks of the stratagem of deceit. Gurnall writes, “He hands out false colours, and comes up to the Christian in the disguise of a friend, so that the gates are opened to him, and his motions received with applause, before either is discovered.” (75) He then goes on to discuss the different ways Satan deceives us (with several examples from Scripture). But his final statement bears repeating. “O what need have we to study the Scriptures, our hearts, and Satan’s wiles, that we may not bid this enemy welcome, and all the while think it is Christ that is our guest!” (75)

The devil is deceitful, far more deceitful than we can conceive. What is Gurnall’s advice? Study the Scriptures! Devote yourself to the Word of God. Study your own heart. Learn what tempts you. Study your propensities to deception. Finally, study the devil’s wiles. Learn how he operates. Look to the Word of God for example after example. You will be ready to withstand Satan’s wiles.

The second stratagem is Satan’s ability to gain what Gurnall calls “intelligence.” (75) Gurnall draws a graphic picture in our minds, “Satan is the greatest intelligencer in the world’ he makes it his business to inquire into the inclinations, thoughts, affections, purposes of the creature, that finding which humour abounds, he may apply himself accordingly,–[finding] which way the stream goes, that he may open the passage of temptation, and cut the channel to the fall of the creature’s affections, and not force it against the torrent of nature.” (76) How I need to study the Scriptures with this same intensity! Our enemy is tireless, always giving himself to studying his prey and their habits. What a humbling reality this is!

In another section describing the subtleties of the devil, Gurnall makes a comment that is profound, and one that for me helps me understand how some individuals who become popular leaders leave the faith. It also describes those popular teachers who are discovered to be wicked men and women. Gurnall states, “Yes, such is the policy of Stan, and the frailty of the best, that the most holy men have been his instruments to seduce others.” (82) I immediately thought of Ravi Zacharias, who happens to be the most recent example of this subtlety. While we should still be shocked, we should also remember that Satan uses well-known teachers and preachers to bring dishonor to the name of God.

These are a few thoughts that we would do well to heed. After so many years, we are still guided by Gurnall.

Purchase the book here!

For more guidance from Gurnall, check out the previous posts:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Twelve

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

“What is love?” Jay Adams and the Idea of Love

“What is love?”

How would you answer that?

Love is a feeling.

Love is an emotion.

Love is getting a dozen roses.

Love is….

We complete that sentence with all sorts of ideas and concepts. What it boils down to, however, is two philosophies: biblical love and unbiblical love.

I have been reading through The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling by Jay Adams. Though I do not agree with everything in Adams’ book, I found his treatment on love helpful. Regardless of whether you engage in biblical counseling, we need to have a biblical concept of love. This will benefit our lives as well as others. It will also dispel the clouds of confusion that so easily fog our thinking.

Unbiblical LoveBiblical Love
“The philosophy is that love happens. ” (150)“Love is giving–giving of oneself to another.” (151)
“Love is not something to work at; it just happens.” (150)“It is not getting, as the world says today.” (151)
“Love comes full blown from the head of Aphrodite.” (150)“It is not feeling and desire; it is not something over which one has no control.” (151)
“It’s the kind of thing that just is or isn’t.” (150)“It is something that one does for another.” (151)
“It isn’t something you develop, it isn’t something that grows, it isn’t something that you work hard to achieve, it isn’t a thinking thing, and it certainly isn’t something that you can will.” (150)“Non one loves in the abstract.” (151)
“It is something that happens. And when it happens, it happens in such a way that you know that it has happened!” (150)“Love is an attitude that issues forth in something that actually, tangibly happens.” (151)
Adams’ discussion of love

Obviously, this is not exhaustive (or, theologically rigorous). However, it does provide us with a great table to navigate in our discussions with people about love and the Scriptures.

What is love? Adams provides us with an excellent answer.

Ought everyone to believe there is a God?


The second question and answer of the Baptist Catechism is,

Q. 2: Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

A. 2: Everyone ought to believe there is a God; and it is their great sin and folly who do not.


Last week we established that the beginning point for our life with God (and truly, all life) is God. Logically, the Catechism moves from that foundational thought to humanity. Because God is the first and chiefest being, then, what is humanity’s response to be?

This involves belief. The Catechism provides two supporting Scriptures for us to consider Hebrews 11:6 and Psalm 14:1. Let’s look at these Scriptures first, and then we can more effectively unpack the Catechisms teaching.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”—Hebrews 11:6, ESV

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”—Psalm 14:1, ESV

The verse from Hebrews is extremely profitable for our question and answer. If God is the first and chiefest being, then it makes sense that we must believe in Him. The author of Hebrews posts it in an even more significant way, informing us that without faith (i.e., belief) humanity cannot please God. It is impossible.

Furthermore, it is not enough simply to believe. The author of Hebrews says, “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he [God] exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (My emphasis). There are many that believe in God (or, perhaps more accurately, a god), but belief is as far as it goes. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that mere belief is not enough. Belief in God as first and chiefest being should change the way in which we live (i.e., that God rewards obedience positively and punishes disobedience negatively). Question 6 will address this idea further.

Additionally, if God is the first and chiefest being, it makes sense that humanity would want to be close to Him. We read in Hebrews 11:6, “whoever would draw near to God,” which implies that there are some who would not draw near (a point that is addressed with Psalm 14:1).

If God is the first and chiefest being, then yes, everyone ought to believe that there is a God.

We could say more about Hebrews 11:6, but now let us turn our attention to Psalm 14:1. Ought everyone to believe there is a God? Yes, but what about those who do not? The Catechism teaches us that this unbelief is a “great sin and folly.”

The psalmist offers much that helps us understand this great sin and folly. First, it is a belief that stems from the innermost part of the unbeliever’s being (i.e., the heart). Books, articles, and monographs have been written upon this subject, but at the heart (forgive me!) of the matter is that the Hebrew way of thinking about one’s heart concerned the entirety of the being’s mental and emotional decision-making factory.

Second, we see that the unbeliever’s life opposes God. “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” In other words, they are depraved. Beeke and Smalley’s definition of total depravity is helpful, “Total depravity means that corruption infects the whole person and stains every act he performs.”[1] Correlation does not equal causation. However, there is a connection between a refusal to believe in God and act in accordance to His truth, and that connection is found in total depravity. Paul teaches us this in Eph. 2:1-3 and Rom. 3:9-18 (which also quotes our psalm).


How can we apply this to our daily lives? I see at least three ways.

First, we must believe that there is a God. He is the first and chiefest being, therefore we should trust in Him (as stated in Heb. 11:6). Belief also requires knowledge. In other words, I cannot believe in gravity if I do not have any idea of what it is or what is means. We are working on the foundational knowledge that God exists and that He is the greatest being. Our goal, then, should be to expand this knowledge. We will deal with this in question three, however, we need to ask ourselves if we are developing our knowledge. If you believe in God, you will!

Second, our lives should demonstrate a belief in God. That is, we should live differently if we believe that God exists. We have already discussed this from a positive standpoint, so we will not reiterate this point again. However, we should apply this belief to our actions. If we say we believe in God, but our lives do not demonstrate this, then we are lying to ourselves and others. James tells it like this, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22, NRSV).

Third, we must guard our hearts against unbelief. While we rejoice in God’s goodness in allowing our depraved hearts to be regenerated, we also acknowledge that sin can find its way into our hearts in the form of unbelief. Solomon warns us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23, NRSV). Guard your heart against the great sin and folly of unbelief. This can be applied to a variety of situations. We can doubt God’s Word that He will provide for all our needs (cf. Matt. 6:33). We can doubt God’s Word that He will be with us all the time (cf. Matt. 28:20). The list could go on, but I think we get the picture. We must guard our hearts against unbelief.

[1] Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 404.

Who is the first and chiefest being?

(Originally posted at, used with permission)

Today we begin a new series through the Baptist Catechism. Unfortunately, when many hear (or, in this case, read) the word catechism they think of Roman Catholics. This, as I said, is unfortunate, for the Church has historically used catechisms to teach children and adults the theology of the Scriptures. (If you are interested in looking into the history of catechesis, I recommend this thesis: “A Historical Review of Catechesis: Development, Use, and Disuse” by John Kidd.)

Catechisms are structured differently. Some catechisms use the question and answer format (e.g., Baptist Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Others provide a detailed treatment of doctrine and practice (e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church). Each week, we will look at one question and one answer (with the supporting Scripture). We will briefly discuss it, and provide a few suggestions for application.
I have a two-fold goal in working through the Catechism. First, I hope to increase our knowledge of the Scripture and the doctrine we derive from it. Second, I hope our lives increasingly conform to the holiness of God as revealed in His Word.

Without further ado, let us begin.


Question One: Who is the first and chiefest being?Answer One: God is the first and chiefest being.Supporting Scripture: Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; and Psalm 97:9
The question and answer provide the starting point for everything. We are introduced to God. He is described as the first and chiefest being. It is from God that everything else flows. Let’s examine this in a little more detail.


God is the First Being

God is the first, meaning He was present before anything else existed. Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12 both convey the same message: God is first and last. He existed before anything else, and He will outlast everything.

God is the Chiefest Being

Psalm 97:9 teaches us that God is “exalted far above all gods” (ESV). There is nothing that comes close to God. We will see the implications of this truth further into the Catechism (questions 47-86).


This short question provides us with much to consider. Its brevity is profound because it packs a tremendous amount of truth into one question and answer (a theme that runs through the entire Catechism). We can ask ourselves if we truly believe this. How can we tell? Ask yourself the following questions:
· Does my life display that I believe God is the chiefest being? In other words, what do I spend my time thinking about, what do I do?· Does my life display that I worship Him? If He is the first and chiefest being, anything less than perfect worship and obedience is idolatry.

There are many more questions we could ask, but this is a great way to begin our look at the Baptist Catechism.