by Herman Bavinck
The Call of God
The Call of God
Dear Mr. White, For someone considering converting to Catholicism, what questions would you put to them in order to discern whether or not they have examined their situation sufficiently? Say, a Top 10 list. Thanks.
When I posted this question in our chat channel a number of folks commented that it was in fact a great question, and we started to throw out some possible answers. Here is my "Top Ten List" in response to this fine inquiry.
10) Have you listened to both sides? That is, have you done more than read Rome Sweet Home and listen to a few emotion-tugging conversion stories? Have you actually taken the time to find sound, serious responses to Rome's claims, those offered by writers ever since the Reformation, such as Goode, Whitaker, Salmon, and modern writers? I specifically exclude from this list anything by Jack Chick and Dave Hunt.
9) Have you read an objective history of the early church? I refer to one that would explain the great diversity of viewpoints to be found in the writings of the first centuries, and that accurately explains the controversies, struggles, successes and failures of those early believers?
8) Have you looked carefully at the claims of Rome in a historical light, specifically, have you examined her claims regarding the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers, and all the evidence that exists that stands contrary not only to the universal claims of the Papacy but especially to the concept of Papal Infallibility? How do you explain, consistently, the history of the early church in light of modern claims made by Rome? How do you explain such things as the Pornocracy and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church without assuming the truthfulness of the very system you are embracing?
First, he who truly knows the Lord Jesus to be his savior has been convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sins, misery, and wretchedness. He has learned to know himself as one who is an utterly unholy, ungodly, abominable, and hell-worthy sinner, who is fully subject to the wrath of God, to the curse of the law, and to the power and dominion of sin and Satan. He is greatly concerned, troubled, perplexed, and distraught due to this view and knowledge of his wretched state. He has acquired a lively knowledge and experience of his spiritual impotence. He has learned to see himself as utterly lost due to sin, being entirely “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). He consequently utterly despairs that there is any salvation to be found within himself, and being entirely perplexed and desirous of salvation, begins to cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).
Whoever has not truly had such spiritual conviction of his wretched and utterly lost state (we are here not prescribing what the measure or time-frame should be, that is, how deep or long this should be, but we are only considering the essence of the matter) is yet entirely outside of the Lord Jesus, the savior of the world, and deceives himself in everything that he imagines or appropriates regarding Him and His salvation. Such have never been ready for the grace and salvation of the Lord Jesus, and have never, as a truly perplexed and diseased soul, looked unto this physician.
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. —1 PETER 4:19
Question 28: What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?
Answer: That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.
The words of the apostle Peter, read to you as our text, encompass the very delightful, precious, and comforting duty of believers to be patient and persevering in all their justly deserved adversities and tribulations that befall them here upon earth according to the will of God. It is an exhortation that they grow not slack in faith and sanctification, but rather, that they cast all their burdens upon the Lord their God and “commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” Both in nature and in grace, He will not forsake His creature and the work of His hands, but rather, He will faithfully sustain, preserve, and protect them, and graciously provide all that is needed for time and eternity.
God's own people often suffer great afflictions.
"This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. For I am afflicted all day long!" Psalm 73:12-14
How can this be consistent with God's justice?
'God's ways of judgment are sometimes secret, but never unjust!' The Lord never afflicts His people without a cause; He cannot be unjust towards them.
There is some good in the godly—therefore the wicked afflict them; there is some evil in them—therefore God afflicts them!
God's own children have their blemishes. "But aren't you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God?" 2 Chr. 28:10. These spiritual diamonds—have they no flaws? Do we not read of the spots of God's children? Are not they guilty of much pride, passion, worldliness? Though, by their profession, they should resemble the birds of paradise, to fly above, and feed upon the dew of heaven; yet, as the serpent, they often lick the dust!
The sins of God's people, do more provoke God than the sins of others. "The Lord saw this and was filled with loathing. He was provoked to anger by His own sons and daughters." Deut 32:19. The sins of others pierce Christ's side; the sins of His people wound His heart! Therefore is not God just in all the afflictions which befall them? "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins." Amos 3:2. I will punish you sooner, surer, sorer—than others.
Election is not the whole counsel of redemption, but is a part, the first and principle part, of it. Included and established in that counsel is also the way in which the election is to be actualized - in short, the whole accomplishment and application is redemption. We know that the election was purposed in Christ, and that the counsel of God is not merely a work of the Father, but also a work of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is a Divine work of ther Holy Trinity. In other words the counsel of redemption is itself a covenant - a covenant in which each of the three Persons, so to speak, receives His own work and achieves His own task. The covenant of grace which is raised up in time and is continued from generation to generation is nothing other than the working out and the impression or imprint of the covenant that is fixed in the Eternal Being. As in the counsel of God, so in history each of the Persons appears. The Father is the source, the Son is the Achiever, and the Holy Spirit is the one who applies our salvation. Hence everybody immediately and to the same extent does injustice to the work of the Fsather, the Son, or the Spirit, when he removes the foundation of eternity from time by loosening history from its anchorage in the gracious, almighty Divine Will.
"We shall see Him as He is!" - 1 John 3:2
Then we shall behold Him who died for us, that we might live forevermore; whose matchless love made Him swim through the Red Sea of God's wrath, to make a path in the midst of it for us, by which we might pass safely to our heavenly Canaan. Then we shall see what a glorious one He is, who suffered all this for us! Then shall we be more able to understand, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.
When we shall fully realize that the waters of wrath which He was plunged into, are the wells of salvation from whence we draw all our joy; that we have received the cup of salvation, in exchange for the cup of wrath which He drank — how will our hearts leap within us, burn with seraphic love, as Heaven resounds with our songs of salvation!
We shall eternally, without interruption, feast our eyes upon Him — and be ever viewing His glorious perfections! In Him shall we see everything desirable — and nothing but what is desirable. We shall look into the heart of God, and there see the love He bore to us from all eternity, and the love and goodness He will bear to us forevermore.
We who are heirs of God, the great heritage — shall then enter into a full possession of our inheritance; and the Lord will open His treasures of goodness unto us, that our enjoyment may be full. We shall not be stinted to any measure — but the enjoyment shall go as far as our enlarged capacities can reach. We shall be fully satisfied, and perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of divine goodness.
Our love to the Lord, being purified from the dross of self-love, shall be most pure. We will be all love, when we come to the full enjoyment of God in Heaven, by intuitive and experimental knowledge of Him, by full participation in the divine goodness.