O the sweet exchange

In his T4G address, “Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?” (audio forthcoming), Dr Ligon Duncan quoted from The Epistle to Diognetus 9:2­–5, a document dated as early as A.D. 117. In the excerpt you can clearly hear an emphasis on justification, imputation, and substitution. Here is the excerpt, taken from Michael W. Holmes’s translation of The Apostolic Fathers [(Baker, 2007), pp 709, 711]:

… when our unrighteousness was fulfilled, and it had been made perfectly clear that its wages—punishment and death—were to be expected, then the season arrived during which God had decided to reveal at last his goodness and power (oh, the surpassing kindness and love of God!). He did not hate us, or reject us, or bear a grudge against us; instead he was patient and forbearing; in his mercy he took upon himself our sins; he himself gave up his own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for the lawless, the guiltless for the guilty, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but his righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous person, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners!

Amen.

On a related note, two years back I sat down with Dr. Duncan to discuss the church fathers. The fruit of that conversation was the audio interview “Patristics for Busy Pastors.”

Bernard of Clairvaux Day

Bernard of Clairvaux died on August 20, 1153. By all accounts, Bernard was a Church Father who understood the doctrine of imputation, that a righteous standing before God required the perfect merits of Christ, received by faith, as opposed to salvation based (even in part) upon personal merit. Missouri Synod (Lutheran) founder C. F. W. Walther wrote of Bernard:

St. Bernard, the famous abbot of Clairvaux, who died in 1153, is a noteworthy example how the most pious and the best of those in the papacy, when they came into great trials, rejected all of their trust in their own human holiness, in their own works and service, and in the intercession of the saints in heaven, and took sole comfort in the all sufficient service of JESUS Christ for their salvation. Even though in his life Bernard had most strictly pursued holiness and had ascribed such a high value to his position as a monk that he considered it as if it were another baptism (Apolog. Ad Builielm. Abb.), he nevertheless confessed when he suddenly cried out for his salvation because of a severe trial: “I confess that I am not worthy of myself nor can I receive heaven through my own service. But my LORD JESUS Christ has a double right to heaven; first because he is by nature its heir, and then because he has earned it through his meritorious suffering. That first right he has for himself, the second he gives me. Through this gift heaven is mine by rights, so I cannot be lost.

FYI: Calvin’s Institutes include over 40 references to the works of Bernard.

FYI: Dr. Danny Aiken’s PhD dissertation covered the soteriology of Bernard (unpublished).

FYI: Bernard wrote hymns, two you may know: O Jesus, King Most Wonderful and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.

HT: CB via Veith

Why read Augustine?

Newly released edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is devoted to the study of the early church preachers and writers (patrology). Nick Needham, a gifted church historian, publishes a fascinating article on why we need to read Augustine today. In part he writes,

“Augustine wrestles endlessly with the most fundamental questions of existence. What can the human mind truly know? What is God? What is truth? What is beauty? What is time? What is history? What is the soul? What is memory? What is faith? What is reason? What is the relationship between faith and reason? What is justice? What is human destiny? What are the proper limits of political action? Where does evil come from? How can we reconcile evil and suffering with a belief in a good and almighty God? Augustine sets the example par excellence of a Christian thinker determined to view the whole of life in the light of his faith, rather than give a little private corner of it to Christ, leaving the rest to be squeezed into the mold of contemporary non-Christian culture.”

-Nick Needham in the journal article, “Augustine of Hippo: The Relevance of His Life and Thought Today.” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (vol. 12, No. 2, Summer 2008 ) p. 39. [download the article as PDF here].

Related: Interview with J. Ligon Duncan on patrology
Related: Review of Nick Needham’s church history books.