Monthly Archives: November 2006

More on Dawkins’ "The God Delusion"

This review of Dawkins’ The God Delusion was recommended by Carl Trueman at Ref21, who said it was brilliant and hilarious. If Trueman, who is pretty funny himself, said it was funny, then it must be. And it is. Check it out.
Also at Ref21, a biographical sketch of one of my favourite theologians of the past: Herman Bavinck.
And, Derek Thomas reviews Stephen Williams’ excellent book on Nietzche called The Shadow of the Antichrist. Which I’ve read most of and thoroughly enjoyed.
So, it’s a Ref21 day.
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Mogwai – Acid Food (live)

I can’t stop listening to the studio version of this song by the Scottish alt-rock band Mogwai. It’s so beautiful. The whole album is amazing.

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Galleton Book Distribution Agency

For all of you book lovers out there, check out the Galleton Book Distribution Agency for your rare book needs. You know the Irish and their love of books! Surely you will find someting that piques your interest!
I was thankful that they searched me out and put me in contact with a fan of Alexander Carson. The benefits of the Internet age (and vices I might add) are astounding!
This link, on how to care for your books, is especially helpful.

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Rise of "Creationism" in UK Schools

First of all, let me just point out that Intelligent Design is not creationism. It’s peurile to think that it is and bears a certain amount of ignorance to insist the contrary. Intelligent Design is mere observation of an obvious fact, something that numerous Darwinians recognise. To say that it is not science is laughable.
There, with that out of my gut, let me point you to an article in The Guardian that reports on the number of schools teaching “creationism” (I think they mean Intelligent Design – see above paragraph for my rant). Mr. Willis ought to read a little more on the subject, maybe he wouldn’t be so flabbergasted.
Kudos to those Britons who are making a stand for – gasp – science!
[HT: AOMin]

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Ussher on Solid Ground

Finally!!!!
Solid Ground Christian Books is finally publishing their reprint of James Ussher’s Body of Divinity. This has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I do, however, have a facsimile of the original (tks., C G great intro). But this newer, fancier one’ll be cool.
For those who don’t know, in about a year and half’s time (DV), Ussher will become one of my closes friends – for at least three years.

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62% eh? Is that all?

The Times recently published an article about a study done in Germany showing that there is a sixty-two percent likelihood that God exists.
As devestating as that may sound to an atheist, like Dawkins as the article points out, I don’t like the numbers. I prefer applying the transcendental argument to the question, because I much prefer the answer it gives: 100% certainty.

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Church Plant in Calgary

For those of you interested, my good friend Clint is involved in a church plant in Calgary, Alberta. I have had many a conversation with Clint about his burden for the west and I am very glad to see that things are beginning, if even in some small measure.
To find out more go to his post at Blessed Union.

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Answers in Genesis

This past Saturday night the Jarvis Street Baptist Church college & career group hosted a talk by Rod Martin, Senior Director of New Media for Answers in Genesis. I was excited about this event, because I have heard very good things about AiG. A while ago I had read a book by Ken Ham that I thought hit heavily at the religious foundations of evolutionary theory. I also have a friend who really struggled intellectually when trying to reconcile the evolution he had been taught in university and the creationism of the Bible; he saw AiG last year and came out a convinced creationist. If they could do such a good job at convincing him, I figured they must be good.
Rod Martin’s presentation was well done. It was clear, engaging, funny and definitely communicated his point. He began by addressing the so-called “new atheism” of men like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. These are secular intellectuals who have been travelling around North America propagating their new brand of atheism to great effect. Martin gave a long quote by Dawkins explaining why God, if he exists, is a bully and why it is dangerous to believe in him.
The point of Martin’s lecture was to show why the Book of Genesis is important. It was less scientific and more for those Christians who might struggle with the question of “Why does it matter?” He provided seven reasons why the Book of Genesis is relevant and important for the issues of today. These are essentially seven reasons why Christians can trust their Bible.
1) Internal unity: it took 1600 years to write 66 books with 40 authors who had 19 occupations in 11 different locations writing in three languages. Yet in all of this diversity, there is a great unity in the message of Christ.
2) Historical accuracy: here he didn’t really explain his point, but rather showed how naturalism reads evidence through naturalistic glasses and then explained why the Hebrew word “yom” in the Bible meant 24 hour literal days. He did mention the familiar story of the Hittites who had recently been discovered by archaeologists, thus debunking the debunkers who said they didn’t exist and the Bible was false.
3) Scientific accuracy: here Martin gave examples from the Bible of quotes that comport with what we now know scientifically, that maybe weren’t always accepted in the past. For instance, Job spoke of the earth being suspended in the sky by God; Jeremiah refers to the stars as numberless; Isaiah said the earth was a circle (not flat); and other such examples.
4) Prophetic accuracy: the example given to show the accuracy of prophecy in the Bible is from Ezekiel 26 where the prophet exclaimed the downfall of Tyre, and how to this day Tyre is no more.
5) The Bible’s honesty: the Bible is honest about itself and its characters. Most historians of the past, when writing of their own nation’s history, only mention the good and leave out the bad. The Bible on the other hand makes no bones about how bad many of the key characters were apart from God’s grace: David had an affair with Bethsheba and had her husband killed; Jonah outright defied God; Paul killed Christians; John wanted to see a whole city destroyed, etc.
6) Nothing else answers the important questions of life: the Bible provides answers to such questions as where we come from; why there is evil in the world; where marriage came from, etc.
7) Faith: and of course, as any Christian should affirm, the veracity of the Bible is something that ultimately must be understood by faith.
I must admit, as a Christian, I did not find everything that Rod Martin said too compelling. It was good to be reminded of certain of these things about the Bible’s reliability, but I don’t think that he made the case for unbelievers. Every one of the points provided have been and will continually be derided by non-Christians. Just because the Bible is honest about itself doesn’t make it true (5); maybe the Bible provides answers, but what arguments were given to show they were good answers? (6); how do we know that fulfilled prophecy wasn’t just made up, or that the dates for prophetic books were written after the events? (4); but science and religion don’t mix! Do they? (3); who cares if the Hittites were discovered, this is just one area where it shows the Bible has some accurate history, it doesn’t make the whole thing accurate (2); there is no unity, what about all of the contradictions? (1) and of course Christians have to take it on all on faith, isn’t faith what Christians have when they can’t explain things? It’s a cop out.
Of course, I believe every single one of Rod’s points, don’t get me wrong. What I am here saying is that I don’t think he really did the job of convincing non-believers using these evidences.
At one point, in the Q & A period, a gentleman asked Rod the question, “How do we answer Richard Dawkins’ claim that God is evil, a bully, a woman-hater, etc?” Sadly, Rod didn’t answer the question and danced around it a little. Yet it to answer it would have devestated Richard Dawkins’ arguments against Christianity altogether.
What foundation does Dawkins appeal to to determine right or wrong? Based upon his own assertion, human beings are merely products of evolution and have no intrinsic value. We are all random pieces of matter with nerve endings, and though we may be more sophisticated in our construction than a cockroach, we really aren’t that much different. Who cares about right and wrong, and if belief in God is evil? What is evil?
The very fact that Dawkins, or Harris, or any other atheist can mention and understand the word “evil” and use it proves that in their heart of hearts they know God. Only Christianity can account for evil, therefore only people who know God can properly speak about it. When Dawkins speaks of evil, he is unwittingly presupposing Christianity. He is using, as Van Til would say, “borrowed capital.” Quite frankly, when Dawkins strings two words together in a sentence, he is proving the existence of the Christian God. For only the Christian God is behind the logic and order behind language and communication.
I really do wish that Rod Martin had dealt the more foundational issues of Christianity versus evolution. Had he done so, I believe all of his hearers would have been better equipped. And he would have done a greater job at closing the mouth of the lady who was there who was so antagonistic to the faith.

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Owen: A Light Amidst the Deepest Dark

It was discussed last week in Pastoral Theology that sin is like gravity. It never sleeps, it does its job without fail, and always works against us.
Recent events in the lives of a number of Christian men that I know have given me pause to remember the sin that strives against me daily. Some have fallen outright, others to a lesser degree and still others are on the verge. This grieves me deeply, not only because it is so sad to see a Christian fall, but because it forces me to see the sin in my own life.
But God is working providentially through these varying situations. Often He encourages His people with little gifts. Recently, He has given me a great gift in the book The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace by that all-wise Puritan John Owen. It has been a balm to my soul as I have struggled through the anger I feel toward sinning brethren, and the sorrow I feel for my own sin.
Here is one of the many penetrating questions that Owen, who writes near the “end of his pilgrimmage,” directs toward his readers:
On this our duty it is to call ourselves to an account as to our endeavour after a gracious view of this glory of Christ: When did we steadily behold it? When had we such a view of it as where our souls have been satisfied and refreshed? It is declared and represented to us as one of the chief props of our faith, as a help of our joy, as an object of our hope, as a ground of our consolation, as our greatest encouragement to obedience and suffering (p. 126).
Thank you God for directing Owen’s words to my heart. May I always endeavour to attain a view of the glory of Christ. May my sin shrivel in the brilliant light of Christ my glorious Saviour and Mediator.

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Milton Friedman Died

Economist Milton Friedman died yesterday at the age of 94. I thought I would share a story that I received in my email by Walter Block about some things not everyone knows about Friedman.

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More Letters to Atheists

This time it’s not Doug Wilson, but David Robertson of the Free Church of Scotland. And he’s not writing to Sam Harris, instead his letters are directed to Richard Dawkins. The subject of the letters revolve around Dawkins’ latest diatribe against Christianity: The God Delusion.
It is pretty neat that Dawkins posted the letters on his website. I’ll give him kudos for that. But that’s about it.
HT: Ref21

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"Purpose Driven" Observation

I am currently reading through chapters 1, 2 and 4 of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church and noticed an inconsistency in his discussion about the relationship between the size of a church and its quality of ministry.
On page 50 he addresses the third in a series of myths that he has observed about “megachurches.” This third myth is “You must choose between quality and quantity in your church.” And while I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiment — I believe that large churches can have good quality (i.e. MacArthur’s church) — I’ve noticed a logical inconsistency in his argument.
On page 52 he makes a very agreeable statement: “There is no correlation between the size and the quality of a ministry.” This is true. I’ve been to very small churches that were very good, and I’ve been to small ones that were horrible. I have also experienced the converse, namely, large churches that have been good and ones that were bad. A good church is defined by fidelity to the Word of God and obedience to Christ.
But, do Warren’s previous comments bear out this statement? It doesn’t seem so to me. In fact, it would appear that Warren is arguing that big churches are better.
1) “It is also true that quantity creates quality in some areas of church life. For instance, the bigger our church gets, the better your music gets. Would you rather sing with eleven people or eleven hundred people?”
2) “Would you rather be a part of a single-adult program with two people or two hundred people?”
3) “If a quality is inherent in smallness, then, logically, the highest quality churches would consist of only one person!”
4) “…one reason that many churches remain small is because there is little quality in the life and ministry in those churches.”
5) “What if your parents had applied the quality verses quantity myth to having children? What if, after their first child, they had said, ‘One kid is enough. Let’s focus on making this child a quality kid. Let’s not worry about quantity.’ Most of us wouldn’t be here if our parents had thought that!”
In attempting to dispel Myth #3, which in general I agree with him on, I don’t believe he really does a good job. It appears to me that he does believe that quantity is better than quality, even if only because he thinks quantity leads to quality. But why is that logically necessary?
I would prefer to hear an emphasis on fidelity to Christ both in terms of quality and quantity. It would have put the focus in the right place, namely the sovereignty of Christ, and it would have made the quantity question irrelevant. Big or small, are you being faithful to Christ???

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Doug Wilson Writes to Sam Harris

Doug Wilson has recently started a new series on his blog, answering a book called Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. The book is written as an attack (yet another) on Christianity and is ranked quite highly at Amazon.com. In his brilliant way, Wilson takes up the mantle of disarming Harris’ arguments. He does so in a way like unto Harris’ book, for he writes them as “Letter to Mr. Harris.” It’s a great lesson in how presuppositional apologetics can be very easy and conversational, yet absolutely devestating to any unbelieving opposition.

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Paper Given Last Year at TBS

“Face to face”: The vision of God in Augustine’s Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Introduction

There are many dates in history that carry significant importance when one has occasion to be reminded of them. Frequently we catch reference to certain dates or times that instantaneously conjure the memories of an event in world history. For instance, when one hears the words “Pearl Harbour” thoughts of the infamous attack by the Japanese on American warships stationed in Hawaii come to mind. In more recent history, for one to hear the words “September 11th” there isn’t need to think too far back in history to recall the insidious display of evil as the World Trade Centre buildings were destroyed by Islamic terrorists.[1]
Another date that conjures important thoughts, especially for Christians, is “A.D. 70,” when the Roman army besieged Jerusalem destroying the Jewish temple. For centuries the destruction of the temple and the possible rebuilding of it has been the subject of various theological debates in Christendom.
There is one final, often neglected date that has had drastic importance in the shaping of western culture, and that is “A.D. 410.” This marks the year when a Barbarian leader named Alaric and his Visigoth hordes sacked the imperial city of Rome.
As much as westerners were rightly shocked and dismayed as airliners crashed into the “twin towers” of New York City, the horror in the minds of the Roman citizens throughout the known world as Rome fell must have been unspeakable. David Knowles recalls it as a “psychological shock without parallel.”[2] Literally the unthinkable happened and the impenetrable city of Rome succumbed to defeat. Although the eventual splitting of the Empire would not occur for another sixty-six years, the fall of the “Eternal City” was momentous to the Empire’s people. As Jerome (ca. 347-419) could say from far away Bethlehem, “Rome, capturer of the world, fell captive.”[3] Or even more comprehensively, “The whole world perished in one city.”[4]
Incredulity in the minds of the Romans could easily be compared to what the American people might think were Osama Bin Laden to take over the White House. If such an invasion were to happen westerners the world over would be utterly dismayed.
When Rome fell many were at a loss to explain how it could have happened. Various answers were offered, but the one that caught on quickly involved the growing influence of Christianity in the public square. As Christianity developed and the gospel spread through missionary ventures such as those exampled by the Apostle Paul, many pagans began to worry. The increasing worship of the true God brought decrease in pagan idol worship. Eventually, with the coming of the Emperor Constantine, Christianity would displace pagan superstition as the religion of the Empire. The fall of Rome was looked upon as judgment from the gods whose worship had been forsaken. Many believed that Christianity and its adherents were directly to blame. As Vernon Bourke observed,

Throughout the Roman world, astonishment was followed by recrimination: one persistent rumor was that Christianity had sapped the strength of Rome. The officials and citizenry of Rome were still divided into Christian and pagan groups. It takes no powers of imagination to picture the situation.[5]

It was at this tumultuous time that a bishop named Augustine (354-430), residing in Roman North Africa, was asked to provide an apologia for the Christian faith.[6] Approached by a Roman official in North Africa named Marcellinus in 412 A.D., Augustine began writing what he referred to as “a great and arduous work, magnum opus et arduum”[7] that would take him thirteen years to complete.
Augustine, in his Retractationes, explains his reason for writing,

…Rome was destroyed as a result of an invasion of the Goths under the leadership of King Alaric, and of the violence of this great disaster. The worshipers of many false gods, whom we call by the customary name pagans, attempting to attribute its destruction to the Christian religion, began to blaspheme the true God more sharply and bitterly than usual. And so, “burning with zeal for the house of God,”[8] I decided to write the books, On the City of God, in opposition to their blasphemies and errors.[9]

A prolific writer with a ferocious intellect, history has proven that Augustine was the right choice to defend Christianity against pagan naysayers.[10] The resulting twenty-two book literary masterpiece has become one of the world’s most famous treasures from late antiquity.[11]
Entitled The City of God Against the Pagans, Augustine provided not only a powerful defence of Christianity against the paganism of his day, but an enduring commendation of Christianity that transcends its time. It is said that the Emperor Charlemagne, who was illiterate, would have important books read to him while he ate. One of his favourites was The City of God. According to E.R. Hardy, Jr., “[h]istorians have seen in this an indication that [Charlemagne] found in St. Augustine’s City of God an inspiration for the Christian Empire he hoped to revive in the changed world of the eighth-ninth century.”[12]

Outline and theme of The City of God

The City of God is divided into twenty-two books and is fairly easy to navigate in terms of its overall structure. Augustine himself provides an outline to it in his later work Retractationes,

The first five of these books refute those persons who would so view the prosperity of human affairs that they think that the worship of many gods whom the pagans worship is necessary for this; they contend that these evils arise and abound because they are prohibited from doing so. The next five books, however, speak against those who admit that these evils have never been wanting and never will be wanting to mortals, and that these, at one time great, at another time slight, vary according to places, times, and persons; and yet they argue that the worship of many gods, whereby sacrifice is offered to them, is useful because of the life to come after death. In these ten books, then, these two false beliefs, contrary to the Christian religion are refuted.
But lest anyone charge that we have only argued against the beliefs of others, and have not stated our own, it is just this that the second part of this work, which consists of twelve books, accomplishes; although, when there is need, both in the first ten books I state my own opinions, and, in the last twelve, I argue against those opposed to them. The first four of the following twelve books, then deal with the origin of the two cities, one of which is of God, the other of this world; the next four books treat of their growth or progress; but the third four books, which are also the last, deal with their destined ends. And so, although the entire twenty-two books were written about both cities, yet, they have taken their title from the better one, and consequently are called, On the City of God.[13]

In a letter to Firmus Augustine explains how he would like the books to be divided for easy binding,

There are twenty-two fascicles, which are a good many to reduce to one volume. And if you want it done in two volumes, they should be divided so that one has ten books; the other twelve. For in the first ten there is a refutation of the vain pretensions of the wicked; in the last twelve our religion is proved and defended; although this same theme is also treated in the former books where it is relevant, and the former theme is similarly treated in the latter books.
However, if you want more than two volumes, then you ought to make five, the first to contain the first five books, in which a rebuttal is built up against those who maintain that it is the worship of demons, not of gods that conduces to happiness in this life. The second volume should contain the next five books against those who think that such gods, or many more like them, should be worshiped with rites and sacrifices for the sake of the life which is to come after death. The three other volumes which are left will have to have four books each, for I have arranged this part so that four books show the origin of that City and the same number its progress or, we might rather say, its outcome; the last four describe the respective and due destinies of the two cities.[14]

As Hardy observes, “though variegated in detail, the City of God has a real and intense unity. It arose out of a particular occasion, and its structure follows a definite line of thought.”[15] The concern of this study will deal with the “third four books” which explains the two cities’ “destined ends,” in particular the destined end of the city of God. Before delving into that glorious “vision of God” that the inhabitants of His city will be rewarded with, an explanation of the book’s basic themes is in order.

Many are familiar with Charles Dickens’ famous novel explaining the life of the English during the Industrial Revolution entitled A Tale of Two Cities; Augustine’s defence of Christianity could rightly be called A Tale of Two Loves. For it is the notion of love that Augustine focuses on when explaining the vast differences between the two cities. The first and “better” city is categorised by its love for God, while the second city by self-love and love for the world.

We see then that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self. In fact, the earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord. The former looks for glory from men, the latter finds its highest glory in God, the witness of a good conscience. The earthly lifts up its head in its own glory, the Heavenly City says to its God: “My glory; you lift up my head.” In the former, the lust for domination lords it over its princes as over the nations it subjugates; in the other both those put in authority and those subject to them serve one another in love, the rulers by their counsel, the subjects by obedience. The one city loves its own strength shown in its powerful leaders; the other says to its God, “I will love you, my Lord, my strength.” (Book XIV.28)[16]

Bourke calls this “a striking passage…Augustine vividly contrasts two attitudes of mind, two groups of people having diametrically opposed sets of social values.”[17] Henry Van Til goes even further by stating, “It is crystal clear that the main purpose of Augustine is not simply to answer the virulent attack of the pagans against the church after the sack of Rome, but it is rather to show the radical nature of the basic antithesis under the figure of the two cities.”[18] As both Bourke and Van Til make plain, from the notion of the two loves comes another related theme, that of antithesis.
The City of God, as previously explained, is a history of the “two cities”; these two cities really are the two kingdoms spoken of in the Bible.[19] These two cities/kingdoms make up the entire population of humanity, both past and present. They are categorised as two distinct types of people that exist in mutual exclusivity stemming from the lines of Cain and of Seth.[20] Using the Biblical terminology of “union” one sees where Augustine finds his thesis. It can rightly be said that the city of man exists “in Adam” while the city of God exists “in Christ.” [21] Cornelius Van Til helpfully demonstrates this antithesis theologically,

There are now clearly two distinct classes of people for Augustine, those who are redeemed by Christ and those who are not redeemed. The two kinds of people now have mutually exclusive principles for the interpretation of God’s relation to man and his world. Believers in Christ must engage in an effort to win non-believers to an acceptance of Christ. The enemies of Christ must be called to repentance…So we are to read the narratives of Scripture not as though it were telling us ‘bare historical facts.’ We are to read them as exhibiting to us the development of the struggle between two cities, the city of God and the city of the world.[22]

This antithesis between the two cities has tremendous practical implications in the field of evangelism/apologetics, and also in terms of ecclesiology. Far too often Christians, rightfully zealous for the faith, become misguided in their understanding of the relationship between the two cities. They fail to recognize the chasm between the two kingdoms by using various “city of man” methodologies in the church. The result, unfortunately, is that the church becomes like that which it opposes. This can be seen in the seeker-friendly model of “doing church,” the embrace of postmodernism in the emerging church, rationalistic approaches to apologetics and watered down methodologies used in evangelism. These various problems in contemporary evangelicalism display a very non-Augustinian anthropology and soteriology.
In turn, this is a failure to appreciate Paul’s distinction between the “natural man” and the “spiritual man” in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. For as Augustine rightly notes in the earthly city, “[I]ts wise men who live by men’s standards have pursued the goods of the body or of their own mind, or of both.” And this to their ultimate destruction. Yet, in the Heavenly City, “man’s only wisdom is the devotion which rightly worships the true God, and looks for its reward in the fellowship of the saints, not only holy men but also holy angels, “so that God may be all in all.” (Book XIV.28)[23]

Book XXII.29

Augustine is widely known as a master rhetorician and proves himself to be so in The City of God. Even as he ended his career Augustine still knew how to tell a good story. In penning such a massive tome, he does not fail to satisfy his readers with a beautiful conclusion. The latter chapters of Book XXII deal specifically with the final “end” of the city of God, namely the “vision of God” shared by all of its inhabitants and the final “Sabbath rest” at the end of the age. The rest of this paper will deal with what has been termed “the beatific vision” in The City of God.

Beatific Vision Traditionally Defined

There is a wide history of interpretation when it comes to the nature of the “beatific vision” or vision of God (visio Dei). Both in terms of Roman Catholic and Protestant hermeneutics the discussion is broad and often overly philosophical. This is understandable when one considers the great mystery that is involved when trying to reconcile passages in the Old Testament that speak of God as one who should not be seen, with the New Testament’s seeing God “face to face.”
Van Engen explains that in Roman Catholic theology, “the beatific vision…refers to the direct, intuitive knowledge of the triune God that perfected souls will enjoy by means of their intellect; that is, the final fruition of the Christian life, in which they will see God as he is in himself.”[24] Protestantism on the other hand, in an attempt to stray from speculation, denied any type of “real” vision, minimalizing its usage to lessen theological problems. This can be seen Article 1 of the Belgic Confession that includes God’s invisibility as part of his incommunicable attributes.
While the Roman Catholic view appears to take seriously passages of Scripture such as Matthew 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:2; and Revelation 22:4 they go to unbiblical extremes in their theology of a “real seeing.” On the other hand, Protestantism appears not to have gone far enough in its understanding of these passages out of fear of speculation. Exegetes on both sides of the issue need to seriously consider these passages in light of Old Testament texts that speak of seeing God as a “deadly danger”[25] such as Exodus 3:6; Judges 13:22 and Isaiah 6:5. Another twist to the exegetical problem, as Berkouwer notes, are the texts in the Old Testament that speak of seeing God without consequence, such as Exodus 24:9-11 and Numbers 12:8. How can these texts be reconciled into a workable and Biblically faithful theology?
It goes beyond the scope of this paper to explain the intricacies of interpretation throughout the history of the church regarding the beatific vision. Although not directly answering the question of reconciling the various viewpoints in both traditions, an exposition of Augustine’s understanding of the visio Dei will be helpful. Both traditions take their theological cue from Augustine in many ways, so the evaluation of Augustine’s doctrine of the vision of God will prove helpful when trying to understand both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism on this thorny subject.

The Beatific Vision According to Augustine

The book in The City of God that deals with the visio Dei is Book XXII, specifically chapter twenty-nine. In it the reader is confronted again with Augustine as both a theologian and philosopher par excellence. As Bourke observes, “No pagan philosopher…has risen to the concept of the beatific vision. It is this vision which Augustine describes as the essential feature of the life of the saints in heaven. Not that he pretended to know the precise nature of this state or act.”[26]
Augustine’s later theology had greatly abandoned a rationalistic approach to the interpretation of Scripture exampled in his earlier writings.[27] Recognizing this, one sees in chapter twenty-nine, as well as the rest of The City of God, one who seeks to subject his reason to revelation. In the opening lines of the chapter Augustine declares, “Now let us see, as far as the Lord deigns to help us to see, what the saints will be doing in their immortal and spiritual bodies…” In keeping with the theme of antithesis as mentioned previously, Augustine sets himself at odds with those who seek to approach the Biblical texts using “autonomous” reason. In contrast, Augustine prostrates before the throne of God seeking understanding.
In attempting to be honest to the Biblical account of the beatific vision, Augustine readily admits to the great mystery that is involved:

And yet, to tell the truth, I do not know what will be the nature of that activity, or rather of that rest and leisure. I have never seen it with my physical sight; and if I were to say that I had seen it with my mind – with my intellect – what is the human understanding, in capacity or in quality, to comprehend such unique perfection? For there will be that “peace of God which”, as the Apostle says, “is beyond all understanding.” It surpasses our understanding; there can be no doubt of that. (Book XXII.29)[28]

This disabled ability to know the “peace that passes understanding” includes both the knowledge of the angels and men. Augustine understands “all understanding” to be rendered comprehensively. The only exception to this word “all” is God Himself. Therefore Augustine renders “beyond all understanding” to mean “beyond all understanding except his [God’s] own.”[29]
Although this peace transcends human understanding, there is a sense in which it can be known in small measure, by revelation. The human mind retains its capacity to understand, but by virtue of its finitude and sinfulness, this understanding is faulty. The degrees of understanding vary between the two groups of humans. Those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, who have been “made partakers of his peace,” can “know the perfection of peace in [themselves].” Although in the current state of affairs, the human being who has not yet been glorified has “partial knowledge” until “perfection comes.”[30]
One may wonder: if the beatific vision is so great a mystery, and only the mind of God can fathom its depths, why is Augustine making an attempt to understand that which cannot be understood? The answer to this lies in Augustine’s understanding of revelation. We can understand according to “our measure” and “our standard of perfection.”[31] Therefore, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in accord with Biblical revelation, there is a measure in which regenerated human beings can understand that which they will one day experience. This is important to Augustine, as Versfeld mentions, because the consummation of human happiness is found in the vision of God.[32]

Seeing God Face to Face – Two Case Studies

The key obstacle for Augustine when it comes to the beatific vision is the question of seeing. How will the glorified believer “see” God? Will it be with physical eyes? To what extent will this seeing last? Will it be comprehensive? Is there any analogy to this seeing that can be found in Scripture? Although not asked explicitly in chapter twenty-nine, these questions lie beneath its surface. To answer them Augustine relates human seeing with the seeing of angels and the seeing of the prophets. He painstakingly reasons through the Scriptures to find an answer to his questions.
Dealing with the angels first, Augustine explains that humans will one day see God as the angels do, although he doesn’t appear to fully comprehend what that means. He says that human beings “belong to those angels with whom we share the possession of that holy and most delightful City of God.”[33] These angels are citizens of the city of God and by virtue of their citizenship, they can see God’s face. Glorified humans are, in a similar way, members of that same city and will see God just as their fellow citizens the angels do. Augustine refers to Matthew 18:10 for support where Jesus says that the angels of “these little ones” see the “face” of the Father in heaven.
There is a correlation between Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 and Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13, where both passages speak of seeing God’s face. But Augustine is quick to mention that God’s “face” doesn’t mean the physical face found on the human body. According to his interpretation of 1 John 3:2, that says, “When he is fully revealed, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is,” God’s face is His “revelation.” Augustine returns to the theme of God’s “corporal face” a few pages later.
Because the saints in heaven will have glorified bodies, Augustine wonders whether or not they will see with “glorified eyes.” He believes “that the saints will see in the body, but whether they will see through the eyes of the body, in the same way as we now see the sun, moon, stars, sea and earth and all things on the earth – that is no easy question.”[34]
If the saints will see with eyes that are part of their glorified bodies, what will these eyes be like? Will the saints be able to open and shut their eyes? If they are able to shut their eyes, will they still be able to see God?

It is, for example, hard to say that the saints will then have bodies of such a kind that they will not be able to shut and open their eyes at will; and yet it is more difficult to say that anyone who shuts his eyes there will not see God.[35]

Elisha the Seer

From this speculation, Augustine seeks to provide his readers with a concrete example from Scripture proving the ability to see without using the physical eye.
His example is taken from 2 Kings 5 where the prophet Elisha, who “though not physically present, saw his servant Gehazi receiving the gifts from Namaan the Syrian, whom the prophet had healed from leprosy.”[36] The manner in which Elisha “saw” Gehazi steal Namaan’s money is similar to the way in which the saints will “see” God. Both are without the use of physical eyes.
Here Augustine argues from the lesser to the greater. If, “in the conditions of this life” (i.e. finitude and sinfulness) Elisha had an extra-ordinary means of seeing, “how much more then in that spiritual body will the saints see everything, not only if they close their eyes, but even when they are not present in the body!”[37] This argument is similar to Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 13:9 who argued from the lesser (seeing as a child) to the greater (seeing as a man). For when “the perfection comes” the saints will no longer see as children looking at a puzzling reflection in a mirror, they will see as mature adults face to face.
Having established from Scripture that there is a sense in which one can see without using their physical eyes, Augustine continues on to explore how this can be explained. Citing the Septuagint translation of 2 Kings 5, Augustine notes that Elisha said to Gehazi, “Did not my heart go with you?” Comparing the Septuagint with Jerome’s Latin translation where the prophet says, “Was not my heart there present when the man returned from his chariot to meet you?”[38] Augustine, using inductive reasoning, determines how it was that Elisha saw Gehazi:

It was therefore in his heart that the prophet saw what happened, as he himself said, with the miraculous assistance, as no one doubts, of the divine power.[39]

Again arguing from the lesser to the greater, Augustine concludes, “But how much more richly will all abound in that gift when God will be all in all!”[40] If Elisha could see with his heart while inhabiting this earth, glorified saints on the other hand will have even more miraculous power to see without using their eyes.
In anticipation of the logical question that derives from this conclusion, Augustine begins to consider whether or not the saints in heaven will need physical eyes at all if they can see with their hearts. His answer is in the affirmative; yes the saints will need their physical eyes. He believes that these eyes “will have their own function and the spirit will make use of them through the spiritual body.”[41] This function includes the daily activities that the saints will partake in while they inhabit the new heavens and the new earth. Because Elisha didn’t need those “bodily organs to see his absent servant…that did not mean that he did not use them to see things at hand, although he could have seen them by the spirit even if he had closed his eyes.”[42] Elisha would have carried out the mundane tasks of daily existence using his physical eyes, even though he could have used his spirit-guided eyes. So too glorified saints will use their physical eyes in the day-to-day living in glory, although they too will have the ability to use their glorified eyes if they so choose.

So we must never think of saying that the saints in that life will not see God if their eyes are shut; for they will always see him in the spirit.[43]

The All-Seeing Eye – Seeing The Unseen

Following the same train of logic above Augustine encounters another potential challenge to his conclusions and pushes for further answers. This next question posits itself as the second phase of his reasoning process. He has already established that there is an ability to see without using the physical eye. Earlier he provided an example in the angels’ ability to see in heaven and the prophet Elisha’s seeing with his heart. The angels in heaven were not tainted with sin, and could see in some manner. Thus, he concluded that because the prophet, who is constrained by this present life, could see without using his eyes, the saints in heaven would have even greater ability to see.
The following question poses a problem for reasoning further. Augustine states the conundrum thus: “But the puzzle is, whether they will also see by means of the bodily eyes when they have them open.”[44] Will glorified saints be able to use their bodily eyes when they are open, even as they are using their spirit-guided eyes? If so, will they be able to see God with those physical eyes?

For if even those spiritual eyes will in this way have no more power in the spiritual body than the eyes which we now have, then without doubt it will not be possible to see God by their means. Therefore they will be possessed of a very different power…[45]

Herein is the fundamental difference between the physical, sin-tainted eyes of the believer on earth and the physical, glorified eyes of the believer in heaven. The latter’s eyes are endowed with a “different power.” Why? They will need a great ability “if that immaterial nature is to be seen by their means.” And what is that “immaterial nature?” It is “that nature which is not confined to any space but is everywhere in its wholeness.”[46] Therefore, the “immaterial nature” that Augustine is speaking of is God. Here Augustine affirms to central characteristics about God in this chapter: His immaterial nature (God is Spirit) and His omniscience, His presence everywhere at once. God’s omniscience proves His immaterial nature,

For we say that God is in heaven and earth (as he himself says, through his prophet: “I fill heaven and earth”[47]); but that does not mean that we are to say that he has part of himself in heaven and part in earth. He is wholly in heaven, wholly in earth, and that not at different times, but simultaneously; and this cannot be true of a material substance.[48]

There could be no greater statement of the omniscience of God that the above-quoted words of Augustine. Although God’s attribute of omniscience is not the obstacle that he is facing, rather it is its correlate: His immaterial nature. How can something that is immaterial, be seen by that which is material? This is a significant question that isn’t new to Augustine. His whole time spent as a Manichean was dedicated to his belief that the immaterial was unfathomable and unspeakable. This view was stretched and worsened in his scepticism and proved a major obstacle to his coming to Christ.[49]
Here too, as a Christian, he wrestles with it. If God is immaterial (and omniscient), how can He be seen? The human eye, in its glorified state, needs a “different power.” This power, referred to above, must logically be “the ability to see the immaterial.” Therefore, human beings, in their glorified state, will be endowed with eyes that will have the power to surpass their material form and see the immaterial being of God. Or, as Augustine states it,

Therefore the power of those eyes will be extraordinary in its potency – not in the sense of being a sharper eyesight than that possessed, they say, by snakes and eagles (for however keen-sighted those animals may be, they can see only material things) – but in the sense of having the ability to see the immaterial.[50]

As a possible Biblical example of this “extraordinary” eyesight, Augustine points to the character of Job who saw God with his eyes and realized his own stature as “dust and ashes.”[51] This also could be what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he spoke of the “eyes of the heart.”[52] Augustine does not doubt that Christians will see “with those eyes of the heart, or mind…For every Christian accepts with faith the truth of the saying of God his teacher, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God.’”[53] But this is not the point that he is contending for at the moment, rather “the point in question is whether God will be seen also with physical eyes in that future life.”[54] He is granting that he and others affirm that Christians can see with the “eyes of their heart.” His point is, will they also be able to use their physical eyes to see God?
A potential answer to this conundrum is found in Luke 3:6 where Scriptures say, “all flesh will see the salvation of God.” “But,” as Augustine retorts, “this need present no difficulty; it can be taken to mean that ‘everyone will see the Christ of God’, and he certainly has been seen in physical form, and he will be so seen when he comes to judge the living and the dead.”[55] So this passage really has nothing to do with whether or not the seeing in the future life will be with physical eyes. Nor does the passage in Luke 2:29, where the old man Simeon takes hold of the Christ-child and says, “Now, Lord, you are releasing your servant in peace, according to your promise, because my eyes have seen your salvation.”
The Apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:12 about seeing God “face to face” goes beyond the mere seeing of Jesus in his earthly form whether in His earthly ministry on earth, or at His second coming. There is something more.
At this point, Augustine returns to the notion of seeing God’s “face.” As he had previously argued, it will not be God’s corporal face that will be seen with human corporal eyes. “We shall see God by the spirit without any interruption.”[56] As support for this seeing God in a non-corporal way, he points to Paul’s use of the word “face” when referring to the inner man in 2 Corinthians 3:18. “But we, gazing at the glory of the Lord with face unveiled, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as it were by the Spirit of the Lord.” He also turns to Psalm 34:6 where the psalmist says, “Approach him and be enlightened; and your faces will not be ashamed.” This gazing and this approaching are accomplished by faith, which is “a matter of mind and heart, not of the physical body.”
Coming to the end of his capacity to understand, Augustine resorts to quoting from the Book of Wisdom, “The thoughts of men are timorous and our foresight is uncertain.”[57] Because “we do not know what new qualities the spiritual body will have, for we are speaking of something beyond our experience.”[58] Here Augustine sounds very Pauline in his exclamation of the mysteries of God. For example, when the Apostle would confront a topic that stupefied his understanding, such as the union between Jew and Gentile in the New Covenant, he could exclaim:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.[59]

Here too, Augustine is stupefied at the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. It surpasses his understanding and leaves him in utter mystery, yet Augustine gladly points to God’s wisdom when he himself fails to understand. When coming to something beyond human experience, and on which there is no guidance from revelation, then the state described in the Book of Wisdom is our lot. We are left praising the infinite mind of God who knows all things.
After having concluded that the ultimate ability to see God is enshrouded in glorious mystery, Augustine resorts to the apologetic task of defending this view. Pagan philosophy upheld that the unseen things of the universe can only be seen by the mind (rationalism). The physical eye only sees the “sensible” (material) things.

Now the philosophers maintain that “intelligible” things are seen by the mind’s vision, and “sensible” things, that is, material things, are apprehended by the bodily senses, whereas the mind, they say, cannot observe intelligible things by means of the body, nor material things by its own unaided activity.[60]

Augustine finds this reasoning unacceptable, for if it “could be established as certain, then indeed it would entail the certainty that God cannot be seen at all by the eyes of the body, even of a spiritual body.”[61] What the pagan philosophers have done is destroyed the capability of knowing anything about God, because He cannot be seen either by the physical eye, or the spirit-guided eye (i.e. intellect, heart). In a sense, it belies the irrationality of the philosophers’ claim, because they are in an attempt to decry “seeing” God, the are in some sense “seeing” Him.
But Augustine doesn’t appeal to mere rationalizing to refute the philosophers’ faulty logic; he also makes an appeal to an absolute authority outside of himself, namely the Bible,

But in fact this reasoning is shown up as ridiculous both by reason itself and the authority of the prophets. For who could be so estranged from the truth as to dare to assert that God is ignorant of material things? But does it not follow that for such knowledge he must have a body, so as to attain this knowledge by means of bodily eyes?[62]

The prophet that he again makes an appeal to is Elisha and the story that he made use of earlier from 2 Kings 5. Citing the relationship between Elisha and Gehazi, whom Elisha saw “with his heart,” Augustine concludes that one can see without using bodily eyes. The story “shows quite clearly that material things can be apprehended by the spirit, without the help of the bodily organs.”[63]
Again, Augustine argues from the lesser to the greater: if “material things are apprehended by the spirit; why should there not likewise be such a mighty power in a spiritual body that the spirit may be perceived by such a body? For God is Spirit.”[64] The reasoning follows such: the material Gehazi took material possessions from the material Namaan and all of this was seen by the material Elisha with “immaterial” eyes. Therefore, why cannot a greater being, namely God, be seen by greater eyes in a similar by greater way? The question appears to Augustine as unanswerable.
To further the problem for the philosophers, Augustine appeals to the personal, common experience of an “inward sense,”

Moreover, everyone is aware of his own life which makes those earthly members grow, and makes them living; everyone is aware of this life not by means of the eyes of the body but through the inward sense.[65]

This “inward sense” or this internal awareness of life is, for Augustine, another kind of seeing. Individuals can only see themselves in this manner and can only see “the lives of others, although invisible…by means of the body.”[66] And this proves another point, that bodily seeing and heart seeing can occur simultaneously. “For how do we distinguish living bodies from non-living except by means of the body and yet we do not observe with bodily eyes the lives apart from the bodies.”[67]

Concluding Thoughts

Augustine concludes his argument for the beatific vision in the final paragraphs of chapter twenty-nine. In the new heavens and new earth, believers will see God in His omniscience with “utter clarity and distinctness.” This seeing will not be as humans see now while inhabiting the sin-cursed earth, for now God can only be seen by general revelation. What can be known of God only comes through nature, rightly interpreted by Scripture, and even this is through a “puzzling reflection in a mirror” because of human sin and finitude.
But the age to come will have a greater reality and will necessitate a greater ability to see that reality. This greater ability to see will be akin to the way that humans currently “see life” in themselves and in others by virtue of an inward sense (spiritual/heart eyes). In the new heavens and the new earth, human bodies will be fully regenerate and without the limitations of sin and will be able to see with their greater, new eyes. These new eyes will have the greater quality of being able to see the immaterial. Knowledge of this greater reality comes by faith and belief.
Consider the conclusion in Augustine’s own words:

For such reasons it is possible, it is indeed most probable, that we shall then see the physical bodies of the new heaven and the new earth in such a fashion as to observe God in utter clarity and distinctness, seeing him present everywhere and governing the whole material scheme of things by means of the bodies we shall then inhabit and the bodies we shall see wherever we turn our eyes. It will not be as it is now, when the invisible realities of God are apprehended and observed through the material things of his creation, and are partially apprehended by means of a puzzling reflection in a mirror. Rather in that new age the faith, by which we believe, will have a greater reality for us than the appearance of material things which we see with our bodily eyes. Now in this present life we are in contact with fellow-beings who are alive and display the motions of life; and as soon as we see them we do not believe them to be alive, we observe the fact. We could not observe their life without their bodies; but we see it in them, without any possibility of doubt, through their bodies. Similarly, in the future life, wherever we turn the spiritual eyes of our bodies we shall discern, by means of our bodies, the incorporeal God directing the whole universe.
God then will be seen by those eyes in virtue of their possession (in this transformed condition) of something of an intellectual quality, a power to discern things of an immaterial nature.[68]

All of this surmising, though based indirectly on Scripture, is not proven by irrefutable Scriptural evidence. Indeed, as Augustine admits, “it is impossible…to support this suggestion by any evidence of passages in holy Scripture.”[69] Because of this impossibility, Augustine allows for a final suggestion if one did not prefer to follow his previous argument. He believes that this other suggestion is easier to understand:

Perhaps God will be known to us and visible to us in the sense that he will be spiritually perceived by each one of us in each one of us, perceived in one another, perceived by each in himself; he will be seen in the new heaven and new earth, in the whole creation as it then will be; he will be seen in every body by means of bodies, wherever the eyes of the spiritual body are directed with their penetrating gaze.[70]

When one comes to a final conclusion about this great mystery of God, no matter how they attained it, Augustine reminds his readers to heed the Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 15:28, “Pass no premature judgements…until the Lord comes. For he will light up what is hidden in darkness and will reveal the thoughts of the heart. And then each one will have his praise from God.”

[1] I am indebted to the insights of Scott Dyer in his review of Oskar Skarsaune’s In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences in Early Christianity (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002), in Eusebeia: The Bulletin of The Jonathan Edwards Centre for Reformed Spirituality (Issue 4, Spring 2005), 113-116.
[2] David Knowles, “Introduction” to Augustine: Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans trans. Henry Bettenson (Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1972), xv.
[3] Cited in Garry Wills, Saint Augustine: A Life (London: Penguin Books, 1999), 99.
[4] Cited in Edward R. Hardy, Jr., “The City of God” in ed. Roy W. Battenhouse, A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979), 259.
[5] Vernon J. Bourke, “Introduction” in St. Augustine’s City of God (New York: Image Books, Doubleday, 1958), 8.
[6] Vernon J. Bourke, Augustine’s Quest of Wisdom: Life and Philosophy of the Bishop of Hippo (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1947), 248.
[7] Cited in Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), 303.
[8] Cf. Psalm 68:10; John 2:17.
[9] St. Augustine, The Retractations trans. Sister Mary Inez Bogan in The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation Volume 60, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1968), 209.
[10] Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 302.
[11] Bourke, Quest of Wisdom, 248; Cf. Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 304-306.
[12] Hardy, “The City of God,” 257.
[13] St. Augustine, Retractations, 209-210.
[14] St. Augustine, “To Firmus” in Saint Augustine Letters Volume V (204-270) trans. Sister Wilfrid Parsons in The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation Volume 32, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1968), 209.
[15] Hardy, “The City of God,” 259.
[16] Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans trans. Henry Bettenson (Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1977), 593.
[17] Bourke, Quest of Wisdom, 249.
[18] Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1959), 81.
[19] Ephesians 2.
[20] Book XV.15.
[21] 1 Corinthians 15:22.
[22] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1969), 136.
[23] Augustine, City of God, 593-594.
[24] John Van Engen, “Beatific Vision” in ed. Walter A. Elwell Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Editiion (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Carlisle, Cumbria: Baker Academic/Paternoster Press, 2001), 146.
[25] G. C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 361.
[26] Bourke, Quest of Wisdom, 284.
[27] Van Til, Christian Theory of Knowledge, 118-142.
[28] Augustine, City of God, 1081.
[29] Augustine, City of God, 1081.
[30] Augustine, City of God, 1082; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9ff.
[31] Augustine, City of God, 1082.
[32] Marthimus Versfeld, A Guide to The City of God (London: Sheed and Ward, 1958), 131.
[33] Augustine, City of God, 1082.
[34] Augustine, City of God, 1082.
[35] Augustine, City of God, 1082.
[36] Augustine, City of God, 1083.
[37] Augustine, City of God, 1083.
[38] 2 Kings 5:26, emphasis mine.
[39] Augustine, City of God, 1083, emphasis mine.
[40] Augustine, City of God, 1083.
[41] Augustine, City of God, 1083.
[42] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[43] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[44] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[45] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[46] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[47] Jeremiah 23:24.
[48] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[49] James J. O’Donnell, Augustine: A New Biography (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 180, 292-293.
[50] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[51] Job 42:5, 6.
[52] Ephesians 1:18.
[53] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[54] Augustine, City of God, 1084.
[55] Augustine, City of God, 1084-1085.
[56] Augustine, City of God, 1085.
[57] Wisdom 9:14.
[58] Augustine, City of God, 1085.
[59] Romans 11:33-36.
[60] Augustine, City of God, 1085.
[61] Augustine, City of God, 1085-1086.
[62] Augustine, City of God, 1086.
[63] Augustine, City of God, 1086.
[64] Augustine, City of God, 1086; cf. John 4:23.
[65] Augustine, City of God, 1086.
[66] Augustine, City of God, 1086.
[67] Augustine, City of God, 1086.
[68] Augustine, City of God, 1086-1087.
[69] Augustine, City of God, 1087.
[70] Augustine, City of God, 1087.

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Ezra’s Testimony

***PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR A SAD UPDATE ABOUT EZRA VESAPOGU***
A little while ago I blogged about the amazing work that the Lord is doing in India through the ministry of a friend of mine named Ezra Vesapogu. Through his efforts of evangelism and church planting, Gospel Fellowship India has nearly two hundred Reformed Baptist Churches.
While Ezra was in Toronto, he spoke in a number of different churches. On the Wednesday that he was here, I drove he and my friend Justin to my home church in Essex, near Windsor. I knew that Ezra’s testimony would be a great encouragement to them and that they in turn would be a great encouragement to Ezra. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a great time of mutual edification and I’m really glad that we made the trip home.
I was delighted to see on the Grace Baptist Church of Essex website that they uploaded the MP3 of Ezra’s testimony. I thought I’d link it here in case anyone wanted to listen to it and be encouraged.
Please pray for Justin and I as we contemplate developing a Canadian wing to GFI – it would be so great to have churches in Canada supporting this revival in India. Maybe it would be like the trans-Atlantic Prayer Call before the Second Great Awakening and Canada might be affected? Only God knows.

***UPDATE*** Unfortunately, as things often happen in this world of sin, the above testimony and overall ministry of Ezra Vesapogu is a farce. Through a sad series of events it has come to light that Ezra lied completely about his testimony and about the scope and nature of his ministry. Myself and a lot of others were deceived into believing in and trusting Ezra – many people had invested ten years into him.
If you are at all considering working with Ezra and his new work, “Share Ministries,” I would advise you strongly to reconsider. Your money, your time and your energy will be wasted. After Ezra was caught in his deceit, he did nothing to repent and make amends – though he claims to people that he did. If you have any questions about Ezra, contact the leadership team at North Shore Baptist Church here at info@ns-bc.org. They can provide you with first hand details.
I have posted a picture of Ezra just in case he starts going by a fake name so that you know who you are dealing with. He is the bald one with the mustache:

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What about the Irish??

As I was using the Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals ed. Timothy Larsen (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003) today, I realised that two significant Irish theologians were absent. There were no entries for either James Ussher, the 17th century Irish Puritan, or Alexander Carson, the 19th century Irish Particular Baptist.
The Irish are always neglected. Sad.

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