Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bible Theology and Human Reason, part 4

From the Presbyterian Magazine, October 1858. Edited by Dr. Van Rensselaer. Pages 452-458.

“Bible Theology Consistent with Human Reason”
Part 4

III. God’s beneficent design and wish to restore man to his original purity, and the difficulty of reconciling the claims of his justice, with the designs of his mercy.

Nature teaches us not only that there is a God, a great, self-existent, omnipotent Creator, but that this God, in his creation, has looked to the comfort, well-being, and happiness of his creatures in the disposition of his Providence. The only fact, in the remotest degree militating against the thousand proofs of his beneficence, is his permission to the existence of sin; and even that seems to be only the consequence of the bestowal upon man of the gifts of free agency. That such a God should not desire the restoration of man to a state of holiness – a state consistent with his own attributes – would be utterly at war with all the manifestations of his Providence.

But if such be the desire of Omnipotence, who shall it be effected? What difficulty lies in the way of an immediate, unconditional restitution of man to his original state of purity? That it is in the power of God to do this is unquestioned. It is true that an essential attribute of the Most High, without which we would not recognize his perfection, is justice. A just retribution to the wrongdoer, is not only demanded by the obedience of the righteous, but enters into all the ideas which human reason can devise of the Ruler of the Universe—such an idea has been universal with mankind from the earliest ages, and is not only consistent with, but demanded by human reason. To that reason, then, a difficulty exists in reconciling the claims of divine justice with the designs of divine mercy. It may be replied, that this is but an apparent difficulty. With Omnipotence all things are possible. Granted, but how does human reason dictate that this apparent difficulty can be avoided? A thousand expedients might be suggested by an all-wise and omnipotent God; but we are inquiring into the consistency of the alleged revealed scheme with human reason—of this reason, then, we must demand a scheme—and this brings us to the consideration of our fourth point, viz.:

IV. The reconciliation of these conflicting attributes by the scheme devised, viz.: the expiation of man’s sin by the vicarious sacrifice of a being combining the infinity of the God with the mortality and finite nature of the man.