Grant what You command, and command what you desire: Pelagius, the Jew and Augustine.

My subtitle may be understood either as 1. Pelagius (the Jew) and Augustine or as 2. referring to three people: Pelagius, the Jew, and Augustine. As will become clear, it means both of these.

Augustine of Hippo is regarded by Protestants of the Reformation as the greatest theologian, while for Catholics, Thomas Aquinas pips Augustine at the post. Thus both hold Augustine in very high regard.

Two of Augustine’s most popular sayings are (the more frequent) “our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” and “Grant what You command, and command what You desire” (from his “Confessions”). The first is straightforward and so does not require analysis. The second, in contrast, is a different theological fish. For most Christians and all Jews, “Grant what You command…,” evokes dismay, outrage and total contempt. That was Pelagius’ reaction, the famous rival of Augustine, in their dispute of the role of God’s grace and human will in salvation. For Pelagius, as for Judaism, the role of grace was highly exaggerated.

With regard to obedience to God’s commands, the connection between Pelagianism and Judaism is an interesting one. I am not concerned here with the theory that Pelagius might have been a closet Jew. He was a Celt from Britain, and the theory is that many Celts belonged to the lost tribes of Israel. What is of interest here is that he lay great emphasis on the Mosaic code and that man was fully able to fulfill it. He had, like a Jew, no time for grace, and therefore no time for Augustine of Hippo, who taught that man becomes reconciled to God not only with the help of God’s saving grace, but with nothing else but God’s saving grace – and the faith that it provides. As we read in Romans 3:21-31:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
[27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. [28] For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. [29] Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, [30] since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”

Well, Pelagius asks the Apostle Paul, “do we then overthrow the law by this faith?” (I’m putting Paul’s words into Pelagius’ mouth). “By no means, responds Paul; On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

(Romans 3:31 – ”Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law”).

It is very important to understand that by “law” Paul does not only mean the ceremonial Mosaic law, he means all laws including the higher laws of the ten commandments. I ask you, do you think that if a Jew is not able to fulfill the ceremonial law that he, or you, will be able to fulfill a higher law such as loving God with all your might, heart and soul or Thou shalt have no other gods before me, or Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbour? Of course not.

What Paul means is that although the law cannot save, it is the evidence that your faith is genuine. James (2:17) says the same thing: “faith, if it hath not works (not accompanied by action), is dead, being alone.” Faith, by its very nature, expresses itself in good works. This does not mean, though, that there is anything in the works that save you. In other words, works are a natural expression of faith. If you don’t do good works, you don’t have faith, and if you don’t have faith, you are not saved. This, of course, is nonsense to Judaism, which is Pelagian to the core.

Why would a person need grace, asks the Pelagian? Grace is only necessary for those who believe that everyone died spiritually through Adam’s sin. Pelagius (with Judaism and an increasing cohort of Christians in tow), rejects the doctrine of Original Sin, and thus believed that every person is responsible for his own sin. (Paul doesn’t teach that Original Sin excludes responsibility). After all, Pelagius would have argued, doesn’t it say in Leviticus 6:1-7:

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; 3 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein…?

An Augustinian would counter that the doctrine of Original Sin Is distinct from personal sin, that is, distinct from the sins one commits during one’s life. The Dutch theologian, Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711) answers the following objection

Objection: It is contrary to God‟s will that earthly judges should punish the son for the crime of the father. God even declares that He Himself does not do so. “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut 24:16); “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezek 18:20). Thus, the sin of Adam cannot be imputed to his descendants.

Answer: Deut 24:16 is a law which God has given to man. From this we may not draw a conclusion as far as divine justice is concerned. The text refers to violations of the law and not to a breach of covenant. The one is not a necessary consequence of the other. The text refers to the sins of specific individuals. Adam, however, was the head of the covenant which was established in him with the entire human race. This sin was the sin of the entire human race, for outside of Adam and Eve there were no other human beings. The entire human race was comprehended in Adam, and thus that same human race bears the punishment of their own sin. Ezek 18:20 also speaks of specific sins of specific people, and is therefore not applicable to Adam and his descendants who are in covenant relationship with him. The text refers to adult children who do not follow the footsteps of their parents. God convinced them that they themselves were committing these sins, and thus would be punished for their own sins with the same manner of punishment. It is incontrovertible that God punishes children for the sins of their parents, as is to be observed in the flood, in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the children of Eli. God very expressly states the following about Himself: “… visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exod 20:5).” (W. à Brakel, “The Christian’s reasonable service,” Vol 1, p.389).

I return to Augustine’s “Command what You desire, and grant what You command.”

Another way of saying this is:

Grant what You command, and command what You desire.” I explain:

A person says to God that he will obey what He commands. The person knows/discovers that he is unable to follow through, so he asks God to give him the ability to do so. Doesn’t that fit better than Augustine’s scenario of first asking, ”Grant what you command” followed by “and command what you desire?” If you ask God to give you the ability to obey His commands, doesn’t this presuppose that you accept that he can command what he pleases? Undoubtedly it does presuppose this; but context, Raphy, context; go read Augustine and you’ll see he meant it exactly as he said it. Ok, I’ll do that now. He says in Book 10, the two very short Chapters 28 and Chapter 29:

Chapter 28. On the Misery of Human Life.

When I shall cleave unto You1 with all my being, then shall I in nothing have pain and labour; and my life shall be a real life, being wholly full of You. But now since he whom Thou fillest is the one Thou liftest up, I am a burden to myself, as not being full of You. Joys of sorrow contend with sorrows of joy; and on which side the victory may be I know not. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows contend with my good joys; and on which side the victory may be I know not. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! Lo, I hide not my wounds; You are the Physician, I the sick; Thou merciful, I miserable. Is not the life of man upon earth a temptation? Who is he that wishes for vexations and difficulties? You command them to be endured, not to be loved. For no man loves what he endures, though he may love to endure. For notwithstanding he rejoices to endure, he would rather there were naught for him to endure. In adversity, I desire prosperity; in prosperity, I fear adversity. What middle place, then, is there between these, where human life is not a temptation? Woe unto the prosperity of this world, once and again, from fear of misfortune and a corruption of joy! Woe unto the adversities of this world, once and again, and for the third time, from the desire of prosperity; and because adversity itself is a hard thing, and makes shipwreck of endurance! Is not the life of man upon earth a temptation, and that without intermission?

Chapter 29. All Hope is in the Mercy of God.

And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will. Thou imposest continency upon us, nevertheless, when I perceived, says one, that I could not otherwise obtain her, except God gave her me; . . . that was a point of wisdom also to know whose gift she was. Wisdom 8:21 For by continency are we bound up and brought into one, whence we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves You too little who loves anything with You, which he loves not for You, O love, who ever burnest, and art never quenched! O charity, my God, kindle me! You command continency; give what You command, and command what You will.

So, we see that Augustine is not writing a systematic theology on the radical corruption (total depravity) of the will, where “Command what You desire, and grant what You command” might be the more appropriate order of ideas than Augustine’s “Grant what You command, and command what You desire.” What was he doing then? He was struggling with the idea that a person couldn’t fulfill any of the law, be it the ceremonial Mosaic law or – it logically follows – the higher laws of the ten commandments. So, uppermost in his mind was the thought: If You don’t raise me from the dead, I’m undone.

1Judaism would say that the way to cleave to God is not to His person, but through the traditions of the Sages; the Oral Law. Here is Rashi’s commentary on Deut 11:22. “For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him…” Rash says, “and to cleave to Him”: Is it possible to say this? Is God not “a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24)? Rather, it means: Cleave to the disciples and the Sages, and I will consider it as though you cleave to Me. — [Sifrei]

23 thoughts on “Grant what You command, and command what you desire: Pelagius, the Jew and Augustine.

  1. “He had, like a Jew, no time for grace” — I think this is a rather stupid statement. Pelagius, and Jews too, simply view grace as mercy, not magic power. They recognize that we need God’s mercy to be saved–neither teaches that we save ourselves by living perfect lives–both teach that we need forgiveness, and that God forgives. Pelagius and the Jew see ‘grace’ the way it is found in the story of Noah: “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” — that is, the Lord extended mercy to him. But it doesn’t mean that Noah was incapable of pleasing God without God first giving him a magic power called ‘grace’ that would enable him to obey commands he could not previously obey. In fact, to some extent (maybe to the whole extent) its rather obvious from the story that Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” because he was already obedient. Noah was “perfect in his generation” (which ironically doesn’t mean he was actually perfect) and it was for this reason that he “found grace” [i.e. mercy] whereas the rest of the world around him did not.

    “I ask you, do you think that if a Jew is not able to fulfill the ceremonial law that he, or you, will be able to fulfill a higher law such as loving God with all your might, heart and soul or Thou shalt have no other gods before me, or Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbour?” — Micah 6 says he can, so your “Of course not” is found to be Biblically illiterate.

    There in Micah 6, Micah is questioned by a fellow Jew on what he should do to please God. “Shall I offer a thousand rams? ten thousand burnt offerings? Shall I offer the fruit of my body–my firstborn for the sin of my soul?” — This guy is confused on what ceremonies to perform, really confused. But Micah’s answer is not “here’s a list of exactly what ceremonies to perform.” Nor is Micah’s answer “don’t sweat it, you don’t need to offer your son because some day God will do it for you by offering his son.” — Rather, Micah’s answer is “just keep the moral commandments.” In his actual words, “He has told you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require, but that you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” Not only does Micah envision that it is possible to obey the moral law without the ceremonial law — but it is sufficient also.

    “All Hope is in the Mercy of God.” Or is it in magical power that enables you to obey commandments? Notice how you are mixing the two definitions of grace — the Jewish in which grace means mercy — and the Augustinian in which grace means magical power to enable you to obey.

    As for Paul’s arguments against the Law, I suppose Pelagius may have (like the Jews) actually read the Old Testament in context and therefore taken it with a grain of salt when Paul misused Deut 27 or Deut 32 or various other passages to suggest that no forgiveness was offered under the law. This is, after all, Paul’s main argument against the law, even against the moral law, namely that to Paul, if you break one commandment once (no matter how small it is either) then you are irrevocably damned and the law offers no return of any sort. Yet anyone who’s actually read the Law or the whole Old Testament in general knows that the Law offered forgiveness–knows especially Ezekiel 18–so how can such a person (someone who has actually read the Law) take Paul seriously? One who is well read in the Old Testament must simply smile and say to himself “Oh that rascally Paul” and move on. Only one who is functionally illiterate in the Old Testament because he spends all his time with Homer and with Paul, and with writing a never-ending amount of loquacious tomes–someone like Augustine–could take Paul seriously to the point that he does.

    • Before I give a response, I’d like to make sure I understand you. Are you saying 1. that “grace” is identical to “mercy” and 2. Grace and/or mercy is always merited?

      • I just began last night reading Kaufmann Kohler’s Jewish Thelogy (1908) and I found something relevant to this discussion, where he says in Chapter XVIII, titled God’s Long-suffering and Mercy:

        “In fear and awe of Him who is enthroned on high, ‘before whom even the angels are not pure,’ man, conscious of his sinfulness, sinks trembling into the dust before the Judge of the whole earth. But the grace and mercy of the long-suffering Ruler lift him up and imbue him with courage and strength to acquire a new life and new energy. Thus the oppressive burden of guilt is transformed into an uplifting power through the influence of the holy God.” (pg. 113)

        And after having used the terms ‘grace’ and ‘mercy’ synonymously, and declared a theory of ‘grace’ in which God’s grace is his longsuffering and willingness to forgive sin, he now say on pg. 117:

        “Thus this conception of grace is far deeper and worthier of God than is that of Paulinian Christianity; for grace in Paul’s sense is arbitrary in action and dependent upon the acceptance of a creed, therefore the very reverse of impartial justice. In Judaism divine grace is not offered as a bait to make men believe, but as an incentive to moral improvement. The God of holiness, who inflicts wounds upon the guilty soul by bitter remorse, offers also healing through His compassion. Justice and mercy are not two separate powers or persons in the Deity, as with the doctrine of the Church; they are the two sides of the same divine power. ‘I am the Lord before sin was committed, and I am the Lord after sin is committed’–so the rabbis explain the repetition of the name JHVH in the revelation to Moses.”

        Now, I can see the objection already that Kohler misunderstands Christianity when he supposes that the church views justice and mercy as two separate persons in the deity, but I think it is somewhat forgivable that he apparently thought the church views the Father as justice personified and the Son as mercy personified considering that many lay Christians do more or less see it that way regardless what the professional theologians say. And being a Christian myself, I am in a better position than Kohler to judge whether Paul’s theory of grace is ‘arbitrary’ or not; and I have to agree with him on that point. In the Old Testament, God’s mercy is for any who will repent; in Paul it is only for some lucky predestined; obviously that is arbitrary. And I find that those who believe this Pauline theory of grace and believe that they are one of the lucky predestined tend to not use that as a force for morality in their lives, but as an excuse for sin; whereas those who believe the more Jewish view of grace, that it is mercy and available for all who repent, tend to see it exactly as Kohler does as ‘an incentive to moral improvement’.

        • Thank you Rey for this interesting post. The writer says, “grace in Paul’s sense is arbitrary in action and dependent upon the acceptance of a creed.” Does the writer provide any quotations from Paul to substantiate that claim? Could you provide me with any substantiation of that claim? I ask, because, if somebody could show me that Paul teaches that grace only comes after accepting a creed, it would mean that I have totally misunderstood him. And I – and he – would be the two most miserable of men.

          • You mean that in your understanding ‘grace’ in Pauline usage is the magic power that God gives the special lottery winners which enables them to accept the creed to begin with, and therefore Kohler is mistaken when he says Pauline ‘grace’ is “dependent on acceptance of a creed.”

            Actually I think Kohler is referring to two different interpretations of Paul at once.

            1. The Augustinian-Calvinist interpretation that ‘grace’ is the power God arbitrarily gives to certain individuals and no others which enables them to believe. This one he refers to as ‘arbitrary in action’.

            2. The Arminian view in which ‘grace’ is given to those who were foreseen as believing, which he labels as ‘dependent on acceptance of a creed.’

            In the end, though, I think his main point may be that in Paul’s view God only has mercy on Christians (in the sense of forgiving their sins), and does not have this mercy on anyone outside the ‘creed’ not even on Jews. Whereas in Judaism, those outside the ‘creed’ also have God’s mercy; i.e. Gentiles who repent of their violations against the ‘Noachian laws’ can also receive forgiveness according to Judaism.

            And inasmuch as his topic is Jewish theology, he doesn’t provide any quotes of Paul; I think he assumes everyone is somewhat familiar enough with Paul already.

            • Rey you say the writer assumes his readers are familiar with Paul to not need supporting evidence such as quotes from Paul. Did he say that was the reason? But to my main point:

              Both Augustinians and Arminians hold the view that grace logically and chronologically precedes “creed.”

              You seem to be au fait with Paul; it would be nice if you could do what Kohler, I believe, should – like all good writers of theology (and any other ology) have done – provide supporting ideas for their main ideas, in our case, a verse from Paul that supports Kohler’s position.

    • I wil take the questions in opposite order:

      2. Is mercy always merited?

      Yes, but I am not saying that mercy is entirely merited, for if every ‘ounce’ of it was merited, it could no longer be called mercy. But it is partially merited, as James says (2:13) “judgment will be without mercy to him who has shown no mercy.” And Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.”

      Just as a human might would say, “this guy is an unrepentant rapist and murderer: he deserves no mercy; put him in the chair and fry him.” But concerning a mother who was so grieved at how her daughter was brutally raped and murdered, and who took the law in her own hands and murderer the rapist-murderer, concerning her one might say “this is her first offense; and look at the circumstances! she deserves mercy!”

      Does she deserve it in the sense that she has lived a perfect life and never committed a crime? No. She deserves it in the sense that this one act is uncharacteristic of her life, and therefore, it is felt some leniency should be show. As also, with the rapist and murderer, he is said to not deserve it because his evil actions are so characteristic of him. This is indeed the principle behind, “judgment will be without mercy to him who has shown no mercy.”

      1. Is grace identical to mercy?

      As the Old Testament uses it–yes. As Paul uses it–no.

      In addition to the story of Noah,

      Genesis 19:9 “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy,” — the doublet shows a direct identification between grace and mercy.

      Genesis 32:5 “And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.” — Jacob is trying to appease Esau to keep him from killing him; he is seeking grace [mercy].

      You will be hard pressed to find an instance of the word ‘grace’ in the Old Testament where it does not mean mercy.

      Paul, however, says things like:

      Ephesians 3:7 “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” — Here ‘grace’ seems to mean ‘power’ — it is almost equivalent to the phrase used at weddings “by the power vested in me by the state of X I now pronounce you man and wife”

      — or does ‘grace’ in these situations only refer to God’s mercy in accepting Paul as a minister despite his previous persecution of the church? The next verse Eph 3:8 seems to suggest that it does mean that “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;” — does ‘grace’ mean mercy here?

      2 Tim 1:3 seems to imply Paul makes a distinction between grace and mercy since they are lsited separately with ‘peace’: “To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace”

      But the one passage that would really be hard to understand ‘grace’ as meaning mercy in is Romans 12:6 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” — everywhere else in Paul’s writings (other than the openings to the Timothys where grace and mercy are listed separately) I think it is possible to view ‘grace’ as meaning mercy. Yet, probably by ‘grace’ in a few places, particular in Romans 9, Paul means something more along the lines of ‘favoritism’.

      Hebrews 4:16, however, returns to a somewhat more Old Testament view of ‘grace’:
      “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

      James 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” — Grace here seems synonymous with mercy, and note that it is somewhat merited — he giveth it to the humble.

      I say all of this to say that I know how it is used in the OT and non-Pauline NT writers and how Paul uses it, and it is clear that Paul’s use of the term (when and if he means something other than ‘mercy’ by the term ‘grace’) is not Biblical — not based on Old Testament usage — but rather seems more akin to the Hellenistic mystery cults, and I therefore reject such a meaning for the word ‘grace.’

  2. “Both Augustinians and Arminians hold the view that grace logically and chronologically precedes ‘creed.'”

    I’m going to put this down here since the text box got too skinny to read up there. This is the case and is not the case at the same time. In Arminianism there are two graces — prevenient grace precedes belief and is given to everyone, and special grace comes afterwards and is given only to those who believe. Prevenient grace is seen as sufficient for enabling everyone to believe, yet not everyone chooses to. Only those who do choose to then get the special grace, forgiveness of sins. This then can be described as grace “dependent on acceptance of a creed.”

    All this carping, however, on whether Kohler provides a quote of Paul is irrelevant. Perhaps instead of “and” between “arbitrary in action” and “dependent on acceptance of a creed” he should have used the word “or” to show that two different interpretations of Paul were in play…but big deal.

    You will forever sidestep the issue, I see as to whether Paul’s view of ‘grace’ can in any way be described as Biblical (that is, based on the Bible as Paul knew it, the Old Testament) or whether it is in fact based rather on the usage of the term ‘grace’ from something else Paul knew of from his upbringing in Tarsus, namely the mystery cults of Attis and Mythras. Nobody knowledgeable of the Old Testament would be foolish enough to assert that Paul’s usage is Biblical; yet nobody who accepts Paul’s theology would be foolhardy enough to publicly admit that it is derived from the mystery cults. The result is that you must simply affirm the correctness of Paul’s views without being able to state that they are Biblical. You are certainly in an unenviable position, and I can understand why you would buy time carping on Kohler’s merging of two interpretations of Paul into one, since there is nothing else you can do.

    • You have described Arminianism well. Kohler, however did not distinguish the two types of grace (which the Arminians believe exist). He simply said “grace in Paul’s sense is arbitrary in action and dependent upon the acceptance of a creed.”
      For the Arminian, in contrast, grace (“prevenient” grace at least) does precede creed. You could teach Kholer a thing, if not two.

      All I have said is that Kohler’s interpretation of what Paul says about grace is at best, faulty. Whether Paul reflects the tanach’s meaning of grace is open to debate.

      Can you give me one example of a “magic bullet” verse from Paul?

      • I think you’re just playing games. Especially since you seem so intent on criticizing an author who’s overall argument you haven’t even read. I quote just a few phrases, and the only point was to show that those most steeped in the Old Testament (like a Jewish theologian) find the same problem with Paul’s concept of grace as I (a Christian) do, namely that it is not the Biblical (OT) view of grace. That in and of itself is the magic bullet in my estimation, since Paul claims to be a Pharisee, yet clearly has absolutely no understanding of the Biblical view of grace, and rather sets forth a Hellenistic mystery cult doctrine of grace. He calls into question his supposed Pharisee credentials in a way that makes me question every part of his story. And I think that’s about all that needs to said.

        • Rey, I ask you to support your general “magic bullet” statement. Any bit of cogent non-fictional writing (often the paragraph) surely must contain the basic structure of main idea and supporting idea/s. How is that a game?

          You call yourself a Christian. Impossible, if you reject Paul. I assume you accept (some bits of?) the Gospels. If so, why do you?

          • The better question is why is it impossible to be a Christian and reject Paul? Are you saying that Paul and not Jesus is the central figure of Christianity? I suppose to you Paul is the Son of God, or perhaps God Himself. This is the way of Christianity post-Pelagius I suppose. For when Augustine and his minions had Pelagius condemned as a heretic, not only did they impose on Christianity for the rest of all time the idiotic doctrines of original sin and predestination, but essentially the worship of Paul. On that day, Jesus as a historical person and as teacher was replaced by Jesus as Paul’s fictional god-man character with which he could reshape Christianity and make it about worshipping himself, while at the same time somehow pretending its about Jesus. And I suppose you are right—-why should I call myself a Christian? Christianity today does mean the worship of Paul, so why not just give up on that name entirely? It is meaningless these days after all.

            • Your question, “The better question is why is it impossible to be a Christian and reject Paul?”

              I’m not sure what you mean. I thought that it was I who was asking you that question.

              It would be nice if you could illustrate with a few examples why you think Paul is contrary to the Jesus of the Gospels.

              On another note, do you believe that the sacrificial system of the “Old Testament” was instituted by God?

              • Does Micah believe the sacrificial system was instituted by God? does Amos when he calls the tabernacle from the 40 years of wilderness wandering a tabernacle of Moloch?

                    • Rey

                      It seems that you may sympathise with Kauffman Kohler on “sacrifice.” He says:

                      “The great value of the gift of divine grace, by which the sinner may repent and return to God with a new spirit, appears in the following rabbinical saying: “Wisdom was asked, ‘What shall be the sinner’s punishment?’ and answered, ‘Evil pursues sinners’;768 then Prophecy was asked, and answered, The soul that sinneth, it shall die’;769 the Torah, or legal code, was consulted, and its answer was: ‘He shall bring a sin-offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.’770 Finally God Himself was asked, and He answered:771 ‘Good and upright is the Lord; therefore doth He instruct sinners in the way.’ ”772 The Jewish idea of atonement by the sinner’s return to God excludes every kind of mediatorship. Neither the priesthood nor sacrifice is necessary to secure the divine grace; man need only find the way to God by his own efforts. “Seek ye Me, and live,”773 says God to His erring children.” (Jewish theology, p.251)

                    • I haven’t finished reading the whole book, but one thing I like about his approach is that he doesn’t take the uncritical view that all these disparate statements somehow mean exactly the same thing. He takes seriously the development and changes in thought that are clearly found in the Bible. Even the most liberal versions of Christianity tend to become quite fundamentalist when it comes to the sacrificial system of the OT — somehow all the statements in the OT to the effect that sacrifices aren’t needed have to be hidden from view and we have to look only at Leviticus and Deuteronomy and ignore the prophets. This approach to understanding the Bible, where we view that the first approach to religion was ‘here offer this sacrifice and God will be appeased’ and that it then developed over time int ‘sacrifices don’t appease God — they are like filthy rags’ is clearly correct. There may have been some holdouts among the later prophets of course (Malachi and Ezekiel) but that doesn’t disprove the development as relates to the rest. And that Isaiah is speaking of sacrificial righteousness when he says ‘all our righteousness is as filthy rags’ is clear from the Isaiah ch 1 in which he is opposing sacrificial righteousness and upholding moral righteousness. This passage — so often used by Paulinists against ‘works’ — understood properly says the opposite of what Paulinists make it mean. It does not mean that since we can’t be morally good enough we should just acquiesce in a sacrificial righteousness — rather it means that sacrificial righteousness will never be good enough so we best get to being moral.

            • As a Christian you should surely have enough faith in God to believe that He is capable of preserving the Truth of His Word and as promised – in order that the Gospel be preached in all the world before the end comes (Matt24:14). I have not found any contrary teachings in Pauls letters and believe you should pray for an increase in faith ~

  3. Pingback: Archibald Alexander and how we come to faith: Thank God that he never depends on human understanding to bring us to faith « OneDaringJew
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    • Appollos5600 thanks for your appreciation and your desire to read more. You say you have to. Good. And I’m sure you will keep in mind the determination to do so is because it has been granted to you.

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