Jagged MountainFaith of Our Fathers is an interactive blog community focused on how the Reformers did disciple-making. It is also a place where we can sharpen our own understanding of Basic Christianity. For a quick orientation, check out the Faith of Our Fathers page and the Quick Hits page.

Site materials are organized on three levels. The first level introduces material from the Heidelberg Catechism, with Questions, Answers and Bible texts. There are many interesting and challenging thoughts here, which shouldn’t be surprising since the document was written by two of our Master Teachers (Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus). To get started, check the Apostles Creed, Catechism or Providence categories, and follow up with the recommended posts that appear at the end of each article.

If you’ve got an observation or a question, or would like a recommendation about what to study next, please leave a comment.

The second level includes college level material from Caspar Olevianus and John Calvin. Dr. Olevianus was a pastor/scholar who taught at Heidelberg. His A Firm Foundation provides deep insights presented with pastoral applications. Review his pages in the header, or check for his name in the Categories links. John Calvin’s Truth For All Time presents timeless truth in clear, simple language. Check the Truth For All Time page in the header, or check Calvin in the Categories links.

The third level is seminary level material from Zacharias Ursinus’ Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, 659 pages. Dr. Ursinus was a scholar/pastor who used the Heidelberg Catechism questions and answers as an outline for his seminary lectures. His comments are detailed and weighty, but are filled with practical pastoral concern. Review his pages in the header, or check for his name in the Categories links. Don’t be intimidated. You can master his work. It will just take some effort. Feel free to ask questions as you go along.

Finally, you may not fit into a structured approach. When I was in graduate school, I read books by checking the table of contents and simply diving in where ever I was interested. If you are like that, just dive in and follow your interests.

Again, welcome to Faith of Our Fathers.

One last note: You may not be comfortable with the layout and software we’ve got here. If so, please try the other two sites listed in our Blog Roll. Interact is a magazine theme while Faculty Notes features bold titles and great readability. In the long run, Interact will include more articles by Martin Luther than the other sites.

Please enjoy your stay at the Faith of Our Fathers network.

We Are Not Ruled By Chance

Do things happen by chance in God’s world? In a word, no , there is no such thing as chance, or fate, or good luck, or bad luck.

A faithful servant of God should be absolutely convinced inside that all things happen by God’s decree and not by chance or by good luck or bad luck.

As a Reformed pastor / theologian put it:

the church teaches according to the word of God, that nothing exists, or comes to pass in the whole world, unless by the certain and definite, but nevertheless most free and good counsel of God.  Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary On The Heidelberg Catechism.

There are many testimonies from Scripture to support this truth.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Athenians of God’s work in the details of human life:

24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Acts 17:24-28

And Jesus reminds us of God’s concern for sparrows and for the number of hairs on our heads:

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29, 30

We are supposed to draw comfort and encouragement from this teaching.

  1. God cares about sparrows and about the number of hairs on my head
  2. I am more valuable to God than many sparrows.
  3. I should not fear.
  4. I can trust God to provide for my needs.

Jesus also draws our attention to God’s care for wildflowers and wild grass.

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  Matthew 6:25-27

What comfort and encouragement do we see here?

  1. The birds of the air don’t sow, or reap, or gather into barns.
  2. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
  3. You are worth much more than they.
  4. Therefore, don’t worry about life (eat or drink); nor for your body, as to what you will put on.

And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!  Matthew 6:28-30

What comfort and encouragement do we see here?

  1. Wild lilies don’t work or spin cloth.
  2. But not even Solomon (the richest king on earth in his time) in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
  3. So, if God so clothes the grass of the field (which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace)
  4. Will God not much more clothe me?
  5. I can trust God for clothing, and for whatever else I need for survival.

Finally, Jesus tells us to get our priorities straight:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Don’t forget the guarantee of all promises: the Son, through whom the lilies, little birds, illnesses, enemies, and everything in heaven and on earth have been created and by the word of His power are upheld (Hebrews 1:3). This Son, who has been appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), the Father gave to die for you as the guarantee of His love, and He freely, by grace, ordained you to be joint heirs with His Son. How is it then possible for you to be harmed by any created thing, which can neither live nor move without the direct operation of the Son of God?

All created things exist in Him and are ruled by Him, and you are a joint heir with Him. Should it not be impossible, therefore, for created things to do anything but serve you and work together for your good, even when it appears as though most of them oppose you? The Apostle Paul looks to this guarantee in Romans 8:31, 32: “What more shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”

So be encouraged, brothers and sisters, God has got everything under control. He is working everything out for His glory and for our good.

There Is No Such Thing As Chance

Excerpt from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 16, Section 2, by John Calvin.

Calvin-4That this distinction may be the more manifest, we must consider that the Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes. By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, viz., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried. If one falls among robbers, or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port, and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death – all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whose has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered, (Matt 10:30) will look farther for the cause, and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to inanimate objects again we must hold that though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only in so far as directed by the immediate hand of God. Hence they are merely instruments, into which God constantly infuses what energy he sees meet, and turns and converts to any purpose at his pleasure.

No created object makes a more wonderful or glorious display than the sun. For, besides illuminating the whole world with its brightness, how admirably does it foster and invigorate all animals by its heat, and fertilise the earth by its rays, warming the seeds of grain in its lap, and thereby calling forth the verdant blade! This it supports, increases, and strengthens with additional nurture, till it rises into the stalk; and still feeds it with perpetual moisture, till it comes into flower; and from flower to fruit, which it continues to ripen till it attains maturity. In like manner, by its warmth trees and vines bud, and put forth first their leaves, then their blossom, then their fruit. And the Lord, that he might claim the entire glory of these things as his own, was pleased that light should exist, and that the earth should be replenished with all kinds of herbs and fruits before he made the sun. No pious man, therefore, will make the sun either the necessary or principal cause of those things which existed before the creation of the sun, but only the instrument which God employs, because he so pleases; though he can lay it aside, and act equally well by himself: Again, when we read, that at the prayer of Joshua the sun was stayed in its course, (Josh. 10: 13) that as a favour to Hezekiah, its shadow receded ten degrees, (2 Kings 20: 11) by these miracles God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its course, that he may renew the remembrance of his paternal favour toward us. Nothing is more natural than for spring, in its turns to succeed winter, summer spring, and autumn summer; but in this series the variations are so great and so unequal as to make it very apparent that every single year, month, and day, is regulated by a new and special providence of God.

The Description Of God 3

A short explanation of the description of God, as given by the Church. Part 3

True.  1. God has a true and certain knowledge of all things.  2. He does not will or speak things contradictory.  3. He does not dissemble (conceal His true motives) or deceive.  4. He never changes His mind.  5. Whatever He says He brings to pass.  6. He enjoins truth and veracity upon all.

Pure.  1. His nature is most pure.  2. He loves and commands that which is pure.  3. He greatly detests and severely punishes all manner of uncleanness, whether it be internal or external.  4. He distinguishes Himself by this notable mark from devils and wicked spirits. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that every one of you possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.” “Defile not yourselves in any of these things, for in all these the nations are defiled.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4;  Leviticus 18:24)

Ursinus-13Merciful.  God’s mercy appears in this:  1. That He wills the salvation of all men.  2. That He defers punishment, and invites all to repentance.  3. That He accommodates Himself to our infirmity.  4. That He redeems those who are called into His service.  5. That He gave and delivered up to death His only begotten Son.  6. That He promises and does all these things most freely out of His mercy.  7. That He confers benefits upon His enemies, and such as are unworthy of His regard.

Objection 1. But God seems to take pleasure in avenging Himself upon the ungodly.  Answer.  Only in as far as it is the execution of His justice.

Objection 2. He refuses mercy to the ungodly.  Answer.  Only to such as do not repent.

Objection 3. He does not save all when He has the power.  Answer.  God acts thus that He may exhibit His justice with His mercy.

Objection 4. He does not exercise His mercy without a sufficient satisfaction.  Answer.  Yet He has most freely given His Son, that He might make satisfaction by His death.

Bountiful.  God is said to be bountiful;  1. Because He creates and preserves all things.  2. Because He confers benefits upon all, even upon the wicked.  3. Because of the free and boundless love which He exercises towards His creatures, especially to man.  4.   Because of the love which He cherished towards the church, and in giving eternal life and glory to His people.

Objection 1. But the Scriptures speak of God as cherishing anger.  Answer.  He is angry with sin and depravity, but not with His creatures.

Objection 2. God often inflicts punishment upon His creatures.  Answer.  Only upon such as are impenitent.

Most Free.  God is most free;  1. From all guilt, misery, obligation, servitude and constraint.  2. He wills and does most freely and righteously all things, and wills and does them when and in what manner He pleases.

Hating sin: that is, God is terribly displeased with sin, and will punish it temporally and eternally.

Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary On The Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 126, 127

The Description Of God 2

A short explanation of the description of God, as given by the Church. Part 2

Most perfect in Himself.  1. Because He alone has all things necessary to perfect felicity, so that nothing can be added unto Him to increase His glory or happiness.  2. Because He has all these things in and from Himself.  3. Because He is also sufficient for the happiness of all other creatures.

Bright Orange FlowersImmutable.  God is immutable;  1. In His essence.  2. In His will.  3. As it respects place, because He is immense.

Omnipotent.  1. God can do all things which He wills to do.  2. He does them by His will alone, without any difficulty.  3. He does them, having all things in His own power.

Of Immense Wisdom.  This shows itself,  1. In seeing and understanding Himself, and all things out of Himself, with one view or glance, perfectly and at all times.  2. In being the cause of all knowledge in angels and men.

Of Immense Goodness.  1. The nature of God is such as has been revealed in the law and the gospel.  2. He is the cause and pattern of all goodness in His creatures.  3. He is the supreme good.  4. He is essentially good.

Just.  God is just:  1. In respect to His general justice, willing and doing unchangeably those things which He has prescribed in His law.  2. In respect to His particular justice, according to which He distributes unchangeably suitable rewards and punishments.  3. In that He is the rule and pattern of righteousness in His creatures.

Objection 1.  God sends evil upon the righteous and good upon the wicked.  Answer.  This, however, will not always be the case: eventually it shall be well with the righteous and ill with the wicked.

Objection 2.  God does not immediately punish the wicked.  Answer.  He defers punishment in their case for various reasons.

Objection 3.  It ought never to go ill with the good.  Answer.  Not with those who are perfectly good, which is not the case with any one in this life.

Objection 4.  God bestows unequal rewards upon men who are placed in similar circumstances.  Answer.  He does not, however, give to any one his just desert.

Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary On The Heidelberg Catechism, p. 126

How We Are Brought To Salvation

How we are brought to salvation and life (Calvin).

Spiked PodThis knowledge of ourselves, if it has really entered into our hearts, shows us our nothingness, and by it, the way into the true knowledge of God is made easy for us. And the God of whom we are speaking has already opened for us, as it were, a first door into His kingdom when He has destroyed these two awful plagues: a sense of security when faced with His retribution, and false confidence in ourselves. For it is then that we begin to lift up our eyes to heaven, eyes that were previously fixed and set upon the earth. And we, who used to find our rest in ourselves, yearn for the Lord.

And also, on the other hand, although our iniquity deserves something quite different, this merciful Father, in His incredible goodness, then voluntarily reveals Himself to us who are thus afflicted and terror-stricken. And by such means, which He knows to be helpful to us in our weakness, He calls us back from error to the right road, from death to life, from ruin to salvation, from the realm of the devil to His own realm.

To all those whom He pleases to re-establish as heirs to eternal life the Lord has ordained, as a first step, that they should be distressed in their conscience, bent beneath the weight of their sins, and moved to live in His fear. To begin with, therefore, He sets out His Law, which is what brings us to this state.

John Calvin, Truth For All Time, pp. 8, 9