Rutherford’s Catechism – Prolegomena and Theology Proper


Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was an important Reformed theologian and pastor. Here’s an accessible biography. Known for his help on the Westminster Assembly’s shorter catechism, Rutherford also penned his own. I have tried to clarify the spelling and make it available in searchable text. Continuing sections will be set out in the future.

Rutherford’s Catechism, or, The Sum of Christian Religion

Q. #1 What is the way to life eternal?
A. To know God and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.
John 17:3

Q. #2 Wherein stands this knowledge?
A. In faith and good works, that are the fruits of faith.
Titus 1:16; I Timothy 1:5; Psalms 37:3

Q. #3 Where may we learn the doctrine of faith?
A. In God’s wisdom (I Cor 2:6) in the Old and New Testaments, containing all things to make us wise to salvation.
II Tim 3:16

Q. #4 Then this Word of God is a perfect rule of faith and manners
A. Yes, it is so perfect that they are under a curse that add to it or take from it.
Ps 29:7; I Tim 3:18; Luke 16:29; John 22:31; I Cor 2:6; Rev 22:19; Deut 12:31; Prov 30:6

Q. #5 Who should expound the Word?
A. It is plain, and a light to those who have eyes (Psalm 119:105; II Pet 1:19; Deut 30:11), and in material needful to salvation it expounds itself and those that have the Spirit of God (II Cor 2:11; Psalm 25:9; John 12:12) should expound the Word by the light of the Word.

Q. #6 For what cause should we believe the Word to be the Word of God?
A. Not because men or the Kirk say so, but because God who cannot lie says it.
John 5:33 – 35; Matt 16:17 Continue reading

Same Essence For All Subsistences: Ames On Trinitarian Controversy

amesiusWilliam Ames (1576 – 1633) was used by the Lord to influence Puritan thinking and beyond in England, on the Continent, and (through his writing) in the New World. One of his most important works is The Marrow of Theology (Amazon), the translated version of Medulla theologica (1623) from his lectures. Ames’ clear thinking can help us in our current discussions regarding Trinitarian relations.

See more on William Ames

As the debate regarding the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) has continued, Ames’ reminder that how we speak of subsistences and essence in the Godhead is so important. Withholding further comment, here is the raw data from Marrow I.v.i-xv. Tolle lege

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1. This subsistence, or manner of being [subsistentia] of God is his one essence so far as it has personal properties.

2. The essence is common to the three subsistences. As far as essence is concerned, therefore, the single subsistence is are rightly said to exist of themselves.

3. Nothing is attributed to the essence which cannot be attributed to each subsistence in the matter of essence.

4. But what is attributed properly to each subsistence in the matter of subsistence cannot be attributed to the essence

5. The subsistences are distinguished from the essence, because the mode of subsistence, though consolidated with the essence, are distinguished from it considered by itself. Continue reading

Impassibility Unto Passion

I don’t think it is contentious to say that the doctrine of God’s impassibility is falling on hard times these days. According to WCF II.1 states that God is “a most pure spirit, without body, parts or passions; immutable, immense, eternal…” Some level a charge of “Hellenistic” (read: Greek/pagan/gnostic) tones on these ideas, but I think they are eminently biblical.

I love how Roman Catholic (gulp) scholar Thomas Weinandy talks about the doctrine of immutability, and I think these words apply also to impassibility as well:

One should not be misled into thinking that God’s immutability is like the immutability of a rock only more so. What God and rocks appear to have in common is only the fact that they do not change. The reason for their unchangeableness is for polar-opposite reasons. The Rock of Gibraltar does not change or changes very little because it is hardly in act at all, and the change that it does undergo is mainly from outside causes—wind and rain. God is unchangeable not because he is inert or static like a rock, but for just the opposite reason. He is so dynamic, so active that no change can make him more active. He is act pure and simple . . .

What the critics consistently fail to grasp is that God’s immutability is not opposed to his vitality. Nor need one hold together in some dialectical fashion his immutability and his vibrancy, as if in spite of being immutable he is nonetheless dynamic. Rather, it is precisely God’s immutability as actus purus that guarantees and authenticates his pure vitality and absolute dynamism. Thus, when the critics assert that because Aquinas and the tradition believe God to be immutable they espouse a static and inert conception of God, they but demonstrate their own lack of understanding.

(Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 78–79, 124)

Some day, I would love to do a deeper study on this view of immutability/impassibility, and the sacred words of Luke 9:51:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face (πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν) to go to Jerusalem.

I know these texts bring the Incarnation into play, but there is still relevance here, I argue. Jesus was unable to be moved from going to His passion, His mission to die for His elect on the cross in Jerusalem. He wasn’t unmovable because he was like the Rock of Gibraltar, but rather because – like a laser – He pursued His Father’s will to the end. I also think of John 13:1 and other texts in this context as well.

With all His sufferings, full in view,
And woes to us! unknown –
Toward the task, His spirit flew,
‘Twas love that urged Him on.

(William Cowper “Savior! What A Noble Name!”)

The divine flame of love (SoS 8) is too strong to be moved or muted. Hallelujah!

Dear Pastor: Straight Talk on Hell

Dear Pastor,
This article was sent to me from a friend who does not believe in hell. He believes a loving father would never send His child to hell is what . I know he sent this to me because he knows I do believe in hell. How do I respond in a clear fashion?

You asked about the article that was sent to you, written by an author named Oliver Thomas. In the article, he makes some claims in the article that I want to point out, and then I’ll give you a few thoughts on how you should speak to your friend about this, as well as some resources that are available to help you. But first, let’s examine some of the author’s claims:

Hell in the Old Testament
1. Does the Old Testament teach everlasting punishment after death? The author of the article says, “Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) is the abode of the dead described as a place of eternal punishment.” The article is quite correct, in that the most common description of what awaited people after death was known as sheol, a shadowy, uncertain place. Both godly, righteous people and the wicked ended up in sheol. But sheol has a few different meanings in the Old Testament, and the author is ignoring parts of what the Bible says. Continue reading

God’s Attributes and Poverty in Ethiopia

Why do we see starving people in countries like Ethiopia? More or less; why does God allow things like this if he is love?

Dear [redacted],
Those are great questions. And difficult ones. I think the place to start is to remember God’s sovereignty over all things as Creator and Sustainer. He is sovereign over the sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the rise and fall of governments and kingdoms (Daniel 4:34-37) and traveling and business plans (James 4:15).
Continue reading