The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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Chapter 4: Of Creation

Did God create for His glory? How did God create? Why did God create? How long did God take to create? What did God create?

Creation. There are a few topics like this which generate heat between believer and unbeliever, and even among believers. But it is essential. Here is the foundation of everything. If there was no creation, there would obviously be nothing. Whom can we trust to tell us how it happened? The Witness has been pleased to reveal to us the way He created this world. The question is: Was everything that He revealed accurate and true? Can we gain any knowledge from outside the special revelation of God that can supply or actually radically change our view of Genesis? Which is primary, the exegesis of Scripture or the findings of modern (secular) science? My comments will be short.


§1 In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to make the world

  1. In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six daysand all very good. 5
    1. Heb. 1:2; John 1:2-3; Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4[1]
    2. Rom. 1:20; Jer 10:12; Ps. 104:24; 33:5-6; Prov. 3:19; Acts 14:15-16
    3. Gen. 1:1; John 1:2; Col. 1:16
    4. Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11
    5. Gen. 1:31; Ecc 7:29; Rom. 5:12

For His Glory

The Lord God King of the Universe is the Creator God Who created the world ex-nihilo (out of nothing) in the space of six days. The Creator did this not because He lacked something, but was pleased to manifest His glory to His creatures. Therefore, we believe that the whole creation exists to display the glory of its Creator. Everything was created for God's own glory and for God's own purpose. Creation is the free act of the the triune Yahweh to create the world and everything in it, visible and invisible, out of nothing for His own purpose and glory.

Since God is all-sufficient in and of Himself, the Creation did not add anything to Him that He did not possess, rather, the Creation displayed and manifested His glory to others. In Psalm 19:1, we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The heavens, i.e., space and sky, display the glory of God. Oh, how long can we sometimes stare in the night to the beautiful starry heavens? Or, how are we struck with amazement when we see pictures of outer space and pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope? All these things, which are normally out of our visible sight, still bring glory to the Creator. When we see them, we are filled with awe and reverence for the Creator. The Creation is actually meant to display the glory of God to us. In Isaiah vision of the Lord Jesus, the host of heaven worships and praises God with the following words:

Isa. 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The earth does not merely contain His glory, but is full or filled with His glory. His holiness displays itself in His glory in the created world. The holiness of God is glorious and it fills the whole created world. That was God's purpose in creating, namely, to display His glory and for people to acknowledge it. In Romans 1:20, we read that God's “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” The glory and power of God is displayed in the created world in such a way that no one would make an excuse before His Majesty. The power and divine nature of God displayed in the created world is undeniable and sufficient to render us without an excuse before Him. When God created, there was no higher goal than creating for Himself and to display His glory. He could not have depended for His glory on His creatures, which were yet uncreated, for He is completely independent of His creation for His perfections. The Trinity enjoyed fellowship and glory even before the creation of the world (John 17:5). God was not lacking anything. The host of heaven, in Revelation 4:11, declares:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

God is worthy to receive, i.e., be credited of having glory, honor and power. Why? “for you created all things”. The fact that God is the Creator of all things makes it obligatory on us to bring Him glory, honor and praise. It is by His will that everything exists or has existed. It was He who determined if this thing existed or not, or that thing happened or not. He creates these things by His will so that they would bring glory and honor to Him. In Proverbs 16:4, we read, “ The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Everything that God created, He created with its assigned purpose. It is He who gave those things their purpose. It is not to be thought that the created things gave themselves a purpose. That is absurd. Even the wicked He has created for a purpose, namely, a purpose of destruction and punishment (see more in chapter 3 on Reprobation). All things exist and were created to display His glory in one way or another. The people of God are said to be that sons and daughters of God who were created for His glory, and they are called by His holy Name (Isa. 43:6-7). In Colossians 1:16, we read:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

The Son of God was not only the Agent of Creation, but He was the goal of Creation. Not only were all things that were created, created by Him and through Him, but also for Him. Do not miss this bit. The reason that the Creation exists is for the Son—for His pleasure and for His glory. Everything is set up and is created for the praise of Jesus’ glory. Such is the Father's good pleasure that the Son may be glorified in all things, just like the Father (John 5:22-23).

Even salvation has the glory of God as its end and goal. Three times in Ephesians 1 we are told that we have been predestined and saved “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6) and “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12, 14). See also Isaiah 43:7; 60:21; 61:3; Psalm 143:11; Ezekiel 36:21-22; 39:7; Ephesians 3:9-10.

In Romans 9:22-23, it is said:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 

God will display both the glory of His justice and wrath in bringing just punishment upon the reprobate, as He will glorify Himself in the riches of His glory for the elect. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Romans 9:17 says of Pharaoh, ‘For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”’

All things were created and exist to glorify God and God will glorify Himself in all things, no doubt!

See John Piper, Why Did God Create the World?

The Days

This controversy concerning the days of Genesis started with Augustine, I believe, because he believed that God basically made everything in one day, as time means nothing with an Eternal God. But many have taken Augustine's position and pointed to it to “excuse” or “support” their radical departure from a straightforward reading of Genesis. What can we learn from the Bible about the days of creation? I believe that a straightforward reading of the account will give us nothing apart from 6 days of God’s work in creating everything and the 7th day for rest. But this has been challenged by the rise of secular theories of origin, and some Christians has been comfortable to come up with all sort of ways to make the Bible fit with “science.” Almost all of these theories do not acknowledge that the days of Genesis are straightforward 24 hour days. They are long ages, they say. They sometimes even mix and change the chronology of the days. Here I don’t want to rebut those positions, but I want to lay down my position. For those wanting to learn of the Creationist position, I point you to Creation.com and AnswersInGenesis.org. This is not the place to learn anything new from this debate.

First, the fact that the days spoken of in Genesis are regular days, much like the ones we have (they may have been an hour shorter or something, but basically they are not long ages) is seen from the way that God closes His work every day. Remember, this is the account of the Only Witness that could see the Creation and He has been pleased to reveal it to us. At the end of day 1 through 6, there is this reoccurring phrase, “there was evening and there was morning, the X day.” This shows that the days spoken of here are simple days like we have, they constitute an evening and a morning.

Verse Evening Morning X day
Gen. 1:5 And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Gen. 1:8 And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.
Gen. 1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Gen. 1:19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
Gen. 1:23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
Gen. 1:31 And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The same pattern is repeated at the end of each day and each day is constituted of an evening and a morning. This is very basic and it is a regular day. There may be the question as how could there be a day if there was no sun until day 4, this could be answered by saying that there is no need for the sun for there to be a day. Why? Because a day constitutes of the Earth rotating around its axis. Second, there was already light made on Day 1.[2]

The way the Bible refers back to the creation week is also confirming of the length of days. From Mount Sinai, the LORD, Yahweh the Creator Himself, commands His people to pattern their workweek after the work that He did in the Creation.

Exod 20:9-11 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (cf. Ex. 31:17)

I think that the Israelites had a pretty good idea of how long a day was. They were not told to work for long ages, and then rest for a long age. No. They were told to work six regular days and rest the 7th. Pretty straightforward. They are to pattern God.

Another point is that it has been observed that whenever a numeral is attached to a day in the Old Testament, it always means a regular day. Thus we have the seventh day in a lot of places, for example. All these days refer to simple 24 hour days and not anything longer. The argument that the Day of the Lord is perhaps longer than a regular day, and thus in this way, perhaps the days of Genesis 1 are longer than regular days will not work here. The Day of the Lord is not preceded by a number, i.e., the first day or the sixth day. Second, we do not deny non-literal uses of the word “day” in the Bible, but we deny the non-literal use of the word day in Genesis 1 because of the context and the few points mentioned above. This is enough for me to be confirmed in the straightforward reading as the true history of the Creation.

What Was Created Each Day?

Age Of The Earth

This is a more tricky and hotly debated subject than the days of Genesis. I'm a Young Earth Creationist, thus I do believe the Earth to be young and around 6 to 10 thousand years based on the genealogies of Genesis. They do not seem to contain any gaps, and even if they did, they would not mount up to millions of years. Millions of years will come when you first make the days of Genesis to be long ages, not because of anything in the text, but because we're forcing something upon the text. I’m also comfortable with this view based on giants who went before me in interpreting the text. It is not a hot issue for me. I accept it by faith based on what I can see in the Word of God. This Confession says that everything was made in the space of six days, it’s not a giant leap to assume that they meant regular days like the ones they had.

Martin Luther tried to refute the error that Augustine introduced in saying that God basically made everything in 1 day, saying:

When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.[3]

It is interesting to see what Calvin says about the age of the earth in the 16th century. Speaking of objections to preaching the doctrine of predestination, he gives other doctrines which are mocked by the ungodly:

A rebellious spirit will display itself no less insolently when it hears that there are three persons in the divine essence, than when it hears that God when he created man foresaw every thing that was to happen to him. Nor will they abstain from their jeers when told that little more than five thousand years have elapsed since the creation of the world. For they will ask, Why did the power of God slumber so long in idleness? In short, nothing can be stated that they will not assail with derision. To quell their blasphemies, must we say nothing concerning the divinity of the Son and Spirit? Must the creation of the world be passed over in silence? No! The truth of God is too powerful, both here and everywhere, to dread the slanders of the ungodly, as Augustine powerfully maintains in his treatise, De Bono Perseverantiae (cap. 14ñ20).[4]

In the debates and discussions about the age of the Earth between Christians, I have never yet heard someone bring up Christians from the past who believed the Earth was millions of years old. It is the common and traditional Christian position that the Earth is relatively young. In a lot of old literature (commentaries or books) people would reference events from the creation of Adam, and these numbers would not be in tens of thousands or millions. Even the Jews, seeing how Josephus does his chronology, believed in a relatively young earth. The reason to doubt the age of the earth was not exegetical, but was external and I believe, forced on the text of Scripture. While it may be possible that there are gaps in the chronologies of Genesis, I have not studied the issue deeply, still, this wouldn't give us an Earth which is millions of years old, indeed, 4,6 billion years old according to modern scientists. To fit the data that modern scientists have discovered about the Earth, some Christians have been more comfortable to doubt the Bible's account than that which the modern scientists, with their (almost always) secular presuppositions give.

Presuppositions

It is very important when thinking about the Creation account that we test our presuppositions and see what is moving us to have a particular view. What has “science” revealed that trumps our Creation view? Are we anti-science? What presuppositions are used in these scientific findings? Are they consistent withwith themselves? Are they consistent with Scripture? Do they contradict proper interpretation of Scripture? These are all important consideration which all of us bring to every topic, but especially in this hotly debated subject, and we should be made aware of them. Ultimately, I believe in the Young Earth Creationist position because my reading of the Scripture, not because of the findings of science. I find those interesting, but my ultimate allegiance is to the written Word of God.


§2 God created man, male and female...after the image of God

  1. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created; being made after the image of Godin knowledgerighteousness, and true holinesshaving the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change. 3
    1. Gen. 1:27; 2:7; James 2:26; Matt. 10:28; Eccl. 12:7
    2. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; Eccl. 7:29; 1 Cor 11:7; James 3:9; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24
    3. Rom. 1:32; 2:12a, 14-15; Gen. 3:6; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 5:12

Man is the epitome of creation, he is the crown of creation. Man is the only image of God of everything that God created. But what does it mean that man was made in the image and likeness of God as Genesis 1:26-27 teaches? A most basic observation about what man being in made in the image of God means is that man resembles or reflects God. That is what images do and that is the idea communicated through words like image or likeness. Man is in some way like God. While the plants are made and reproduce “according to [their] kind” (Gen. 1:11-12), sea creatures “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:21), land animals “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:24-25), man alone is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). In v. 26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. In v. 27, the narrator says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him”. This sets man apart from the rest of creation as the epitome of the created earth. Furthermore, God gets very personally involved in the creation of man as it is clear in Genesis 2. The rest of creation was made by divine fiat and speech, but when it comes to man, God's hands get involved! Some have tried to find different meanings or senses for the words image and likeness, but is this justified? There clearly seems to be a parallelism in v. 26 between image and likeness. When the speech of God is summarized in v. 27, there is nothing said about likeness, but the whole is communicated with the words that man was made in the image of God. Louis Berkhof helps us to see that both terms are used interchangeably in the Bible:

In Gen. 1:26 both words are used, but in the twenty-seventh verse only the first. This is evidently considered sufficient to express the whole idea. In Gen. 5:1 only the word “likeness” occurs, but in the third verse of that chapter both terms are again found. Gen. 9:6 contains only the word “image” as a complete expression of the idea. Turning to the New Testament, we find “image” and “glory” used in I Cor. 11:7, “image” alone in Col. 3:10, and “likeness” only in Jas. 3:9. Evidently the two are used interchangeably in Scripture.[5]

That man is made in the image of God means that there are similarities between man and God. This is even strengthened when we observe that man is the only creature made in the image of God. This means that “man's relationship to the rest of creation is analogous to God’s relationship to the whole creation.”[6] This could be seen in the way that God, as Creator and Governor of everything, delegates some of that governorship to His image-bearers. Genesis 1:28 reads, ‘And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”’ God commands man to subdue and fill the earth with image-bearers of God. They are to have dominion over the earth. They are to have dominion over the earth which the Lord made and placed man upon it. They are to rule over it as delegates from God and not as originators of the earth or with absolute power. They are to rule under the Lordship of God. They are to do some things which are similar to what God does. There is an analogy, not a total likeness in what man was commissioned to do and what God does. Basically, God places His works of day 3 through 6 under man's dominion and tells him to make it subservient to him. God places us as His representatives on the earth and commands us to fill it with image-bearers of His, so that His glory may be manifested to the world. Therefore, at minimal, the image of God means that “as humans, we may reflect and reproduce at our own creaturely level the holy ways of God, and thus act as his direct representatives on earth. This is what humans are made to do, and in one sense we are human only to the extent that we are doing it.”[7]

Man is further distinguished from the rest of creation on the earth when we observe that man is a volitional and moral creature. Man is able to make choice which have motivation and which are self-conscious, unlike the lower creation and animals, but similar to God. Man is able to think of, plan and consider his choices and options, unlike the animal kingdom. Furthermore, man possesses the law of God which enables him to distinguish good from evil (e.g. Rom. 2:14-15; see also here). Man has moral qualities which animals do not have. When speaking of the restored image of God, Paul says that it constitutes righteousness, holiness and knowledge (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). This was also true at the beginning of the creation. Redemption restores the fallen image of God in us to its original and perfected state. Man was made upright (Eccl. 7:29) and possessed a law in his heart by which he knew what it meant to be upright. By virtue of the fact that man is made in the image of God and possessing the law of God, man is morally accountable to God. This is not true of the immaterial creation or for the animals, for example. Every single man and woman will stand before the throne of God to give an account for their lives (see chapter 32).

Man is able to communicate similar to how God does. Man is able to love similar to God. Man is able to be just, be angry and so on. We are able to think similar to how God does. We are able to know God. We are able to be holy. As we learn more about God and how He is like, we likewise learn more about what it means to be made in the image of God. Notice that we reflect God in some way and we do things analogous to God, but never the same way. Our knowledge is not the same as God's, neither is our love, justice, anger or moral purity. This likeness to God is also carried over. In Genesis 5:3, we read, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” The same words, likeness and image, which were used of man originally in Genesis 1:26, are repeated here. Adam's son, Seth, is in Adam's likeness and after his image. He is like his father, but is not identical to his father. This helps us to understand being made in the image of God means that we are like God in some ways, but we are not identical to Him and we certainly are not God. Dr. Wayne Grudem observes:

Seth was not identical to Adam, but he was like him in many ways, as a son is like his father. The text simply means that Seth was like Adam. It does not specify any specific number of ways that Seth was like Adam, and it would be overly restrictive for us to assert that one or another characteristic determined the way in which Seth was in Adam’s image and likeness. Was it his brown eyes? Or his curly hair? Perhaps it was his athletic prowess, or his serious disposition or even his quick temper? Of course, such speculation would be useless. It is evident that every way in which Seth was like Adam would be a part of his likeness to Adam and thus part of his being “in the image” of Adam. Similarly, every way in which man is like God is part of his being in the image and likeness of God.[8]

This cautions us to not restrict the meaning of “image of God” to specific things or qualities in man. Rather, the image of God is everything and every way that man is like God. An important observation to be made is the fact that man does not possess the image of God as something extra, but man is the image of God. It is a matter of identity. 1 Corinthians 11:7 says that man, specifically, male man “is the image and glory of God”. Dr. Richard Barcellos observes, ‘In this text, whatever "image of God” means, it is what man is, not what man possesses.[9]

All that we've said above concerned man prior to the Fall. Is there anything changed after the Fall? Is man still in God's image? Even after the Fall, Scripture still affirms that man is in the image of God. Genesis 9:6 says, ‘“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’ The death penalty is based upon the fact that murder is an attack upon the image of God and thereby an attack upon God Himself. James 3:9 says concerning the tongue, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” They are still in the likeness and image of God. But something has happened to that image. J. I. Packer says, “The Fall diminished God's image not only in Adam and Eve but in all their descendants, that is, the whole human race. We retain the image structurally, in the sense that our humanity is intact, but not functionally, for we are now sin's slaves and unable to use our powers to mirror God's holiness.”[10]

The image of man after the Fall was marred because man was no longer holy and righteous, and therefore could not reflect God rightly. With his fallen image, man reflected God wrongly. Our original moral purity and righteousness was lost in the Fall and our sinful actions certainly do not reflect or represent God. We were made upright, but we sought out many schemes (Eccl. 7:29). We are no longer "very good” as the old creation and original image of God in us was (Gen. 1:31). The image of God is not destroyed, but marred and defected in fallen man. The work of redemption sets to restore and perfect the image of God in us. Paul tells us to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This new self is being "renewed" in us in the process of sanctification until it is fully formed in us (Col. 3:10; cf. 2Cor. 3:18). As we grow in our faith and in sanctification, we are made more and more like God. The image of God is fully restored in us at the coming of Christ when “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2) and we will fully be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Furthermore, Scripture tells that that we will bear the image of Christ, specifically (1Cor. 15:49). The redeemed humanity will bear the image of the Son of God (Rom. 8:29; 1Cor. 15:49)!

In conclusion, being made in the image of God means that we are in some ways like God. It is a high honor which is bestowed upon us. We are to be God's representatives in the world. This image was marred and distorted by the Fall, but it is being renewed in those who are new creations in Christ. The image of God will be fully restored in us when sanctification is complete and when we are resurrected—we will bear the image of Christ!

See chapter 7 (Of God's Covenant), chapter 9 (Of Free Will) and chapter 19 (Of God's Law) for more on these subjects.


§3 Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command

  1. Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which whilst they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures. 1
    1. Gen 1:26, 28; 2:17

Not only was the Law written on their hearts, but they also had a positive command delivered to them verbally so as to cast away any doubt or excuse. The command was simple and to the point:

Gen. 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

But our parents did disobey God's command and brought condemnation to all men, but all those who trust in Christ are justified because of Christ did on their behalf on Golgotha and by His perfect life (Rom. 5:17-21). Our parents, at the moment of their rebellion, lost holy and sinless communion with God for themselves and for all their descendants when they took and ate of the forbidden fruit, and thus bringing condemnation and death upon all men. See chapter 7 for more on the Covenant of Works.

 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

(Genesis 1:1)

Footnotes

  1. ^ Many Scriptural references have been supplied by Samuel Waldron's Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which was apparently supplied by the Westminster Confession of Faith 1646.
  2. ^ See more at Creation Ministries International. For example Jonathan Sarfati. How could the days of Genesis 1 be literal if the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day?
  3. ^ What Luther Says. A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Concordia, 1959, p. 93.
  4. ^ John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3.21.4.
  5. ^ Louis Berkhof. Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Banner of Truth Trust. 1963). p. 203.
  6. ^ John M. Frame. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014). p. 785.
  7. ^ J. I. Packer. Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993). p. 71.
  8. ^ Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994). p. 444.
  9. ^ Richard C. Barcellos. Getting the Garden Right: Adam's Work and God's Rest in Light of Christ. (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2017). p. 120.
  10. ^ Packer, Concise Theology. pp. 72-73.
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