For those that have suffered, the following online articles, audio lectures, and books have been very helpful. While the so-called Five Point Calvinism, and the Sovereignty of God were helpful early on in our own personal suffering, moving into Reformed Theology where Christ in the Gospel for his people is central has been the most helpful. Dr. Michael Horton in some of his lectures on suffering (see below) was the most helpful in getting us to understand that.
Michael S. Horton, “Hellenistic or Hebrew? Open Theism and Reformed Theological Method” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 45 (2002): 317-41 If you have faced deep sorrow or tragedy in this life, Open Theism really does not bring true and lasting comfort. This article is very helpful in dealing with this error.
Singing the Blues with Jesus by Michael Horton Too much of church life is just too happy and down right sappy. Horton strikes the blue note in this article and directs us to the fact that Christians do find the blue note in their suffering only to look outside of themselves by faith and begin to find comfort in Christ.
A subscription is needed to Modern Reformation to access the following two articles: July/August 1997 Vol: 6 Num: 4 – Divine Impassibility and Our Suffering God: How an Evangelical “Theology of the Cross” Can and Should Affirm Both by Peter D. Anders
May/June 2001 Vol: 10 Num: 3 – A Vulnerable God Apart from Christ?: Open Theism’s Challenge to the Classical Doctrine of God by Michael S. Horton
Among the classical attributes, the doctrine of divine impassibility appears to be the least supportable. In fact, it is not even a topic, much less a locus, in representative Reformed systems, but it has become the Rubicon separating classical theism and its rivals. After all, if God’s happiness depends in any sense on creatures, each of the preceding attributes falls like dominoes. While the arguments of open theists are largely determined by the false antitheses of classical and modern pagan thought (pagan transcendence/pagan immanence), perhaps there is a reason to revise and clarify our own position. Part of the confusion even in our own circles, I would argue, has to do with the term “impassibility.” Literally, it means “without suffering,” not-as it appears to English speakers, “without passions.” The Westminster Confession perhaps muddies the waters on this fine point by listing among God’s attributes “without parts or passions.” Reformed theology has never taken its stand on the view that God is not passionate, but that God does not suffer. In the latter case, he would be a victim of the creaturely world. The same texts to which one would turn for support of God’s independence would be appropriate for our defense of God’s immunity to being negatively altered in his being by the creation.
http://www.okcrt.com/okcrt-2006/ Michael Horton lectured on suffering at the 2006 Oklahoma City Conference on Reformed Theology. These lectures are similar to the material originally published in “Too Good to be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype” which was subsequently published under the title, A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering
LISTEN TO THE SESSIONS:
God and Suffering at Christ URC – lectures by Michael Horton
These lectures are similar to the above but more detailed. If you find these lectures too difficult to follow, I would encourage the listener to go back and listen to the lectures delivered at the OKC Reformation Conference and return to these lectures later.
http://christurc.org/catechism_horton.html 9 Lectures which are an expanded version of the OKC lectures from 2006.
09/17/2006 Class 1 PLAY
09/24/2006 Class 2 PLAY
10/01/2006 Class 3 PLAY
10/08/2006 Class 4 PLAY
10/15/2006 Class 5 PLAY
11/05/2006 Class 6 PLAY
11/12/2006 Class 7 PLAY
11/26/2006 Class 8 PLAY
12/03/2006 Class 9 PLAY
Infant Death and Hope of Their Salvation:
After a series of articles that sets forth the biblical teaching regarding God’s election of his people in Christ and his reprobation of others, the authors of the Canons address in Article I/17 the question of the election and salvation of the children of believers “whom God calls out of this life in infancy.”
Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.4
Little One Lost: The Hole in My Heart by Mrs. Glenda Mathes This book includes personal stories from grieving parents of losing their infants -filled with honest sorrow and yet expectant hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
About this book:
The Lord has numbered each of our days. But few parents expect that their days will be longer than their child’s. When a child is buried, parents also bury the hopes and dreams, the joys and experiences that won’t be shared.
James Bruce and his wife walked through the darkest trial of their faith when their infant son died. They found some comfort in the words of others who had walked the same path. The list of great men and women of the faith who shed tears over a departed child is long. Bruce has gathered together short accounts of how believers like John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon and John Bunyan wept–and yet were comforted by the Father of mercies. Their pain, peace and hope is also shared through the beauty and eloquence of their poetry. It is Bruce’s prayer that these accounts and words will help mourning parents journey through the valley of weeping to the path that leads to glory while considering the work of God.
For those that have lost children in infancy, it can be a rather difficult journey to work through the grief. Yet Christian parents find their ultimate hope in Christ. The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) wrote concerning the salvation of the infants of believers in Article 17:
The Salvation of the Infants of Believers
FIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 17. Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor 7:14).
An essay titled A Promise for Parents: Dordt’s Perspective on Covenant and Election by W. Robert Godfrey was recently published in Church and School in Early Modern Protestantism: Studies in Honor of Richard A. Muller on the Maturation of a Theological Tradition, Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, David S. Sytsma and Jason Zuidema. This entry has particularly helpful quotes intended to strengthen the confidence in the grace of God that believer’s children dying in infancy are in heaven.
Various delegations to the Synod expressed their views on doctrinal matters that are published in the Acta Synodi Nationalis…Dordrechti habitae Anno MDCXIX (Dordrecht, 1620), that gave shape to the final articles of the Synod of Dordt. Along with selective quotes from the Acta, Dr. Godfrey provides John Calvin quotes to show Calvin’s views influenced the delegates to the Synod. Christian parents should find great consolation because of God’s gracious covenant to His people and their covenant children.
Below are a few selections with the hope that others will find comfort:
The Bremen delegation stated:
We determine about the children of believers only that those who die before the age of doctrinal understanding are loved by God and are saved by the same good pleasure of God on account of Christ, through Christ, and in Christ as the adult: therefore they are holy from the relation of the covenant, the reality of which is confirmed by grace when they are initiated by sacred baptism and put on Christ.
pp. 379-380 (Acta, 2:63)
The delegation of Dutch professors wrote:
There is a great difference between those infants born to parents in the covenant and those not born in the covenant… we conclude that the children of believers dying in infancy ought to be reckoned elect since they are graciously taken away by God from this life before they have violated the conditions of the covenant. We are of the opinion that the children of unbelievers born outside the church of God, ought to be left to the judgment of God. For ‘those who are outside, God will judge,’ 1 Corinthians 5:13
pp. 379-380 (Acta, 3:10-11)
Professor Franciscus Gomarus wrote:
We piously believe that the infants of true believers, covenanted to God through Christ are also elect, if they die before the use of reason, from the formula of the covenant: I am your God and the God of your seed (Genesis 17 and Acts 2:39). But if they should attain to the use of reason, we recognize only those to be elect who believe in Christ, indeed according to the Gospel, only these are saved.
pp. 380-381 (Acta, 3:24)
Yet, (you say) there is danger lest he who is ill, if he die without baptism, be deprived of the grace regeneration. Not at all. God declares that he adopts our babies as his own before they are born, when he promises that he will be our God and the God of our descendants after us (Genesis 17:7). Their salvation is embraced in this word. No one will dare be so insolent toward God as to deny that his promise of itself suffices for its effect.
p. 383 (Calvin, Institutes, IV.xv.20)
Commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:14, Calvin wrote:
Therefore this passage is a noteworthy one, and based on the profoundest theology… the fact that the apostle ascribes a special privilege to the children of believers here has its source in the blessing of the covenant, by whose intervention the curse of nature is destroyed, and all those who were by nature unclean are consecrated to God by His grace.
p. 383 (John Calvin, Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 149 on 1 Corinthians 7:14)
Church and School in Early Modern Protestantism: Studies in Honor of Richard A. Muller on the Maturation of a Theological Tradition, Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, David S. Sytsma and Jason Zuidema