The Christian Calling is Easy in Theory

The Christian Calling is Easy in Theory

Surely He who showed us mercy before we asked for it, will not withhold it now He has taught us how to plead for it agreeably to his own will. Though sin has abounded in us, grace has super-abounded in him. Though our enemies are many and mighty, Jesus is above them all. Though He may hide himself from us at times for a moment, He has given us a warrant to trust in him, even while we walk in darkness, and has promised to return and gather us with everlasting mercies.

The Christian calling, like many others, is easy and clear in theory, but not without much care and difficulty to be reduced to practice… We think at setting out that we sit down and count the cost, but alas! our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily. For every day shows us some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us which we were not aware of. And upon these accounts, discouragements may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing downs our arms and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight.

– John Newton, in a letter to William Cowper, July 30, 1767

Rutherford on Providence

Rutherford on Providence

One practice that I learned to value while going through cancer treatment was a regular, systematic reading of Scripture each day. This was something I had had problems with in the past – not so much reading the Bible, but the regular, daily reading. I had been rather haphazard and random before.

Along with that also came other daily reading, especially from the Puritans. And one book has been very helpful over the last year, especially – Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing. Mr. Rushing has compiled short, daily readings from a variety of Puritan writers that always seem to have a timely message. The one for today, September 28, is from Samuel Rutherford, and is particularly pertinent for me, going through the challenges of the last few months. Here it is:

My Father is the vine-dresser… Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. – John 15: 1,2

The great Master Gardener in his wonderful providence has planted me in this part of his vineyard by his grace, and here I grow and abide till the great Master of the vineyard thinks it fit to transplant me. Give him leave to take his own way of dispensations with you. His people must be content with what he carves out for them. Christ and his followers suffered before they reached the top of the mountain, but our soft nature desires heaven with ease. All who have gone before have found sharp storms that took the hide off their face, and many enemies in the way. His ways are far above me, with windings we cannot see. Obstacles are written in the Lord’s book by his wise and unerring providence. We see only the outside of things. It is a well-spent journey to crawl hands and feet to enjoy him at the well-head. Let us not be weary; we are closer than when we first believed. Do not focus your thoughts among the confused wheels of secondary causes, as – ‘O if this had been, this had not followed!’ Look up to the master motion of the first wheel. In building, we see hewn stones and timbers under hammers and axes, yet the house in its beauty we do not see at the present, but it is in the mind of the builder. We also see unbroken clods, furrows, and stones, but we do not see the summer lilies, roses, and the beauty of a garden. Even so we do not presently see the outcome of God’s decrees with his blessed purpose. It is hard to believe when his purposes is hidden and under the ground. Providence has a thousand keys to deliver his own even when all hope is gone. Let us be faithful and care for our own part, which is to do and suffer for him, and lay Christ’s part on himself, and leave it there; duties are ours, events are the Lord’s.

– Samuel Rutherford



Everyone has assumptions. In fact, we live most of our lives based on assumptions. We usually don’t think about things like breathing, food, water, shelter, electricity, law and order, gravity, or basic communication with each other, we just assume it. We don’t prove that we need to breathe before we take each breath, we just do it. The only time we question our assumptions is when they’re not working – we flip the light switch, but the light doesn’t come on; the shelves at the grocery store are bare; or, a storm has just blown away our home.

In considering what we believe about the Bible and theology, we also have some assumptions. These are things we don’t attempt to prove, because it seems obvious to us. That’s not to say that everyone agrees with us about what we assume, but everyone does assume some sort of foundational beliefs for living. And usually we don’t question these things until something isn’t working right (at least to our way of thinking).

Christians have always believed that God exists. One reason for this is from the light of nature and another reason is from the Bible. Life itself seems to indicate the presence of an almighty power that has created all things and guides all things. When we read the first few verses of Genesis, we see that belief echoed – “In the beginning God created…” Scripture itself assumes God’s existence. This assumption is so strong, that it’s taken as an obvious fact, which, if you don’t believe, you’re thought to be a fool (Psalm 14).

Since the belief in God is assumed, we also assume the truth of His word. We believe that God can reveal, and has revealed, Himself in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament. It’s assumed that God is powerful enough to make His will known to us, in spite of our failings and shortcomings. So, even though all men are sinful, God can still communicate truth through men, because He has the power to do it.

Because this truth accurately comes from God, it can safely be trusted as a rule for our lives and a final standard of authority. This authority doesn’t change, because God Himself doesn’t change. And this is what changeable people need – a firm, authoritative foundation from which they can build their lives and make sense of the world around them.

We also assume that God is our Creator. We are not the product of mindless evolutionary processes, but created in the image of God for a purpose and with meaning. This is why people matter. This is why everyone is concerned with justice. Those who doubt God’s existence must somehow explain the reality of purpose, meaning, and value in a universe with no God and no justice. Most, if not all, people live with these assumptions whether they believe in God or not.

Therefore, instead of questioning God’s existence or questioning His word, we accept it and assume it. And if things don’t seem to go our way or make sense, rather than doubting God or His word, we doubt ourselves and our understanding of God and seek further understanding of His will.

For information on how this plays out in apologetics, see the article on Presuppositionalism.