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Puritans vs. the modern academic Reformed regarding provocation to duty

In The Christian Soldier, or, Heaven Taken by Storm (a title which itself causes modern academic Reformed to giggle) Thomas Watson writes about how we are to provoke violence to ourselves (our fallen nature). He lists two things, one well known, the other not:

1. He must offer violence to himself -- This self-violence consists in two things:

1. Mortification of sin.
2. Provocation to duty.

It's a good part common shallowness but also a good part their cultural Marxist educations that make modern academic Reformed deny the necessity of really both of those things, but especially the latter of the two. (Their mantra: we don't have to do anything! in fact it's not about us!)

What is provocation to duty? Unfortunately in a modern context it's more difficult to know what it is because the faith is now so separated from anything resembling the practical level. Something the Devil has been working hard to do through educating his ministers in colleges and universities and seminaries now fully taken over by cultural Marxism and getting them to write numerous shallow books and articles and to even preach it from the pulpit.

Provocation to duty is something you have to do regarding things where you don't have an external or instinctive stimulus to force you to do something. Homelessness is an external stimulus that makes you get up every morning and go to work. Hunger is an instinctive stimulus that makes you do what you have to do to have food to satisfy hunger. Getting a good grade in a class is an external stimulus to make you read a book. Without the class and necessity of a good grade as a context you are less likely to read the book. If you are wealthy already you are less likely to get up early every morning to do an eight-hour shift. Etc.

Now here is where I have to list practical aspects of the faith to give an example of things that require inward motivation to get done (that require a provocation to duty). I could do this using extra-biblical language (Fourth Way, Work language), or I could choose a command from the Bible, the New Testament let's say, that everybody has heard a million times without ever seeing it at the practical level (or valuing it at the practical level), thus the example will most likely go in one ear and out the other.

Anyway, I'll try the latter... Let's take the command to love your enemy. Nothing external forces you to do this. You might think that self-preservation (not wanting to get in a fight, not wanting to lose a job, etc.) is an external motivation to love your enemy, but it's really not because you have to love your enemy in your thoughts and emotions as well as your will and actions. So this command requires inward motivation. The motivation to do it has to come from you. You have to understand and *value* the command, and you have to desire to practice it. You have to provoke yourself to this duty. I.e. it doesn't just mechanically happen. It has to consciously happen.

Another example: the Bible speaks of wakefulness, or the necessity of being awake (Rom. 13:11, Now it is high time to awake out of sleep... That is not head-on-pillow-sleep Paul is talking of). In everyday life we can get along very well without ever being awake in the biblical sense. We're sleepwalking through life, yet so is everyone else, and things get mechanically done. The effort to be awake is an effort that has no external stimulus. We have to provide the stimulus. The effort. The motivation. The valuation for the practice and goal.

This is what *provocation to duty* means. Modern day academic Christian leaders and educators not only do not teach this, but they don't understand it or even know of its necessity (or even of its existence as an idea or activity).

Thomas Watson puts provocation to duty alongside mortification of sin as the two things we need to do when engaging in spiritual warfare against our fallen nature. I.e. it is not a small thing in the practice of the faith.

For my Fourth Way acquaintances out there this is a big idea and practice to remember. Our valuation to make efforts in the direction we know we have to make efforts in is never very high, or is rarely high. We have to know that provocation to duty is a part of it (they're called conscious shocks for a reason). Doing things solely from inward motivation or stimulus is hard. Reading articles on the internet is easy; reading Thucydides is hard. The latter requires inward motivation and a greater degree of effort and attention. We know this, but it is good to know that Christianity knows this too, yet the practice has been lost in the modern era where shallowness (and intentional misleading) in the faith abounds.

Provocation to duty along with mortification of sins can even be seen as *the* two conscious shocks necessary for getting into the realm of higher emotion and real will and increasing real understanding. And they also apply in the war with the world and the Devil just as with our inner fallen nature.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kind of get what you are saying regarding 'provocation to duty' and doing things from 'inward motivation' but that too can be a little tricky. For instance many christians might try to 'love thy enemy' because the bible says to do it and they will not get into heaven if they don't. But they think of it and attempt it in an external way.
Can you elaborate a little more about what you mean by 'inner motivation', what it consists of and how to tell the difference.

Thanks, and love your writings.

April 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger c.t. said...

I know what you're saying, and I included the word 'understanding' the practice when I edited the post at first. We have to understand such biblical commands as love thy enemy. Why it's something we should do. So I'm assuming there is understanding of the command. That would get into a whole new subject.

I tried to give examples in the post where there are external reasons to do things, and if you don't have any external reasons to do something then you have to supply the motivation yourself, which is something human beings really aren't very use to having to do.

For instance nothing is forcing me to read the Bible right now, and I haven't read it in a sustained way for a long while now. To pick it up and really read it in a sustained way I have to 'stir up' in myself valuation for that act. For instance I have to remember that the Bible is higher visual language and communicates deeply at many levels when you just take it in. That is sanctifies in that sense. That gives me motivation to read it with no external stimulus to goad me. Also, knowing that what I have in my heart memory (as Thomas Boston put it) regarding the Word of God I take with me beyond the veil. That too is a motivation to pick it up and read it. But I have to think of those things, to stir myself up.

April 20, 2014 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger c.t. said...

Here's a further note I wrote after the above post:

Here is a further quote from Watson on provocation to duty:

* * * * * * *

2. The second thing in offering violence to a man's self consists, is, in provocation to duty. Then we offer holy violence to ourselves when we excite and provoke ourselves to that which is good. This is called in Scripture, a 'stirring up ourselves to take hold of God,' Isa. lxiv. 7. Consider, 1. What absolute need there is to stir ourselves up to holy duties. In respect to the sluggishness of our hearts to that which is spiritual; blunt tools need whetting; a dull creature needs spurs. Our hearts are dull and heavy in the things of God, therefore we have need to spur them on and provoke them to that which is good. -- The flesh hinders from duty: when we would pray, the flesh resists; when we should suffer, the flesh draws back. How hard it is sometimes to get the consent of our hearts to seek God! Jesus Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace. Had not we need then provoke ourselves to duty? If our hearts are so
unstrung in religion, we had need prepare and put them in tune.

Watson, Thomas (2011-08-25). The Essential Works Of Thomas Watson (Kindle Locations 31443-31450). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.

* * * * * * *

This is a good biblical phrase: This is called in Scripture, a 'stirring up ourselves to take hold of God,' Isa. lxiv. 7.

We do have to stir ourselves up. We do it to make money. We have to. I don't like having to face uncertain profits (although I'm getting better at it). But I stir myself up.

Isa 64:7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

April 20, 2014 at 4:59 PM  

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