|In This Issue:
Setting In Order The Things That Are Wanting (8)
Robert D. Decker
A Comparison of Exegesis: John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas (4)
Russell J. Dykstra
In the Space of Six Days (3)
Mark L. Shand
Preaching Christ from Old Testament Historical Narrative Texts
Ronald L. Cammenga
A Brief Study of the Doctrine of the Covenant of Works in the Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition
Professor Russell Dykstra concludes his fine series on a comparison of the exegesis of John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. Dykstra points out several significant differences, all stemming from the radical effect of the sixteenth century Reformation. Dykstra contends, and rightly so, that the Reformations bringing of the church back to Scripture as the absolute authority for the faith and life of the believer meant that the ax was laid to the root of the sacerdotal tree of Rome.
The Rev. Mark Shand concludes his excellent work on creation In the Space of Six Days by showing convincingly from both Scripture and the Reformed/Presbyterian Confessions that the creation week consisted of seven 24-hour days. Shand makes this telling comment: This is the fundamental error. To place Gods revelation in the book of creation side by side with His revelation in Scripture is to deny the sole authority of Scripture . Neither general revelation nor so-called science may ever be permitted to dictate the meaning of Scripture.
The Rev. Ronald Cammenga makes an instructive and much needed contribution to the discipline Homiletics in his well-documented article on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.
Mr. Dennis Lee, a third-year seminary student, likewise offers a well-documented and instructive essay on the erroneous doctrine of the so-called covenant of works.
There are offered a number of book reviews from which both lay readers and clergy will profit.
The editor continues his exposition of the Epistle to Titus.
Setting in Order the Things That Are Wanting
An Exposition of
Paul's Epistle to Titus (8)
Robert D. Decker
Verse 12, as we saw last time, tells us what the grace of God that appears to all classes of men teaches us, viz., that we are to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world in the way of denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.
Verse 13 reveals that this godly living is a living in expectation of the blessed hope. We are looking for or waiting for the blessed hope with eager expectation.1 We live the Christian life looking eagerly, joyfully, and without doubting for a moment for the blessed hope. That hope is a certain expectation. We are sure of the realization of that blessed hope because we live by faith and not by sight.
For what are we eagerly looking and waiting? What is that blessed hope? Blessed is that hope because it affords us real joy, the joy of salvation from sin and death, also now while we are looking and waiting for its realization. Here and now in the darkness of this present ungodly world with all of its temptations, its ungodly lusts, its sin and lawlessness, its persecutions and threats of persecution we live joyfully, waiting for the realization of our hope. Here and now, in this present evil world, in our joys and sorrows, in our good times and bad, in our health and sickness and pain and dying, we live godly lives joyfully and with certainty looking for the realization of our blessed hope.
But what precisely is that blessed hope? The answer of the text is, the appearing of the glory of the great God (and/or) even our Savior, Jesus Christ. The question at this point is, are we waiting for the appearance of the glory of our great God and the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, or are we looking for the appearing of the glory of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who is our great God?
We refrain from going into all of the arguments put forth in favor of each of these views.2 The author agrees with A. T. Robertsons interpretation, that we are looking for the appearing of the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the Great God. We agree with Robertson that this is the correct understanding based on the grammar. Writes Robertson, This is the necessary meaning of the one article (the) with Theou (God) and sooteeros (Savior).3 We could better translate the clause, looking for the appearing of the glory of the Great God our Savior, even Jesus Christ (even in the sense of who is Jesus Christ).4 We hasten to add, however, that it makes no essential difference which view we hold. This is due to the facts that: 1) in either case Scripture (and that over against the error of the Arians) affirms the divinity of Christ and 2) the glory of God is always manifest or revealed in and through the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.5
The glory of Jesus Christ is the shining forth, the manifestation of all the wonderful attributes, virtues of Gods perfect being. We are given a glimpse of that glory by means of the Word of God. With eager and certain expectation and with deep longing we look for the full and complete revelation of the glory of God in Christ when Christ returns at the end of the ages to judge all men, to destroy the present heavens and earth and to create a new heaven and earth.
This final appearance of Jesus at the end of the ages is the reason He is called the great God even our Savior. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God in our flesh. He is the one by whom and for whom all things were made. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the one who dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. That glory will be completely revealed. It will appear in all its fullness and perfection when Jesus Christ appears at the end of the ages.
And Jesus is our Savior! By means of His atoning death on the cross in the place of and on behalf of all the elect given to Him by God from all eternity, Jesus obtained forgiveness of sin. In Jesus resurrection those elect in Him were delivered from the fear of the bondage of death. And when Jesus appears the second time, that salvation will be perfectly realized.
This is our hope. Certain and blessed hope it is indeed! This is the blessed gospel we are privileged to preach. It is this blessed gospel we are privileged to teach you students to preach! There is nothing more worthwhile, more satisfying, than to be called by God and enabled by His grace in Christ Jesus to preach the good news of this blessed hope!
to be continued
A Comparison of Exegesis:
and Thomas Aquinas (concl.)
Russell J. Dykstra
Ephesians 6:14-17 The Christians Armor.
Ephesians 6:14-17 contains the well-known description of the armor that the inspired apostle commands every Christian to put on. Neither Aquinas nor Calvin has extensive development of the particular pieces of the armor. Calvin tells us immediately that this is his plan, apparently cognizant of other exegesis that dealt expansively with this section. He writes,
Calvins sermon on the armor likewise gives only a brief treatment of the individual parts.
Aquinas divides the armor into three groups. Some are like clothes, and are meant to cover one. This will include the first three elements (belt, breastplate, and sandals). Other parts of the armor are to protect him (shield and helmet). And still others are for fighting (the sword). As stated above, Aquinas commentary is brief, but he shows a mild tendency toward allegorizing finding a spiritual meaning based loosely on the literal text.
What follows is a comparison of the exegesis of Aquinas and Calvin on the armor.
Loins girt about with truth.
Both Aquinas and Calvin understand truth to refer to a moral quality, rather than the objective truth of God. They differ significantly on the meaning of girding the loins with truth.
Aquinas believes that the girding of the loins refers to check[ing] carnal desires, since the loins are the place in which sensuality thrives. That this is to be done in truth means, with the right intention and not with pretense.
Calvin begins with truth and contends that it means sincerity of mind. Because the girdle is one of the most important parts of the armor, he concludes that our attention is thus directed to the fountain of sincerity. And how is this done by the loins girt about with truth? Writes Calvin, [T]he purity of the gospel ought to remove from our minds all guile, and from our hearts all hypocrisy.
Breastplate of righteousness.
Aquinas links the breastplate of righteousness with having ones feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace in this way both are enjoined upon believers in order to warn them to overcome greed for created things. Concerning the breastplate, Aquinas believes that Pauls point is an injunction not unjustly to usurp property, and justice will look after this. This covering is needed because it keeps a man out of other peoples property. Justice is a breastplate, writes Aquinas, because it covers all the virtues just as a breastplate does the members. Aquinas believes he finds a parallel passage to assist his exegesis in Wisdom 5:19 (in the Vulgate; verse 18 in many English translations), a book which the later Protestants rejected as apocryphal He will put on justice as a breastplate, and will take true judgment instead of a helmet.
Calvin maintains that the righteousness is a devout and blameless life not, as some imagine, the imputation of righteousness, by which pardon of sin is maintained. His interpretation is controlled by the context for the subject now under discussion is a blameless life. This is significant because the Reformations greatest conflict against the Roman Catholic Church was over justification by faith alone the imputed righteousness of Christ. Regardless of whether one agrees with Calvins exegesis of this passage or not, it indicates that he is not overreacting to this controversy by rejecting the Bibles use of righteousness in places as describing the believers godly life. In other words, his exegesis is not controlled by the church or determined by a major controversy. As for the fact that the specific part of armor is a breastplate, Calvin speaks only of the calling to be adorned with a devout and holy life.
Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
As noted earlier, Aquinas connected this with the previous article of the soldiers armor as a warning to the Christian to overcome greed for created things. This particular piece of the armor has to do with the need to get rid of an excessive care about temporal realities. That, because when we are too caught up with these, our feet are not ready to carry out divine pursuits and proclaim its mysteries. According to Aquinas, your feet shod means ones inclinations should be determined with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Then he adds a bit of allegorical interpretation: As a symbol of this the Lord sent the Apostles shod with sandals. These have soles underneath, by which the raising of the mind from earthly matters is signified . Aquinas adds that this is the gospel of peace since through the gospel peace is proclaimed to us. This commentary is not exactly clear in that, on the one hand, Aquinas implies that all must be ready to preach (proclaim its mysteries), and, on the other hand, that we need to hear the preaching.
Calvin clearly states that this peace refers to the effects of the gospel, for it is the message of reconciliation to God, and nothing else gives peace to the conscience. As the greaves of the Roman soldier protected his feet, so we must be shod with the gospel, if we would pass unhurt through the world. Concerning the preparation, Calvin rejects the explanation that we must be prepared for the gospel, for, he reiterates, he considers this term to refer to the effect of the gospel. Rather, he maintains that Paul exhorts us to lay aside every hindrance and to be prepared both for war and journey. The gospel accomplishes this preparation.
In all things taking the shield of faith.
Aquinas, ignoring the protective character of some of the earlier listed parts of armor, here inserts the comment: The second function of weapons is to protect. This introduces the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, and distinguishes them from the armor of moral virtues previously listed. He writes concerning faith that faith is presupposed to all other virtues just as a shield is basic to all weapons.
Aquinas makes a point of distinguishing between the use of the previous three parts of the Christians armor and the shield of faith. With the first three (what he calls moral virtues), believers conquer the powers of darkness. But Aquinas teaches that the shield of faith consists of the theological virtue of faith. Although he does not explain the differences in his commentary, Aquinas is following scholastic classifications in this distinction of virtues.2 Faith repels what is aimed against it and gains the victory. To be more specific, faith quenches present and transitory temptations with the eternal and spiritual blessings promised in Holy Scripture. Aquinas sets up Jesus as the example who brought forth authoritative texts of Scripture to oppose the devils temptations. All this might seem to indicate that Aquinas takes faith to refer to objective faith (faith as the body of truth), but his conclusion indicates otherwise. Faith is called a shield, Aquinas writes, because as the shield protects the entire chest, so faith must be in our hearts. Although this could mean having the Word of God in ones heart, it is more likely that Aquinas refers to faith in the subjective sense of believing.
Calvin understands faith to be the subjective activity of faith. He maintains that faith and the word of God are one, yet Paul assigns to them distinct offices. He explains, I call them one, because the word is the object of faith, and cannot be applied to our use but by faith; as faith again is nothing, and can do nothing, without the word.
On the fiery darts of the wicked Calvin and Aquinas both agree the darts are from the devil, differing only in the exact meaning of burning. Aquinas writes that these darts are fiery since evil desires burn, and apparently means that they destroy men, as he quotes Psalm 57:9, Fire hath fallen on them, and they shall not see the sun. Calvin, more cautious, says of the darts that they are not only sharp and penetrating, but what makes them more destructive they are fiery.
The helmet of salvation.
On this phrase, both Calvin and Aquinas exchange the word hope for salvation. Aquinas does so without explanation. His exposition is extremely brief. He comments, Hope is referred to as a helmet because, as a helmet is on the head, so the head of the moral virtues is the end, and hope is concerned with the end.
Calvin indicates that he draws from I Thessalonians 5:8, where the helmet is called the hope of salvation. In that light he writes, The head is protected by the best helmet, when, elevated by hope, we look up towards heaven to that salvation that is promised. Salvation is a helmet, he maintains, only by becoming the object of hope.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Aquinas is vague on the exact meaning of the Word of God. He speaks of preaching being the word of God, ignoring the incongruity of putting the sword of the preaching into the hand of the ordinary Christian. The reason for not making it simply the Bible may be due to the Churchs oft discouragement of the common man having the Bible. If so, this is an instance of allowing the teaching of the church to determine the exegesis of the passage. However, Aquinas is not explicit on this.
Treating this in connection with the shield of faith, Calvin simply calls this the word of God, obviously referring to the Bible. Without naming names, he takes aim at the Romish Churchs practice of restricting the laitys use of the Bible.
Clearly, Calvin insisted that every Christian must take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
Making comparisons in the area of exegesis is difficult, and it is even more difficult to remain objective and fair when the two exegetes are separated by nearly 400 years. The later exegete has the advantage of looking back on, and benefiting from, the exegesis not only of the earlier theologian, but also the many works published in that intervening period. It stands to reason that the later exegete ought to have a better development in his exegesis. Taking this into consideration, and having noted some significant differences in the exegesis of Aquinas and Calvin, we still strive for an adequate explanation for these differences.
First, from a formal point of view, much of the difference is attributable to the differences in the age and circumstances. For example, the style of the work is largely determined by the literary context of the exegete. Thomas Aquinas was a scholastic, and his literary style reflects this. It also affects the exegesis of Aquinas, which consists largely of categorization dividing and subdividing the text, together with the expounding of fine distinctions, as the scholastics were wont to do.
One point that ought not to be missed, however, is that Thomas Aquinas commentaries are rather innovative for his age. The Glossa Ordinaria and Lombards expansion, the Magna glosatura, so dominated the Middle Ages that most commentators felt obligated to comment on the Glosses, more (perhaps even, rather) than on the actual text of Scripture. Thomas Aquinas commented on the text of Scripture. From that point of view, Smalley is correct that against a background of modern exegesis, one naturally finds the medieval element in them startling; approaching them from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, one is more startled by their modernity.3
Calvin, on the other hand, was a trained humanist and his style was far more rhetorical as a result. He does not follow the Glosses at all. His style is free. He is far more readable for the modern reader than Thomas Aquinas.
The comparison of Aquinas and Calvin manifests one additional, immensely significant factor, namely, the knowledge (or ignorance) of the original languages. Aquinas ignorance of the Hebrew and Greek puts him at such a disadvantage that it overshadows all comparisons to Calvin in exegesis. The language factor has been documented above and this clearly shows the significant effect on Aquinas exegesis. He followed the Vulgate, the official translation of the Church in his day. The incontrovertible fact is that Aquinas was frequently led astray by the faulty translation. At the same time, Calvins exegesis is not only much more accurate, but deeper, as a result of his knowledge and capable use of these languages in exegesis.
Nonetheless, even recognizing all the above, there are additional significant differences in the exegesis of the two men which are not attributable to the above factors, so that a further comparison has validity and merit. Some of these differences are more difficult to document, involving the material differences between the two exegeses. The subjective evaluation is, admittedly, more on the fore. Yet, these, i.e., the material differences, are the significant ones, and it is worth our efforts to attempt delineating them. It is my contention that the root of these differences between the exegesis of Thomas Aquinas and that of John Calvin is the radical effect of the sixteenth century Reformation.
The term radical is used advisedly, that is to say, the Reformation is of a different root. The Reformation is not merely the splitting of the church institute into two branches. It rather reformed (i.e., re-formed, reestablished) the church of Christ, and that, back to the Scriptures. The essence of the Reformation is a spiritual change. It began in the heart of Martin Luther over the matter of his salvation. Through his spiritual struggles and his resulting study of Scripture, Luther became convinced that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. It is not in any sense by works.
This truth laid the ax to the root of the sacerdotal tree of Rome. The elevated priesthood was demolished. No longer was the church the only legitimate interpreter of Scripture. The pope was dethroned as the final and infallible authority on the Bible. Besides, the Bible was given back to the people. Being priests, they had the right to interpret it. Since Scripture is perspicuous, they could interpret it. And, most significant, the Bible became the sole authority for doctrine and walk.
Thus there arose out of the Reformation a tremendous emphasis on Scripture. There was a zeal for and an honoring of the written Word beyond anything that Thomas Aquinas ever evidenced or heard from his contemporaries. Scripture was everything. It was the sole source of truth, of theology. It governed the church and her offices. Everything depended on the Scriptures.
This radical change, the Reformation, explains much about the differences in exegesis, even from a formal point of view. Aquinas reliance upon the Vulgate was part of the Church of Romes policy this was the official Bible. In addition, we find Aquinas quoting from the Apocryphal books in his exegesis, these being canonical according to the Church of Aquinas. Not so Calvin. The authority of the canonical books depends not on the declaration of a church, but on the testimony of the Spirit in and concerning these books.
The doctrines expounded in the commentaries on Ephesians clearly reveal the effect of the Reformation. Aquinas taught semi-Pelagianism, merit, the elevation of the clergy, and the Romish doctrines of saints. Calvin emphasized the sovereignty of God and of His grace, absolutely no merit in salvation, free predestination, and the importance of Scripture for the people.
Another notable dissimilarity is the freedom, or lack thereof, that these men experienced. Calvin was free from the domination of the church. The church did not rule his exegesis. He enjoyed (demanded) the freedom to dissent with other theologians of the Reformation. He was not bound by the exegesis of the fathers, even the most respected, e.g., Augustine. This is not to say that Calvin would advocate absolute freedom. No doubt he considered himself bound by the confessions. History shows that he would not tolerate exegesis that denied the Trinity, for example. But these doctrines were settled by the church on the basis of the Bible, not on the basis of an infallible priesthood or pope. Within the limits of these confessions, Calvin the exegete had freedom.
Aquinas did not enjoy (exercise) such freedom. The Church claimed the right of infallible interpretation. Only minor differences would be tolerated. In this exegesis of Ephesians, Aquinas toed the line. He did not stray far from the official positions or explanations of the Church. This is a serious weakness in his exegesis.
To the Reformation also is to be attributed the elimination of allegorical exegesis in Calvin. In Aquinas we find major improvement over many other exegetes of the Middle Ages. However, even in this relatively straightforward text in Ephesians, Aquinas occasionally strays into allegory, with scant basis in the text or the rest of Scripture. For Calvin, his convictions about Scripture do not allow him to play such games with exegesis. Other exegetes of the Reformation are not so well disciplined, and some still are guilty of allegorizing at times. But the reformational doctrines of Scripture, and the exegetical principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, are the main reason for its demise.
The Reformation also accounts for another contrast in the exegesis of Calvin as opposed to Aquinas, namely, that Calvins was antithetical, even polemical. In his commentary on Ephesians, Calvin pointed out how and when the text condemned the tenets of this or that group. In the days of Aquinas, this was not the place of the exegete. The Church condemned the heretics, and this was not ordinarily done by proving their error from Scripture. Rather the Church excommunicated by the power of the episcopate, and that because the heretics contradicted the law (or interpretation) of the same. It is not surprising, then, that Aquinas did little of this in his exegesis. He did confirm the former condemnation of the Pelagians by the Church and reject the interpretation of Origen, which virtually everyone did.
The final difference is almost intangible, yet real. While admitting that subjectivity does play a role here, I contend that there is a certain zeal and enthusiasm that permeates the exegesis of Calvin, which is noticeably absent in the exegesis of Aquinas. This goes beyond merely the differences in style scholastic versus rhetorical. The spirit of the Reformation, particularly the spirit of sola Scriptura, is the difference.
This contrast in the influence and authority of Scripture for Aquinas and Calvin is obvious when one compares their major theological works, Aquinas Summa and Calvins Institutes. Calvins lifetime of expounding the Scriptures resulted in his constantly fleshing out the Institutes. The Institutes breathe Scripture. Not so the Summa. This is only another indication of the different place that Scripture had in the life, work, and thinking of these two theologians. These same characteristics are found in their respective commentaries.
Therefore, in spite of the similarities in the exegesis of these men as, e.g., the honor paid to Scripture as the Word of God, their striving for brevity and clarity, and their emphasis on the literal meaning there remain significant differences in style and content, differences rooted in the sixteenth century Reformation as compared to thirteenth century scholasticism. It is tempting to hypothesize about what Aquinas work would have been like were he a contemporary of Calvin. But he was not. Aquinas, for all his genius, was not able, perhaps not willing, to exegete Scripture with the logical consistency that he required of himself in other aspects of his work. One can only recognize that the genius of Calvin did flourish in the climate of the Reformation, to yield exegetical fruit having such clarity, brevity, and excellence that the church benefits from it even to the present day.
to be continued
In the Space of Six Days
Mark L. Shand
The Fundamental Error
Having traced the historical view of the days in Genesis 1 & 2 from the early church to the present time, we see that the beginning of the nineteenth century saw a marked change in the interpretation given to Genesis 1 & 2 within Reformed and Presbyterian circles. We see, too, that this change coincided with the development and dissemination of so-called scientific views that maintained that the earth was many thousands, if not millions, of years in age. The question that needs to be answered is whether the change in thinking was scriptural.1
This question becomes all the more intriguing when it is realized that many of those who were open to views that accommodated the findings of so-called science acknowledged that the plain meaning of the first two chapters of Genesis was that God created the heavens and the earth in six days of normal duration and rested on the seventh day.
Charles Hodge, despite his openness to the day age theory, says with respect to the word day in Genesis 1:
Bavinck says of the interpretation of Genesis 1:
Another example is afforded by Nico Ridderbos, who opines:
Edward J. Young, writing on the historicity of Genesis, asserted:
The CRC report on Creation and Science also acknowledged that the natural meaning of Genesis 1 was that God made the world in the space of six days.
If Genesis 1 upon a natural reading revealed itself plainly to be historical narrative, upon what basis were other, non-literal interpretations entertained? Herman Hoeksema identified the heart of the matter:
If Genesis 1 is exegeted according to the ordinary historical, grammatical method of interpretation, the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that the references to days refer to periods of approximately 24 hours duration. However, exegetes have not focused exclusively upon Scripture, but have sought to marry Scripture with so-called scientific evidence, and that has proven to be a very unhealthy relationship.
Archibald Alexander, who was the first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, reflected the early nineteenth century thinking as regards the relationship between Scripture and so-called science when in his inaugural address in 1812 he stated:
As the century progressed, the close association between Scripture and science developed; a relationship which blossomed in the twentieth century. Scientific discovery was elevated to new heights, not only in the minds of scientists, but also in the estimation of theologians. The harmonizing of Scripture with science became a repeated refrain in Reformed and Presbyterian circles. Charles Hodge sought to justify this adulterous marriage by contending that nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible, and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.9
Peter Wallace, commenting on the Princeton theologians, offers this assessment of their view of the relationship between Scripture and science.
The contention that both Scripture and science are both the Word of God and so are to be accorded equal authority has become a common plank in the argumentation of those who seek to harmonize Scripture with the findings of so-called science. The pivotal place of such thinking is demonstrated by John De Vries:
Such thinking was also foundational to the report prepared in 1991 by the Committee on Creation and Science for the CRC. One of the conclusions of that report read, The authority of general revelation, no less than that of special revelation, is a divine authority, which must be acknowledged without reservation.12 That conclusion was adopted by the synod of the CRC the same year. The statement adopted by the synod read, The church confesses that both general and special revelation, each in its own unique way, address us with full divine authority.13
But is it correct to characterize Scripture and general revelation as being both possessed of divine authority and as such to be acknowledged without reservation? Or to put it another way, was Hodge correct when he asserted that nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible, and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science?
It is true that the revelation of God is twofold. God reveals Himself most fully in Scripture. However, he also reveals Himself in all the works of His hands, which include the entire universe and its related history, or, to put it slightly differently, it includes Gods work in creation and His providential dealings with the creation.14 This latter aspect of Gods revelation is often styled general revelation, while the former is designated special revelation. However, it is wrong to conceive of general and special revelation as representing two different and unconnected revelations of God. The revelation of God is one. Therefore, general and special revelation form a harmonious whole and do not conflict in any way.15
G. I. Williamson emphasizes that point when he writes:
To maintain that nature or general revelation should be accorded the same status as the revelation of God in Scripture is a serious error. The end result of such an approach is that so-called scientific discoveries dictate the interpretation of Scripture; and that is precisely what has happened in the case of those who have rejected the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2. Scientific discovery has overtaken and distorted the true exegesis of Scripture. Exegetes have allowed themselves to be enveloped by a plethora of so-called scientific data which has influenced their analysis of Scripture. Referring to the relationship between Scripture and science advocated by John DeVries, Homer Hoeksema observes correctly:
This is the fundamental error. To place Gods revelation in the book of creation side by side with His revelation in Scripture is to deny the sole authority of Scripture. This thread has been woven into the exegetical thinking of Reformed and Presbyterian theologians.
Neither general revelation nor so-called science may ever be permitted to dictate the meaning of Scripture.18 They are not even to be placed on a par with Scripture. To raise either general revelation or so-called science to an authoritative position alongside Scripture is to deny the fundamental Reformation principle of sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is to be the only authority for the church.
G. C. Berkouwer is correct when he states:
The proper approach is to start and end with Scripture. This is not to maintain that Scripture speaks in scientific language or that it presents scientific analysis of all that is seen in the world. However, Scripture does record that which is true; it records that which is factual. Therefore, when it comes to analyzing the data of the universe and to determining the origins of the earth, what Scripture maintains is to be taken as truth and not subjected to scientific scrutiny.
Creation is to be interpreted in the light of Scripture; not the reverse. The most basic rule of proper exegesis is that Scripture must be its own interpreter, and the basis for that contention lies in the recognition of the absolute authority of Scripture. This has always been the approach of the Reformed exegete. It is the testimony of the Reformed creeds. The Belgic Confession of Faith, in maintaining The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to be the Only Rule of Faith, states:
The Westminster Confession of Faith lays down the following hermeneutical principle which stands in stark contrast to the approach advocated by Hodge:
Calvin states plainly that creation must be interpreted in the light of Scripture, to assist the dullness of our eyes:
In considering these matters, it must also be remembered that the ungodly always hold under the truth that God makes known in the creation. Romans 1: ">23 They do so in unrighteousness. This is true of the ungodly scientist. His ability to analyze and probe into the creation around him is severely limited. His eyesight is untrustworthy.
Calvin states in his Institutes that as a result of sin, each mans mind is like a labyrinth of error. Rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness. He says of mans ability to interpret what he sees in the creation:
Not only can the unbeliever not see God in the creation, nor can he understand the creation itself, because God does not enter into his thoughts.
Even for the believing scientist who has spiritual eyes to see, general revelation does not control Scripture. He does not interpret Scripture in the light of general revelation; much less does he interpret Scripture in the light of the findings of his unregenerate colleagues. What is to be his approach?
The impact of the fall is virtually disregarded or negated by those who seek to harmonize Scripture with so-called scientific discovery. This is particularly evident in the CRC report on Creation and Science, which works the error of common grace into the equation. Addressing the impact of the fall upon general revelation, the report maintained:
In response to the question, Have not sin and unbelief so suppressed [the unbelieving scholars] receptivity to the truth that their work can no longer have any benefit for us?, the report stated:
The report contends that Gods common grace is working in the unregenerate scientist who is thereby enabled to receive and interpret the testimony of nature. From this it is argued that the believer is obliged to receive the testimony of the unregenerate scientist and to accept that the earth is billions of years old. Having done so, the believer is confronted with special revelation, which teaches something that appears to be entirely different. Being confronted with two apparently conflicting words of God, the believer is compelled to accept a reinterpretation of Genesis 1 & 2 to allow for an old earth. The result is that Gods common grace, as disclosed in nature, overwhelms special revelation and that, as we have noted, is contrary to the Reformed tradition.
Closely allied with a failure to accord Scripture its rightful place is the ultimate rejection of the foundation of the Christian faith. The attempt to harmonize Scripture and science contradicts the very heart of faith. True faith holds for truth all that God has revealed in Scripture. It does not do so because everything in Scripture can be established to the satisfaction of the mind. Rather, it does so because Scripture is the very Word of God. Therefore, true faith cannot be induced by any evidence or argument that can be adduced from the creation, to doubt or deny what God has revealed explicitly in His Word.
Now the reaction of the natural man is to regard such thinking as absurd. But does the appearance of absurdity in the eyes of the world mean that those things which the believer maintains are not true? Does it mean that to believe such things is absurd? Absolutely not! Faith believes many things that men consider to be absurd. It maintains things that the natural man considers to be impossible.
Faith believes that Jonah, having been swallowed by a great fish, lived for three days in the belly of that fish. It believes that Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, was raised to life again; it is not overwhelmed when Scripture declares that Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a virgin and that He died on a cross, only to rise from the dead after three days. Can such things be proven? The answer is no. Do they accord with the reasoning of men? No, to the natural man the thought of such things is absurd. Dead men cannot be brought back to life, nor can a virgin conceive and bear a son. But the Christian believes those things; he holds them for truth, not because they can be proven, but because God declares them to be so in His Word. So too with the creation of the world in six natural days. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Hebrews 11:3 ">27
If the Christian is obliged to harmonize Scripture with the claims of so-called science, then he ought also harmonize all of the miracles of the Scripture with the demands of science. The result is that all of the miracles will be rejected as being scientifically unsustainable. However, the reason that they are scientifically unsustainable is that they are what they claim to be, miracles, and without the eyes of faith they appear ridiculous in the sight of men.
To pander to the demands of those who seek to harmonize Scripture with so-called science has resulted and will continue to result in the destruction of the Christian faith. Where is our faith, if there was no incarnation or if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead? If those truths are rejected, then the modern day Huxleys can say with justification that orthodox Christianity has been forced to retire from the lists, not just bleeding and crushed, but totally annihilated. This is ultimately what is at stake when the literal interpretation of the days of Genesis 1 & 2 is abandoned.
Does the believer comprehend all things concerning the creation of the world? Is he able to reconcile all things concerning the days of Genesis 1 & 2 to his ultimate satisfaction? No, but he would do well to heed the advice of Luther:
The French Confession (1559)
We believe that God, in three co-working persons, by his power, wisdom, and incomprehensible goodness, created all things, not only the heavens and the earth and all that in them is, but also invisible spirits, some of whom have fallen away and gone into perdition, while others have continued in obedience. That the first, being corrupted by evil, are enemies of all good, consequently of the whole Church. The second, having been preserved by the grace of God, are ministers to glorify Gods name, and to promote the salvation of his elect.
The Scotch Confession of Faith (1560)
Article II Of the Creation of Man
We confess and acknowledge this our God to have created man, to wit, our first father Adam, to his own image and similitude, to whom he gave wisdom, lordship, justice, free-will, and clear knowledge of himself, so that in the whole nature of man there could be noted no imperfection.
The Belgic Confession of Faith (1561)
Article XII The Creation of All Things,
Especially the Angels
We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, when it seemed good unto Him; giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator; that He also still upholds and governs them by His eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.
He also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect; some of whom are fallen from that excellency in which God created them into everlasting perdition, and the others have by the grace of God remained steadfast and continued in their first state. The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and every good thing; to the utmost of their power as murderers watching to ruin the Church and every member thereof, and by their wicked stratagems to destroy all; and are, therefore, by their own wickedness adjudged to eternal damnation, daily expecting their horrible torments.
Therefore we reject and abhor the error of the Sadducees, who deny the existence of spirits and angels; and also that of the Manichees, who assert that the devils have their origin of themselves, and that they are wicked of their own nature, without having been corrupted.
Article XIV The Creation and Fall of Man,
and His Incapacity to Perform What Is Truly Good
We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God. But being in honor, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but wilfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his true life; having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he has lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and retained only small remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed into darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not; where St. John calls men darkness.
Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. For who may presume to boast that he of himself can do any good, since Christ says: No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dares suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to account anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle says ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. For there is no understanding nor will conformable to the divine understanding and will but what Christ has wrought in man; which He teaches us, when He says: Apart from me ye can do nothing.
The Second Helvetic Confession (1566)
Chapter VII Of the Creation of All Things:
Of Angels, the Devil, and Man
God Created All Things. This good and almighty God created all things, both visible and invisible, by his co-eternal Word, and preserves them by his co-eternal Spirit, as David testified when he said: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth (Ps. 33:6). And, as Scripture says, everything that God had made was very good, and was made for the profit and use of man. Now we assert that all those things proceed from one beginning. Therefore, we condemn the Manichaeans and Marcionites who impiously imagined two substances and natures, one good, the other evil; also two beginnings and two gods contrary to each other, a good one and an evil one.
Of Angels and the Devil. Among all creatures, angels and men are most excellent. Concerning angels, Holy Scripture declares: Who makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers (Psa. 104:4). Also it says: Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation? (Heb. 1:14). Concerning the devil, the Lord Jesus himself testifies: He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Consequently we teach that some angels persisted in obedience and were appointed for faithful service to God and men, but others fell of their own free will and were cast into destruction, becoming enemies of all good and of the faithful, etc.
Of Man. Now concerning man, Scripture says that in the beginning he was made good according to the image and likeness of God; that God placed him in Paradise and made all things subject to him (Gen., ch. 2). This is what David magnificently sets forth in Psalm 8. Moreover, God gave him a wife and blessed them. We also affirm that man consists of two different substances in one person: an immortal soul which, when separated from the body, neither sleeps nor dies, and a mortal body which will nevertheless be raised up from the dead at the last judgment in order that then the whole man, either in life or in death, abide forever.
The Sects. We condemn all who ridicule or by subtle arguments cast doubt upon the immortality of souls, or who say that the soul sleeps or is a part of God. In short, we condemn all opinions of all men, however many, that depart from what has been delivered unto us by the Holy Scriptures in the apostolic Church of Christ concerning creation, angels, and demons, and man.
The Westminster Larger Catechism
Q15: What is the work of creation?
Ans: The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.
Q16: How did God create angels?
Ans: God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.
Q17: How did God create man?
Ans: After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q9: What is the work of creation?
Ans: The work of creation is, Gods making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
Q10: How did God create man?
Ans: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures
Preaching Christ from Old Testament Historical Narrative Texts
Ronald L. Cammenga
The Centrality of Christ in Preaching
Every serious-minded Reformed pastor wants to see his congregation grow in grace under his ministry. He wants to see the members develop in their understanding of the truth and in holy living. He wants to see the congregation strengthened in unity and in mutual service. He wants to see godly families and strong marriages. He wants to see children growing up into Christ, in fulfillment of Gods covenant promise. He wants to see young people coming to spiritual maturity and taking their places actively in the congregation. He wants to see qualified men equipped to serve capably in the special offices. He wants to see outreach into the community that results in members added from without who are solid additions to the congregation. He wants to see sinners brought to repentance, the weak strengthened, the discouraged fortified, the sorrowing comforted, the despairing uplifted, the burdened relieved. In short, he wants to see a people united in the thankful worship of the Lord, both on the Lords Day and in their day-to-day living in the world.
This earnest desire on the part of the serious-minded Reformed pastor is coupled with the conviction that none of these things can be realized apart from the preaching of the gospel. Reformed pastors have a deep conviction of the primacy of preaching. They understand that God is pleased to use the preaching of the gospel for the salvation and the preservation in salvation of His people. With Paul they are persuaded that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, (Rom. 10:17).
The Reformed pastor is bound to this high view of preaching by the Reformed confessions. Heidelberg Catechism, Q.A. 65, states: Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, whence doth this faith proceed? From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments. In complete agreement with the Heidelberg Catechism is the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.A. 155: How is the word made effectual to salvation? The spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
But it ought also to be the conviction of the Reformed pastor that preaching that is Gods means unto the salvation of His elect people is the preaching of Christ. Preaching that brings to salvation and keeps in salvation is the preaching of the gospel. But the gospel is centrally the gospel of Christ. The gospel is the good news of what God has done, is doing, and will do in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ, therefore, must be preached. The serious-minded Reformed pastor must not only have a strong conviction of the primacy of preaching, but equally as strong a conviction of the centrality of Christ in the preaching of the gospel.
The Scriptures demand the centrality of Christ in the preaching of the gospel. Paul says in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. It was for this reason that Paul says in I Corinthians 2:2, For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The reason for this Christ-centeredness in Pauls preaching was his desire that the faith of his hearers should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (I Cor. 2:5).
Since Christ is to be preached, the great endeavor of the Reformed pastor is to make Christ the center of his sermons. Whatever the text of his sermon, whatever the nature of the textual material, he must make Christ the focus of his preaching. The main point of the sermon must be connected to Christ, grounded in Christ, firmly established in the person and work of Christ.
This must be true whether the sermon text is taken from the Old Testament or from the New Testament. The Old Testament must be preached in such a way that what is preached looks forward to its fulfillment in the coming Jesus Christ. The New Testament must be preached as having been fulfilled in the finished work of Christ on Calvarys cross.
The challenge to make Christ the center of the sermon is especially great when preaching on the Old Testament. History and experience, I believe, bear this out. This is not to imply that preaching Christ from the New Testament is an easy matter. Not at all; preaching Christ from the New Testament has its own challenges. It is not so easy, for instance, to preach the exhortations and commands of the New Testament as arising out of the good news of the gospel of Gods grace in Jesus Christ. Too often it happens that the exhortations and commands of the New Testament are preached, as Australian theologian Graeme Goldsworthy says, as simple imperatives of Christian behavior; as naked law.1 This ought not to be!
Although preaching Christ from the New Testament has its unique challenges, the greater difficulty seems to be preaching Christ from the Old Testament. What Reformed pastors must be convinced of is that it is not only possible to preach Christ from the Old Testament, but this is the only proper way to preach the Old Testament. Like the New Testament, the Old Testament is gospel. As gospel, the Old Testament is, no less than the New Testament, the good news concerning Jesus Christ. This is what Christ Himself said to the unbelieving Jews in John 5:39: Search the scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures); for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. To the two travelers to Emmaus, Jesus said the same thing, according to Luke 24:27: And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures (again, the Old Testament) the things concerning himself. The reason for the Old Testament Scriptures testimony concerning Christ is the preeminence of Christ in the Old Testament. Graeme Goldsworthy is correct in underscoring this important truth.
Included in the calling of the Reformed pastor to preach Christ from the Old Testament is the calling to preach Christ from Old Testament history. I have chosen this to be the focus of my presentation.4 I have done this because so much of the Old Testament is history. It has been estimated that seventy-five percent of the Old Testament consists of historical narrative. Not only is historical narrative the most prominent of the genres of Old Testament Scripture, but more than any other genre it contains other forms of biblical literature, such as law, psalm, wisdom, and prophecy.5 At the same time, historical narrative is found in all the other genres of the Old Testament: in prophecy (e.g., Isaiah and Jeremiah), in the wisdom literature (e.g., Job), and in the Psalms (e.g., Psalms 78 and 106).
The Old Testament is built on historical narrative. From a certain point of view, the Old Testament is historical narrative. It is history recorded and explained what happened and why it happened. The Old Testament opens up with the beginning of history in the creation of the heavens and the earth. And then it traces the progress of history: Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs, the bondage and exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the period of the monarchy and the divided kingdom, the captivity, and finally the restoration. Kenneth Matthews contends that the Old Testament consists basically of
The Hebrew Old Testament does not categorize any books as historical. The Hebrew Old Testament is divided into the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Nevertheless, in all three of the major divisions of the Hebrew canon, historical narrative can be found. In the Torah, especially Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers contain history. In the Prophets, history is prominent in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. In the Writings, primarily Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ruth, Esther, and Daniel are historical in nature.
The prominence of historical narrative in the Old Testament Scriptures, sadly is not often mirrored in preaching. Too often ministers shy away from preaching on Old Testament history. In evangelical pulpits today there appears to be a decided preference for New Testament material as opposed to Old Testament. When the Old Testament is preached, the historical narratives are avoided, or frequently preached wrongly. Some years ago, Peter Y. DeJong expressed his concern for what he perceived as a neglect of preaching on Old Testament history by Reformed ministers in North America.
Why is there so little preaching on the Old Testament? Undoubtedly, a number of reasons can be given. Preaching on the New Testament may simply be the preachers personal preference. Because of the work involved in exegeting and preparing sermons on Old Testament history, a shortage of preparation time may be a factor. Or, neglect of Old Testament history may be due to the rigors of dealing with the Hebrew language.
Whatever the reason, if we preachers neglect to preach on Old Testament historical narrative, we are guilty of wrongdoing. We are guilty of robbing the church of a significant aspect of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), which we are pledged to preach. We are responsible for undercutting the churchs conviction that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for edification and godliness. Most seriously, we are guilty of robbing God of His glory, for it is God in the glory of His being and works who is revealed in Old Testament history.
It is the purpose of my presentation to inspire the preachers here today to preach Old Testament history. If you have been doing that, carry on. If you have not been, at least not with any frequency, my hope is that you will be given reason to reevaluate your preaching, perhaps with the assistance of your elders. P.Y. DeJong to the contrary notwithstanding, the Protestant Reformed Churches in America have a worthy tradition of writing and preaching on Old Testament history. An examination of our tradition bears this out. When one thinks of this tradition, names like Hoeksema (father and son), Ophoff, Vos, and Heys come to mind. I am sure that the Presbyterian tradition has its own worthies who excelled at preaching from the Old Testament. May our discussion today rekindle our resolve to maintain this tradition.
Pitfalls to Be Avoided
In preaching Old Testament history there are a number of pitfalls to be avoided. I will be concerned in this paper to caution against two. I choose these two because I am convinced that they ever have been and are still today the two besetting sins of sermons on Old Testament history. A historical survey of preaching would show the frequency with which even well-intentioned preachers fell into these two errors. And a critical evaluation of our own preaching, I believe, would yield the admission that we too, from time to time, if we have not fallen headlong into these errors, have at least not avoided them altogether.
The first pitfall is what Walter Kaiser identifies as the dry-bones-history-and-grammar approach to preaching Old Testament historical narrative.8 The history is retold. Attention is paid to the formal structure of the narrative. The grammar is treated. Textual critical information is taken into consideration. Perhaps the light of some archaeological discovery is shone on the text. A lot of attention is paid to the details of the narrative. But that is as far as the sermon goes. The history is treated, but it is treated in such a way that it remains history, nothing more.
Warning against this approach to preaching Old Testament historical narrative texts, Goldsworthy is correct when he writes:
This erroneous way of preaching Old Testament history is aided and abetted by much that passes for modern biblical scholarship. A large number of Old Testament commentaries that have been published in the last couple of decades have not furnished preachers with the material needed for making sermons on Old Testament history. At best, they have majored in minors. This is true not only of commentaries that are written from a decidedly higher-critical point of view. Even many evangelical commentaries on the Old Testament exhibit a preoccupation with literary-historical exegesis, so that the gospel in Old Testament history does not receive its due.
In his book The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, Sidney Greidanus issues a call to preachers to preach texts and not bare facts. He points out that sometimes this preaching of the facts is motivated by the well-intentioned desire to prove the historicity of an account over against the challenge to its historicity by modern, liberal scholarship. He points out especially two bad consequences that result from this preaching of the facts rather than the text. One consequence is that by concentrating on the facts, the interpreter looks right through the text as if it were a transparent windowpane.11 In other words, he looks past the gospel in the text. In the second place, preachers who try preaching facts run into the problem that they present objective facts and then have difficulty making an application that does not appear to be tacked on.12
A second pitfall that needs to be avoided in preaching Old Testament historical narrative is what is sometimes referred to as the exemplaristic or moralizing method. DeJong expresses his judgment in this regard.
With regard to this sort of approach to preaching Old Testament historical narrative, Goldsworthy writes:
In this connection, Goldsworthy offers a sharp but accurate criticism of the modern Sunday School that is worth repeating.
Closely associated with the exemplaristic method is the tendency to allegorizing. All kinds of lessons are drawn from the narrative that apply to Christians today, but many of these lessons are derived from strained exegesis that spiritualizes the details of the account. Long ago, Holwerda warned preachers of his generation against this pitfall.
The danger of this erroneous way of preaching Old Testament history is illustrated in Walter Kaisers Toward an Exegetical Theology. For all the value of this work, in my judgment Kaiser falls into the snare of exemplaristic preaching. He does this when he advances as the key responsibility of the preacher preaching on Old Testament historical narrative what he calls principlizing. This is what he writes:
Dont misunderstand. I am not contending that there ought not to be application in sermons preached on Old Testament historical passages. There ought to be. Application that arises out of the text and that speaks to Christians living in the twenty-first century. But what I am arguing is that this is not the first or main calling of the preacher. To construe it as the preachers main calling is to cross the line into exemplaristic preaching.
Why are the two pitfalls of the dry-bones-history-and-grammar approach and the exemplaristic method to be avoided? The simple answer is: They do not preach Christ. For their differences, the two methods have this in common. They do not preach the gospel of Gods sovereign grace in Jesus Christ as that gospel is set forth in historical narrative. The sad result is that sin-stricken sinners are sent home without hearing the comfort of Gods grace in Jesus Christ.
This becomes plain in Kaisers application of his proposed method to preaching through the Book of Nehemiah. He offers the following sermon titles for such a series:
I. The Primacy of Prayer in Any Undertaking
in Life ( Neh. 1).
The question begs to be asked: Where is Christ here? The clear note of the gospel is missing entirely. And although it is certainly conceivable that the cross of Christ would be brought into these sermons, the sermon themes make plain that the cross is not at the heart of any of the messages.
We echo the worthwhile comments of DeJong:
Proper Preaching of Old Testament Historical Narrative Texts
Proper preaching of Old Testament historical narrative requires the use of the Christocentric or Redemptive-Historical method. For our purposes, these are two different names for basically the same method. This method aims to identify and set forth the cross of Jesus Christ, which is at the heart of all Old Testament history. We concur with Vant Veer:
Vant Veer expresses agreement with a certain Prof. T. Hoekstra who wrote:
To preach Christ this is the great task of the faithful minister. To this task belongs his preaching on the Old Testament, and especially now his preaching on Old Testament history.
In his very worthwhile book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, Sidney Greidanus offers seven ways for the minister to preach Christ from Old Testament historical narrative. He speaks of these as the many roads (that) lead from the Old Testament to Christ. These seven roads are:
1. The Way of Redemptive-Historical
It is worth our while to describe briefly each of these ways.
The way of redemptive-historical progression links Christ to Old Testament redemptive events which find their climax in him.23 Greidanus describes the redemptive-historical method in this way:
A second way to preach Christ from the Old Testament is the way of promise-fulfillment. Writes Greidanus, The way of promise-fulfillment is embedded in redemptive history, for God gives his promises at one stage of redemptive history and brings them to fulfillment in subsequent stages.25 Vant Veer agrees with this approach to preaching Old Testament history, at the same time indicating its relevance to the New Testament congregation.
Yet another way of preaching Old Testament historical narrative identified by Greidanus is the way of typology.
In connection with this method of preaching Old Testament history, Greidanus issues a warning against typologizing, the exegetical sin of making a type rather than discovering a biblical type. The rule must be followed that an event or person is a type because the Scriptures themselves make it a type.28
The fourth method of preaching Christ from the Old Testament is described by Greidanus as the way of analogy.
In addition to analogy, Greidanus speaks of preaching Christ from the Old Testament by means of longitudinal themes.
Yet another way of preaching Christ from Old Testament historical narrative is the way of New Testament references. This is not really a distinct method, but ought to be used to reinforce the other methods.
Last, Greidanus speaks of the way of contrast as a valid way of preaching Christ from the Old Testament.
Greidanus goes on to speak of the way of contrast as the most appropriate way to preach those passages which concern the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. By His coming, Christ has fulfilled and abolished the Old Testament laws, as for example circumcision. As an example of one who frequently used the way of contrast in preaching Old Testament history, Greidanus makes reference to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
In evaluating Greidanus seven ways to preach Christ from the Old Testament, we see that there is significant overlap between the various methods. The distinctions are not so scientifically precise that the use of any one method rules out a collaborative use of one or more of the other methods. In fact, the seven ways of preaching Christ from the Old Testament are quite closely related.
As helpful as Greidanus suggestions are, the shortcoming of his proposals is that he does not set forth a single, unifying principle for preaching Christ from the Old Testament. That principle, I would suggest, is the covenant. Proper preaching of Old Testament history is covenantal preaching. All the methods put forward by Greidanus may be used, but the way of preaching the Old Testament, and now particularly Old Testament history, is from the viewpoint of Gods covenant. That covenant God realizes in time and history. Throughout history, and now particularly throughout the history of the Old Testament, Gods covenant is established and maintained. As history progresses, God reveals more and more of the richness and beauty of His covenant. It is from the viewpoint of the covenant that Old Testament history must be preached.
The Old Testament itself demands that this is the way it is to be preached. The opening chapter of the Bible reveals the God who is a covenant God in Himself, establishing His covenant with His creature, man. In that covenant, Adam enjoyed Gods friendship and fellowship in the Garden. After the violation of the covenant by mans fall into sin, Genesis 3:15, the protevangel or mother promise reveals Gods will to maintain His covenant with His people in Christ Jesus. The whole of Old Testament history is the record of Gods faithfulness to the covenant and His fulfillment of the covenant promise to save His people in the Mediator of the covenant. It is, at the same time, the record of Satans efforts to frustrate Gods covenant purpose, to destroy the covenant people, and to prevent the realization of the covenant in the coming of Christ. That is the perspective on Old Testament history that a passage like Revelation 12 gives us.
This is the unifying principle of all Old Testament history. Every event and every person mentioned in the Old Testament Scriptures can be understood properly only in light of this principle. This is the way Old Testament history must be preached. The question that the preacher must face is: How is this particular incident connected to the revelation of Gods covenant? How does this incident reveal the covenant God? This method will assure that the gospel is preached from Old Testament history. And this method will lend itself to ready application to the New Testament church and believer.
Some Practical Suggestions
By way of conclusion, let me offer some practical suggestions for preaching Old Testament historical narrative. First, some practical suggestions for exegesis. Let me recommend the following steps when dealing with any given passage.
1. Interpret the text.
2. Relate the text to its immediate context.
3. Relate the passage to the preceding and foregoing narratives. The succession of narratives is meaningful.
4. Relate the passage to the context of the book in which it appears.
5. Relate the passage to the context of the Old Testament as a whole.
6. Relate the passage to the New Testament, especially direct references to the text or part of the text in the New Testament.
As far as preaching Old Testament history is concerned, the following practical suggestions may be made.
1. Tell the story. Tell it in as interesting a way as possible. Of more than one of our ministers it has been said that when he preached on a certain Old Testament historical figure, you thought it was Moses or Elijah himself in the pulpit. Let that be said of us.
2. Give the meaning. Draw the lines sharply from the text to Christ. Make plain how the text stands related to the revelation of the covenant of God, that is, the gospel.
3. Make the application. Indicate the way or ways that the text applies to Christians today, living in a different dispensation of the covenant, but living in the one, everlasting covenant of God.
In Amos 8:11, the prophet warns of Gods judgment over His people that will take the form of a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. Not a famine of hearing sermons, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. As John teaches in John 1, Christ is the Word of the Lord. Wherever Christ is not present in the preaching, there is a famine of the Word. May God in His grace spare us that famine! May we continue to proclaim and may Gods people continue to hear through us the Word of the Lord, that is, Christ in our preaching of Old Testament history!
Brief Study of the
Part One: History of Dogma
Early Beginnings of the doctrine of the Covenant of Works
To begin our discussion, we take the broad definition of the doctrine of the covenant of works as Adams pre-Fall covenantal relationship with God that carried with it a promise of eternal life in connection with Adams obedience to God. This doctrine has long been closely linked to covenant theology at large in both the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition. To begin with, it has been widely recognized that covenant theology finds its roots and conception in Switzerland (and not so much Calvin), and then later in the German Reformed theologians Olevianus and Ursinus. Of the covenant idea in the early Swiss theologians and Calvin, Geerhardus Vos tells us:
Of Olevianus and Ursinus, Geerhardus Vos writes:
Developing the contribution of Olevianus and Ursinus, Vos shows that the idea of the covenant of works first appears with them in clear seed form.
According to Vos (and unverifiable by myself), Ursinus doctrine of the covenant of works is found in seed form in the ninth question (left untranslated by Vos in his paper) of his Larger Catechism.4
Development in the Continental Reformed Tradition
We now trace how the doctrine of the covenant of works, from its seed form, developed in Continental Reformed circles, to the point where it received creedal status. Continuing to trace the history of covenant theology, Vos writes:
Notably, in his Compendium of 1625, the Swiss Reformed theologian Wollebius clearly identifies the covenant of works as a pre-Fall covenant, and in doing so, it would seem to me, hints the following ideas: one, the idea of a probation (Beardslee translates this as proof); two, that eternal happiness for obedience is that of the highest good (since he speaks of the loss of the highest good with disobedience) and thus indirectly hinting that Adam, after being proved by God, if successful on obedience, would gain for him and his posterity heavenly, eternal life (and not continued earthly existence in Paradise, for what highest good can there be apart from heavenly life?):
Later, and after the Westminster standards had been drafted in 1648, his fellow countryman and colleague, Heidegger, would define the covenant of works as follows:
Such a conception would also be in agreement with Dutch Reformed theologians, notably Cocceius and Herman Witsius, who write:
The Dutch Reformed theologians would follow after these two prominent theologians, and held this doctrine in contrast to the Socinians and Arminians, who denied Adams imputation of sin, and thus rejected it. This is Louis Berkhofs observation:
Thus, for Dutch Reformed theology, the covenant of works became a part of orthodoxy, and rejection of it would be deemed heretical. Indeed, in its being used to reject Arminian and Socinian error, the idea of Adams federal status had become intimately but far too narrowly10 equated to subscription to the doctrine of the covenant of works in Dutch Reformed theology Ypeij and Dermount then, and presently also implicitly in Berkhofs thought (as is evident in the citation above), and even in Kerstens treatment in his Reformed Dogmatics.11 Yet, by Gods providence, the covenant of works is not mentioned in the Three Forms of Unity, neither explicitly nor implicitly.12
Finally, in continental Europe, owing to Heidegger, the covenant of works was elevated to creedal status as it was formulated in the Helvetic Consensus Formula of 1675, written to refute the theology school of Saumur. It adopted the same formulation of the covenant of works as Heidegger and Witsius, and, with respect to the promise of eternal life, unmistakably and very strongly asserted that it was to a higher, heavenly life and not to a continued life of existence in earthly Paradise:
Development in the
British Presbyterian Tradition prior to the Westminster Standards
prior to the Westminster Standards
On the other hand, what was the development of covenant theology, and more specifically the covenant of works, in the British Isles before it received creedal formulation in the Westminster standards? Is it true that the British merely imported covenant theology wholesale from the Dutch? Geerhardus Vos thinks otherwise:
Among these British theologians cited by Mitchell, Robert Rollock, the principal of the University of Edinburgh from 1583 to 1599, would be the earliest and clearest exponent of a very developed doctrine of the covenant of works. While his other British colleagues would make interesting and sometimes even pointed remarks concerning the covenant relationship God had with Adam, Rollock spent the most significant time elaborating it. In 1597, Rollocks theological lectures were published in part under the title Treatise on Effectual Calling, and appended to this was Short Catechism concerning the Way in which God from the Beginning revealed Both Covenants to the Human Race. An English translation appeared in 1603. According to Vos, Rollock proceeds from the idea that God says nothing to man apart from the covenant, and his doctrine of the covenant is stated as follows:
Clearly, Rollock saw that the covenant was not of the essence in the creation of Adam by God, but only something that God added on after His act of creation. It is a means to an end, and not of the essence. Further, the proximity of condition and good works suggests that Rollock at least taught an aspect of merit by Adam, that is, Adam would earn eternal life for himself and his posterity through his perfect obedience. To this latter thought Geerhardus Vos lends support with his comment on exactly this observation in Rollocks statement:
Not strictly meritorious, but, admittedly, there is undoubtedly an idea of merit nonetheless! Finally, we would note from the italicized remark that Rollock has also set the tone for a dangerous and groundless distinction between law and gospel by his description of the covenant of works. This is confirmed by his teaching on Christ and the doctrine of the covenant of grace: for him, the work of the Mediator with respect to the covenant of grace was nothing but a carrying through in him of the covenant of works broken in Adam:
Then, the Irish Articles of Religion (1615), written by Archbishop James Ussher and endorsed in the Irish Episcopal Church, says something of similar effect to Rollocks teaching, though without the name covenant of works, in Article 21:
So, before the Westminster divines had met in 1643, we have evidence from Rollock and the Irish Articles of the theological climate with respect to Gods covenant with Adam. Especially Rollock, being the Principal of the University of Edinburgh for over fifteen years, had cast an important dye with respect to the doctrine of the covenant of works and undoubtedly influenced at least some of the Scottish theologians who were delegates to the Westminster Assembly. Further, his doctrine of the covenant of works is also more markedly developed than Wollebius treatment in his Compendium of 1625. And Cocceius work, The Summa Doctrinae de doedere et testamento, did not appear till 1648, and in that year the Westminster Confession had already been completed.
From this historical treatment, it is evident that the doctrine of the covenant of works had become a part of standard British Presbyterian and Continental Reformed theology, and thus a part of the Reformed consensus, even before the Westminster standards had given it a creedal status.
PART TWO: Definition and Description
of the Covenant of Works
Definition and Direct Inference from WCF 7.1 and 7.2
It has been widely acknowledged that the first precise, focused and significant creedal description of the covenant of works appears in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The description of the covenant of works is found in Chapter 7, entitled Of Gods Covenant with Man, and specifically in the first two sections, which deal with Gods relationship to man before the Fall. WCF 7.1 states unmistakably that Gods relationship to our first parents was a covenant relationship:
Then, we have the definition of the covenant of works, which we take for the rest of this paper. In describing the covenant relationship with Adam, WCF 7.2 calls it a covenant of works, and gives two clear elements that belong to it, as follows:
The following observations are to be made concerning these two statements:
1. Preliminarily, but leading into the covenant of works, from the heading of the chapter, the Westminster divines clearly recognized that there is only one covenant in Scripture. We say this in spite of their apparently conflicting terminology subsequently of describing two covenants the first being a covenant of works (WCF 7.2), and the second being a covenant of grace (WCF 7.3 ff.). Perhaps they use this language because Scripture speaks of many covenants: the covenant of Noah, the Davidic covenant, etc. Yet, unhelpful as it is, the heading of the chapter clearly shows that the divines recognized that there was one covenant and not many covenants, and that it was revealed and unfolded in different and richer ways through the Bible. Thus, if we were to take them in the best light, they would mean that the one covenant of God with Man had two aspects they would define: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
2. Our second introductory remark related to the covenant of works is that although the Westminster divines did not use the term grace (which they could have done without any problem at all since grace is undeserved favor or unmerited favor), they understood that whatever Adam had from God was undeserved, for WCF 7.1 speaks of voluntary condescension on Gods part because of the fact that the distance between God and the creature is so great. Yet the absence of the word grace here does make the pre-Fall covenant prone to the idea of merit and works (in distinction from grace, as in the second), a proneness that has sadly been picked up by many subsequent Presbyterian and Continental Reformed theologians both wittingly and unwittingly as we shall see.
3. Then, the WCF explicitly teaches that the covenant of works had two elements:
a. First, it contained a promise of life to Adam and to his posterity.
b. Second, this promise was conditioned on perfect and personal obedience.
4. Finally, we only note that the divines chose to use the term covenant of life21 in the WSC and WLC interchangeably with the term covenant of works.
So the Westminster divines rightly and significantly maintained that there was a covenant relationship between God and pre-Fall Man that is in Adam, who stood as a federal head of all his human posterity. Further, they made this important deduction (this has repercussions on the doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of total depravity) based on the significant section, Romans 5:12-21.
But three important questions need to be answered, and it is not immediately clear, in fact rather vague, what WCF 7.1 and 7.2 teaches regarding these. First, was it that Gods covenantal relationship with Adam came about after Adam was created (i.e., incidental) or by virtue of Adams creation (i.e., essential)? Second, just what did the Westminster divines mean concerning a promise of life to Adam and to his posterity? Third and finally, how do we handle the word conditioned? Though the answers to these questions cannot be gotten from the Westminster divines as a whole (since we know of no extant records of their discussion), nevertheless, we do have some answers.
Interpretation by Thomas Goodwin, a Westminster Divine
All by itself, the Westminster Confessions wording in WCF 7.1 and 7.2 does not teach explicitly Rollocks doctrine. In fact, Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680), a very respectable Westminster divine, provides a very different interpretation to WCFs formulation of the covenant works.
In relation to the idea of infinite distance between God and man and with the original state of Man, Goodwin writes:
Therefore, this condescending act of God relating to Adam by way of covenant did not happen as an afterthought after his creation, for Goodwin talks about it being existent by virtue of the law of Gods creating him. For Goodwin, a Westminster divine, the covenant is therefore a relationship that is essential to Adams creation. This has a significant upshot: Gods covenant with man is not a pact or agreement, but a bond that is essential to and intimately tied to his being created by God.
Second, and in answer to the question concerning the promise of life, Goodwin makes it clear that he did not have heavenly life in view, but a continued existence in earthly Paradise:
Third and finally, for Goodwin, the condition of obedience is not merit but simply a means of continuance of earthly Paradise, this being argued lucidly, confidently, and on biblical grounds, and in close connection to his interpretation of the promise of life, as follows:
Another Interpretation in The Sum of Saving Knowledge
Yet, we have evidence of a very different interpretation in the time of Westminster. Though WCF 7.1 and 7.2 does not necessarily teach Rollocks conception of the doctrine of the covenant of works, and though a respectable Westminster divine such as Thomas Goodwin teaches otherwise, The Sum of Saving Knowledge, which appears as part of the Westminster standards, and apparently worded by David Dickson and James Durham states:
Accepted Interpretation as represented by Charles Hodge
as represented by Charles Hodge
Sad to say, but it is a widely acknowledged fact that Goodwins interpretation is not the interpretation favored today in Scottish and American Presbyterian circles.26 Instead, the wording in The Sum of Saving Knowledge has become the prevailing interpretation. From what we can see, this position had all but taken over Scottish Presbyterianism by the eighteenth century.27
Further, this position has gained much acceptance and prominence in North America through the full-orbed development by the influential Princeton Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge. Because of the wide acceptance of Hodges treatment,28 we will use it as the representative voice of what has become the doctrine of the covenant of works in the Westminster standards. In his Systematic Theology, Hodge writes:
Taking on WCF 7.2, Hodge picks up the idea of works and now naturally adds a third element not explicitly present in WCF 7.2, the element of punishment. Significantly, Hodge himself could not find the basis for this statement in the Scriptures, but nevertheless is able somehow to justify it:
In sharp contradiction to Thomas Goodwin, for Hodge, the life that was promised to Adam and his posterity was the happy, holy and immortal existence of soul and body. Even more, Hodge is bold enough to take his reasonable hypothesis one step further: he posits and clearly develops the idea of a probationary period in Paradise, in which, on condition of perfect (but non-perpetual) obedience (he never says how long this period of time is!), Adam could have gained for himself and his posterity eternal, heavenly life:
In essence, Hodges doctrine of the covenant of works, which has today become the prevailing interpretation of Westminsters doctrine of the covenant of works, contains the following three points in contradistinction to and conflict with Goodwins interpretation:
1. First, the covenant (of works) between God and Adam (and his posterity) was a transaction between them an agreement in which all the stipulations were given to Adam by God after his creation, which Adam was able to fulfil (by his original rectitude), and not in essence to his creation.
2. Secondly, the covenant is a promise of eternal, heavenly life (thus, this covenant would be only a means to an end) for all humanity, and not simply continuance in earthly Paradise.
3. Thirdly, to this promise is annexed a condition of perfect obedience during a period of probation, failing which would result in the penalty of eternal death for all humanity.
PART THREE: Our Critique of the Doctrine of the Covenant of
of the Covenant of Works
Objections to the doctrine of the Covenant of Works
To begin with, we register the fact that it irks us to object to the Westminster standards and the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition at large in this doctrine. Indeed, in general, we should take any deviation from the mainline Presbyterian and Reformed tradition with great gravity, reluctance, and discomfort. But we are convinced, nevertheless, that this doctrine is in serious error.
Yet, we may happily begin this section on a positive note. Positively, the doctrine of the covenant of works clearly teaches the undisputed truth that God had a covenant relationship with Adam, and that Adam stood as federal head with respect to his posterity. In affirming the scriptural idea of Adams covenant headship, it served the important purpose of refuting Arminian and Socinian heresy, especially but not limited to the Dutch Reformed circles. This is because the Arminians and Socinians, who taught that Man still had a free will, was basically good, and was not affected by the Fall of Adam as held by the orthodox Reformation theologians, had to deny such a covenant relationship in order to maintain their teaching. This having been said, it has very, very severe problems from start to finish.
We begin by raising four broad, general objections to the doctrine at large.
First, the doctrine has no scriptural warrant. We noted earlier that Charles Hodge himself recognized this. But Hodge is not alone in his honest admission. G.I. Williamson quite candidly admits this too:
But the claim of clear implication is without ground. Herman Hoeksema is right on target with this critical point of the absence of scriptural warrant for the doctrine of the covenant of works. It is his chief objection to the entire doctrine and ours too:
Second, even in the mildest form as taught by Thomas Goodwin, we would have objection to the terminology covenant of works. While we are in broad agreement with how Goodwin sees this covenant relationship, we still have a serious objection to the idea of works being in the name of the covenant. Why not simply call it the covenant of creation or the Adamaic covenant? Like Barth, we think that this unfortunate name allows Pelagianism to creep in, even with regard to original, earthly Paradise, and this is not acceptable. Earlier, we had seen Vos statement that it was not strictly meritorious. Far worse, Kersten makes this unabashed and objectionable statement:
And in our time, there is Cornelis Venemas outright insistence that Adam merits with God:
We agree with Herman Hoeksemas assessment:
We insist that we can never, never merit with God. In Luke 17:10, Jesus says, So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. We agree with Luther in his Bondage of the Will that merit is an impious word when used in connection with man relating to God, though not with Christs work with God.
Third, it diminishes the work of Christ, and it does so in various ways. One, this entire scheme is an impossibility to begin with. As Thomas Goodwin rightly pointed out in his reference to 1 Corinthians 15:45, how could Adam, an earthy man and having his source from the earth, take us into heaven? It takes someone having his source from heaven to take us into heaven! Two, this view does no justice to Colossians 1:16, where it is clearly stated that all of creation is for Christ. Christ must receive the pre-eminence at creation. This view leaves out Christ completely and puts the focus on Adam and his meriting heaven. Three, in this view, Christ did not accomplish what Adam could have accomplished for the entire human race, head-for-head. For by His suffering and death, Christ redeemed only the elect, a very small part of the whole human race in entirety. Four, it makes a mockery of Christs suffering and death. What Christ accomplished with all His suffering and death was superseded by Adams negative action of not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? What an insult to Christs great efforts His suffering, His blood, His death, yea, His whole life beginning with His Incarnation and ending with His redeeming work at Calvary!
Fourth, it is objectionable also because it implies that Gods plan in history was a failure. God wanted to have the whole of mankind in heaven, but this was foiled by the serpent. Now, to salvage a meager sum of what was lost, God had to come up with a Plan B that would cost Him His very own, beloved, only-begotten Son to have Him die, and then save only a small portion of humanity. Yea, God would be grieved eternally, for the vast majority of mankind would be in hell!
Now, we turn our objections to the specifics within the doctrine of the covenant of works.
First, we object to the covenant of works being a bilateral pact between two parties, and means to the end of highest good. Gods covenant is a bond of friendship to Himself! It is the highest blessing! It is not just the way to attain blessedness that may be done away with once the end is reached. It itself is the blessedness! So also, with the covenant of grace, it is not the means for us to attain heavenly life, but the covenant, real in principle now, will be fully realized in Heaven. Revelation 21:3 says, And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. The covenant with Adam was a very part of the creation and not added on afterwards by God. Thus, also, the covenant was not an agreement or mutual pact made after creation that was dependent on the fulfilment of conditions. Instead of finding any of this in Genesis 2, we find there a duty stipulated and a penalty or punishment stated for disobedience in verses 15-17. But this is not a cold relationship of duty alone, for God would walk with Adam in friendship in the cool of the day, and gave him the blessing of being able to eat of every other tree.
Hence, second, we have no element of promise of eternal, heavenly life. There is no such promise in Genesis 2. In particular, Genesis 2:15-17, the traditional basis for the covenant of works, gives no hint of such a promise. At most, the only inference that may be drawn here is that God promises that Adam and his posterity would continue in earthly Paradise in the way of obedience. The strong emphasis of the text is Gods stipulation of Adams duty toward Him as his servant-friend.
And third, in keeping with our earlier observation of Luke 17:10, there is no notion of merit or condition of perfect obedience. Adam cannot earn heavenly life, let alone earn continued existence in earthly Paradise. Mans part in the covenant is simply his faithful duty as stated by God. It is in the way of Adams dutiful obedience, that things would continue status quo in earthly, original Paradise.
Finally, there is a serious implication to the covenant of grace from this thoroughly flawed doctrine of the covenant of works. This would come from attempts to model the covenant of grace from the conception of the covenant of works. One could fall prey to that nebulous word condition, which is used in the covenant of works. For example, just as Adams gaining eternal life is on condition of his perfect obedience, Reformed theologians could speak of Man obtaining eternal life on condition of faith. In other words, from this problematic word condition appearing in the covenant of works, faith would no longer be a means to salvation, but a basis for Mans salvation! Sadly, Charles Hodge falls prey to such a conception (though he does state that he does not use the word condition in the sense of merit37 ) in treating the covenant of grace and unwittingly leaves the door open not only for Arminianism but also universalism:
Positive Treatment of Gods covenant with Adam
What, then, is the correct teaching of the covenant that Adam had with God? That there was a covenant relationship between God and Adam is clear from Hosea 6:7, KJVs mistranslation of other men notwithstanding. Many Presbyterian theologians (though not Charles Hodge) such as Robert Shaw39 and BB Warfield,40 as well as Dutch Reformed theologians such as Berkhof and Hoeksema, in their Systematics textbooks, saw this. We may also infer this covenant relationship from Romans 5:12-21, which unmistakably compares Adam and Christ as covenant heads. In what follows, we state the correct covenantal relationship of God with Adam, and in doing so we show that it is inaccurate to equate Gods covenant with Adam as being the covenant of works. When rejecting the covenant of works, we are not heretics.
Specifically, there are these elements in Gods covenant with Adam.
First, it was an intimate, living bond of fellowship that God had with Adam. God was the Sovereign-Friend of Adam. God fellowshipped with Him and gave him his duty. And Adam knew and loved God, and was Gods servant-friend. He knew how to name the animals the way it would bring glory to God. Adam could do so because he bore the image of God original knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. And God walked and talked with him in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
Second, God established and maintained His covenant with Adam unilaterally. Did God ever invite Adam to talk to Him and negotiate a mutual agreement? We have no such evidence in Genesis. Rather, we have God commanding Adam his duty and this included the forbidding of him to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Here, we see Gods sovereignty in this friendship with Adam. God is the Sovereign-Friend of Adam, while Adam is the obedient friend-servant unto God. Adams happiness and blessedness would continue in the way of his obedience to his Sovereign-Friend. This would be a faithful work by Adam, but empowered by God.
Third, this covenant relationship was of the essence as image-bearer of God and son of God. Negatively, God made no contract afterwards, but positively, He did so at the point of creation.
Our conclusion is beyond doubt. The traditional doctrine of the covenant of works is objectionable from start to finish. Right from its very name. And down to its every element and thought.
Having gone through this study from a historical, exegetical, and confessional viewpoint, I must make a few observations.
One, hardly any Reformed theologian made a direct case for the preeminence of Christ in the doctrine of the covenant of works. Had they done so, they would have been sorely uncomfortable with this scheme. Colossians 1:16 was, for some unknown reason, mysteriously left out in the consideration and formulation of this doctrine. Every one of these theologians, many of whom were good and solid in many, many regards, seemed to be content to leave it to later (that is, in the covenant of grace) to put Christ into the picture.
Two, it mystifies me just as much how some could accept the notion of merit or earning in Paradise. By and large, Presbyterian and Reformed theologians who teach this seemed to have been content to retain this notion on three counts. First, Adam was in the state of original rectitude. Second, many of the better theologians thought they could get away with the notion of merit simply by calling Gods promise a gracious promise. Finally and implicitly, contentment and confidence in the doctrine had likely set in, since it was used successfully to combat Arminian and Socinian heresy, which denied original sin from Adam, so much so that some, like Kersten, could not even seem to discuss the idea of a covenant with Adam without talking about the covenant of works, as we have seen earlier. The truth is that only Christ, having a divine nature, and not his wholly earthly type, Adam, could merit anything with God!
Three, we saw that the generally accepted doctrine of the covenant of works is not necessarily demanded by WCF 7.1 and 7.2. Clearly, WCF 7.1 and 7.2 is very, very ambiguous. This is somewhat incongruous to the great precision, care, and even at times, beauty exercised in framing and wording the document. One cannot but be impressed by the Westminster Confession of Faith in certain sections. Among some of its impressive features are its doctrine of Scripture, its very carefully worded section on Good Works, and the foresight and wisdom of the Assembly in devoting an entire chapter on a doctrine as basic as Repentance.41 We have seen that Thomas Goodwin, a prominent and reliable Westminster divine, had quite a different handling of WCF 7.1 and 7.2, one that was in sharp contrast to the wording found in The Sum of Saving Knowledge, which is a part of the Westminster standards. What accounts for this ambiguous wording? Could the statement have been a compromise between two parties, one favoring Goodwins interpretation (he was a Westminster delegate), and the other one favoring Hodges treatment at the Assembly? We believe this to be very possible indeed, but are unable to verify this.
Whatever the case, this makes me thankful that the Three Forms of Unity were not so developed in certain doctrines. In particular, there is no covenant of works. We have a beautiful heritage in the Three Forms of Unity. Yet, in all this, let us also humble ourselves and be prepared to submit to the ultimate authority of the Scriptures should there be (however unlikely it seems to us now) any doctrinal problems with the Three Forms in the proper, honest, and ecclesiastical way. For the Westminster standards, the Presbyterian creedal standard, and an internationally recognized and very fine creed indeed, surely have two known errors at present that of divorce and remarriage, and also, as this paper indicates, the covenant of works. May God continue to bless and develop His truth for His beloved church and may we exercise great faithfulness, humility, and care in doing the vital task of theological defense and development on behalf of the churches of Jesus Christ.
Confession of Faith & Subordinate Standards, Free Church of Scotland, 1973.
Beardslee III, John. Reformed Dogmatics, Baker Book House, 1977.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 2002.
Brown, John. The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington, Christian Focus, 2002.
Cameron, Nigel. Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, IVP, 1994.
Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Vol. 7, Edinburgh: Nicholl, 1863.
Heppe, Heinrich. Reformed Dogmatics, Baker Book House, 1978.
Hoeksema, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics, RFPA, 1988.
Hodge, Archibald Alexander. The Confession of Faith, Banner of Truth Trust, 1992.
Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Charles Scribner & Sons, 1798.
Kersten, G.H. Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Eerdmans, 1994.
Schaff, Philip. Creeds of Christendom, Harper & Brothers, 1905.
Shaw, Robert. An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Christian Focus, 1992.
Vos, Geerhardus. The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, Internet.
URL Address: www.biblicaltheology.org/dcrt.htm
Venema, Cornelis P., Recent Criticisms of the Covenant of Works in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Mid-America Journal of Theology, 195-196 (1993, Vol. 9, No. 2).
Warfield, Benjamin B. Hosea vi:7: Adam or Man?, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1970.
Williamson, G.I. The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1964.
John Carrick (Assistant Professor of Applied and Doctrinal Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Taylors, South Carolina, and one of the principal homiletics instructors at that seminary) is convinced that there is a sacred rhetoric. The Oxford English Dictionary, Carrick notes, defines rhetoric as the art of persuasion, or the art of the orator (p. 2). Writes he, The central thesis of this book is that the essential pattern or structure which God himself has utilized in the proclamation of New Testament Christianity is that of the indicative-imperative. In other words, God himself has, in the gospel of Christ, harnessed these two fundamental grammatical moods and invested them with theological and Homiletical significance. Clearly the scope of a sacred rhetoric is potentially much wider than that of these four categories; nevertheless, there is something foundational about them (p. 5).
What he means by indicative preaching Carrick explains in chapter 2. The indicative mood is assertive of objective fact (p. 9). Examples are cited from the Scriptures such as, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1-14); God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (II Cor. 5:19). For many more examples see pages 9-12.
Carrick concludes this point by asserting, The indicative mood is, then, in its very nature, ideally suited to that element in preaching described by the Reformed tradition as explicatio verbi Dei. In other words, the indicative mood is ideally suited to the explication or the explanation of the Word of God (p. 13). Preaching or a good sermon, Carrick rightly declares, with the support of John A. Broadus, R. L. Dabney, and Sinclair Ferguson, must expound the sacred text in its context. It must explain the text, it must be didactic, i.e., a good sermon must teach Gods people the true doctrine of the Word of God (pp. 14-15).
In this connection we need to note that Carrick is too hard on John Bettler when he criticizes the latter for writing that preaching is application. Carrick is really creating a false dichotomy between exegetical/indicative preaching and application. Bettlers point is that doctrine is relevant to our living; doctrine applies to our lives (cf. John F. Bettler, Application, in The Preacher and Preaching, Samuel T. Logan, Jr., ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986, pp. 332-334. Note especially Bettlers quotation from John A. Broadus on p. 333).
In chapters 3 through 6 Carrick discusses: The Exclamative, The Interrogative, The Imperative. Chapter 7 is a Conclusion. Chapters 3 through 6 follow the same format, viz., a definition of the subject, examples of each type from Scripture, and examples from the sermons of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Samuel Davies, Asahel Nettleton, and D. Martyn Lloyd -Jones. While these men are fairly well known and certainly are regarded as good preachers, the book would have been enriched by examples from some of the other worthies in the pulpit.
Carrick rightly observes that the relationship between the indicative and the imperative is always this: the latter flows out of the former, or the indicative always leads to an imperative. He stresses too that there must be a proper balance in preaching.
In chapter 6 Carrick discusses the Homiletical controversy of the 1930s and 40s in the Netherlands between advocates of exemplary preaching and redemptive-historical preaching. Carrick contends in a section in which he is very critical of K. Schilder that the redemptive-historical method lacks application. Carricks conclusion is that proper preaching must explain the text and explain how the text applies to the lives of Gods people. This is reminiscent of Wilbert VanDyks emphasis in his Homiletics classes at Calvin Theological Seminary. Every sermon, VanDyk stressed, must answer two questions: What? and So What? What does the text teach? And how does that teaching affect the life of the believer.
While the book contains some good points, theres really nothing in it that has not been written on by many others. R. L. Dabneys Sacred Rhetoric remains the best on the subject, in this reviewers opinion.
This is as fine and detailed a book on the history of the Dutch in Chicago and her suburbs as one could hope to find. Spiced with a goodly number of fascinating anecdotes, the book reads like a good novel. One can hardly put it down!
Swierenga records the history of the Reformed Churches (RCA) and Christian Reformed Churches (CRCNA) of the Chicago area. He describes the institutions these immigrants founded, the Christian schools, Holland Home, etc. He includes detailed histories of some of the more prominent ministers and churches. Swierenga also includes detailed accounts of the struggles and controversies in which the churches and schools were engaged (the Wezeman case, which involved Chicago Christian High, e.g.). The author also provides interesting descriptions of the everyday work of the hardy Hollanders: the truck farming, the garbage companies (scavengers), and cartage companies.
There are given interesting insights into what life was like for the Dutch in Chicago. Theres even a chapter included on, The Other Hollanders: Jews and Catholics.
The book is enhanced by 250 photos and illustrations, a detailed index, and a solid bibliography.
There were three errors found by this reviewer. Rev. Herman Veldman (p. 229) was a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches as was his brother, Rev. Richard, for all but the last nine years of his ministry (pastor then of First CRC, Oaklawn, IL). Also, Rev. Richard Veldman is cited as Jr. He was not related to the Rev. Richard Veldman, a pastor for many years in the CRC (p. 229). On that same page the author implies, in the mind of this reviewer, that Rev. Herman Hoeksema was a prominent minister in the CRC. He among others was put out of the CRC (1924-26) for their opposition to the error of common grace and was one of the founding pastors of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Highly recommended. Especially the Dutch who have their roots in the Windy City or are currently living there will find the book a very good read. Anyone interested in this aspect or any other aspect of the history of the Dutch in America will enjoy this book as well.
Sarah Sumner considers
herself a conservative evangelical.
Sarah Sumner considers herself a conservative evangelical.
She writes on the related subjects of womens ordination to the ministry of the gospel and the headship of the husband as regards his wife. She intends to reconcile egalitarians and complementarians. The former are those whose doctrine of equality opens up all church offices to women and recognizes no authority of husband over wife. The latter are those who oppose ordination of women to church office and affirm the authority of the husband in marriage and the family.
Dr. Sumner is herself an ordained minister, teaching theology in a seminary.
On the basis, mainly, of what to her is the obvious ability of women to preach and rule in the church and the success and acceptance of such female preachers as Billy Grahams daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, Sumner argues that gifted women may lead in church as well as men. Leading includes preaching and ruling. Because the Bible connects rule by men in the church with the husbands headship, Sumner must deny that headship involves authority.
In fact, this conservative evangelical argues the case of the egalitarians against the complementarians. Thus are the conflicting positions reconciled.
As for the New Testament texts that decide the issue now confronting evangelical Christianity in North America, all of them are hopelessly unclear. We dont know how to translate I Timothy 2, much less interpret it correctly or apply it appropriately to today. Thats why this passage is so humbling; to some extent it has stumped us all, scholars and practitioners alike. My best answer, then, is to publicly confess that I dont know (p. 248).
Likewise, we are unsure of what Paul meant in I Corinthians 14:34, 35 (p. 251). The only texts that are clear are those used by egalitarians: Galatians 3:28 and Romans 16:1.
Arguing the unbiblical notions that women may preach and rule at church and that husbands have no authority over their wives at home ties one who professes to honor Scripture in knots. Take headship. If headship is not allowed to mean authority, for example, in I Corinthians 11:3 and in Ephesians 5:22-33, the expositor must come up with some other meaning. She must discover an explanation of headship that describes Gods headship with regard to Christ, Christs headship with regard to the church, and the husbands headship with regard to his wife. This explanation must have nothing to do with authority.
Dr. Sumner has discovered that headship, which is the quality of masculinity, means that one is less vulnerable physically than the one over whom he is head. God is less vulnerable physically than Christ; Christ is less vulnerable physically than the church; the husband is less vulnerable physically than the wife (pp. 185ff.).
The implication of this explanation of biblical headship, which Dr. Sumner boldly accepts, is that in relation to God, His head, Christ is feminine. Ill say it again. Insofar as Christ became physically more vulnerable than God, Christ took on femininity (p. 186).
Sumner contends that men, that is, husbands, cannot have authority over women, that is, wives, because the Bible says clearly that all authority (exousia) has been given to Christ (p. 249). Her commitment to women preaching and ruling in the church has blinded her to the obvious fact that on this reasoning parents cannot have authority over their children, elders cannot have authority over the congregation, and magistrates cannot have authority over the citizenry. All authority has been given to Christ.
It is impossible to accept the ordination of women in church office, with the accompanying rejection of the authority of the husband in marriage and family, and be conservative, if conservative means reverencing Holy Scripture as the Word of God.
The book makes apparent the appalling spiritual bankruptcy of evangelism in North America in the highest reaches of evangelicalism. Sumner repeatedly appeals to Billy Grahams approval of the preaching ministry of his daughter. The seminary that gladly trained Sarah Sumner to be a preacher of the gospel is Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Carl F. H. Henry is an ardent supporter of Sumner, her ministry as a preacher, and this book. The publisher of the book is InterVarsity.
In a blurb on the very first page of the book, the claim is made that this book presents a complete re-evaluation of Calvins rise to power in Geneva. It goes on to say: Calvins consolidation of his position and particular brand of Protestantism was of paramount importance to the wider Reformation movement, especially in France, Scotland and England. Extensive research in Genevas archives has produced this new in-depth view of Genevas politics, ruling elites, and socio-economic milieu. The book effectively widens the previously known interpretation of Geneva beyond Calvin and a few prominent Genevans to include the entire political class, the other ministers, the French refugees, and Calvins local Genevan supporters on the Consistory, Genevas ecclesiastical court.
The general purpose of the book is to demonstrate how completely the reformation under Calvin in Geneva was affected by cultural, political, economical, and social currents and events. The more specific purpose is to describe how the Calvin reformation finally triumphed against strong opposition and through great turbulence. The history of all this is traced carefully by the author. His argument is as follows.
When Calvin returned to Geneva from his exile in Strassburg he found that the company of pastors was largely composed of extremely incompetent pastors, many of whom were simply tools in the hands of the secular magistrates. They proved their lack of commitment to the reformation by refusing to follow Calvin when he was expelled from Geneva, and their incompetence proved a major obstacle in the work of reform. By 1546, through strenuous efforts and by teaching new men himself, Calvin succeeded in changing this, so that the company of pastors was well-educated, sound in doctrine, capable of preaching the gospel with force, and loyal to the work of reformation.
Factors which led to dissension in the city and its enormous problems were: 1) the political factions in the city. 2) The fear of French domination due to the large influx of Protestant refugees from France who were fleeing the bitter persecution there. 3) The need to placate Berne (a nearby city on which Geneva depended for military protection). 4) The efforts of Calvin and the Company of Pastors, along with the Consistory to impose on the city a strict morality.
The fear of French domination was a major problem. There were many native citizens in Geneva who had been born and raised Roman Catholic and who resented Protestant teaching and biblical morality. As an aside, we might note that these people were, in large measure, licentious, given to partying, immorality, dancing, drunkenness, and such like sins, a sad commentary on the Roman Catholic Church, which winked at all these vices. It is not difficult to understand, however, that these natives of Geneva who had ruled the city for decades were alarmed when, because of the influx of refugees, they saw power slipping from their hands and a new system of religion imposed on their city.
Other factors were involved in this struggle. For one thing, all reform in the city had to be carried on with the cooperation and through the legislation of the ruling bodies. The big question was always: Who has a majority in the ruling bodies? Closely connected with this struggle for power in the civil magistracy was the question of the citizenship of French refugees. If they could receive citizenship, they could vote, and the majority of them were followers of Calvin. Their voting power would determine the theological and moral direction of the city. A great deal of time is spent in the book following the voting year by year, and interesting charts are used for purposes of comparison.
Although generally the magistracy favored reformation and supported reform, the constituency of the ruling bodies (and there were several) determined how strongly reform was pursued. The magistracy was empowered to level civil penalties against the violations of Gods law: imprisonment, beatings, fines for drunkenness, public blasphemy, Sabbath breaking, adultery, etc.
In addition to that, the magistracy was entrusted with the role of enforcing orthodoxy among the preachers and the people. Heretics (Bolsec, Servetus, and others) appeared from time to time in the city to spread their views, and the magistracy had to deal with them and prevent their heresies from spreading.
The key issue, however, was an important one. In fact, it was this issue that resulted in Calvins banishment. The issue was to whom was given the power of excommunication, that is, the right to exercise key power? The magistrates consistently refused to give up this power, a power which they had exercised under Roman Catholic domination, but Calvin insisted the exercise of the keys belonged to the church and was, by Christ, entrusted to the church. Calvin was, of course, right. But it does not take much imagination to envision the situation in the city, where the immoral Patriots (as they were called), citizens of Geneva and with a majority in the ruling bodies, came under the discipline of the church, but were sheltered by the civil magistrate who refused to excommunicate them. One can imagine the trouble keeping the sacraments pure under these circumstances.
But the imposition of morality created the major battles. People then as today simply did not want anyone telling them how they ought to live. And the morality preached from the pulpits, encouraged by the Consistory and enforced by the arm of the law, was rigid.
Calvin succeeded also in getting solid elders in the office so that the work of reformation in the preaching, the administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of discipline was done according to the command of Christ. So the battle lines were drawn: on the one side a solid company of pastors and a strong body of elders, both led by Calvin, along with many (though not all) French refugees who supported them; on the other side the Patriots, many weak folk among the refugees and the citizens, along with a ruling body which changed with each election, but which, while favoring reformation in general, was not always strongly in favor of Calvins rigorous application of Gods demands in Scripture.
The struggle to impose a biblical morality on Geneva resulted in some (to us) strange episodes. Fines were levied and prison sentences were imposed for card playing, dancing, and other less important infractions of the law. But baptism became a real issue. It was common among the citizens of the city to give traditional names to their newborn children. Sometimes the names of Roman Catholic saints were used; sometimes names that were associated with Roman Catholic history or practices were used. The reformers favored biblical names. The Consistory ruled that no names associated in any way with anything Roman Catholic could be given to children. Some parents gave forbidden names to children in spite of this ruling and presented their children for baptism. The minister administering the sacrament would frequently change the name on the spot and baptize the child under a different name than the parents had chosen. Sometimes, when this happened, the father would snatch the child out of the ministers arm before it could be baptized and refuse to allow baptism for the child until the name chosen by the parents was agreed upon.
The author rightly observes, however, that many were critical of Calvins preaching because he condemned sin and they preferred to hear sweet promises while remaining in their sin (pp. 160, 161).
1555 was a decisive year. A few years prior to it the balance of power began to swing towards the Calvinists, until in 1555 the Calvinists succeeded in gaining a majority on the city councils. The book deals extensively with the factors that led to this triumph of the Calvinists. And when finally they were in power, they quickly consolidated their power. They drove out of the city the opponents of reform, now called Perrinists (after the name of one of their leaders Ami Perrin). They increased the number of men serving on the ruling councils. They admitted more French refugees to the city and made them citizens with full voting rights. And they elected sizable majorities to the ruling bodies.
All of this makes for fascinating reading and gives valuable background to the Calvin reformation in Geneva. Nevertheless, the author frequently overstates his case, in my judgment. Calvin is sometimes presented as vindictive and unforgiving. Calvins own interpretation of events is often rejected by the author in favor of interpretations that seem to be supported by extremely meager and inconclusive arguments. On this latter point, the author himself frequently suggests that his conclusions are tentative by using such words as It seems as if , It is quite probable that , The evidence suggests .
While it is not the authors intent to evaluate the Calvin reformation in Geneva (it would go beyond the scope of his book to criticize him for failing to do this), the fact remains that such an evaluation would have been helpful and would have aided in putting Calvins work in the right light. The strong impression is left that Calvin was interested primarily in mere power, with the purpose to dominate Genevan politics, the Genevan economy, and the social life of its residents. This is not true, although it is a thesis developed in other works on Calvin.
Taking into account the then current views of the relation between church and state, Calvins motive in all he did was to establish a church in Geneva and a city in which the church was located which in every respect was faithful to the Word of God. One could criticize Calvin for adopting a view of the relation between church and state that is no longer in favor in our day; but Calvins sole purpose was to make Geneva a godly city. Who can criticize him for wanting a strong company of pastors? Who can find fault with his strong desire to have an eldership faithful to Gods Word? Who can bring criticisms against his efforts to put the exercise of key power firmly in the hands of the eldership? And, given his views on church and state, who can level against him accusations of lust for power when he merely sought a society in which Gods law was honored?
Nor in my judgment was sufficient attention paid in the book to other aspects of Calvins work which had a profound influence on Geneva and Europe. I refer to the establishment of the Academy, the emphasis on the education of the children, the erection of hospitals for the care of the sick and orphanages for the care of the parentless, the definition of the office of deacons and the care of the poor, the efforts made to provide spiritual and material help for thousands of persecuted refugees, frequently at great cost to the city and church? And we can never forget that Calvin was used by God to give to the church a Reformed system of doctrine, a Reformed liturgy for the worship of God, and a Reformed church government all of which have survived the centuries. While it might be argued that such material would go beyond the scope of the book, such things are necessary to prevent an unbalanced and incorrect assessment of Calvins labors.
The history of the Reformed church in the Netherlands and in America is important to the Reformed believer. Most Reformed Christians know something of the Afscheiding (Secession) of 1834, where men such as DeCock, Scholte, and VanRaalte were put out of the established Reformed Church in the Netherlands and formed the church anew. Furthermore, the date 1857 stands out as the year of the formation of the Christian Reformed Church in Western Michigan. Family Quarrels takes the reader into the conflicts to describe the people and their struggles. Whether one knows little about these conflicts, or is well informed on them, this book is as fascinating as it is valuable.
This work provides brief histories and background for four distinct events: 1) the Secession of 1834 and the subsequent emigration to America; 2) the union of the Afscheiding group led by VanRaalte with the existing Reformed Dutch Church in America (present day Reformed Church in America); 3) the 1857 secession of the 150 families and two ministers from Classis Holland in the RCA to form the True Dutch Reformed Church (later the Christian Reformed Church); and 4) the 1882 controversy in the RCA over Freemasonry, which resulted in a significant exodus from the RCA, most of which entered the CRC, including the congregation of the then deceased VanRaalte (now called Pillar Church in the CRC).
The title Family Quarrels aptly describes the content of the book in that the authors focused not only on the above-described unions and secessions, but also on the divisions within the various movements. Consider the Afschei-ding. A broad overview considers that the Afscheiding was a reformation of the church due to corruption in the Reformed Church in the Netherlands. DeCock objected to Arminian hymns and defended the Psalms, attacked fellow preachers for Arminian preaching and writings, and inveighed against the churchs departure from the doctrines and church order of the great Synod of Dordrecht (1618-19). Because of this, he was suspended, and after much fruitless appeal, the longsuf-fering DeCock and his consistory withdrew from the denomination. Ministers who agreed with him were likewise disciplined, and the small group of men had thousands of convicted believers follow them to their own physical and economic peril.
That is all correct, but Family Quarrels reveals many of the currents flowing through the movement, as well as the surprising amount of dissension among the Afscheiding leaders. The authors point out that in all secession movements, differences exist as to what sort of church should be formed. The same was true among the leaders of the Afscheiding. The book states (pp. 27, 28):
Then the book demonstrates some of the specific issues that caused dissension. For example, there was violent disagreement early on over whether or not to apply for government approval (when once this was available). Scholte did early on (1843), and some of the congregations planted by VanRaalte followed suit. Others in the Afscheiding were fiercely opposed to it.
The ministers divided over whether or not to baptize the infants of non-members. De Cock followed the practice of the national church by doing so. The other opposed it. The men were divided over what church order to adopt. Scholte drew up a brief church order that favored a severe limitation of the powers of classes and synods. The others were in favor of returning to the church order adopted by Dort, with some revision. Scholte wanted all lay preachers (oefenaars) banned, while DeCock argued that they be allowed to continue to exhort.
Doctrinal division also manifest itself. The authors maintain that there was a significant difference between the Brummelkamp-VanRaalte party of the southern provinces and the deCock-vanVelzen party in the north. They write that the ecumenical spirit of the south conflicted with the sterner Calvinism of the north (p. 2)
A significant rift developed between Scholte and the rest of the men. Already in 1839, Scholte and his consistory in Utrecht charged that vanVelzens preaching overemphasized divine election and was coldly formal. He preached a conglomeration of theoretical truths without the living Christ, without a regenerating Spirit, and without the living and active faith (p. 31). VanVelzen was one of the strongest defenders of the Reformed faith. Quotations from one of his sermons demonstrate this. He preached, Man can do nothing, yea, may not do anything to obtain salvation because this would be ones own work, and that such work is condemned before God (p. 31). The Synod of 1840 demanded that Scholte retract the charge. His refusal to do that, as well as his rejection of the church order that synod adopted, resulted in his being deposed. Scholte would continue to go astray, even adopting premillennialism.
Family Quarrels demonstrates that VanRaalte was not of the stronger party (doctrinally) in the Afscheiding. He was also most reluctant to leave the established church, where his father preached (p. 42). As late as 1842, he and his brother-in-law (C. G. de Moen) drew up an Appeal addressed to the Synod of the Hervormde Kerk on behalf of some of the Afscheiding churches, expressing a desire for unity (p. 34).
The book is a treasure house of information, including even the prison sentences of the ministers and the fines levied against the elder of one Seceder church for allowing his congregation to use his barn for worship. The elder was James VandeLuyster, who, we are informed, later founded Zeeland, Michigan (p. 25).
Fascinating, too, is a major theme of the book that the seeds of 1857 were sown in 1834. As noted, the book posits the different character of the northern ministers with their followers, when compared to the churches and ministers of the southern provinces. The authors contend that the immigrants from the southern provinces of Noord Holland, Zuid Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, and Overijssel tended to flow into the RCA. On the other hand, the immigrants from the northern provinces of Friesland, Gronigen, Drenthe (with parts of Overijssel and Gelderland) and the one southern province of Zeeland swelled the ranks of the CRC. The book supplies the statistics to confirm the pattern.
The rest of the book is equally valuable and gives a view from the inside of the controversies. The authors write from the perspective of the RCA. However, they made a conscious commitment to be evenhanded, and they largely succeeded in their effort.
At the same time, the weakness of the book is that it downplays doctrinal differences. One glaring and (for a Reformed man) inexcusable error is the false assertion that Arminius was a moderate Calvinist. The book claims that Arminius wanted to avoid anything that looked like determinism, so he rejected the supralapsarian or ultra Calvinistic position of some delegates at the synod, such as Gomarus, Arminiuss opponent (p. 39). That this statement is not even historically accurate is evident from the fact that the Canons of Dort, which thoroughly rejected the teachings of Arminius, were written from the infralapsarian view.
In line with this trend, the book evaluates the conflicts in terms of social, geographical, or familial relationships, and doctrinal differences may be just one of the factors that caused division. A point is made, for example, of the fact that the four brothers-in-law voted against Scholte (i.e., vanVelzen, Brummelkamp, VanRaalte, and de Moen) in the synod of 1840. Troublemaking elders and ministers were a major cause of the 150 families leaving the RCA to form the CRC. Resistance to Americanization was a major factor in the 1857 formation of the CRC and (especially) the 1882 exodus from the RCA over Freemasonry. While there is an element of truth in all these examples, this does not do justice to the church of Jesus Christ that struggles to remain faithful to the truth and the principles of godliness. It makes the differences to have the character of mere family quarrels not based on principles, not differences based on the confessions or the right interpretation of the Scriptures, but squabbles due to personality and divergence of viewpoint.
There have ever been in the church since the Reformation, two schools of thought on the issue of church splits. Understand, that no sincere believer relishes division. And schism, understood as a deliberate attempt to divide the church needlessly, is a censurable sin in every faithful Reformed church. Given that agreement, there remain two distinct positions. One group insists that institutional unity is the most important thing. Differences must be tolerated be they doctrinal, social, personal, or what have you. Erasmus decried the Reformation on that count; Luther was needlessly rending the body of Christ over nonessential matters, he opined. No doubt also there were Christians in the Hervormde Kerk in 1834 who chose not to secede with de Cock and the rest for the similar reasons. And still today, in the Hervormde Kerk there is the Gereformeerde Bond, churches in the HK that are united in their disagreement with many of the doctrines and practices of the denomination, but who choose not to leave it.
The other school of thought is that there are times when God reforms His church which is apostatizing. That reformation by God is usually a re-forming of the church institute in order that the church of Christ may be formed back to the Bible. This was the work of God in 1571, and in 1834, and in 1857. This position insists that faithfulness to Gods truth is more important than family relationships, friendships, and the institutional unity. This is the viewpoint of a host of believers, led by such men as Luther, Calvin, de Cock, Kuyper, and Hoeksema.
This book, written, as was noted, from the perspective of the RCA, takes the former stance. Concerning the division in 1882 over Freemasonry, it reports concerning those who did not secede: The RCA in the Middle West despised Masonry, but it hated schism more (pp. 134, 135) That sentence captures the viewpoint of the authors.
This is not an insignificant weakness. Nonetheless, the book is a valuable publication, worthy of welcome in the body of Reformed church history literature. It is No. 32 in The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, and is a product of the A. C. VanRaalte Institute and Hope College. Ministers, seminary students, and any Christian interested in the history of the Reformed church will profit from reading Family Quarrels .
This reprint of the 1966 original edition, now long out-of-print and hard to find, is a valuable work. It contains twelve Reformed confessions from the sixteenth century. Some are little known, but ought to be known better. Another important confession is not included in most collections of confessions. This is the Second Helvetic Confession, in its day as highly regarded and widely known as any of the Reformed confessions. The original edition of Philip Schaffs Creeds of Christendom published the Second Helvetic only in the Latin. The 1966 Baker reprint edition of volume three of Schaffs Creeds includes the English translation as an appendix.
Reformed Confessions contains the following twelve confessions: Zwinglis Sixty-seven Articles of 1523; the Ten Theses of Berne, 1528; the Tetrapolitan Confession of 1530; the First Confession of Basel, 1534; the First Helvetic Confession of 1536; the Lausanne Articles of 1536; the Geneva Confession of 1536; the Confession of Faith of the English Congregation at Geneva, 1556; the French Confession of Faith, 1559; the Scottish Confession of Faith, 1560; the Belgic Confession of Faith, 1561; and the Second Helvetic Confession, 1566.
The Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563, and the Barmen Theological Declaration, 1934 find a place in an appendix. Why the Heidelberg Catechism should be relegated to an appendix is puzzling. It certainly was a major Reformed confession of the sixteenth century. Perhaps, the explanation is its form as a catechism.
Volume three of Schaffs Creeds has only nine Reformed confessions from the sixteenth century, and four are not translated into English (the Scots Confession of Faith appears in the old English).
The volume of creeds edited by John H. Leith, Creeds of the Churches, includes only two Reformed confessions from the sixteenth century, and one of them the Second Helvetic Confession is severely abridged.
Arthur C. Cochrane states the importance of these sixteenth century Reformed confessions:
To each of the confessions included in this volume, editor Cochrane has written an informative, helpful historical introduction.
A look at one of the less familiar confessions will indicate the worth of the book. Cochrane tells us that the Confession of Faith of the English Congregation at Geneva, 1556 originated with the English exiles in Geneva during the reign of Bloody Mary in England. The author was probably Whittingham.
The confession is Trini-tarian in structure, very much like that of Calvins Institutes. Article one confesses the triune God and His work of creation and providence. Article two is devoted to the person and work of Jesus Christ the only Savior and Messiah. Article three expresses the Reformed believers understanding of the Holy Ghost and His distinctive activity within the children of God. Emphatically, this activity includes persuading us most assuredly in our consciences that we are the children of God.
Article four, with article two the longest of the articles, sets forth the truth of the Church according to the Reformed faith. This article, following Calvin very closely, inserts into the treatment of the Church a statement concerning the state (a political magistrate). The state and its duties are related to the Church by this curious line: And besides this ecclesiastical discipline, I acknowledge to the Church a political magistrate, etc. To the Church a political magistrate. And this magistrate is to the Church, besides this ecclesiastical discipline.
Although brief, the four articles are packed with Reformed doctrine. They speak to contemporary issues and controversies. Article four distinguishes the one holy Church of the elect, which is not visible to mans eye but only known to God, from the instituted Church, which is visible and seen by the eye.
Affirming that infants must be baptized, article four states that the significance of baptism is that sin shall not be imputed to the elect.
The confession concludes with a lovely eschatological line that describes not only the Marian exiles in 1556 but also all true Christians in every age. Upon the return of Christ, we who have forsaken all mens wisdom to cleave unto Christ shall hear the joyful voice, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world, and thus shall go triumphing with him in body and soul.
There is always a fly in the ointment. The reprint adds to the original edition a new introduction by Jack Rogers. Rogers introduction is a brief for the theological modernism of the twenty-first century. Theological modernism repudiates the sixteenth century confessions as faithful expressions of Holy Scripture, the inspired Word of God. This, of course, is what those confessions claimed to be. For this reason, the Marian exiles and many others were ready to die for the faith they confessed in those confessions. For this reason too, those confessions were binding upon Reformed believers and Reformed churches.
Not so for Jack Rogers. The sixteenth century confessions were merely time and culture-bound expressions of what Reformed people most deeply believe at any given time. To use confessions from previous centuries as contemporary laws [laws is the pejorative modernist word for authoritative and binding DJE] fails to recognize that humans not only applied the gospel to their situation, but that they did so with the assumptions of their time and culture (p. xiii). Earlier in his new introduction, Rogers had suggested that Reformed Christians of the present time should write a new confession settling the primary issue convulsing the Church in the 1980s and 1990s, namely whether homosexual persons should have the right to hold ordained office in the church. What he intends, of course, is that the new confession would settle this issue in favor of homosexuals seeking to hold office (p. xi).
What the publishers were thinking when they inserted Rogers statement of unbelief into a volume of confessions of the Reformed faith, only they know. But in the providence of God, the jarring dissonance serves a purpose. It demonstrates that the faith of the Reformed confessions, which a remnant in the world still believe with all their heart and boldly confess, and theological modernism are two different religions.
In no way does this volume on eschatology establish postmillennialism as a doctrine of hope. What it does establish is that the doctrine of the last things condemned by the Second Helvetic Confession as Jewish dreams is alive and well among reputedly conservative Presbyterian publishers and theologians. The publisher is P&R. The author is a recent graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary.
In the main, the book is a cursory explanation of carefully selected texts of Scripture that are susceptible to a post-millennial interpretation and the consignment of all contrary passages to A.D. 70.
The handling of Scripture leaves much to be desired. Against the objection to postmillennialism that Romans 8:17ff. teaches the persecution of the church throughout the present age, and thus exposes the postmillennial hope of earthly victory as false, Mathison replies that the passage refers only to the Christians struggle with sin (p. 184). In fact, Romans 8:35 (tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword) clearly teaches the persecution of the New Testament church, just as the Old Testament text quoted in verse 36 taught the persecution of the saints in the time of the old covenant.
Mathison is cavalier in his dismissal of the certainty of persecution: Suffering by persecution is not a sine qua non of the church. If it is, there are few if any true churches in North America today (p. 185). He ignores II Timothy 3:12: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. He ought to take seriously his own standard for judging true churches. The number of true churches in North America may very well be far fewer than comfortable Reformed and Presbyterian church members suppose. If Mathison will investigate, he will discover that there are Reformed churches in North America that are hated, slandered, and mocked for their confession of the truth and for their walk of holiness.
Instead of dismissing persecution, Mathison should be warning the churches in North America of overt persecution that is about to break out against them.
But this author of a work on biblical eschatology is blind to the impending great persecution. The reason is his dream of an earthly victory of the kingdom of Christ in history. To preserve this dream, he explains all the New Testament prophecies of apostasy, tribulation, and Antichrist as having been fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew 24, I Thessalonians 5, II Thessa-lonians, II Timothy 3, and all of Revelation up to chapter 20, among many other passages, refer exclusively to the events of A.D. 70. The vast majority of [passages that teach a gradual worsening of conditions on earth prior to the Second Coming] refer specifically to first-century conditions at the time of Christs coming in judgment upon Jerusalem (p. 183).
Basic to Mathisons eschatology is the preterism of J. Marcellus Kik and of Christian Reconstruction. It is no surprise that the book comes highly recommended by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. and R.C. Sproul. With good reason, Mathison finds it necessary to distinguish his own very nearly full preterism from full pre-terism in an appendix.
There is candid acknowl-edgement of the purpose of the preterist interpretation of all the New Testament warnings of apostasy and persecution.
What Presbyterian defenders of Christian Recon-structions theology of carnal dominion must do is demonstrate from Scripture and the Reformed confessions that the Messianic kingdom is earthly in nature and that its victory in history is physical and political. To no purpose do Mathison and his colleagues exert themselves to show, with a great display of accomplishment, that the Bible teaches that Christ has established His kingdom in this world and that His kingdom progressively triumphs. Reformed amillennialism has always confessed this. Christian Reconstruction postmillennialism, incidentally, teaches that Christ and His kingdom have been defeated up to the present. But Reformed amillennialism holds that the kingdom is a heavenly kingdom in this world and that its victory in history is spiritual. The issue is Christs spiritual kingdom.
Although most of the book is a restatement of Christian Reconstruction teachings on the golden age and dominion, Mathison adds a new ground for the expectation of a future conversion of a majority of mankind: Gods common grace (pp. 164, 165).
If common grace is understood as Abraham Kuyper intended, Mathison is guilty of a gross logical fallacy. Common grace is to be distinguished from saving grace. Common grace is merely favor in this life. It gives rain and sunshine. From a common grace of God, nothing follows for the salvation of men.
But if common grace is understood as a loving will of God for the salvation of all men without exception, as Mathison and most Reformed and Presbyterian theologians today indeed understand it, the argument from common grace proves too much. Common grace does not merely prove that a majority of humans will be saved in the future. It proves that all without exception will be saved in the future. Indeed, it proves that all who have ever lived will be saved in the future. Does not God love and sincerely desire to save all?
At least one leading Christian Reconstruction postmillen-nialist has proposed that in the coming millennium every single human will be converted and saved, although his reason for thinking so is not common grace, but the victory of Christ.
What is going on in the most conservative Presbyterian churches and seminaries as regards eschatology? What is going on in the face of the clear, forceful, urgent, abundant warnings of Scripture that in the last days the church of Christ must contend with rampant lawlessness, wholesale apostasy, and fierce persecution? What is going on in the face of the rapid development in North America and the world of these very realities?
The postmillennialism of Christian Reconstruction and Keith Mathison is not an eschatology of hope. It is an eschatology of delusion, of Jewish dreams. And it is a grievous threat to the welfare of the church and the saints.
As a book on doctrinal controversies in Wales, this work belongs to a rare breed. Its literary history too is unusual. The material now found in The Atonement Controversy was first published as a lengthy chapter in Owen Thomas biography of John Jones of Talsarn. It has been translated from Welsh into English by John Aaron, who also provides us with a superb introduction.
The author, Owen Thomas (1812-1891), was one of the leading Welsh scholars of his day (p. xi) and the most respected preacher in Wales in the 1870s (p. xii). His classic work on John Jones is acknowledged generally as the best biography ever written in Welsh (p. ix). For this work and his many scholarly articles, he was awarded a D.D. from Princeton in 1877 (p. xii). John Jones (1796-1857), the subject of Owen Thomas biography, was likewise a man of parts. As a child, he could recite the whole New Testament and several Old Testament books. He mastered Greek and Latin and collected possibly the largest library ever possessed by a Welsh minister (p. xiii).
However, both Owen Thomas (the biographer) and John Jones (his subject) compromised the truth of the gospel in Wales. John Jones was a practical preacher, an advocate of a less doctrinal, more socially aware gospel (p. xiv). He advocated a more moderate modification of Calvinism. Owen Thomas carries John Jones position further. He is on the side of the reformers. He wishes the New System to prevail (p. xxvi), and has an element of sympathy towards the governmental theory of the atonement (p. xxxiv).
Owen Thomas summary of controversies on the extent of the atonement from Augustine to nineteenth century American Presbyerianism (pp. 111-150) is deeply flawed at several key points. Gottschalk, he opines, held extreme views of predestination and election (p. 118). Unquestionably, Calvin considered Christs sacrifice as bearing a general aspect and as offered for all mankind so as to establish a ground of hope for all (pp. 123, 124-125). Thomas holds a very weak interpretation of the Canons of Dordt on limited atonement (pp. 124-125, 131). The celebrated Bishop Davenant is quoted with approval as he compromises Christs atonement to find common ground with the Arminians, while Augustus Toplady is sidelined (p. 125). Andrew Fuller in England (pp. 130-134) and Drs. Brown and Balmer in Scotland (pp. 134-141) are given sympathetic treatment, as is Amyrault in France (pp. 142-143) and the New School in the US (pp. 149-150).
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 traces the controversies between Calvinists and Arminians, 1707-1831; part 2 follows the controversies amongst Calvinists, 1811-1841; and part 3 treats the controversies amongst Calvinistic Methodists, 1814-1841.
The same arguments against limited atonement made today were made then, and in both cases the attacks are often made by professed Calvinists. Many were arguing that the atonement was sufficient for all and hence universal. Thus Christ makes salvation possible for all. Temporal blessings were supposedly purchased at the cross for all, including the reprobate (pp. 159, 163, 164; cf. xxxviii). Some held that God desires the salvation of all (pp. 214-215), which also seems to be the view of Owen Thomas (p. 119). God supposedly loves everybody, and this, apparently, is John Aarons position too (p. xvi). Reprobation is largely, if not totally, ignored, and paradox theology is evident (pp. 160, 276). Apparently there is much truth in Arminianism, and eventually peace is made between the Calvinists and the Arminians, for we need to evangelize and promote revivals, and, after all, the debates are largely a matter of semantics, and Gods truth is larger than human systems (pp. 103-104, 275-276, 363-364).
Many lessons can be learned from this book. First, it is striking that the debates in Wales began with the preaching of Welsh-speaking Arminian Methodists (p. xv). Heresy always brings disruption. Secondly, the work as a whole testifies to the influence of false doctrine from abroad. The apostasy started through the followers of Wesley and gained speed through the influence of Finney (p. 264), but modified Calvinism from various parts of the world also leavened Wales. The ideas of Grotius in Holland (through his disciples in many parts of the world), Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins in New England, and Andrew Fuller and Edward Williams in England, united in the total overthrow of the doctrines of grace in Wales by 1900. In a survey of 1841-1900 (pp. xxxi-xxxix), John Aaron sketches the main lines in the apostasy of the Welsh churches subsequent to Owen Thomas narration that covered up to 1841.
After reading Owen Thomas work one comes away with at least three nagging concerns. First, Thomas does not believe that the debate over the extent of Christs atonement is really as important as many of the protagonists thought it was (p. 363). Secondly, Thomas would also lead us to think that perhaps, after all, the extent of Christs redemption is a tortuously difficult subject shrouded in mystery. Thirdly, the readers might also be tempted to think that this is a subject that has never been decisively dealt with by the church of Christ.
The Canons of Dordt deal effectively with all three issues. Its Second Head of Doctrine (Of the Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby) is the churchs definitive answer against a death of Christ for all: Christ died for the elect and those only (II.8). It states, moreover, that the Arminian theory of an ineffectual, universal atonement bring[s] again out of hell the Pelagian error so this is an important issue (II.R.3). The first line of the Conclusion to the Canons of Dordt addresses the subject of the clarity of the five points, which include limited atonement. It reads, And this is the perspicuous, simple, and ingenuous declaration of the orthodox doctrine respecting the five articles . Particular atonement is a perspicuous and simple doctrine. The Scriptures clearly teach it, and a little child can grasp it Christ died for those whom He has chosen and He did not die for those whom He passed by. Owen Thomas The Atonement Controversy provides plenty of evidence that the theories concocted by those who compromised on this article of Gods truth are both various and complicated. The Arminians and the moderate Calvinists fall under the condemnation of the Canons Conclusion as those who controverted the orthodox faith, troubled the churches, and violated all truth, equity, and charity, in wishing to persuade the public.
John Jones, the subject of the biography, knew fine well the truth of Christs particular redemption. As a teenager, he translated John Owens Death of Death into Welsh (p. xiii)!
Owen Thomas also understood limited atonement. However, he writes with evident approval of the broadening of the mind of Henry Rees, one of the more Calvinistic men of his day. Through reading and studying Andrew Fuller and others, Rees had his mind
Moreover, it was not only Fuller who enlarged Rees mind so that he could tolerate Arminianism but Dr. Arnold, Julius Charles Hare, and Thomas Carlyle also had a hand in this broadening process (p. 363)!
Owen Thomas does not voice even a guarded criticism of all this. He concludes in his last paragraph,
Apostasy by now has ripened: The prophets prophesy falsely and my people love to have it so (Jer. 5:31). It started with the incursion of Armini-anism through the followers of John Wesley and it ended up like this!
John Aaron rightly warns about the consequences of acquiescing in a modification of Calvinism. His words concerning nineteenth century Wales apply equally to our day:
The same wooden horse (p. xxxiv) of moderate Calvinism is at work in Presbyterian and Reformed churches today. The notion that God loves everybody and wants to save everybody is eroding the truth of particular redemption, and John Wesley, whose disciples brought the heresy of universal atonement into Wales, is widely touted by professedly Reformed men.
Endnotes for Setting in Order the Things That Are Wanting:
1 This is the meaning of the Greek prosdexomai, which appears in this verse as a present, middle participle.
2 The reader may consult the standard commentaries for lengthy discussions of the question.
3 Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament, pp. 604-605 and Grammar, p. 786.
4 The Greek conjunction kai, used here, is often translated even, meaning, that is.
5 See John 1:1-14 for example. John 1 and Titus 2:13 are not the only texts revealing the divinity of Jesus.
Endnotes for Comparison of Exegesis:
1 As was noted in the last installment, this and all quotations of Calvins exegesis will be from his Commentary on Ephesians in Calvins Commentaries, Translated by William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), Vol. 21. All quotations from Aquinas will be from his the Commentary on Saint Pauls Epistle to the Ephesians (Albany: Magi Books, Inc., 1966). Since the quotations will be from specific verses on which these men comment, the quotations can be easily found and no references will be given.
2 Not here in his commentary, but in his Summa Aquinas distinguishes three classes of virtue: intellectual, moral, and theological. Faith, hope, and love (from I Cor. 13) are the three theological virtues. They are so named first, because their object is God, since they direct man to God; secondly, because they are infused in man by God alone; thirdly, because these virtues are unknown to man, except by divine revelation, contained in Scripture. Confer Aquinas Summa Theologica, II, 1, Q. 62.
3 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, p. 301, quoted by Lamb, Introduction to Commentary on Ephesians, p. 18.
Endnotes for In the Space of Six Days:
1 It is not intended in the course of this paper to enter upon a specific refutation of the reconstructionist, day age, concordistic, period, or framework theories with respect to the days of Genesis 1. Such theories have received extensive treatment by a range of authors. Cf. William Einwechter, Modern Issues in Biblical Perspective: The Meaning of Day in Genesis 1-2, http://www.chalcedon.edu.html; Kenneth L. Gentry, In the Space of Six Days, Ordained Servant Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 12-16; Grover Gunn, Six Day Creation, http://capo.org/cpc/sixdays.htm; Herman Hoeksema, Evolution, Long Periods, or Days Standard Bearer, Vol. 35, pp. 101; 124-125; 173-174; 197-198; 221-222; 245-246; 269-270; 292-293; 316-317; 340-341; 389-390; 413; 484-485; Vol. 36, pp. 52-52; Homer C. Hoeksema, The Creation Record Literal, Standard Bearer, Vol. 64, pp. 390-391; 412-414; 464-465; 485-486; Douglas M. L. Judisch, The Length of the Days of Creation, Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 52, 1988, pp. 265-271; Steven Key, Creations Time Frame, Standard Bearer, Vol. 72, 1 January 1996, pp. 157-159; Robert L. Reymond, In the Space of Six Days, The Concerned Presbyterian, Vol. 5, No. 1, March 2000, pp. 1-7; Frank H. Walker, The Framework Hypothesis, February 1998, http://incolor.inetnebr.com/stuart/framework.htm. As these articles demonstrate conclusively, there are cogent reasons which demand that the days of Genesis 1 & 2 be treated as literal 24-hour days. Those reasons include the ordinary use of yom within the Old Testament; the employment of the days of Genesis 1 as a pattern for the Sabbath day as indicated in the fourth commandment; the fact that the Genesis account gives no indication of being anything other than a narrative account; and that Jesus Himself gives specific recognition to the historicity of Genesis in Matthew 19:3-6.
2 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Hendrikson Publishers, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 570, 571.
3 Bavinck, In the Beginning: Foundations of Creation Theology (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999), p. 124.
4 Nico Ridderbos, Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1957), pp. 29, 31.
5 Edward J. Young, Studies in Genesis One (Presbyterian and Reforemd Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1979), p. 105.
6 Christian Reformed Church of America Agenda 1991, Report 28, Committee on Creation and Science, p. 401.
7 Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics (Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1966), p. 178.
8 Archibald Alexander, Inaugural Address, cited in David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1996), II, pp. 10, 11.
9 New York Observer, March 26, 1863 as cited by David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1996), vol. 2, p. 13.
10 Peter J. Wallace, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield and teh Darwinian Controversy http://www.nd.edu/~pwallace/warf.txt, pp. 1, 2.
11 DeVries, Beyond the Atom (Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan), pp. 37, 38. Note that DeVries uses general revelation and science interchangeably.
12 Report 28, op. cit., p. 407. The report sought to distinguish between science and general revelation, but for all intents and purposes treated them as synonymous, and that is precisely what is done by those who seek to reinterpret Scripture by reference to scientific discoveries.
13 Christian Reformed Church in North America, Acts of Synod 1991 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1991), p. 766.
14 Homer C. Hoeksema, In the Beginning God (Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1966), p. 61.
15 Hoeksema, In the Beginning God, p. 63.
16 G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pa., 1964), p. 41.
17 Homer C. Hoeksema, In the Beginning God, p. 67.
18 It should be noted that there is a common fallacy abroad that equates so-called science with general revelation. That is not correct. General revelation is Gods making Himself known in creation. It does not include so-called scientific discoveries that are unrelated to the knowledge of God.
19 G. C. Berkouwer, General Revelation (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1955), p. 280.
20 Belgic Confession of Faith, Article VII.
21 Westminster Confession of Faith, I:IX.
22 John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993), p. 62.
Romans 1: "> 23 Romans 1: 18ff.
24 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by F. L. Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), I.V.14.
25 Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.V.14, p.69.
26 Report 28, op. cit., p. 377.
Hebrews 11:3 ">27 Hebrews 11:3
28 Martin Luther, Luthers Works: Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Concordia Publishiing House, Saint Louis, Missouri, 1958), p. 5.
Endnotes for Preaching Christ from OT:
1. Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), p. xiv.
2. Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. xiv.
3. Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 141.
4. It goes without saying that the possibility of preaching Christ from Old Testament historical narrative texts rests on the presupposition that the history contained in the Old Testament is real, reliable history, inasmuch as it is part of the canon of the infallibly inspired Scriptures. This is the presupposition of this paper.
5. Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), p. 189.
6. Kenneth A. Matthews, Preaching Historical Narrative, in Reclaiming the Prophetic Mantle, George L. Klein, ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), p. 19.
7. Peter Y. DeJong, in the Introduction to M.B. Vant Veer, Christological Preaching on Historical Materials of the Old Testament, trans. John Piersma (Orange City, IA: Mid-America Reformed Seminary, n.d.), p. iv.
8. Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 201.
9. Kaiser, Towards an Exegetical Theology, p. 197.
10. Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 150.
11. Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, p. 196.
12. Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, p. 196.
13. Peter Y. DeJong, in the Introduction to The History of Redemption in the Preaching of the Gospel, by Benne Holwerda, trans. John Piersma (Orange City, IA: Mid-America Reformed Seminary, n.d.), p. iii.
14. Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 151.
15. Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 151.
16. Holwerda, The History of Redemption in the Preaching of the Gospel, p. 12.
17. Kaiser, Toward an Exegetical Theology, p. 198.
18. Kaiser, Toward an Exegetical Theology, p. 207.
19. DeJong, Introduction to Christological Preaching on Historical Materials of the Old Testament, p. i.
20. Vant Veer, Christological Preaching on Historical Materials of the Old Testament, p. 19.
21. Vant Veer, Christological Preaching on Historical Materials of the Old Testament, p. 19.
22. Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999), p. 203ff.
23. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 204.
24. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 228.
25. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 206.
26. Vant Veer, Christological Preaching on Historical Materials of the Old Testament, p. 7.
27. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 212.
28. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 254ff.
29. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 221.
30. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 222.
31. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 269.
32. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 271.
Endnotes for Brief Study of the Doctrine of the Covenant of works...:
1. Geerhardus Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, (Internet URL: www.biblical theology.org/dcrt.htm), p.1 of 20 of my printout from the Internet.
2. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p. 2.
3. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p. 2.
4. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, footnote 5.
5. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p.2
6. John Beardslee III, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker Book House, 1977), p. 64.
7. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker Book House, 1978), p. 283.
8. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, p. 283.
9. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 2002), p. 212.
10. All Presbyterian and Reformed orthodoxy needed was to establish that there was a covenant relationship with Adam, and not all the other erroneous elements in the doctrine of the covenant of works.
11. G.H. Kersten, Reformed Dogmatics (Eerdmans, 1994),vol 1, p. 292-3: In Chap 15, entitled The Covenant of Works, Kersten broadly speaks of the doctrine of covenants and its importance in relation to the imputation of Adams sin to all his posterity, and thus views Vlak and Bekkers rejection of the doctrine of the covenants of works as a rejection of covenant theology altogether.
12. We insist on this over and against Kersten in his Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 202-3, where, without basis, he makes the Three Forms read otherwise. The Three Forms merely and correctly teach that there was a covenant between God and Adam. This is likely due to Kerstens inaccurate equation of the covenant of works with the truth that God had a covenant relationship with Adam.
13. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, p. 295.
14. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p. 3.
15. Cited in Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p. 3, from Tractate, Robert Rollock, Woodrow Society of Edinburgh, 1849, p. 34.
16. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p. 3.
17. Vos, The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, p. 9.
18. Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom (Harper & Brothers, 1905), vol. 3, p. 530.
19. Confession of Faith & Subordinate Standards (Free Church of Scotland, 1973), p. 13
20. Confession of Faith & Subordinate Standards, p. 13
21. See WSC Q/A 12, WLC Q/A 20 where this is used, but WLC Q/A 30 where the remark is made commonly called the covenant of works.
22. Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin,vol. 7 (Edinburgh: Nicholl, 1863), pp. 22-23.
23. Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, p. 49-50.
24. Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, p. 51.
25. Confession of Faith & Subordinate Standards, The Sum of Saving Knowledge, Head I, p. 190. According to Cameron, Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, p. 214, this is written by David Dickson & James Durham.
26. We see this in the classic Systematic works of Presbyterian and Reformed theologians and WCF commentaries: for example, in Beardslee IIIs Reformed Dogmatics, Heppes Reformed Dogmatics, Kerstens Reformed Dogmatics, Berkhofs Systematic Theology, AA Hodges The Confession of Faith.
27. Subsequent major works such as John Brown, The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington, p. 192ff., and Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession, p. 85ff., written in 1782 and 1845 respectively, attest to this.
28. Notably, Hodges explanation is quoted and adopted by the Dutch Reformed CRC theologian Louis Berkhof in his prominent work, Systematic Theology.
29. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Charles Scribner & Sons, 1798),vol. 2, p. 117.
30. Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 117.
31. Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 119-120.
32. G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1964), p. 64.
33. Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1988), p. 217.
34. Kersten, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 196.
35. Venema, Cornelis P., Recent Criticisms of the Covenant of Works in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Mid-America Journal of Theology, 195-6, (1993, vol. 9, No. 2).
36. Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 217-218.
37. Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 365.
38. Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 362-4
39. Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Christian Focus, 1990), p. 85ff.
40. BB Warfield, Hosea 6:7: Adam or Man?, Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 1 (P&R, 1970), pp. 116-29.
41. Much of todays evangelical churches preach a gospel of love devoid of sin and repentance.
Last Modified: 25-Nov-2003