The Trinity, Revisited

I have answered Doug’s previous post on his own blog. I am waiting for an answer to those comments. Meanwhile, we can move on to the Trinity.

My previous thoughts on the first major section are to be found here. I don’t have a whole lot to add. I wish to reaffirm the covenant of redemption as being the archetype of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. I believe that the articles in CJPM and BFA have established this position not only as exegetically tenable, but confessionally compelling. However, there is one massive caveat that must be issued with all such attempts at grounding covenantal theology in Trinitarian theology. We must be exceedingly careful to guard against a social Trinitarian doctrine in our formulations. In other words, we must say that there is One God, and that the intra-Trinitarian covenant of redemption does not mean that the three persons of the Trinity somehow exist independently of each other and somehow need covenant in order to be considered one God. The Nicene formulation on this is clear: they have the same essence. They do not need covenant in order to be considered one God. They are one ontologically, even though the persons are distinct persons. This is a distinction that the aforementioned books have done very well. I do not think Ralph Smith has succeeded in this quite so admirably. I’m sure that if you were to ask Ralph Smith whether he believed in a social doctrine of the Trinity, he would say no. However, it does not seem to me to be apparent that he has sufficiently guarded against the social Trinitarianism implications. It should be fairly obvious, by the way, that this section on the Trinity is highly indebted to Ralph Smith’s books on the Trinity.  

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96 Comments

  1. rjs1 said,

    May 12, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Lane,

    Could I link to an excellent article by Rev Dr Iain D Campbell who also writes at the Reformation21 blog and commend it to your readers?

    Covenant Theology – an Introduction

  2. Steven W said,

    May 12, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I think that Ralph Smith’s solution helps us out of an uncomfortable position, actually, in that he’s trying to define “covenant” by examining God’s nature, rather than leaving it as a primarily voluntary/forensic notion.

    Working with the notion of covenant as contract, I’m not sure that actually is so easy to guard against social trinitarianism. Will is a property of nature, after all, and so one has to ask how the Father, Son, and/or Spirit (sometimes He seems to be optional for the pactum salutis) covenant together? If a covenant is an agreement with legal stipulations, how does this work? It would seem to presuppose some sort of plurality prior to the agreement, and that’s not possible with the Trinity.

    Another options is that it simply grants priority to the will over other attributes, which would land us in the voluntarist camp, a camp that several of the originators of federalism were in. This, it seems to me, necessitates a basic supralapsarianism, and thus Bavinck’s appeal to divine infinity (and simplicity) would equally invalidate it.

    One could simply say that the “covenant of redemption” is a metaphor for the eternal divine will, but I think that historically folks have gone much further than this, since a believe in the eternal and unchangeable divine will is not unique to federalism and has never caused other camps to formulate it as a covenant.

  3. pduggie said,

    May 13, 2008 at 8:47 am

    To paraphrase and ask if this wtill works: “In other words, we must say that there is One God, and that the intra-Trinitarian love does not mean that the three persons of the Trinity somehow exist independently of each other and somehow need love in order to be considered one God. They don’t need love.”

    Does that still work?

    I also wonder about Adam and Eve, who were ONE, but their Onenes was covenantal, but at the same time from the fact of Eve’s creation from Adam’s side. There should be a usable analogy somewhere there.

  4. rjs1 said,

    May 13, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Steven,

    You ask; “If a covenant is an agreement with legal stipulations, how does this work?”

    I reply; An agreement between the Father and Son is implied throughout the psalms and the NT. One example of the latter is Philippians 2:6-11:

    “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    John Gill is most helpful on this: “the exaltation of Christ was not only a consequence of his obedience and death, and his humiliation merely the way to his glory; but his high and exalted estate were the reward of all this; it was what was promised him in covenant, what was then agreed upon, what he expected and pleaded, and had as a recompense of reward, in consideration of his having glorified God on earth, and finished the work he undertook to do”

  5. rjs1 said,

    May 13, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Oh, and if I could recommend Dickson’s Therapeutica Sacra

  6. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Paul,

    Consider 1 John 4:8 and then see if you can answer your own question. God is love. Love is something we apprehend from the nature of God, because God is love.

  7. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Andrew,

    Paul’s point, I think, is that Lane’s criticism of Smith doesn’t work b/c for Smith “covenant” is more or less synonymous with relationship and love. Remember that as a somewhat frequent “peripheral” issue in the FV discussion, it is usually said that FV defines covenant as relationship, whereas the “proper” view (this is usually anti-FVers who say this) is that covenant is the basis for a relationship, but is not the same thing as relationship. Ralph Smith is the FVish person who is applealed to for citations whenever this point is made. Smith uses the Trinity to rethink a bit our Reformed notion of covenant. Covenant is not an, in essence, an “agreement” or contract between two parties. Rather, in human-divine relations that is the form that covenants take. But in its essence a covenant is simply a relationship of mutual love and indwelling. The Trinity is a doctrine that says that God in His essence is an eternal covenant between three Persons, each of whom are themselves the fullness of the Godhead because each Person “indwells” all the others (perichoresis). We should take THIS notion of perichoretic mutual inter-relationality and love and use it to shape our understanding of “covenant theology.” Instead, what many Reformed people have done is take human covenants, or human-divine covenants, which have a basically forensic character due to human finitude (we are not mutually indwelling and subsisting in an eternal and infinite reciprocation with the infinte Creator…we are not ontological members of the Trinity, and so our relationship to God takes on a more “visible” and word-based form (an agreement, contract, etc.), and let those shape our thinking about the Trinity. This is a mistake, big time. When we say there is a “covenant of redemption” b/w the Persons of the Godhead, and we think anything like “three people sat down at the table and came to an agreement regarding the redemption of mankind”, then we are definitely falling into “social trinitarianism” land. Lane is right to criticize that sort of formulation of the Cov of Redemption. But it is an odd criticism coming from an anti-FVer against someone like Ralph Smith, because Smith is clear that he sees “covenant” as “love” and “realtionship” in essence. So, when Smith talks about an eternal covenant of redemption, he is really just talking about the eternal Trinity itself. God’s nature is to be a community of three persons all communicating themselves to and loving one another and indwelling one another. And that community of inter-relationality is the archetypal “covenant” which then shapes all of our human/creaturely covenants.

    So, if Lane’s criticism of Smith is going to hold, then Paul is pointing out that we have to fill in “love” or “relationship” for “covenant”. But if we do that, then Lane’s statement is outright false, or (at best) confused:

    In other words, we must say that there is One God, and that the intra-Trinitarian love does not mean that the three persons of the Trinity somehow exist independently of each other and somehow need love in order to be considered one God. They don’t need love.

    (Again, you can sub in “relationship” for “love” and I think the same basic deal holds.) It would be wrong to say that the three Persons “somehow exist independently of each other,” but it is NOT wrong to say that they “need love/relationship” in order to be considered one God. They don’t need love/relationship.”

    If they are not in a relationship of eternal perichoretic love, then how is it the case that they are not three separate deities who simply come together in an arbitrary agreement? The essence of God, as you point out Andrew, is love, which shows that God in His essence is three people bonded together in love. The three are not independent, but they are joined together in love and it is their essence to be so. To say that the three would somehow be one God without love/relationship is hardcore false. :-)

    The irony here, if I might stir the pot a little more, is that it is certain (not all) anti-FVers, not Ralph Smith, who have set themselves up for a “social Trinitarianism” problem. Steven already gets at this in his own comment, but the problem here is that if the “Covenant of Redemption” refers to some “agreement” on top of the inter-relationality and love that already exists between the three Persons, then it sounds like the three Persons are acting like three distinct deities who simply come together to make an arrangement. That is social Trinitarianism with a vengeance. But if these anti-FVers try to escape this implication by saying that no, the covenant of redemption just is the same thing as the eternal love between them that is the essence of Godhead, then they are in Ralph Smith’s camp and they sound like FVers regarding covenant, b/c they have just agreed that (at least for God) covenant is simply relationship/love and not some “contract” or “agreement” that gets performed to establish the relationship.

    I hope I’m making that problem clear. I think it’s a doozy that needs some serious clarification. This particular thing is latent in our Reformed tradition. It is not a fatal flaw, but we have to sit up straight and pay attention to how we formulate things or else we’ll quickly be outside of historical orthodoxy re: the Trinity.

  8. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    In the above, first para, sixth sentence, it should read “Rather, maybe in human-divine relations…”

    I forgot the “maybe.” I actually don’t think Smith would say that even human-divine covenants require a “contract”, but I’m not sure on that point. In any case, though, his position is definitely that contract is not the essential definiens of “covenant.” (I.e., it is possible to have a covenant without having a contract/forensic agreement, and so the latter cannot be an essential quality of the former).

  9. David Gadbois said,

    May 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Steven already gets at this in his own comment, but the problem here is that if the “Covenant of Redemption” refers to some “agreement” on top of the inter-relationality and love that already exists between the three Persons, then it sounds like the three Persons are acting like three distinct deities who simply come together to make an arrangement.

    First, it is not obvious how that conclusion follows.

    Second, I think it is vital to see the CoR as a voluntary act of God, just as the act of creation was. God did not require either in order to be God. It was *not* necessary in order for God to already be both loving and relational. So, yes, it was an “agreement” on top of God’s already-existing love and inter-relationality.

  10. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 13, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Xon,

    While I appreciate the distinction you are trying to make, (although I disagree with it in the extreme) you are (seemingly) missing the much bigger point I was making. You seem to becoming at this as though love is an abstract concept rather than something that is derived from the nature of the substance of God Himself. Making a covenant or being in a relationship is something that God does, Love on the other hand is something God is. (For the record, I’m not even comfortable with that language because I don’t think it does a good enough job demonstrating the difference.) God is Love, God is Life, God is Righteousness, God is Truth. All of those things are not abstract concepts, but are realities because they obtain their definition in God, and God alone. These attributes don’t arise from the relationship of the Persons of the Trinity. They are not bound together in love as though that is description of their relationship with each other, the Persons of the Trinity love each other because Love is an elemental essential attribute of the substance the one God. The Persons of the Trinity are of one substance. Frankly you are reading social trinitarianism into others (and I) wrote.

    The three are not independent, but they are joined together in love and it is their essence to be so.

    I object to your use of the word joined with respect to the Persons of the Trinity, that word goes way beyond suggesting social trinitarianism to me. Jesus said “I and my Father are one.” They are not joined together in love, they are one. It seems as though you are saying that the substance of God (as in your use of the word essence) arises from the Persons being joined together in love; to that I cannot disagree more. I think you have it backwards.

    The fact that God uses covenants in the execution of His decrees does not give anyone the right to transform the idea of covenant into a communicable attribute of God, which was Paul was doing (or so it seems to me), knowingly or not.

    Bottom line: The idea of Love is not something that arises from the relationship among the Persons of the Trinity, but is instead Love is a communicable attribute of the substance (as in the the phrase “same in substance, equal in power and glory”), of God. That was my point.

  11. pduggie said,

    May 13, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I’ll just add Xon captured my attempted point well.

    My understanding of Smith is that he’s saying trinitarian love and relation is itself the archetype of the Covenant of Redemption and COW/COG.

  12. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    First, it is not obvious how that conclusion follows….

    Thanks for requesting that I flesh this out more, David. :-)

    There is no problem with “ad extra” divine activity (i.e., creation, redemption, etc.): i.e., activity directed towards finite objects (the created world). Such activity is entirely gratuitous (and even spontaneous, in the best ancient-medieval sense of that term); it is not necessary for God to do, God is not “incomplete” without it, and it “adds” nothing to God when He does it.

    But the Reformed don’t just posit redemption; they posit a “covenant” of redemption. An intra-Triune covenant, historically. How can it NOT be ad intra? An ad extra intra-Triune covenant is self-referentially incoherent, or am I missing something about the way the words are being used?

    (And this leaves aside the fact that a forensic “agreement” to redeem humanity between the three persons is in no way required to make sense of redemption simpliciter. Just as there is no “covenant” to create specifically, where each Person takes a certain role in creation by some sort of prior agreement. Even though all three do have a role in creation and such, there need not be a “covenant” to explain creation. And so there need not be a covenant to explain redemption. But like I said, that’s an aside that doesn’t relate directly to my other logical challenge to the implications of CoR. Given that a person does assert a CoR, whether they have good reason to or not, what are its implications?)

    So, historically the CoR is ad intra, not ad extra, and it seems like it has to be in order to remain coherent since it is, after all, an entirely intra-Triune activity (thus, ad intra). And here Ralph Smith’s position makes perfect sense of the doctrine as an acrivity ad intra: the “Covenant of Redemption” is nothing more than the eternal communion of love among the three Persons. This way we maintain divine simplicity (there are not two “different” ad intra activities God engages in), and really we are just using a Reformed “flavor” to express the ancient doctrine of perichoresis. The three Persons are eternally in “agreement” with one another, b/c they are all in the others and are bonded together in love and communication of the same essence to one another. And so there is already all the “agreement” there can possibly be b/w the three Persons. Whence, therefore, an extra “forensic” covenant between them? Thus, the CoR is not forensic if it is ad intra.

    But my comments about tritheism weren’t really directed at ad intra. Remember, I mentioned the CoR as something “added on top of” the ad intra activity. So your attempt to save it by making it ad extra (i.e., not necessary, not adding to or pertaining to the divine nature itself, but involving an exercdise of the divine nature aimed “outside” of itself towards the finite world.

    Really, then, I’m finding any notion of a “forensic” intra-Triune covenant problematic, whether it is claimed to be ad intra or ad extra (though that whole distinction wasn’t even in my sights in my earlier comments). If it’s an ad intra “forensic” covenant, then God is no longer simple. The only way to maintain His simplicity is to say that the CoR is the same thing as the eternal ad intra intra-Triune activity of loving communion (Ralph Smith’s position). But in that case it’s hard to see how the activity is “forensic.” (I.e., it isn’t simply the three Persons making a contractual agreement to do such-and-such, but it relates to their very essence).

    But, if the CoR is instead said to be ad extra, which is what you seem to be claiming David G., then the “tritheism” problem comes into play directly. The position you have offered is exactly what I was aiming the argument at originally (though I didn’t make that clear b/c I didn’t get into the ad intra/ad extra distinction). There are not three separate “wills” to “decide” to come together in a way that they were not already together ad intra. The three are already totally and completely united ad intra. While there is ad extra activity in which they create, sustain, and redeem a finite world; it isn’t clear what it even means to say that they engage in an ad extra activity (activity aimed outside of thesmelves) in which they all agree forensically to play certain roles in redemption. (This also seems to entail nominalism and voluntarism: since God is now binding Himself to a standard outside His own essential nature. And that is also a problem.)

    (Again, if we go Ralph Smith’s way and say that the “covenant of redemption” just is the eternal love and relations between the Persons, then this problem is solved and Reformed theology is just an interesting “flavor” in the historic Christian ice cream shop. This is the way most FVers who have commented on it have formulated the CoR.)

    And so now we are tempted to go back to saying that it is ad extra again. But, again, we’ve already seen a problem with that. But we’re back to tritheism again, too, because the three Persons are now coming together to do something that is outside of their nature. They are coming together in a way that they were not already “together” ad intra. And so how can there be another kind of unity which they didn’t already have ad intra, and yet then say that ad intra they are absolutely one? Or, if there’s nothing to the ad extra unity of the covenant that they didn’t already have ad intra, then how is the covenant a “forensic agreement?”

  13. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    OK, I’ll ask the dumb questions.

    (1) Out of about 200 usages of בְּרִ֔ית “covenant”, it appears that covenants are “made” (“cut”) between people … entered into, so to speak.

    Would not entering into a covenant be something that happens at the level of the persons (not the being) of the Trinity? And if so, then why is it important that the covenant one enters into be a relationship of love as opposed to an agreement?

    (2) What is Smith’s exegetical case that a covenant is a relationship of mutual love rather than “contract, agreement, alliance, league…” found in a lexicon like BDB? How would these relationships of mutual love be “entered into”? Especially, how would the CoR be entered into? (From the considerations above, I suspect his answer might be “it isn’t”?)

    (3) Hebrews 10.7 (from Son to Father): “Here am I; I have come to do your will” — an expression of the CoR or not?

    Thanks for the patience with my slowness,
    Jeff Cagle

  14. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    #12 answers my second question: the CoR simply “is”; it is not “entered into”, on Smith’s account. Yes?

  15. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Andrew,

    Thanks for the continued interaction here. I want to tread gently b/c these are heady issues, and I’m certainly not claiming to be perfect on understanding the Trinity. Yet, that said…

    You seem to becoming at this as though love is an abstract concept rather than something that is derived from the nature of the substance of God Himself. Making a covenant or being in a relationship is something that God does, Love on the other hand is something God is.

    Two things.

    1. I’m not actually thinking that love is an abstract concept. In fact, I’ll go further than you did (though I’m only nitpicking here) and say that love is God’s nature. It’s not that love is “derived” from God’s nature (though you say this better a little later anyway). It IS God’s nature. God IS love. But how can God be love unless He is a community of Persons that love each other? What does it mean for there to be One and One only who loves? What does He love? Himself? Ah, but then you’ve just affirmed the eternal generation of the Son (Jonathan Edwards is great on this, as is Augustine). For God to love Himself is actually the Father “generating” a perfect “repetition” of Himself (eternal generation). which does not subordinate the Son ontologically b/c it is an eternal generation. I.e., it is the Father’s essential nature to generate the Son from the first “moment” of His existence (though we can’t really speak of God as existing in “moments” but we get the gist). There is never a time that the Father exists without the Son, and in fact the Father “depends” on the Son just as much as the Son depends on the Father b/c the Father NEEDS the object of His love. (And then a similar argument results for the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit simply IS the love that proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Father and Son love one another perfectly, and this perfect activity IS the Holy Spirit. It is another eternal and ontologically co-equal “repeition” of the divine essence, and thus we have three divine Persons existing in eternal communion). So, far from love being an abstract concept, I would say that Love is personified in the Third Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit IS the Love of God. God is Love, b/c the Spirit is Love, and the Spirit is God. It’s not depersonalized or abstract at all: rather, it’s as personal as it gets. It is the divine Person of the Holy Spirit.

    2. I get that all that patristic (but also Augustinian and Edwardsian) stuff about perichoresis and eternal generation and eternal procession is pretty crazy, and maybe I’m getting it wrong myself. But there is no doubt that you just (accidnetally, I’m sure) departed from historical Christian orthodoxy (East, West; Protestant, Catholic; all of the above) when you said that “Making a covenant or being in a relationship is something that God does, Love on the other hand is something God is.” Acc. to classical orthodox Christain theology (and philosophy), there is no distinction in God between “essence” and “existence,” nor is there a distinction between what God is and what God does. There is no distinction between being and doing. Rather, God is “pure act” (and this is affirmed by the Reformed systematicians; all of them, as far as I know, but I admit that I don’t know as far as others)–there is no unfulfilled capacity in God. All that God IS, He DOES. All that He DOES, He IS. Again, the Father LOVES the Son and the Son LOVES the Father–this is an activity, not a “feeling” or a concept or a “property” that they “have.” To say that God IS love is to say that God LOVES. It is an active thing, so active in fact that it (again) is hypostasized (personified) into the Holy Spirit (the patristic doctrine of eternal procession, with the Cappadocian and Augustinian twist). In the words of Augustine’s “psychological” analogy, the Son is the Father KNOWING Himself, and the Spirit is the Father LOVING Himself. It’s all active, all the time. God is what He does, and He does what He is.

    I object to your use of the word joined with respect to the Persons of the Trinity, that word goes way beyond suggesting social trinitarianism to me. Jesus said “I and my Father are one.” They are not joined together in love, they are one. It seems as though you are saying that the substance of God (as in your use of the word essence) arises from the Persons being joined together in love; to that I cannot disagree more. I think you have it backwards

    We’re passing in the night here. Social Trinitarianism (ST) is the view that there are three divine individuals who are not ontologically one, but who come together for the purpose of mutual cooperation or interaction, like a social, or a community club: three boys all go into the treehouse to form a “boys’ club”. There is “one club, but three members”, and that kind of “oneness” does not keep there from being three different people. Thus, ST is tritheism b/c there is one divine community, but three divine beings (three gods, three deities).

    So, when I say that the three are joined essentially in loving inter-communion then I could not deny ST in any stronger terms. The “connection” or “communion” b/w the three Persons is absolute, infinite, and necessary. It is their essence to be in this relationship to each other. (Whereas three boys are not essentially in the club together: they could leave the club at any time, and they did not “have” to form it in the first place.)

    When you say of Jesus and the Father that “they are not joined together in love. They are one,” what are you saying? Are you saying that they are one and the same? In which case you certainly are not a tritheist, but a unitarian. (Equally unorthodox, of course). But if they are different individual Persons, then their “oneness” must involve some sort of “joining” togehter. But, again, I never said they “join” together the way boys join a club. I used the ancient language of perichoresis: “If they are not in a relationship of eternal perichoretic love…” Perichoresis is the doctrine that says that the three Persons each mutually “indwell” one another, so that you never have one without the other two. The Father is in the Son and in the Spiirt, the Son is in the Father and in the Spirit, the Spirit is in the Father and in the Son. Each one of them IS the whole, represented from a different relational “perspective.” The Father is God generating God and processing God. The Son is God generated by God and processing God. The Spirit is God proceeding from God and from God generated by God. In each Person, you have the other two. The Father is ungenerated, but the Generated Son and the Processed Spirit are both “in” Him, etc. There is nothing “missing” in any of the Persons.

    This is not social trinitarianism. It is three-in-one-ness as elucidated by the post-Nicean Church and as affirmed in the Reformed tradition consistently (I think) until at least relatively recent times (when some have started to question things like eternal generation of the Son, for instance).

    The problem I’m having is that I don’t understand how, on your view, God is three-in-one other than the fact that you are simply asserting the Nicean formula “one essence, three persons”. But HOW are they one? You’re chastising me for using “joining” langauge, even though that is historic and orthdox language to describe these things, which makes it sound to me like you are making the three Persons identical to each other. Afterall, they aren’t joines as one (through love or something else), they just are one. Aside from the notorious ambiguity of a word like “one” (and, yes, “is/are” as well!), it simply isn’t clear how this is a meaningful response to what I said earlier unless you are asserting identity between the Persons. In which case, you don’t have God as three-in-one, but God as one (unitarianism).

    On the other hand, though, you clearly do assert that there are three Persons. But then how are they “one”? You won’t let them be essentially joined in a communion of mutual love, so how are they one, then? Since ther’es three of them, they can’t be numerically identical (the way that Clark Kent IS Superman). But they aren’t joined in mutual inter-penetrating love, either, as the church has historically said that they are. So…what’s left? They are joined some other way? But you chastised me for saying “joined.” Here you seem to have a God who is three (tri-theism), rather than a God who is three-in-one.

    The fact that God uses covenants in the execution of His decrees does not give anyone the right to transform the idea of covenant into a communicable attribute of God, which was Paul was doing (or so it seems to me), knowingly or not.

    I’m not really sure how this relates to anything I said, but since you said it here I have to say that it doesn’t really make any sense. On the typical CoR view, covenant IS a communicable attribute of God, since God enters into covenants and people are able to enter into covenants. That’s a communicable attribute. Or, are you saying that covenant is not an attribute of God: it’s just something He does outside of His own nature? This brings in the problems with an “ad extra” Cov of Redemption I mentioned in my previous comment to David G. (and, also, remember that the Reformed have not historically made the CoR ad extra, but ad intra, so you’re actually not even representing the “Reformed” position here fwiw).

    Bottom line: The idea of Love is not something that arises from the relationship among the Persons of the Trinity, but is instead Love is a communicable attribute of the substance (as in the the phrase “same in substance, equal in power and glory”), of God. That was my point.

    I don’t say that love “arises” from the relatoinship b/w the three Persons. I say that love IS the relationship b/w the three Persons. Look, you say yourself that love is an essential attribute of God. Okay, then, what does that mean? I said in my earlier comment to you that this means that God actually LOVES, which requires there to be a “multiplicity” in God: three Persons joined together in love (b/c love requires three, as Bonaventure or Richard of St. Victor or Augustine or Edwards would say: lover, beloved, and the love between them).

    You are denying this by saying that I’m making love into an abstract concept, but that’s not what I’m doing (as I explained above). But even further, aren’t you doing the same thing? For one thing you are making this distinction between what God “does” and what He “is” and you are saying that love is something God “is.” Aside from the fact that the Church has never spoken of love that way (Love isn’t something we do? Does your wife know that?), doesn’t this render love an “abstract concept?” Why does the Son love the Father? You say it’s because He has love as the nature of His very substance. How is that substantively different from what I said? I said that the three Persons are united in loving communion (and it is their essenct/nature to be so united), and you are saying “No, the three are in communion because it is each of their natures to love.” ?? This is very unclear. If anything, your formulation seems more “abstract” than mine (even in its less-explained version in my previous comment): the Son loves the Father and the Spirit because it is His “nature” to do so. But this love does not necessarily manifest itself in a communion of love between the three Persons? The pill makes you sleepy because of its dormitive nature, but its dormitive nature does not actually make things fall asleep? I admit; I’m lost as to what you are even asserting here.

    You are resting your position on (a) a historically unorthodox distinction between what God IS and what God DOES, and (b) an uncogent explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity in wihch three Persons are each God and yet they are not joined together in love by their very essence, and yet God is still “one” in some sense that is not merely social. None of this is clear, though again I recognize the inherent difficulties of formulating Trinitarian doctrine. But there are resources for formulating it at our disposal other than the bare bones “one in essence, three in person” (or “same in substance, equal in power and glory”). And I’m using historically “approved” language here. As is Smith. If you think that language is inappropriate, then you at least have to recognize that you’re crossing virtually the entire Christian tradition here (and certainly the Western tradition). And you have to offer something more than an assertion that I’m committing “social Trinitarianism” (esp. since that just isn’t right: even if I’m wrong, it’s certainly not b/c I’m a social Trinitarian. Perichoresis precludes social trinitarianism).

    The bottom line from my perspective: the Church has historically seen the Biblical statement that “God is love” as a wondeful and beautiful expression of the doctrine of the Trinity. Love requires multiplicity. It requires someone else to love. So if God is love in His very essence, then there must be more than one divine Person so that this essential love can actually be EXERCISED (b/c, again, there is no such thing as an unfulfilled capacity in God. Everything God is, He actually DOES. God is pure act.) But you seem to be shrugging your shoulders at all this and saying “No, the three Persons each exist and they are each God and they each love as part of their essential nature, but this does not mean that they are essentially related to one another in a communion of love.” ??

  16. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Jeff (14),

    Yes.

  17. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 13, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Re #14:
    It seems to me then they really need to answer the issue of what the meaning of “is” is. Seems like then they are left with the CoR being an attribute of God. I offer is support that the CoR is entered into John 17, Consider the use of the word gave throughout, especially 17:6.

    I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

    It seems to me that the idea of God the Father giving the elect to God the Son looses all of its meaning if the CoR is something that only is, not not something that was entered into by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    Also consider 17:2

    As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    That is hardly the language of the CoR is something that simply is.

  18. Ruben said,

    May 13, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Steven, it wasn’t that long ago you told me you could go for some Christological supralapsarianism. What changed?

  19. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Jeff (13),

    (1) Out of about 200 usages of בְּרִ֔ית “covenant”, it appears that covenants are “made” (”cut”) between people … entered into, so to speak.

    Would not entering into a covenant be something that happens at the level of the persons (not the being) of the Trinity? And if so, then why is it important that the covenant one enters into be a relationship of love as opposed to an agreement?

    Each of the Persons IS the “being” of the Trinity, subsisting in a particular relational hypostasis. As I put it in (15) above (which is totally too long and fine if you don’t notice it there):

    Perichoresis is the doctrine that says that the three Persons each mutually “indwell” one another, so that you never have one without the other two. The Father is in the Son and in the Spiirt, the Son is in the Father and in the Spirit, the Spirit is in the Father and in the Son. Each one of them IS the whole, represented from a different relational “perspective.” The Father is God generating God and processing God. The Son is God generated by God and processing God. The Spirit is God proceeding from God and from God generated by God. In each Person, you have the other two.

    There is ONE divine essence, and that means that there is NUMERICALLY one essence (the Cappadocians, esp. Gregory, are very clear on this). When we say that there is one divine essence in three persons, we aren’t thinking of it the way that right now in this room there is one human essence, but three persons. The “essence” is not a “kind” which each Person has for himself in His own private instantiation. My dog has the essence of “dogness,” your dog has the essence of “dogness”, etc. Rahter, there is only one (numerically) divine essence. Think of it like a physical object just to crystallize the nature of the claim: there is only one bicycle. But that one bicycle somehow (and this is why physical analogies for the Trinity don’t work, b/c what I’m about to say won’t make any sense) subsists in three different entities that are each completely the bicycle, yet each of them “represent” it in a different way even as they fully “contain” it. Yeah, see, it doesn’t make sense. The best physical analogy, still not a great idea, is one that Gregory (the Cappadocian father) used of three mutual inter-penetrating suns glowing as if with only one radiance. If we try to take a very “pre-modern” view of light, that almost presents an imaginable picture. If three suns were somehow all “in” one another (again, be pre-modern here: there is no displacement of matter problem here, b/c suns aren’t really matter, they are just some magical light substance that enlightens things and is visible and yet has no mass and effects no changes in mass in things they hit), it seems like we could think of them each remaining their own thing (they don’t just all dissolve into one “sun-blob”, but rather each sun remains itself but is also completely filling up the same space as two other suns). And yet the light that radiates out of them looks like only one light, and to our eyes it looks like only one sun. There is still no proper analogy of course (after all, even the sun analogy is three numerically distinct suns).

    So, when we’re talking about the Person we are still talking about the Being of God. There’s no way to separate it cleanly into “levels” where one thing happens to the Being but something else happens to the Persons. Each of the Persons IS the one divine Being/essence.

    Also, as I tried to spell out a bit to Andrew above in (15), historical orthodoxy says that there is no difference in God between existence and act (God is actus purus, all that He is, He does). And God is also infinite and simple. So, the question of the covenant of redemption is: “Is it an activity the Persons engage in ad intra or ad extra?” If it is ad intra, then it is an essential activity of the Persons in their Triune essence as God. But since God is simple there is only ONE ad intra activity. And so we either have to say that (1) the covenant of redemption simply IS the same thing as the one eternal activity of the Trinity (which means that it is the same thing as God’s essential love; Ralph Smith’s “FV” position), or we have to say that (2) God is not simple (historically unorthodox) b/c He has two different ad intra activities that He does, or we have to say that (3) the covenant of redemption is not ad intra but ad extra (wihch is not the historical Reformed position re: the CoR).

    If we go with Smith’s position (1), then we’ve just defined “covenant” as “loving inter-relationship”, since that’s what it is in God and God is (presumably) the archetype for all love that is worthy of the name. So covenant is no longer defined forensically as a contract or legal agreement between parties (though human covenants usually still take that form, due to human temporality and finitude). This is mine and Steven’s position, FV rapscallions that we are.

    If we go with (2), then we can have our ad intra forensic covenant (instead of covenant defined as loving relaitonality simpliciter) but we’ve denied divine simplicity (and there might be other problems: I would still worry about “tritheism” here, since if the three Persons are beings who essentially “make a forensic agreement” with each other than it is not clear how they are “one” God. If they are all “one”, then there is no need for a forensic agreement. David G. says “Sure, it’s not necessary, but neither is creation. But creation is ad extra divine activity, not ad intra. So now we’re going to option (3)).

    If we go with (3), then we have the three Persons making a covenant with themselves that is also activity “outside” of themsleves, which seems incoherent (An ad extra intra-Triune activity). We also have social Trinitarianism and potential tri-theism with a vengeance, b/c the three Persons are the KINDS of things which can enter into a “legal”/forensic agreement/contract with one another. But if they are perfectly and infinitely united as one ad intra, then this ad extra “agreement” makes no sense. They are already in agreement, in their very nature. So either we have to (a) deny that they are already in perfect harmonious agreement with one another “before” (unavoidable temporal teminology alert!) the covenant of redemption is made, or we have to (b) assert that, even though they are already completely in agreement ad intra, they make an ad extra forensic agreement anyway to do that which they are already agreed to do.

    (a) gives us tritheism (or perhaps just social trinitarianism, if there is a way to be a STian without being a tritheist, which I’m not sure there is). (b) is cute b/c it sounds similar to what orthodoxy usually says about creation but applies it to redemption (i.e., creation is an ad extra activity of God that is not necessary and adds nothing to God’s ad intra essence, but is instead a finite reflection of the perfect ad intra glory of God’s essence which God delights in doing even though it isn’t necessary). But there are obvious and back-breaking asymmteries b/w creation and redemption. Redemption involves…redemption. It is a decision to rescue rebellious and sinful creatures, which is wonderful, and what a gracious God we have who decided to do this for us from all eternity. But there is nothing happening “ad extra” in the “decision” to redeem that wouldn’t have already happened ad intra. Creation is not a decision to act. It is an actual activity (The very idea that God makes “decisions” is also problematic if He is eternal and infinite, but how many problems can we kick up here?). But the “covenant of redemption” is this alleged “decision” that God makes to redeem humanity, in wihch the three Persons get together and agree on the different roles each will play in that redemption. The parallel, if there was one, would have to be to a “covenant of creation.” But the Reformed have never posited anything like that. God simply creates b/c that’s what He “wants” to do. The three Persons are all in agreement, and so they all three participate in the creation of the world. But why can’t we say exactly the same thing about redemption? Where is the need for a “forensic” covenant?

    So, summing up, it seems to me that if you want a forensic covenant of redemption, then the very best option all things considered is (3)(b), but that is not a very good option. It requires you to make the covenant an ad extra activity, which is ahistorical and incoherent. It also makes the covenant of redemption completely redundant: it is some “re-enactment” outside of God, with forensic elements added on, of an agreement that God already possesses inside Himself perfectly and completely. The three Persons already “agree” from all eternity to redeem fallen humanity, b/c they are a loving inter-penetrating communion of love and so it simply is their nature to redeem the world that rebels against its Creator. Therefore, God DOES redeem fallen humanity. That redemption in space-time history is an ad extra activity of God. But why does it require an ad extra forensic agreement to engage in the ad extra activity of redemption? Why the forensic charade?

  20. Xon said,

    May 13, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Andrew (17),

    It seems to me then they really need to answer the issue of what the meaning of “is” is. Seems like then they are left with the CoR being an attribute of God.

    I assume by “they” you mean FVers who take Ralph Smith’s position? We say that the CoR IS (is identical to) God’s love, and God’s love IS an essential attribute as you yourself say. So, yes, the CoR is an essential attribute of God.

    The problem view is the traditional formulation that says the CoR is both ad intra and forensic in nature. That makes it the case that it is an essential attribute of God (since it’s ad intra) to enter into a forensic (non-essential) agreement among the three Persons. And then come the problems I’ve been trying to raise.

    I don’t understand your argument from John 17 about the CoR being something that “simply is.” Again, in God (acc. to the traditional view), nothing “simply is.” Everything that God is He also DOES. There is no distinction between things God is over here, and things He does over theere. If He is X, then He DOES X. God’s power, for instance, is not just some “ability” He has that “sits there” dormant; rather, it is always and constantly exrecised in a perfect activity. (Now, that activity directs itself to certain finite things ad extra at one time or antoher, like parting the Red Sea on a particular day after the Israelites left Egypt. But the “attribute” of divine power is always “burning,” always running, always doing. In God, the lights are always on for every attribute. He is always exercising every attribute (and really all of HIs attributes are just “modal” ways of expressing His one divine activity of love).

  21. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 14, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Xon,

    Well I did say I wasn’t really happy with the way I put it. I’m not going to comment on whether or not I think holding to a doctrine of tri-theism is is more, less or of equal heinousness in the sight of God as being a unitarian. But in answer to your question, Jesus said “I and my Father are one.” It’s not that They are not loving of one another. I don’t deny that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love one another, because in fact He does in perfection. You are focusing on the word love, I am focusing on join. So I mean what He meant as far as I am capable of understanding it, or at least I mean to.

    You wrote “Love requires multiplicity”, what does that mean in the phrase “Love thy neighbour as thyself”? How does one love one’s self if love requires multiplicity? Deut 6:4 is used by many for a (pardon the phrase) proof text, for the oneness of God in WCF II:1. And that stands at the head of the first and greatest commandment, which Christ said the second was like to it.

    I do agree that love is not static.

    That notwithstanding, I see the word join as the problem, at least how I’ve always understood it. To me the word join implies multiple substances, whether that is artificial or innate. FWIW, I just did a quick search the entire WCF, WLC, and WSC on the word join and it is not used in any sense in the way you did. It’s not confessional in the way you used it. To me, the meaning of join is the making of one those which are not. The three Persons of the Trinity are already One. God is One. They are eternally co-existent and distinct from each other, but they are One. I don’t claim to understand how that works — do you? — but I believe it never the less.

    I still think you have it backwards, for that which there is interaction between the Persons of the Godhead, (CoG/R) you want none, and where there is none (the substance of the Godhead) you seem to want it.

    While you say it’s historically unorthodox to make a distinction between what God is and God does, I was intending to make only the same distinction that the WCF does when it uses the word execute with respect to God’s decree in describing His works of creation and providence. We don’t believe that the execution of God’s decrees are God. Perhaps this will be more clear: Love is something that God is in His self-sufficiency, meaning without regard to creation, whereas the CoR is something that God does in regard to a subset of creation (the elect). I’m really not trying to back into that: I guess i was hoping we were on the same page in that regard. The trouble is, we’re not.

    In my simple ways I see there is God, His decrees and the execution of His decrees, that is the essence of reality for me.

    Or are you not denying any distinction, but only my distinction, perhaps the latter, as we do agree (I think) that human beings are not capable of comprehending the Trinity. The Creator/Creature distinction is one thing and communication is a further complication — sort of like trying to describe a four dimensional object with a two-dimensional frame of reference. In that regard I agree we are passing in the night — I don’t mean to imply anything about God as being abstract, but at least for me language fails.

    Back on track, what say you with respect to the CoR being an attribute of God in the same sense that Love being an attribute of God?

    God is all- and self sufficient and not in need of creation. Doesn’t the the CoR imply the existence of creation — of at least the elect? How does the CoR as an attribute of God work if God is not in need of creation which is implied by the existence of the CoR? [I don't think it does]

    In summary, I understand Paul’s analogy with respect to Love and the CoR, but it has an unintended consequence of making the CoR an attribute of God in the same way that Love is. If you can come up with a way in which the CoR does not imply the existence (even future) of the elect in creation (which the doctrine of the all self-sufficiency of God teaches He does not need) then there is more to talk about.

  22. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 14, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Xon,
    I don’t understand your question in #20, in light of your answers to Jeff C. who wrote in #14

    #12 answers my second question: the CoR simply “is”; it is not “entered into”, on Smith’s account. Yes?

    you wrote in #16

    Jeff (14),

    Yes.

    In #20, you take me to task for saying simply is when you wrote

    Again, in God (acc. to the traditional view), nothing “simply is.” Everything that God is He also DOES. There is no distinction between things God is over here, and things He does over theere. If He is X, then He DOES X.

    But you stipulated to that language already. So you tell Jeff, yes, simply is, but to me you say no. Which is it?

  23. Xon said,

    May 14, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Ah. I was answering two different things (at least in my mind). I can certainly see how what I said is confusing though.

    With Jeff, “simply is” means “has always been that way.” The Covenant of Redemption, on my view (the only form of the doctrine I myself can believe in at this point) is the eternal love between the members of the Godhead. Since this love (covenant) is eternal, it is not “entered into.” To “enter into” a covenant requires temporality: at time t there is no covenant, at time t + 1 there is a covenant. The Persons of the Trinity do not “enter into” anything, b/c they are eternal (atemporal).

    With you, I simply misunderstood what you were saying and so my response was a bit off. Sorry ’bout that. :-)

    More later…

  24. pduggie said,

    May 14, 2008 at 8:02 am

    “being in a relationship is something that God does,”

    I’m hvaing trouble seeing how it isn’t also or instead something God is, if the trinity is ontological.

    Maybe better than “joined” in love, we say “united” in love?

  25. pduggie said,

    May 14, 2008 at 8:07 am

    When I was growing up, I came to wonder if it wasn’t proper to say “God never decided to choose the elect” since “decided” implies making a choice in time and God didn’t choose the elect in time: they were chosen from eternity.

    Maybe all this is doing is pointing out how off-track the Reformed have gotten by speculating about ‘covenant’ to something that needs to be reflective of an Eternal choice.

    I’m reading Kenneth Taylor’s Devotions for the Children’s Hour. He keeps saying “here is something we’ll never understand”. I think he’s very right.

  26. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 14, 2008 at 8:58 am

    This is the point I was trying to make

    Love is something that God is in His self-sufficiency, meaning without regard to creation, whereas the CoR is something that God does in regard to a subset of creation (the elect)

    That is why I think #3 fails.
    I think we all agree that

    The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

    That is why as Lane said,

    We must be exceedingly careful to guard against a social Trinitarian doctrine in our formulations. In other words, we must say that there is One God, and that the intra-Trinitarian covenant of redemption does not mean that the three persons of the Trinity somehow exist independently of each other and somehow need covenant in order to be considered one God.

    I could not agree more.

  27. Steven W said,

    May 14, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Ruben,

    I’m still open to the concept that I was talking about, but as I’ve done more historically study, I have realized that what I was talking about (God’s eternal love and plan to use death as a means to glory) is way different than historic supralapsarianism, of which I think is fraught with all sorts of theological problems (namely privileging certain attributes of God over others).

    Xon,

    Good stuff.

    Others,

    The Reformed world at large, including FVers, is simply not ready to go monkeying around with these deep issues. All of this “What God is” vs “What God does” stuff is borderline heresy. God is what he does. That’s basic Augustinian theology.

    Putting a covenant “on top of” God’s nature and then binding Him to it is essentially nominalism, and takes away the very point of God’s covenant, which is to reveal who He is.

    There’s only one will in the godhead, since will is a property of nature (Christ has 2 wills, but only 1 person), and to make something like our notion of covenant, which includes voluntary agreement between parties, something that the persons of the Trinity cut with one another (without allowing for that to simply be an analogy for the Divine nature itself- which is my own position) is to imply a plurality of wills, and thus a plurality of nature.

    My advice is to put the brakes on posthaste. The FV controversy is small beans compared to this stuff. What benefit does a man have if he keeps his ordination but loses his soul?

  28. Steven W said,

    May 14, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Ok, let me not leave that last line just hanging out there. It was rhetorical.

    I don’t think folks go to hell for getting the number of wills in the godhead wrong.

    I do think that it is very dangerous and dabbling with real heresy, not the normal fake stuff, to change the basics in an effort to bolster our reformed distinctives. Covenant is good if left in its place, but to push it into the most mysterious of doctrines seems unwise.

    And some Reformed folks have left the bounds of nicea (think of those who, in the name of warfield, want to jettison the personal names and their relations), so this isn’t just sheer alarmism.

  29. Tom Wenger said,

    May 14, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    One thing that Ralph Smith fails to do as well as others in the FV is to take proper stock of how the terms like “love”, “trust”, “father” and “son” are used within their ancient near eastern context. When interpreted in this light, they show that there need not be a movement away from the forensic in order to accommodate familial/relational language. The legal made the relational possible and was the foundation on which the relationship rested.

    (I realize that this only loosely relates to the recent comments on this thread.)

  30. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 14, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Tom, I think the response from the FV types would be that this limitation of covenantal language to the ANE context is to get the archetypical and ectypical backwards…Human covenants in history are dim reflections of the divine, so any human covenant has to viewed as derivative, not as normative, relative to the divine covenant.

    Xon, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the CoR was not coextensive with the eternal trinitarian covenant as such…Maybe I need to go back and read him again (once I’ve finished grading finals!)…

  31. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 14, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Jeff, Ralph Smith has an article here:

    http://www.berith.org/pdf/A-Covenantal-Ontology-of-the-Triune-God.pdf

    and this one

    http://www.trinitarianism.com/pdf/The-Trinitarian-Covenant-in-John-17.pdf

    deals with the passage that he exegetes most extensively…

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Hey, thanks for the links.

    I find it confusing that, by p. 8, RS has repeatedly asserted that God’s acts in history (including creation), his names, and his interTrinitarian relationships are all “covenantal” — without having yet defined what that word means.

    My confusion grows when he appeals frequently to Kline: “Kline interprets the original covenant as a covenant of works — with which I disagree — but
    his exegetical reasons for understanding creation as a covenant-making act are solid. He does not specifically identify the notion of “image” as a covenantal idea in so many words, but his view of creation certainly suggests it. In his Images of the Spirit, the covenantal nature of man stands out more clearly. See also, the sections referred to below concerning sonship”

    Surely Smith is not adopting Kline’s treaty-driven definition of the Covenant? But if not, then how is he citing Kline’s arguments for support?! Very confusing. On I plow…

    JRC

  33. Tom Wenger said,

    May 14, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Hey, Josh,

    It’s a pretty big assumption (I’m not saying that you’re the one making it) to just plain assert that all covenants are a reflection of their version of what a diven covenant is and certainly seems to beg the question.

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Steven W (#27, 28):

    I’ve been thinking about your posts for a while, and I have some questions:

    (1) And some Reformed folks have left the bounds of nicea… Are you referring (as Smith does) to Robert Reymond, who denies what he calls “subordinationist tendencies” in the Nicene Creed and affirms that Calvin moved beyond Nicea? Or did you have someone else in mind?

    (2) Putting a covenant “on top of” God’s nature and then binding Him to it is essentially nominalism…

    I’m lost. What do you mean?

    (3) You and Xon have been arguing that we can’t read God’s nature straight off the page of human covenants (“…what many Reformed people have done is take human covenants, or human-divine covenants, which have a basically forensic character due to human finitude … and let those shape our thinking about the Trinity. This is a mistake, big time.” #7). And I can appreciate that.

    But now, Smith argues that God’s acts reveal His nature; everything from biology on up to father/son relationships speak to us of God’s covenantal nature. In other words, for Smith, we can read out God’s nature from all of life.

    Is this a point of disagreement between Smith and y’all? Or is something else going on here?

    (4) There’s only one will in the godhead, since will is a property of nature (Christ has 2 wills, but only 1 person), and to make something like our notion of covenant, which includes voluntary agreement between parties, something that the persons of the Trinity cut with one another (without allowing for that to simply be an analogy for the Divine nature itself- which is my own position) is to imply a plurality of wills, and thus a plurality of nature.

    What if we all pretended to be supralapsarian for a moment. The will of God is then to create a people for Himself; the execution of that will is then to decree the fall and redemption.

    The CoR is then a function of the persons as a means of achieving the singular will of God.

    Does this satisfy the concerns about tri-theism? Or is this what you were referring to in #2?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  35. Xon said,

    May 15, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Jeff,

    Maybe this helps.

    We can “read out” God’s nature from all of life because God has made the world a place that reflects who He is, and human beings especially so (since we’re talking about covenants here). It’s not that God speaks to us in “anthropomorphisms,” where He just uses human language and thought categories to talk about Himself b/c that’s all there is but really He’s not much like those things at all. Rather, God has created us as “theomorphs”–we are images of Him, and so we can learn about Him by understanding ourselves.

    But, the way in which this works is not that we just look at anything we do and assume that God is just like that. We still have to take the ontological chasm b/w finite and infinite into account, for instance. Creatures are dealt with in forensice in terms, and God often deals with creatures in forensic terms, but the divine Persons themselves do not interact with one another on “forensic” terms b/c they are already joined ontologically/really so that any sort of “legal” union would be redundant at best are a step down at worst.

    And so at this point I have to express some concern over Tom W’s statements (#29):

    there need not be a movement away from the forensic in order to accommodate familial/relational language. The legal made the relational possible and was the foundation on which the relationship rested.

    If we’re talking about human covenants, or even the covenant of grace, in which God must “clear us” in court before we can re-united to Him, then this is true. Forensic is not opposed to familial in all situations. But when we are talking about the Trinity, it is entirely novel to say that there is a “legal” relationship between the three Persons. If you are already, from eternity, in perfect familial inter-relations with one another, then what room is there for something “forensic”? What does that even mean? It would be, again, redundant at best or a step down at worst from the sort of relationality the three Persons already eternally possess. And to say that “the legal makes the relational possible and is the foundation upon which the relationship rests” in the case of the Trinity is outright heretical. Scary heretical. There is no Father/Son relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity until they first engage in some sort of contract with terms? How can we say that and avoid tritheism? If we try to do so by saying that the three Persons were already equally and fully the one God before any of this happened–they were fully divine and united as one BEFORE they made the legal covenant and BEFORE they entered into the familial relationships (Father/Son, Father/Spirit, Son/Spirit, Father/Son/Spirit)–then we can’t really do anything except assert the bald formula “one God, three persons.” We have now lost all ability to explain in any way whatsoever what that means. HOW are they “one” God “before” they have entered into their varoius relations to each other? The post-Nicean Church clearly formulated that the relations ARE what marks out the differences b/w the three Persons, but now this novel position is saying that we had three different Persons before the relations existed. So it’s not clear what the “Persons” even are, nor how they are the one God. And so in the end I’m not even sure that we are affirming the orthodox position “one God, three Persons” b/c it isn’t clear what we even mean by “Persons.”

    Some concerns, to say the least. ??

  36. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Re #33

    I’m not sure what the big assumption is, Tom, partially because I don’t quite follow the syntax and structure of your comment:
    “all covenants are a reflection of their version of what a diven covenant is…”?

    But why is it a huge assumption and begging the question to claim that human relations are ectypes that have their archetypes in God Himself? God’s historical and temporal covenants are expressions of His eternal nature, yes? Isn’t that axiomatic, rather than a petitio principii? But they are only reflections, since they are in fact finite, historical, and temporal, rather than eternal. This is just the standard principle of accommodation–God lisping to us. It shows us things truly, but not perfectly or exhaustively (unless you’re a Clarkian).

    I’m just not clear why you found that such a strange claim…

  37. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Re # 34

    Jeff, I think Steve and Xon’s issues are reading every detail of one particular human covenant (i.e., the CoW, in particular in its ANE treaty forms–see Tom’s comment as an example of this) back into the archetypal one. Smith’s point is that we have to take the totality of God’s revelation into account; he argues that we do indeed find that covenantal relations of various kinds are the rule, rather than the exception, which indicates the general point that God’s nature is in fact covenantal. But then we have to consider God Himself to understand the character of that covenant, since he is sui generis, rather than reading that eternal Trinitarian covenant in the terms of any particular historical covenant…

    I’m not sure if that helps.

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 15, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Xon (#35, part 1):

    OK. So what controls our method of reading the characteristics of God out of the world?

    I mean, could not we say that treaties are supposed be formalizations of the covenant faithfulness that God has by nature? And in that case, we would have forensic character — not in terms of guilt and innocence, but in terms of binding commitments — to the relations between the persons of the Trinity.

    I’m not saying that this is necessarily the case; I share Steven’s nervousness about Trinitarian speculation.

    Rather, I just wanted to mention that I haven’t been able to discern any controls in Smith’s method yet.

    Jeff

  39. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Jeff,

    With Kline, Smith is arguing that the creation of man in the image of God is itself a covenantal act, that the image of God consists in “being in covenant.” This means that the usual interpretation of WCF 7, which posits at least a logical if not a temporal distinction between creation and covenant, is inaccurate. Covenant is not something extra, added on to man, but that definitional to the divine image. But that means that covenant is then closely connected to the nature of God…

    But Kline also claims that the law covenant is the most fundamental one in creation. But if law is fundamental to the creation-covenant (just had to use a hyphen, since we’re discussing Kline!), and that creation-covenant is fundamental to the image of God, we seem to find that God’s nature is fundamentally one of law…At least that is how it appear to Smith.

    So, there’s no contradiction. Smith agrees with Kline on the *fact* of the covenant being definitional to the image of God and to all creation, but he disagrees on the *characteristics* of that covenant. As I have been saying, for Kline (and Tom) to try to (indirectly) read the characteristics of the ANE treaty point-for-point back into God’s own character seems problematic.

  40. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Why is there a problem in seeing binding commitments in the relations of the persons of the Trinity? Provided we read this ectypally, in light of God’s aseity. None of the persons of the Trinity requires an oath or sanctions to motivate Him to keep those commitments, since each is entirely perfectly good, righteous, and loving.

    The controls on Smith’s method are systematic ones: his exegesis seems to me to be done in the context and confines of classical theism, i.e., the classical attributes of God…

  41. Xon said,

    May 15, 2008 at 11:25 am

    The Father, Son, and Spirit all “need” one another, cannot exist as what they are without the others, and are fully, infinitely, and perfectly loving and honoring towards one another. I think this could be made the (to use the Reformed Scholastic language) archetype to our human ectypes of commitment, so that our forensic covenants in the human realm are reflections of this eternal love in the divine realm. That sounds absolutely right to me.

    But the point is that there are still asymmetries between the archetype and the ectype, as there havfe to be. I’m understanding “forensic” to carry it’s typical “human” meaning, and while it may be a refleciton of divine “reality” nothing like a human contract or legal relationship can take place among the Persons of the Trinity. Their intra-Trinitairan glory of mutual loving relationality can serve as the archetype of our human legal and forensic realities, but that doesn’t mean that the archetype is itself a “contract” or “legal” in nature. Unless we’re using a funky definition of “contract” or “legal”…

    There is simply no way to think of the three Persons of the Trinity “coming together” to make an agreement amongst themselves without going into dangerous territory, because the Persons are already by their very natures “together”. As together as they can possibly be. They ARE in agreement with one another, committed to one another, bound to each other, in their very natures.

    In the human realm, “contracts” and other forensic activities are non-necessary. Two people can come together to forge a particular agreement if they want, but they don’t have to. Nothing in my nature makes me marry the particular woman I married, (though marriage isn’t really “forensic” either, depending), or buy the particular house I buy. But I am a covenantal kind of creature: my reality is shaped by various covenants, and these often take the form of contracts that I enter into. But this is the “human” side of things, the perspective from the realm of reflection (creation) and not from the “realm” of the original source that is being reflected. In God, nobody comes together and forms agreements: agreement is simply the nature of what God already is. But this nature of God serves as the archetype for our human agreements, which doesn’t mean that it works in exactly the same way (with the infinite perfect God, it cannot work the same way).

    And so this is why we can speak of the Persons of the Trinity making a “covenant of Redemption” with one another which serves as archetype for all human (and human-divine) covenants: we can speak this way by saying that the eternal activity of the Triune God ad intra simply is that covenantal archetype. The “covenant” in God is just His eternal activity looked at from a new angle (it becomes sort of our Reformed contribution to the very catholic doctrine of the Trinity, not a whole “new” thing that we smarty-pants Reformed people have figured out that is some additional activity that the Persons of the Trinity do).

    But as soon as we say that the CoR is some separate activity from God’s pure eternal activity ad intra, and that separate activity is what serves as archetype for human covenants, then we’re not just flavoring the catholic orthodox tradition. We are now making a hash of it.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Josh, you asked me about Smith’s view. The truth is, it’s been a while since I read Smith’s stuff. I think I’m representing his view, but if he denies that the CoR is “co-extensive” with the eternal intra-Trinitarian activity itself then I would disagree with him and would say that he’s still stuck in some of the same problematic thinking here. I would still say that his approach is what has “inspired” and sketched a better way forward than the ‘typical’ view we often hear when thinking about Trinity and covenant, though. But that’s all hypothetical: what I would say if he actually disagrees with me on this.

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Joshua (#39):

    Can you elaborate? Here’s my confusion:

    MK:

    Clearly a berith is a legal kind of arrangement, a formal disposition of a binding nature. At the heart of a berith is an act of commitment and the customary oath-form of this commitment reveals the religious nature of the transaction. The berith arrangement is no mere secular contract but rather belongs to the sacred sphere of divine witness and enforcement.

    The kind of legal disposition called berith consists then in a divinely sanctioned commitment. In the case of divine-human covenants the divine sanctioning is entailed in God’s participation either as the one who himself makes the commitment or as the divine witness of the human commitment made in his name and presence.Meredith Kline, Kingdom Prologue, pp. 1-2.

    Now clearly, Smith wants no part of this definition. But then, he cites Kline to support such as:

    Each of these relationships is covenantal and definitive of who and what man is. Image, therefore, is a covenantal notion.

    Well, “Image” is not (for Smith) a covenantal notion in remotely the sense that “Image” is a covenantal notion for Kline.

    So what’s the point of agreeing to *use* the word “covenant” if the meanings are so radically different? It seems like sleight-of-hand, a deliberate equivocation.

    Assuming that Smith doesn’t want to do that, then what’s going on?

    I probably need to do more reading here rather than engage at this point.

    Befuddled,
    Jeff Cagle

  43. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Jeff,

    A footnote to “A Covenantal Ontology of the Triune God” says: “Kline interprets the original covenant as a covenant of works — with which I disagree — but
    his exegetical reasons for understanding creation as a covenant-making act are solid. *He does not specifically identify the notion of “image” as a covenantal idea in so many words, but his view of creation certainly suggests it.*”

    Later on in the same essay, Smith quote Kline from Images of the Spirit: “Waiting to be pursued further also is the relationship of the imago Dei to certain other major biblical concepts. Once it is seen that God the Spirit in his theophanic Presence is the divine paradigm in the creation of the image of God, a conceptual overlap, if not synonymity, will be recognized between the
    imago Dei and concepts like messiahship and the Spirit’s filling or baptism of God’s people.”

    Note that Smith acknowledges that Kline does not talk about the imago Dei as covenantal, but suggests that Kline’s view of creation should lead to such a view. Smith would, I think, say to you that he is expanding upon Kline’s understanding of creation, following what MK says in the second quote (“Waiting to be pursued…”).

    Smith also wants to reverse the direction of the argument:

    Creation is covenantal (Kingdom Prologue).
    The Trinity is the paradigm for creation (Images of the Spirit)
    So, we should look at the Trinity as covenantal.
    Which leads to rethinking the basic covenant as law, since that paradigm does not fit the relation of the persons of the Trinity.

    Kline comes in to support “creation as covenant,” and “Trinity as pattern for creation.” That then leads to critique of Kline’s identification of the basic covenant as the legal one.

    Smith would agree with Kline’s definition, I think, as a working definition of how the covenant works in creation (forensic, binding commitment, etc.). But his point is that Kline’s own view of creation should indicate that there is a deeper context, a more fundamental paradigm for the covenants with man than law: i.e., the intra-Trinitarian love.

    In short, I think Smith’s issue is the same as mine: If Kline’s view of creation is correct, then the covenant between God and man is not the fundamental one, but is rather patterned on the archetype of the Trinity. Thus, Kline wrongly states that the covenant between God and man (having the form of law) is the most fundamental covenantal idea. Instead, the fundamental idea is self-giving love, so that this is the context in which the law-covenant is given and thus the background against which the CoW must be interpreted.

    If I’m formulating this accurately, you see there the issue as it relates to the FV: Kline says that the law covenant is the most basic form, in context of which grace must be interpreted. Smith says that Kline’s own view of the archetype of creation indicates that the law covenant itself is an expression of the Trinity, and so that law covenant should not be identified as the most foundational one…

    Don’t know if this helps.

  44. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Summary: Smith would agree with Kline on the definition you cite, as a definition of the covenant between God and man as it is in creation. What he would not agree with is the identification of that covenant as the most basic one, the “original” one one which all others are patterned. He argues that MK’s view of the Trinity as the paradigm of creation indicates that the intra-Trinitarian “structure” is the most basic and provides the context–self-giving love–as the context then for the law covenant with Adam.

    Smith argues:

    Creation is covenant (as per Kline)
    Trinity is the pattern for all creation (also as per Kline)
    Therefore, the Trinity is the pattern for the covenant (not the law, contra Kline).

    As opposed to:

    Fundamental covenant is law
    CoR is a covenant
    Therefore, law is pattern for CoR (i.e., the Trinitarian covenant).

  45. David Gadbois said,

    May 16, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Xon,

    The CoR is a pact between the 3 persons of the Trinity, so in a sense it is ad intra (if we are only considering the parties “signing” the pact). But the pact has reference to redeeming creation. So it is not entirely internal. If the CoR is an attribute of God (this is essentially what you are getting at, right?), then that makes God contingent on the creation.

    As I read through your explanation, Xon (I know you’re not advocating all of the reasoning you present), I’m still left wondering how redemption is a free act of God if it is “nothing more” than the eternal divine love the Trinity has always experienced.

    Berkhof explains the connection of the CoR to God’s essence in this way:

    This can only be the result of a voluntary agreement among the persons of the Trinity, so that their internal relations assume the form of a covenant life. In fact, it is exactly in the trinitarian life that we find the archetype of the historical covenants, a covenant in the proper and fullest sense of the word, the parties meeting on a footing of equality, a true suntheke.

    The voluntary agreement is a manifestation of God’s attributes and nature, but is not equivalent to them.

  46. Xon said,

    May 16, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    David G.,

    First, there is a distinction between the activity of redemption and a covenant the Persons make to redeem. Redemption itself is an ad extra activity. The agreement between the Persons to do that activity is ad intra. Putting aside the temptation to make a big deal out of how you’re using “in a sense” langauge, the simple thing is that it is ad intra for the very reason you acknowledge, not just in “a sense,” but in the sense that the term “ad intra” was meant to convey. As you yourself say, the CoR is an activity “between the 3 persons of the Trinity.” Well, that is precisely what people have always meant with the ad intra/ad extra distinction. If it’s an activity between the three Persons only, then it is ad intra. The fact that it is about the created world doesn’t make it ad extra.

    When we say that the CoR is the same thing as the one eternal intra-Trinitarian activity, we don’t mean that it doesn’t have its own particular “object.” We could say this about every mundane event, not just the glorious process of historical redemption. That I would get up this morning at 6:55 am was known from before the foundation of the world by all three Persons, and they were all in loving agreement with one another that it should happen. The particular event–me getting up at 6:55 am on this particular day in human history, is an ad extra activity b/c it takes place outside of the internal Trintiarian activity. The way in which God was operating this morning to carry out His plan that I would get up at that time was an “ad extra” divine activity. But the “decision” or “knowledge” or “will” or “decree” from before the foundation of the world that I should get up at such-and-such a time is ad intra divine activity. Ad intra activity is infinite, perfect, eternal, and simple. It includes all of God’s being within it: all that God is, is being done eternally and perfectly in the one infinite ad intra activity b/w the three Persons. God’s knowledge, power, aseity, love, etc., are all “involved” completely and fully in this one activity. Really, God’s love and His power and His love are all the same thing, ad intra. We call them out with different words to reflect certain differences that we can see as creatures in the way God acts in the world. So, for instance, when the one perfect ad intra divine activity parts the Red Sea, we call that particular ad extra activity an operation of God’s power (even though really it was an operation of His love, grace, justice, goodness, etc., as well). And this is fine.

    Ad intra, the three Persons are in perpetual perfect infinite agreement with each other from the foundation of the world. This is because their very nature is love, and true love is always in perfect agreement and unity with the other. So, the ad intra activity of the three Persons from all eterntiy includes their being in perfect agreement with each other about everything, including that I would get up this morning at 6:55 am. When they actually cooperated and carried out that “decree” (kind of trivial to call it a “decree,” I guess we could just call it an “ordination”) within me as I woke up this morning at that time, that was an ad extra activity. But it was an ad extra activity that they agreed to do ad intra from the foundation of the world. And so it goes with redemption. They agreed to redeem mankind and the entire cosmos from sin and death before those the world was even made and before sin and death had even entered the actual picture. They have always, from the eternal beginning, engaged together in the one perfect activity (which is usually called by most theologians “love”). And that perfect activity involved them being in perfect agreement about all things that would even come to pass in the “external” world of creation. And all the ad extra activities the three Persons would ever do together in the created world are “contained” in their mutual loving agreement ad intra from the eternal beginning.

    So, redemption is an ad extra activity. But the “covenant” or ‘agreement” by which the three Persons “decided” to redeem the world is an ad intra activity.

    So, redemption is not “nothing more than the eternal divine love the Trinity has always experienced.” But the covenant of redemption is. The CoR is just God’s eternal ad intra activity with the redemption of the created world as its object, just like the “agreement” to part the Red Sea was the eternal ad intra activity with that particular event as its object. Redemption is not one isolated event, but an enormous narrative progression, but that doesn’t change the basic point that it is an ad extra activity which was agreed to by all three Persons from the beginning ad intra.

    But this means we can’t say that this agreement was “forensic” (in any remotely conventional sense of “forensic”), nor that it was a “voluntary agreement” or that the three Persons ‘came together” to make it, etc. Yes, we can and must say that the three Persons agreed to redeem the world, but we can’t say that they agreed “foresnically,” with stipulations and terms and so forth. Those sorts of things only enter into agreements that involve creatures. What kind of forensic agreement is it if the three Persons cannot break it (they are constitutionally indisposed to break with one another, to ever do anything not in agreement) and if they are eternal beings and so there is no time before the agreement was already “made”? None of these things hold for the divine ad intra activity, and so we can’t talk about the Persons making a “covenant” with each other if we mean anything like that. But if we just mean that they always loved one another (“love” is usually the short-hand for one perfect infinite eternal ad intra divine activity), then we’re good to go.

    The covenant of redemption is a bond of love. And it is in that sense that it serves as the archetype for all of our human covenants. We see the love and relationality that are inherent to human covenants, b/c those human covenants are ectypes of the divine archetype (which is love). Our covenants reflect divine love, somehow. But what many Reformed folks have done is go the opposite way (and Josh’s comments above are excellent at putting this succinctly) and say that, b/c our human covenants are legal and forensic, then God’s ad intra covenant of redemption must be legal and forensic. That’s the wrong way to make the move in this case, and it butchers classical orthodox theology proper (i.e., our actual doctrine of God).

  47. Xon said,

    May 16, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Oh, and I’m having trouble seeing how that Berkhof quote supports you in this. Reading what you posted by itself (not making some grand comment about Berkhof in general), it sounds quite “FVish” to me (except for the possible snag of the “voluntary agreement” language, which doesn’t really work for God who is already in agreement from the beginning and doesn’t “come together” to make an agreement that wasn’t already established by His very nature as God).

  48. David Gadbois said,

    May 16, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Xon, I quoted Berkhof as saying “their internal relations assume the form of a covenant life”, which indicates that the “voluntary agreement” is a manifestation of God’s nature, as opposed to being equivalent to it.

    So, the ad intra activity of the three Persons from all eterntiy includes their being in perfect agreement with each other about everything, including that I would get up this morning at 6:55 am.

    That’s all fine, but you still aren’t alleviating the problem that God’s essential nature is necessary, while God’s decision/agreement that you wake up at 6:55 is/was not necessary, and that the former certainly cannot be contingent on your existence whatsoever. Perhaps it is the “nothing more” language you guys are using that is getting you into trouble here. Theologians in the past have not seen a problem in affirming the simplicity of God while also affirming that God freely wills certain things, while necessarily willing other things. Although every volition of God’s is eternal, they are not all absolutely necessary.

    Yes, we can and must say that the three Persons agreed to redeem the world, but we can’t say that they agreed “foresnically,” with stipulations and terms and so forth. Those sorts of things only enter into agreements that involve creatures.

    That rather begs the question.

    Here the classical CoR doctrine is actually backed up by exegetical data (the standard proof-texts show a pattern of promises, rewards, and requirements).

    Simply pointing out that God cannot break the terms of the covenant is not a defeater. God could not break the CoG either, but He still passed between the animal pieces.

  49. David Gadbois said,

    May 16, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Also, Xon, I’ve seen the ad extra/ad intra language used differently from how you suggest. Note the following:

    the pactum salutis is part of the opera dei ad extra, is the expression of his will with respect to the creation. Deus ad extra and deus pro nobis are important ideas but have distinctively soteric functions in view.

    http://blog.solagratia.org/2006/08/21/%E2%80%9Ccoram-deo%E2%80%9D-the-epistemological-function-of-the-covenant-concept/

    This is why I hestitate to call the CoR strictly ad intra.

    Heck’s article, worth citing for our purposes here, continues:

    Once we define covenant as Zentraldogma, we want to see everything through this lens, and fail to make proper distinctions between God ad extra or pro nobis and God ad intra or in se, between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity.28 We dare not construe the eternal generation of the Son, for example, along covenantal lines. We dare not construe the spiration, i.e. procession of the Spirit, as covenantal essentially. The concept of covenant is not exhaustive of theology proper because God is not covenantal essentially. Rather, as we shall see, the covenant is a function of the Creator/creature distinction and we read it back into the self-contained Trinity only on pain of disregarding this vital and basic distinction. Since covenant denotes the ontological and volitional freedom of God with respect to creation and redemption, it cannot apply to the ontological Trinity. God’s intratrinitarian relations (e.g. the eternal filiation) are not free but necessary.29 In the final analysis, the self-contained ontologically trinitarian being of God is actually the necessary foundation for the covenant rather then being covenantal in itself. The archetypal being of God is the foundation to the ectypal being of man. The non-covenantal, self-contained God in se as Trinity is the most basic metaphysical “category,” and not the covenant or the trinity ad extra.

  50. Xon said,

    May 16, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I didn’t simply point out that God cannot break the covenant as a defeater. I pointed out that God cannot break the covenant b/c He is already IN it by His very nature from the beginning. Again, this is a particular characteristic of the pactum salutis, which is that it is ad intra.

    As for me “begging the question,” the passage you cite belongs to a paragraph that starts with “But this means”, thus making it clear that it is being inferred from prior reasoning. Quoring the passage in isolation is misleading at best, given that I actually was drawing conclusions at that point from things I had said earlier. Those conclusions might have been bad/invalid/weak for other reasons, but they weren’t drawn in a circular way.

    As to Heck’s interesting and thoughtful article, his quick statement that the CoR is actually ad extra is puzzling. He attributes it to “Lane Tipton who pointed this out in class.” Okay, what did Tipton point out? That bit you quoted, with some earlier context, goes like this:

    We have said above that the pactum salutis is the eternal covenant of redemption between the members of the Trinity. So the covenant does penetrate even into eternity. In fact, we have said that the eternal covenant only gives meaning to the redemptive-historical covenantal arrangements. However, we must be very clear here: the pactum salutis is part of the opera dei ad extra, is the expression of his will with respect to the creation. Deus ad extra and deus pro nobis are important ideas but have distinctively soteric functions in view.

    Now, the footnote thanking Tipton is after the last sentence. So it seems that Heck is crediting Tipton with the insight that deus ad extra and deus pro nobis “have distinctively soteric functions in view.” Why this is so is not spelled out, nor is it made clear how it even related to Heck’s larger point. Up until that sentence the passage is puzzling anyway. We have said that the CoR is eternal and b/w the members of the Trintiy. This is ad intra, historically. (Heck’s claim notwithstandign, and it isn’t clear how else the ad intra term could make any sense). But Heck wants to make it ad extra, which he simply asserts: despite this stuff we said earlier about it being an eternal activity between the Persons of the Trinity, Heck says, “we must be very clear here: [the CoR] is part of the opera dei ad extra, is the expression of his will with respect to the creation.” This simply is not what “ad extra” means. If this is what ad extra means, again, then God’s decision to save Bob in Syracuse New York at a Billy Graham revival in 1974 was “ad extra.” But it wasn’t. God’s will to do all the things that He did is ad intra. His will is carried out temporall in our realm of space-time, and that is ad extra. The simple fact that God has future temporal events in mind when does not make His will regarding those events ad extra.

    I agree with the long quote from Heck, because there he is using “covenantal” to mean a forensic, voluntary agreement. Anyone who tries to say that God is essentially engaging in that kind of thing is running into the problems that Steven and I (et al) have been mentioning from the beginning. But if covenant means “loving inter-relationship and the agreements that follow from that”, then covenant IS essential to God. The generation of the Son and the spiration of the Spirit have been understood in the Church historically (esp. in the West) to be essential acts of God’s love. God’s love is what requires the generation and spiration/procession. Or, it is b/c we know that God is love through revelation that we know that generation and spiration are required and that God is not one but Three-in-One.

    That’s all fine, but you still aren’t alleviating the problem that God’s essential nature is necessary, while God’s decision/agreement that you wake up at 6:55 is/was not necessary, and that the former certainly cannot be contingent on your existence whatsoever. Perhaps it is the “nothing more” language you guys are using that is getting you into trouble here. Theologians in the past have not seen a problem in affirming the simplicity of God while also affirming that God freely wills certain things, while necessarily willing other things. Although every volition of God’s is eternal, they are not all absolutely necessary.

    The problem here is talking abotu “necessity” w/ regard to God. Notoriously ambiguous word, and it “grooves” our brains in certain ways that simply don’t work with God. Consider grace/forgiveness of sins. Is it “necessary” for God to forgive sinners? Well, no. but also yes. God is the kind of being who does that which is not necessary. He is, in His essence, a gratuity-working God. Usually analytic philosophy types talk about these kinds of things with terms like “first order” and “second order.” So, forgiveness is a first order gratuity, but it is a second order necessity b/c God necessarily is the kind of being who does things that are gratuitous, etc. (Sort of like how my desire to eat cake is a “first-order” desire, but my desire to desire to eat cake is a “second-order” desire, etc.) I’m actually not keen on that particular way of resolving the issue, either. But the point is that necessity talk causes us some troubles in its own right. It is difficult to clear things up by appealing to what is supposedly “necessary.”

    Certainly, we do not want to say that God necessarily willed for me to get up at 6:55 am this morning. As though God HAD to or was compelled to do so. But we DO want to say that the time at which I got up this morning was within God’s will from all eternity. So far so good. But the eternal will of God is ad intra, which means (in part) that it is mysterious. This is not a cop out, this is a fundamental element of what we always mean by mystery (we “see” the economic Trinity, which reveals the immanent somehow but does not enable us to directly comprehend the immanent, etc.). It is God’s essential nature, and His will is eternal and essential (It is essential to God to will as He wills), and yet we don’t want to then say that every individual thing that God wills is “necessary.” The problem here, again, is our concept of necessity, and also just the inherent mystery of the issue (and, again, I’m standing up here for patristic-Augustinian-Nicean theology on the Trinity: I’m not claiming to be able to rationally explain every thing else that might come up in connection with the Trinity. :-) ). Somehow God’s eternal perfect activity “contains” all the things He ever does, and yet we don’t transfer essentiality and necessity to the particular things (so it wasn’t ‘necessary” for Him to part the Red Sea, or to will that I get up at 6:55 this morning, etc.). God in His infinitude and eternal perfection “comprehends” all things in Himself, and so there is nothing that is NOT a direct result of His eternal and perfect nature. And yet not all of it is “necessary.”

    Again, God freely wills to DO certain things ad extra. He does not have to do them, and they do not add to or effect His essence in any way when He does them. And yet, His essence is to act in the way that He does, and so His ad intra will to do such-and-such ad extra IS essential, even though His ad extra carrying out of the activity is not. Or something; this is admittedly difficult. But I don’t know of any orthodox Christian thinkers who say that God is simple AND that He somehow wills different things within Himself. His will is all one ad intra, and so anything He wills ad intra is essential to Him. And yet He didn’t HAVE to will ANY of the things that He willed regarding creation/redemption/etc. (nothing ad extra is essential, but it reveals God’s ad intra essence somehow).

    Dividing up God’s eternal activity into fundamentally different kinds of things (some “necessary,” some “free”) undermines simplicity. There is no way around that. We have to continue to assert simplicity and recognize that we are behind a shroud of mystery as creation. We are living our lives from the perspective of those on the receiving end of God’s ad extra operations. His ad intra operations cannot be defined and categorized nearly so simply. But we know that they are all ultimately one (simplicity), and that all thigns that happen in this created world, all ad extra operations, are originally “contained” in the ad intra operations which are essential. God originally wills ad intra to do all the ad extra things He does, even though He doesn’t have to do any of them.

  51. Xon said,

    May 16, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    IOW, David, this goes back to what I’ve been saying all along about God acting spontaneously and out of delight in His ad extra operations. God is perfect and complete in His ad intra operations, and yet one of the attributes of those ad intra operations is delight (Jonathan Edwards, fwiw, makes love and delight to be synonymns: to love something is to delight in it for its own sake. This is deeply Augustinian but moderns have a very hard time with it b/c we just can’t get past “necessity” conundra). So God willed ad intra to do all the things that He does ad extra. Every ad extra operation is done because God wills to do it ad intra. And God’s ad intra will is necessary. But His ad extra operations are not necessary. So what gives? What gives is that the “motivation” for God’s necessary ad intra operations and will is love or delight. And love/delight is the kind of thing that does unnecessary things simply because they are fun to do. And so God ad intra, as a function of His very essence, wills to create a world, to allow it to fall, to redeem it, and to ordain every single minute happening along the way, all as part of one elaborate and beautiful narrative that weaves together gloriously as a testament to His own eternal wonders. Now, did God have to any of that? No, God “could” have sat there in His own ad intra operations forever, perfectly content and fulfilled and infinite and eternal. But God did it anyway, He made this world and set this glorious narrative in place simply because it delighted Him to do so. But, on another way of analyzing the question, this means that it WAS necessary for God to create and do all of these things, because God IS essentially and necessarily the kind of God who does delightful things simply because they delight Him.

    So, depending on how we want to look at the question, yes, the decreee that I should have gotten up this morning at 6:55 am is a part of God’s eternal essential ad intra activity. Yet it was not “necessary’ for me to get up, b/c everything that happens in the created world is done as part of this gratuitous glorious narrative that God has weaved together simply because it delights Him to do so. But God does that which delights Him, b/c that’s the kind of God he is essentially.

    It still leaves us in the same place regarding covenant, though. :-)

  52. Xon said,

    May 16, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    “But I don’t know of any orthodox Christian thinkers who say that God is simple AND that He somehow wills different things within Himself. His will is all one ad intra, and so anything He wills ad intra is essential to Himself.”

    I don’t mean here, of course, that there is no distinction between God’s “moral” and “permissive” and “decretal” wills, etc. What I mean is that, if you pick any particular way of understanding God’s will (say, if we just talk about His moral or His decretal), that there are some things He wills necessarily and other things He wills “freely,” as though we can break any of that down. If it’s ad extra, then it is grautitous and spontaneous and free. God didn’t have to do any of it. Yet it is also God’s very nature to do that which he doesn’t have to do, simply because it delights Him to do so.

  53. kamelda said,

    May 17, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I just wanted to insert that Scripture speaks of the will of the Father and the will of the Spirit who like the wind goes where He wills distinctly. (& this may be a stupid question, but wouldn’t the distinct actions that the persons they take up indicate some distinction of will as well?) To claim that the Godhead has only one will doesn’t seem biblically sound. I’m not sure how that gets rectified with other theological considerations or affects the whole discussion about covenant, but as a layperson I think there may perhaps be some problem in the way the dilemma is stated or answered when we wind up having to affirm contra the language of Scripture that the persons of the Godhead do not have any distinction of will.

  54. greenbaggins said,

    May 17, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Certainly, if we want to speak about the three persons, then we will have to speak of three volitions. However, there is also a sense in which these three wills are one (this is what Jesus means when He says that He and the Father are one, and that what the Father does, the Son does also). They will the same thing. They will what the Father has decreed (not my will, but thine be done). So, yes, there is a distinction (although some might say that it is the man Jesus’ will being talked about when Jesus says “not my will, but thine be done”), but we must be careful to say that there is unity as well, and it is not just a “community” unity.

  55. kamelda said,

    May 17, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Thanks, Rev. Keister. No, I would not want to deny that God’s will has more than a community unity: I was thinking of this statement earlier in the thread: “There’s only one will in the godhead, since will is a property of nature (Christ has 2 wills, but only 1 person), and to make something like our notion of covenant, which includes voluntary agreement between parties, something that the persons of the Trinity cut with one another (without allowing for that to simply be an analogy for the Divine nature itself- which is my own position) is to imply a plurality of wills, and thus a plurality of nature.”

    I’m not sure how the the person/nature/will problem is to be answered. Still it seems like an unbiblical oversimplification either way — to deny the distinction or the unity of God’s will.

  56. greenbaggins said,

    May 17, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Right, I agree.

  57. Steven W said,

    May 17, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I’ve been busy this last week, and so I haven’t read even most of these comments.

    The relationship between the divine will and the divine nature has been answered at the sixth ecumenical council, though the principles used to answer it were the same as those employed by the Cappodocians at the second ecumenical council.

    “Whatever is not assumed is not redeemed,” said Gregory of Nazianzus. This was used against the Apollinarian heresy, which said that Jesus had a human body but not a human soul. It is a sort of monophysitism which would fully emerge at the fifth and sixth councils.

    The soul was defined as being composed of human mind, will, and spirit, and thus for the fullness of our redemption, Jesus possessed a human mind, will, and spirit, in addition to his eternal divine mind, will, and spirit.

    Jesus has two wills. Maximus the Confessor lost his writing hand and his tongue over this doctrine. Jesus is one person, though, and so we conclude that the will is a property of nature, since a single person possesses two wills. This was the conclusion of the sixth council, but again, it is an extension of the principles laid out in the fifth and even the second council.

    Earlier though, the basics of Nicene orthodoxy had been defended philosophically. Lewis Ayres gives three points that supported the theology of Nicaea:

    1. a clear version of the person and nature distinction, entailing the principle that whatever is predicated of the divine nature is predicated of the three persons equally and understood to be one (this distinction may or may not be articulated via a consistent technical terminology);

    2. clear expression that the eternal generation of the Son occurs within the unitary and incomprehensible divine being;

    3. clear expression of the doctrine that the persons work inseparably. (Nicaea and Its Legacy pg. 236

    And so the persons work inseparably because that which they “use” to work is an aspect of the unitary being. There is one energy (see the Damascene or Augustine), and all of this is simply ways of describing simplicity and infinity. Each divine person possess the fullness of God. Eternal generation is also key here, as Jesus is begotten from the very essence of the Father. Jesus’ “being” is that of the Father, and again, he possesses the entirety of that being. The only distinction is the personal relation or “origin,” that of begottenness. The same is true for the Spirit. He is spirated, whereas neither the Father nor the Son are. Other than this, he shares the fullness of the divine. Simplicity forbids all “real” distinctions between attributes and qualities.

    The Father’s will is the will of the Son and that of the Spirit. In fact, you will see Calvin, in his commentary on John 1, refer to the eternal Logos as the will of God. The incarnation is simply a revelation of God’s will, as Jesus shows us the Father.

    When Jesus speaks of “thy will be done” towards the Father, the contrast is over and against his own human will, though it too was brought into perfect conformity by the appropriate exercise of the human will by the divine person.

    And this is my complaint with the covenant of redemption, which presupposes some sort of existence prior to (even if only logically prior) the covenanting where different stipulations would bind the members of the godhead than after the covenant was cut. This is most clearly seen in the voluntaristic nominalists who say that prior to the covenant God is wholly ex lex, but after the covenant He is bound to its terms. “Law” is not an aspect of the divine nature, but rather a choice. Theoretically, God could have been other, had he so chosen. This opens up arbitrariness (and what is supralapsarianism but this?) and denies that God is truly known through His revelation. It also seems incompatible with the immutability of God.

    Anyway, there’s a lot here, I know. Some of it is basic stuff. Everyone should know their Christology and theology proper before they begin formulating sophisticated constructs that build atop them. We should also know what the “bounds of orthodoxy” are in their widest forms- meaning that which all branches of Christendom hold to (including the Reformers!)- and be careful that we not transgress those bounds unless we are prepared for all that comes with doing so.

  58. kamelda said,

    May 17, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Steven. Even if I grant the language about Christ, I still don’t think that adequately addresses the way Scripture speaks of the Father’s will as distinct from the Spirit’s, and the Spirit’s will in the same way. Some of the things you’ve said here seem to work out to the necessity of the Covenant of Redemption (in which case where is God’s freely willed love that scripture speaks of?) I am not sure we can know what God could will because of the creator/creature distinction: we know in Christ what He did will, what He wanted to do for us and wanted us to know of Him. I don’t know that Calvin would be comfortable with some of the language here either, as he preserves a very strict ectypal approach to the revelation of God (though granted, I’ve been rereading the first book of the Institutes for about three years — it’s a very good book: & that point kind of gets ground in). I read this recently: ‘Moses, indeed, seems to have intended briefly to comprehend whatever may be known of God by man, when he said, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation,” (Ex. 34:6, 7.) Here we may observe, first that his eternity and self existence are declared by his magnificent name twice repeated; and, secondly, that in the enumeration of his perfections, he is described not as he is in himself, but in relation to us, in order that our acknowledgment of him may be more a vivid actual impression than empty visionary speculation.’

    I don’t know enough about a lot of this to see through the difficulties of the person/nature/will issue. But I don’t think denying all distinction in God’s will in the persons is biblically acceptable, or is a necessary consequent of being fully orthodox. John Brown (of Haddington) says that will is personal. I’m not ready to say I understand all the implications of the orthodox doctrine of Christ and the heresies involved better than he and others who have deeply studied the reformed tradition and the bounds of orthodoxy: perhaps there are nuances that we are missing in even stating the problems.

  59. Xon said,

    May 17, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    kamelda, re: “necessity” of the CoR, see my comments above to David G (50 & 51). Trying to pin down what is “necessary” and not with God is a hopeless maze of confusion. That’s why the traditional distinction is simply b/w ad intra operations and ad extra operations. Ad intra, God is infinite, simple, perfect, etc., and all three Persons are in complete unity and harmony. Everything God DOES, God IS. Everything God is, He does. This is classic Trinitarian theology, that in God (ad intra) there is no distinction between being and doing. And the three Persons share in ALL that is the divine essence. There is no activity that one of them does that the others don’t do. So, ad intra, there is no way that the Spirit has one will and the Father has another. They are both united with the same will. When the Spirit goes wherever He will in John 3, this isn’t some distinct activity apart from the will of the Father or the will of the Son. The Spirit does that which all three Persons will for the Spirit to do.

    Ad intra, everything is essential, or, if we want, necessary. All three Persons together share in the same essence, and there is no distinction between something the Father does or is and something that the Son does or is. Teh ONLY difference b/w the Persons is the “relations of origin.” But there is no essential difference between them, and will goes with essence. But ad extra, God does things that are not necessary. Yet the reasons He does those ad extra non-necessary things is because it is His essential nature (ad intra) to do gratuitous (non-necessary) things. So, is it necessary or not? You tell me. :-)

  60. kamelda said,

    May 17, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks, Xon. Calvin’s statements about the Trinity are different than what you say above: He states that the persons are subsistences in the Divine essence related to one another yet distinguished by ‘incommunicable properties’. He lists of course the order of generation and quotes Augustine on the distinction in their relation, but speaking of the incommunicable properties also very clearly says this:

    ‘This distinction is,that to the Father is attributed the beginning of action, the fountain and source of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and arrangement in action, while the energy and efficacy of action is assigned to the Spirit. … the mind of every man naturally inclines to consider, first, God, secondly, the wisdom emerging from him, and, lastly, the energy by which he executes the purposes of his counsel. For this reason, the Son is said to be of the Father only; the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.’

    I can and will definitely affirm that my existence and salvation which are evidently the will of God are not necessary to His being. I have great joy and comfort in knowing that He loved me not because He was bound a standard distinct from Himself we tend to make of His ‘nature’, but simply because He wanted to. I give Him great glory for being utterly uncompelled and loving me anyway: only He could do such a thing utterly uncompelled. I take comfort too in knowing that because He freely loved me, He bound Himself to me in a way that my simple existence, my simple fallenness even, could never entail. So no, I don’t believe redemption is necessary.

    I’m going to bow out of this now, as I really can’t add more than quotes with my limited understanding of these things. Thanks all, for patience.

  61. Jason said,

    May 17, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    “This is classic Trinitarian theology”

    Prove it, show me where.

  62. Xon said,

    May 17, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Jason, I don’t have time to do a full research paper right now, but if you check out any western Christian theologian or philosopher in the Middle Ages and after , you’ll see this notion that in God (ad intra) being (essence) and doing (existence) are one. The argument is sketched in more rudimentary form in the late patristic period. I can try to give actual citations later perhaps, if you are unable to find them (due to time or will) on your own.

    In terms of thought structure, the notion seems to follow unavoidably from the doctrines of divine infinity, simplicity, and eternality. So lots of times when you find really ancient sources talking about one or more of these ideas, you get hints of the full blown “actus purus” doctrine. But actus purus itself is a medieval/scholastic term.

  63. Xon said,

    May 17, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    “any” being a slight overstatement, of course. But you get the drift.

  64. Ruben said,

    May 20, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Steven, I did some digging and found this which addresses your dilemma above explicitly, from Owen’s Excercitation 28, Section 13.

    13. But this sacred truth must be cleared from an objection whereunto it seems obnoxious, before we do proceed. “The will is a natural property, and therefore in the divine essence it is but one. The Father, Son, and Spirit, have not distinct wills. They are one God, and God’s will is one, as being an essential property of his nature; and therefore are there two wills in the one person of Christ, whereas there is but one will in the three persons of the Trinity. How, then, can it be said that the will of the Father and the will of the Son did concur distinctly in the making of this covenant?”
    This difficulty may be solved from what hath been already declared; for such is the distinction of the persons in the unity of the divine essence, as that they act in natural and essential acts reciprocally one towards another, — namely, in understanding, love, and the like; they know and mutually love each other. And as they subsist distinctly, so they also act distinctly in those works which are of external operation. And whereas all these acts and operations, whether reciprocal or external, are either with a will or from a freedom of will and choice, the will of God in each person, as to the peculiar acts ascribed unto him, is his will therein peculiarly and eminently, though not exclusively to the other persons, by reason of their mutual in-being. The will of God as to the peculiar actings of the Father in this matter is the will of the Father, and the will of God with regard unto the peculiar actings of the Son is the will of the Son; not by a distinction of sundry wills, but by the distinct application of the same will unto its distinct acts in the persons of the Father and the Son. And in this respect the covenant whereof we treat differeth from a pure decree; for from these distinct actings of the will of God in the Father and the Son there doth arise a new habitude or relation, which is not natural or necessary unto them, but freely taken on them. And by virtue hereof were all believers saved from the foundation of the world, upon the account of the interposition of the Son of God antecedently unto his exhibition in the flesh; for hence was he esteemed to have done and suffered what he had undertaken so to do, and which, through faith, was imputed unto them that did believe.

  65. Steven W said,

    May 20, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Ruben,

    Are you comfortable with this bit here: “from these distinct actings of the will of God in the Father and the Son there doth arise a new habitude or relation, which is not natural or necessary unto them, but freely taken on them.”

    That statement is precisely my criticism. This construct has a change in the relation and way of subsisting between two members of the Trinity.

    How is this at all consistent with divine infinity, simplicity, and immutability?

    How do we continue to know God through His works, if His works are not revelatory of his nature?

    How can God change his habtitude? Can this be changed again?

  66. Ruben said,

    May 20, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Steven, how is the incarnation at all consistent with divine infinity, simplicity, and immutability?

  67. Steven W said,

    May 20, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Much in every way. Indeed, it requires those doctrines in order to avoid pantheism.

    The incarnation is the second person of the Trinity adding a human nature unto himself. His divine nature remains unchanged throughout.

    The relation between the finite and the infinite is a mystery indeed, and I mostly follow Van Til and David Bentley Hart (a great combo if ever you could make one) in saying that infinity is able to interact with the finite without identifying with it precisely because it is infinite. This is why the analogia is so important. At no point is God’s being every identified with our being, though it can and must interact with it at all times.

    But the covenant of redemption is occurring within God’s own self. The Father and Son (still not sure what the Spirit is up to) are changing their “spiritual disposition” (which is what habitude means) prior to all creation. Such a construct of distinct aspects of the divine will is incompatible with simplicity, of course, so the whole project is mucked up from the get-go.

    I guess I’m just old-fashioned here, but I am very uncomfortable with Owen’s language. I think Augustine got it right. God’s nature is revealed in his works because He is pure act.

  68. Ruben said,

    May 21, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Steven, if you look at the OED (do you have access to that in the seminary library?) you will see that definition #2 for habitude, relation, is the one Owen intends here. This is already strongly intimated in the quote itself: it is also the definition which has examples drawn primarily from theological literature, which can serve as additional confirmation if any were needed.

    Of course the divine nature didn’t change because of the incarnation: I am not a monophysite, after all! But at some point the Son stands in a somewhat altered relation to the Father, don’t you think? Check out in that same excercitation by Owen section 9 which will explain it more fully. But to take one example: do you believe that the wrath of God was poured out on the person of the Son as He hung suspended on the cross? Had God the Father ever been angry with the Son before (I speak after the manner of men)? And in the incarnation is not the Son, personally not merely in His human nature, made under the law? It would be very rash given the whole context of Galatians to assert that being under the law implies nothing as to one’s relation to God. Or how about Philippians 2:5-11? As I see it, Owen is accounting for those Biblical facts (and the fact mentioned in John 14:28) by pointing out that in the counsel of peace a new habitude was brought about.

    Owen affirms simplicity (Dissertation on Divine Justice, Chapter 8), so I think that you would have to demonstrate that Excercitation 28.13 is inconsistent with that.

  69. Ruben said,

    May 21, 2008 at 10:28 am

    By the way, I didn’t intend for the smiley to be there. Just read it as a close parenthesis.

  70. Steven W said,

    May 21, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Ruben,

    I was actually using Muller’s Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms. Habitus has a theological history, though, and there have been at least thee types, natural, acquired, and infused- the latter two I think we can safely exclude from God. I’m not really sure it’s an applicable notion to God though, since He doesn’t have various dispositions of the will. If He did, I would certainly never affirm that those dispositions of the will could change or that new ones could arise. It strike me as very processy.

    The Son’s “altered” relationship to the Father would only be so as man. He is ever and always the consubstantial Logos in his divine nature. As to God’s wrath being poured out, we have to again remember that wrath is simply the negative experience of God’s justice, which He always had. In a very real way, Christ’s bearing the wrath of God was God bearing the wrath of God, however that may work. It was God own self-maledication, taking the curse of the covenant on himself in order to spare those on whom it would have fallen.

    I’m sure Owen affirms simplicity. It would be very surprising if anyone in the Western tradition did not. However, his other statements are incompatible with this affirmation, so one has to go, and I think we know which one did functionally leave his system.

    As for a demonstration of the inconsistency, I’m not sure how much you’d want. Simplicity states that all of God’s attributes and properties are co-extensive with the divine essence and are indeed identified with the essence. As divine, they are infinite, and thus there is no “thing” that separates them. Real distinction, then, is precluded, for each attribute simply is God. There are various notional and empirical distinctions that we can make from our perspective, for we are not simple, but we must always admit the disanalogy in our speech when we make these distinctions. At no point can we pit the various attribute against one another, nor make them compete, as the Socinians did in their objections to divine wrath and the notion of satisfaction in the atonement.

    And so when Owen has these distinct actings of the will, he’s already pushing the boundaries, but when he allows for a new relation between the eternal Father and Son that is not necessary but ‘freely taken on them,” then he’s clearly working in composite terms. The relations of the divine persons are also eternal, and to allow a new relation would only find in an analogue in various adoptionistic heresies. Orthodoxy has never allowed for a new relationship to arise within God’s own eternity. The incarnation, remember, is in time and space. The Covenant of Redemption is not.

    And so, at the very least, Owen’s giving us a nominalist picture of God, where the act of salvation is posterior to God’s own nature. There is still a God behind the God which is revealed to us in redemption (beyond the usual proper qualifiers).

    So, two fatal flaws, in my opinion, arise. The first is that we have some sort of alteration within God’s eternal self-relation. This opens up a metaphysics that makes distinctions within the divine nature, which was precisely what the Arians and Eunomeans were arguing for.

    The second is that God is arbitrary and not truly revealed in his redemption. The creation does not know God truly through Christ, but is rather told that there is another sort of divine relation and spiritual habitude, perhaps different in character and disposition, outside of the divine revelation. We are thus allowing for some notion of God, other than apophatic, that can be intelligently spoken of outside of God’s own revelation.

  71. GLW Johnson said,

    May 22, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Words escape me reading SW assessment of Owen. Amazing, simply amazing.

  72. Mark Horne said,

    May 22, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Yeah. Steve is incredibly gifted. I agree. Amazing.

  73. Ruben said,

    May 22, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Steven, defining Owen’s English-language usage with a dictionary of Latin and Greek (however excellent the dictionary is in itself) strikes me as being a bit bizarre. To be fair, Owen does use the word habitude according to the usage of habitus in some places in his works (e.g., Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit, book 3 chapter 3), and I think this is actually the preponderant usage. However, he also uses it in the sense of relation (remember, this use of the word in theological language had been available since 1561, so it was not an innovation). See for instance chapter 2 of Vindiciae Evangelicae or his comments on Hebrews 2:2-4. A footnote to chapter 6 in A Dissertation of Divine Justice defines habitude in this way: “Habitude means the state of a person or a thing with relation to something else. The habitude of the divine nature with respect to sin is a disposition to punish it. — TR.”
    And in Excercitation 28.13 that he is driving at something closer to “relation” than “disposition” should be clarified by the fact that he added “or relation” immediately after using the word habitude.

    Now obviously you raised a lot of other issues in your reply, but I’d like to suggest a few basic points to you. One is that the law of charity would have you take Owen in the best construction possible, not the worst. Two, it is possible that Owen forgot about divine simplicity (in spite of defending it in his works) and was inconsistent, of course; but it is also possible that you have not understood him. Which do you think is more likely? Three, Owen’s language is an attempt to account for the statements that we have in Scripture, where the Father, Son and Spirit are spoken of as willing, where the Son speaks of the Father as greater than He is, and so forth. This is Biblical language which your system doesn’t seem to account for.

    Long debates in comboxes are a weariness, and it seems that in some ways we occupy fundamentally different ground. Do you agree that “God wills precisely because He wills it: the divine willing is the divine nature itself”? (Heidegger, Corp. Theol. III, 86 as quoted in Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics, p.83.) Or that, “God can will otherwise but not otherwise will” (Heppe again)? Or with Institutes I.14.1? “They who, indeed, indulge their own wantonness, since they are now warned in vain, will feel too late by a dreadful ruin how much better it would have been for them reverently to accept God’s secret purposes than to belch forth blasphemies by which to obscure heaven. And Augustine rightly complains that wrong is done to God when a higher cause of things than his will is demanded.”

    For future reference, here is Owen again on the covenant and habitude and simplicity.

    Vindiciae Evangelicae, Chapter 27
    It is true, the will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is but one. It is a natural property, and where there is but one nature there is but one will: but in respect of their distinct personal actings, this will is appropriated to them respectively, so that the will of the Father and the will of the Son may be considered [distinctly] in this business; which though essentially one and the same, yet in their distinct personality it is distinctly considered, as the will of the Father and the will of the Son.
    Notwithstanding the unity of essence that is between the Father and the Son, yet is the work distinctly carried on by them; so that the same God judges and becomes surety, satisfieth and is satisfied, in these distinct persons. Thus, though this covenant be eternal, and the object of it be that which might not have been, and so it hath the nature of the residue of God’s decrees in these regards, yet because of this distinct acting of the will of the Father and the will of the Son with regard to each other, it is more than a decree, and hath the proper nature of a covenant or compact. Hence, from the moment of it (I speak not of time), there is a new habitude of will in the Father and Son towards each other that is not in them essentially; I call it new, as being in God freely, not naturally. And hence was the salvation of men before the incarnation, by the undertaking, mediation, and death of Christ. That the saints under the old testament were saved by Christ at present I take for granted; that they were saved by virtue of a mere decree will not be said. From hence was Christ esteemed to be incarnate and to have suffered, or the fruits of his incarnation and suffering could not have been imputed to any; for the thing itself being denied, the effects of it are not.

    Commentary on Hebrews 2:2-4
    That this righteousness or justice of God is in the exercise of it inseparably accompanied with infinite wisdom. These things are not diverse in God, but are distinguished with respect unto the various manners of his actings, and the variety of the objects which he acteth towards, and so denote a different habitude of the divine nature, not diverse things in God. They are therefore inseparable in all the works of God.

  74. Steven W said,

    May 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Ruben,

    I think that if you review my statement, you will see that I critiqued both the thought that a new disposition of will could arise in God and the thought that a new relation could arise between the Father and Son. Both are highly problematic.

    As to your quotes concerning God’s will, I would urge caution. Of the two Heppe quotes, I agree with the first and confess to not having enough context to speak to the second. As to Calvin, he is clearly speaking to God’s reason for creating not being constrained by anything outside or above him. To use that quote to show that Calvin held the will to be the primary and controlling attribute of God’s nature would be inappropriate. We have to be careful that we’re not confusing categories. My concerns about God’s will have to do with His own internal self-relation. I am not at this point concerned with God’s relation to the creation, of which I would be fully in agreement with the use of analogia, archetype/ectype, and immanent/economic distinctions.

    You gave me three points regarding Owen. The first was that I should charitably try to understand him in another light. I will allow you to explain to me how this can be done. How can a new relationship arising between the Father and the Son, in eternity, be consistent with the other doctrines we confess (infinity, immutability, simplicity, etc.). What can be “added” to that which is limitless and beyond all distinction?

    The second point was that I have likely misunderstood Owen. I don’t believe that this is the case, and I would add that this problem that I’m addressing is not limited to Owen. The very pactum notion carries with it the concept of God binding Himself to a standard other than His own nature. It has its roots in the later medieval nominalists (See Oberman’s Harvest of Medieval Theology for more on this). In its crudest form, one which Owen often seems to fall into, God begins ex lex and then binds himself to a covenantal law by which He then proceedes to relate with creation. There is a Th.M thesis here in the RTS library by Neil Chambers which explains this in detail regarding Owen. He comes to the same conclusions that I do. Such a formulation would posit a change in God’s nature or fail to reveal God in his works- both of which are a departure from the earlier catholic tradition (admitting of course various roots in the middle ages).

    But perhaps I am misunderstanding Owen. How can he be construed so as to not fall into the nominalist error, that of positing a God whose relation to creation in redemption does not reveal his very nature? Again, for support that this is a real problem, you can see Robert Letham’s criticism of Warfield in his book The Holy Trinity pg. 401.

    The third point had to do with the Biblical language which presents the persons of the Trinity possessing their own wills. I would handle this a few ways. The first would be to ask for passages that speak of a plurality of wills between divine persons. I believe that all such passages refer to Jesus Christ as man, and thus the plurality of wills is between the divine shared will and the human will of Christ’s added nature. Other places in Scripture which refer to particular acts of divine persons have historically been interpreted by the principle of appropriation, which is the practice of attributing to one person of the godhead a work that is properly, though incomprehensibly, done by all persons of the godhead simultaneously. This is widely linked to Augustine, but can also be seen in Nyssa in Against Eunomius 1.19.

    I would also encourage the use of systematic theology in Biblical interpretation to make sure that we are not improperly privileging verses taken in isolation over the more well-established truths that we have learned to be necessary from the rest of Scripture.

    And I take your point about prolonged debates in comboxes. Unless there is more of substance that is required, I will allow this to be my final word.

    blessings

  75. GLW Johnson said,

    May 22, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Yes Mark, he is almost as profound as you are- didn’t you once remark that Owen’s book on the ‘Death of Death in the Death of Christ’ was the one book in the history of publishing that you wished had never been written?

  76. Ron Henzel said,

    May 23, 2008 at 4:08 am

    Steven,

    You wrote:

    The very pactum notion carries with it the concept of God binding Himself to a standard other than His own nature.

    I think we’ve detected a disturbance in the Force. That happens whenever there’s a spike in the baloney quotient.

    This is pure verbal obfuscation, and nothing else.

  77. Ruben said,

    May 23, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Steven,

    Regarding Owen, to me he seems quite admirably clear, and like he chooses his phrasing almost in order to obviate your critiques. I am not sure that I can make him any more clear than he is himself: let me try on one point and see if we get anywhere. In criticism of Owen, you say this:

    Other places in Scripture which refer to particular acts of divine persons have historically been interpreted by the principle of appropriation, which is the practice of attributing to one person of the godhead a work that is properly, though incomprehensibly, done by all persons of the godhead simultaneously.

    And in the quotes I provided to you Owen says this:

    It is true, the will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is but one. It is a natural property, and where there is but one nature there is but one will: but in respect of their distinct personal actings, this will is appropriated to them respectively, so that the will of the Father and the will of the Son may be considered [distinctly] in this business; which though essentially one and the same, yet in their distinct personality it is distinctly considered, as the will of the Father and the will of the Son.

    Owen is obviously aware of the concern you raise, and is careful to qualify his statements in accordance with the traditional doctrine. So let me ask if you admit that the will of God in the eternal generation of the Son, and the will of God in the eternal spiration of the Spirit, may be considered with regard to the Persons?

    Systematic theology is not to privilege a particular text: but I hope you would agree also that is is not free to ignore any particular text. Read Section 9 of Owen’s Excercitation 28 and tell me if John 14:28 is a reference to the human nature.

    You object to a pactum as binding God to a standard other than His own nature (I am not sure if it is all meaningful to speak of God being “bound” to His own nature, when, as you agreed, “the divine willing is the divine nature”); but is this not a gloss for saying “God could not will otherwise”? In other words, that He must necessarily undertake salvation?

    We have agreed that long debates in this format are a weariness, so I will make just one further comment. Can I appeal to you to bear in mind the basic Calvinism of Institutes III.23.2?

    These observations would be amply sufficient for the pious and modest, and such as remember that they are men. But because many are the species of blasphemy which these virulent dogs utter against God, we shall, as far as the case admits, give an answer to each. Foolish men raise many grounds of quarrel with God, as if they held him subject to their accusations. First, they ask why God is offended with his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomsoever he pleases, more resembles the caprice of a tyrant than the legal sentence of a judge; and, therefore, there is reason to expostulate with God, if at his mere pleasure men are, without any desert of their own, predestinated to eternal death. If at any time thoughts of this kind come into the minds of the pious, they will be sufficiently armed to repress them, by considering how sinful it is to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists. For if his will has any cause, there must be something antecedent to it, and to which it is annexed; this it were impious to imagine. The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found. Let human temerity then be quiet, and cease to inquire after what exists not, lest perhaps it fails to find what does exist. This, I say, will be sufficient to restrain any one who would reverently contemplate the secret things of God. Against the audacity of the wicked, who hesitate not openly to blaspheme, God will sufficiently defend himself by his own righteousness, without our assistance, when depriving their consciences of all means of evasion, he shall hold them under conviction, and make them feel their guilt. We, however, give no countenance to the fiction of absolute power, which, as it is heathenish, so it ought justly to be held in detestation by us. We do not imagine God to be lawless. He is a law to himself; because, as Plato says, men laboring under the influence of concupiscence need law; but the will of God is not only free from all vice, but is the supreme standard of perfection, the law of all laws. But we deny that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in such a case. Wherefore, when we are tempted to go farther than we ought, let this consideration deter us, Thou shalt be “justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest,” (Psalm 51:4.)

  78. Steven W said,

    May 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Ruben,

    I think there may be some misunderstanding going on, as I’m not sure how to relate your 77 to my 74. You asked me a few questions, and so I’ll try to both answer them and let my answers be my final explanation.

    1) The divine will- Owen’s quotes is fine as far as it goes. My concern has been that he proceeds to allow for a new relationship or disposition to arise between Father and Son, and given that this is taking place in eternity, it can only be within their shared nature (for nothing has been created yet). Thus, the allowance for a new habitus within eternity presupposes that there can be distinctions within the infinite. This is outside of the Nicene metaphysic that said that whatever is in the divine nature simply is. The only distinctions are the personal Names.

    To ask me whether there were distinct personal acts of willing in the eternal generation and eternal spiration is troubling to me, for it again closely mirrors the Eunomean charge against the Nicenes. Eunomius asked Basil, rhetorical, whether the Father freely willed the generation of the Son, which would seem to make the Son a creature, or whether the Father was not free to will it, which would be seen as blasphemy against the Father’s divine nature. The response, which was taken up by Basil and the two Cappadocean Gregories was an appeal to the nature/person distinction and the metaphysics of simplicity and infinity. The Father’s will is the Son’s will, and thus it is always in harmony with itself. The congruity of nature was not seen as a detraction from freedom.

    I’m not accusing you of intentionally using such arguments, but I do think that there is some confusion going on that a greater familiarity with the contours of the Nicene disputes would alleviate.

    I am also a firm believer in doctrinal development, and I understand that a tradition of speaking of the hypostatic employment of the one will has arisen. It is not unique to Owen. I would not want to disallow it completely, but I would want to urge that we continue to review the previous understanding of shared will, and that we be careful not to allow our manner of speaking to contradict basic commitments. To speak of the Father willing something distinctly is not itself a problem, but when we move from that to a notion of willing that includes change, we have created a problem, and it is a problem that I think is best avoided by a careful adherence to earlier theological categories.

    2)John 14:28- I am not sure what your particular use of this text is meant to do in our discussion. Verse 28 says “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

    You asked me if this verse was reference to Christ’s human nature, and the implication was that you do not believe that it is so. I will allow you to explain or correct this, but I cannot imagine any orthodox reading of this verse that says anything other than that it has Christ’s humanity in mind.

    3) The necessity of redemption- This is a difficult question, but it is no different than the similar charge that modern Eastern Orthodox theologians put to Augustine. They say that since Augustine equates God’s attributes with his essence, this makes creation necessary, for God could not have willed other than he did. The dilemma is not limited to our discussion of the covenant of redemption.

    The first thing that would have to be said is that simplicity is not an idiosyncratic doctrine, but rather a core belief of the entire catholic tradition. It is explained in detail by Augustine, but it is also present in Athanasius, Nazianzen, Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, and John of Damascus (just to name a few). You’ll find that it became a staple of later theology, and it is present in Aquinas, all of the Reformers, and many of the Reformed confessions. WCF’s use of “without parts” is a condensed affirmation of simplicity.

    The second discussion would need to be on infinity and incomprehensibility. I only know that the infinite can inter-relate with the finite, even unite itself to it, without transgressing the Creator/creature boundary because of the impossibility of the contrary given the case of special revelation. Scott Oliphint’s book Reasons invokes the use of archetype and ecytpe (which has been mentioned in this thread a few times), and I believe that is an effective way at getting at the discussion.

    In short though, I would say that God’s will is co-extensive with and identical to his nature, and I would also say that free of all necessity or compulsion. As pure act, there could not have been any unrealized potential within the divine nature that later came into action.

    4) I’m quite happy with the Calvin quote.

    It was never my intent to simply score points in this exchange. I believe that there is a serious lack of familiarity with classic theology among the Reformed today, and some of this is due to our use of certain theological constructs without sufficiently examining their relation to other foundational loci of systematics.

    I do not see that you have addressed my primary criticisms of Owen and the covenant of redemption which is that seems to posit a change in the unchangeable and that it seems to prevent the act of redemption from revealing God’s true nature.

    I have no desire to label Owen as a heretic or even to trash his reputation, but I do think that this particular theological construct is fraught with problems and should be modified or discontinued.

    peace

  79. kamelda said,

    May 23, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Hello Steven,

    I just wanted to add again that making redemption necessary raises other very big problems (such as the act of creation becoming necessary — hence, the Calvin Ruben quoted– as well as the creatures becoming necessary to the very being of God): also that it seems a little facetious to talk about how you aren’t concerned with God’s relation to creation when you have emphasized as one of your main concerns that we, the creation, must have some way to scrutinize God’s nature. As I understand it (if I’m remembering Carl Trueman’s lectures on Owen correctly, sermonaudio) Owen actually argued against Rutherford that the knowledge we have of God, albeit accomodated to our condition and limited at His pleasure, is a true though analogous revelation of God: I’m not sure how covenant theology displaces that. But God ‘as He is in Himself’ we can never know, & if we really do acknowledge ectypalism and all that, how is it possible to get beyond God in relation to creation and have some more direct understanding of the Trinity (isn’t this exactly why Scripture cannot be ignored when it speaks to the way He willed and worked in our redemption?). Also, I am not sure about your ad intra and ad extra distinctions. An internet search turns up that several reformed scholars teach the Covenant of Redemption as an ad extra work of the Trinity, because it is a covenant regarding that which is external to God. It does result in new ‘habitudes’, as does the incarnation (there is simply no way to get around the new habitudes of the second person to the Father there), but those relations are not the ‘ad intra’ relations of the Trinity but the ad extra economy of redemption. I am not knowledgeable enough about this to dogmatize, but the distinctions here about things external and internal to God are made precisely because that which is external cannot be necessary to Him, are they not? -and bear further consideration.

    You also seem to make little distinction between the substance and the persons in your understanding of simplicity though you have been willing to make such sharp distinction between the person and the ‘human nature’ of Christ as to speak of the human nature as something independent of the person — not the language of traditional reformdom at least — to sustain your objections.

    I am glad to read that you have no desire to label Owen a heretic — I was struck before Ruben said anything by the uncharity with which you interpreted Owen, assuming an undisputed scholar to be basically more incompetent than any half educated person in understanding and dealing with simplicity, in referencing heresies which he would certainly have been aware of as well as any theological student, and in the seemingly automatic assumption that in any area of confusion to us it is we who see clearly. Certainly it’s possible that we may, but as an assumption in conjunction with assumptions basically of Owen’s stupidity and ignorance of history in these things it’s not very inspiring. I would have hoped, the FV having raised such loud voices about how uncharitably they are read, that you would be more fair in your own reading of people with whom you seem to have an interest in disagreeing (as the problems in your own position aren’t troubling you like the problems you have with his).

    All the best Steven. May God give us all humility and caution and better understanding, and a devout refusal to go beyond revelation in these things. Sorry for jumping in again but I do think that the solution you want to give is fraught with its own (historical and biblical) problems.

  80. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 8:22 am

    SW
    You write things things about Owen just to get under my skin, don’t you? You haven’t graduated seminary ( and I doubt your Latin is such that you could read it like English. You have not demonstrated a command of the Biblical languages that even begins to approach that of Owen) and yet here you are lecturing us about all the defects in Owen’s theology. Mind you he is consider one of the three greatest English speaking theologians of all time – along with Edwards and Warfield- now I suppose when time permits you will tell us where Edwards and Warfield went off the track.

  81. kamelda said,

    May 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Respectfully, I think it would be more useful to us students and housewives trying to better understand the answers to the questions Steven’s raised if those commenting who know more about these issues would help us understand where he is mistaken about Owen.

    Steven, just for reference — I found it useful — Muller in his fourth volume cites Owen and then distinguishes God’s works into three categories 1. ‘essential’ works as regarding essence rather than persons, including the covenant and the ad extra works which cannot be divided; 2. the personal ad intra works of God which would include the begetting proceeding that are proper to the nature of God, and 3. a further classification of ad extra works that, though essential, terminate on the persons distinctly. (this classification keeps the covenant and the personal ad intra operations separate, but I am not quite sure how it all reconciles still. Yet it does seem to clear Owen of the problems with simplicity. Incidentally Muller’s section on ad intra/ad extra theology contradicts things said previously in this thread about the distinction of the persons — historical ignorance does seem to abound but not just on the TR side *smiles*. I’ve been enjoying learning more about this as I have not understood it before.) Also some Owen himself, where he distinguishes the ‘new habitudes’ from the ad intra personal relations:

    What the Scripture speaketh to these particulars, shall briefly be considered:—

    1st. For the fountain of his coming, it is mentioned, John xv. 26, Παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, — “He proceedeth from the Father;” this is the fountain of this dispensation, he proceedeth from the Father. Now there is a twofold ἐκπόρευσις, or “procession” of the Spirit:—

    (1st.) Φυσική or ὑποστατική, in respect of substance and personality.

    (2dly.) Οἰκονομική or dispensatory, in respect of the work of grace.

    227Of the first — in which respect he is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeding from both eternally, so receiving his substance and personality — I speak not: it is a business of another nature than that I have now in hand. Therein, indeed, lies the first and most remote foundation of all our distinct communion with him and our worship of him; but because abiding in the naked consideration hereof, we can make no other progress than the bare acquiescence of faith in the mystery revealed, with the performance of that which is due to the person solely on the account of his participation of the essence, I shall not at present dwell upon it.

    His ἐκπόρευσις or proceeding, mentioned in the place insisted on, is his economical or dispensatory proceeding, for the carrying on of the work of grace. It is spoken of him in reference to his being sent by Christ after his ascension: “I will send him which proceedeth,” — namely, “then when I send him.” As God is said to “come out of his place,” Isa. xxvi. 21, not in regard of any mutation in him, but of the new work which he would effect; so it follows, the Lord comes out of his place “to punish the inhabitants of the earth.” And it is in reference to a peculiar work that he is said to proceed, — namely, to testify of Christ: which cannot be assigned to him in respect of his eternal procession, but of his actual dispensation; as it is said of Christ, “He came forth from God.” The single mention of the Father in this place, and not of the Son, belongs to the gradation before mentioned, whereby our Saviour discovers this mystery to his disciples. He speaks as much concerning himself, John xvi. 7. And this relation ad extra (as they call it) of the Spirit unto the Father and the Son, in respect of operation, proves his relation ad intra, in respect of personal procession; whereof I spake before.

    (from ‘Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,’ chapter 1)

    I’m going to bow out again, just wanted to back up what I said rather than simply assert it.

  82. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Ok- SW remarks about Owen smack of being sophmorish and pedantic- that is narrowly, stodgily pretentious and often ostentatious for the sake of being ostentatious.

  83. Ruben said,

    May 24, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Hmm. I was going to post a rather lengthy reply here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Steven is unwilling to continue a conversation when others are sideswiping him (something for which I cannot by any means blame him).

    But if any one had any good quotes where Reformed theologians explained how the covenant of redemption functions without conflicting with other divine attributes, this would be a good place to post them.

  84. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Ruben
    SW remarks about Owen should be a bigger concern to your sense of civility than my taking umbrage with SW.

  85. Steven W said,

    May 24, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Well I’m not sure I understand how all this happened. I was actually attempting to use somewhat academic terminology to avoid this sort of e-brawling.

    Perhaps it was read as sarcasm, which would not be my intent. My goal was to speak as non-emotive as possible, while still being direct.

    Another time, I suppose.

  86. Ken Christian said,

    May 24, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Ref. 85 – Steven, your posts were just fine. Pretty much everyone agrees.

  87. Ruben said,

    May 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Mr. Johnson, I think my concern with Steven’s treatment of Owen was manifest from the fact that I was attempting to answer him, and show him that his reading was mistaken and at points uncharitable. I don’t think that turning up the temperature of the conversation has materially furthered that cause.

    I presume you know more about Owen than I do. Hence your assistance in pointing out how Steven’s treatment was inadequate would have been much appreciated, even if you only had time to give references to places in his works, or something similarly brief.

  88. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Actually, Ken, I don’t agree. In case this has escaped your notice, SW is a vocal defender of the Federal Vision ( actually, I think you are as well). The Federal Visionists do not like John Owen. He cannot be conscripted into their ranks and in fact because Owen was such a fierce critic of all things Arminian, he makes the FV crowd very uncomfortable. Why you ask? Well despite their protest to the contrary-the FV are closet Arminians- anyone with eyes to see knows this- with their condition covenantal election and their losable covenantal justification. Check out Kim Riddlebarger’s recent post on the Canons of Dort Rejection of errors.

  89. Ken Christian said,

    May 24, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Ref. #88 – Gary, I wasn’t commenting on whether or not Steven was correct, I was only addressing his tone (as he was in the comment I was responding to). The rest of your comment I won’t even dignify with a response. That ground has been covered countless times before. You can think what you’d like.

  90. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I was right, you are in the FV camp as well.

  91. Xon said,

    May 24, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Well, I guess all the moderators are busy looking after the paedocommunion thread, per Lane’s reasonable request there. But this is the most clear cut example of chest-thumping melodramatics you’ll find in these sorts of things. Gary, you may label every person in the world according to some taxonomy that you find helpful, but that doesn’t speak to the substance of their arguments at all.

    Steven has also graduated from seminary, by the way. Not that that has much to do with anything as far the validity or strength of his arguments are concerned.

    And your own sarcastic comments about Owen, Edwards, and Warfield are interesting. It would be such a bad thing for a little (allegedly) ungraduated seminarian like Steven to come on here and presume to argue where these guys go wrong, but given the concerns of some people in this thread about creation not being “necessary” I think a good number of you are implicitly claiming that Edwards went wrong. In any case, it would be interesting to see an account that harmonizes all three of these “greatest English-speaking Reformed theologians” in such a way that we don’t have to “presume” to disagree with any of them on anything. Otherwise, we’re all being a bit presumptuous, presumably. Or maybe the argument only applies to FVers like me and Steven and Ken and whoever else Gary disagrees with. A rhetorical one-way mirror…Which describes most of the arguments Gary offers here.

    I’m sticking my head out here to get some attention on this thread. If the mods want to give me a strike for just making an ad hom claim about Gary, then that’s fine (although my claim is factual…Gary doesn’t offer substantive arguments but simply labels the positions he disagrees with and appeals to authorities as though it is a priori improper to disagree with them). But please make sure you look at the earlier parts of the thread as well, while you’re here.

  92. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Xon
    Your reputation proceeds you , you sly ol’ Federal Visionist! Glad to hear that SW graduated seminary- I heard it was tuck and go towards the end.

  93. its.reed said,

    May 24, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Xon, Gary, et. al.:

    As a moderator who tends to want to stay on the unquestionably civil side of these debates, I’d say you and Gary have given as good as you’ve taken.

    I might not address myself in the manner that Gary or you have. Yet I’m not offended by either his challenges to SW, or your corrections and challenges back to him.

    It’s hard to know sometimes when a line is crossed. With you, I’ll trust our weaknesses here to the mercy of Christ.

    reed (moderator – 2nd string :) )

  94. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I have lost interest in this squabble Reed- as I have been pointing out over on the post on paedo-communion, we need to get on with the issue of revising the WFC. Think ‘Big’ tent- then Xon, SW and me can follow the sage advice of Rodney King.

  95. Ron Henzel said,

    May 24, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Ken,

    In response to Steven’s feignedly-innocent disclaimer in comment 85, you wrote in comment 86:

    Ref. 85 – Steven, your posts were just fine. Pretty much everyone agrees.

    You have got to be kidding! My baloney detector spiked higher with each successive comment from him.

    Don’t take silence as agreement. Some of us have these things called lives that tend to call us away from trying to constantly respond to people who have a habit of misreading and misquoting primary and secondary sources—which has been my frequent experience with Steven on this and other blogs.

  96. Xon said,

    May 24, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Argh. This whole thread since 71. Just argh. I’m glad Ron is perceptive enough to know when people are feigning innocence, though. That is likely a very useful talent to have. Too bad he’s wasting it here on GB.


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