The Economy of the Covenants (Witsius)

This is the classic statement of Covenant Theology at the end of the 17th Century.  Witsius steers an irenic course between Voetsius and Cocceius. The first volume deals with Covenant Theology proper while the second volume analyzes the various types and shadows of the Old Testament.

Image result for herman witsius

Generally, covenants signify a mutual agreement between parties, with respect to something (43).  A covenant of God, furthermore, “is an agreement between God and man, about the way of obtaining consumate happiness,” including sanctions (45).  This covenant comprises three things: a) Promise; b) condition; c) sanction.

While it is a free agreement between God and man, man really couldn’t say no.  Not to desire God’s promises is to refuse the goodness of God, which is sin. Witsius views the CoW as probationary, yet Adam wouldn’t have “earned” the reward per any intrinsic merit.  The reward is rooted in God’s covenant, not in man’s merit.

Doctrine of God

God’s knowledge of future things cannot be conceived apart from his decreeing them (141).  The creature acts in concurrence with God’s action. All things come from God. There is only one first cause (I.8.15). If something could act besides having God as its cause, then there would be multiple first Causes, which is polytheism.

God and sin.  If all beings come from God, and even though sin is privation of being, it, too, is a kind of entity, then it also arises from God’s plan (para 22)

Book II.

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Covenant of Grace

Definition: a compact or agreement between God and the elect sinner, God on his part declaring his free good-will concerning eternal salvation, and every thing relative thereto, freely to be given to those in covenant, by, and for the mediator Christ; and man on his part consenting to that goodwill by a sincere faith (2.1.5).

Chapter 2: Of the Covenant between God the Father and Son

The covenant of redemption is between God and the Mediator. The will of the Father, giving the Son to be the Head and Redeemer of the elect; and the will of the Son, presenting himself as a Sponsor or Surety for them (2.2.2). Christ’s suretyship consists in his willingness to undertake to perform that condition (2.2.4).

The exegetical foundation is in Zech. 6.13.  There is a counsel of Peace between God and the Branch.

Covenant and Justification: God the Father, through Christ’s use of the sacraments, sealed the federal promise concerning justification (para 11).  Christ’s baptism illustrates the sealing of the covenant from both sides.

BOOK III

Chapter 1: Of the Covenant of God with the Elect

The contracting parties are God and the elect (281). The son is not only mediator but testator, who ratified the covenant with his death. Are there conditions in the covenant of Grace?  Earlier divines like Rutherford spoke a qualified “yes,” though Witsius removes himself from that language. Condition: that action which gives a man a right to the reward (284).

The Decalogue

The substance of the decalogue is the same as the moral law (p. 165). When God gave the decalogue to Israel, he published some reasons annexed to it that were peculiar to Israel alone (176). There is in some sense a repetition of the Covenant of Works in Sinai (IV.4,47).  However, it was not repeated simpliciter. Carnal Israel embraced it as a covenant of works (Rom. 9.31). Sinai contains no promise of grace.

The Old Covenant

Witsius contrasts the promises made to Abraham with the stipulations of the Sinaitic Covenant. In Sinai God did not promise to give the people a heart to obey (337).  And it is to this covenant, and not to the Abrahamic or Davidic covenants, that God contrasts with the New Covenant.

Conclusion

This is the classic statement.  Witsius gets somewhat speculative in the second volume, but the first volume definitely rewards careful study.

 

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Witsius, Notes: Vol 1

This is mainly Books 1-3 of The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (Reformation Heritage reprint)Image result for herman witsius economy of the covenants

Book 1

Chapter 1: Covenants in General

Generally, covenants signify a mutual agreement between parties, with respect to something (43).  A covenant of God, furthermore, “is an agreement between God and man, about the way of obtaining consummate happiness,” including sanctions (45).  This covenant comprises three things: a) Promise; b) condition; c) sanction.

While it is a free agreement between God and man, man really couldn’t say no.  Not to desire God’s promises is to refuse the goodness of God, which is sin.

Covenant of Works: in the covenant of works there is no mediator (49).

Chapter 2: Of the contracting parties of the covenant of works

The CoW = natural law = covenant of nature (50).  Witsius notes that there was supernatural revelation in this covenant (53).

Image of God

The imago dei has knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (54).

Chapter 3: Of the Law, or Condition, of the Covenant of Works

The law of nature: the rule of good and evil inscribed on man’s conscience.  Further, it is identical with the substance of the decalogue (62).

Witsius views the CoW as probationary, yet Adam wouldn’t have “earned” the reward per any intrinsic merit.  The reward is rooted in God’s covenant, not in man’s merit.

Chapter 4: Of the Promises of the Covenant of Works

Man’s natural conscience teaches him that God desires not to be served in vain (71).

Chapter 5: Of the Penal Sanction

Nature of the soul: a spiritual substance endowed with understanding and will (89).  Witsius notes that the soul is conscious of itself, which modern philosophers like JP Moreland call “self-presenting.”

Aquinas and the majesty of God: Adam’s disobedience, no matter how small, is divine treason–it is not honoring and infinite majesty as it deserves. God’s holiness is such that he cannot admit a sinner to communion without satisfaction first made to his justice (94).

Chapter 7: Of the First Sabbath

Contra Turretin, Witsius doesn’t think Adam fell on the first day (126).

Chapter 8: Of the Violation of the Covenant of Works on the Part of Man

Witsius suggests that Satan’s suggestion to Eve that she can disobey God and not die, which is a venial sin, is functionally equivalent to Rome’s definition of venial sin (138).

Foreknowledge and Predestination: God’s knowledge of future things cannot be conceived apart from his decreeing them (141).  The creature acts in concurrence with God’s action. All things come from God. There is only one first cause (I.8.15). If something could act besides having God as its cause, then there would be multiple first Causes, which is polytheism.

God and sin.  If all beings come from God, and even though sin is privation of being, it, too, is a kind of entity, then it also arises from God’s plan (para 22).

Chapter 9: Of the Abrogation of the Covenant of Works

The covenant of law demands a merit of perfect obedience, otherwise Christ would have been under no necessity to submit to this covenant (158).

Book II.

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Covenant of Grace

Definition: a compact or agreement between God and the elect sinner, God on his part declaring his free good-will concerning eternal salvation, and every thing relative thereto, freely to be given to those in covenant, by, and for the mediator Christ; and man on his part consenting to that goodwill by a sincere faith (2.1.5).

Chapter 2: Of the Covenant between God the Father and Son

The covenant of redemption is between God and the Mediator. The will of the Father, giving the Son to be the Head and Redeemer of the elect; and the will of the Son, presenting himself as a Sponsor or Surety for them (2.2.2). Christ’s suretyship consists in his willingness to undertake to perform that condition (2.2.4).

The exegetical foundation is in Zech. 6.13.  There is a counsel of Peace between God and the Branch. 

Covenant and Justification: God the Father, through Christ’s use of the sacraments, sealed the federal promise concerning justification (para 11).  Christ’s baptism illustrates the sealing of the covenant from both sides.

Chapter 3: The nature of the covenant between the Father and the Son more fully explained

Lines of argument:  Christ was foreordained (1 Peter i.20).

Rejects the idea of liberty of will = indifference (p. 187).

The reward the Son was to obtain:

  1. Highest degree of glory (John 17.1).
  2. Christ’s obedience is the cause of the rewards.

Chapter 4: Of the Person of the Surety

4 things necessary for a surety: true man;  holy man; true God; unity of person.

Chapter 7: Of the Efficacy of Christ’s Satisfaction

The proximate effect of redemption and payment of ransom is setting the captives free, and not a bare possibility of liberty (235).

Chapter 9: Of the Persons for whom Christ engaged and satisfied

Key point: those “all for whom” (2 Cor. 5.15) Christ died are those who are also dead to the old man (257).

Chapter 10: After What manner Christ used the sacraments

Key point: Christ used the sacraments of the old covenant to show them as signs and seals of the covenant, whereby mutual contracting parties are sealed (273). The promsies made to Christ as mediator were principally sealed to him by the sacraments.

BOOK III

Chapter 1: Of the Covenant of God with the Elect

The contracting parties are God and the elect (281). The son is not only mediator but testator, who ratified the covenant with his death. Are there conditions in the covenant of Grace?  Earlier divines like Rutherford spoke a qualified “yes,” though Witsius removes himself from that language. Condition: that action which gives a man a right to the reward (284).

Chapter 12: Sanctification

Witsius gives a warm and pastoral chapter on mortifying the flesh.

Concerning body, soul, spirit:

  1. Spirit is the mind, or the leading faculty of man (II.17).
  2. Soul denotes the inferior faculties.
  3. Yet spirit and soul aren’t two different substances.

God is the author and the efficient cause of sanctification (18).

Chapter 13: Of Conservation, or the manner by which God preserves us

God conserves us internally by the Spirit and externally by the means he hath appointed (55).  This is otherwise known as “P” in the unfortunately-named “TULIP.” Our security is guaranteed because of God’s covenant, not only with us, but between the members of the Trinity (62ff).

Chapter 14: Of Glorification

Df. = that act of God whereby he translates his chosen and redeemed people to the next life.

Nature of the Soul

The soul must continue after death because the righteous who die in the Lord are considered “blessed,” yet how can someone be blessed without knowledge or feeling?

Paradise and the thief on the cross:

It makes no sense to say that the “today, I say to you” refers to when Christ spoke.  The thief already knows that Christ is speaking on that day (p. 95). The thief was asking a “when” question, and Christ gives him a “when” answer.

 

An Arminian Theodicy

Arminianism:  divine election is based on foreknowledge of human choices. (this does touch on the Middle Knowledge debate, which will be discussed below).  Rutherford responds that this denies God as the author of second causes.  Arminians deny that grace determines the decision of free agency; claiming that both act together, this makes both “joint causes, the one not depending on the other…because second causes were denied, God was no longer master of events and altogether sufficient” (Coffey, 119-120). Even worse, Arminianism (and I will put all forms of full-syngerism and semi-Pelagianism under this umbrella for the moment) does not escape the problem of theodicy.  True, the Calvinist may have trouble explaining why God predestined some but not others, but the Arminian must explain why God created people whom he knew would reject him and burn forever (120).

Politics, Religion, British Revolution (Review)

By John Coffey.

John Coffey has filled in a woeful lacuna in Reformed historical scholarship: the absence of a good, critical, and thorough biography of the Covenanter Samuel Rutherford. In fact, Coffey goes on to say that there is not a decent biography of an Scot between John Knox and figures early in the 18th century.

In terms of scholarship the book is first-rate. The bibliography alone is worth purchasing the book. There is one problem, though: Coffey is a baptist. Now, I am not being mean or parochial in saying that. Coffey himself admits it. I bring that up because the Baptist worldview necessarily entails certain things about covenants, politics, and even how one views salvation. Coffey himself admits this colors his conclusion somewhat (Coffey, xi). At the end of the book Coffey will disagree with Rutherford’s worldview, but until then he does a wonderful job explaining it. The book is divided into eight chapters, with six analyzing different aspects of Rutherford.

In terms of actual biography, Coffey stays to the main tradition and simply updates older scholarship. Of interest is his suggestion that Rutherford fornicated in his youth (37). Coffey admits there isn’t decisive evidence for it, but suggests he did anyway. Myself, I’ll stick with the evidence and just say, “I don’t know.” In explaining his life Coffey points out how various religious communities have approached Rutherford. Evangelical pietists (likely Banner of Truth) have focused on Rutherford’s letters and its warm piety. Theonomists and the Christian Right in America focused on Lex, Rex, claiming Rutherford anticipated Lockean ideas of liberal democracy. Thankfully, Coffey buries the Christian Right myth by pointing out, contrary to Francis Schaeffer, that there is no evidence that Locke or Witherspoon ever read Rutherford (12).

The Scholar

The chapter on Rutherford the scholar examines his academic upbringing. Of particular note is the various strands of post-Renaissance and Reformation secular learning that was employed at various universities. Rutherford will later synthesize Thomism and biblical law and the beginnings of the former regarding Rutherford are found here. Coffey’s discussion of Ramism is intruguing.

The Pastor

Continuing with the more biographical strand, Coffey recounts the various troubles Rutherford got into as a pastor. I won’t say more since this information is readily available elsewhere.

The Reformed Theologian

This is where the money begins. Despite much of Coffey’s antipathy towards Rutherford, Coffey does a fine job explicating Rutherford’s high Calvinism. He begins by burying earlier Calvin vs. the Calvinists theses, showing that they reflect more of Barth’s disciples than they do of Calvin. Therefore, Rutherford can be seen continuing Calvin’s high predestinarianism within the framework of a covenant and using a different grammar than Calvin, but all the while staying faithful to the Reformed tradition. First, we must see Rutherford’s foil: Arminianism.

Arminianism: divine election is based on foreknowledge of human choices. (this does touch on the Middle Knowledge debate, which will be discussed below). Rutherford responds that this denies God as the author of second causes. Arminians deny that grace determines the decision of free agency; claiming that both act together, this makes both “joint causes, the one not depending on the other…because second causes were denied, God was no longer master of events and altogether sufficient” (119-120). Even worse, Arminianism (and I will put all forms of full-syngerism and semi-Pelagianism under this umbrella for the moment) does not escape the problem of theodicy. True, the Calvinist may have trouble explaining why God predestined some but not others, but the Arminian must explain why God created people whom he knew would reject him and burn forever (120).

Divine Premotion: in responding to the Molinists, Rutherford fell back on an old Thomist idea–God acts on secondary causes to produce actual effects (125). Rutherford’s other views led to a supralapsarianism with its strengths and weaknesses.

Covenant theology: This will come into play later in the section on politics, but I will deal with it now to show that Coffey misunderstands Rutherford on one key point (more on that below). Coffey correctly places Rutherford in the line of John Knox, not John Locke. Rutherford’s covenant theology also functions as a prism by which he will launch his political theology. Coffey will later charge Rutherford with trying to force “Reformed Christian” rules on an ungodly Scotland. Further, Coffey argues that this is inconsistent: how can one force the covenant of grace on those who do not necessarily have grace? There are many lines of response, but my main thought is, “So what?” Anyone who’s spent more than fifteen minutes reading ethics knows that is does not always correspond to ought. For example, I know unregenerate people in America might want to commit murder–they’ll never change. Should I then, as a magistrate, not pass a law against murder?

Natural Law: Coffey suggests that Rutherford forged an uneasy connection between natural law and biblical law. Lex, Rex was written to justify resistance to the king. Contra Locke, Rutherford argued that the fundamental unit is not the individual, but the covenant community. The making of a king, therefore, has two dimensions: his immediate authorization from God, and the mediate authorization through the covenant community. Civil society, Rutherford would argue, is natural in radice and voluntary in modo.

Covenant and resistance: The people (we will leave that term undefined for the moment) could resist an ungodly king if he broke the covenant. Coffey suggests that Rutherford was embarrassed by the New Testament injunctions against rebellion. I think Coffey is embarrassed. True, the New Testament warns against lawless rebellion, but these ethical commands, like all ethical commands, have to be applied in day-to-day situations. What about the numerous Old Testament commands to rebel against lawfully-ordained tyrants? Did God change his moral standard? Rutherford actually mentions these verses, but Coffey doesn’t deal with them

Coffey, however, is to be commended for calling to light some humorous comments from Rutherford. One of the planks of natural law reasoning is the command to preserve our own life, other things being equal (interestingly, Jesus’ command to love others as ourselves is meaningless if the following premise is not granted). Rutherford asks, “If an Irish criminal, who happens to be deputized by the king, is about to kill us, natural law requires us to unhorse him and then engage in reasoning.” Rutherford does list a number of other situations where armed resistance is the only moral option: if the deputy/king wants you to sodomize someone, violate a woman, etc., only a morally-diseased person will plead pacifism in that case. That last line is from me, not Coffey.

Ecclesiastical Statesman: Coffey shows remarkable restraint on Rutherford’s presbyterianism. There is not much to add to this chapter.

National Prophet: This is where Coffey starts to get annoyed at Rutherford. He suggests that Rutherford’s covenantal theology, which included the non-elect, was in tension with his ideas of a “purged and renewed Scotland.” There is tension in how Rutherford applied it, and I think Rutherford can be justly criticized on those points, but I see no tension in the thesis itself. Of interest is Rutherford’s exegesis of Isaiah 49, wherein he sees Scotland prophesied as one of “the isles.” We may laugh at such exegesis, but I think there is something to it. Rutherford’s point, though, is that Scotland had received and banqueted with Christ, and then her nobles forsook him. Which leads Rutherford to his next point, judgment.

Apocalypticism. Coffey has an interesting chapter on Rutherford’s apocalyptic language, but like all academics, he misses the larger point. Not once does Coffey rightly identify this for what it is: historicist eschatology. This is an old Protestant reading of Scripture and how Coffey, who has done thorough research on everything else, missed this point is beyond me. Congruent with my own interests, though, is Rutherford’s awareness of that great champion of Protestantism, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (230, 239), whom Rutherford calls “a latter day Gideon.” (Coffey is somewhat smug in noting Rutherford’s dismay at Gustvus’ death, as though this disproved Rutherford’s eschatology. I think there are answers here, but I won’t waste time responding to them).

Conclusion and Critique

In terms of thorough scholarship, this book is to be commended. There are few modern (if any) biographies on Rutherford. The price, unfortunately, will deter many from buying it. The book has its imperfections, though. Coffey criticizes Rutherford on the last page as pursuing the wrong causes. He should have pursued an evangelical pietism instead (258). This is ironic because Coffey earlier criticized pietistic readings of Rutherford. We grant with Coffey that Rutherford faced a difficulty in applying the covenants to a largely unregenerate nation, but so what? We must be faithful to the Lord regardless of what the situation looks like. If the world and nation are dark and opposed to us, it is precisely at that moment that we press the Crown Rights.

Turretin vol 1, Review

Recent (that is, pre-1992 A.D.) Reformed theology can be sadly described as a generation arising “which knew not Turretin.” To paraphrase Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring: Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. Turretin’s categorical form of argumentation was one of those “things.” Turretin’s strength is in identifying precisely the issue in question. This allows him to accept and acknowledge points of agreement with his opponents,rather than simply seeing everything as “Arminian.” Recent Reformed (and Arminian-Rome) polemics have all focused on a few issues: predestination, free will, assurance, the Canon, etc.

Turretin understood that there were other issues, too: anthropology, middle knowledge, etc. which also need to be addressed. The English translation of Turretin fills a woeful lacuna.

Principia

While it might be anachronistic to label Turretin’s epistemology as “Common Sense Realism,” one can see similarities. Reason is not ultimate, but it is a reliable guide not only in matters of “nature” but also in “grace.” In using reason in theology, Turretin distinguishes between two extremes. Unlike the a-rationalists (Anabaptists, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox), reason can function as a principium in theology. It is not the fundamental principia upon which all theology rests (that is the principium essendi); rather, it is an instrumental principle (I: 24).

Turretin does ascribe a functional role to “natural reason.” Natural man, whatever that phrase means, can understand axiomatic truths (29-30). Reason is of particular instrumental use in terms of inference and middle premises. For example, Christ’s ubiquity denied in the following way: “Besides, while the theologian uses arguments drawn from reason, he does it rather as a philosopher rather than as a theologian. As to the ubiquity of the body of Christ, we reject this doctrine both philosophically and theologically, because it is absurd and contradicts the first principles of theology and philosophy.” In other words, the definition of a human nature is that it isn’t ubiquitously extended into space. The Lutheran (and EO) view of the communicatio extends it ubiquitously in space. Therefore, such view is wrong.

Turretin explains:[T]he middle term [in the theological syllogism] is not taken from reason, but scripture…For example, I deny that the glorified body of Christ is everywhere, having taken from Scripture this mean, that it is a real body” (26-27)

Canon and Scripture

So did the Church create the canon? If so, doesn’t that mean the church has authority over the canon? Turretin meets this challenge head-on and notes, given what everyone accepts about principia, proves that the Protestant position is the only feasible one. If the Scriptures come primarily from God—as all must concede—then they bear God’s authority. If they bear God’s authority, then they get their primary authentication from God (85ff). That the church was instrumental in delivering aspects of a canon (I still dispute that the church gave a neat canon) no one denies. That is precisely the point: the church was instrumental, not original. Only the Protestant doctrine of magisterial and ministerial authority can make sense of this point.

Decrees of God

God’s Foreknowledge of Future Contingencies:

Middle Knowledge: God’s foreknowledge about future contingent events whose truth depend not on God’s free decree (being anterior to this), but upon the liberty of the creature (which God certainly foresees). As Turretin clarifies, Whether besides the natural knowledge of God (which is only of things possible) there is in God a middle knowledge of men and angels where he knows what they may without a special decree preceding (I: 214).

Turretin responds: things not true cannot be foreknown as true. Now, conditional future things are not true apart from the determination of the divine will; for example, the Sidonians would have repented if the powers had been supplied to them, for they would have been indifferently disposed in their nature to repend or not repent, those powers being given. ..No effect can be understood as future without the divine decree, so no future conditional can be knowable before the decree.
Again, knowledge either makes the event certain or foresees it as certain…
A thing may be contingent in two ways:
• by depending on God as first cause (as all of creation is thus contingent, since God didn’t have to create)
• by depending on prior second causes (which produce or not produce their effects).
Turretin is speaking of these contingents.

A future contingent implies both certainty of event and mode of production. As future it is certain, but as contingent in its mode of production. It has the former from the decree of the First Cause, the latter from the constitution of the second cause. The mode of production is clarified by the Westminster Confession of Faith V.2: It identifies God as the First Cause, corresponding with the first point made by Turretin, but notes that the First Cause orders the events to happen in three modes: freely, necessarily, or contingently.
An event can be both infallibly certain yet contingent. Thus, all things take place by the necessity of consequence, not the necessity of the consequent. Turretin notes that man’s actions can be free because they are spontaneous and follow rational judgment, but necessary because of God’s decree (I: 211).

Free Will

(Turretin, I: 502). God does not compel rational creatures to act by a physical necessity, he only effects this–that they act both consistently with themselves and with their own natures (508). This necessity is one of consequence–it secures the action and result of a cause. It is necessary according to the eternal premotion of God, but it is spontaneous according to the mode of acting (509). The premotion does not take away the mode proper to the nature of things.
For example, the harp player is the cause of music, but not of the dissonance plucked from the strings. Quoting Alvarez, “It does not follow that God is the cause of sin because he determines to the act; because the deformity follows the act, not as in the genus of nature, but as it is in the genus of morals and as it is caused by the free will (510). Relating the concourse of God and the free will of man 1. The concourse of providence and the human will is not of collateral and equal causes, but of unequal and subordinate (512). This follows on anyone’s gloss since God is by definition the First Cause.

2. God moves secondary causes according to their nature and mode. Thus, it is necessary according to the source (as coming from the First Cause), but free as to the mode. 3. Absolute liberty belongs to God; dependent liberty belongs to the creature. “The subject of free will is neither the intellect, nor the will, but both faculties conjointly” (I: 660). Here Turretin examines the Scholastic problem of the priority between intellect and will. Viewed in different lights either one can work. Practically speaking, people do not separate these two in their actings so we can speak of them together.

Turretin gives his famous discussion concerning the “necessity of necessity.” Non-Reformed positions, while prating long about free will, rarely interact with the hard questions it raises. Only the Reformed position does justice to both necessity and liberty. “Choice” belongs to the intellect; …

The will is determined by God with respect to decree but only in a concursive sense (God determines the actions but leaves the modes of acting free). We deny indifference of will but affirm rational spontaneity (665). Concourse and concurrence: When God and man’s will overlap. The question is how may we best explain man having liberty while being under the control of God’s providence? Turretin follows Aquinas: second causes are predetermined by God; When the free will moves itself, this does not exclude its being moved by another, from whom it receives the very power to move itself (ST, 1, Q. 83, Art. 1)
1. God gives second causes the strength and faculty to act
2. God keeps and sustains them in being and vigor.
3. He excites and applies second causes to acting
4. He determines them to acting
5. he rules them to accomplish the ends.

Anthropology and Sin

Original Sin: Those who deny original sin have to explain why death is prevalent even among infants and imbeciles. Romans says the wages of sin is death. If the curse of death is universal, it necessarily follows that the wages of sin is universal. Yet, how can they be held accountable for sin before the giving of the law (Romans 5:12-13)? Only something like the Covenant of Works can really answer this question. Yes, the curse of death is imputed to us (as our Eastern friends tell us). Yes, death is the enemy. But as Paul makes clear, how can there be death without the wages of sin?

Rome and the Superadditum

Rome, pace Bellarmine (“De Gratia prime hominis,” 5, 6 in Opera [1858], 4:23-29, quoted in Turretin, I:471), viewed in natural man a contest between flesh and spirit, and God’s superadded gift is like a “golden bridle” to reign in the flesh. By contrast, Turretin notes that if original righteousness were an added gift, then man’s nature would have been inherently lacking. Rome places concupiscence before the fall; Protestants place it after the fall. At this point Rome cannot escape the age-old stereotype that it views matter as “not quite bad.” If concupiscence is natural to man’s created state before the fall, then ultimately man’s problem isn’t sin but finitude. The inevitable conclusion is that God made man’s very matter one of disorder (472). Protestants do believe in concupiscence, though. We see it as an inclination to sin after the fall. Still, we reject a positive principal of sin in the human nature. This rejection, plain and simple, precludes any possibility of a so-called Manicheanism.

Conclusion:
If Reformed seminaries are not teaching through this book, then their students will not be prepared to face challenges from Rome and neo-Socinians.  I seend it with my own eyes at RTS.

Does Foreknowledge Change Anything?

One of the common rebuttals to Calvinism is the claim that predestination = God’s foreknowing our future decision(s) to choose or not choose him.  It’s an attractive position.  It allows human dignity and responsibility yet also posits a timeless God.  We will call it weak foreknowledge (Fw).  

While I’m sympathetic to this position and want to hold to something like Fw at the end of the day, I am not sure it delivers on what it promises.  It claims the following:

(1)  God foresees my future decisions.
(1a) God does not cause my future decisions.

Outside of Open Theism, every non-Calvinist agrees with these propositions.  We must then add some conclusions about God that both sides (open theism excluded) hold.

(2) God’s knowledge is immediate and nondiscursive.  

In other words, God doesn’t have to figure stuff out or reason his way to a solution that he didn’t know.  Yes, I understand the verses but every tradition holds those as anthropomorphic.  

(3) God’s essence is simple and immutable.  

(3) says that God doesn’t change.

(2) and (3) allow us to add another premise:

(4) God’s knowledge is fixed.

How does all of this relate to the discussion on predestination? If God’s knowledge is fixed and immutable, and if God sees into eternity future (whatever that means), then aren’t my actions just as fixed?

(1*) God’s knowledge of my future decisions is a knowledge of what I will do.

It’s not clear how I am still free on the quasi-Arminian gloss.  Sure, I as an acting free agent freely employ my will to choose God (JBA–I actually hold to something like this position), but the end result hasn’t changed   Let’s add the classic libertarian hypothesis:

(5) I could have acted otherwise.

Can (5) obtain?  It’s not immediately clear that it can.  Premises (3) and (4) point to a fixed knowledge of future events.  Has the Arminian’s commitment to (1) logically reduced to Calvinism?

Maybe not.  The advocate of LFW (Libertarian Free Will) has several responses:

(6) God’s knowledge of future events does not destroy certainty.

Even Charles Hodge will agree with this point (Systematic Theology, II: 294-306).  Hodge doesn’t actually say much on this point, simply that certainty and free choice aren’t exclusive.  That is true, but he doesn’t tell us why they aren’t exclusive.  

William Lane Craig, an Arminian, clarifies: certainty is a predicate of persons, of knowers.  Necessity is a predicate of events known (Craig, “The Middle Knowledge View,” in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 127-128).  Bruce McCormack agrees: “God’s foreknowledge gives him certainty with regard to what will happen.  Whether the events God knows with certainty take place necessarily or contigently is a function of the natural and historical conditions under which they take place” (McCormack, “The Actuality of God,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God, 205).

At this point the LFW’s commitment to (1) seems to obtain and functions as a logically coherent alternative to Calvinism.   However, there still lurks some ambiguities.

(7) Does the Bible teach this?   

I can’t go into the exegetical points here.  I am simply trying to work through some logical underpinnings.

(8) Granting (6) obtains, am I still really, really free?

The objection argues that (6) inevitably collapses back into (1*).  It still appears to be the case that I am going to do this set of actions (Sx) and not another set of actions (Sy).  (8) appears to be a psychological rebuttal to (6), not a logical one.  In other words, even if (8) obtains, (6) is still logically coherent.  However, the LFW has one more option:

(9) The doctrine of Middle Knowledge allows one to affirm (5), (6), and (1*).  

But that’s for another post.

Conclusion

Can the advocate of LFW offer (1) as a rebuttal and alternative to Calvinism? Phrase another way, (1) is logically coherent.  However, the ultimate truth of (1) depends on other exegetical variables.