Sunday, March 18, 2012

Election Or Covenant: Revelation & Inerrancy

In the article "Berkouwer: A Hole In The Dike?" by Carl W. Bogue, a very critical analysis of Berkouwer's writings(which he wrote in 1976 one year after he got his Th.D. from the Free University, smart thinking!!),  we read:
"It is Berkouwer’s conviction that election is the very “heart of the church”
Klaas Schilder in 1941 while teaching students in Kampen answers the question: "what should be the starting point, what should dominate in preaching, the covenant or the election"?:
"While the covenant contains the word of God, or actually is, as far as it comes from Him, and therefore the covenant should be leading and not election. The election is hidden in degree and scope etc. We should take our starting point in what is revealed. Through revelation we receive certainty of electioin."
During the sixties/seventies (or earlier, I have to look it up) Berkouwer emerged as a player in the debate against inerrancy. Jack Rogers of Fuller Seminary wrote his doctoral dissertation on the doctrine of Scripture in the Westminster Confession under Berkouwer’s supervision (published in 1967), and he is the translator of Berkouwer’s Holy Scripture (1975). Furthermore, he sees himself as leaving behind his “conservative” background and its “rigidity” while finding deliverance in Berkouwer:
 “It is possible to avoid the extremes of both conservatism and liberalism and yet develop into an outstanding evangelical theologian. My example is G. C. Berkouwer of the Netherlands.”
Randy Alcom writes on his blog:
"There’s a long and well-documented history involving Fuller and the inerrancy issue that you may not be aware of. Much of the discussion goes back to Harold Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible, which Jim mentioned, which was published in the 70s and contained many pages of documentation of statements from Fuller professors denying biblical inerrancy, and affirming that the original manuscripts of Scripture contain a variety of errors."
It appears the consistent trait in Berkouwer's work has been to ignore Klaas Schilder's good advice (see above) to:
"take our starting point in what is revealed"
It's clear Berkouwer and his disciples are far away from Abraham Kuyper's statements on biblical inerrancy in his "Principles of Sacred Theology". Jamin Hubner, who studies at Dordt, has further researched this intriguing topic and written the blogposts biblical inerrancy and what Kuyper really believed and biblical inerrancy and what Bavinck really believed.  Peter Enns discussed inerrancy with his blog readers recently here. Peter Enns's views are discussed by Ken Ham here. Although Enns was supported by a vote of 12-8 by the seminary faculty the Westminster Board of Trustees voted on March 26, 2008 to suspend Dr. Enns from his teaching position at the end of the spring semester.  Abraham Kuyper's doesn't just "articulate the idea that Jesus is the central point of the whole Bible" but states:
"Either Jesus' view of the Scripture is the true one, and then we should kneel in His presence; or Jesus' view of the Scripture is an enormous mistake, in which case the Rabbi of Nazareth can no longer be the absolute guide along the way of faith" 
Carl Bogue received his Doctor of Theology at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1975 and became pastor in the PCA in Akron Ohio in that same year. In that same year he wrote Jonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace mentioned by John Gerstner (sermon on justification by faith alone on youtube here) in his article Jonathan Edwards on "Covenant".  Gerstner wrote the influential book "rational biblical theology of Jonathan Edwards". Carl Bogue writes an article on Johnathan Edwards and the covenant of grace in which he mentions that he is a former student of John Gertsner. Carl Bogue states in a footnote to that article:
"Dutch Calvinism (he obviously means the Berkouwer brand) tends to view the Puritan doctrine of the covenant as the hole in the dike through which the Arminian flood poured. Jan Ridderbos. De Theologie van Jonathan Edwards (The Hague, 1907), p. 316, has much praise for Edwards but says his theology is not a pure Reformed system. Ymen Pieter De Jong, De Leer der Verzoening in de Arnerikaansche Theologie (Grand Rapids, 1913), "
Just like C.G. Berkouwer, Jan Ridderbos played an important role in the 1944 schism as well. With that we are back to why I got interested in Berkouwer in the first place: election and covenant. The introduction to Carl Bogue's book on Johnathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace immediately brings to my mind the schism of 1944 in the Gereformeerde Kerken:
"Twentieth century discussions of Edwards' covenant theology frequently named a tension in the purity of Edwards' Calvinism. Was his insistent teaching on the covenant of grace suggestive of incipient Arminianism"
Klaas Schilder's Dissertation "Zur Begriffsgeschichte des ‘Paradoxon’ " immediately comes to mind when reading the preface by Don Schweitzer to "John Edwards as contemporary, Essays in honor of Sang Hyun Lee":
"Lee (The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards,1988) showed how Edwards, on the basis of his dispositional ontology, re-conceptualized God's relationship to the world so as to transcend the dichotomy that has long haunted Western Christian thought between God's aseity and transcendence versus God's involvement in the world. Virtually every major tradition in the Biblical witness describes God in various ways as both creatively free and transcendent to the world and as internally related to it. However, from the patristic era on, attempts to conceptualize God's aseity in terms of Hellenistic metaphysics led to the development of classical theism, in which God is not affected by what happens to the world or in it in any way. Conversely, modern attemps to more adequately conceptualize God's involvement in the world and relatedness to it have tended to fall short in their affirmations of God's transcendence. Lee showed how Edwards' dispositional ontology enabled him to coherently affirm both. By conceiving God's nature and created reality in terms of a dispositional ontology Edwards was able to describe God as fully actual in the immanent Trinity and radically transcendent to creation, yet also as internally related to it in a positive way, so that creation and redemption bring a relative but still real increase to God's being."
Michael J. McGlymond and Gerald R. McDermott in the chapter "Calvinism and Edwards" of their book "theology of Jonathan Edwards":
"Carl Bogue exaggerates, but not much, when he decarles:
 "No issue is so fundamental to the understanding of Edwards the theologian as the Calvinist-Arminian controversy."
Jonathan Ray Huggins writes in his thesis on Jonathan Edwards on Justification by faith alone: An analysis of his thought and defense of his orthodoxy:
"Bogue understands Edwards to argue that:
"Faith then is our nonmeritorious uniting with Christ"
"Bogue concludes that, for Edwards:
"The blessing of the covenant of grace, analogous to the marriage covenant, is that all our sin and unrighteousness is Christ's, and all His blessings and righteousness are ours."
Further reading on Edwards, here is a list of books by Kenneth P Minkema from the Yale Jonathan Edwards center who is interviewed below together with Oshea Davis (sermons by Edwards on his website).

Klaas Schilder and Jonathan Edwards really seem to have a lot in common! Both were kicked out of the pulpet for one. Edwards views on supra,- and infralapsarianism, as mentioned by Oshea Davis, immediately bring to mind Schilder's refusal to choose between the two. It's amazing, Klaas Schilder actually quotes Jonathan Edwards once and in relation to infra- and supralapsarism on page 490 of his commentary on the Heidelberger Catechism sunday 4 question 10, a chapter that elaborates on the discussion/ controversy with Dutch American reformed theologian Herman Hoeksema! Klaas Schilder's direct ideological link with Geerhardus Vos at Princeton through "their roots in the second Dutch Reformation which brought them to a similar understanding of redemptive history" is additional indication of Schilder's similarities with Jonathan Edwards, as Geoff Thomas writes:
"Jonathan Edwards was born exactly a century after Cocceius and he wrote the first work on this theme in North America, "A History of the Work of Redemption." Schilder was the European pioneer of 20th century Biblical Theology, while Geerhardus Vos, who was 28 years older than Schilder, became the American leader."

Radio interview with Kenneth Minkema and Oshea Davis about Jonathan Edwards from OsheaDavis on Vimeo.

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