Friday, March 9, 2012

Which Reformed Covenant Theology?

Guy Davies discusses some of Herman Bavinck's statements on the Covenant of Redemption on his blog Exiled Preacher. A good incentive to dig up and compare Bavinck, Kuyper and Schilder on this specific central issue in Reformed theology. Blogger Guy Davies starts out with a statement that invites us to do some research:
"The idea that the Father entered into a 'covenant of redemption' with the Son in eternity is a staple of Reformed covenant theology"
I myself am not so sure the idea that the Father entered into a 'covenant of redemption' with the Son in eternity is representative of all neocalvinist theological writings. Klaas Schilder, during the thirties, made "the covenant" a central theme of his theology. First chapter of his commentary of the Heidelberger Catechism gives us some idea of what he means. As J.J.C Dee writes in an introduction to one of Schilder's sermons:
"Schilders understanding of the covenant is characterized by a strong emphasis on God's work in history. This differentiates him from Kuyperian reformed scholastic and the Barthian dialectic theology where the teachings of the covenant are strongly connected to predestination so strongly, that it should be considered to have been erected in eternity. Schilder distinguishes sharply between covenant and election. He emphasizes, that the covenant has been erected in time as a historical reality. While Schilder is the theologian of the unity of history and for him there is only one covenant between God and man which moves through several historical phases. Unity between "work covenant" and "grace covenant" and between old and new covenant is preserved,..."
By the way, there is a copy in dutch of Reformed Dogmatics of Herman Bavinck online.

The schism in the reformed church in 1944 is directly related to this issue, as argued in an excellent article that says:
"Kuyper dacht sterk vanuit de eeuwigheid (idealistisch) en meende daarom dat God zijn Verbond ten diepste alleen had opgericht met de tot eeuwige zaligheid uitverkorenen en hun uitverkoren kinderen. Schilder daarentegen wilde vasthouden aan de lijn van de belijdenis, die in de vorige eeuw vooral binnen de kerken van de Afscheiding van 1834 weer naar voren was gekomen: God heeft zijn Verbond opgericht met de gelovigen en met al hun kinderen."
This question of "A Covenant Between the Father and the Son?" is also discussed on another blog. Klaas Schilder discusses the meaning of the word covenant in his lecture on the covenant in the Reformed symbols.

The big question has allways been, as Klaas Schilder points out halfway his College course on tthe Covenant in the Reformed Symbols" (good translation??):
"is het verbond in de tijd opgericht tussen God en de gelovigen, of: in de eeuwigheid tussen Vader en Zoon, waarbij de gelovigen materiaal waren, waarover gehandeld werd"
Klaas Schilder says here that the big question is allways: "Has the covenant been erected in time between God and the believers, or: in eternity between Father and Son, whereby the believers were material, over which was being decided"(my translation). When Klaas Schilder speaks of Father and Son in this context he uses the word "conventio" (meeting) and not covenant.

In that same text Klaas Schilder answers the question what should be the starting point, what should dominate in preaching, the covenant or the election. According to Schilder the covenant should dominate, while the covenante 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. "

A link to a document which has a comparison (not a very good one by the way) between Bavinck and Schilder on this subject.

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