For the edification of confessional Reformed Baptist pastors 

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Live-stream schedule for Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastors’ Conference ’17

 

Monday, November 6, 2017

  • 3:00-4:00pm, Session 1 (lecture #1, Context and Overview of 2LCF 4, “Of Creation,” Dr. James M. Renihan)
  • 4:15-5:15pm, Session 2 (lecture #1, The context of 2LCF 4.1 with special focus on the importance of hermeneutics and theological method, Dr. Richard C. Barcellos)
  • 6:30-7:30pm, Session 3 (lecture #2, The relevant issues of 2LCF 4.1, Dr. Richard C. Barcellos)
  • 7:45-8:45pm, Session 4 (lecture #2, “In the Space of Six Days,” Dr. James M. Renihan)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

  • 9:00-10:000am, Session 5 (lecture #3, What is creation?, Dr. Richard C. Barcellos)
  • 10:20-11:20am, Session 6 (lecture #4, Confessing Trinitarian creation with special focus on the doctrine of Trinitarian appropriations in John Owen’s “The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Creation,” Dr. Richard C. Barcellos)
  • 11:35am-12:35pm, Session 7 (lecture #1, Moral and Positive Law, Dr. Sam Renihan)
  • 2:00-3:00 pm, Session 8 (Q&A conference speakers)

Live-stream can be found here.

All times are PST.

“a boundary between the being of God and the being of creation”? brief thoughts on K. Scott Oliphint’s proposal

 

In a book by Dr. Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God, we find statements like this:

 

There is, then, a distance of being between God and man. How can the Infinite One relate to finite creatures?[1]

 

[There is a] problem (for us, not for God) of the distance of God, which distance constitutes a boundary between the being of God and the being of creation.[2]

 

The problem of distance and the dilemma of God’s relationship to creation is no problem or dilemma for Him.[3]

 

The reason why “the problem of distance” is not a problem for God is found in God. For, in the words of Oliphint, “the absolute and the relative exist, first and foremost, in the Triune God Himself!”[4] By “absolute” Oliphint intends what God is essentially or “God’s characteristics as God (and, thus, quite apart from creation).”[5] He lists among these characteristics God’s infinity, eternity, immutability, and impassibility.[6] What he intends by “relative” is “[t]he characteristics that God has because of His voluntary condescension . . .”[7] He also labels these as God’s covenantal characteristics.[8] He says, “Some of those [relative/covenantal] characteristics are now permanent (e.g., grace, wrath), some only temporary (e.g., theophanies, human forms, appearances as fire, in the Old Testament).”[9] So the “distance of being between God and man” is bridged by God himself. God remains eternal, infinite, and immutable in his essential characteristics, but he also must be viewed as “expressing Himself in ‘new’ characteristics in order to relate to us.”[10] And both God’s absolute and relative character exist in God. Recall these words of Oliphint: “the absolute and the relative exist, first and foremost, in the Triune God Himself!”[11] If the relative is not infinite, eternal, immutable, and impassible as the absolute, this entails it is finite, temporal, mutable, and passible. But if the relative really exists “in the Triune God Himself,” then, in the words of Porter, God assumed “an acquired mode of being that affords him the ontological conditions by which he can interact with his creation,” and thus, the boundary or “distance of being” has been bridged. The answer to Oliphint’s question, “How can the Infinite One relate to finite creatures?,” seems to be that he assumes finitude in himself.

Oliphint’s thesis assumes an ontological problem that must be overcome. He says, there is “a boundary between the being of God and the being of creation” (emphasis added). But is there such a problem or boundary? McFarland asserts there is no “sort of ontological barrier that might limit God’s intimacy with creation.”[12] Bavinck says, “Implied in creation is both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence . . .”[13] It seems to me that both Frame and Oliphint assume a working tenet of forms of what some call theistic personalism or mutualism; namely, given classical Christian theism, there are ontological conditions in the eternal God which must be overcome if divine immanence is to be.[14] Process theism sees “a fundamental metaphysical continuity between God and all that is not God.”[15] This is denied by Frame and Oliphint. But process theism further asserts that “[o]nly if God and the world operate on the same metaphysical plane is it possible for God to engage the world both directly and without compulsion.”[16] But is God an ontological boundary or barrier which must be overcome if he is to reveal himself to creatures? Is it the case that there is “a boundary between the being of God and the being of creation” (emphasis added)? We think not. McFarland is surely correct when he asserts, “God’s engagement with the world is neither impeded by nor subject to the metaphysics of becoming.”[17] God does not become in order to create or manifest himself to creatures. Creation manifests God to creatures. McFarland continues:

 

For while God’s acting outside of God’s self to bring into being that which is other than God does not involve any blurring of the distinction between God and the creature, neither does it presuppose any sort of ontological barrier that might limit God’s intimacy with creation.[18]

 

If God is pleased to manifest himself to creatures, then God does so; and he is so pleased. This we confess in 2LCF 4.1. Again, the God confessed as manifesting himself at confession 4.1 is the same God of confession chapters 2 and 3.

 

To be continued at SCRBPC ’17.

 

[1] K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 95.

[2] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 97.

[3] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 101.

[4] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 103.

[5] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[6] See Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[7] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[8] See Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[9] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 105.

[10] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 101. It seems that Oliphint has changed the way he states his covenantal properties/characteristics proposal in this book. In God with Us he uses the language of God taking “on attributes, characteristics, and properties” (110). In The Majesty of Mystery he uses “expressing Himself” (101) and “the covenantal characteristics . . . are expressed by God” (103), for example.

[11] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 103.

[12] McFarland, From Nothing, 55.

[13] Bavinck, RD, 2:110.

[14] See Frame, Systematic Theology, 378, where he says: “My approach bears a superficial resemblance to process theology, which also recognizes two modes of existence in God, transcendent and immanent . . .”

[15] McFarland, From Nothing, 18.

[16] McFarland, From Nothing, 18.

[17] McFarland, From Nothing, 19.

[18] McFarland, From Nothing, 55.

snippet from SCRBPC ’17 “God plus the world is still God, the Holy Trinity.”

“God plus the world is still God, the Holy Trinity.”

 

“God minus the world is still God the Holy Trinity,” says Fred Sanders. I would like to add to this the following: “God plus the world is still God, the Holy Trinity.” In other words, creation does not change God, nor does God change God in order to create. No work of God changes God in any sense whatsoever. He is not enhanced by what comes into being or self-enhanced in order to cause things to come into being. Webster says, “[N]o enhancement of God is achieved by the world’s existence.” [1] Creation is brought into contingent being without any change in the supreme being, who is God, the non-contingent cause of all contingent being. Creation is actuated, that is, caused, or effected. God the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, caused that which has come into being to come into being without any change of being in him. The change goes forth from God’s being and is reflective of that being, however. If change occurs in God due to creation, or anything else, God would not be immutable or simple in any meaningful sense. Confessing trinitarian creation requires that God remains God in the same sense God is God without creation. God just is, full stop. He is God whether creation or not creation; and the God who just is, is the three subsistences of the Trinity eternally. If one posits change in God due to creation, or anything else, one denies divine immutability and divine simplicity, no matter how loudly he attempts to affirm either or both. God is either immutable or not immutable. God is either simple or compounded. There’s no tertium quid (i.e., a third something) in God. Once divine immutability and simplicity are compromised, divine eternity is compromised, as are all other divine perfections. These basic elements of our confessed theology proper are important to remember while discussing creation.

 

_______________________

 

[1] Webster, God without Measure, 1:91.

“[M]uch of systematic theology that is done, especially in theology proper, needs a complete revision and rewrite”?

 

Really?

 

“[M]uch of systematic theology that is done, especially in theology proper, needs a complete revision and rewrite.” [1]

 

___________________________

[1] K. Scott Oliphint, “Theological Principles from Van Til’s Common Grace and the Gospel,” Lecture delivered at the 2014 Reformed Forum Theology Conference, Gray’s Lake, IL, October 2014. http://reformedforum.org/rf14_08/. Accessed 30 March 2015.

snippet from SCRBPC ’17 lecture

 

The 2LCF is a confession of faith.

 

It is important to remind ourselves that the 2LCF is a confession of faith, a confession of what subscribers to it believe the totality of the Bible teaches on given subjects. The confession is not merely a reference point from which we subsequently or further develop doctrinal conclusions; it is our doctrinal conclusions on the subjects which it addresses. Because the confession summarizes what the Bible teaches on given subjects, this means that all of the Bible is considered in the formulation of chapter 4. You can see this by noticing the Scripture references in 4.1. These texts are cited: John 1:2-3; Hebrews 1:2; Job 26:13; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:16; and Genesis 1:31. These references display an unrestricted canonical consultation while formulating 4.1. [1] This use of Scripture in the formulation of its statement on creation indicates a distinct working hermeneutic (confessed in 1.9, which we will examine later). This method of interpretation is an illustration of the analogy of faith. In other words, when formulating Christian doctrine, we must allow the totality of Scripture to speak prior to our formulations. We will return to this later. It is a very important issue.

________________________________________

 

[1] See Stefan T. Lindblad, “’Eternally Begotten of the Father’: An Analysis of the Second London Confession of Faith’s Doctrine of the Eternal Generation of the Son,” in By Common Confession: Essays in Honor of James M. Renihan, eds. Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, and James P. Butler (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015), 338, for a brief but helpful discussion “regarding the 2LCF’s practice of citing biblical texts.”

K. Scott Oliphint on the “distance of being between God and man”

 

K. Scott Oliphint on the “distance of being between God and man”

 

There is, then, a distance of being between God and man. How can the Infinite One relate to finite creatures? [1]

 

[There is a] problem (for us, not for God) of the distance of God, which distance constitutes a boundary between the being of God and the being of creation. [2]

 

The problem of distance and the dilemma of God’s relationship to creation is no problem or dilemma for Him. [3]

 

The reason why “the problem of distance” is not a problem for God is found in God. For, in the words of Oliphint, “the absolute and the relative exist, first and foremost, in the Triune God Himself!” [4] By “absolute” Oliphint intends what God is essentially or “God’s characteristics as God (and, thus, quite apart from creation).” [5] He lists among these characteristics God’s infinity, eternity, immutability, and impassibility. [6] What he intends by “relative” is “[t]he characteristics that God has because of His voluntary condescension . . .” [7] He also labels these as God’s covenantal characteristics. [8] He says, “Some of those [relative/covenantal] characteristics are now permanent (e.g., grace, wrath), some only temporary (e.g., theophanies, human forms, appearances as fire, in the Old Testament).” [9] So the “distance of being between God and man” is bridged by God himself. God remains eternal, infinite, and immutable in his essential characteristics, but he also must be viewed as “expressing Himself in ‘new’ characteristics in order to relate to us.” [10] And both God’s absolute and relative character exist in God. Recall these words of Oliphint: “the absolute and the relative exist, first and foremost, in the Triune God Himself!” [11] If the relative is not infinite, eternal, immutable, and impassible as the absolute, this entails it is finite, temporal, mutable, and passible. But if the relative really exists “in the Triune God Himself,” then, in the words of Porter, God assumed “an acquired mode of being that affords him the ontological conditions by which he can interact with his creation,” and thus, the boundry or “distance of being” has been bridged. The answer to Oliphint’s question, “How can the Infinite One relate to finite creatures?,” seems to be that he assumes finitude in himself.

Oliphint’s thesis assumes an ontological problem that must be overcome. He says, there is “a boundary between the being of God and the being of creation” (emphasis added). But is there such a problem or boundary? McFarland asserts there is no “sort of ontological barrier that might limit God’s intimacy with creation.” [12] Bavinck says, “Implied in creation is both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence . . .” [13] I think McFarland and Bavinck are right. This is to be continued at SCRBPC ’17. Watch for live-stream next week.

 

_____________________

 

[1] K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 95.

[2] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 97.

[3] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 101.

[4] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 103.

[5] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[6] See Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[7] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[8] See Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 102.

[9] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 105.

[10] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 101. It seems that Oliphint has changed the way he states his covenantal properties/characteristics proposal in this book. In God with Us he uses the language of God taking “on attributes, characteristics, and properties” (110). In The Majesty of Mystery he uses “expressing Himself” (101) and “the covenantal characteristics . . . are expressed by God” (103), for example.

[11] Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery, 103.

[12] McFarland, From Nothing, 55.

[13] Bavinck, RD, 2:110.

John Frame: two modes of existence in God?

 

From SCRBPC ’17 lecture –

Two modes of existence in God:

atemporal and historical?

 

John Frame says, “My approach . . . recognizes two modes of existence in God.” [1] Previous to this statement he says, “The difference between God’s atemporal and historical existences begins not with the creation of man, but with creation itself.” [2] Let’s consider these words: “two modes of existence in God” and “The difference between God’s atemporal and historical existences begins . . . with creation itself.” I do not think this proposal works at all. It certainly does not comport with the claims of Ames, Turretin, and à Brakel above. Francis Cheynell’s assertion is correct where he says:

 

We must not conceive that God was first in a naked Power of Being, and afterwards reduced unto actual Being by his own effectual Power as if his existence were really different from his essence, as its proper cause. [3]

 

I will speak more to this issue below. For now, remember that Frame claims at least one of God’s modes of existence began and it is different from his other mode of existence. This entails that in some sense God’s existence is “really different from his essence.” Frame even says, “God’s . . . historical existence begins . . . with creation itself.” The historical mode of existence must be a derived existence, since it is not eternal, which entails something as derivatively divine in God due to creation. Is this not a contradiction? This must be the case since it began and is, therefore, part of creation prior to man’s existence. If God’s so-called historical existence began with creation, it cannot be God’s atemporal existence. God’s historical existence, therefore, came-to-be, and to come-to-be is a necessary and exclusive feature of a creature. According to Geerhardus Vos, “That cannot be.” [4] Someone might push-back at this claiming Vos is not speaking of God’s historical existence but his atemporal existence. But Vos, as far as I can tell, never speaks of God’s historical existence. Frame’s view seems to entail that God came to possess a second mode of divine existence which began-to-be with creation. Assuming this to be the case, Vos’ “That cannot be” applies to Frame’s proposal. We will consider Vos’ statement in context below. [5]

________________

 

[1] Frame, Doctrine of God, 572.

[2] Frame, Doctrine of God, 571.

[3] Francis Cheynell, The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (London: Printed by T. R. and E. M. for Samuel Gellibrand at the Ball in Pauls Church yard, 1650), 8; emphasis original, spelling modernized.

[4] Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume One: Theology Proper (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012-2014), 5.

[5] Frame makes other assertions which are not reflective of the Reformed theological tradition. For example: “. . . relenting belongs to God’s very nature . . . Relenting is a divine attribute. . . . relenting is part of God’s unchangeable divine nature.” See John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 370. Just how relenting can be “part of God’s unchangeable nature” is not explained with any degree of cogency. Relenting implies changeableness not unchangeableness. In Frame’s Salvation belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 29, he says: “The Bible teaches that God has all the emotions we have, though in a more perfect way. . . . Some say that because of God’s self-sufficiency he cannot suffer. That is called impassibility. Certainly, God cannot suffer any loss of his attributes or divine nature, but the grief we spoke about earlier is certainly a kind of suffering” (emphasis original). Later Frame says: “God can’t suffer, man can suffer. . . . God, who cannot suffer, has taken to himself a human nature, in which he can suffer, in Christ” (130). Can God suffer or not? Is God impassible or not? The WCF, SD, and 2LCF assert that God is “without passions” (2.2). Granted, in the latter statement Frame locates suffering “in Christ” but the way he states himself is not precise enough to distinguish between the acts of the Mediator who works according to both natures “by each nature doing that which is proper to itself” (WCF, SD, 2LCF 8.7). Frame says: “[God] can suffer, in Christ.” It is much better to say the Son of God incarnate suffered according to his human nature. God cannot suffer. Putting it this way preserves divine impassibility and upholds the revealed mystery of the distinct acts of our two-natured Mediator. Maybe this is what Frame intends by his words. If so, there are better ways to state oneself. For a review article of Frame’s Systematic Theology see Ryan M. McGraw, “Toward a Biblical, Catholic, and Reformed Theology: An Assessment of John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief,” in Puritan Reformed Journal, 8, 2, (2016): 197-211. McGraw points out several departures from more traditional discussions of various Christian doctrines. For example, McGraw says: “Much more could be said about Frame’s Systematic Theology that illustrates where he suffers from a paucity of historical theology, such as shifting from discussing God’s intent in the free offer of the gospel to something approximating English hypothetical universalism; misunderstanding the historical context of the lapsarian controversy; importing the two natures of Christ into pre-incarnate theophanies; careless language on the Trinity, such as referring to “three divine beings”; inadequate understanding of the relationship between eternal generation and aseity in Reformed theology; imputing to the Son “eternal obedience” and even “eternal subordination of role” in relation to the Father; importing Christ’s threefold office into the definition of the image of God, rather than describing man’s function in the world in terms of these offices; opening the door for those who say that Adam was the head of a pre-existing group of early hominids, rather than existing by the special creation of God; redefining the Reformed doctrine of total depravity and accusing the traditional doctrine as teaching that man is as bad as he can be; questioning the legitimacy of a logical order in the traditional ordo salutis; and urging the church to adopt elements of Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Episcopalianism simultaneously and at its own discretion” (McGraw, “Toward a Biblical, Catholic, and Reformed Theology,” 211; for each claim, McGraw cites page numbers for Frame’s book).

Final page of last lecture for Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastors’ Conference ‘17

 

You can register for the conference here.

 

Psalm 104:30 says, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.” Here both creation and renewal are attributed to the Spirit of God. But notice one more thing about this text. Notice these words carefully: “You send forth Your Spirit.” Now listen to Bavinck: “special properties and works are attributed to each of the three persons . . .  in such a way that the order present between the persons in the ontological Trinity is revealed.” [1] The theologia is reveled in the oikonomia. The mystery of the Trinity is manifested in the external works of the Trinity. As Emery says, “In their common work of creation, the three persons act through their common nature, each person bringing his own property into play.” [2] This is why Webster can say the following:

 

The Holy Spirit is Lord and giver of life, creation’s perfecting cause. Creation is distinctly assigned to the Spirit in that he is the divine person by whom created things are brought to the proper end. . . . By the breath of the Spirit, who is himself breathed by the Father and the Son, creatures . . . come to be alive. [3]

 

“You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth,” says Psalm 104:30. The language of sending forth echoes the intra-trinitarian life of God. The Spirit is from the Father and the Son. As Horton says, commenting on Psalm 104:30, “The Spirit is not a power emanating but a person sent.” [4] Though God’s external works are not God (i.e., they do not constitute him), they tell us something about the triune God of the works (i.e., they manifest him). The works of God toward creatures reveal the triune God to creatures.

Economic appropriations are grounded in intra-trinitarian personal relations. A robust theological method of trinitarian creation accounts for the oikonomia through the lens of the theologia. This is why we can assert that all things come from the Father, by the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This is also why we confess the “doctrine of the Trinity [as] the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on Him” (2LCF 2.3). And this is why we sing:

 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host:

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 

I will close with these familiar words penned by our Lord’s apostle.

 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14)

 

____________________________

[1] Bavinck, RD, 2:318.

[2] Emery, The Trinitarian Theology of St. Thomas, 346.

[3] Webster, God without Measure, 1:97, 98.

[4] Horton, The Holy Spirit, 31.

sample of lecture on “Of Creation”: a footnote on John Frame

 

This is a footnote from a lecture for this year’s conference.

 

88. Frame makes other assertions which are not reflective of the Reformed theological tradition. For example: “. . . relenting belongs to God’s very nature . . . Relenting is a divine attribute. . . . relenting is part of God’s unchangeable divine nature.” See John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 370. Just how relenting can be “part of God’s unchangeable nature” is not explained with any degree of cogency. Relenting implies changeableness not unchangeableness. In Frame’s Salvation belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 29, he says: “The Bible teaches that God has all the emotions we have, though in a more perfect way. . . . Some say that because of God’s self-sufficiency he cannot suffer. That is called impassibility. Certainly, God cannot suffer any loss of his attributes or divine nature, but the grief we spoke about earlier is certainly a kind of suffering” (emphasis original). Later Frame says: “God can’t suffer, man can suffer. . . . God, who cannot suffer, has taken to himself a human nature, in which he can suffer, in Christ” (130). Can God suffer or not? Is God impassible or not? The WCF, SD, and 2LCF assert that God is “without passions” (2.2). Granted, in the latter statement Frame locates suffering “in Christ” but the way he states himself is not precise enough to distinguish between the acts of the Mediator who works according to both natures “by each nature doing that which is proper to itself” (WCF, SD, 2LCF 8.7). Frame says: “[God] can suffer, in Christ.” It is much better to say the Son of God incarnate suffered according to his human nature. God cannot suffer. Putting it this way preserves divine impassibility and upholds the revealed mystery of the distinct acts of our two-natured Mediator. Maybe this is what Frame intends by his words. If so, there are better ways to state oneself. For a review article of Frame’s Systematic Theology see Ryan M. McGraw, “Toward a Biblical, Catholic, and Reformed Theology: An Assessment of John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief,” in Puritan Reformed Journal, 8, 2, (2016): 197-211. McGraw points out several departures from more traditional discussions of various Christian doctrines. For example, McGraw says: “Much more could be said about Frame’s Systematic Theology that illustrates where he suffers from a paucity of historical theology, such as shifting from discussing God’s intent in the free offer of the gospel to something approximating English hypothetical universalism; misunderstanding the historical context of the lapsarian controversy; importing the two natures of Christ into pre-incarnate theophanies; careless language on the Trinity, such as referring to “three divine beings”; inadequate understanding of the relationship between eternal generation and aseity in Reformed theology; imputing to the Son “eternal obedience” and even “eternal subordination of role” in relation to the Father; importing Christ’s threefold office into the definition of the image of God, rather than describing man’s function in the world in terms of these offices; opening the door for those who say that Adam was the head of a pre-existing group of early hominids, rather than existing by the special creation of God; redefining the Reformed doctrine of total depravity and accusing the traditional doctrine as teaching that man is as bad as he can be; questioning the legitimacy of a logical order in the traditional ordo salutis; and urging the church to adopt elements of Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Episcopalianism simultaneously and at its own discretion” (McGraw, “Toward a Biblical, Catholic, and Reformed Theology,” 211; for each claim, McGraw cites page numbers for Frame’s book).

 

Here is the conference schedule.

 

Here is the registration page.

sample from lecture on “Of Creation”

 

Our confession lays the groundwork for understanding the divine economy by first establishing its interpretive basis in theology proper and the doctrine of the written Word of God.

 

Prior to discussing the external operations of God, the confession contains foundational statements concerning the ontology and ad intra works of God, the very same God who operates ad extra. These statements are made prior to and apart from statements about God’s external operations. [1] For example, consider the following statements from chapter 2, “Of God and of the Holy Trinity”:

 

The Lord our God is but one living and true God . . . (2LCF 2.1; emphasis added)

 

God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself, is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient . . . (2LCF 2.2; emphasis added)

 

In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word (or Son), and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided . . . (2LCF 2.3; emphasis added).

 

These metaphysical, ontological assertions concerning who God is condition our explanations of what God does. Our confession displays a theological method which itself gives priority to who God is (i.e., ontology) before it tells us what God does (i.e., economy). This means that anyone who subscribes our confession (or the WCF or SD) and pushes back on the priority of the ontological to the economic implicitly contradicts their confession of faith. By the way, this method of giving priority to God in himself over God for us is amply reflected in any systematic theology textbook worth owning and consulting.

Verses like Genesis 1:1, 2, 3, and 26 not only require the priority of theology proper over the interpretation of God’s economy, they require a doctrine of the written Word, inclusive of a theory of its interpretation. Consider these words from chapter 1 of our confession:

 

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. (2LCF 1.1a)

 

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly. (2LCF 1.9)

 

Assuming the truthfulness of these assertions, nothing other than the Holy Scripture presents man with “the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience” and nothing other than the Holy Scripture interprets itself infallibly. So, when seeking to explain creation and account for God’s ad extra works, we must not shelve our doctrine of the written Word, just as we must not shelve theology proper while doing the same. Let me dig into this a bit further.

 

________________________________

 

[1] In private written discussion on this issue, James Dolezal gave me this important feedback: “The order of the confession (in treating God before creatures) is logically arranged to reflect the order of principia, not to explain the epistemic route of humans in coming to the knowledge of God.” His point is that the confession is logically and ontologically arranged according to the principia theologiae, the fundamental principles of theology (i.e., Scripture and God). See Muller, Dictionary, 245-55.

 

Here is the schedule.

 

Here is the registration page.