Friday, April 14, 2006

Select Annotations and Quotations on Supra- & Infralapsarianism

Here are all four parts:

Part I - Westminster Assembly

Part II - Reformation and Post-Reformation

Part III - Systematic Theologians

Part IV - For Further Study

Select Annotations and Quotations on Supra- & Infralapsarianism: Part IV

This is the last installment in this select bibliography on the infra- and supralapsarianism debate. Below, I highlight additional articles, essays, and books for further study.

For Further Study

Basic Definitions

  • In addition to Berkhof, Alan Gomes gives a concise definition of the lapsarian views in W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003), 956-957. Hands down, the most valuable resource for terms and definitions is Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985). For example, see the following entries: causa (61), damnatio (87), decretum (88), electio (101), infra lapsum (155), intuitu fidei/ intuitu incredulitatis finalis (158-160), lapsus (172), massa perditionis (184), ordo rerum decretarum/ ordo decretorum Dei (215), praedestinatio (233-235), praeterito (243), reprobation/ reprobi (263-264), and supra lapsum (292).

General Overview

  • In addition to Bavinck and Barth, H. Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics is an indispensable tool for getting acquainted with many primary sources from the 16th and 17th century, Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics: Set Out and Illustrated From the Sources, ed. Ernst Bizer, trans. G. T. Thomson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), 133-149. For a good historical and theological survey, see G. C. Berkouwer, Divine Election (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 254-277.

Westminster Confession

  • In addition to Warfield and Murray, John Fesko’s work is the most recent and thorough scholarship on this debate. Although his claim that the infralapsarianism of Westminster and Dort is a moderation of the supralapsarianism of Calvin is provocative to say the least! Nevertheless, his argument is both critical and constructive and is well worth careful consideration. See J. V. Fesko, Diversity Within the Reformed Tradition: Supra- and Infralapsarianism in Calvin, Dort, and Westminster (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press, 2001); idem, “The Westminster Confession and Lapsarianism: Calvin and the Divines,” The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century: Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, vol. 2, ed. J. Ligon Duncan (Fearn: Mentor, 2004), 477-526. Guy Richard’s recent article on Samuel Rutherford takes a slightly different angle from Fesko. Building on the modified language of Rutherford’s supralapsarianism, Richard argues that Westminster is an inherently supralapsarian consensus document that does not exclude infralapsarianism. See Guy M. Richard, “Samuel Rutherford’s supralapsarianism revealed: a key to the lapsarian position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?” Scottish Journal of Theology 59.1 (2006): 27-44. For something of a via media between Fesko and Richard, see Derek W. H. Thomas, “The Westminster Consensus on the Decree: The Infra/Supra Lapsarian Debate,” The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, vol. 3, ed. J. Ligon Duncan (Fearn: Mentor, forthcoming).

Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

[NB: This bibliography has narrowly focused on the infra- and supra- perspectives of the decree with only the occasional reference to Arminianism and Amyraldianism and no mention of the influence of Ramism. The following references will point those interested in pursuing these discussion to the pertinent sources.]

  • Richard Muller’s work needs no introduction. Since his monumental work Christ and the Decree, his research has become essential reading for anyone wanting to clearly understand the intellectual, theological, exegetical, and historical contexts of this debate. Among other writings, see Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (Durham, NC: Labyrinth Press, 1986; paperback ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988); idem, God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius: Sources and Directions of Scholastic Protestantism in the Era of Early Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991); idem, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003); idem, “Perkins’ A Golden Chaine: Predestinarian System or Schematized Ordo Salutis?” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. IX, no. 1 (1978), 69-81; idem, “The Use and Abuse of a Document: Beza’s Tabula praedestinationis, the Bolsec Controversy, and the Origins of Reformed Orthodoxy,” Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment, eds. Carl R. Trueman and R. Scott Clark (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), 33-61; idem, “God, Predestination, and the Integrity of the Created Order: A Note on Patterns in Arminius’ Theology,” Later Calvinism: International Perspectives, ed. W. Fred Graham (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1994), 431-446; idem, “Found (No Thanks to Theodore Beza): One ‘Decretal’ Theology,” Calvin Theological Journal 32.1 (1997): 145-151; idem, “The Myth of ‘Decretal Theology,’” Calvin Theological Journal 30.1 (1995), 159-167.

  • In addition to Muller, see Joel R. Beeke, “The Order of the Divine Decrees at the Genevan Academy: From Bezan Supralapsarianism to Turretinian Infralapsarianism,” The Identity of Geneva: The Christian Commonwealth, 1564-1864, eds. John B. Roney and Martin I. Klauber (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998), 57-76; Lynne Courter Boughton, “Supralapsarianism and the Role of Metaphysics in Sixteenth Century Reformed Theology,” Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986): 63-96.

  • Post-Reformation historiography has (thankfully) moved beyond the arguments of Hall, Armstrong, Kendall, Torrance, Clifford, et al. Nevertheless, their influence still seems to carry weight in some circles and is important for this discussion. For a quick crash course in the Calvin/Calvinist debate, see Paul Helm, Calvin and the Calvinists (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1982); Richard A. Muller, After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition (Oxford: OUP, 2003), 63-102 [NB: Muller’s discussion can also be found in Calvin Theological Journal 30 (1995): 345-375 and Calvin Theological Journal 31 (1996): 125-160.]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

John Owen: Scripture and Authority

Below are my notes on S. Gundry's essay on Owen and Scripture. For a similar overview, see K. Scott Oliphant's article, "John Owen and the Authority of Scripture."

Stanley Gundry, “John Owen on Authority and Scripture,” Inerrancy and the Church, ed. John D. Hannah (Chicago: Moody, 1984), 189-221.

Inerrancy and the Church is a collection of essays which carefully refute the infamous book co-authored by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979). Rogers and McKim argue that the “central church tradition” affirms that the Bible’s message of salvation (its function) is authoritative but its words may be fallible (its form). In other words, the doctrine of accommodation assumes errancy and fallibility. Accordingly, the doctrine of inerrancy is an historic innovation foreign to the Scriptures. The guilty culprits for Rogers/McKim are the post-Reformation scholastics of the seventeenth century and the Princetonians of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Aquinas, Beza, Turretin, the Hodges, and Warfield are the bad guys. Contra their claims, Inerrancy and the Church asserts that the historic position of the church is the absolute authority and inerrancy of Scripture.

A hinge in the Rogers/McKim thesis is that John Owen stands as a transitional figure between the “Reformation stance of the Westminster Divines and the Protestant scholasticism of his continental contemporaries” (Rogers and Mckim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, 219-220). Stanley Gundry’s essay sets out 1) to examine Rogers/McKim’s presentation of Owen, and 2) to outline Owen’s approach to the problem of authority and Scripture.

Gundry’s article begins with a cursory review of the question of ultimate authority – particularly in regards to seventeenth century. Gundry makes the bold claim that “no other theme is more pervasive throughout the volumes that came from [Owen’s] pen” (190). While not denigrating the monumental importance of Scriptural authority in Owen’s writings, this is a slight overstatement. Perhaps it was made for the purposes of the polemic. If so, Gundry’s sentiment is appreciated, although other themes such as the divine covenants, the glory of God in Christ, communion with the Triune God are equally as prevalent in the Owenian corpus.

Before entering into his analysis of Owen, Gundry provides a brief biographical sketch of the Puritan. He makes another striking claim when he indicates that Owen’s theology remained unchanged throughout this career, “Except for the fact that he moved from Presbyterianism to Independent Congregationalism, Owen’s theological position underwent no significant change during his lifetime” (191). If his statement is merely to suggest that Owen wrote and ministered within the broader western and reformed theological tradition, then his observation is most definitely correct. Unfortunately, his assertion may give the impression that Owen’s theological development was static and immutable. Evidently, Owen’s later articulation of the absolute necessity of the atonement was merely an insignificant theological modification! Nevertheless, Gundry’s portrait of Owen is anything but static. His handling of the London Polyglott controversy later in the article reveals a confused Owen who unrelentingly held to the inspiration of the vowel pointings yet reluctantly wrestled with the findings of the emergent field of textual criticism.

The bulk of the essay expounds Owen’s doctrine of Scripture along eight lines: 1) the need for Scripture, 2) the purpose of Scripture, 3) the authority of Scripture, 4) the inspiration of Scripture, 5) the Holy Spirit in relation to Scripture, 6) the Christ of Scripture, 7) the preservation of Scripture, and 8) the interpretation of Scripture. Gundry quotes from the full range of Owen’s Works, although The Reason of Faith, The Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God as Revealed in His Word, and Chistologia are cited most frequently. His discussion of Owen’s controversy with Brian Walton over the London Polyglott (mentioned above) and of Owen’s hermeneutical principles are particularly noteworthy. Gundry ends his discussion with a critical evaluation of the Roger/McKim thesis in lieu of the eight principles delineated above.

Gundry’s essay provides a virtual index for Owen’s doctrine of Scripture. This is an excellent article for anyone wanting a quick survey of the Puritan understanding of Bible as the infallible, authoritative word of God via one of its ablest defenders.

John Owen: Significance of Covenant Theology

In 1674 John Owen wrote a preface for a work by the congregationalist preacher Samuel Petto entitled The Difference between the Old and New Covenant Stated and Explained: With an Exposition of the Covenant of Grace in the Principal Concernments of it. In this note to the "Christian Reader" Owen elaborates upon the significance of the divine covenants (of Works and Grace) for a proper understanding of Scripture and a right relationship with God. He even states that next to the sending of Christ to redeem sinners, no other doctrine accentuates God's grace and advances God's glory than the Covenant of Grace - of course, for Owen, the ministry of Jesus and God entering into covenant with men are inextricably related.

Here is a sample:

The stores of heavenly wisdom, grace, and truth which are treasured up in the divine revelations concerning God's covenants, are far from being fully exhausted or drawn forth by the labours of any in this kind. Although very many have already brought to light excellent and useful instructions in the mind of God and the duty of them who do believe. But the thing itself is so excellent, the mystery of it so great, the declaration of it in the Scripture so extensive and diffused throughout the whole body of it from the first to the last, as also in its concernment unto the whole course of our faith and obedience, that there is a sufficient ground whereon to justice a renewed search into the mind of God therein as revealed in his word.

There is no doubt, but the greatest product of divine grace, goodness, and condescension, next unto the sending of the only Son of God to take our nature on this of his entering into covenant with the children of men; nor hath any thing a greater tendency unto the advancement of his own glory.


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