Monday, September 1, 2008

Christ, the Fountain-Head of Christian Dogmatics

I don’t read Dutch. I have little acquaintance with the Dutch Reformed tradition. Apart from occasional forays into Witsius, Voetius, and Cocceius, for my Owen thesis, and a little dose of Bavinck now and then to trace up the history of a certain doctrine, I’m really quite green to the Dutch trajectory of the Reformed tradition. This is an area I would like to work on more seriously in the long run. So I was especially delighted to have met Willem van Asselt and Gert van den Brink in person at the recent John Owen Today conference.

Gert, who has written a book on Witsius in Dutch, suggested that I should come to grips with Witsius in a more thorough-going way. This will certainly be on my list of long term projects. But for the coming weeks, I’ve settled for a more modern Dutch theologian to provide some respite from the increasingly belaboring task of writing up my thesis on Owen.

Jan Jacob van Oosterzee (1817-1882) was for some time Professor of Theology in the University of Utrecht. This is the same University at which Van Asselt is currently holding a Professorship and at which Gert is based. Whenever I take breaks in the coming weeks, I hope to read through selected portions of Oosterzee’s Christian Dogmatics: A Text-Book for Academical Instruction and Private Study, 2nd edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1878).

Here’s an excellent starter I came across from his treatment of the sources of Christian Dogmatics:

“No one can be the Fountain-head for the investigation of Christian Dogmatics, but He who is its principal subject-matter, and who is not only the faithful witness, but Himself the highest revelation of truth in the domain of religion. True Dogmatics is thus, from its nature, Christo-centric; and nothing in regard to the doctrine of salvation can be acknowledged as truth, that is in irreconcilable contradiction with the word and spirit of Christ, the King of truth.” (p. 15)

“The claim that Christian Dogmatics shall be Christo-centric, does not denote that the Christology must therefore be treated of first of all; on the contrary, there are preponderating difficulties in this method. But this is the idea, that everything which Dogmatics has to teach concerning God, man, the way of salvation, etc., must be viewed by the light which streams forth from Christ as centre. This proceeds from His exalted character, and the best dogmatists of our own century place it constantly more in the foreground. (Liebner, Lange, Thomasius, and many others.) Christ as the highest revelation of God, must also be to the dogmatist the light of his science. As the King of truth is the head of the Church, so is He the heart of Christian Dogmatics. The so-called Modern Theology is therefore already condemned in principle, since Christ has either no place or a very unimportant one in its system, which exhibits an anthropo-centric character.” (p. 15)


Michael said...

As I have been reading Owen's Treatise on the Person of Christ (Christologia) in volume one, I would say that Owen would add an "Amen" to that! His whole thesis is that the person of Christ is the centre of religion!

But of course, I don't have to remind you!

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