A Covenant of Redemption?

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AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Introduction: I am an avid Hoeksema fan but I desire to follow Scripture and not men. I also understand that he differed from a large number of Reformed divines. Now that is not a major issue as such but it could mean he just misunderstood what they taught or failed to see a simple solution. So please, no smart alec comments but edifying posts. :cheers:

Argument: I love the conception of the covenant Hoeksema developed following the Dutch tradition (Have your Bavinck, Brakel, Kuyper and Witsius to hand) as a "bond of friendship" as explained in his Reformed Dogmatics in its section upon the covenant in volume 1. Hoeksema's argument against the traditional forumulation of a pactum salutis is simple, it just does not fit the notion of covenant as a bond of friendship. He deals with the views of Petrus van Mastricht, Francis Turretin, Wilhelmus a Brakel, Charles Hodge, Geerhardus Vos, Herman Bavinck, Louis Berkhof and Abraham Kuyper pages 406-422.

To posit the covenant of redemption as a contract between the Father and the Son fails because:
1. It makes the Son subordinate to the Father ontologically whereas the three persons are co-equal;
2. It denies a place for the Holy Ghost in the counsel;
3. The covenant is presented as a means to an end rather than the end itself, i.e. friendship within the Godhead and friendship with the Godhead.
4. It posits two different wills in the Godhead whereas there is but one will (Patrick Gillespie uses an identical argument to show that the Covenant of Redemption was made between Jehovah and the person of the Son as man).

According to Hoeksema “The scriptural passages that mention the covenant that God establishes with Christ according to his human nature as servant of the Lord were used as proof for the covenant of redemption” and because these verses inevitably show Christ as subordinate to the Father a false conclusion was drawn.

Hoeksema writes that “it is of the utmost importance that we distinguish sharply between the covenant that God establishes with Christ as the servant of the Lord, standing at the head of those whom the Father gave him, and the eternal covenant of the three persons of the holy Trinity.” (page 423) The verses used to prove the counsel of peace are actually dealing with “the covenant that God establishes with Christ as the servant of the Lord” and not “the eternal covenant of the three persons of the holy Trinity”. Hence Hoeksema looks at the servant passages of Isaiah (Isa. 42:1-7, 18-25; 43:1, 2; 44:1, 2, 21; 49:1-9; 50:4-10 and 52:13-53:12), 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalm 89:1-34, Psalm 2:7-9, Acts 13:32-37, Acts 4:24-28, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 6:38, 39, John 10:18, John 17:4, John 17:24 and Philippians 2:9-11. He then reiterates that the error of divines previously has been that “a conclusion simply is drawn from Christ’s relation to the triune God as the servant of the Lord to the eternal economical relation between the Father and the Son. The result is that a wrong conception is formed about the counsel of peace and that no place is found in the pactum salutis for the third person of the holy Trinity.” (page 451) For Hoeksema these texts “refer without exception to a covenant between the triune God and his servant, Christ in human nature, standing at the head of the elect.” (page 453)

Hoeksema argues that “The covenant of grace is not the counsel of peace itself, but rather the revelation and realization of it. In the covenant of grace, Christ appears as man in his human nature, and as man he can have no participation in the decree of the triune God.” (page 471). Hoeksema then defines the pactum salutis as “the eternal decree of God to reveal his own triune covenant life in the highest possible sense in the establishment and realization of a covenant outside of himself with the creature in the way of sin and grace, of death and redemption, to the glory of his holy name.” (page 472)

How then does this work? Well Hoeksema puts forward this framework:
1. “God lives a perfect covenant life in himself as the triune God.”
2. “He decrees eternally to glorify himself and therefore to reveal himself as the covenant God.”
3. “He determines to impart his own covenant life, as thus to make himself known in the glory and blessedness of that covenant life, outside of himself.”
4. “To do this the triune God ordains the Son to become mediator. Through him God’s covenant shall be revealed outside of himself (ad extra), and in him the covenant life of God shall dwell centrally.” (page 473)

Interestingly Professor Engelsma has written: this.

Problems that I see with this view
One problem I see with Hoeksema's treatment with John's gospel is that the Holy Ghost has purposively used the term “Father” and so it is highly advisable to take it at face value thereby seeing the Person of the Son (albeit in he office of Mediator) praying to the person of the Father rather than Christ praying to the triune God according to his human nature. Not least because as Gill explains in his treatment of Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,.... God, the first person in the Trinity, is the God of Christ, as Christ is man and Mediator; he chose and appointed him to be the Mediator, and made a covenant with him as such; he formed and prepared an human nature for him, and anointed it with the Holy Ghost above measure, and supported it under all his trials and sufferings, and at last glorified it: and Christ, as man, prayed to him as his God, believed, hoped, and trusted in him as such, and loved him as in such a relation to him, and cheerfully obeyed his commands. And the same is the Father of Christ, as Christ is God; as such he is the Son of God; not by creation, as angels and Adam, nor by adoption, as saints, but by natural generation; he being the only begotten of the Father, his own proper Son, of the same nature and perfections with him, and equal to him.​

Also, Christ is the person of the Son manifest in the flesh and here in John’s gospel he is praying to his Father. The Father of the Person of the Son is the Person of the Father not the Triune God!

Another problem is that in saying "the triune God ordains the Son to become mediator" Hoeksema points to some sort of intra-trinitarian counsel for how did the triune God decide to ordain the Son as mediator? How did this counsel proceed? Why was the Son ordained/chosen? And so in attempting to escape these questions from the traditional approach he has (unwittingly?) run into them in his own system.

Furthermore, whilst admitting that the case for a covenant of redemption was weak, especially from Zechariah 6:13 he did state in Reformed Dogmatics volume 3;

“...as Mediator, the Son is subordinate to the Father, calls him his God (Ps. 22:2; John 20:17), is his servant (Isa. 49f) who has been assigned a task (Isa. 53:10; John 6:38-40; 10:18; 12:49; 14:31; 17:4) and who receives a reward (Ps. 2:8; Isa. 53:10; John 17:4, 11, 17, 24; Eph. 1:20f; Phil. 2:9f.) for the obedience accomplished (Matt. 26:42; John 4:34; 15:10; 17:4-5: 19:30).”​

Request: Could PB members offer their comments on Hoeksema's construction and criticism of the traditional Reformed view and offer suggestions why I should adopt that view and not Hoeksema's. Can the concept of the covenant being a bond of friendship, which I believe to be biblical, be reconciled with the traditional view? :handshake:
 
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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Richard,

Hoeksema WASN'T following Witsius et al on the pactum salutis. He offered a radical revision of Reformed covenant theology that, like his rejection of the covenant of works, leaves with essentially a Barthian covenant theology: Grace overwhelms law. I'm grateful that the PRs continue to uphold the orthodox doctrine of justification but, like the Schilderites and conservative Barthians, they do it despite their covenant theology.

David VanDrunen and I comment on this at some length here in the chapter on the pactum salutis, "The Covenant Before the Covenants"

917.jpg


http://www.wscal.edu/bookstore/store/details.php?id=917
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Hoeksema WASN'T following Witsius et al on the pactum salutis.

Thanks for your input I certainly aim to get your book when finances allow. I am aware, however, that Hoeksema was diverging with Witsius et al with regards to the pactum salutis. When I refered to him being in the Dutch tradition I was refering to the idea that covenant is to do with friendship as Berkhof points out in his Systematic Theology.

He offered a radical revision of Reformed covenant theology that...leaves with essentially a Barthian covenant theology

I am not familiar with Barth's work although I understand he is neo-orthodox (i.e. Heterodox).

My post was to really to ask if one can see the essence of covenant as being friendship (as Hoeksema) without throwing out the Traditional framework of Reformed theology? Further, how would you deal with his objections to the traditional framework:

1. It makes the Son subordinate to the Father ontologically whereas the three persons are co-equal;
2. It denies a place for the Holy Ghost in the counsel;
3. The covenant is presented as a means to an end rather than the end itself;
4. It posits two different wills in the Godhead whereas there is but one will (Patrick Gillespie uses an identical argument to show that the Covenant of Redemption was made between Jehovah and the person of the Son as man).

I think that Hoeksema's criticisms of the standard argument are good but then I am not aware of any possible traditional replies because I have not read enough of Witsius et al although I do own Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics and have read Witsius on the covenant of redemption.

The issue I have with the traditional argument, as I understand it, are 1 to 4 above especially 1 and 3.

I assume that you have read or at least have access to Hoeksema's treatment of John's gospel in his RD. Here you argue that "The pactum salutis is biblically grounded in Psalm 110, John 5:30; 6:38-40; 17; Gal 3:20 among other places." Hoeksema deals with John 6 and argues that these cannot speak of an intratrinitarian compact because it would teach the Son as being subordinate to the Father. He argues that this verse is Christ as the servant of the Lord speaking i.e. Christ according to his human nature. Hence according to Hoeksema “The scriptural passages that mention the covenant that God establishes with Christ according to his human nature as servant of the Lord were used as proof for the covenant of redemption” and because these verses inevitably show Christ as subordinate to the Father a false conclusion was drawn. How would you respond? I am simply trying to see if there is a sound traditional comeback to Hoeksema's argument :)

Would you agree with Patrick Gillespie? http://www.truecovenanter.com/supralapsarian/pgilles_aoc_cap03.html
 
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Archlute

Puritan Board Senior

This is an outstanding collection of essays. I just finished Van Drunen's today.

It has always irritated me when (for various reasons, and in various arguments) people will accuse some theological position of necessitating an ontological subordination of one person in the Godhead to another, when what they are actually discussing falls under an economic discussion of the Trinity. I haven't read Hoeksema, but with my understanding of the Pactum Salutis I would bet that he errs in this manner. There is nothing in the classical formulation of that covenant that would entail an ontological subordination.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
I haven't read Hoeksema, but with my understanding of the Pactum Salutis I would bet that he errs in this manner. There is nothing in the classical formulation of that covenant that would entail an ontological subordination.

From my reading of Hoeksema his argument is that divines have erred in understanding John 6, 10 and 17 where Christ is the servant of the Lord which implies subordination as reflecting an agreement between Father and Son.
 
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