Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shifting Paradigms in Reformed Systematic Theology: A Review Article

Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011). 1052pp. Hardcover.

Reviewed by Ryan M. McGraw

Richard Muller described the development of Reformed orthodoxy as an attempt to adapt Reformed theology to a changing theological climate. He argued that without expanding and adapting Reformed theology to meet the needs of the time, it would not have survived.[1] In his The Christian Faith: A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Michael Horton attempts to adapt historic Reformed theology to a contemporary theological climate. This is a difficult task. With extensive knowledge of historic Reformed theology, Scripture, and contemporary theology, Horton is well equipped for it.

The Christian Faith simultaneously presents Reformed theology to a new generation and transforms the nature of Reformed orthodoxy at vital points. This has both positive and negative consequences. Positively, Horton interacts thoroughly with contemporary issues. Negatively, some of his material introduces new paradigms that significantly alter the substance and method of historic Reformed theology. This review is divided into two disproportionate parts. The first sketches the general features of Horton’s work, highlighting its major contributions to theology. The second and larger part evaluates his use of speech-act theory, the eastern distinction between divine essence and energies, and his construction of the ordo salutis or application of redemption. These issues are integral to Horton’s treatise and provide a means by which to evaluate the entire work.

General Sketch

Very few Reformed works on systematic theology have appeared in the last seventy years.[2] A systematic theology by one of the most well-respected leaders in the Reformed church today expectedly has many strengths.

Structure and Method

Horton follows the traditional loci structure of systematic theology, moving from prolegomena (including the knowledge of God and doctrine of Scripture), to Theology proper, to Creation and Anthropology, to Christology, to Soteriology, to Ecclesiology, and culminating in the last things. Eschatology pervades the entire book as well. In contrast to some recent works, his organization is both easy to follow and familiar.[3]

Horton’s book reads like an unfolding story or divine drama. He presents three paradigms to describe mankind’s relation to God: overcoming estrangement, meeting a stranger, and the stranger we never meet. The first approach tries to bridge an ontological divide between God and man. Pagan philosophy often follows this pattern and has infiltrated various branches of Christian thought. The stranger we never meet approach encompasses atheists and those who believe that we have no certain knowledge of God. Horton believes that meeting a stranger represents the biblical paradigm of entering into fellowship with God in a covenant relationship.

The story-like structure of his work illustrates the affinities between biblical and systematic theology while still distinguishing them. His book is full of thorough exegesis of Scripture, sensitivity to the biblical narrative, interaction with historical and contemporary theology, and application of the Reformed system to a modern audience. He uses Reformed confessional documents extensively as well, particularly the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort).

Major Contributions to Reformed Theology

One of Horton’s greatest contributions to theology is that his book is saturated with the doctrine of the Trinity. He takes the recent renaissance of Trinitarian theology seriously and adds a fresh voice to the conversation. There is not a single chapter in this book that does not self-consciously describe biblical doctrines and the works of God in terms of the Father’s actions, through the Son, by the Spirit. One example will suffice. In reference to covenant theology he wrote, “If covenantal thinking forms the architecture of Reformed faith and practice, the doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation” (273). Historian Philip Dixon observed that in the early eighteenth-century, Unitarianism pervaded the Church of England because orthodox writers largely lost the doctrinal and practical significance of the Trinity.[4] By contrast, the Dutch theologian, Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676), called the Trinity the foundation of fundamentals (fundamentum fundamenti) and added that every article of the faith is married to it.[5]  Because God’s Triunity stands at the heart of Horton’s theology, this feature is potentially fruitful in teaching believers how to understand their faith and experience in terms of the work of all three divine persons.

A pervasive feature of The Christian Faith is the author’s heavy interaction with contemporary theology. The breadth of his learning in this area represents the culmination of years of labor, writing, and prayer. Horton is an excellent guide through the minefield of neo-orthodoxy, liberation theology, post-modern philosophy, the emergent church, the new perspective on Paul, and several other areas. His critiques are theologically sound and charitable. His interaction with various forms of post-modern philosophy stands out in in this connection. He introduces readers to a wide range of sources beyond the Reformed tradition that most will never have the time to master. This is a great service to the church.

Several chapters are particularly valuable. Horton provides a biblical and well-defended treatment of the doctrine of original sin (chapter thirteen). In contrast to some modern authors, this includes a clear explication of the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity.[6] Chapters 27-29 are rich and clear in presenting various aspects of the eschatological goals of creation and redemption. He shows that these goals were always part of the divine plan. This is why eschatology pervades his entire system of theology. His treatment of millennial views is clear and helpful. Even if readers do not agree with Horton’s amillenial position, he helps navigate the relevant issues involved.

Major Themes and Theological Implications

Three themes characterize Horton’s work as a whole. These are his use of speech-act theory, divine essence and energies, and the ordo salutis. In several places, Horton explicitly intertwines the distinction between divine essence and energies and speech-act theory with his pervasive Trinitarian theology (for example, 131). His construction of the application of redemption (ordo salutis) flows out of his teaching on these subjects. These three areas are inter-related and they are integral to his system. While other areas of his theology contribute to important debates in Reformed churches, these issues best characterize the entire system.[7]

Speech-Act Theory

Speech-act theory is a contemporary philosophical description of what happens during communication between speakers and hearers. The relevant terminology used in this theory helps explain what it entails and how Horton adapts it to theology. He wrote, “The event of one’s writing, uttering, or otherwise signifying something is called the locutionary act. What we do through such signifying is referred to as the illocutionary act (or force). That which is brought about in the hearer as a result is its perlocutionary effect.” (119). To illustrate, yelling “fire” is a locutionary act, warning potential and unsuspecting victims is an illocutionary act, and causing them to leave the building is the perlocutionary effect (119). Here and elsewhere, he connects these terms to the work of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, respectively (120-121).

Horton’s chapter on creation shows how he relates speech-act theory to his trinitarianism (especially pages 328-334). The Father spoke (locution) and all things came into being. The Son was the means through which the Father accomplished this work (illocution) as the Father’s divine speech. The Spirit completed or perfected the work of creation (perlocution). This is a model for how God works in every other case. The advantage to this theory is that it involves all three persons of the Godhead simultaneously and distinctly. The disadvantage is that it makes everything that God does a speech-act or declaration (see below). Here he interjects the eastern distinction between the divine essence and energies, which the next section below treats. The idea is that God speaks creation into existence through His energies (attributes/works), “while the hypostatic word is his essence” (332). The exercise of the divine energies in creation is a free act, but the hypostatic word is the eternal and necessary word of the Father. He regards the terms “command” and “summons” in the creation account as covenantal terms. This means that “the natural world” testifies to this covenant (333). He then adds that “the essence of being creatures” in Scripture is “to be ‘worded’ by God.” By this vague expression he means that God sustains all things both by his hypostatic and energetic word and that He “creates a society of speakers as an analogy of the Trinity” (334).

His theory may sound inviting in describing the power of divine revelation. However, it falls into difficulty when it comes to soteriology (see below). Even in connection to revelation, Horton appears to come closer to the Lutheran view of the inherent efficacy of the Word rather than the Reformed view of the work of the Spirit using the Word as a means in effectual calling.

Horton tends to confuse God’s creative power with God’s using the Word as a means in the hands of the Spirit. This relates to his quasi Lutheran view of the means of grace and to his assertion that salvation is produced by an ex nihilo act of God (661-662). We will see below that this led him to speak later of a “forensically charged” ordo salutis (708). Divine speech-acts are declarations that transform. By subsuming all divine acts to speech-act, he runs the risk of making all divine acts towards sinners forensic or declarative. Since forensic language is ordinarily associated with justification, Horton’s speech-act theory results in reading the entire application of redemption in light of justification. The last section of this review shows the problems associated with this move. His use of speech-act theory adopts too many aspects of a post-modern metaphysic and epistemology. Contrary to Horton’s intent, explaining the biblical system of theology in terms such as locution, illocution, and perlocution is not a simpler alternative to the historic Reformed adaptation of Aristotelian fourfold causation.[8]  This method will likely confuse a popular audience and it has serious consequences for the theological system.

Divine Essence, Divine Energies, and Deification (Theosis)

Horton uses extensively the Eastern orthodox distinction between God’s essence and energies. He treats God’s “energies” as virtually synonymous with His works (612). Eastern orthodoxy typically treats God’s “energies” as synonymous with His attributes.[9] This distinction asserts that the divine essence is unknowable and that we know God by his “energies” or works. At times Horton equates the divine energies with the divine attributes and at others with his works. In other places, he upholds the western doctrine of divine simplicity that teaches that essence and attributes are distinguishable but inseparable in God. Horton adds that the divine “energies” are uncreated realities (614).

Some eastern theologians used the distinction between divine essence and energies as the foundation of theosis, or deification. In some cases, theosis is poor terminology for renewing man in God’s image at glorification.[10] Later writers such as Gregory Palamas distinguished the divine essence from the divine energies.[11] This version of theosis means that believers become the divine energies without becoming the divine essence. Horton adopts this view. He claims that this is a potential “point of convergence” between eastern authors and John Calvin (613). In this reviewer’s opinion, the former use of theosis is confusing at best and unhelpful. The Reformed orthodox theologian, Peter van Mastricht (1630-1706) noted that Gregory Nazianzen imprudently called union with Christ Christification or deification.[12] He added that this led many later authors to teach blasphemous doctrines. The other sense of theosis creates a category in which glorified humanity becomes more than human and less than God in a vague ontological position in which humanity and the divine attributes converge. Many eastern orthodoxy theologians reject Palamas’s distinctions between the divine essence and energies.[13] This weakens Horton’s position, since he integrates the essence/energies distinction into most of his chapters.

Importance of the Divine Essence/Energies Distinction

It is important to recognize that the divine essence and energies distinction is not incidental in Horton’s work.[14] He integrates it into his adaptation of speech-act theory. Early in the book (52) he notes, “We will return several times to this crucial distinction of Eastern theology.” In the same place he adds that the western failure to distinguish between God’s essence and energies has “pantheistic tendencies.” While he argues that the western tradition has generally neglected the eastern view of distinguishing the divine essence and energies, he adds that there is here a “point of convergence” with Reformed theology (613). However, the western concept of glorification does not entail becoming the energies or attributes of God, but renewal in God’s image through union and communion with Christ in glory.[15]

Problems with the Essence/Energies Distinction

While it is true that some western Christians misunderstand what some eastern theologians mean by theosis, understanding theosis properly does not clear away enough difficulties to accept the concept. The following reasons show why this is the case.

First, it is unwise to ground so much of his theology in a distinction that many Reformed theologians will reject or question. If Horton’s use of the divine essence and energies and theosis was one point among many, then readers might reject it without detracting from their agreement with his work as a whole. Yet he integrates these concepts into most of his chapters.

Second, the essence/energies distinction makes God unknowable instead of incomprehensible. Horton’s work contains a fine treatment of the attributes of God in general, but he lacks anything approaching an adequate explanation of God’s incomprehensibility. This doctrine teaches that while we can never know God exhaustively in and of Himself we can know Him truly. Horton affirms the distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology and he repeats continually that man’s knowledge of God is analogical rather than equivocal (which means we cannot know anything about God) or univocal (which means that we understand God exactly as He understands Himself). Western theology has taught consistently that we cannot comprehend God’s hidden essence, but that we can know Him truly through His revealed attributes and His works, since God is His attributes. While Horton believes that distinguishing between the divine essence and energies upholds the Creator/creature distinction, in actuality it complicates matters by created a third category of being and it gives the impression that salvation involves ascending a scale of being. This better mirrors Greek philosophy than it does Holy Scripture, which says that God blesses the person who understands and knows Him (Jer.9:24), not the one who becomes His attributes and works.

Third, this distinction threatens to shift soteriology from solving an ethical problem to addressing an ontological problem. Horton is concerned to avoid this aspect of eastern theology, but it is questionable whether he can do so consistently while maintaining the essence/energies distinction. This distinction arose as an attempt to remedy difficulties in justifying man’s knowledge of God, with which Horton sympathizes. However, it also arose in order to address the ontological divide between God and humanity. Eastern theology addresses the question of whether or not Christ would have become incarnate even if Adam had never fallen in the Garden. The reason behind question is that the Eastern Church regards God as inherently unreachable by His creatures. For some theologians, the essence/energies distinction provided a middle ground in which God and man could meet. In this view, it is possible that Christ would have assumed human flesh in order to bring people into this middle category, since He shared the nature of both parties. Where eastern orthodoxy regards theosis as its central soteriological concept, Reformed theology puts covenantal solidarity and union with Christ in its place. The knowledge of God is possible because God created man in His image. Christ restores God’s image in us not through deification, but by elevating our humanity to its created purpose.[16] The question is whether Christ makes us more human that we currently are through sanctification and glorification, or whether He makes us less human than we are through deification. Theosis is necessary only if an ontological problem affects the relationship between God and humanity. It is not necessary if restoring communion with God through union with Christ is in view.

Fourth, it is questionable, at best, to treat the eastern distinction between the divine essence and energies as a “point of convergence” between eastern orthodoxy and Reformed theology. This is true both from a historical standpoint and from a theological standpoint.[17] Horton argues that Calvin’s use of the analogy between the sun and the rays of the sun in order to explain the relationship between the divine Father and the divine Son is evidence that he depended on eastern versus western authors. However, this analogy appears in Augustine and many other western authors. Augustine has virtually become the “bad guy” in recent contrasts between eastern and western Trinitarian theology.[18] Proponents of the eastern view frequently charge western Christians with misunderstanding their teaching. The evidence presented here should lead us to question whether such authors have adequately understood the western view. Commenting on John Owen’s use of both eastern and western authors, Robert Letham refers to him as “a brilliant synthesizer.”[19] The more this reviewer has studied Reformed orthodox writers on the Trinity, he is convinced that this statement describes the seventeenth-century Reformed trinitarian tradition in general.[20] While Owen developed his practical Trinitarian theology more fully than most other Reformed authors, yet his construction of the Trinity represents a Reformed contribution to the doctrine that is often overlooked.[21] The Reformed position on the Trinity adopted elements from both the eastern and the western church fathers, but it stands in contrast to aspects of both eastern and western ontology. It is misleading to suggest that the essence/energies distinction coupled with theosis represents a “point of convergence” between the Reformed and the East. There is little proof that Calvin or the mainstream of Reformed orthodoxy drew an explicit distinction between the divine essence and energies. It rather appears to be the case that some scholars have not nailed down precisely the proper relationship between East and West in studies of historic Reformed orthodoxy. There are also other factors that shaped the emphases of Reformed orthodox trinitarianism that have little to do with choosing sides between the East and the West, such as the rise of Socinianism and the fact that Arminians tended to deny that the Trinity was a fundamental article of the faith because, in their view, it had no practical significance.

The Order of Salvation

Horton’s trinitarian adaptation of speech-act theory and his adoption of the eastern distinction between the divine essence and energies converge in his Soteriology. In light of the preceding section, this reviewer will largely bypass his material on essence/energies in relation to Soteriology. His primary concern is how speech-act theory appears to affect Horton’s construction of the application of redemption, or ordo salutis. In particular, Horton replaces some of the functions of the doctrine of union with Christ with the doctrine of justification in the application of redemption. His statements on this subject do not appear to be entirely coherent. Horton’s use of speech-act theory is likely what leads him to import the forensic/declarative character of justification into the entire ordo salutis. This section illustrates the effects of his teaching on the Reformed doctrine of salvation by focusing on his treatment of the relationship between union with Christ and justification.

Horton’s view of the relationship between union with Christ and justification is difficult to describe. In his chapter on union with Christ, he states that union with Christ is not one moment in the application of redemption, but that it encompasses all of the benefits that we receive from Christ, both in eternity and in time (587). This reflects the New Testament teaching that all of the benefits of the gospel come to us “in Christ.” The traditional Reformed view is that the benefits of justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification are grounded in the believer’s union with Christ and that they are benefits of being united to Christ through faith. At first glance, this appears to be Horton’s view. However, a few pages later, he refers to “justification as the judicial ground of union with Christ” (589). In tension with this statement, he later adds, “All of Christ’s gifts are given in our union with him through faith” (623). Presumably, justification is one of these gifts, making this statement indicate that God justifies believers by virtue of their union with Christ. However, in the chapter preceding his treatment of union with Christ, Horton argues that the centrality of justification in redemption means that the entire ordo salutis is “forensically charged.”[22] Statements such as these make it unclear whether justification is the ground of union with Christ or union with Christ is the ground of justification.

Horton illustrates the tension that this reviewer detects when he treats adoption in relation to union with Christ and justification. He wrote, “If union with Christ in the covenant of grace is the matrix of Paul’s ordo, justification remains its basis, even for adoption” (632). In historic expressions of Reformed theology, union with Christ gives birth to and encompasses justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification.[23] However, there are elements of the ordo salutis that logically precede union with Christ and justification, such as effectual calling, regeneration, and faith.[24] It is difficult to see how justification can be the “basis” of elements of salvation that precede it logically. Yet he later adds, “I am suggesting that we view all the items in Paul’s ordo constituting one train, running on the same track, with justification as the engine that pulls, adoption, new birth, sanctification, and glorification in tow” (708). For this reason, he adds, the entire ordo salutis “never leave[s] the forensic domain” (708). This statement appears to make justification not only the “judicial ground” of union with Christ (589), but of regeneration. This would make regeneration follow faith and justification in some sense instead of making the new birth the cause of the faith that unites believers to Christ. Statements such as these highlight a lack of clarity in his description the doctrine of salvation. Horton appears to say simultaneously that union with Christ gives birth to applying the benefits of redemption and that justification is the cause or ground of union with Christ. Because this scheme does not follow a traditional construction of the order of salvation, this reviewer has difficulty understanding Horton’s position. His statements at best create tension and at worst contradict one another.

This construction of the ordo salutis appears related to Horton’s adaptation of speech-act theory. This theory teaches that everything that God does is a speech-act. Justification is a declaration from God that sinners are counted righteous in Christ. This is a forensic declaration in a courtroom setting. It is a small step to add that since all of God’s speech-acts are works of creation ex nihilo, then every divine action in man’s salvation is declarative or forensic. Horton does not state this explicitly, but this would explain why he imports a “forensically charged” aspect into every benefit of redemption. The result is that, in spite of the above cited statements to the contrary, his view of justification effectively replaces the traditional role of union with Christ in Soteriology (see 677).

In traditional Reformed theology, union with Christ is the ground of justification. As John Murray argued, because we are united to Christ by faith first we are “constituted” righteous in God’s sight.[25] This means that when God declares sinners righteous in Christ, He declares what is actually true by virtue of imputing Christ’s righteousness to them. Older authors, such as Mastricht, taught the same thing.[26] This is what prevents justification from becoming a legal fiction, in which God declares something to be true that is not actually the case. Justification is not an act of creation ex nihilo; it is a declaration that sinners are righteous in union Christ. This does not mean that being justified on the basis of being constituted righteous entails immediate perfection in personal holiness (which progresses by stages in their sanctification and is perfected in their glorification), but that believers are truly righteous by imputation by virtue of being united to Jesus Christ the righteous one.

The Bible presents a Christologically charged ordo salutis rather than a “forensically charged” one. The Scriptures teach that we must be born again before we can see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). We “see” the kingdom of God by faith (1 Jn. 3:6-7). Faith is the instrument by which we receive Christ, an in him all the benefits of redemption. This is why we are justified by faith and not by the works of the law (Rom. 3:28). Then those whom God justifies he also sanctifies and glorifies (Rom. 8:30). We are justified in Christ (Gal. 2:17), adopted in Christ (Eph. 1:5), sanctified in Christ (Rom. 6:5-11), and glorified in Christ (Rom. 8:10-11). We are not regenerated in Christ because regeneration produces the faith that unites us to Christ. Neither is the new birth pulled in a train behind justification, since our justification results from the new birth.

Horton’s construction of the order of salvation fits his view of speech-act theory, but it does not harmonize well with historic Reformed orthodoxy or with the testimony of Scripture. Horton’s colleague, John Fesko, perhaps provides a clue to understanding this position in his historical treatment of union with Christ and justification in relation to the intra-trinitarian covenant of redemption.[27] Fesko argues that the Reformed orthodox either taught or implied that justification is the “legal ground” of union with Christ in the eternal decree of God. Presumably this is because justification is the goal of redemption and union with Christ is a means of achieving this goal. However, it is difficult to make this case from the historical evidence. Salvation is a broader concept than justification, as Horton, Fesko, and this reviewer all acknowledge. Salvation includes adoption, sanctification, glorification, and every other aspect of the order of salvation. The language of Scripture is that God chose believers for salvation in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6). Justification is one component of salvation. Union with Christ logically precedes justification in God’s eternal plan just as truly as it does in the application of redemption to believers in human history.

For these reasons, Horton’s speech-act theory potentially alters our understanding of Soteriology. This is related to his approval of radical statements to the effect that sanctification primarily involves getting used to our justification. While Horton upholds the importance of obedience to the Law of God in the Christian life, this position is remarkably similar to historic antinomianism. This reviewer is not accusing Horton of antinomianism, but the primary premise of antinomianism was that, regardless of the time involved, sinners are justified prior to faith in Christ and conversion.[28] In another recent publication, Horton states that if someone asked him when he was saved, his answer would be that he was saved two thousand years ago – that is, at the cross.[29] This blurs the distinction between redemption accomplished and applied. Christ procured justification (and all the benefits of salvation) through his completed work in human history, but the Spirit does not apply justification to sinners until they are actually united to Christ by faith (WCF 11.4). Horton affirms this when he says that union with Christ is the ground of justification, but he denies it when he teaches that justification is the “judicial ground” of union with Christ. His scheme has many important practical implications that are beyond the scope of this review, but the material presented here is enough to enable Reformed readers to evaluate his position. This reviewer does not intend to draw logical conclusions from Horton’s teaching that Horton himself does not draw, but it does lead him to reject Horton’s adaptation of speech-act theory as compatible with a Reformed and biblical theology.

One remaining aspect of Horton’s Soteriology is worth mentioning. He teaches that God created man in a covenant relationship to Himself. While treating the creation covenant as simultaneous with creation has historical precedent in Reformed theology, Horton adds that this “covenant relationality” is essential to human nature (380, 384). He adds that the image of God in man “constitutes a covenantal relationship” (381). As far as this reviewer can discern, this covenant that he includes in the concept of the image of God is virtually synonymous with what is often called the Covenant of Works.

This raises several difficulties. First, Horton conflates the terms “covenant” and “relationship,” or “relational.” Covenant and relationship/relational are not synonyms. A covenant is a specific kind of relationship. I am related to cousins that I have never met, but I am in covenant with my wife and not with them. I have a relationship with a friend in the ministry, but I am neither related to him nor in covenant with him. It is possible to reply that these examples are valid with respect to human relations, but not to the relationship between man and God. This leads to the second liability of this position, which respects its potential consequences. If the Covenant of Works is integral to the concept of the image of God, then being renewed in God’s image in Christ would entail renewing the Covenant of Works in the hearts of the redeemed. If the creation covenant that Horton has in view is distinct from the Covenant of Works, then he adds a new covenant to Reformed covenant theology. If being the image of God “constitutes a covenantal relationship” (381) and this covenant is equivalent to the Covenant of Works, then this would exempt fallen humanity from the penalty of the Covenant of Works since man defaced the image of God by the Fall.

This view of the image of God shifts emphasis away from the position of the Westminster Shorter Catechism to the effect that the primary aspects of the image of God that man lost by the Fall consist in “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness” (Question 10). It is easy to understand how God renews knowledge, righteousness, and holiness in redeemed humanity in Christ. It is not as easy to grasp how He restores the image of God as a primeval covenantal relationship. God restores the image of God in man through a covenantal relationship (the Covenant of Grace), but He does not do so by restoring man’s original covenantal relationship to God (the Covenant of Works).


The Christian Faith is a useful book for summarizing and providing critical interaction with contemporary theology. Its primary deficiencies lie in Horton’s use of speech-act theory, the eastern essence/energies distinction, and his construction of the ordo salutis. However, readers should recognize that Horton’s work represents one example among a recent trend of shifting paradigms in Reformed theology. Reformed theology must address the questions and problems of the contemporary world in order to survive. Yet there is a fine line between adapting Reformed theology to the needs of a new generation and altering the substance of that theology in the process.

[1] Richard A Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, Ca. 1520 to Ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academics, 2003), vol. 1, throughout.
[2] See J. V. Fesko, The Christian’s Pocket Guide to Growing in Holiness (Geanies House, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2012), 67.
[3] For example, Richard Gamble restructures systematic theology along historical lines, making it difficult to find treatments of traditional loci. Douglas Kelly’s recent work is foreign in its organization and its plan sometimes lacks clarity. Richard C. Gamble, The Whole Counsel of God: Volume 1: God’s Mighty Acts in the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009); Douglas F. Kelly. Systematic Theology Volume One Grounded in Holy Scripture and Understood in light of the Church: The God Who Is: The Holy Trinity (Geanies House: Christian Focus Publications, 2008).
[4] Philip Dixon, Nice and Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventeenth Century (London: T&T Clark, 2003), 205-207.
[5] Gisperti Voetii, Selectarum Disputationum Theologicarum, Pars Prima (Utrecht, 1648). 472, 478. See also Johannes Hoornbeeck (1617-1666), Theologiae Practicae (Utrecht, 1663), 1:136.
[6] For example, J. Van Genderen and W. H. Velema, Concise Reformed Dogmatics (Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), 404, 409.
[7] Other controversial positions include his denial of days of ordinarily length in creation in favor of the so-called framework hypothesis and his adaptation of Meredith Kline’s version of a republished covenant of works in the Mosaic covenant.
[8] In his historical work on the relationship between union with Christ and justification, J. V. Fesko warns that replacing the traditional Reformed use of Aristotelian causation runs the risk of altering the system of theology. J. V Fesko, Beyond Calvin: Union with Christ and Justification in Early Modern Reformed Theology (1517-1700) (Göttingen; Bristol, CT: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), chapter two.
[9] Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 246-247.
[10] Robert Letham defends theosis if understood along these lines. Robert Letham, Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), 91-102.
[11] Karl Christian Felmy, “The Development of the Trinity Doctrine in Byzantium: Ninth to Fifteenth Centuries,” Giles Emory and Matthew Levering, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 211, 221
[12] Peter van Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia. Qua, Per Singula Capita Theologica, Pars Exegetica, Dogmatica, Elenchtica & Practica, Perpetua Successione Conjugantur. (Trajecti ad Rhenum, & Amstelodami: Sumptibus Societatis, 1715), 792: "Nec proinde fidelis, per hanc unionem, Christificatur aut Deificatur, ut imprudenter olim Nazianzenus".
[13] Letham, Through Western Eyes, 112-113, 236-237.
[14] For representative samples, see 52, 689-672 (on glorification), 792, 815-817, 825.
[15] See Westminster Larger Catechism questions 77 and 86.
[16] This is likely why Westminster Larger Catechism question 39 states, “It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature . . .”
[17] Cite McCormack’s article.
[18] For example, see Colin E. Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2003), 30-55.
[19] Kelly M Kapic and Mark Jones, The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen’s Theology (Farnham, Surrey, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 190.
[20] Ryan M. McGraw, ‘A Heavenly Directory:’ Trinitarian Piety, Public Worship, and a Reassessment of John Owen’s Theology (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, forthcoming), chapter two.
[21] Contra Letham, The Holy Trinity, 1, who states that most Reformed authors contributed little to trinitarian theology.
[22] 561. See 575, 706, 708, etc. where this language appears repeatedly.
[23] Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia, 789; Edward Leigh, A Systeme or Body of Divinity Consisting of Ten Books, Wherein the Fundamentals and Main Grounds of Religion Are Opened ... (London: Printed by A.M. for William Lee ..., 1662), 487-488; Westminster Larger Catechism question 69: “The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and: whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.”
[24] Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, trans. William Crookshank (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 1:344-390.
[25] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1955), 123: “Therefore what God does in this case is that he constitutes the new and righteous judicial relation as well as declares this new relation to be. He constitutes the ungodly righteous, and consequently can declare them to be righteous.” 125: “The constitutive act consists in the imputation to us of the obedience and the righteousness of Christ.” 
[26] Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia, 790.
[27] Fesko, Beyond Calvin, 382.
[28] See Robert J. McKelvey, “’That Error and Pillar of Antinomianism’: Eternal Justification,” in  Michael A. G Haykin and Mark Jones, eds., Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism (Göttingen; Oakville, Conn.: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 233-262.
[29] Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 29.

This review article appeared first in Puritan Reformed Journal, vol. 5, no. 2, July 2013, 245-259.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pastoral Visitation: The Lost Work of Shepherding

GPTS President Joseph A. Pipa Jr. has written a series of two articles on Pastoral Visitation, now posted at Reformation 21:

"Pastoral Visitation: The God-Given Responsibility to Shepherd":
God has given to the elders of His Church the responsibility to shepherd His flock. Paul says in Acts 20:28, "Pay attention to yourselves and to all of the flock among which the Holy Spirit has set you to be overseers to shepherd God's church, that He acquired with His own blood." Similarly, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:1-3, "Therefore, I urge the elders among you, as a fellow elder and witness of Christ's sufferings and as a sharer of the glory that is going to be revealed, to shepherd God's flock among you, exercising shepherdly care over it, not out of obligation but willingly, as God would have you do it; not out of eagerness to make a personal profit, but out of eagerness to serve; not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but by becoming models for the flock." Read full article
"The Lost Work of Pastoral Visitation":
My first pastoral visit was the first one I made as a young pastor. By that time, I had been in the church eleven years. My case was not unique then or now. I am certain that many of you identify with my experience. In fact, many readers will not recognize that they are being deprived of something that was an essential part of church experience. In our day, the work of the pastor is greatly neglected. Many would-be pastors fill up their lives with administration or study so that they have little time for the people of the flock. Others have churches so large they cannot begin to pastor the members of their congregations. Increasingly, such men are adopting the Chief Executive Officer approach to congregational oversight. But even in our smaller reformed churches the minister often neglects the important work of pastoring. Many church members only receive a visit when they are ill (if then). We cannot know the condition of our flock or minister effectively to them without carefully doing the work of family visitation. Furthermore, this work is necessary for the cementing of truth and its results in the lives of our people. Read full article.