Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Karlberg on the hallmarks of the Reformed theological tradition


I'm headlong in to Mark Karlberg's "Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective". It's a book full of articles and book reviews he has done over the years. It's very well done, but complex and progress is slow going without LOTS of coffee. I was jarred from my studious trance when I read Karlberg say something especially insightful-


Although the doctrine of divine predestination, more so than the doctrine of justification by faith, rapidly became one of the hallmarks of the Reformed theological tradition, the three elements in the system of doctrine- covenant, justification, and predestination- were treated interrelatedly. There is little point in singling out one among others....

The essence of the gospel, according to these Reformed interpreters,is the good news of free grace- grace that is entirely unmerited, unconditioned upon human initiative, and irresistible. God's distinguishing grace in redemption is sovereign and efficacious, limited in the extent of its saving benefit to fallen humanity by the sole determination and good pleasure of God's eternal counsel and will.

The decree of predestination, which is twofold, manifests the supreme glory of God in the display of his great mercy and love to sinners chosen before the foundation of the world and in the display of his wrath upon the reprobate.

5 comments:

Woody Woodward said...

I read the quote 4 times and I am having a hard time discerning what you found shocking in this statement? Is it the fact, as hallmarks of the Reformed faith’ers he has stated his conclusion that he is including the doctrine of Predestination, right alongside the doctrine of justification by faith alone?

Reepicheep said...

nothing shocking. Just insightful.

Jim said...

Hmm. I don't think I recognized that affirming that grace is "irresistible" is of the "essence" of the Gospel, even for Calvinists.

If irresistible grace is of the "essence" of the Gospel, then denying it means that one rejects the Gospel.

Reepicheep said...

Jim,

In fairness, Karlberg's whole statement is-

"The essence of the gospel, according to these Reformed interpreters,is the good news of free grace- grace that is entirely unmerited, unconditioned upon human initiative, and irresistible."

His emphasis, I think, is on "free grace" being the essence. Yes he does qualify free grace by including three things, one of which is "irresistible", so you have a point on that part of his qualification of "free grace".

I will say, however, saying something is the essence of a doctrine isn't exactly the same thing as defining the the essential content of what a person must believe to be saved, if that's what you are saying. In other words, a person could deny (wrongly, I think) that grace is irresistible and still be saved. We're all inconsistent in various ways concerning what we believe. Thankfully salvation is by God's elective grace, not our perfect theology.

Jim said...

I dunno, it's just such an odd list for identifying the "essence" of the Gospel.

Even granting the discussion of the relationship between election and justification, it seems odd to me that the essence of the Gospel can be discussed without mention Jesus Christ and the Cross.

Also, the reason I think that election (or predestination) manifests God's glory, is because it manifests his love.

God's election is God saying "I love YOU in particular."

I mean, really. Imagine if I told my wife when I proposed: "Well, I love women in general. You're a woman. So I'm giving you the opportunity to choose me as your husband. Not that I wouldn't be just as happy if some other woman took advantage of the opportunity, because it wouldn't be fair to the other women if I love you more than they."

It seems to me that, mutatis mutandis, it's the same with the Arminian Gospel.