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The book of Acts presents an informative view of the Church, as well as an informative view of the way in which the Church read the Scriptures. As they saw that all things spoke of Jesus Christ, they also went on to apply those things to themselves. They lived the life of Christ.

This can be seen in Acts 4. Peter and John get in trouble for healing a lame man and preaching on the resurrection at Solomon’s portico, and so they are hauled before the Sanhedrin. When they return to the fellowship of the believers and relay their story, the group begins to pray Psalm 2 (vs. 23-31). They explicitly connect the characters in Psalm 2 to the characters at Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus is the Annointed. Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jews, and the Gentiles are the heathens, nations, and kings and rulers. This much is clear.

What is often missed, however, is that the actual application of this Psalm is not simply to the death of Christ, but to the events that just occurred. The ones gathered against were Peter and John. The “threats” which the Church calls for the Lord to look on in vs. 29 are those threats of vs. 21.

Thus it is quite appropriate for this incident to be followed with the description of the believers holding all things in common. They are of one heart and one soul precisely because they are the one Body of Christ. The giving of the land is the inheritance of the nations, and that they are laid at the apostles’ feet is Christological imagery (Gen. 3:15, Psalm 110).

So the anointed who was conspired against by the rulers and the nations was indeed Jesus, but it is also the Church. We, as the baptized, are all anointed ones, and as we dwell together, we are the one Body of Christ. Our life is Christ’s life, and what is done to us, and in turn what we do to one another, is done to Jesus.

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The Reformed faith has traditionally spoken of God condescending to reveal himself in creation. Presupposed in this assertion is that God is infinite in his own essence, both qualitatively and quantitatively. God is of a different type of “being” altogether, existing wholly within himself, outside of our plane of space and time. He is outside of our scale of being. In order for us to have knowledge of this wholly other God, God has revealed himself in an appropriate fashion. Calvin referred to this as accommodation, and this has given some occasion for question. It is very easy to interpret this accommodating as a less desirable way of relating, as if in the best of all possible worlds man could overcome this situation. However well-intentioned such a desire may be, it is indeed quite fatal, for what is called “accommodation” is really just one attempt at the larger Christian doctrine of analogy, that is, the relationship between the infinite and the finite.

This concept is indeed not free from controversy. I do not wish to touch on Aquinas’s use of the analogia entis, nor will I tread upon Eastern Orthodoxy’s distinction between God’s essence and his energies. These are all attempts to get at the same thing, and postmodernity has given a new popularity to questions of “being.” For our purposes, I would like to examine what the Reformed faith’s doctrine of the covenant has to offer on this question.

There is some diversity within the Reformed tradition as we well know. Everyone remembers the Van Til/Clark controversy, though few understand it still. Calvin scholarship is also divided on just what he meant “accommodation” and “condescension” to achieve. Was it specifically aimed at salvation or was it simply the relationship between Creator and creation? In order to get beyond some of these disputes and to the point of interaction with the topic at hand, I am basically assuming Van Til’s position, and I am assuming Van Til’s position to be basically consistent with Reformed Orthodoxy. Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics supports this, and as I proceed, I will interact with Scott Oliphint’s Reasons {for Faith}, which will also substantiate this point. And in doing all of this, I believe that I will interact with a few points mentioned elsewhere concerning the sacraments and the covenant.


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Our own Steven thinks that he has the freedom to post BH quality insights on his own blog.  So I’m linking him.  Let us comment here and teach Steven a lesson.  OK?

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(I originally posted this at my personal blog.)

John Davenant was perhaps the single most influential delegate at the Synod of Dort (particularly for what he kept out of the final Canons). Much of his influence was examined in my previous post on the subject, but it is certainly the case that he remains a neglected figure. I had never heard of him until I began my studies on Dort, and as I survey some of the secondary literature, I see that a few commentators have questioned whether or not he ought to be considered a Calvinist. G Michael Thomas addressed Robert Godfrey’s claims on Davenant in his book The Extent of the Atonement, but I would like to address this issue a little myself by contrasting Davenant with John Overall, a man who had great influence on Davenant, but also a man whose historical point of view was quite different from Davenant’s.

Davenant wrote an extended treatise on the extent of the atonement, partly meant to explain the Canons of Dort. This is his A Dissertation on the Death of Christ. It was originally included within his Colossians commentary, but some modern reprints have removed it. In this treatise, Davenant affirms that Christ’s death established the new covenant and that the death of Christ is sufficient for all men, but for the elect alone effectually. Davenant’s two-fold approach to the death of Christ, allowing for a general universal atonement and a particular effectual atonement, was not original to him, however, and as Peter White has noted, Davenant was directly influenced by Bishop John Overall (Predestination, Policy and Polemic, pg. 191). Overall’s treatises on the atonement can all be found in Anthony Milton’s The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (pg. 64- 92). (more…)

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When I was first introduced to Reformed theology, I encountered “the five points of Calvinism” and “TULIP.” I was told that these came from the Synod of Dort, which essentially decided that Calvinism would be the accepted religion of the Reformed churches in Europe. Calvinism and TULIP were for the most part equivalent.

As I moved from a Reformed Baptist to a Presbyterian, I began to hear pastors mention that Calvinism was more than the five points. I began to learn about “covenant theology,” which served as the basis for baptizing infants. Calvinism now included the TULIP as well as covenant theology and infant baptism. Still later in my studies, I began to learn about the Calvinistic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. My understanding of Calvinism broadened, but I still had a tendency to think of Dort when I heard the term Calvinist.

Given the central place of Dort in the history of Calvinism, I was surprised when I began to read R. L. Dabney’s Systematic Theology and his book The Five Points of Calvinism. He nearly dismissed the five points saying, “Historically, this title is of little accuracy or worth.”[1] As I continued to read in Dabney, I began to discover there were various schools within Calvinism, some of which disagreed in key places. Amazingly, Dabney, Charles Hodge, and William Shedd all distance themselves from theologians like Francis Turretin on the relationship between the decree of God and the cross of Christ, and even go so far as to explicitly reject key exegesis that underlies the “limited atonement” argument found in John Owen’s The Death of Death.[2] These 19th century Presbyterians were neither Arminians, nor Amyraldians though, but rather they represent what is called, for better or for worse, moderate Calvinism.[3]

How is it, I wondered, that I had never heard of this distinction before? Why have I been taught that the Five Points of Calvinism are the summary of Reformed theology? What is limited atonement? This brought on a bit of theological dizziness, and I was eager to learn more about the true history of Calvinism and the Synod of Dort. What did it teach concerning these matters, and what is its place in the larger Reformed church history? (more…)

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This is an exploratory attempt to plot the structure of the Jacob narrative. I have been working through the book of Genesis for a Sunday School class, and this section was inspired by the Biblical Horizons Newsletter 109, Crisis Time: Patriarchal Prologue, Part 1.

A. Naming of Jacob (25:19-28)
  B. Esau Despises his Birthright (25:29-34)
    C. Abimelech (26)
      D. Jacob is blessed and incites Esau to Murder (27-28:9)
        E. Vision of God at Bethel (28:10-22)
          F. Jacob vs. Laban (29:1-30)
            G. Leah vs. Rachel (29:31-24)
              H. God opens Rachel’s womb – Joseph (30:22-24)
            ’G. Speckled vs. White Goats (30:25-34)
          ’F. Jacob vs. Laban (31)
        ’E. Vision of God at Peniel (32:22-32)
      ’D. Esau turns from his anger and Jacob blesses Esau (33)
    ’C. Dinah (34)
  ’B. Jacob casts out the idols (35:1-8)
’A. Renaming of Jacob (35:9-15)

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