Friday, June 22, 2007

Covenant and Theology Proper

"How the covenant theme pertains to the doctrine of God, 'theology proper,'" writes David VanDrunen, "is perhaps not as obvious [as the relationship of covenant to other loci]."

He begins by warning the reader against a lack of caution when "venturing to speak of God's inner life and Trinitarian essence." Instead, he argues, we should begin with the pactum salutis, the "covenant of redemption." This intra-Trinitarian arrangement by which the three Persons of the Godhead agreed together to bring about the redemption of fallen sinners, "thrusts before us the portarait of eternal, intratrinitarian divine counsel transpiring covenantally." In this counsel, "the Trinitarian Persons manifest the very attributes that demand central attention in the doctrine of God: wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth."

Furthermore, the covenantal nature of this inner Trinitarian life is shown in Jesus' statement that the believer's relationship with the Father is analogous to his own (John 17:21). "If covenant governs the ectype, how much more the archtype?"

Obviously, VanDrunen is not calling for a complete recasting of theology proper and christology in terms solely covenantal (which should alleviate some of your suspicion). Rather, he simply seems to be arguing that the doctrine of covenant provides a touchstone, a starting point from which these loci should be considered (a safer one than mere speculative attempts to penetrate the hiddenness of the divine nature).

And remember, those of you who think I'm overly dismissive of systematic theology: The entire context of VanDrunen's discussion is his larger argument that the Westminster Seminaries have never really done systematics at all. So contra Murray, Strimple, and Gaffin, he is issuing a call to do more than simply exegete relevant Bible passages.

If we call it "systematic," then let's have a system, for crying out loud....