Old Testament Shell

The New Testament views itself—and there can certainly be no doubt about this—as the spiritual and therefore complete and authentic fulfillment of the Old Testament. The spiritualization of the Old Testament, rightly understood, is not an invention of Christian theology but has its beginning in the New Testament itself. The Old Testament in spiritualized form, that is, the Old Testament stripped of its temporal and sensuous form, is the New Testament. The peculiar nature of the old dispensation consisted precisely in the fact that the covenant of grace was presented in graphic images and clothed in national and sensuous forms. Sin was symbolized by levitical impurity. Atonement was effected by the sacrifice of a slain animal. Purification was adumbrated by physical washings. Communion with God was connected with the journey to Jerusalem. The desire for God’s favor and closeness was expressed in the longing for his courts. Eternal life was conceived as a long life on earth, and so forth. In keeping with Israel’s level of understanding, placed as Israel was under the tutelage of the law, all that is spiritual, heavenly, and eternal was veiled in earthly shadows. Even though the great majority of the people frequently fixated on the external forms—just as many Christians in participating in the sacraments continue to cling to the external signs—and while devout Israelites with their hearts indeed penetrated to the spiritual core that was hidden in the shell, they nevertheless saw that spiritual core in no other way than in shadows and images.

 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics V4, pg 660

Crowding out Union

Often the partifipatory apsect of union with Christ is pitted against the forensic (as it is often in the wo of Alberyt Schweitzer and some of the New Perspective on Paul literature) so that the forensic (justifiaion) is crowded out by a particular understand of the partificiation that is ontological.

 

Jeff Waddington, Review of Union with Chrsit in the New Testament (Grant Macakill), WTJ 77:2, p.412.

Union and Participation Imagery

If union with Christ is the "central soteric blessing," as Professor Lane Tipon likes to put it, it is crucial that we understand it aright, and if partification plays a legitiate role in a rich understanding of union, it is essential that we get this right as well. In short, participation is not a blurring of ontological lines but is a revelational, indeed, a covenantal category. It draws upi such realities as the role of the rabernacle and the temple in the Old and New Testaments which find their fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ and his body (John 4), the Shekinah glory of the dwelling precence of God with his people, the church as the temple and body of Christ by virtue of her union with Christ, and other themes that flow individually throughout Scripture and converge in a confluence in rev 21 and 22.

 

Jeff Waddington, Review of Union with Chrsit in the New Testament (Grant Macakill), WTJ 77:2, p.412.

The Covenantal Wonder of the Gospel

...owing to God’s free, NSD decision, he determined that he would relate himself to that which is other than himself—both the possible and the actual (this would include his eternal decree...). Then, he freely determined to bring about what he had determined would be actual, which itself was a subset of all that is/was possible. This is covenant condescension, and God takes on new properties in executing it; the Eimi, who himself is and always remains a se, takes on the eikon, in that he determines to relate himself to something(s) ad extra.

But this in no way sacrifices, undermines or negates who he is as the simple One-in-Three. He remains who he is, but he decides to be something else as well; he decides to be the God of the covenant. It was, to be sure, a monumental decision. It changed the mode of God’s existence for eternity; he began to exist according to relationships ad extra, which had not been the case before. But it in no way changed his essential character. Is this not the wonder of the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation?

 


A Most Unreformed Thing To do

It is of the essence of self-consistent Reformed thought to honor the tension between the witness of Scripture and our systematizing of its content. And so, alternatively, to refuse to heed biblically motivated critiques of theological heritage because such critiques are light on historical precedent or to hide from the testimony of Scripture in the safety of historical consensus stinks of sacerdotal magisterialism and trades a specious personal peace of mind for biblical authority. This is a most un-Reformed thing to do.

 


Condescension and Essential Properties

He does not tell us in Scripture that he determined to change his essential character. Rather, he tells us that he comes down, that he stoops, that he-while remaining himself essentially-assumes contingent properties in order to relate the things of his creation to himself. He is the initiator and preserver of this covenant relationship.

All of this is to say that it is God who has made compatible what would have otherwise remained incompatible (recall the Westminster Confession, 7.1). To put it in terms of SPC, there are two properties (or two sets of properties) that differ essentially. There are essential properties of God and essential properties of creation. These properties ties differ; they could even be said, perhaps, to be opposites. Thus, there are two entities, x_1 and x_2, creation and Creator, that appear to be incompatible... What unifying entity will supervene on x_1, and x_2 in such a way as to make them compatible without at the same time altering any of their essential properties? In a word, condescension; in two words, God's condescension.

It is God condescending, his act of condescension that, ipso facto, brings together the properties of Creator and creation in such a way as to preserve the essential properties of both, all the while placing them both within the same, unified, context. The unifying element, then, is covenant, the bringing together, by God, of the Eimi and the eikon. To put it in theological terms, the infinite gap that exists between God and creation is bridged by God's covenant condescension with respect to his creation.

 


The Miracle of the Unburning Bush

The miracle of the unburning bush was meant, not simply to show Moses something extraordinary, but rather to give Moses a visible ible illustration of just what it was that God was saying to Moses about his own character. The fire, often (as here) illustrating the presence of God in Scripture," is a fire that is both 'with the bush, without in any way needing the bush in order to burn.

 


Vermigli, The Non-Thomist Thomist

Though Vermigli was trained in the Thomistic tradition (e.g., one of his teachers was Juan Valdes of Spain), in his Loci Communes (posthumously published in 1563) his theological focus is more Reformed than Roman. He denies, for example, Thomas's analogic entis, in which Thomas sought to show that there was a metaphysical coincidence between the being of God and the being of everything else. Vermigli held that God was "other than men" in the nature of his simplicity, goodness, righteousness, wisdom, and so forth. Because of this view of God, Vermigli did not think it possible to understand who God is simply by applying the tools of the mind. God was of a different order of being than anything else. So, the only way truly to learn of him and of his creation was by way of God's revelation.

For Vermigli, then, natural theology had significant theological limits...Vermigli notes that the purely philosophical doctrine of God as Creator is at best marginally useful since to know God rightly one must have faith.