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.

 


Denial of the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity is Platonic

Without a strong account of divine simplicity, the ultimate principle and explanation for the being and perfections of things in the world, yea even for God himself, must be sought outside of and back of God. This is, in effect, to offer a Platonic vision of the world in which even God possesses being and attributes through participation in ideal forms or universals.

 


God's Image as Analogy

Though creatures bear the image of God’s existence and attributes, their similarity to God is better understood as analogical than univocal. The manner in which God exists and possesses attributes is so radically unlike anything found in creatures that he cannot be classified together with them in a single order of being or as the highest link on a great chain of being. As the one who ultimately accounts for being in general, as its first and final cause, God does not stand within that general ontological order.

 


Union with Christ: Justification Does Not Cause Sanctification

Union with Christ is the ground of both justification and sanctification, and Christ is the meritorious cause of both. Just as sanctification does not cause justification, so justification does not cause sanctification, understood in terms of the order of salvation. Sanctification would be utterly impossible, apart from having been justified. But that does not mean that justification, as an applied benefit, can cause another applied benefit. Rather, the peace that we have with God because of our justification enables us to live out the sanctified life as a child of God.

 


God is Without Parts

This simplicity is of great importance, nevertheless, for our understanding of God. It is not only taught in Scripture (where God is called “light,” “life,” and “love”) but also automatically follows from the idea of God and is necessarily implied in the other attributes. Simplicity here is the antonym of “compounded.” If God is composed of parts, like a body, or composed of genus (class) and differentiae (attributes of differing species belonging to the same genus), substance and accidents, matter and form, potentiality and actuality, essence and existence, then his perfection, oneness, independence, and immutability cannot be maintained. On that basis he is not the highest love, for then there is in him a subject who loves—which is one thing—as well as a love by which he loves—which is another. The same dualism would apply to all the other attributes. In that case God is not the One “than whom nothing better can be thought.” Instead, God is uniquely his own, having nothing above him. Accordingly, he is completely identical with the attributes of wisdom, grace, and love, and so on. He is absolutely perfect, the One “than whom nothing higher can be thought.”