Confession of Faith (AA Hodge)

Hodge, A. A. The Confession of Faith. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1869 [reprint 1958].

A. A. Hodge’s genius is in organization, much like that of his father, Charles. There is some overlap with his Outlines of Theology, but there is also new material relating to the law of God, the civil magistrate, and church courts.  Of particular interest are the study questions at the end of each chapter.

The Decree

Hodge distinguishes between “an event conditioned on other events, and the decree of God with reference to that event being conditioned” (65).  “The decree determines the nature of the events” (66).  In other words, an event is not always reduced to God’s efficient cause only.

The system of events is absolutely certain.  That in no way impedes the free actions of free agents.


Another evidence of the harmony between God’s decree and our free actions is our own self-consciousness. So Hodge: “We are conscious of acting freely according to the law of our own constitution as free agents” (96). Hodge is only noting that even given the truth of the divine decree, we have no evidence that we are automatons, quite the opposite.

Christ the Mediator

Christ’s mediation is indexed to his being Savior and Head of the Church. We prove this by noting what he specifically received when he discharged the terms of the covenant: upbuilding of the redeemed church (137).

When Hodge explains the unity of the two natures, he is on very dangerous ground. He writes, “It is impossible for us to explain philosophically how two self-conscious intelligences, how two self-determined free agents, can constitute one person” (141). At first glance it seems that this is Nestorianism, since he places two self-conscious intelligences within the God-man. I don’t think he is saying that, though.  Intelligences are minds, not persons. This is very thin ice, but Hodge is able to run across it quickly.

Free Will

We have free actions because “we are conscious, in every deliberate action of choice, that we might have chosen otherwise.” Moreover, we act from a “purpose or desire,” with “the internal state or heart, which prompted the act” (160).

Effectual Calling

Men are “entirely passive with respect to the special act of the Spirit whereby they are regenerated; nevertheless, in consequence of the change wrought in them by regeneration, they obey the call….” and are active (169). Regeneration and conversion are not identical. After regeneration, “the soul itself, in conversion, immediately acts under the guidance of this new principle in turning from sin unto God through Christ” (171).  “Making a man willing is different from his acting willingly” (172).


If one holds to the moral influence of the atonement, it’s hard to see how justification is any different from sanctification (180).

Faith = “assent of the mind to the truth of that of which we have not an immediate cognition” (202).

Knowledge = “perception of the truth of that of which we have an immediate cognition” (202).

Faith doesn’t mean there is no evidence.  It simply notes that the evidence is not immediately apparent to cognition.

Good works

Hodge has a good section refuting “works of supererogation.” Such a work, in theory, goes beyond what the law demands. This is false because God’s law is perfect and one cannot go beyond it.  Moreover, even the best saint in this life is unable to perfectly meet God’s law (225).

Following this, Hodge refutes the distinction between “commands” and “counsels.” He notes “that which is right under any relation is intrinsically obligatory upon the moral agent standing in that relation. If it is not obligatory, it is not moral.  If it is not moral, it is, of course, of no moral value or merit.  If it is obligatory, it is not supererogatory” (226).


Every covenant God made with mankind included children (346). The Old Testament church is the same as the New Testament church. “Infants were members of the Old Testament church” (347). Christ and his disciples speak and act on the assumption that the children are in the same relation as they have always been.

The Lord’s Supper

The church must use “the common bread of daily life” (358). (No stale chiclets.)

Transubstantiation contradicts our senses and reason, for “reason teaches that qualities cannot exist except they inhere in some substance” (360). 

The true, Reformed position, rather, teaches “the body and blood are present, therefore, only virtually” (362). We receive Christ by faith, not by the mouth. The reader can decide for himself how close to Calvin’s view this is.

This is a handy volume on the Westminster Confession for study groups.


Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen (Ferguson)

Ferguson, Sinclair.  Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen.  Reformation Trust.

This book unites what never should have been divided: piety and scholastic rigor (and if you don’t like scholasticism, then John Owen isn’t for you.  Keep moving). Lawson’s preface is a bit on the nose in terms of the “long line of godly men.”  It reads like bedtime stories for the Young, Restless, and Reformed.  Notwithstanding, Sinclair Ferguson brings rigor and warmth to his subject.

We are treated with some crucial terminology regarding the Trinity and the Divine decree.

Opera trinitatis: the works of the Trinity, particularly that there is one external work.  As there is one divine will in the Trinity, all the persons are in the working.

Appropriationes personae: each person expresses his specific personhood both internally and externally.  As Ferguson points out, “There is a deep relationship between the dispositions and actions of each person of the Trinity and the nature of the Christian’s knowledge of and fellowship with that person. Our experience of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is shaped by the specific role that each plays in relationship to our lives and especially to our salvation.”

Communion with the Father

Scholastic methodology allows us to make distinctions concerning the phrase “God is love.” This ties in with the divine decree.  

  • Love of benevolence: God’s plan for our lives.
  • Love of beneficence: the love displayed in history that does good to all people.
  • the love of complacency: the love planned in Christ that we experience.

Conclusion: “Christ died for us because the Father loves us.”

Communion with the Son

Grace isn’t a substance.  It’s Jesus. The medievals said we have sacramental grace infused in us at baptism.  Our faith is later formed by perfect love, and this makes us justifiable.  Owen, as Ferguson says, combats this: “Through the work of the Spirit, the heavenly Father gives you to Jesus and gives Jesus to you.”

Conclusion: “It does indeed involve our understanding of who Christ is and what He has done; it also includes a willingness to give ourselves unreservedly to Him. But our communion with Him also enlivens and transforms the Christian’s affections.”

Communion with the Spirit

The same Spirit who kept Christ from corruption of sin in the Virgin’s womb also kept him from corruption in the tomb.

This is a nice primer on deep theology.  It can be read by a layman in one or two sittings.

Review: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

This is one of the great books of all time.  It is basically a Q&A on various masters’ theses.  It is relentless in its pursuit of logical questions (and of apparently inane tangents).  The great thing about Thomas is that you can’t take anything for granted.  The small proof 400 pages ago will be the key to a subtle argument.

Thomas was a victim of his own success.  Few read him beyond the 5 Proofs, and I suspect those proofs weren’t all that interesting for him and his audience.

On God

Thomas: each thing has its own act of being; real apart from the distinct acts of existence.

God: existence as necessary being; his act of existence needs no cause of existence.  Pure act of being.

As Qui Est God has no genus, otherwise he would have an essence distinct from his act of being.  For God, to be is to be good.  His being and goodness are identical.

God knows himself perfectly and he knows himself immediately.

Does God know possibles?

  1. Concerning what might have been, he knows them by simple intelligence.

  2. God’s intelligence.  Will proceeds from intelligence.

The immediate object of divine intelligence is God.  He wills all other things by willing himself.  God’s willing of possibles doesn’t necessarily create them.

  1. a will is an action completely interior to the one willing.

  2. God doesn’t necessarily create existence by “willing,” but only through one of the divine actions whose terminus is an effect exterior to God

Treatise on Law

Thomas only devotes one question specifically about natural law in the middle of 19 questions.  More importantly, Thomas never abstracts natural law (which is usually exactly what his critics and defenders do).  Natural law is oriented back to the eternal law and the divine providence (ST 1-2. 90).

A short definition: “Law (lex) is something rational (aliquid rationes) directed to the common good by those who are responsible for that community” (Kerr 105).

  1. Eternal

  2. Natural

  3. Human

  4. Divine

(2)-(4) are how the eternal law is worked out in providence. You can’t separate natural law from discussions of God.


(1) For Thomas grace is two things: the work of God upon the soul and the effect of that action.

Two things are considered in the soul: the essence of the soul and the work of its powers.  The form of the soul is intellectual in orientation

The Subsistence of the Soul

Thomas: Nothing acts so far as it is in act, and nothing acts except that whereby it is in act. The soul is the form of the thing.  The soul’s powers are its mind and will.

(2) Form is the act in which a thing has its being and subsistence.

For Aquinas justification, in short, will consist of reorienting the intellect back to God’s proper order.  It is important to keep in mind that the soul is a spiritual substance that is intellectual in character (and this isn’t unique to Aquinas.  This is roughly the historic Christian position).

(3) Grace finds its seat in the essence of the soul, not in the powers.

What metaphor does Aquinas use to explain the nature of this grace infused into the soul?  Light.  Light, however, suggests an intellectual range.  This would place grace somewhere else than the essence of the soul–some place like the intellectual powers of mind and will.

In short, God moves all things (in justification) according to the proper mode of each.  It looks like this:

Infusion of justifying grace → a movement of free choice → forgiveness of sin

Part 2 of Second Part

Scope: This is Thomas’s course on virtue ethics.  Much is good, much bad.

The glory of the soul, which is the enjoyment of God, is the principle object, not the glory of the body (II.2.18.2).  True to an extent, but it’s not clear why Thomas needs the resurrection for this.

On Charity

There is a kind of friendship based on the communication between God and man (II.2.23.1).

Human acts are good as they are regulated by their due rule and measure (23.4).

Charity is infused in us (24.2). Every act of charity merits everlasting life (II.2.24.6). Mortal sin destroys charity entirely (24.10, 12). The spiritual life is an effect of charity.  Mortal sin destroys that.

Charity is capable of reflecting on itself.  The intellect reflects on the universal good, and since to will is a good, man can will himself to will.  Love, therefore, is a spontaneous movement of the lover to the thing loved (25.2).

While we are obligated to love our enemies, we are not obligated to show them all effects of love (25.9).

Key point: One’s obligation to love another is proportionate to the gravity of the sin one commits in acting against that love (2.26.6).

On Giving Alms

* Some are punished eternally for not giving alms (2.32.5).  By contrast, “almsdeeds deserve to be rewarded eternally through the merit of the recipient, who prays for the giver” (2.32.9).

* God gives us ownership of temporal goods but the use of them is directed to helping our neighbor).

Just War

Standard Augustinian stuff. Thomas gives several conditions: a) authority of the sovereign or leader waging it; b) just cause; c) right intentions.  Tyrannical governments are not just because they threaten the common weal (2.42.2).

The Glory of Monastic Life

It’s possible to go to heaven without being a monk, but it’s a lot harder.  Thomas speaks of being perfect.  He doesn’t mean sinless.  A thing’s perfection, rather, relates to charity, the consequences from charity, etc (2.186.3).

Various Nota Bene

* The church can compel secular power with regard to heresy and schism (2.39.4).

* Married sex increases concupiscence and is the contrary of the passage “cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2.186.4).  He quotes Augustine to the effect that when married people caress one another they are “cast down from manly mind” (Solil. 1.10).  Sorry, Reformed Thomists, but this is where the Reformation is a clear improvement.  Indeed, Thomas goes on to say that “perpetual continence is required for religious perfection.”

* Contrary to claims by Dutch Calvinists, there is no cultural activity in heaven (2.181.4).

Thomas’s Linguistic Fallacies

This type of thinking was quite common until recently.  It’s still painful to read, though.  For example, wisdom (sapientia) connotes sweetness because it comes from the word “saporem” (2.45.2).

Further, Thomas commits the word = concept fallacy.  For Thomas “religion” means “religious orders.”  Therefore, when James talks about “religion pure and undefiled,” this gives the sanction for man entering into religious orders (2.188.2).

A virtue is an operative habit (I-II, q.55, a2).

The Order of Love

Wherever there is a principle, there is an order.  Charity is of a “last end.”  Therefore, it has reference to a “First Principle” (26.1).

Christology: On Person and Nature

Nature designates the essence of the species. A suppositum is the whole which includes the nature as “its formal part” (III.2.2).

Something’s “assumption” includes the principle and term of the act (3.3.1). The principle of the assumption is the divine nature itself.  The term is the Person in whom it is considered to be. The act of the assumption proceeds from the divine power, which is common to the three persons.  The term of the assumption, being the second person, isn’t common to the three.

Thomas argues that Christ didn’t assume a generic human nature, since human nature cannot be apart from sensible matter (3.4.4).

Now to Christology proper.  The person of the Son of God is the suppositum of human nature.  For the most part, suppositum functions similar to hypostasis, so why doesn’t Thomas call it hypostasis?  I think his using “suppositum” allows him to affirm “one person” of the Son, pace Nestorius, yet acknowledge a human dimension to the Son’s person.  A suppositum is the existing hypostasis.

Why is this important?  If we take phrases like “Christ is God” or “this Man is God,” then strictly speaking it isn’t true.  By “Christ” do we mean the eternal Son, the human nature, both, neither?  Therefore, by understanding the hypostasis as a suppositum of the Second Person, we can say the above propositions.

A hypostasis is that which has being.   A nature is that by which it has being.

Treatise on the Sacraments

A sacrament is ordained to signify our sanctification (III.60.3). The cause of our sanctification is Christ’s passion.  The form is grace and the virtues.  The End is eternal life.

Do the sacraments cause grace?  Thomas says they do by distinguishing a principal cause and an instrumental cause (III.62.1). The principal cause works by the power of the form.  The instrumental is the cause by which it is moved.

The soul’s powers flow from its essence, “so from grace there flow certain perfections into the powers of the soul, which are called virtues and gifts” (III.62.2). Grace, accordingly, is in the sacrament as an instrumental power.

Sacramental grace: the principal efficient cause is God himself. This grace is to take away defects consequent on past sins, which hinder divine worship.

The sacraments, especially Orders, imprint a character on the soul.  (Thomas then has some horrendous exegesis of Hebrews 1, where he reads medieval Latin understandings of “character” into the koine Greeek.) The important part is that Thomas equates character and sealing of the Holy Spirit (cf. Schaff on this point; I think volume on Nicene Christianity).

The inward effect of all sacraments is justification (III.64.1).


The Empyrean heaven is a corporeal place (Supp. III.69.1).  It will have the souls of the righteous.  Venial sin is cleansed in purgatory.  Some souls can come and visit.

Thomas gives the standard medieval arguments for praying for the dead, and in reverse the saints can pray for us.  Here is where it gets tricky.  In response to the question, “Why can’t we just go to God?” Thomas answers, “There is a divine order where ‘the last should be led to God by those that are midway between’” (quoting Ps. Dionysius, Supp. III.72.2).  If pressed strictly, Thomas must admit there is no logical reason for us ever to pray to God.  He doesn’t forbid it, but given the above ontology we shouldn’t.  Indeed, he goes on to say that the “perfection of the universe demands” we go through saints.

Here’s the next problem: by what standard do I know that a deceased is a saint and not in Purgatory?  Presumably he would say the Church has decreed it.  Okay, where did the church gain that access to knowledge?

In terms of the signs preceding the End Times, he follows Augustine.

Notes of Interest

When Mary gave birth, Jesus didn’t break through her birth canal and damage the virginal purity (Supp. III.83.3).

On Hell

The saints see perfectly the sufferings of the damned (Supp. III.94.3). Divine justice and their own deliverance will indeed by a direct cause of the saints Joy at seeing the sufferings of the damned.


This book will change you.  It won’t necessarily change your theology, but you will grow in intellectual virtue by reading through it.  Thomas forces you to always work with the implications and connections.

Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry


Clark, R. Scott. ed. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007.

This is an early foray into the Federal Vision controversy.  The book’s value, however, extends far beyond rebutting Federal Vision errors.  It explores parallels between “a faith formed by love” (Rome) and FV’s rejection of law/gospel, covenant of works, and imputation of active obedience.

How we Got Here

R. Scott Clark explores the history of evangelicalism and puts the spotlight on the fact that American Reformed Christians thought of themselves as evangelical first, confessional second, conservative most of all.  This led to a loss of key Reformation categories.

Where Are We: Justification Under Fire

David VanDrunen explores recent ecumenical documents on justification.  He reminds us, contrary to all these documents, that “faith is the instrument by which we are justified.”  Love is a fruit flowing out of this justification.  By contrast, the Joint Declaration says justification is that which gives faith (loc. 544). Furthermore, while the Roman Catholic doctrine of progressive sanctification sounds Reformed at times, it is always placed within the context of justification.

Norman Shepherd: He will sometimes use innocent-sounding phrases like “living faith.”  The question then becomes, “Are we justified by an obedient faith?”  Indeed, in “The Grace of Justification” (Shepherd 15) “faith is the fruit of the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s not enough for Reformed revisionists to say, “But faith is never a faith that is alone.”  That’s not the point.   Just because faith is never temporally apart from works, it does not follow that faith is the fount of good works causally (Van Drunen loc. 895n).

Covenant Nomism and the Exile

Rich Lusk: “The initial clothing in white is received by faith alone.  This is the beginning of Joshua’s justification.  But if Joshua is to remain justified–that is, if the garments he has received are not to become re-soiled with his iniquity–he must be faithful.  Thus initial justification is by faith alone; subsequent justifications include obedience” (Lusk, “Future Justification to the Doers of the Law,” accessed at

The above might be the worst thing a Federal Visionist can say.  I know, it is tempting to say that any random quote by Wilson would be the worst thing–and there is some truth to that idea, but unlike Wilson, Lusk is able to communicate in clear sentences.  Federal Visionists cannot say, “Oh, but you misunderstand.”  No, not really. We misunderstand Wilson, to be sure, because everything he says is “yes and no” (contra 2 Cor. 1:20).  Lusk is quite clear: in by grace, stay in by works.

Duguid’s thesis: if we get in by grace and stay in by law, and if the exile is a metaphor for the punishment of sin, then does God have a relationship with his people when they are in exile” (loc.1037)?  If we get in by grace and stay in by works, then why does God renew his covenant with a sinful people who already had broken it?

The Covenant of Works in Moses and Paul by Bryan Estelle

Estelle begins on a strong note by rebutting Rich Lusk’s reading of Aquinas. Lusk said Aquinas maintained that strict justice can only exist among equals.  That’s true.  That’s also not the only thing Aquinas said: man can only merit (here for the sake of argument) based on God’s previous divine ordination (ST I-II 30.203).

Do This and Live: Christ’s Active Obedience as the Ground of Justification by R. Scott Clark

The Reformed have linked the imputation of Christ’s active obedience under his priesthood.  As a result, those who reject this shortchange “Christ’s work for us in favor of his work in us” (Clark loc. 3524).  Then comes a subtle shift: the ground of my justification is not outside me, it is inside me.

When Jordan replaces “merit” with “maturity,” he seems to see our problem as ontological, not legal.  Adam needed more being.  This is hard to square with the claim that he was created “in righteousness and true holiness.”

Legal fiction: imputation isn’t a legal fiction.  God’s “speech-acts are creative, constitutive, and nominative” (3886).  In any case, the charge from Romanists is odd since they do the same thing with the merits of the saints.

Faith formed by Love or Faith Alone? By Robert Godfrey

Thesis: the medieval church taught that faith, “in its essence, was simply or implicitly a mental category or habit to which the believer must assent, fides informis” (Godfrey 4026; see passages in Thomas II-II Q.41).  Charity, therefore, brings the act of faith to its form (Thomas).   Therefore, the unformed faith perfects the intellect as formed faith perfects the will.  At this point, he is capable of doing good works.

And before critics say “faith working by love” (which is not what Thomas was saying, for what it’s worth), the point here is that faith “does not take its power to justify from the working of love” (4123).


There was a point in my life when I was critical of faith alone.  But even then, I never advanced the idea that it leads to antinomianism.  I knew from observing other people that that wasn’t true.  The value in this book isn’t simply a comprehensive refutation of Federal Vision or N.T. Wright. Much has been written since then.  Rather, the book points out where the FV writers (and Wright) are simply ignorant of basic Reformed distinctions.  I speak from experience.  I never joined the FV club (mainly for factional reasons) but I did embrace many tenets.  Quite frankly, I was ignorant.

You are welcome to disagree with the conclusions in this book.  However, you can’t disagree with the Reformed and medieval source as to what the Reformed actually teach.

A. A. Hodge: Outlines of Theology

While this book can never approach the grandeur of his elder, neither will it have the literary quality of Shedd, it probably surpasses them both in its usefulness to the teacher. Unlike Shedd, Hodge doesn’t get distracted by side projects.  However, not all of Hodge is equally strong.  

The book follows questions 1-39 of the Shorter Catechism, though not overtly.   Hodge is strong in every single area that today’s Young, Restless, and Reformed are weak.  In other words, Hodge is strong in a lot of areas.

Arguments for God

Contra Hume, and anticipating Plantinga and others, Hodge notes that “order and adaptation can only spring from an intelligent cause” (37).

Pantheism denies the moral personality of God, man, or both (51).

On The Bible

Contra Rome: When Paul uses tradition, he signifies “all his instructions, oral and written, communicated to those very people themselves, not handed down” (83).

“Romanists appeal to the Scriptures to prove that the Scriptures cannot be understood, and address arguments to private judgment of men to prove that private judgment is incompetent” (91).

Attributes of God

When we say God is infinite, we do not mean that he cannot be an object of knowledge, as though knowing him would place a limit.  Rather, infinity means there are no limitations which involve any imperfections whatsoever (133).

The divine attributes are the divine perfections (135).

There can only be one infinite being.   “If there were two infinite beings, each would necessarily include the other, and be included by it, and thus they would be the same, one and identical” (139).

Per God as spirit: “Spirit is that substance whose properties manifest themselves to us directly in self-consciousness” (140).

Knowledge of God: the mode of divine knowledge: God perfectly, individually, distinctly, and immutably knows all things.  He knows them through himself, through his own essence” (145).  God’s necessary knowledge is the act of the divine intellect, without any concurrent act of the divine will.  His free knowledge is his knowledge being determined by a concurrent act of his will.

Relation to moral action.  God’s knowledge of future contingents makes the events certain, but it does not rule out moral certainty of creatures (147).

Will of God: we reject the liberty of indifference applied to God.  The decretive will of God is God efficaciously purposing the futurition of events.

The Trinity

“Substantia, as now used, is equivalent to essence, independent being” (164). True enough, but substance implies accidents, whereas essence does not.  A subsistence is a mode of substance

He is skeptical of the Johannine Comma (177).

He sees “sons of God” in Gen 6 as “angels” (178).

Eternal Generation: eternal personal act of the Father.  He generates the person of the Son by communicating to him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead (182).  It is a communication within the Godhead.

The Decrees of God

Immanent and intrinsic decrees are the generation of the Son and spiration of the Spirit

God’s decree doesn’t mechanically cause every event.  The decree provides in “every case that the event shall be effected by causses acting in a manner perfectly consistent with the nature of the event in question” (203).

When God decreed everything, he did so as a complete system, having its own internal causes and effects.  As a rational agent, I also act in relation to a complete system. God’s decree does not separate effects from causes and means. God’s decree makes the event certain in the future, yet “not as isolated from other events….but as dependent upon means and agents freely using those means” (212).


Nothing in Scripture says angels are completely destitute of all materiality; indeed, they took bodily form, ate food, and lodged in houses (252, referencing Gen. 18:8 and 19:3).


Contra Edwards: JE says that what we call “the course of nature is nothing separate from the agency of God” (Original Sin, IV, ch. 3).  This makes God the only real agent in the universe, and so logically involves pantheism.

When God chose his great end, he also chose innumerable subordinate ends; these are fixed; and he has appointed all actions and events in their several relations as means to those ends” (262).

“All events are so related together as a concatenated system of causes, effects, and conditions, that a general Providence that is not the same time special is as inconceivable as a whole which has no parts, or a chain which has no links” (266).

Moral Constitution of the Faculties of the Soul

The faculties of the soul are the capacity of the one agent (280).  We choose not to speak of the liberty of the will, but the liberty of the man willing.

Df. will = the faculty of volition, together with all spontaneous states of the soul (282).  It acts in accordance with intrinsic moral tendencies in the soul.

A man is morally responsible if he is in possession of his reason, and self-decided in his will (285).

Df. virtue = a peculiar quality of certain states of the will.  Its essence is that it obliges the will (286).

Turretin: the essential nature of liberty does not consist in indifference.

Man may act against motives, but never without motives (290).

God from eternity foreknows all the free actions of men as certain, and he has foreordained them to be certain (291).

Creation of Man

Pelagians believe that man was created with no positive moral character (302).

Original Sin

We deny that the corruption is physical (excluding possible effects).  Rather, it is purely moral and “biases the understanding” (325). It consists in a morally corrupt habit.  It leads to a schism in the soul (329).

“A universal effect must have a universal cause” (330).


The permanent affections in the soul govern the volitions, but the volitions cannot alter the affections (339).

Contra Traducianism

I don’t think Shedd had published his Dogmatic Theology yet, for had he then Hodge’s charges wouldn’t hold. Hodge thinks traducianists hold to a “pure realism, which is a “single generic spiritual substance which corrupted itself by its own voluntary apostasizing act in Adam.  The souls of individual men are not separate substances, but manifestations” of this single substance” (351-352). Hodge is here quoting his father (II: 251ff).  Both are mistaken on what realism entails. Human nature is a substance, not the property or quality of a substance (see Shedd, 469).  It is individualized in a concrete person.

The problem here is that Hodge is operating under a faulty notion of realism.  First, our human nature isn’t a manifestation of “humanity.” It is in fact a real human nature.  He wants to argue that since the traducianists think human nature can be divided or partialed out, then it is false.  Shedd responds that in the beginning, human nature became four instead of two (Shedd 490, modern reprint). Is that a partialing of human nature?  It seems to be, yet it also seems correct.  There is a constant “diminution of the primitive nonindividualized human nature when once its division and individualization begins by conception.”

Hodge later says that this is 1) Indefinite, 2) fails to explain moral responsibility, 3) assumes laws of natural development limit God’s agency, and 4) doesn’t explain why only the first sin is the one for which we are punished (364).

In response
1*) ?????
2) Again, it isn’t clear.  We are also guilty for our own individual sins.  Yet, we are also guilty for concupiscence, which came from Adam.
3) Again, I am not sure why he thinks that.
4) On everyone’s account, we are only guilty for Adam’s first sin.  

Guilt and punishment.  Guilt is just liability to punishment

The Person of Christ

Mediatorial actions pertain to both natures (381).

Do we worship the human nature?  We distinguish between the ground and object of worship.  The ground of worship is the divine Person, but we do worship the human nature alongside the divine (383). Strictly speaking, we don’t worship, either.  Worship terminates on the person.

Nature of the Atonement

Following his father, AA Hodge gives a lucid account on the nature of guilt and punishment.  A penal satisfaction concerns crime and person.  A pecuniary concerns debt and things.  The former terminates on the person of the criminal; the latter on the thing due (401).

Hodge also denies that “Christ suffered Hell.”  This charge comes up on the internet against Protestants.  Hodge specifically states  that “He did not suffer the same sufferings either in kind, degree, or duration, which would have been inflicted on them, but he did suffer precisely that suffering which divine justice demanded of his person standing in their stead.  His sufferings were those of a divine person with a human nature” (406).

Sin as macula is not laid on Christ.  Sin as reatus is (408).

Effectual Calling

Regeneration: it is a conversio habitualis seu passiva, “the change of character in effecting which the soul is the object, not the subject” (449). Conversion is the opposite.


Standard stuff here, but Hodge does a good job contrasting the Protestant and Romish views. 

Rome: we have a first justification for Christ’s sake. We then (maybe?) have a second one through and in proportion to his merit.

We regard justification as a judicial act, they an infusion of grace.  We say the merits of Christ are the ground of justification, they the merits are made ours by sanctification.  We say faith is the instrument.  They the beginning and root.

Chrysostom: Homilies on Acts and Romans

I think I read this sometime in 2010-2011.

This review will differ from a normal review because it is reviewing, not a tightly argued treatise, but a collection of sermons preached on the books of Acts and Romans. One will briefly note Chrysostom’s style, address a series of themes and interesting insights from the ancient world and conclude with final observations on the book.

Chrysostom’s style in the book of Acts is more marked than in Romans. Of course, one should keep in mind that these sermons (in print) are probably a collection of the best that an ancient stenographer could do. Chrysostom briefly introduces the text as a whole, explicates a few verses, and then concludes in a fashion where he recapitulates the whole text and focuses it on a moral application in conclusion. This is the case in his sermons on Acts; it is not so much the case in Romans.

Observations from Chrysostom

(The references will be in the page numbers in the Schaff volume, and not the Homily number itself.)

Tradition: “In fact, there are many things which they have delivered by unwritten tradition” (2).  Comment:  That’s fine, but proving any of these traditions in a non-question begging way is impossible.

Ascetism: (I remember in some groups ascetism was evil medieval monkery and that in our “dominon mindset” we should engage in “biblical feasting” (e.g., drunkeness and gluttony).

Economcis: “This was an angelic commonwealth, not to call anything of theirs their own…No talk of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ then” (47).

Justification and baptism: “Now he justified them by the regeneration of the laver” (453). On this note one should mention, as Thomas Torrance argues, that nowhere in Scripture is “regeneration” (palingenesis) ever referred to as an “inward” conversion process. It is always referred to as the final product of creation or something baptism does. Back to Chrysostom: in case I have misinterpreted Chrysostom’s argument here, the editor notes on the same point in another passage that “Chrysostom cannot mean the gift of faith in regard to baptism” (45).

Ancient Practices of the Church: “Then let us rid ourselves of this demon (passion), at its first beginning let us quell it, let us put the sign of the Cross on our breast” (111). Praying for the recently departed: “This is the greatest memorial…bid them all make for him their prayers” (140).
Communing with the saints: “Let us keep the saints near us” (319).

Angels: There is actually too much on angels. I will simply cite the page numbers: 171, 198, 366, 450,510. In short, each man has his own angel (171).

Sin and Nature: Chrysostom famously rejects original sin in his homily on Romans 5:12. Elsewhere he notes that sin does not have a substance (423). Therefore, it cannot be equated with “nature.” Sin, like everyone in the ancient church taught, is an evil operation of the will. Natures, by contrast, do not change. That is the very definition of nature. Therefore, a nature cannot change from “good” in the garden to “evil” later in life, otherwise it wouldn’t be a nature.

A Reformed Protestant’s best counter to this is to say that sin is a “macula,” or a stain on the nature.


Reading this volume is certainly a healthy exercise in the Fathers. The sermons on Acts are particularly good because they give us a snapshot of what church life was like in the early church (and by contrast what it is not like today. People who prat about wanting to go “early church” never consult the writings of the guys on this topic who, like Chrysostom, were much closer to this reality than we are today). Still, there are a number of flaws in this volume that will keep it from being “re-read.” Like any volume of sermons, it cannot be structured around a theme and thus makes for hard reading. Secondly, the editor feels the need to add his own opinions and latest thoughts to the text when they are almost never needed.

Review: Steinmetz, Luther in Context


Biel:  God has established a covenant and promises to give saving grace to everyone who meets the terms of the covenant (6).  

Staupitz: Only God can make God dear to sinners (9).

Luther and Augustine on Romans 9

Early Augustine:  evil had its existence in the free operations of a rational will (14).  Justification begins with divine vocatio, initiated by God.   The response to this is human willing.  

Later Augustine:  election is a grace which cannot be merited.  Faith is a gift of God. He had not distinguished between a general and narrow call of God.  “If faith is not purely a human act, but a human act which is also a divine gift, then the explanation that God preferred Jacob because of his foreknowledge of the merit of Jacob’s entirely free act of faith becomes untenable” (16).

Image result for luther in context

Luther:  His exegesis introduces a number of themes not found in Augustine:  human virtue is a product of divine election (18). True, Luther’s understanding of God’s justice leans towards an Occamist reading, but to the degree that it is faithful to the text one shouldn’t worry about charges of nominalism.  

Steinmetz draws three conclusions (20):  

  1. Neither Augustine nor Luther is particularly concerned about the problem which is uppermost in Paul’s mind.” (???)
  2. The will of God–for Luther–is the cause of election.
  3. “While Augustine worries about free will and the justice of God, Luther devotes his attention to certitude of salvation and the understandable fears of the spiritually weak.”

Luther and the Hidden God

“The transcendence of God is not equivalent to his absence” (24).  It means that while God is present everywhere, his presence is inaccessible to me apart from his Word.  Luther warns against trying to uncover the naked being of God.

“The gospel is the good news that we are not required to ascend to God through prayer, self-denial, and the discipline of reason and desire.  God has descended to us as a child on its mother’s lap. He has met us at the bottom rung of the ladder” (25).

Predestination belongs to the deus absconditus.  Luther would have us look to the deus revelatus–God in Jesus Christ.  

Luther and Abraham

“The thesis that Abraham was justified by his faith became increasingly problematic in a Church which distinguished between fides informis (a faith that can coexist with mortal sin) and fides formata (faith active in love), fides implicita (a habitual belief in what the church teaches) and fides explicita (the conscious and explicit assent of the mind to Catholic truth), fides quae (the content of faith) and fides acquisita (faith acquired through natural means) and fides infusa (faith supernaturally infused), credulitas (intellectual assent to doctrine) and fiducia (trust in the promises of God)” (33).

Steinmetz surveys three late medieval and early Reformation commentators on St Paul (one of whom was Luther).  He notes several competing strands between these exegetes. “The dispute is intense because each interpretation of Paul presupposes, contains, and implies a competing vision of the nature of the religious life” (35).  

“If the literal sense of Augustine’s proposition is true–no virtue without charity–then it is impossible for a sinner to earn justifying grace by a merit of congruity (37).  

Luther on Faith

“When Luther insists that the object of faith is invisible, he does so for two reasons, neither of which has very much to do with Plato or heavenly archetypes.  The object of faith is invisible either because it is future (who of us can see next Wednesday?) or because it is hidden in the present under the form of a contrary and contradictory appearance” (39).  

Luther among the anti-Thomists

Luther first encountered Thomas in an Occamist context (48).

Luther and Hubmaier on the Freedom of the Will

Hubmaier saw clearly that Luther’s view on the human will undercut the anabaptist distinctives.  Luther didn’t see the need to deal in depth with Hubmaier.

Lord’s Supper

The Protestant sacramental debates are well-known and I won’t rehash them here.  Steinmetz does make some interesting points, though, that are worth reflection. “Zwingli’s exegesis…depended, at least in part, on his dualistic understanding of human nature” (75).  Luther, by contrast, read the NT anthropology in a way to suggest the unity between soul and body.

Of course, I do not agree with Luther’s conclusions but it does show that both Luther and Zwingli had good points, which further suggests that a mediating position like Calvin’s is the correct one.  

Some final notes

“God’s word, according to Luther, is a “Deed-Word,” which not only names but effects what it signifies.   Adam looks around him and says, ‘This is a cow and an owl and a horse and a mosquito.’ But God looks around him and says, ‘Let there be light,’ and there is light.”

“God’s word creates new possibilities where no possibilities existed before.  The Word of God is a Word that enriches the poor, releases captives, gives sight to the blind, and sets at liberty those who are oppressed.  It is a Word that meets men and women at the point of their greatest need and sets them free” (115).

“Preeminently for Luther it is Jesus Christ who is the Deed-Word of God.  It is he and no one else who has been anointed to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (116).


Review: Horton, Covenant and Salvation

Horton attempts to give a full-orbed defense of Reformed soteriology, utilizing current scholarship, identifying potential weaknesses, and communicating this in a new and cogent manner. And he has largely succeeded.

Similar to other projects, Horton places salvation within a covenantal framework, drawing largely upon the findings of Meredith Kline. In short, Horton posits a “Tale of Two Mothers,” referring to Galatians 4. After a brief discussion of Ancient Near Eastern Suzerain Treaties, Horton shows that God’s promise to Abraham was unilateral, involving no stipulations nor any potential sanctions on Abraham. This continues through the Davidic covenant and finds its fulfillment in Christ. The Sinaitic covenant, on the other hand, is specifically sanction-oriented. The difference between these two covenants is crucial to Horton’s later argument. Horton asserts: “The deepest distinction in Scripture is not between Old and New Testament, but between covenants of law and covenants of promise that run throughout both” (17).

Horton then responds to the New Perspective on Paul. Contrary to the myths about Lutheran re-readings, Horton demonstrates from Sanders’ own findings that the 2ndTemple Rabbis (and probably Sanders himself) were semi-Pelagian. If they were semi-Pelagian, as Sanders’ own writings attest, then the “Lutheran” critique isn’t eisegesis at all. Horton then advances an interesting critique of N. T. Wright. Horton points out that Wright conflates the Sinaitic and Davidic covenants. So when the covenant “climaxes” for God’s people, is it the covenant of promise (David) or the covenant of bondage and death (Sinai, Galatians 3-4)?

Horton has a sharp section on justification and imputation. Justification, on Horton’s gloss, is not a legal fiction because Christ is the covenant-head, and if the justified are “in Christ,” then they possess his covenant status (105). Horton shows that a lot of Wright’s arguments on covenant and salvation, while sometimes shedding helpful light on the issues, really don’t make sense outside Palestine. When the Philippian jailer asks what he must do to be saved, is he really talking about the end of national Israel’s exile? If works of the law mean ethnic markers, then why is Paul accused of antinomianism?

The second part of the book deals with different ontologies. Contrary to the Radical Orthodoxy group, Horton posits a “Covenantal Ontology” which is focused on “meeting a stranger” rather than “overcoming estrangement.” The latter is an application of almost all descendants of Platonic ontologies of anti-bodiement.

Covenantal Ontology: The pactum salutis is the intra-Trinitarian covenant made in eternity. It is realized in the biblical covenants. See also pp. 182-186.

Horton notes that Radical Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism presuppose something along the following lines: overcoming estrangement. By this he means a paradigm that promises enlightenment and a liberation of nature beyond itself (155).

Several times throughout this book Horton advances a critique of Platonic Divine Simplicity, but never calls it such. He has a section on John Milbank and offers a full-orbed convincing critique of Milbank. As readers of Milbank know, he is strongly committed to the neo-Platonic doctrine of absolute divine simplicity. To put the matter briefly, such a view of simplicity negates or mutes distinctions. Horton then goes on to say, “As speculative metaphysics (specifically ontological participation) swallows up the horizon, Christology is swallowed by ecclesiology, and redemptive mediation has to do with overcoming metaphysical binaries (finite/infinite, material/spiritual,invisible/visible, corporeal/incorporeal, temporal/eternal, and so forth) rather than ethical and eschatological ones (sin/grace, death/life, condemnation/justification…this age/age to come” (165. /END EXCURSUS

The book ends with placing the traditional Reformed ordo in a communicative context. Horton wants to avoid some of the hang-ups the Reformed scholastics had when they used medieval categories to challenge Rome. Instead, Horton argues we should use communicative categories, which makes sense since Christ is the Word. Horton suggests we should see effectual calling as a speech-act whereby God creates a new reality. This isn’t that bad a suggestion, since it mutes the charge that Calvinism forces a God who forces the unbeliever’s will. God does no such thing. Rather, he creates a situation, renewing the will (does renewal = violence? I hope not, 223). Throughout Scripture we see the Spirit “bringing things to life, into existence” (Ezekiel 37). Is it so hard to imagine he can do this to the human will?

Interestingly, at the end of the book Horton employs the essence/energies distinction to critique a number of non-Reformed position. Even more, he draws upon Reformed scholastics who evidently employed something like it.

Horton has done heroic work. Milbank had offered a very challenging critique of Reformed ontology. Horton meets it head-on and and redirects it. He gives the most convincing (and charitable) critique of N.T. Wright.

The Economy of the Covenants (Witsius)

This is the classic statement of Covenant Theology at the end of the 17th Century.  Witsius steers an irenic course between Voetsius and Cocceius. The first volume deals with Covenant Theology proper while the second volume analyzes the various types and shadows of the Old Testament.

Image result for herman witsius

Generally, covenants signify a mutual agreement between parties, with respect to something (43).  A covenant of God, furthermore, “is an agreement between God and man, about the way of obtaining consumate happiness,” including sanctions (45).  This covenant comprises three things: a) Promise; b) condition; c) sanction.

While it is a free agreement between God and man, man really couldn’t say no.  Not to desire God’s promises is to refuse the goodness of God, which is sin. Witsius views the CoW as probationary, yet Adam wouldn’t have “earned” the reward per any intrinsic merit.  The reward is rooted in God’s covenant, not in man’s merit.

Doctrine of God

God’s knowledge of future things cannot be conceived apart from his decreeing them (141).  The creature acts in concurrence with God’s action. All things come from God. There is only one first cause (I.8.15). If something could act besides having God as its cause, then there would be multiple first Causes, which is polytheism.

God and sin.  If all beings come from God, and even though sin is privation of being, it, too, is a kind of entity, then it also arises from God’s plan (para 22)

Book II.

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Covenant of Grace

Definition: a compact or agreement between God and the elect sinner, God on his part declaring his free good-will concerning eternal salvation, and every thing relative thereto, freely to be given to those in covenant, by, and for the mediator Christ; and man on his part consenting to that goodwill by a sincere faith (2.1.5).

Chapter 2: Of the Covenant between God the Father and Son

The covenant of redemption is between God and the Mediator. The will of the Father, giving the Son to be the Head and Redeemer of the elect; and the will of the Son, presenting himself as a Sponsor or Surety for them (2.2.2). Christ’s suretyship consists in his willingness to undertake to perform that condition (2.2.4).

The exegetical foundation is in Zech. 6.13.  There is a counsel of Peace between God and the Branch.

Covenant and Justification: God the Father, through Christ’s use of the sacraments, sealed the federal promise concerning justification (para 11).  Christ’s baptism illustrates the sealing of the covenant from both sides.


Chapter 1: Of the Covenant of God with the Elect

The contracting parties are God and the elect (281). The son is not only mediator but testator, who ratified the covenant with his death. Are there conditions in the covenant of Grace?  Earlier divines like Rutherford spoke a qualified “yes,” though Witsius removes himself from that language. Condition: that action which gives a man a right to the reward (284).

The Decalogue

The substance of the decalogue is the same as the moral law (p. 165). When God gave the decalogue to Israel, he published some reasons annexed to it that were peculiar to Israel alone (176). There is in some sense a repetition of the Covenant of Works in Sinai (IV.4,47).  However, it was not repeated simpliciter. Carnal Israel embraced it as a covenant of works (Rom. 9.31). Sinai contains no promise of grace.

The Old Covenant

Witsius contrasts the promises made to Abraham with the stipulations of the Sinaitic Covenant. In Sinai God did not promise to give the people a heart to obey (337).  And it is to this covenant, and not to the Abrahamic or Davidic covenants, that God contrasts with the New Covenant.


This is the classic statement.  Witsius gets somewhat speculative in the second volume, but the first volume definitely rewards careful study.


Review: Buchanan, Justification

While dated in some respects, this volume has outstanding discussions of several knotty problems.  The first section is an historical overview.  The real value of that is in the post-Reformation discussions (especially relating to the church of England).  A few snippets will suffice:

Antinomian: tended to speak of the imputation of sin made Christ personally a sinner. They confused justification with eternal election.

Socinian: “flows as a corollary from their peculiar views–of God’s justice as a modification of his benevolence,–of man’s relation to God as universal Father,–of sin as a moral disease,—of the nature and end of punishment as corrective, rather than penal” (163).

Key question: what is the believer’s title to the new life, if not the righteousness of Christ (175)?

Neo-Platonist view (very similar to today’s Radical Orthodoxy): the mediatorial work of Christ is collapsed into the Incarnation (205ff). What is needed is not reconciliation but more “being.”

Section 2 is Buchanan’s positive case.

Prop. 1: Justification is a legal or forensic term (226).  It is contrasted with condemnation, which rules out any infusion of righteousness.

Prop. 2: Sometimes it is seen as the manifestation of our acceptance before God (233). Here Buchanan makes the distinction between actual justification (Paul) and declarative (James) justification.  The latter deals with evidences. This is also Prop. 3.

Prop. 4: Justification denotes either an act of God, or a privilege of his people (250).

Buchanan then gives a discussion of pardon.  It is an important part of the sinner’s justification but it is not a complete description (259ff).  The pardon of sin by itself gives me no positive righteousness.

Relation of Justification to the Mediatorial Work of Christ

Prop. 9: It was God’s eternal purpose to overrule the fall of man for his own glory (293).

The terms of the eternal covenant determined the whole plan of man’s salvation.  They contemplated the end which was to be accomplished (294). Therefore, it was not the mediatorial work of Christ that prompted God’s love; it was the free and sovereign purpose.  

And against Neo-Socinian writers who deny a full and perfect justification, Buchanan answers, “If it [the work of Christ] was rewarded, in his person, with an everlasting and universal dominion, in the exercise of which He has ‘all power in heaven and in earth’ to bestow the forgiveness of sin, and the gift of eternal life, why should it be inadequate for the immediate justification of any sinner who believes in his name” (309)?

On Imputation

Even the semi-Pelagian and Romanist believes in a form of imputation.  Those who believe in the merit of saints and Mary at least believe that that is imputable to them.  Merit, if it is by another, is by definition imputed (321).

Perhaps we should say what infusion actually is.  Infusion is an infusion of moral qualities (324). By contrast, if Christ bore our sins in his body, and if we get his righteousness (whatever that term may denote), then it can’t be by an infusion of moral qualities.  If it were, then God wouldn’t be said to “justify the ungodly.”

Grace and Works

Works of the law can’t be ceremonial markers, since Paul, in his condemnation of the Gentile world (Romans 1-3), wouldn’t be condemning them for failing to keep Jewish ceremonial markers.  There must be an underlying moral law, for “where there is no law, there is no transgression.”

But What About James 2?

If works are the effects of faith, then they cannot be the grounds of our justification (357).  Further, they cannot come “as an intervening cause or condition between faith and justification, for they follow after faith, whereas every believer is justified as soon as he is united to Christ” (358).