New In Print And Online: God The Son And The Covenant Of Grace

Caspar Olevianus, Eternal Generation, and the Substance of the Covenant of Grace

In the Summer of 1570 the Reformed Reformation in Heidelberg faced a crisis. Several of the Zwinglians, who had sided with Erastus against the Calvinist order in the Palatinate, were perceived by their Calvinist opponents to be arguing for something that looked like Arianism. This was a crisis because the Lutheran electors were already suspicious of Frederick III (1515–76) because of his Calvinism. As such, he denied the Lutheran version of the communication of properties (communicatio idiomatum), the ubiquity of Christ’s humanity, and the Lutheran view of the Supper. The Lutherans had already summoned him to the Colloquy of Maulbronn in 1564 to answer for his Reformed convictions and, had he failed to satisfy them, he faced a possible invasion. Thus, both the political and the theological stakes were high in the discovery of any heresy against the ecumenical faith in Heidelberg. Read more»


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  1. Thank you for this fine article. My sense is that some Evangelicals reject the only begotten language and the eternal generation of the Son, because they make two fundamental mistakes in epistemology and theological method.

    The first is that they have not recognized that both Epicurean and Pelagianism (these being the Christian and disbelieving forms of a spectrum of reductionistic materialism) require an impatience with careful reasoning; nor do they recognize how much they are influenced by these systems. (I have an IVP commentary on Exodus, claiming the manna in the wilderness was edible bug spit.) The tendency towards materialism and reductionistic systems is embedded in the Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment project. This is then combined with rejecting faith seeking understanding as the theological method.

    These two things combined reenforce each other. So much so that the most robust philosophical defense of literalism that I am aware of appears in Epicurious and Spinoza. Literalism in its rawest form is that the writer’s intention or the correct interpretation is found in the first thought or feeling of the reader. So, what the reader understands must be true, because that’s what the Bible means.

    I have come to this conclusion, because what I have not seen among Evangelicals rejecting the eternal generation of the Son is a careful tracing and contradiction of any of the historical defenses from the likes of Augustine, Peter Lombard, Thomas, or any of the Scholastic reformed. Essentially, they pass their hand over the reasoning and arguments as too influenced by philosophy, too consumed with apologetic debates within a Western philosophical tradition, conclude that the eternal generation of the Son is extra-biblical, and then move on. Sometimes they will glom on to what appears to modern sensibilities overstatements of the parental relationship between the Father and Son, but they don’t dig into the arguments.

    What I appreciate about your efforts is an attempt to reintroduce faith seeking understanding by defining the faith within a select group of doctrinal statements, and then challenging believers to seek understanding within that definition of faith.

    Warm regards,


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