May 27, 2009

Berkouwer ordo salutis

"Abraham Kuyper once noted a difference between older and newer terminology in the subject of faith and grace. The Belgic Confession uses the older terminology in Article 24, where we read: "We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin." The relation between faith and regeneration as found here is suggestive of Calvin's statement "that we are regenerated by faith." The newer terminology is that used by later theologians, who limit regeneration in the ordo salutis to the beginning of the new life. Kuyper spoke of the older Reformation and confessional terminology as the result of an "unfinished conception," of which the later, more limited, idea of regeneration was "the consistent development." Kuyper approved this development, but not simply out of love for system. The refinement of terminology resulted, according to him, from a desire to protect the Reformed concept from misconception.

Nevertheless, we cannot share Kuyper's attitude toward the words of the confession. Kuyper said that later theologians abandoned "this more or less questionable manner of speech and set regeneration more in the foreground." He went on to say that the confession contained a "subjective conception." Here Kuyper's criticism of the confession suggests, I think, that he puts too m uch importance on the arrangement of the steps in the ordo salutis. The decisive point is the way in which faith is related to God's grace. And this was in the confession, as it was in Calvin, above reproach. It is just as unreasonable to brand the formulation which we find in Calvin and the confession as subjective conceptions as it is to charge post-confessional development with shifting interest from grace to man. Faith involves a certain subjectivity, but a subjectivity which has meaning only as it is bound to the gospel.

This is precisely the marvel of the work of the Holy Ghost--that He is the origin of this faith. It is not the order as such that is decisive. It is how one understands God's salvation that determines whether sovereign divine grace is properly respected. To make a system of a certain order of salvation does not insure purity of doctrine. Nor does simplifying the ordo salutis guarantee a pure confession of grace."
("Faith and justification" By Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer, Lewis B. Smedes. pg. 30)

See here

These are good words from Berkouwer and Smedes. I agree with them that the ordo of Kuyper was an innovation or hybrid view, and not that of the first Calvinist Reformers. Though these "refiners" imagined that they were improving Calvinism, they nevertheless miserably failed, making things worse.

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