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A Summary of How Theologians Describe God

The works of God with respect to Himself and His creatures 1:

1. Immanent/Internal Works (ad intra)

  • A. Intrinsic 2 3
    • Of His Being
    • Of His Persons [Ontological Trinity]
  • B. Extrinsic 4
    • Decrees 5 6
      • To be glorified by vessels of glory & wrath
      • To Create
      • To Permit the Fall
      • To Redeem the Elect [ie covenant of redemption]7 8

2. Transient/External Works (ad extra) 9

  • A. Creation
  • B. Providence (in later theology) / Governance (in early theology)
    • Extraordinary/Special providence (WCF 5.3)
  • C. Redemption

Some Notes:

  1. In the end, all theological logic is nominal. I don’t think we can know what this parsing out actually refers to in se (in itself) in God. But I think the parsing out of concepts helps us understand how to categorize our little ectypal revelation about God.
  2. Intrinsic works remain within and refer to God.
  3. NECESSARY works are those that are who God is. Of His Immanent works, this includes intrinsic works of His being and Persons. UNNECESSARY works are things that are not necessitated by who God is but are accidental to His nature. Of His immanent works, this includes the extrinsic works. All of His transient works are also unnecessary (given the definition of unnecessary).
  4. Extrinsic works remain within but refer to things outside of God.
  5. Decrees – In early Reformed work ‘providence’ was the purposing of how the decrees would be carried out. It was called the, “parent of predestination” – Bavinck.
  6. I take a via media in my ordering of the decrees between the infralapsarian and supralapsarian positions by placing permission of the fall after creation, but glorification prior to all.
  7. I also place the covenant of redemption within the logical ordering of the decrees. In the various charts I’ve studies of Reformed/patristic theologies, I’ve yet to find one that describes where this covenantal concept fits within the immanent works of God.
  8. There is a debate among theologians regarding the nature of the decree as how to view Christ’s role in Redemption—Christ as fideiussor or Christ as exprommisor.

    “The Son’s sponsio was not an expromissio (surety) [disagreeing with Berkhof], such that the guilt of sin was transferred without further ado from the elect to the Son and they had already become guiltfree through the pact itself.  Rather it was a real fideiussio (bail), a guarantee which was already effective from the start, even before the Son, in view of this merit of his in the future, had fulfilled his vow by completing the work of redemption.” -Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, p. 380

    ie.  in Heppe’s view Christ said, “I agree to bail them out once they sin, with foresight of my work.”  But in Berkhof’s view, Christ said, “I agree to undertake their debt now.”

    Sponsio, “An engagement to pay a certain sum of money to the successful party in a cause.” -Black’s Law Dictionary
    Surety, “A person who binds himself for the payment of a sum of money or for the performance of something else, for another, who is already bound for the same.  A surety differs from a guarantor, and the latter [guarantor] cannot be sued until after a suit against the principal.  2. The surety differs from bail in this, that the latter [bail] actually has, or is by law presumed to have, the custody of his principal, while the former [surety] has no control over him.  The bail may surrender his principal in discharge of his obligation; the surety cannot be discharged by surrender.”
  9. Transient/External works involve the execution of the decree(s) and are always related to the economic Trinity and the doctrine of inseperable operations, “opera ad extra trinitatis indivisa sunt”. ↩︎

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