Review: An Everlasting Covenant (Kamphuis)

Kamphuis, J. An Everlasting Covenant. Launceston, Australia: Publication Organization of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, 1985.

This summarizes the fallout between the true, Schilderite take on theology, and the post-Kuyperian subjectivism.  It differs from other defenses of Schilder, however, in that it really analyzes Kuyper’s thought, even from his apparently less harmful works on principia.  Kamphuis’s thesis is that true Covenantal thinking in the church arises from the preached Word.  It meets us with objective promises and threats, bypassing our morbid introspection. While this sounds like something Doug Wilson would say, it need not go that route.  The key to the difference between Kuyper and Schilder is that the former, like some Wilsonite bloggers, believed in presumptive regeneration, which guts the covenant of its power.

schilder

There is a place for examining ourselves, but it should never be the main point.  The covenant word is what we “hear” and respond to in obedience (Kamphuis 21). When God establishes his covenant in time, he never asks us if we are one of the secret elect, but if we accept the promises of Jesus.

Kamphuis’s key argument is that for Kuyper there is a connection between scholasticism and subjectivism.  This sounds odd, given that scholasticism is usually accused of anything but red-hot piety. I think, though, we are looking at a scholasticism at the tail-end of Dutch theology, and not what we would normally call scholasticism.  In any case, for Kuyper the antithesis is when the new man is regenerated. It produces a change in consciousness. So far, so good. Unfortunately, that is not all.

According to Kamphuis’s reading, for Kuyper “Regenerated man is in contact with the [Platonic] ideal world….The regenerated man sees the idea of real things, the eternal idea, that of justification, that of the church” (24), etc.  From here it is a small yet quick move to eternal justification, an eternal church. It is also a covenant dislocated from time. How do you know you are really in it?

A note: I am not so sure Kuyper said all of this.  I haven’t been able to corroborate these sources.

If justification is from eternity, then all you need to do is be aware of it.  All that is outside the eternal idea is a mere semblance to this world. This leads to a chilling sacramentology: “When we apply this to the Covenant and baptism it means that Kuyper did not hesitate to speak about a–deceptive–appearance.  For there are ‘true partakers of the covenant’ and ‘those who are partakers of the Covenant in appearance only’ (Kuyper, De Leer der Verbonden, p.341).  This has some consequences whenever a sacrament is distributed to the non-elect people, “As often as this sacrament is distributed to the non-elect people, the Lord God ‘retracts his grace from it, so that they do not receive the real sacrament as yet.’ Kuyper formulates it in an even clearer and more frightening way when he says: “Sometimes there is a pseudo-baptism, just like there can be a pseudo-birth among men, so that no baptism took place or no child is born” (Kamphuis 24-25).

How did we get here? It is because of presumptive regeneration. In order to avoid the nominalism of the state church, baptism had to be applied only to the regenerate.  This is a problem with infant baptism, unless the infants are already regenerate.  If they aren’t regenerate, reasoning by modus tollens, then it wasn’t a real baptism!

Chapter 3: Stirrings of Reformation

The problem with the ‘42 Synod is that it made self-examination proceed from uncertainty, and not from objectively revealed promises (37).

The Schemes of Internal/External, Substance/Appearance

The parts of the covenant: Schilder’s camp interprets the parts of the covenant as “promise and demand” (57).  The baptismal liturgy connects “the promise and the demand of the one and only Covenant for all the baptized” (58).

The covenant promise–conditional and unconditional: God demands that we believe his promise.  Nevertheless, Schilder rejects the idea that there is some condition in man himself which he must meet before he can accept God’s promise (59).

Schilder was skeptical about Berkouwer’s use of “correlation” in the covenant.

Concrete-historical.  God’s decree of election does not always refer to the infinite mind of God, but also to his works in their mutual relations” (65).

Schilder on the Covenant of Redemption

He rejects the idea that the covenant of Grace = the Counsel of Peace.  Rather, Jesus reconciles God and men by inter-cessio (intercession) not pro-cessio (Precedence). If the Covenant of Grace is removed to heaven, then it has no bearing on time (72).

Kuyper’s followers made a doctrinal statement that by virtue of God’s promise the children of the covenant must be ‘taken for regenerated and sanctified in Christ’ (quoted in Kamphuis 74).

In Christ and by the Spirit.  Schilder interpreted the phrases:

  1. a) Sanctified in Christ means by virtue of participating in the covenant, being entitled to the promises of justification.
  2. b) this justification becomes ours in time through faith
  3. c) consequently, having by washed in the blood, then the washing by Christ’s Spirit springs from it.

Summary: the problem of history is the problem of the covenant controversy (86). This means covenant wrath in history is real. And if there is wrath in the covenant, then it is also a judicial covenant (that would have also been true of blessing, but it is more clear in wrath).

The good of the book: it outlines the problem with the post-Kuyperian churches.  It also provides a wealth of primary sources.

Problems with the book: when he is contrasting the official Dutch church with the Liberated church, Kamphuis will give a statement and it is not clear about whom he is speaking. Further, the formatting of the book is weird.  On one hand it is meticuously outlined (“5.1, 5.2, et.c), but the topics don’t always “connect.” It gives the feel it was written in part for a denominational newsletter.

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About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in Book Review, Church History, theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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