THESES THEOLOGICAE (Theological Propositions)
Since the medieval period, theologians have stated theology
in the form of brief, sometimes provocative, propositions to be
- Theology requires proper distinctions.
- The Protestant scholastics distinguished properly
between archetypal (theology as God knows it in himself)
and ectypal theology (theology as God reveals it to us).
- Archetypal theology is the understanding which the
Triune God has always had of himself, and of every other
fact or possibility. Therefore God has a theology apart
from our experience of him or his self-revelation to us.
- Ectypal theology is God's accommodated
self-revelation in the Word of God written. Because of
the ontological distinction between the Creator and the
creature God's self-revelation in the Bible is
necessarily accommodated to human finitude.
- Failure to distinguish between archetypal and
ectypal theology necessarily leads either to
fundamentalism (i.e., the illegitimate claim of
certainty by identifying the mind of man with God's
mind) or to skepticism.
- Because it is ectypal (revealed) theology,
Scripture's anthropomorphic language about God must be
understood to be analogical.
- Scripture, because it is the product of the Holy
Spirit, is the infallible, inerrant, word of God
- Pilgrim Theology is the apprehension, appropriation,
and application of biblical (theologia ectypa)
- Revelation is twofold: natural and Scriptural.
- Natural revelation is true but not saving.
- Scripture is the primary and unique source of
- Study of general revelation must inform but not
control our interpretation of Scripture.
- Theology must always account for the one and the
- The Christian faith is the most rational thing to
believe but Christians do not believe it primarily
because it is so.
- The Christian must not integrate faith and life as
much as refuse to disintegrate what God has already
- Scripture is the primary and unique authority for
faith and life, i.e. sola Scriptura is still the
formal principle of Protestantism.
- Scripture is composed of two words: Law and Gospel.
The Law describes God's moral demands of his creatures
and the Gospel describes God's gracious provision for
- The Law-Gospel dichotomy is absolutely necessary for
a genuinely Protestant and Reformed hermeneutic.
- Scripture interprets Scripture, the new interprets
the old, and the clear interprets the unclear.
- Modernism is a competing sub-Christian religion.
- Progressive neo-evangelicalism is a form of "soft"
- Literal is not a synonym for true.
- Everything which one must believe for salvation is
clearly revealed in Scripture.
- Karl Barth was a neo-Modernist, not neo-Orthodox,
theologian, i.e. he was expressing Modernity in
Christian terms, not Christianity in Modern terms.
- Inasmuch as it is a revealed religion Christianity
is not susceptible of human revision or rescue.
- Progressive neo-evangelicals do not sufficiently
value the orthodox Protestant tradition.
- There are four necessary mysteries in the Christian
faith: God is one in three persons; Christ is one person
with two natures; God is absolutely sovereign yet human
beings are morally liable for their actions; God reveals
himself as desiring what he has not decreed.
- The N.T. hermeneutic and interpretation of the O.T.
norms our hermeneutic and use of Scripture.
- Theology Proper
- All theology flows from the Doctrine of God.
- The God who is revealed in Scripture neither suffers
(impassable) nor changes (immutable), in himself.
- The biblical God speaks and reveals himself.
- Scripture distinguishes between God as he is in
himself and God as he is revealed to us.
- Reformed theology has both voluntarist and realist
elements in its doctrine of God.
- Christology must be distinguished from the doctrine
- God is one in three, co-eternal, consubstantial
- All Christians believe the orthodox doctrine of the
- Both creation and redemption are Trinitarian in
character and operation.
- The Western Church was correct to condemn Pelagius
- God the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father
and the Son (i.e. the filioque is correct).
- God has made certain immutable decisions from all
- Divine sovereignty does not preclude human, moral,
- All things happen according to God's fatherly
- We were created in imago Dei
- In the fall the image was marred but not lost
- Scripture precludes the possibility of evolutionary
- Denial of the special creation of humanity
jeopardizes the doctrine of Christ's federal headship.
- There is universal, indiscriminate, divine
benevolence this side of the consummation.
- It is true both that we are the image and we possess
- The image consists in our rational, volitional, affective
faculties, and in our bodies.
- The image is renewed only by union with Christ.
- Augustine was right on sin and Pelagius was wrong,
i.e., Post-lapsum non posse non peccare.
- We sin because we are sinners.
- The Christian is simul iustus et peccator.
- Entire perfection, in this life, is impossible.
- Post-lapsum we are unable to cooperate with
divine grace toward justification.
- Adam is the federal head of all humanity, to wit, "In
Adam's fall, sinned we all."
- Human beings are morally liable for their actions
because of God's sovereignty.
- Anyone who denies the prelapsarian covenant of works
jeopardizes the Biblical and Protestant doctrine of
justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in
- Jesus Christ is an historical person.
- The gospel accounts of Christ are true and reliable.
- All Christians believe the orthodox doctrine of
Christ summarized in the catholic creeds.
- All Christians believe Jesus' virgin conception and
- Christ has two natures in one person.
- Jesus' humanity had no existence prior
to the incarnation.
- Jesus is a person and did not adopt an existing
- Christ has two sources of consciousness and one
center of self-consciousness.
- Jesus was self-consciously the God-Man.
- Christ expiated the sins and propitiated the divine
wrath for all his people.
- Christ had to be fully God and fully man to
- Christ is federal, representative head of all his
- Jesus came to be the surety for all his people by
his active and passive obedience.
- The Reformed doctrine of the communication of the
properties (communicatio idiomatum) is this: What
can be said of the two natures can be said of the person
but what can be said of the person cannot ipso facto
be said of the two natures.
- God the Son was and is extra Christum and was
present with his people prior to the incarnation and by
the Holy Spirit after the incarnation.
- Jesus' humanity was glorified but not overwhelmed by
his Deity, in the ascension.
- The God of the Bible relates to his creatures
- Covenant or federal theology is so of the essence of
Reformed theology that to revise it is to revise the substance of Reformed theology.
- Classical Reformed theology teaches three distinct covenants:
the covenant of redemption (pactum salutis), the
covenant of works (foedus operum), and the
covenant of grace (foedus gratiae).
- The pre-temporal covenant of redemption (pactum
salutis) stands behind the covenant of works and
covenant of grace.
- The covenantal arrangement of the history of
redemption and the covenantal progressive revelation of
Scripture is not a mere convention, but rather a
reflection of the intra-Trinitarian covenantal relations
among the persons of the Deity.
- The pre-lapsarian covenant may be called a covenant
of works in respect to its terms, a covenant of life in
respect to its goals, and a covenant of nature in respect
to its setting. All three names describe the same
- In Reformed theology, the covenant of works is
identical to the Law which says: Do this and live.
- In Reformed theology the covenant of grace is
synonymous with the Gospel.
- Monocovenantalism or refusal to distinguish between
the covenants of works and grace implies a confusion of
Law and Gospel.
- When we speak in covenantal terms we should always
specify to which covenant we refer.
- The Gospel is not a promise that one is elect. It is a
statement of fact, that Christ obeyed, died, and was
raised for the justification of his people and a promise
that whoever has true faith in the Savior is justified
- Election is the superstructure of our ordo salutis,
but not itself the application of redemption.
- Though election and predestination are essential to
Reformed theology they are not in themselves sufficient
conditions for Reformed theology since many theologians
have held and taught them without being Reformed.
- Election and predestination are best used a posteriori to explain how one came to faith. Reformed theology is not deduced a priori from the doctrines of election and predestination.
- Therefore, typically, we do not reason from election to our salvation, but we reason from our saving faith in Christ to our election.
- The doctrine of union with Christ is best understood as an analogue to the doctrine of predestination. Salvation is impossible without union with Christ but we do not deduce our system from it any more than we deduce our system from predestination. The Reformed doctrine of union with Christ serves as an a posteriori explanation of how believers have come into possession of the benefits of Christ (i.e., justification, sanctification, and glorification)
- It is best to distinguish two aspects of our union with Christ: federal and vital. The elect have a federal union with Christ from eternity by virtue of the decree.
- Believers are brought into vital union by virtue of their federal union with Christ.
- The first benefit of vital union is the application of redemption in the Spirit's work of regeneration (awakening from death to life) by the Spirit through preaching of the gospel.
- Because we do not come into possession of the benefits of that union until we believe, our confessional documents usually associate union (or communion) with Christ closely with faith in Christ (defined as receiving and resting).
- The doctrine of union with Christ should not be used to obscure the nature of faith in the act of justification or to marginalize faith as the sole receptive instrument in the act of justification.
- Jesus Christ fulfilled the covenant works in his active and passive obedience to God's law on behalf of his people.
- The slogan "in by grace, stay in by works," is
nothing less than the Galatian heresy condemned by the
- The covenant of grace was inaugurated in the garden,
- The covenant of grace is principally between God and
- The covenant of grace is monopleural in origin and
dipleural in administration.
- The term covenant of grace can be used broadly and
narrowly. When used broadly, it refers to everyone who
is baptized into the Christ confessing covenant
community. When used narrowly, it refers to those who
have received the double benefit of Christ:
justification and sanctification.
- All baptized persons can be said to be in the
covenant of grace in the broad sense. Not everyone who
is baptized receives the substance or benefits of the
covenant of grace.
- There is a just and necessary distinction to be made
between those who are in the covenant broadly
(externally) and those who are in the covenant both
broadly and narrowly (internally).
- The pactum salutis is distinct from and the
basis of the covenant of grace.
- In the history of redemption, the covenant of grace
was renewed in Abraham such that he is the father of all
- The term "Old Covenant" as used in Scripture refers
to the Mosaic epoch not every epoch before the
incarnation nor to all of the Hebrew and Aramaic
- The Old Covenant was temporary and typological of the
- The New Covenant is a renewal of the promise made to
Adam (Genesis 3:14-6) and the (Abrahamic) covenant of
- The Christian religion is exclusivist because it
teaches that Jesus Christ is and always has been the
only Savior for sinners.
- The Law and the Gospel are necessarily dichotomous
since the former only condemns and the only justifies.
- Sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith
alone, in Christ alone.
- We are sanctified because we are justified,
not vice versa.
- Good works are logically and morally necessary
for the justified, i.e. they are nothing more or less than
the evidence that one is indeed justified.
- Anyone who says that good works are part of the
instrument or ground of justification has denied the
Gospel of Christ.
- Christ's active and passive obedience is the only
ground for the justification of sinners.
- Justification (sola gratia, sola fide)
is still the material principle of Protestant
- Saving faith is faith which alone apprehends Christ,
his righteousness, and merits.
- Faith, in the act of justification, is not an infused virtue, but a divine gift and the sole, adequate, trusting, receiving, resting, simple, apprehensive instrument of justification.
- The power of faith, in the act of justification,
lies only its object which is Christ and his
- In the act of justification, faith does not contain
"all other saving graces," but rather is accompanied by
them. To make faith, in the act of justification, to
contain "all other saving graces," is to adopt the Roman definition of faith as "formed by love."
- Any definition of faith which contains more than one
element (e.g., faith and works) or any other object than
Christ and his finished work is
sub-Biblical and sub-Protestant.
- The doctrine of "obedient faith" (or "covenant faithfulness") as formulated by
Norman Shepherd teaches a complex instrument of faith in the act of justification whereby we are not justified only on the ground of Christ's righeousness imputed received through faith resting in and receiving that righteousness alone
and therefore denies sola fide and solo
- Justifying grace is not a substance but unmerited
- Divine grace is grounded in the sovereign will of
the immutable God and is therefore irresistible.
- God freely imputes our sin to Christ and his
righteousness to sinners.
- The Reformed ordo salutis is not a
speculative construct but a biblical doctrine.
- Much of so-called neo-evangelical soteriology has been
and is sub-Protestant and therefore not truly
evangelical as that adjective is defined by the 16th- and 17th-century Reformation theologians.
- Assurance is of the essence of saving faith.
- Christ's obedience and the divine promise is the
ground of assurance.
- The practical syllogism may supplement the divine
- Evangelism is properly defined as the public, official, proclamation of the Gospel.
- Evangelism is a Dominical mandate.
- Every Christian has an obligation to give witness to the faith and to his personal appropriation of that faith
- God reveals himself as desiring the redemption of
all though he has decreed only the salvation of the
- The free, universal, well-meant, offer of the gospel
does not imply universal ability to believe.
- Not everyone will be saved.
- Only the elect will believe.
- None of the elect will be lost.
- The church is both the universal and local Christ-confessing covenant community.
- There are divinely prescribed and described offices
and ecclesiastical courts with teaching, ministerial, and
- God has ordained three special offices in the Christ-confessing covenant community: minister, elder and
- These three offices have distinct functions. The
ministerial office is prophetic, the presbyterial office
is kingly, and the diaconate is priestly in nature.
- The marks of the true church are the pure preaching
of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments,
and the exercise of discipline.
- The preaching of the Gospel is the chief means of
grace and that through which God the Spirit creates
saving faith among the elect.
- The function of the sacraments is to confirm saving
faith among the elect.
- The sacraments are signs and seals of the covenant
- As signs they point to the reality of salvation.
- The word "seal" may be taken in two senses.
- If "seal" means "promise," then it is a promise to
all whom it is administered that whoever believes in
Christ is justified.
- If "seal" is taken to mean "guarantee," then it is
a guarantee to the elect that everything signified
by the sacrament shall actually be true of and for
- Taken in the latter sense, the sacraments are
signs to all but seals only to the elect.
- As signs and seals of the covenant of grace, they
are Gospel not Law.
- The sacraments are divinely ordained means of
sanctifying not justifying grace.
- The only divinely ordained sacraments are baptism
and the Lord's Supper.
- The sacraments are God's Word visible.
- Scripture teaches the baptism of covenant children.
- We do not baptize covenant children on the
presumption of their regeneration, but on basis of the
divine command and promises attached to baptism.
- Baptism does not itself regenerate.
- Baptism does not unite every baptized person "head
for head" to Christ.
- Since union with Christ is the headwaters of the
ordo salutis (i.e. the application of redemption),
to teach that baptism necessarily unites the baptized to
Christ is to say it ex opere operato confers the
application of redemption upon every baptized person.
This is a gross error.
- To say that baptism necessarily unites the baptized
to Christ obliterates the Biblical and Reformed
distinction between the church considered as a visible
institution and as an invisible organism.
- Baptism does not promise that all the baptized are
or will necessarily be regenerated (awakened from
spiritual death to life).
- Baptism is a sign to all who baptized, whether
regenerate and elect or not.
- Baptism promises to the believer that as certainly
as water washes outwardly, so also has Christ's
righteousness been imputed to him.
- The mode of baptism is morally indifferent though
effusion is exegetically and historically preferable
since, in the history of salvation, the only ones who
were immersed were those who were not on the Ark with
Noah and Pharaoh and his armies. Baptism is an
identification with Christ and his death, not an
identification with the reprobate.
- The Lord's Supper is the divinely instituted sign
and seal of covenant renewal.
- By the operation of the Holy Spirit, through faith,
Christ feeds believers with his proper and natural body
and blood in the Lord's Supper.
- Reformed Christians do confess Christ's true,
real and local presence. His humanity is
truly, really and locally present in heaven and, by the
Holy Spirit, we are taken to feed on his true, proper
and natural body in the Supper.
- Rome says that the elements of the Supper become
- Lutherans say that Christ's body is with the
- Zwinglians and the Evangelicals say that the Supper
reminds them of Christ's body.
- Calvinists alone can say that the Supper is
Christ's body and blood.
- The system of the catechism is opposed and superior
to the system of the anxious bench.
- History is a creature and has a telos and a
- Salvation is eschatological inasmuch as it entails
deliverance from judgment to final glorification.
- Eschatology is about ultimate things as well as
- We have been in "the last days" since Jesus' ascension.
- Biblical eschatology was revealed progressively.
- Postmillennialism and Premillennialism are both
forms of a theology of glory or over-realized
- Biblical eschatology is Christocentric not
- Postmillennialism and Premillennialism are both
- There will be no earthly millennial reign of Christ.
- Christ has always had only one people.
- Christ will return bodily, visibly, audibly, to
- No one on this earth knows when Christ will return.
- Christ reigns now as sovereign Lord over all.
- There will be a final resurrection and judgment.
- The body and soul are distinct but separated
unnaturally at death.
- The body and soul will be reunited at the
- The bodily resurrection will occur at Christ's
- There was an angelic lapse.
- Satan is a fallen angel
- Heaven is a place or experience of eternal
- Hell is a place or experience of eternal torment.
- The reprobate and Satan will suffer eternal
punishment in hell.
- True Christianity cannot be privatized or isolated
and must be lived in the Christ Confessing Covenant
- Christ is the Lord of nature and of grace.
- The greatest struggles of the Christian life are
two: accepting divine grace and divine providence.
- The decalogue is the general equity of God's law.
Christ summarized the decalogue in Matthew 22.37-40.
- The law of nature is substantially identical to the
decalogue and was revealed in Eden and is known
naturally by all humans such that all are without excuse
- God's law (whether expressed in the Old or New
Testament) is the norm for the Christian's moral life.
- There are three types of law in the Old (Mosaic)
Testament: moral, civil and ceremonial.
- Because civil and ceremonial law were specifically
and intentionally tied to the Old (Mosaic) covenant,
they were fulfilled in the Kingly and Priestly work of
Christ and are therefore no longer binding on the
- The Mosaic civil law, because it was specifically
and intentionally tied to the temporary and typical Old
(Mosaic) covenant, it was never intended to serve as
norm for any other state than Mosaic-Davidic theocracy.
- Any attempt to reimpose the Mosaic civil laws or
their penalties fails to understand the typological,
temporary, national character of the Old (Mosaic)
- The moral law, to the degree it expresses the
substance of God's moral will and is not tied to the
ceremonies of the Old covenant continues to bind all
- There are three uses of the Law: the pedagogical,
the civil and the normative.
- The pedagogical use drives sinners to Christ.
- The civil use norms the state.
- In the New Covenant, only the second table of the
Law can be said to bind the state.
- There are two kingdoms: that of the right hand and
that of the left.
- Both kingdoms are under the authority of Christ, but
are administered in diverse ways.
- In each Christians live under Christ's lordship
according to the nature of that kingdom.
- The kingdom of the Right hand describes the ministry
of Word and sacrament.
- The kingdom of the left hand describes the exercise
of power in the ecclesiastical and civil realms.
- Because of the distinction between the two kingdoms
and because the Decalogue is substantially identical
with natural law, Christians should advocate laws and
policies in the civil realm on the basis of the
universal, natural knowledge of the second table of the
- The third use of the law norms the Christian life.
- Denial of the third use of the Law (tertius usus
legis) leads to antinomianism.
- The third use of the law, like the first use, also
drives us to Christ.
- Because it cannot be known apart from divine
revelation in Holy Scripture, no one may bind our
conscience with any law other than that revealed by God.
- Sanctification is as gracious as justification.
- Sanctification is the result of justification.
- The revelation of God's moral will in Scripture does
not eliminate the need for wisdom in the interpretation
and application of divinely revealed moral norms in the
Christian life whether in the church or in civil life.
- The Christian life flows from the right use of the
means of grace.
- There is a proper distinction between God's hidden
(decretive) and revealed (moral) will. The latter has
been revealed in Holy Scripture and must be known and
obeyed. The former is only known ex post facto.
- There is no secret revelation of God's decretive
- It is more helpful to consider that prayer is the
chief part of thankfulness than a means of grace
- Broadly considered, prayer may be described as a means of grace since it is a divinely instituted element of worship through which God has promised to operate.
- Theonomy is not a Reformed ethical system.
- Only that should be done in worship which is
explicitly taught or implicitly required by Scripture.
- The Christian life flows from and is impossible
- The Spirit must never be divorced from the Word. Any
such separation is fanaticism.
- Inasmuch as modern evangelicalism (from c. 1720) is
driven primarily by religious experience and not
objective revelation as revealed in Scripture and
confessed by the church, the Reformed may be described as evangelical but we are not modern evangelicals.
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