Objections to K. Scott Oliphint's Covenantal Properties Thesis

Article by   July 2014
Paul Helm has recently offered criticism of certain aspects of K. Scott Oliphint's book, God With Us (Crossway, 2012), and Reformation21 has published responses by Oliphint and Nate Shannon. (1) It is striking that neither Oliphint nor Shannon offers much discussion of Oliphint's central thesis and arguably his most innovative proposal, that God relates himself to the world by taking on "covenantal properties" in addition to his essence.(2) Shannon's article in particular contends that Oliphint advances the Reformed commitment to Scripture by rejecting presumably corrupt elements of the classical Reformed doctrine of God. In my estimation Shannon's criticism of the tradition is somewhat overwrought and misguided. The question of the Reformed scholastics' doctrine of God, and especially of divine simplicity, has been settled. They deny that God can add properties to himself. (3) And while the merits or demerits of that position may be debated, the issue at hand is whether or not Oliphint's own doctrine of covenantal properties is a suitably orthodox alternative to the classical Reformed teaching on God. It is my contention that it is not. In what follows I aim to briefly set forth what I perceive to be the leading difficulties with the covenantal properties thesis. This critique is here stated tersely for the benefit of those just tuning in. (4) My objections are theological in nature and do not require that one adhere to any particular school of philosophy. continue

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