Archive for the ‘Concise Reformed Dogmatics’ Category

van Genderen and Velema on the Atoment

January 12, 2009

In their massive work, Concise Reformed Dogmatics, van Genderen and Velema provide a section (Section 32) within their chapter on Christ, the Mediator (Chapter 10), called “Aspects of the Work of Christ,” which includes a subsection on “Atonement (reconciliation)” and a sub-section on “Victory.” These subsections may be found at pages 511-38 of 2008 printing of the Bilkes and van der Maas translation of this work.

The book provides a relatively recent discussion (the Dutch original published in 1992) of the Reformed view of the atonement as it is held in the conservative Dutch reformed churches. In general, the discussion is descriptive. While certain erroneous views are identified as errors, generally only a cursory response to the error is provided. There is little attention paid to the patristic data – although there is a surprising amount of attention paid to modern erroneous views of the atonement.

The presentation appears generally to be sound. One interesting aspect of the book’s presentation is the reliance on a significant number of Dutch writers, whose works are not presently accessible in English or whose works have only recently become available in English. For example, looking through the “Some Literature” section, at the conclusion of Chapter 10, the number of English writings identified are scant.

As hinted at in the book’s prefaces (both the publisher’s preface and the authors’ preface), Bavinck is heavily relied-upon. In this section, the work of Bavinck is supplemented with John Murray, Wentsel and others.

One particularly interesting discussion provided by van Genderen and Velema is with respect to the issue of the relation between the atonement and the gospel offer. After explaining that Dordt explicitly rejects the idea that the gospel is only for some, not for all, van Genderen and Velema explain:

It is not, however, the mandate of the church to tell everyone: Christ has died in your place; all your sins have been atoned for and forgiven (cf. Bavinck, R.D., 4:36). The apostolic proclamation is: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them . . . . We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19-20).
No one may conclude from the gospel of atonement that Christ has reconciled him or her with God, without more ado. This can only be confessed in faith. “I can receive . . . the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ … and apply to myself in no other way than by faith alone” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 23). This agrees with Scripture. There we continually encounter the first person singular or plural: “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11).

(pp. 528-29)
As one would expect, given such a clear statement of the classical, confessional Reformed doctrine of limited atonement and the consistency of the universal qualified gospel offer with the limited atonement, van Genderen and Velema identify as error the school of Samaur including Amyraut and Cameron, which (relying on Graafland) they identify as closer to Arminius than to Calvin.


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