Some thoughts on “voluntary condescension on God’s part” in the Confession & Contemporary Theology [Richard Barcellos]

Richard C. Barcellos:

1689 Confession“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.” (Second London Confession of Faith 7.1)

Dr. Richard Barcellos
Dr. Richard Barcellos

I want to offer some brief thoughts on this paragraph of our confession, concentrating on the words, “voluntary condescension on God’s part.” I have not always understood the fine nuances and precise doctrinal intent of this very important part of our confession. I hope this brief study helps readers understand what is and is not being asserted here. These words are also contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) and are being used by some in our day in a manner of which I would like to offer some friendly push-back. Once I examine and explain the meaning of the words “voluntary condescension on God’s part,” I will interact with one contemporary theologian [K. Scott Oliphint] who uses them in a different way than I think intended by the confessional framers of the seventeenth century.

First, it is important to realize the context of this paragraph in the confession…

Second, it is important to understand how 7.2 relates to 7.1…

Third, the words “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures [cf. 4.2] do owe obedience to him as their creator” refer to what man as creature owes to God as Creator…

Fourth, the words “yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part” means that “the reward of life” is not based on the Creator/creature relationship…

Fifth, the words “which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant” tell us what God’s “voluntary condescension” refers to, which contains the promise of “the reward of life.”…

Read “Some thoughts on ‘voluntary condescension on God’s part’ in the Confession and Contemporary Theology”.

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