Saturday, November 13, 2010

Was Bullinger’s Understanding of the Covenant Monopleuric or Dipleuric?

In his The Binding of God (2001), Lillback pointed out the many similarities between Calvin’s understanding of the covenant and that of Bullinger, especially with respect to the responsibilities of God’s people vis-à-vis the covenant. Indeed, a correct understanding of the “conditions” in Bullinger’s De Testamento indicates many similarities with the view of Calvin. Whenever the language of conditionality is employed what is highlighted is that the blessings of the covenant rest on the covenant conditions of faith and obedience in the context that El Shaddai graciously and unilaterally initiates the covenant relationship .

Venema (Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination, 2002)has also reviewed Bullinger’s understanding of predestination and has demonstrated that, though he did not emphasize it, Bullinger did hold on to reprobation (see a previous post for a detailed account of this). It is true that election is not directly mentioned in De Testamento but this does not mean that election was not important for Bullinger. Thus Venema makes the following conclusion: “Thus, it is not correct to characterize Calvin’s covenant as ‘unilateral’ and ‘monopleuric’, in contrast to the conditional covenant doctrine of Bullinger. Calvin also affirms the bilateral and dipleuric nature of the covenant”. When Bullinger writes about the covenant he emphasizes, at times, its monopleuric dimension while, at other times, he underlines its dipleuric dimension.

Archilla observes, “What is required of humans in the covenant (the so-called human condition) is a response in faith. Faith is indeed expressed through works, but these works are a fruit of faith produced by the Holy Spirit and not a human accomplishment. The patriarchs do respond to God by earning their way into the covenant; rather, they hope in the promise” - Aurelio A. Garcia Archilla, The Theology of History and Apologetic Historiography in Heinrich Bullinger (1992), p17.

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