It is of note, and the most great importance, to observe that none of the Reformers or Puritans conceived of God as having to “take on covenantal/relational properties” which were in addition to His “essential essence.” Such thoughts of God as He is, and in how He defines His being and existence in His Scripture, were not only unknown to the orthodox of the church in all ages, but especially unknown to the orthodox of the church in that most orthodox time of theological exposition of the Scriptures by very learned men of God, the Reformation and post-Reformation Scholastic period.
They dealt with those who posited God as being able to experience emotions as the consequence of His relating to men, and classified them as heretics (primarily the Socinians, among others).
To them, and all orthodox and Reformed since the inception of the church, to think God changes (responds or relates to properties in His creatures) was a most horrifying thought. They knew that our sure hope, faith and practice was grounded in He who changes not, and the idea that He might change, to them (rightly so), filled them with consternation, for if God changes, in one degree at any time, that which He has sworn by and of Himself (there being none greater to swear by – Hebrews 6:13-18) is therefore liable to the vagaries of change. He who is immutable thus displays mutability in relation to His creatures, and so their sure hope of He who changes not is lost.
This thought was so foreign to the orthodox in the church of all ages, up to the 17th century, that all those who proposed such changes in God were rightly labeled heretics.
We, however, having lost this witness of God about Himself which the church knew in the majority of its existence, are now tolerant of those who suggest that God has an “essential essence” which does not, and cannot change, and a “relational, or covenantal” essence which He has somehow willed to change in His dealings with His creatures.
There are those who teach, not only at orthodox evangelical institutions (the term “orthodox” is used broadly, here), but at accepted orthodox Reformed institutions (again, a “broad” understanding of the term “orthodox” is here implied), that God responds to the situation of His creatures.
Brethren, these things ought not to be! Our orthodox forefathers had it right!
We are so eager to maintain the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), that we have (too many of us) forgotten that unity is also of the “unity of the faith,” meaning the body of that confessional doctrine so delivered to us by our Lord through His apostles (Ephesians 4:13a; Jude 1:3b).
Doctrine is the teaching of the Scriptures which informs our theology. This doctrine is unified – as God is One, and cannot be separated into component parts, so is His doctrine which was “once for all delivered unto the saints.”
Where we begin to separate the doctrine of God from the simplicity and aseity of our God, as if He must take on properties outside of Himself in order to relate to us, at that point, I must insist, we are turning from orthodoxy into heresy. Our fathers in the faith condemned these sort of departures from the Doctrine of God as heresy: Why do we hesitate to do the same?
This matter IS that important.
To God alone be the glory – Bill Hier