Michael Horton, God of Promise, Chapter 2, “God and Foreign Relations”

In this chapter, Horton goes into the Ancient Near Eastern background behind the biblical concept of covenant. Surprisingly, many of the covenants in Scripture have similarities to these secular treaties (cf. Kline, Hillers, Mendenhall), specifically Hittite suzerainty-vassal treaties. He then explains how these Hittite treaties worked, their form, and the rituals involved in confirming them.

The covenant is important for understanding God’s relationship to man, because there can be no “natural relationship” between them (contrary to pagan and various pantheistic claims). God’s relationship with man is a by-product of the covenant and God’s condescension to our level).

These covenants, particularly Israel’s, were intended to bring stability and security. Even though Biblical covenants manifest clear similarities to ANE secular law, when YHWH becomes the suzerain, they develop religious connotations.

Horton then gives his modus operandi for studying the Biblical covenants in this book: Law–> Prophets–> New Testament.

Lastly, Horton discusses the differences between the Biblical covenants and suzerainty treaties, the quintessential difference is that YHWH forbears and is gracious to Israel when she fails to fulfill her covenant duties: grace is the difference. He also discusses the role of the Israel’s kingdom in redemptive-history in relation to Adam and Christ. He also discusses the idea of the “royal grant” or “patron covenant” (which is another ANE secular treaty).

Back to the God of Promise Table of Contents.

God of Promise can be purchased here.

Bavinck: General Revelation is the Foundation of Pagan Religion

“[General revelation] is the stable and permanent foundation of all pagan religions. Holy Scripture pronounces a severe judgment on ‘ethnicism’ and explains its origin in terms of apostasy from the pure knowledge of God. That knowledge, which was humanity’s original possession, did continue for a long time to exert a leavening influence (Gen. 4:3; 8:20), and the creation revealed God’s eternal power and divinity (Rom. 1:20). But people, though knowing God, did not honor him as God…” (RD1, 314-315).

“As the idea of the divine became impure and declined, the various forces of nature came to the fore and increased in importance. The boundary between the divine and the creaturely was erased…”

“But, however severely Scripture judges the character of paganism, it is precisely the general revelation it teaches that enables and authorizes us to recognize all the elements of truth that are present also in pagan religions” (318).

“Also among the pagans, says Scripture, there is a revelation of God, an illumination by the Logos, a working of God’s Spirit (Gen. 6:17; 7:15; Ps. 33:6; 104:30; Job 32:8; Eccles. 3:19; Prov. 8:22f.; Mal. 1:11, 14; Joh. 1:9; Rom. 2:14; Gal. 4:1-3; Acts 14:16, 17; 17:22-30). Many of the church fathers (Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and others), assumed an operation of the Logos in the pagan world.”

“In the Middle Ages Thomas not only asserted that as rational beings human beings can — without supernatural grace– know natural truths but also testifies that it is impossible for there to be “some knowledge which is totally false without any admixture of some truth” and in this connection appeals to the words of Beda [Latin for Bede] and Augustine… The Reformed theologians were even better positioned to recognize this by their doctrine of common grace. By it they were protected, on the one hand, from the Pelagian error,  which taught the sufficiency of natural theology and linked salvation to the sufficiency of natural theology, but could, on the other hand, recognize all the truth beauty, and goodness that is present also in the pagan world” (pg. 319).

Can be purchased here.