January 18, 2007

Johannes Wollebius (1586–1629) on God's Revealed Will

Just as the edicts of a magistrate are called his will, so the designation of will may be given to precepts, prohibitions, promises, and even deeds and events. Thus the divine will is also called that which God wants done [voluntas signi], because it signifies what is acceptable to God; what he wants done by us. It is called “consequent” because it follows that eternal antecedent; “conditional” because the commandments, prohibitions, warnings, and promises of God all have a condition of obedience or disobedience attached to them. Finally, it is called “revealed,” because it is always explained in the word of God. It must be observed that this sort of distinction does not postulate either really diverse, or contradictory, wills in God.
Johannes Wollebius; quoted in John W. Beardslee, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 48. The title of the original work which Beardslee reproduces was, The Compendium Theologiae Christianae (Compendium of Christian Theology). It was published originally in 1626.


DWP said:
Beardslee notes:

"Ernst Bizer, who has reprinted the original in our generation, would now warn against overestimating its importance, here agreeing with several nineteenth-century historians, but it cannot be denied that its extensive use during the seventeenth century, its brevity, clarity, and faithful positive expression of what Reformed theologians were saying in the decade of the Synod of Dort and would keep on saying, entitle it to consideration as an avenue to an over-all picture of the accepted "orthodox" understanding of the Reformed faith--the teaching commonly accepted in our churches, on which Voetius, Turretin and others set such store." From the preface, p. 11.

On page 10, Beardslee says he chose Wollebius because it was the best summary of Reformed Dogmatics from this period, i.e., the first quarter of the 17th C (ibid., 10).

The will of sign was a sub-category of the revealed will. It dates back to the medieval scholastics.

Given Beardslee's remarks, is the denial of the will of sign as expressive of what God wants us to do a departure from the received orthodoxy (at this point)?
Me now:

We're seeing in mainstream Reformed theologians that the revealed will is what God "wants" (Wollebius), "wishes" (Turretin), "desires" (Turretin), and even "ardently desires" (Calvin, Murray, Kuiper, etc.). It's an "active principle" (Dabney), and "propension" (Howe, Manton, Dabney) that "seeks" (Perkins, Durham, Edwards, Bavinck) creaturely compliance. There are some today, unfortunately, who want to vacate God's revealed will of any notion of want/wish/desire. They share that in common with John Gill, and not with the consensus of the Reformed community.

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