Covenant vs. Cultural Religion - Paul M. van Buren’s “Austin Dogmatics”

One thing that I really appreciate about van Buren in these lectures is the way he constantly refers back to the religious dynamics of his socio-historic location, i.e., late 1950s USA. Given that, it’s just gravy when the issues that he saw so clearly then happen still to be significant issues in our own time and place. We already saw a bit of this in my post on PMvB and the necessity of prolegomena in North American theology. Well, here’s another bit.

These paragraphs come at the end of PMvB’s discussion of “Creation and Covenant” as part of his larger doctrine of creation. This whole section is well worth your time to read, but I’ll tap in here at the end to the payoff. Bold is mine.

Paul M. van Buren, The Austin Dogmatics: 1957–1958, (Cascade, 2012), 151–52.
In Christ, the fullness of the covenant is realized and knowable, and from the knowledge of Jesus Christ we know the Creator. If the Yahwist, the Priestly doctrine, Second Isaiah, and the Psalms all express faith in God as Creator as a consequence of their faith in him as the God of the covenant, all the more does this become the true order of knowledge in the New Testament. For there the covenant reaches its telos in Christ, in whom also it had its basis from eternity by God’s decision.

It is well for us of the church today, in the face of the cultural religion that is all about us, to be very clear about the biblical road to the knowledge of God the Creator: by way of the covenant, and ultimately by way of Jesus Christ. The culture has made serious inroads on the inner life of the church—with its talk about a creator god who is not a god of any covenant, who has made no decision, and so who does not place us in need of making a serious decision. If we fail to make this distinction clear, then we will be allowing our people to slide slowly (and today it is not such a slow slide) into thinking that they have the blessing of the church on what is in reality only another form of Baal worship.

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