Robert L. Reymond
I got to know Bob Reymond when I
worked as his youth director at a small Baptist Church in Georgia during
the fall of 1967, just prior to my leaving Bob Jones
for having sold copies of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
About twenty-five years ago, before he went to work for Jim Kennedy’s
Theological Seminary, while he was still at Covenant
Theological Seminary, I had him as a conference speaker here at Grace,
and he stayed in our home. His
most memorable messages were out of Habakkuk and modeled after Dr.
Fear to Faith. We have both served on the Presbyterian
Church in America’s General Assembly’s Theological Examining
Committee, but at different times.
Those fortnightly drives
from BJU were about five hours round trip, and we often rode alone. It was a profound time of learning for me.
Curiously, I found him to be mildly Van Tillian in those days, but
that was before he became a faculty member at Covenant, a place which at
the time was unfriendly to the thinking of Cornelius Van Til.
Of course, I was simply a college junior and had never actually
read Dr. Van Til or even heard of him then, so probably it was simply that
he laid out an apologetics foundation from Scripture, and Professor Van
Til built on that foundation when I went to Westminster,
because of all Reformed thinkers, Van Til seems to be Dr. Reymond’s
Van Til’s thought has profoundly influenced me in several ways. In addition to my view of apologetics, I see that:
1. Human thinking is analogical to God’s thinking.
2. Many deep truths of Scripture are to be embraced with a sense of antinomy.
The genius of Reformed theology should be its reticence where
the Scripture does not give a clear answer.
Dr. Reymond would heartily reject
the first two of those things. That
and his having been deeply influenced by Gordon Clark are the
fundamental reasons that he espouses supralapsarianism.
The supralapsarian position
is the logical deduction of certain statements in Scripture about God’s
sovereignty, but I think that it goes beyond Scripture and travels down a
path where angels fear to tread.
Dr. Reymond is certainly a clear thinker and a forthright disciple of John Calvin. I have even wondered at times if he might not be genealogically related to Calvin . . . add Calvin’s funny hat and beard and notice the resemblance:
However, I think that Dr. Reymond makes too much of Calvin’s rejection of certain of the Nicene Fathers and his affirmation that not only the Father but also the Son and the Spirit are autotheos. I have no difficulty in saying that the Son is “very God of very God,” but that doesn’t mean that I embrace all of the Greek speculative reasoning of some of the Fathers of the Church when I affirm the Nicene Creed without reservation. Of all biblical truths, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation should be handled with the utmost avoidance of speculation. I can agree with Dr. Reymond’s summation. Indeed, it sounds like something I would write (must go back to Reymond’s peripatetic, uh, automotive, method with me):
It is the other statements that he
makes earlier that I think are a bit of overkill:
My own view of the matter is:
There is only one God.
In that absolute unity of essence, there are three distinctions,
which we may call persons, an inadequate but useful term, because while
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct in ways that are similar to
the distinction between one human person and another, God’s unity
of essence destroys our ability to comprehend this distinction in any
absolute way as we would with three separate human individuals.
Yet this distinction is real, because God eternally and
simultaneously exists as both one and three: the One God exists
in three distinct, self-conscious personalities, as three distinct
persons. This is seen in the
baptism of Jesus: the Father
speaks from heaven, the Holy Spirit comes down from the Father to the Son,
and the Son is baptized. So
there is not one self-conscious person revealing himself to
humankind in three different roles or simply acting in three
different modes, but three distinct, self-conscious
personalities simultaneously acting and interacting with
each other: “We
worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the
persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father,
another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.” (The
The one God in himself is three
distinct persons. In terms of
being, we may say that ontologically there is an absolute equality between
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In terms of redemption, the Father is the Head of Christ, the
Son becomes the Servant who absolutely subordinates himself to the
will of the Father and the Spirit submits himself to be sent by the Father
through the Son to glorify the Son in his people.
In that distinction, the Father is
properly understood as a father, and the Son as a son, on the analogy of
our understanding of human paternal-filial relationships.
In his paternity, in the course of time, the Father begot
the Son through the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit acting on the
Virgin Mary. This act of begetting in time is reflective of the
eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, but this relationship
is ultimately beyond our ability as human beings to grasp in any
comprehensive way, because human paternal-filial relationships
involve sexual intercourse, and there is no sense in which God begot
his Son in that way, neither eternally nor in time through the
Virgin Mary. Thus we may say
that God is Father and God is Son after the analogy of human
paternal-filial relationships, and, though only analogically true, it is
nevertheless actually true, because God’s Fatherhood is mirrored in
In that distinction, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit into the world. In the work of redemption, it is not simply that the Father and the Son send the Spirit, but the Father sends the Spirit through the Son. How the redemptive work of the Spirit, proceeding from the Father through the Son, reflects the eternal essence of God and the inter-personal relationships between the Father, the Son and the Spirit is a matter that is ultimately mysterious. The Bible simply does not give adequate information for humans dogmatically to assert anything other than the simple truth that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and that the different redemptive works performed by the three members of the Godhead somehow reflect the eternal nature of God himself, but how this is so is never revealed.
In spite of the above, I would still wholeheartedly recommend Dr. Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith along with Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology as most excellent summaries of the Christian Faith written for a modern audience. Then, of course, there is the great work of John Calvin himself, his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which the late John Murray called the opus magnum of Christian theology. Any of these works would prove a very useful help in the systematic study of what the Bible teaches, but none of them is free from errors, only the Bible itself is.
See also my brief piece on the Trinity.