Divine Appropriation, The Divine Decree, and the Pactum Salutis

The covenant of redemption, or the pactum salutis, is the pre-temporal, intra-trinitarian agreement between the persons of the Godhead to plan and execute redemption. One of the many questions surrounding the pactum is how it comports with a classical understanding of trinitarian action or if it can at all. Historically, pactum formulators have utilized the doctrine of appropriation to describe how the simple, triune God can engage in an intra-trinitarian covenant between the three persons. Thus, the question is raised if the doctrine of appropriation can explain an intra-trinitarian covenant. However, analysis of this defense of the pactum reveals that it is best to safeguard the pactum’s status within classical trinitarianism by pairing appropriation with the Reformed doctrine of the divine decree. This paper will argue that via the doctrines of appropriation and the divine decree, the covenant of redemption comports with classical trinitarianism and is crucial in understanding how the simple, triune God acts in the economy.

This paper will proceed in three parts. First, I’ll examine the doctrine of appropriations as it relates to divine unity and the divine persons. While the patristic mantra “opera Trinitatis ad extra indivisia sunt” is true, classical trinitarianism also recognizes the fittingness to “appropriate” certain attributes and actions to specific persons. To “appropriate” a divine action is to look upon the action in the divine person with whom one specifically associates it. Second, this paper will examine the doctrine of the divine decree. The divine decree is the expression of God’s will (which is identical to God’s essence), situated logically between God’s will ad intra and God’s actions ad extra. Last, it will be shown how the pactum salutis integrates with these two doctrines to provide a trinitarian shade to God’s decree of salvation. This paper will advance evangelical theology by highlighting an aspect of classical trinitarianism that requires more retrieval (appropriation) and show how the Reformed doctrine of the pactum salutis is compatible with classical trinitarianism.

4 thoughts on “Divine Appropriation, The Divine Decree, and the Pactum Salutis”

  1. proposal
    The trinitarian investigation discussed in the proposal is important, but it seems to be an exercise in speculative theology without suggesting any biblical foundation.

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