Original Research - Special Collection: Virtual Ecclesiology

The covenantal trinitarian alternative to the scholastic dilemma

Jeremy G.A. Ive
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 52, No 3 | a2304 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v52i3.2304 | © 2018 Jeremy G.A. Ive | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 July 2017 | Published: 22 March 2018

About the author(s)

Jeremy G.A. Ive, Research Unit for Reformed Theology and the Development of South African Society, North-West University, South Africa


This article sets out what it calls the ‘scholastic dilemma’ about whether God’s relation to the world is necessary or contingent – the former is based on a view of God primarily as intellect and the latter on a view of God primarily as will. In his dictum, Deus legibus solutus est sed non exlex, John Calvin rejects both these positions. The trinitarian basis for this dictum was spelt out more fully by later Calvinistic thinkers, including Abraham Kuyper and Cornelius van Til. Implicitly for Calvin and explicitly for Kuyper and Van Til, the love of the Persons of the Trinity for one another is the basis for God’s covenantal trustworthiness in his dealings with the world. Recognising this trinitarian basis allows us to conceive of God as at once faithful in his dealing with the world, and yet not dependent on the world for his existence. This has profound and far-reaching implications for our understanding of society, including the universal and institutional church and a recognition of the priority of relationships, both theoretically and practically.


Scholasticism; Euthyphro; Trinity; Kuyper; Van Til; Calvin; Reformed


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