Thank God for the Genitive! -- By: Robert H. Countess

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 12:2 (Spring 1969)
Article: Thank God for the Genitive!
Author: Robert H. Countess


Thank God for the Genitive!

Robert H. Countess, Ph.D.*

*Pastor, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee.

The “Speaking Out” section of Post magazine recently carried an article by William F. Buckley, Jr. entitled “Thank God for the Rich!” Therein he attempted to demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole when there are in such a society wealthy patrons of the arts, charities, and civic organizations. The present paper attempts to thank God for the riches of His grace as demonstrated by the contents of Ephesians 2:8–10. The purpose of this study is to incise in greater bold relief the Scriptural doctrine of free, sovereign grace. The points to be discussed are (1) the significance of the genitive in the phrase διὰ πίστεω̑; (2) the retrocipatory character of του̑το and (3) the exclusion of boasting by -μα. At the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin there were six “position” papers presented by outstanding worldwide evangelicals. Dr. Harold John Ockenga prepared as his position paper, “The Basic Theology of Evangelism.” Particularly relevant to the present study is this excerpt from Dr. Ockenga’s paper:

Faith is erroneously ascribed to God as a gift (see Eph, 2:8 where “gift” is neuter and “faith” is feminine. Salvation is the antecedent of gift.) Man is commanded to repent, to believe, to convert. The Bible places these acts within the ability of man. ... For my part, I approve a practical synergism of offering prevenient grace, the responsibility of each individual, and of election in Christ of all who believe. Thus I can say that salvation is all of God, reprobation is all of man. (Christianity Today, Oct. 28,1966, pp. 9-14.)

Dr. Ockenga speaks with admirable conciseness and clarity. His position is clearly to be identified in the main with historic Arminianism and to be differentiated from historic Calvinism.

If ever in the past be subscribed to the system of doctrine as taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith, he does not now so subscribe. For example, Chapter IX, 3 reads:

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

The next paragraph of this seventeenth century document asserts that “God ... by His grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good......

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