Friday, November 05, 2021

Contra Barrett (Part 12): The Pactum Salutis

92. ...

(1) Even if (for the sake of argument) subordination were to be located in the covenant of redemption, we are still speaking of the economy ...

(2) It is illegitimate to read subordinatioon back into the covenant of redemption. EFSers like to read their definition of subordination into Reformed pactum language. .. In other words, the Son's agreement to the covenant does not stem from some intrinsic subordination between the Father and the Son, but the Son accepts the covenant for the specific purpose of accomplishing redemption. The covenant is economic and therefore optional. If the Father and the Son never entered into a covenant, nothing within the Trinity would change.

(Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity, 344-5)

A key element of the Reformed variant of EFS is to see the eternal submission of the Son primarily in the Pactum Salutis. For obvious reasons, classical theists who hold to the Pactum think otherwise. Barrrett decided to address this in an endnote, so we will look at the endnote and the main reasons why Barrett rejects the claim that the Pactum shows the truth of EFS.

Barrett's first reason is to assert that the Pactum is economic not immanent. On that we agree, and I will add that EFS is economic not immanent. Barrett's second (and third) reason is a bit trickier. Since in the Pactum the Son voluntarily takes on the role of the servant of the covenant, therefore what is optional cannot be person-defining. But is that really as good an argument as Barrett makes it out to be?

Consider this question: Is it necessary for Christ to go to the Cross? If it is necessary, then that makes atonement necesssary, sin necessary, and creation necessary. If it not necessary, then the Pactum is not necessary, Jesus Christ is not the eternal Savior, and so on. The fact is that it is neither necessary for Christ to go to the Cross, nor is it unnecessary for Christ to go to the Cross. Rather, we must have a third category—that of hypothetical necessity. It is not necessary in the sense that Jesus' sacrifice was purely voluntary. It is necessary in that Jesus must be the Savior of the world. Therefore, it is a hypothetical necessity for Jesus to go to the Cross— necessary in all possible worlds, yet He did not have to do so if He chooses not to.

We can see this in the Pactum. Was the Pactum necessary? On the one hand, it is optional for Jesus because He did enter it voluntarily. On the other hand, no Pactum, no Cross, no salvation, not an eternal Savior. Therefore, it is a hypothetical necessity that Jesus would eternally submit to the Father. How does this bear on the issue of EFS? EFS is therefore a hypothetical necessity, and the person-defining properties of the persons of the Trinity are likewise necessary in that sense. We can never say that who goes to the Cross is a matter of rolling the dice and see which person becomes the Son; it was always the Son who would be the Son and go to the cross. There is no possible world in which the Father would incarnate and die on the Cross. In this sense, the personal property "being incarnated" is always and only the personal property of the Son.

The Pactum is indeed voluntary. Yet, it is also necessary. The failure to see that it is both lies at a main reason of Barrett's rejection of the Pactum as a form of EFS, and shows also that many classical theists have not thought much through the concept of necessity as it relates to God and salvation.

ADD: The term "hypothetical necessity" here is applied as seen from God's perspective. From God's perspective, whatever he chooses to do or not do is possible and hypothetical. From our perspective, it is no more hypothetical, as in God could do otherwise and get what He wants, but for us it is a consequent absolute necessity (i.e. God must send Jesus to die on the Cross once he has decided to save us).

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