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Be Thou My Vision: Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology (2017 first edition)

“Dr. Yates’ [2017 first edition] Foundations book represents an exciting and useful contribution to creative orthodoxy–theological creativity exercised in a way that respects the faith delivered once and for all to the saints. It shows how systematic connections in theme link the attributes of God not only to Christology and salvation but to practical Christian living. It thereby contributes to bringing the God-centered character of the biblical message into fruitful contact with many areas of need, such as parenting, counseling, and victory over sin.”

Dr. Vern S. Poythress, February 17, 2017
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

Adapting the Westminster Standards’ moral law motif to integrate systematic theology, apologetics and pastoral practice (2021 PhD thesis)

accepted for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Apologetics at the North-West University, South Africa

Current loci of Reformed systematic theology and applications to pastoral practice are fragmented from each other, creating a dualism between faith (what is believed) and life (how we should live) that impacts pastoral practice at all levels. For example, Reformed biblical counselors’ dual use counseling-apologetic motif for pastoral practice (exposit truth, negate error, capture reinterpreted extra-biblical knowledge) refined by Powlison is highly generalized, requiring more explicit integration with the controlling beliefs of Reformed systematic theology, better clarification of derivative epistemic foundations and new formulations of taxonomic specificity to prevent mixing theology and psychology as equals. While the doctrines of Reformed systematic theology are relatively stable, believers do not quickly grasp their interrelatedness or their practical importance, particularly with reference to God’s attributes. Reformed authors with various practical theology specialties propose myriads of partial frameworks and applicable principles based on smaller sets of biblical data that believers can quickly appreciate and apply but lack vital connectivity with the full scope of Reformed doctrines. The Westminster Standards’ motif of righteousness, as defined by the moral law, also called the Decalogue, integrates its systematic theology and pastoral practice.

Joy to the World Series: Westminster Foundations: God’s Glory as an Integrating Perspective on Reformed Theology (2023 wholly revised edition)

Preface to the 2023 Revised Edition:

After five more years of research (2017-2022) on how God’s attributes can be reflected in those united to Christ, I realized that the first edition inadequately represented the integrative approach of the Westminster Standards. I only retain about one-fourth of the 2017 edition and add about three-fourths of new material.

First, the initial eight attributes chosen, the octo-perspectival approach of the first edition, failed to harmonize the complete list of about twenty-seven attributes in WCF 2:1. If God is indeed to ‘be my vision’ then the more luxuriant list of his attributes needed to be part of the “foundations”.

Second, chapter 7 in the first edition alerted me to a lack of explanatory coherence in attempting to harmonize those eight initial attributes with the moral law. Some attributes fit nicely with a specific commandment in the moral law, but others did not. Since WLC’s perspective on the duties of the Christian life uses the moral law as the organizing framework, this revised edition proposes that ten logical attribute names can be created to represent each commandment. This deca-perspectival, or decalogical perspective, can be situated within all the WCF 2:1 attribute names as a subset of God’s righteousness.

Third, the first edition attempted to show that all eight attributes revealed God’s blessed and cursed faces to those in and outside of the covenant, respectively, but this failed to account for the “faces” already present in the WCF 2:1 list of attributes, such as the ‘love, grace and mercy’ of God, compared to his ‘justice, sin-hating-condemnation’.

As in the first edition, I pursue the goal of memorable transferability in teaching those who represent the vision of God to others in assemblies of two or more gathered in his name, those who are evangelists, missionaries, seminary teachers, pastors, disciplers, biblical counselors, married couples, parents and Christians working in the marketplaces of the world. To that end, I replaced the omni-attribute prefixes with supremely (or supra) and adapted WCF 2:1 attribute names to show their positive meaning rather than negation.

I identify six structural patterns in the Westminster Standards that authors used to integrate systematic and practical theology. This book is the content of a graduate-level integrative seminary class I teach called Reformed Faith & Life. It also has been adapted for a church membership class I taught to youth, demonstrating its scalability for various discipleship needs. May these Westminster Standards perspectives reveal the “foundations” of Reformed theology. May the Lord bring lex Christi “Joy to the World” through you! 

One of my favorite hymns is the new title for this series—“Joy to the World,” Isaac Watts’ hymn (1719) based on lex Christi renewal themes in Psalm 98. He arranged celebratory music with ‘repeating the sounding joy’ of the coming of lex Christi blessings and the removal of the lex Christi curses among the “world” of people and the ‘thorn-infested’  “earth” (see Isa. 42 in Matt. 12:15-21).  

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

This is the Westminster Foundations introduction to the beginning of a “Joy to the World” series dedicated to exemplifying, proclaiming, interceding, and administrating the lex Christi “glories of his righteousness.” The Lord must “Be Thou [Our] Vision” in order to bring “Joy to the World”! Through Christ’s lex Christi righteous rule over the nations, the redeemed nations “prove” that “truth and grace” and “wonders of his love” blessings flow everywhere, removing the curses of lex Christi sins, consequent sorrows among men and thorns in the ground. Christ’s kingdom rule causes men, fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains to repeat the sounding joy of the blessed extension of His kingdom over the things that have been cursed. This hymn captures the essence of the scope of this project, to represent Christ by ‘proving’ the lex Christi glories of his righteousness that extend blessings and reverse curses among men and the creation.

May these Westminster Standards perspectives reveal the “foundations” of Reformed theology. May the Lord bring lex Christi “Joy to the World” through you! 

More related resources below

Doxological Counselor Training: Visually Mapping an Applied Systematic Theology as an Aid for a Counselor Hermeneutic

1997 D.Min. Counseling WTS, Phila, my first published research attempting to illustrate the interrelationships in systematic theology topics