Order of Contents
Musculus, Wolfgang – ‘Of the Justice of God’ in Common Places of the Christian Religion (1560)
Ussher, James – ch. 3, ‘Of God’s Goodness & Justice, & the Persons of the Trinity’ in A Body of Divinity, or the Sum & Substance of the Christian Religion modified by Hastings Robinson (1645; London, 1841)
Leigh, Edward – ch. 12. ‘Of God’s Justice, Truth, Faithfulness’ in A System or Body of Divinity… (London, A.M., 1654), bk. 2, pp. 181-86
Turretin, Francis – 18. ‘Is the will of God the primary rule of justice? We distinguish.’ in Institutes of Elenctic Theology, tr. George M. Giger, ed. James Dennison Jr. (1679–1685; P&R, 1992), vol. 1, 3rd Topic, pp. 232-34
Schreiner, Susan – ‘Exegesis & Double Justice in Calvin’s Sermons on Job’ in Church History, 58, no. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 322-38
“Briefly, the concept of double justice posits a higher hidden justice in God which transcends the Law and could condemn even the angels. This idea appears in Calvin’s works before the sermons on Job but always grows out of his fascination with Job 4:18, namely that even the angels are not clean in God’s sight… which proved that creaturely justice cannot satisfy the justice of God… But when he tried to develop double justice as a hermeneutical key to the book of Job as a whole, the text led him in a direction he did not want to go.” – p. 322
Zanchi, Jerome – Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes… (Heidelberg, 1577)
bk. 3, ch. 4, ‘Of the Will of God’, Question XII, ‘Whether God’s will may always be just & the rule of all justice?’, pp. 366-69
Zanchi (1516-1590) was an Italian, protestant Reformation clergyman and educator who influenced the development of Reformed theology during the years following John Calvin’s death.
bk. 4, ch. 5, ‘Of the Righteousness [or Justice] of God’, pp. 482-97
Voet, Gisbert – Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht: Waesberg, 1648), vol. 1
Is Vindicatory Justice Essential to God?
This position holds that though God be righteous and just by nature, and must be so, yet, due to his aseity and sovereignty, any punishment of the creation’s sin must be by a free and soveriegn egress of his will, which is not necessitated by his nature or necessary. God could not punish sin.
Yet God has decreed to punish all sin with everlasting punishment, by a free act of his will, and therefore it is still necessary that all sin be punished.
This was arguably the dominant view from the early Church through the reformed till the mid-1600’s, at which time and following the opposite view became dominant amongst the reformed. This view is related to the view that the atonement of Christ was only hypothetically necessary to save sinners.
This view is recommended; see Rutherford.
Rutherford, Samuel – pp. 24-34 of ch. 7, ‘…2. that the debt of Justice cannot tie God. 3. God punishes not sin by necessity of nature. 4. Nor defends He his own declarative glory by that necessity…’ in The Covenant of Life Opened... (1655)
Rutherford’s view and defense is recommended as right. It is clear that Rutherford is here responding to and refuting Owen (below) on the subject, who had critiqued him two years previous, though Owen is not named (his language and arguments are apparent).
This view holds that that God must punish sinners in some way shape or form due to his righteous nature and lordship. Proponents often critique the Socinians who held otherwise.
This view became dominant amongst the reformed in the mid-1600’s and following. It is related to view that, consequent to God decreeing to save some sinners, Christ’s atonement was necessary.
Turretin, Francis – Institutes of Elenctic Theology, tr. George M. Giger, ed. James Dennison Jr. (1679–1685; P&R, 1992)
vol. 1, 3rd Topic
vol. 2, 11th Topic
2. ‘The Nature of the Moral Law: Are the Precepts of the Decalogue of Natural and Indispensable Right? We Affirm’, pp. 7-18
De Moor, Bernard – Continuous Commentary, ch. 4, ‘On God’
45. God’s Essential Righteousness
45. God’s Dominical Righteousness
45. God’s Unfailing Truth & Faithfulness
46. God’s Remunerative Justice
46. Answering Objections to God’s Remunerative Justice
47. God’s Vindictive Righteousness, Natural rather than Volitional
47. God’s Vindictive Righteousness & the Three Forms of Unity
47. Controversy among the Reformed over God’s Vindicatory Righteousness, pt. 1, 2, 3
48. God’s Absolute Right & Authority over All His Creatures
Theological Disputation on Vindicatory Righteousness as Essential to God
Justification for Writing
Universal & Particular Righteousness
Controversy among the Reformed
Array of Arguments
Argument from Ex. 34:7
Argument from Ps. 5:4-6
Argument from Ps. 9:4; 11:5-7; etc.
Argument from Various Passages
Vindicatory Acts & Essential Righteousness
Vindicatory Acts & Essence, Ps. 50:21
Testimony of Conscience, pt. 1, 2, 3, 4
Satisfaction of Christ, pt. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Summary of Arguments
Against the Socinians, pt. 1, 2, 3
Dabney, Robert – ‘Vindicatory Justice Essential to God’ 1881 17 pp. from Discussions, vol. 1: Theological & Evangelical, ed. C.R. Vaughan (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1890), pp. 466-481. Originally published in Southern Pulpit (April, 1881)
Owen has a section critiquing Rutherford in this work. Rutherford responded to Owen (without naming him) two years later in the section by Rutherford linked above.
A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology & of as Much Didactic Theology as is Necessary trans. J. Wesley White MTh thesis (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009), ch. 11, ‘Christ’, pp. 84-85, 112-13, 121-22
“Controversy – Is God able not only to deprive an innocent creature of life but also to condemn them to the eternal tortures of hell? We deny against certain Scholastics.
1. All the ways of God should be mercy and truth to those who keep covenant (Ps. 25:10).
2. Anyone approaching God should believe that He will reward their obedience with a reward not condemn them (Heb. 11:6).
3. In an innocent creature there can be no consciousness of guilt or the just judgment of God, which is the meaning of punishment.
4. No glory to God could arise from this but rather the dishonor of a tyrannical lord.
5. The righteousness of God demands that He acquit the holy, but it does not permit him to condemn someone who has not merited it (Ps. 18:26-27, Gen. 18:25, Ps. 7:11).
1. He can reduce the innocent to nothing. Reply. Then he only takes away what He gave, but punishment would be to do injury to someone while existing.
2. He acts this way with Christ. Reply. He was our surety, who took our debts on Himself.
3. God can impute to us the sin of Adam. Reply. That is imputed to be ours which is truly ours just as the children of slaves are slaves and the sons of citizens are citizens and are reputed to be such.
4. We are permitted to kill innocent creatures. Reply. 1. Not rational ones. 2. Irrational ones (bruta) for our use (2 Pet. 2:12). 3. It is one thing to kill, another to give to the living the highest punishment according to one’s pleasure.”
Whole of Church History
Mosser, Carl – Recovering the Classic Concept of Satisfaction, pt. 1, 2, 3 (2021) at University of St. Andrews
Mosser is a biblical scholar and theologian living in Southern California.
Much of these articles are helpful, though especially in the third article not everything is recommended (as he departs from reformed orthodoxy on a number of points). Mosser favors that vindicatory justice is not essential to God.
On the Post-Reformation
Truman, Carl – ‘John Owen’s Dissertation on Divine Justice: An Exercise in Christocentric Scholasticism’ in Calvin Theological Journal 33 (1998), pp. 87-103
Shimko, Timofey – ‘John Owen’s Dissertation on Divine Justice: Scholasticism in Subservience to Theology’ a seminary paper (2018) 10 pp.
On pp. 1-3 Shimko surveys scholars on the apparent shift in Owen to more Thomistic metaphysical conceptions of God, which may have led to his change of opinion on whether God must punish sinners, and whether a substitutionary atonement is consequently necessary for the forgiveness of sins.