Monday, August 17, 2009

Article: Countering 10 arguments against the Law-Gospel Paradigm

Lee Irons has written a good article here refuting the Federal Vision's denial of the principle of works in the Mosaic Administration, and thus the Law-Gospel paradigm characteristic of Reformed Covenant Theology. As both a defence of the principle of works in the Mosaic Administration and a defence against certain arguments of the Federal Vision, this would be a good article to read.

[HT: Between Two Worlds]

18 comments:

Jason said...

Don't waste your time reading this wolf in sheep's clothing. This does not express the Reformed and Calvinist understanding of Law-Gospel.

Brandon said...

Hi Daniel,

I commented on a post of yours a while ago about this topic. I warned you that the WCF denies a works principle in the Mosaic Covenant and that it is the center of debate amongst Reformed (aside from FV, though it is very related), as you can see from Jason's comment.

I would encourage you to read the article I linked to from the WTJ and consider the difference between Savoy's view of the covenants and WCF's.

PuritanReformed said...

Jason:

I am aware of the controversy over Lee Irons, but it is hoped that we discuss the issues not the person.

PuritanReformed said...

Hello Brandon:

The link to the WTJ seemed to be lost. Regardless, I do not disagree with anything in your blog article here (http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/the-mosaic-covenant-is-typological/). When I mention the principle of works, I do not mean it is soteriological in the sense that it was meant to save, but in the typological sense that perfect works (i.e. sinlessness) could actually save.

Brandon said...

Hrm, looks like it got moved to here:

In Defense of Moses

I think it makes a rather convincing argument that the Westminster Confession does not see a works principle in the Mosaic Covenant, and this is precisely why the Savoy (reflecting Owen's explicit rejection of WCF's language in his Hebrews commentary) and LBC changed their chapter on the covenant of grace.

I would see the entire Mosaic covenant as typological (typological nation typologically working for a typological land), rather than just certain aspects of it being typological (sacrifices).

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

interesting article. So can I surmise the one key point you are against is the Klinean idea of a subservent covenant? If this is the case, then I am in agreement with you. What I mean by "principle of works" is the teaching of Witsius, which is that "the Mosaic Law contained
a restatement of the principle of works. It was not re-established or renewed, only
republished and repeated in order to drive men to Christ."

I see a dinstinction between the "Mosaic Covenant" and the "Old Covenant", seeing the former as a mixed covenant while the latter is purely a republishment of the Covenant of Works, which Paul stated in his epistles as having passed away.

Brandon said...

No, I actually do agree with the subservient covenant view, but I don't subscribe to WCF.

To clarify, you would say that the only "principle of works" in the Mosaic Covenant is just the fact that it restates the 10 commandments, which were originally given as a covenant of works? But that the Mosaic Covenant is not conditional or based upon works?

I also find it rather difficult to separate the "Old Covenant" from the "Mosaic Covenant." Especially after reading Hebrews.

If you're interested, here's some helpful discussion on the Puritan Board re:subservient covenant
Horton, Mosaic Covenant, WCF

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

the link is truly food for thought.

With regards to the subservient covenant, I am now confused. You have previously stated that you are against the Klinean position, haven't you? Yet you hold to a subservient covenant. May I then know what is your position and your concerns on this issue?

With regards to the principle of works in the Mosaic Covenant, I would say such involves a republishment as a hypothetical (unattainable) conditional covenant of works salvation on the one hand, which at the same time serve the interest of the unconditional Covenant of Grace in the Mosaic Covenant on the other. Or utilizing the simpler language of Luther, it contains the Law to show Man the unattainable standard of earning eternal life by works, which serves to draw Man to Christ for grace.

On the difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the Old Covenant, reading the Scriptures would show the Old Covenant to be a term associated with inferiority, passing away, "of the letter" and not "of the Spirit" etc. Therefore, what I am proposing is that we understand that term "Old Covenant" to refer to the CoW aspect (the "works principle") of the Mosaic Covenant apart from the gracious aspect found in it. Therefore, I would look at it this way:

Mosaic Covenant: Legal aspect (republishment of CoW) + Evangelical aspect(Covenant of Grace in types and shadows)
Old Covenant: Legal aspect alone.

So while in some senses the two would be inter-changeable, in others they are not. I am convinced there is no way that we can read passages like those found in Hebrews and conclude that the passing away is of ALL of the Mosaic Covenant except for the Moral Law, that being not a plain reading of the text. Therefore, my proposed differentiation would make the denigration of the Old Covenant to refer only to the legal aspect of the Mosaic Covenant and not the evangelical aspect of the same, a position which I personally find to be more consistent with the sharp Law-Gospel and Old-New Covenant antithesis found throughout the teachings of the New Testament.

Brandon said...

I don't recall saying I was against Kline's view. I can't say I'm in complete agreement simply because I haven't studied him in depth. I don't think I will agree with his overall view of the flow of redemptive history, but from what I have learned about his view of the Mosaic covenant I believe I agree.

Mosaic Covenant: Legal aspect (republishment of CoW) + Evangelical aspect(Covenant of Grace in types and shadows)
Old Covenant: Legal aspect alone.


I'm not sure I can agree with that. Hebrews discusses the Mosaic Covenant types and shadows (not just the legal demands) and refers to it as the Old Covenant (Heb 8:6-7,13,etc).

I am convinced there is no way that we can read passages like those found in Hebrews and conclude that the passing away is of ALL of the Mosaic Covenant except for the Moral Law, that being not a plain reading of the text.

I'm not a fan of the 3-fold distinction in the law. I prefer instead to see a natural law or law of creation (which is written on the heart) and other positive laws (such as the tree in the garden, the Mosaic laws, etc). I have no problem saying the whole Mosaic Covenant has passed away and yet still maintain that the 10 commandments are binding because the 10 commandments were not first given at Mt. Sinai, they were given at creation and simply written in stone at Mt. Sinai for clarity (because sin distorted our once clear understanding of it). Consider the fact that if God was giving a new, subservient law to a people, He would not simply ignore a higher law that they were also under. He would give both, yet do so in a way the distinguishes the two, which is exactly what we see.

With regards to the principle of works in the Mosaic Covenant, I would say such involves a republishment as a hypothetical (unattainable) conditional covenant of works salvation on the one hand, which at the same time serve the interest of the unconditional Covenant of Grace in the Mosaic Covenant on the other.

I would differ here and say that the Mosaic Covenant was a copy/shadow of the Covenant of Works (not a republishment of it exactly) as well as a copy/shadow of the Covenant of Grace. Whether or not this is exactly what Witsius meant, I find his explanation of the Mosaic Covenant as not formally either the CoW or the CoG to be helpful.

In my view there was nothing eschatological about the Mosaic Covenant. Moses was told from the beginning that the temple was a copy of what was in heaven, for example. The land was a shadow of the promised land. Their obedience was a shadow of what was required of all men starting from Adam. The difference being that if they disobeyed they were not immediately kicked out of the promised land (garden) because there was a provision for forgiveness. Regenerate Israelites would see this all as a shadow of eternity. They would recall the law of creation, know they are condemned, and yet look for a sacrifice for forgiveness of their eternal sins (as opposed to sins of the body) that was greater than a bull or goat because a bull and goat cannot purify the conscience (Heb 9:13-14)

I certainly have a lot more to try and work out, but here are some of my posts if you want to get a more indepth look at how I understand it:

An overview

Mixing Types and Antitypes in the Blender

Obedience in the Covenants

I'd love to hear your thoughts on those.

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

sorry for getting back to you late (if you're still there). Have been busy with the upcoming CREDO500blog conference.

With regards to the Old and the Mosiac Covenant, I DID say:

"in some senses the two would be inter-changeable, in others they are not".

So the example of Hebrews doesn't cut. I can readily agree that the contrast is there, but in what sense is the Mosaic Covenant contrasted? In its "works-principle" sense ("Old Covenant") or in its totality? This is what is not stated in the text and must be interpreted in light of the entire teaching of Scripture in this regard.

I can see that you tend towards certain aspects of NCT. I however do think you misrepresent the essence of Dispensational as opposed to CT thought with respects to the Covenant in your "overview". It is rather Dispensational thought which focuses more on sharp distinctions between the Old and the New whereas CT focuses more on unity in the Covenants.

Brandon said...

Hi Daniel, no worries on the delay. The passage I referenced from Hebrews is not exclusively referring to the works principle. It is referring to the element of the Mosaic Covenant that would be the primary overlap - the gracious types and shadows of the ceremonial law (see v1-5). So if the works principle and the grace principle are both referred to as the Old Covenant, I'm not sure what's left.

I do not tend towards NCT, but yes, the comparison between Disp and Cov is somewhat unwarranted. I just saw some interesting parallels in the fact that both look to the Mosaic Covenant as salvific, whereas I see my view as having more unity between OT/NT than WCF covenant theology.

Thanks for taking the time to consider and write back.

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

>So if the works principle and the grace principle are both referred to as the Old Covenant, I'm not sure what's left.

... as both aspects of the Mosaic Covenant, not Old Covenant.

>both look to the Mosaic Covenant as salvific

CT does not believe that the Mosaic Covenant is salvific in the sense of it not being part of the Covenant of Grace. We have never believed that OT believers are saved because of obeying the 613 (?) laws in the Law.

Brandon said...

... as both aspects of the Mosaic Covenant, not Old Covenant.

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mind clarifying? Thanks.

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

I meant that any reference to the Mosaic Covenant in Hebrews refers merely to the "Mosaic Covenant" fiat, without differentiating which aspect of the Mosaic Covenant it is talking about or which sense is that Covenant being abolished/passed away. Thus, when systematizing theology, we must read Hebrews in the context of the whole of Scripture to see what sense the Mosaic Covenant is said to be abolished.

It cannot be assumed that the mere mention of the Mosaic Covenant means that the whole of the Mosaic Covenant en toto has been abolished; that is an assumption that is not found in the text itself, which only state that the Mosaic Covenant is abolished in a certain sense. Therefore, the entirety and context of Scripture must be utilized to make sense of the saying in Hebrews.

In this light, it is my view that the Old Covenant denigrated by the Apostle Paul in his epistles especialy Galatians refers purely to the works principle found in the Mosaic Covenant. In this light, it is my understanding that the term "Old Covenant" when used biblically is always mentioned negatively and thus must not be in any sense referring to the principle of grace (though the intentions for giving it may be gracious). Therefore, it cannot be wholly equated with the Mosaic Covenant which has a grace principle at work in it also.

Brandon said...

Thanks for the clarification Daniel. I still disagree with you though. Hebrews does not just refer to the Mosaic Covenant generally. It does so specifically. It is not a "mere" mention, but a specific and thorough analysis of that covenant.

Hebrews very specifically talks about the principle of grace (not the works principle) in the Mosaic covenant (7:27; 8:4-5; 9:1,5, etc) and it specifically says those things [are] becoming obsolete (8:13).

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

well, the passages you cite are dealing with the typology of the priesthood, which IMO has nothing to do with soteriology proper except the aspect of types and shadows. In this, all Reformed folks will agree with you - that the Levitical types and shadows have been done away in Christ.

Contrast this to the denigration of the Old Covenant found in Gal. 3:15-26 and Gal. 4, where the focus is strictly on the process of salvation itself. That is a different ball game altogether, as it deals not with the Mosaic Covenant in its priestly types and shadows but of the Old Covenant in its intent (works principle). You most certainly cannot read the same concept of the Mosaic Covenant as Levitical types and shadows into the passages in Galations.

Following which you will have to struggle with positive statements on the Law, most noticably the passage in James 2:8-13, not to mention Jesus' positive statements about the Law in Mt. 5:17-19 among others.

So things are not as simple as they may seem, but I guess we will have to disagree.

Brandon said...

Daniel,

Thanks again for the reply. It seems to me that you're being inconsistent. You originally stated that only the works principle of the Mosaic covenant is referred to as old and passing away. I have demonstrated that more than the works principle, in fact the grace principle, is also referred to as old and passing away. Your response is: That's not what Galatians is referring to. Fine, but I'm not talking about Galatians, I'm talking about Hebrews. You can't dismiss my statements by saying "those were just types and shadows" because the whole covenant was types and shadows. My point was to demonstrate that more than just the works principle is referred to as old and passing away, and I have done that.

Also, I don't know why you think I have to struggle with James 2 or Matthew 5 any more than you do.

I would encourage you to read Owens commentary of Hebrews if you ever have the opportunity. He makes many of the same arguments I do and insists that the Mosaic covenant is not an administration of the covenant of grace but is in fact a separate covenant altogether that has passed away.

PuritanReformed said...

Brandon:

I don't see myself as being inconsistent, but I guess I should be clearer on my position. Maybe another time.

With regards to Owen's commentary on Hebrews, sure, I would look for an opportuniy to get one and read it. It should be really interesting, and hopefully easier to read than Death of Death.