Saturday, April 04, 2015

Again, what is Formal Republication?

All we Reformed believers are "republicationists" in the sense that we all believe the moral law of God was reaffirmed — summarized or "republished" if you will — on Mt. Sinai. We have no argument there. The point at issue is whether or not that moral law was reaffirmed/ republished on Mt. Sinai as in some sense the covenant of works made with Adam. (Robert Strimple, "Westminster Confession of Faith: Was the Mosaic Covenant a Republication of the Covenant of Works," Unpublished essay, 4; cited in Andrew M. Elam, Moses and Merit, 79-80)

...Despite its affirmation that the Mosaic covenant is "part of the covenant of grace," the republication formulation of this covenant includes elements that differ in substance from the covenant of grace. In the Republication Paradigm, the Mosaic covenant includes a different set of essential elements on the typological level — the condition of meritorious works in order to earn the reward of temporal life in the promised land. ... This seems to imply that the nature of substance of the Mosaic covenant differs in some degree from other administrations of the covenant of grace. (Moses and Merit, 97)

As I have mentioned, the theory of Formal Republication of the Covenant of Works in the Mosaic Covenant can have different interpretations. With all the focus on ontology, it seems that even more misunderstandings have developed, as we see in these two sections.

In the first sample from an unpublished essay by Robert Strimple, Dr. Strimple claimed that Formal Republication states that the moral law was republished "as in some sense the covenant of works made with Adam." As someone holding to Formal Republication, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. The moral law is the moral law, especially in the Decalogue. But I do not hold to a formal republication of the moral law, but a formal republication of the covenant itself. I thus find myself disagreeing with Dr. Strimple's understanding of Formal Republication.

A more significant error comes in the inability of the authors to stop viewing everything in terms of ontology. Thus, they confuse the idea of Formal Republication with essential republication, confusing form and matter, substance and accidents. Now, whether this is due to certain variations of Klinean republication is not for me to say, but it seems to me that the last thing a critic of Formal Republication should do is to accuse its adherents of putting forward a competing substance that it is claimed made up the Mosaic Covenant. Formal republication is republication of the form, not of the substance, and it is thus that the authors erred and misrepresented what they are critiquing.

12 comments:

Brandon said...

Daniel, actually, you are the one that is confused on the terminology here. In covenant theology, form and matter and actually the exact opposite of how they are used philosophically.

Form = substance of the covenant
Matter = accidents

"Perhaps with more precision, Obadiah Sedgwick distinguishes between the matter and form of the Ten Commandments, the former referring to the precepts of the law, the latter referring to the precepts functioning as a covenant. 'Though materially it [the Decalogue] respected works, yet formally and intentionally, it was not then given and established as a covenant of works, by which we should be justified and live.' This is soft republication, or material republication, because it extracts any sense of a covenantal function or intent from the likeness between Adam and Moses, admitting only a moral continuity, which can be said about every historical dispensation of time from the probation to the eschaton.

While some employ the matter and form designation to soften the nature of this republication, others employ it to strengthen the republication, as if to say that the Mosaic Covenant republished the covenant of works as a rule and a covenant. This is hard republication, or formal republication... The Decalogue was more than a republication of the moral law (the matter), but also the covenant of works properly speaking (the form). He [Strong] says 'It was not only delivered as a rule of righteousness, but in the form and terms of a covenant."
-TLNF p.91-93

Material republication is taught by the WCF in 19.1-2. However, 19.2 specifically rejects formal republication because the law was given on Mt. Sinai "as such" = "as a perfect rule of righteousness" (as opposed to in the form and terms of a covenant).

TLNF, except for Waters' chapter, advocates formal republication. The Mosaic covenant was "of works" (though not necessarily with the same reward as what was offered to Adam - it was limited to life in Canaan).

See also https://pettyfrance.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/form-and-matter-in-covenant-theology/

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

given that the Reformed Scholastics actually study Aristotle and operate with Aristotelian categories, the chances of you being mistaken about the meanings of the terms "form" and "matter" is higher than I being mistaken in this regard.

Plus, you are fixated on the Law, whereas I am talking about the covenant, and covenant does not equal law. Go look at my post on the 4 different types of republication

Brandon said...

My goodness Daniel, you sure are an arrogant man.

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

besides the ad-hominem, do you have anything of substance to add?

Brandon said...

That was not an ad-hominem, it was simply a comment on your character. I would encourage you to prayerfully consider your attitude.

See my quote from TLNF. That's how everyone involved in this debate is using the terms. The confusion is yours, not everyone else's.

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

it is still ad-hominem, because you are making a judgment on what you cannot see.

And as I have mentioned, I don't think you get TLNF right. And if you're right in painting how people perceive the debate, then I think that in itself is part of the problem.

Brandon said...

Brother, forgive me if I misread you. Honestly.

To clarify, when I said

"Form = substance of the covenant
Matter = accidents"

I was speaking very roughly/imprecisely. They are not equivalents, but they generally correspond to those categories.

I'm not sure why you think I have misread TLNF. My quote here is pretty direct (not sure how you could get any more direct).

Matter = moral law = "Do this" = "a rule of righteousness"

Form = covenant of works = "Do this and live" (reward can differ: eternal life vs temporal life in Canaan, for example)

Thus the law was given "as a covenant of works" to Adam (thus form and matter combined), but as "a perfect rule of righteousness" to Israel (matter) (19.1-2).

Guy Waters' chapter argues for material republication in Leviticus 18:5.

Bryan Estelle's chapter argues for formal republication in Leviticus 18:5.

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

It's ok; it's not personal.

I do not get how you get from "form = substance; matter = accidents" to "matter = law; form = covenant." The former is what I was referring to concerning Aristotle, as it is a confusion of philosophical categories, which the Reformed Scholastics utilize.

I agree that matter generally refer to the law, and form to the covenant, or rather covenant structure. Thus, I am uneasy with phrases like "covenant of works AS a rule," because that sounds more like essential republication rather than formal republication.

Brandon said...

My point was that form and matter are not being used in their philosophical usage. They are using it in a very specific and technical way with regards to covenant theology and it does not correlate to the substance/accidents distinction.

One of your fellow classmates explains it very well: https://pettyfrance.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/form-and-matter-in-covenant-theology/

The reason I stated it the way that I did is that those who hold to material republication believe the works principle was limited to the accidents of the Mosaic Covenant, not to its substance (which is of grace). Those who hold to formal republication believe the Mosaic Covenant was "of works" and thus refer to the substance.

"Thus, I am uneasy with phrases like "covenant of works AS a rule," because that sounds more like essential republication rather than formal republication."

Who says that? They say the law as a rule, not the covenant of works as a rule/measure/guide.

PuritanReformed said...

>They are using it in a very specific and technical way with regards to covenant theology and it does not correlate to the substance/accidents distinction.

That I doubt. From the passages, it is not clear that they are using it in a non-philosophical usage. Since they are taught Aristotle, we should attempt to interpret what they say with Aristotelian categories BEFORE saying that they are not using those categories, and see if they are making sense.

>those who hold to material republication believe the works principle was limited to the accidents of the Mosaic Covenant, not to its substance (which is of grace).

But that is not the object of republication. In material republication, it is the Law that is republished, not the "works principle." The Law that is published at Sinai is the same Law given to Adam. The "works principle" pertains to the accidents of the Mosaic that is true, but that is NOT the object of republication; the Law is.


>"Those who hold to formal republication believe the Mosaic Covenant was "of works" and thus refer to the substance."

Which person who holds to formal republication believes that the substance of the Mosaic Covenant is "of works"? I don't, and I hold to formal republication! Who actually says that?


>Who says that?

That phrase was lifted from what you previously cited. It also can be seen in Dr. Robert Strimple's unpublished paper against Formal Republication.

Brandon said...

Daniel, you are confusing yourself :)

PuritanReformed said...

How am I confusing myself when I assume that the Reformed divines actually use Aristotelian categories? Maybe you should try interpreting what they wrote with Aristotelian categories and see what meanings their writings actually convey, before using Venema's categories to understand them