Saturday, April 04, 2015

Man, Creation and Covenant

The Klinean republication view teaches that man was in covenant with God at the very moment of creation. This is an important shift from the traditional viewpoint. Ontological considerations demand that there be at least a logical distinction (rather than a chronological or historical sequence) between God's creating man and his entering into covenant with him. The republication teaching now erases this confessional distinction (which is based upon the "great disproportion" between the Creator and creature) and thereby turns God's providential work of establishing the covenant into an aspect of the work of creation. Thus, we may say that the two distinct acts have been conflated or collapsed into essentially one act in this new view. ... Thus, man's covenantal status seems to "trump" his creaturely status. (Andrew M. Elma et al, Moses and Merit, 61)

One major critique leveled against the "Klinean view of republication" is that Klineans conflate creation and covenant into one act, which results in the erasure of the Creator-creature distinction. Such a critique really sound strange, for even if it were one act, how exactly does one go from "God's act of establishing the covenant as an aspect of the work of creation" to "denial of the Creator-creature distinction"? Do the critics understand the view of covenant held by Klineans? Covenants ARE themselves condenscension; we have no access to the naked God (nudus Deus) and the very point of covenants is that they are condescension from the Creator God to His creatures. As the Westminster Confession of Faith states:

The distance between God and the creature is go great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant (WCF 7.1)

By stating that Man is created in covenant, the Creator-creature distinction is not eliminated but rather established. Only with creatures (and creation) does God relate by means of covenants.

However, that Klineans only believe that there is only one act is itself not established. For the issue is whether the two, creation and covenants, are distinguishable, not whether they are separable. The many quotes the authors come up with only show that Klineans deny that the two can be separated; it did not say that the two cannot be distinguished. For example, David VanDrunen wrote in the maligned book The Law is Not of Faith that Klineans refuse "to separate the act of creation in the image of God from the establishment of the covenant with Adam" (VanDrunen, "Natural Law," in Bryan D Estelle et al., The Law is Not of Faith, 291). Note that it said "separate," not "distinguish." Is it possible that some Klineans refuse to distinguish between Creation and Covenant? Perhaps, but the point is that the idea that Man is created in covenant does not imply that there is only one act, only that the two acts are so closely tied that they exist together.

Man is created as a covenant creature, although we acknowledge that the formal giving and establishing of covenants occur later after creation. As this is the main charge of the 3 authors, it is clear that they have not adequately represented Kline and Klineans.

13 comments:

Brandon said...

This relates to my comment on the previous post regarding 7.1. The confession on this point distinguishes between the image of God (reasonable creatures) and the law written on the heart from the covenant of works. Image bearers owe obedience to God without expecting any reward. The reward was added to natural law by God's pleasure (voluntary condescension). Man could never have earned eternal life by obeying natural law apart from this addition of covenant. This is what the critics are referring to.

The identification of the image of God itself with the covenant of works is the problem. The issue is not when or how the covenant was communicated to man. The issue is the logical distinction between image of God/natural law and the covenant of works.

Consider Nehemiah Coxe:

"First, God made him a reasonable creature and endued him with original righteousness, which was a perfection necessary to enable him to answer the end of his creation. Eminently in this respect he is said to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27) and to be made upright (Ecc 7:29). This uprightness or rectitude of nature consisted in the perfect harmony of his soul with that law of God which he was made under and subjected to.

1... The sum of this law was afterward given in ten words on Mount Sinai and yet more briefly by Christ...

Secondly, this law was guarded by a sanction in the threatening of death for its transgression (Gen 2:17)... This sanction belonged not only to the positive precept to which it was expressly annexed, but also to the law of nature; the demerit for transgressing this law is known to man by the same light as the law itself is known to him...

Thirdly, Adam was not only under a commination of death in case of disobedience, but also had the promise of an eternal reward on condition of his perfect obedience to these laws. If he had fulfilled this condition, the reward would have been due to him by virtue of this compact into which God was pleased to condescend for the encouraging of man's obedience and the manifestation of his own bounty and goodness...

S4... He was capable of and made for a greater degree of happiness than he immediately enjoyed. This was set before him as the reward of his obedience by that covenant in which he was to walk with God. Of this reward set before him, these things are further to be observed.

1. Although the law of his creation was attended both with a promise of reward and a threatening of punishment, yet the reason of both is not the same nor necessary in the same way. For the reward is of mere sovereign bounty and goodness. It therefore might have been either less or more, as it pleased God, or not proposed at all without any injury being done. But the threatened punishment is a debt to justice and results immediately from the nature of sin with reference to God without the intervention of any compact. It is due to the transgression of it, even by those that are already cut off from any hope of reward by a former breach of the covenant...

S6. From these things it is evident that God dealt with Adam not only on terms of a law but by way of covenant...

2, But it is certainly concluded from that promise of reward and the assurance that was given to Adam which he could never have obtained except by God condescending to deal with him by terms of a covenant..."

(42-48)


This is why R. Scott Clark and others misunderstand 19.1 and 19.2. They think the law itself is the covenant of works.

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

and what has this got to do with what I am posting? My point is that the claim is made that covenant and creation are inseparable, not that they are indistinguishable. Who says that the image of God is "identified" with the covenant of works? No one that I know of make such a claim!

Brandon said...

Who says the image of God is identified with the covenant of works? See TLNF p 291

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

I did look at page 291, and even cite it in my post. The phrase is "[refuse] to separate the act of creation in the image of God from the establishment of the covenant with Adam". Note that the word here is "separate," not "distinguish." In other words, VanDrunen is against separating the two, but that does not mean that he refuses to distinguish the two.

From my time there, I have never heard any professor equate the two. So I think you are in error as to how you read TLNF.

Brandon said...

VanDrunen is arguing that Kline modified the traditional view, which separated covenant from imago dei and Kline, who does not separate them. "By separating these two acts, older theologians seemed to be caught on the horns of a dilemma... By IDENTIFYING these two acts, Kline has no such dilemma." p.291

This is entirely related to Kline's rejection of 7.1

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon,

whether the traditional view separates them is something interesting to know. Whether Kline and DVD adequately represented the "traditional view" is also another interesting question.

The point however is that the claim is to make the two inseparable, not indistinguishable. I will look up the page again to see if the word "identify" is used there.

PuritanReformed said...

I've checked. Most unfortunate language, although it seems the meaning is what I think it is

Brandon said...

Whether the traditional view separates the two is not "interesting". It is the whole point of the quote you are responding to.

"Thus, we may say that the two distinct acts have been conflated or collapsed into essentially one act in this new view"

As you have seen in my other comments on 7.1, they are correct that Kline's view is not confessional on this point. VanDrunen is clear that he is rejecting the view of "older theologians" because he sees it as inconsistent and he is following Kline in conflating the two acts - precisely what the M&M quote says.

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon:

Actually, I was responding to the charge by the authors that "formal republication confuse creation and covenant." I was not responding to whether the traditional understanding separate creation and covenant.

I asked DVD, and he does not agree that we can say they are indistinguishable. So it seems that might be a slip of the hand instead of actually saying that creation is identifiable with covenant.

Brandon said...

It's not a slip of the hand. "I talked to DVD" is a frequent refrain heard by critics of DVD from his students because he is not a careful thinker.

PuritanReformed said...

So if I personally asked him and he claims that he does not hold that the two are indistinguishable, are you going to say that he is lying?

Brandon said...

I'm going to say I can't count the number of times I have heard someone ask VanDrunen if he believes something he wrote and he says no.

PuritanReformed said...

Perhaps you might just want to give DVD the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are misread him? Just a suggestion