Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The OPC Report on Republication

In which David R and I (along with assorted kibitzers) discuss republication... The OPC Report is here.

115 comments:

David R. said...

Hi Jeff,

I’m happy to move our conversation here.

//This paragraph caught my eye:

And like Eden, it therefore required holiness of its inhabitants if they were to retain its possession. The important difference, however, was that, whereas Eden was pre-redemptive and protological, and therefore required perfect and personal obedience; Canaan was redemptive and typological, and therefore required only an appropriate measure of national fidelity to the covenant of grace. Ultimately, what was actually republished (or better, recapitulated) was not the covenant of works per se, but rather Adam’s sin and consequent exile.

It is striking because

(1) it allows for rapprochement between R’s and anti-R’s
If you were to ask me to explain in what sense the CoW is republished at Sinai, I would explain it in that way.//


I’m encouraged to hear this. I don’t think the committee report is the final word, but it’s interesting to me that there has been so little online discussion/debate in the wake of the report’s release. Perhaps that testifies to the report’s success in nuancing the discussion more or less to the satisfaction of both parties (though I note that the substantial repub die-hards are none-too-pleased with the report).

//(2) Yet your paragraph is also striking because it reveals the portion of the anti-R argument that causes us R’s so much heartburn.//

Well, at least we’ll have something to discuss….

//You say,

like Eden, it therefore required holiness of its inhabitants if they were to retain its possession…Canaan was redemptive and typological, and therefore required only an appropriate measure of national fidelity to the covenant of grace.

Even if we agree to the substance of the works-principle, that it required only an appropriate measure of fidelity, it was still a works-principle. That is, like all legal works-principles, it required performance of an action as the ground for the reception of promised goods.//


Okay….

David R. said...

//The anti-R position would take the condition of the covenant to be faith, and the reason for eviction from Canaan to be faithlessness.
Putting these two things together, the definition of works-principle and the anti-R understanding of condition, we are led to believe that
anti-R’s hold that our faith is the ground of blessing in the covenant of grace.//


I realize comboxes have limitations but this argument needs tightening, doesn’t it? I see at least two options:

1. Maj prem: Anti-Rs hold that our faith is the ground of blessing in the Mosaic covenant. Min prem: Anti-Rs hold that the Mosaic covenant is the covenant of grace. Ergo, anti-R’s hold that our faith is the ground of blessing in the covenant of grace.

Is that what you're wanting to argue? If so, I would have to disagree on the grounds that the major premise is false. Anti-Rs do not hold that our faith is the ground of blessing in the Mosaic covenant.

On the other hand, perhaps you intend:

2. Maj prem: The anti-R position would take the condition of the [Mosaic] covenant to be faith. Min prem: The anti-R position views the Mosaic covenant as the covenant of grace.
Ergo, the anti-R position would take the condition of the covenant of grace to be faith.

Is this your argument? If so then I can agree with this (assuming that "condition" is understood in the sense of WLC 32, i.e., an instrumental cause).

//So assuming we agree that this would be an undesirable conclusion, how do you hold that the possession of Canaan required “an appropriate measure of national fidelity to the covenant of grace” without also making faith into the work that satisfies the works-principle articulated in Deut 28?//

I think I know what you’re getting at but I’ll wait for your response to the above before answering.

David R. said...

//Another way to ask this question is, “In what precise way is Deut 28 ‘like the covenant of works’, yet still different from it?” If the only difference is the perfection of obedience required, I fear that the this is not enough to preserve the law-gospel distinction.//

A good analogy I think is the way that a marble statue of the first president of the U.S. is like George Washington but is of course substantially different from him. A tourist might see it and say to his children, “Hey, that’s George Washington,” but they would understand that he is equivocating. It’s GW only in the sense that it resembles him. (I am following Turretin here more than the OPC report. Recall his formula to the effect that the covenant of grace during the Mosaic period was “clothed with the [accidental] form of the covenant of works.”) I’m sure we’ll discuss this further….

Another point that may be helpful: I consider this “tethering principle” (i.e., the typological connection between obedience and land retention) to be an accidental feature, characteristic of the Mosaic period (of the covenant of grace) only. Hence, it would be a mistake to reason from this type to a conclusion concerning the substance of the covenant of grace in general.

//Yes, I have read the report. I am re-reading it more carefully as Lane goes along.
I am generally appreciative and agree with much in it. In particular, if we take the report’s definition of “substantial republication” to mean that the Mosaic Covenant held out the Law as a non-hypothetical promise of life upon perfect and perpetual obedience, then I am in agreement that substantial republication is contraConfessional.//


Good that we are in agreement here. The rest should be smooth sailing….

//At the same time, I find some of the omissions puzzling. One of those is a seeming failure to clearly explain my question to you: How can a legitimate works-principle be gracious of itself, without creating law-gospel confusion?//

I understand your concern to guard against law-gospel confusion but I was under the impression that the report dealt with this issue in depth. Regarding your question, I think it depends on what you mean by “legitimate.” The report is careful to explain the typological “works principle” in such a way that it is compatible with a substantial covenant of grace (imo).

David R. said...

A couple of examples of the qualifying statements:

//Perhaps it would serve the church better, and allay concerns from those who use merit language in a historically narrow and technical sense, to talk about the obedience of Abraham and Israel as unique and unrepeatable instances of an obedience that is prophetically typical of the “meritorious” obedience of Christ. Perhaps it would be useful to speak of such obedience an instance of a redemptively recalibrated works principle that applies to typical land inheritance. Perhaps the use of merit language could be replaced with different language in order to avoid confusion.//

Another:

//While it is highly commendable that this view seeks to limit the meritorious works principle to temporal and typological blessings, this qualification does not remove all the potential difficulties with the proposal. Those for whom the types were made continue to be depraved sinners, deserving of no blessings whatsoever—whether temporal or eternal. These types can only function in a way that is consistent with the moral nature of those who make use of them. That is why our standards regularly speak of types of the Old Testament that function with regard to believer’s “faith in the Promised Messiah” with reference to their being built up in “grace” and the “forgiveness of sins” (WCF 7.5). It is simple truism of biblical revelation and Reformed theology that no obedience of a sinner can function as the meritorious ground or basis of any blessing before God. Whether the blessing is a type or the reality, the person performing the work remains unable to perform a work that can function in this way before God. Simply relegating the blessing obtained to the earthly, temporal, or typological level does not address this underlying theological difficulty.//

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi David,

Thanks. As with our previous conversation, I feel here that we are very close "in practice", but the final inches are a tough slog.

Here's the argument more carefully put.

(1) (Given) The MC contains a works-principle: "all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God." (Deut 28.2).
(2) (Definition) Works-principles require the condition antecedently, as the ground for which the reward is given.
(3) (Given) For the anti-R's, faith was the condition for blessing.
(4) Therefore, (2,3) faith is for the anti-R's an antecedent condition, or a work, that is the ground for blessing.

You can defeat this argument by saying that there is a different kind of works-principle that rewards works and punishes lack of works but does not make the works the ground of the reward, but I can't understand what that would mean. That's really the core of what I'm asking you to explain.

There are going to be three hills that are hard to climb if you choose to argue for a different kind of works-principle in Deut 28.

First, Israel was not enabled to do the works required in Deut 28. It is a feature of the condition of the covenant of grace that God not only requires obedience, but enables it.

Thus Turretin: The latter [covenant of grace] sets forth a surety, promises remission of sins and salvation in his satisfaction; not only demands but also effects obedience. But in the decalogue, no mention either of a surety or promise of salvation to be given to sinners occurs; but a bare promise of life to those doing and a threatening of death to transgressors. Hence the law of works (comprised in the decalogue) is everywhere contradistinguished by Paul from the law of faith and the promise of grace. -- Inst 12.7.28

Second, and related, there was a very real and realized possibility of punishment for failure in the works-principle. It will be hard to explain how the possibility of reward for success and punishment for failure is not logically equivalent to making obedience the ground of reward.

In the covenant of grace, God rewards good works; but He does so by regarding those works "in Christ", covering over their defects. There is no possibility in the covenant of grace of punishment for failure for God's elect, and the ground of reward is ultimately Christ's righteousness.

But in Deut 28, God's elected people are very much on the hook for their obedience -- obedience that comes through faith, to be sure, but obedience nonetheless.

So this hill will require you to explain why the works-principle operates in a completely different manner from the "reward for good works"-principle that is active in the covenant of grace. Why was failure an option, indeed the outcome? How could non-believers receive the reward of living in the land? (and they did, at least temporarily).

Third hill: If "living in the land" was intended to be a type of believer's living in heaven, then what does it say that Israel was ultimately removed from the land? Where is the antitype that corresponds to this? How does the typology function?

(If on the other hand, the national experience of Israel is intended to be a type of Christ, then everything becomes much clearer.)


To put all of this in one sentence: If faith satisfies a works-principle, then faith would have to be a work, so that we are justified by the work of faith.

Hopefully, we agree that this is an unacceptable conclusion. But I can't see how you escape that conclusion unless you either jettison faith as the condition in Deut 28 OR make Deut 28 not operate by a works-principle.

Jeff Cagle said...

David quoting OPC: Perhaps it would serve the church better, and allay concerns from those who use merit language in a historically narrow and technical sense, to talk about the obedience of Abraham and Israel as unique and unrepeatable instances of an obedience that is prophetically typical of the “meritorious” obedience of Christ. Perhaps it would be useful to speak of such obedience an instance of a redemptively recalibrated works principle that applies to typical land inheritance. Perhaps the use of merit language could be replaced with different language in order to avoid confusion.

I'm fine with that answer, but it's a republicationary answer! So I'm left confused as to what the anti-R's big deal is.

For as you know, at no point have I argued that Israel stayed in the land by strict merit, that Israel was strictly deserving of living in the land.

The whole point of republication is that the economy of living in the land operated in a manner different from the economy of blessings in the covenant of grace.

The former operate legally and by a works-principle.

The latter operate on the ground of our adoption.

That's the whole point -- theological, pastoral, academic -- in one nutshell. Arguments about whether this counts as "merit" and if so, what type of "merit", are really beside the point.

David R. said...

Jeff,

Thanks. I want to address your argument but in order to do so, I feel like we need to back up a bit lest we become hopelessly ensnared in endless disputes about antecedent conditions (e.g., antecedent to what?) and different iterations of merit (proper? improper? typological? etc.). So, instead of doing that (as much fun as it would be....) I’d like to see if we can consolidate some areas of basic agreement and clear the ground, as it were, okay? So, if you’ll humor me and bear with some tedium I will go ahead and review what I understand to be the basics (a good deal of this will be review from our previous interchange). In the following theses are contained the fundamental issues concerning the Mosaic covenant that I think require attention in this discussion (at all the ones I could think of):

1. The substance of a covenant is determined by its conditions and sanctions. For example, the substance of the covenant of works is the promise of life conditioned on perfect and personal obedience. Whereas the substance of the covenant of grace is the promise of salvation conditioned on faith in Christ (leaving aside for now the crucial truth that these two “conditions” are of different sorts).

2. In a covenant of works, the human party receives the goods only on the grounds of perfect and personal obedience. Whereas in a covenant of grace, the human party receives the goods only on the grounds of Christ’s perfect obedience and suffering, with faith serving only as an appropriating instrument, and the Holy Spirit working faith together with all saving graces in the elect human party, including the enablement to new obedience.

3. Disputes concerning the Mosaic covenant center on whether it is substantially the CoW, CoG or a “third covenant.”

4. The traditional “third covenant” view of the MC holds that the substance of the MC is temporal blessings in Canaan on the grounds of perfect and personal obedience (precisely the same condition as the CoW). But the Klinian modification of the third covenant view (on the substantial repub interpretation of Kline) holds rather that the substance of the MC is temporal blessings (land retention) on the condition of imperfect but typologically legible obedience (leaving aside for now the other distinct features of the Klinian view).

5. The OPC study committee determined that the Confession requires the position that the MC was substantially the CoG. This position entails (in keeping with #2 above) that the Israelites received the goods offered in the Mosaic covenant (i.e., life and salvation in Christ!) only on the grounds of Christ’s obedience and suffering, the Holy Spirit working faith together with all saving graces in them (i.e., the elect ones), including the enablement to new obedience. (But see #8 and following, below.) The other views of the MC, including the Klinian modification of the “third covenant” view (#4 above), were determined to be contra-confessional.

6. Given the above, it is clear (assuming we agree with the study committee) that the law (moral, ceremonial and judicial) was not given to Israel as a covenant of works, nor was it given to them as a subservient (third) covenant; rather, it was given to them as a rule of life (including all three uses) for those who were already under the covenant of grace.

7. However, although the covenant of works was not republished (or renewed) substantially at Sinai, it was republished/renewed declaratively to remind Israel of their sin and misery and drive them to Christ to come (pedagogical use). This renewal of the CoW, though accidental, was the MC’s most conspicuous feature.

(My character count is apparently too high, so I'll have to continue in another post.)

David R. said...

8. In the typological sphere, Canaan was an intruded holy realm (echoing the protological holy realm of Eden and prefiguring the eschatological holy realm of heaven). One entailment of Canaan’s holiness was that a typologically legible measure of religious fidelity was required if Israel was to remain in the land. Upon protracted failure to render the required obedience, they would be cast out.

9. The OT saints were looking for the heavenly city whose Builder and Maker is God. Thus (in keeping with #8), temporal blessings in Canaan, insofar as they were typological, had significance only in that they prefigured consummate heavenly blessings. Hence, for an Israelite to rest satisfied with temporal blessings would be in effect to exchange his birthright for a mess of pottage (perhaps it would be like a church-goer who partakes of the Lord’s Supper with an eye only to the nourishment his body derives from bread and wine). Therefore the converse is also true, namely that for an OT saint to experience exile from the land was not a cause for despair (though it was certainly a cause for godly sorrow, confession of sin and fervent prayer) because ultimately his hope was set on the promised restoration in the age to come.

10. Thus (in keeping with #8), there was certainly a connection between obedience and remaining in the land. But of course the million dollar question is: Precisely what is the nature of this connection? If we can resolve this problem, we’re done!

11. Was Israel’s obedience the meritorious ground of their remaining in the land? No, that option was ruled out when we determined that the MC was not a “third” covenant, i.e., not substantially a covenant of the works variety (#5 above, assuming we agree with the study committee’s conclusions). Rather, as Vos wrote, “The connection is of a totally different kind. It belongs not to the legal sphere of merit, but to the symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression.... When apostasy on a general scale took place, they could not remain in the promised land. When they disqualified themselves for typifying the state of holiness, they ipso facto disqualified themselves for typifying the state of blessedness, and had to go into captivity.” Thus, the connection between obedience and land retention was precisely the same as the connection between Abraham’s obedience and land inheritance: What was required was the ordinary imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience of redeemed sinners, but in these unique instances the gratuitous reward for obedience was invested with typological significance pointing to the obedience of Christ, as well as teaching the lesson that in the consummate kingdom, blessedness will be inseparable from holiness.

12. Thus (in keeping with #8 and #11 above), Israel’s sin and consequent exile from the land did not republish the CoW per se; rather, it recapitulated Adam’s sin and exile from a holy realm. (But I’ve already affirmed republication in the sense explained in #7.) The connection is thus drawn between the protological son (Adam) and the typological son (Israel), thus underscoring the need for the eschatological Son (Christ).

That’s enough for now! Please let me know to what extent you’re with me up to this point and where you disagree. I think this will greatly aid in addressing your argument in your previous post.

Jeff Cagle said...

David,

Thanks for the really excellent work here. In brief:

(1) Yes, but not only conditions and sanctions, but also promised goods (you might have intended this).

And this is where the MC gets sticky. As an administration of the CoG, the MC offers salvation, conditioned on faith in Christ. There's the substance.

But it also offers other items that are not, strictly speaking, on offer in the CoG: namely, temporal blessings and symbolic external cleansings.

So are these temporal blessings accidental to the CoG? That's really the question here. I think you would hold that all conditions and sanctions go to the substance; whereas I would hold that only the elements of the MC that are in common with all other administrations go to the substance; all else is accidental.

Both arguments are plausible, but I think the sacrificial system argues strongly for my case.

(2) Yes

(3) Yes

(4) Yes -- for the substantial repub reading of Kline, which I believe to be mistaken.

(5) Yes

(6) This requires further discussion. On its face, I agree. I would, however, put the land promises under the 1st use category.

(7) Very yes.

(8) Yes

(9) Yes

(10) Yep.

(11) No, we didn't rule that out, because we differ on the extent of substance. I would argue that (a) "meritorious" is possibly the wrong word to use, but "ground" is correct; (b) it is clear that what was *required* was certainly not the "ordinary imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience of redeemed sinners", for it is stated in much starker terms in Deut 28; (c) the temporal blessings came to believers and non-believers alike, and the temporal punishments fell on believers and non-believers alike; (d) the temporal curses in the MC are absolutely unique and not to be repeated in the lives of believers today.

These considerations rule out any conflation of Israel's obedience-reward connection with ours.

12. Yes, but this is vague precisely on the points under discussion in #11.

What does it mean to "recapitualate Adam's sin and exile from a holy realm" if not to repeat the theme of condition required, condition not met, and punishment enacted.

Where's the grace? Where is the enabling to meet the condition? It's not found in Deut 28.

It is found in a new covenant, not like the old one ... (Jer 31) -- here taking the MC strictly considered.

It seems absurd, does it not, to read Deut 28 and say, "This is a demonstration of God's grace" rather than "This is a demonstration of God's holiness and wrath against sin."

David R. said...

Jeff,

Thanks for your responses. I think we’re getting there!

//Thanks for the really excellent work here.//

Thanks for the gracious compliment. I really enjoyed it!

//(1) Yes, but not only conditions and sanctions, but also promised goods (you might have intended this).//

Yes, I understand sanctions to include both positive (blessings) and negative (curses).

//And this is where the MC gets sticky. As an administration of the COG, the MC offers salvation, conditioned on faith in Christ. There's the substance.

But it also offers other items that are not, strictly speaking, on offer in the COG: namely, temporal blessings and symbolic external cleansings.

So are these temporal blessings accidental to the COG? That's really the question here. I think you would hold that all conditions and sanctions go to the substance; whereas I would hold that only the elements of the MC that are in common with all other administrations go to the substance; all else is accidental.

Both arguments are plausible, but I think the sacrificial system argues strongly for my case.//


I think I agree with you that “only the elements of the MC that are in common with all other administrations [of the covenant of grace] go to the substance; all else is accidental.”
Regarding external cleansings, there are many under the law but only one (baptism) under the gospel, but their purpose is essentially the same in both administrations, that is, to teach the need for the cleansing of sin as well as God’s provision for the same, and to sacramentally edify believers. (In case it needs saying, I acknowledge that the ceremonial law and typology thereof was limited to the OT.)

Regarding temporal blessings, they serve a typological function in the OT that they don’t serve in the NT, and therefore they are far more prominent in the OT (while suffering for Christ’s sake is more prominent in the NT, but see Job and the OT prophets) but that is not to say that NT believers don’t experience temporal blessings at all (e.g., see Ephesians 6:3 and WCF 19.6).

But the substance of the COG of course is precisely the same through all administrations.

//(6) This requires further discussion. On its face, I agree. I would, however, put the land promises under the 1st use category.//

Maybe I should have said “rule of righteousness,” since “rule of life” is generally taken as a synonym for “third use.” But the idea is that it was given to them to serve all three post-Fall uses: pedagogical, restraining (or civil) and normative.

//(11) No, we didn't rule that out, because we differ on the extent of substance.//

Hmmm.

//I would argue that (a) "meritorious" is possibly the wrong word to use, but "ground" is correct;//

I don’t think I have a problem with that, on its face. Would you agree that membership in the visible church is grounded on a credible profession of faith and that excommunication is legally grounded on the apostasy of the church member? (I don't mean to suggest that it's precisely the same thing.)

//(b) it is clear that what was *required* was certainly not the "ordinary imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience of redeemed sinners", for it is stated in much starker terms in Deut 28;//

What other obedience can sinners possibly offer? But if you are simply implying that the law requires perfect and personal obedience, either that of the sinner (which is impossible) or that of the Surety (to come), then yes and amen! I think I implied that in #7, but I should have been explicit.

(continued next post)

David R. said...

//(c) the temporal blessings came to believers and non-believers alike, and the temporal punishments fell on believers and non-believers alike;//

True.

//(d) the temporal curses in the MC are absolutely unique and not to be repeated in the lives of believers today.//

If what you’re saying is that the unique “tethering principle” of the Mosaic epoch is not to be repeated in the lives of believers today, then I agree. But I don’t think I would want to deny that “the threatenings of [the law] serve to show what even their [i.e., the regenerate, including NT Christians] sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law” (WCF 19:6, with prooftexts, Ezra 9:13-14 and Psalms 89:30-34).

//These considerations rule out any conflation of Israel's obedience-reward connection with ours.//

The distinction is in the corporate solidaric typological “tethering principle” evident under the law. As Vos says, “Jehovah dealt primarily with the nation and through the nation with the individual”; however, note the conclusion of his sentence, “…as even now in the covenant of grace He deals with believers and their children in the continuity of generations.”

//12. Yes, but this is vague precisely on the points under discussion in #11.//
I can try to clarify further.

(continued next post)

David R. said...

//What does it mean to "recapitualate Adam's sin and exile from a holy realm" if not to repeat the theme of condition required, condition not met, and punishment enacted.//

It does repeat that theme but since the condition required is so different pre-Fall and post-Fall (the difference between legal and evangelical obedience) I think it’s better to affirm that Israel recapitulated Adam’s sin and consequent exile, while at the same time being careful to deny that Israel was under a covenant of the works variety (i.e., substantial republication). I think the OPC report is careful to do this, for example note the following conclusions:

“It is not a correlation between pre-fall Adam in Genesis 2 and the demand for flawless obedience relative to eschatological inheritance that comes into view when Kline makes the comparison between Israel and Adam. Rather, it is the correlation between post-fall Adam in Genesis 3 and the consequence of his sin leading to exile east of Eden that comes into view when Kline makes the comparison between Israel and Adam. Rather than thinking in terms of a republication of the covenant of works with pre-fall Adam, Kline brings into view a redemptively qualified recapitulation of post-fall Adam and the loss of inheritance. That is the point to grasp when it comes to the correlation of Israel and Adam in light of the works principle. Therefore, embedded within the redemptive intrusion of the typal kingdom in Canaan, Kline detects the presence of a works principle that applies to national Israel and occasions a reenactment of Adam’s sin and exile in forms adjusted to the realities of sin, grace and redemptive typology.”

Again:

“Kline does not advocate a republication of the covenant of works with Adam within the theocracy of Israel; rather, he advocates a works principle adjusted to the realities of sin and redemption. This principle is redemptively recalibrated through Abraham and ends up reenacting the sin and exile of Adam when applied to (apostate) national Israel.”

And again:

“Kline’s viewpoint is perhaps best described as an administrative re-enactment within national Israel of the outcome of the covenant of works with Adam, adjusted to the realities of sin, grace and redemptive typology, resulting in exile from the inheritance-land of Canaan.”

//Where's the grace? Where is the enabling to meet the condition? It's not found in Deut 28.//

True! Deuteronomy 28 taken in isolation from the “promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come” (WCF 7.5) is a pure covenant of works.

//It is found in a new covenant, not like the old one ... (Jer 31) -- here taking the MC strictly considered.//

Indeed.

//It seems absurd, does it not, to read Deut 28 and say, "This is a demonstration of God's grace" rather than "This is a demonstration of God's holiness and wrath against sin."//

It does (assuming we’re talking about the MC strictly considered, and thus ignoring the fact that God has not only made it possible for post-Fall sinners to inherit a blessing, but that He has made provision for them in Christ to do so freely).

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi again,

There's more agreement, it seems, which is wonderful.

You ask, Would you agree that membership in the visible church is grounded on a credible profession of faith and that excommunication is legally grounded on the apostasy of the church member?

Yes.

Fowler White has made an interesting comment over at GB. Here is an excerpt:

Canaan was redemptive and typological, but I would argue that its retention required perfect and personal obedience and secured that obedience only through a representative. (In my view, this is why Moses speaks of both the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith, contrasting the two. This is also how the confusion of principles that Gaffin identifies in Kline is resolved.)

I've invited him to expand on this over here if he wishes.

Jeff Cagle said...

So with a fair amount of agreement in view, perhaps we can get to the crucial question: Can we say simply that the obedience required in the MC for land possession was nothing more than evangelical obedience?

For consolidation purposes, here was the counterargument:

(1) (Given) The MC contains a works-principle: "all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God." (Deut 28.2).
(2) (Definition) Works-principles require the condition antecedently, as the ground for which the reward is given.
(3) (Given) For the anti-R's, faith was the condition for blessing.
(4) Therefore, (2,3) faith is for the anti-R's an antecedent condition, or a work, that is the ground for blessing.


and the "three hills" to climb:

First, Israel was not enabled to do the works required in Deut 28. It is a feature of the condition of the covenant of grace that God not only requires obedience, but enables it...

Second, and related, there was a very real and realized possibility of punishment for failure in the works-principle...In the covenant of grace, God rewards good works; but He does so by regarding those works "in Christ", covering over their defects. There is no possibility in the covenant of grace of punishment for failure for God's elect, and the ground of reward is ultimately Christ's righteousness.

Third hill: If "living in the land" was intended to be a type of believer's living in heaven, then what does it say that Israel was ultimately removed from the land? Where is the antitype that corresponds to this? How does the typology function?



David R. said...

Jeff,

//(1) (Given) The MC contains a works-principle: "all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God." (Deut 28.2).
(2) (Definition) Works-principles require the condition antecedently, as the ground for which the reward is given.
(3) (Given) For the anti-R's, faith was the condition for blessing.
(4) Therefore, (2,3) faith is for the anti-R's an antecedent condition, or a work, that is the ground for blessing.//


Now that some groundwork is in place, following is how I would address your argument (though perhaps you can already anticipate the direction I would take):

But first of all (and this may go without saying at this point), I am not arguing on behalf of any "anti-Rs" and I'm not even sure what that term means to different people though in this context I assume it signifies anti-Klinian. But that's not even helpful because we're dealing with two different interpretations of Kline; and since both of us hold to the "administrative" reading of Kline, the "substantial" reading Kline folks (e.g., Lee Irons) would say we're both "anti-R." I can only argue my own position of course, which I don't necessarily understand as "anti-R" (depending on what one means by "R") and which is the "administrative" reading of Kline and more or less in lock step with the committee report as I understand it. (End of rant.)

David R. said...

Now then, for clarity's sake, would you permit me to restate your argument as follows?

Deuteronomy 28 makes works the condition for land retention. But [David R.'s] position makes faith the condition for land retention. Therefore, [David R.'s] position makes faith a work.

Assuming this is acceptable to you as a restatement of your argument, my response is to deny the major premise IF it means that faith is completely excluded AND to deny the minor premise IF it means that works are completely excluded.

Let me unpack that:

Deuteronomy 28 is a pure statement of law, Do this and live; cursed be he who does not do everything written in the book of the law. Granted. Taken in isolation from the "promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances ... all foresignifying Christ to come" (WCF 7.5), Deuteronomy 28 is a substantial covenant of works demanding perfect obedience as the condition for blessing (#1, #2).

HOWEVER, as we agree, the MC was substantially the COG (#5), and this entails that the law was given to Israel NOT as a COW, but as a rule of righteousness with various uses (#6): to restrain their sin (civil use), drive them to Christ and the perfection of HIS obedience (pedagogical use) (#7) and (importantly for my argument here) structure their new obedience (normative or third use). And of course, faith is the root of new obedience and therefore its sine qua non.

So, although the law demands perfect obedience, even from redeemed sinners, the Lawgiver accepts their imperfect obedience and graciously rewards them.

Hence, I do not believe that land retention required that Israel perfectly obey. Rather, what was required of them was the ordinary imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience of redeemed sinners, the fruit of faith (#11). After all, if this were not the case, then how could David be described as "a man after God's own heart" and how could the godly kings of Judah be described as "doing right in the eyes of the Lord" and "not turning aside to the right or to the left"? And on various occasions, blessing was said to ensue as a consequence of Israel's (and especially of their king's) necessarily imperfect obedience.

Therefore, in this sense, faith was necessary (in addition to works) for the temporal blessings promised in Deuteronomy 28.

And I think this also clarifies why I deny your minor premise IF it means that works are completely excluded because I do not, in fact, deny the connection between works and blessing in Deuteronomy 28 (to do so would be silly). If the MC is strictly (i.e., improperly) considered, the connection is between perfect obedience and blessing (as stated above); if broadly (properly) considered, the connection is between evangelical obedience and blessing, as described just above. Due to the unique "tethering principle" under the MC, Israel could retain the land only on condition that they render a typologically legible measure of national fidelity to the Mosaic covenant of grace (#8, #11), and when they failed to do so, they were cast out, thus recapitulating Adam's sin and exile from a holy realm (#12).

How'd I do?

rfwhite said...

David R. and Jeff,

Would you allow me to make a contribution to your really substantive interaction?

As I was preparing the Order of Worship for an upcoming service, I was reviewing the Heidelberg Catechism and came across Q. 115, which I cite for your convenience here:

Q. 115. Why does God so strictly enjoin the Ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?
A. First, that as long as we live, we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; second, that, without ceasing, we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.

To my mind, this is equally applicable to the believer under Moses. Would you agree? We need only, perhaps, add to the wording, "Christ to come" to acknowledge their redemptive-historical situation.

rfwhite said...

David R.

This statement of yours from you caught my eye: Hence, I do not believe that land retention required that Israel perfectly obey. Rather, what was required of them was the ordinary imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience of redeemed sinners, the fruit of faith (#11).

Your analysis is very appealing, but let me offer a qualified agreement and a different analysis. I would argue that retention did require perfect obedience. I say this because, in the end, even the imperfect fruit of faith of the believing remnant did not allow them to retain the land. In fact, their exile from the land showed them that not even their fathers' obedience, which had secured their entrance into the land, was not a sufficient condition to secure their retention of the land. The message could have been unmistakable: all sinners, both the fathers and their seed, were desperately incompetent, and God had not and could not amend His requirements.

What God did do, however, was to condescend in grace and dispense the temporal blessing of land as He did for the pedagogical purpose of teaching that only the coming representative could provide both the necessary and the sufficient obedience He required. Because believers -- fathers and their seed according to the Spirit -- were accepted through Christ to come, God was pleased to accept and reward that which was sincere, even though it is accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections. For this reason, God could predicate the nation’s entrance into the land on the representative obedience of the believing fathers, though that obedience, which was their fruit of faith, was not sufficient. Similarly, God could predicate retention of the land on the Israelites' personal obedience, though that obedience too was not sufficient.

Granted the deficiencies in the fruit of faith of both the fathers and their seed, we would agree that, in all this, God was foreshadowing to Israel (and us) the benefits of Christ’s administration of the Covenant of Grace. Only His obedience, the fruit of His faith (Heb 2:13), was sufficient to secure everlasting blessing. Until His arrival, God dispensed temporal blessings and curses, all with an eye to their administration in antitypical fullness through Christ’s mediation.

What do you think?

rfwhite said...

It occurs to me that we should add that God not only rewarded believers for good works done in sincerity, but He also penalized believers both for their sins and for the weaknesses and imperfections in their good works.

Jeff Cagle said...

David: But first of all (and this may go without saying at this point), I am not arguing on behalf of any "anti-Rs" and I'm not even sure what that term means to different people though in this context I assume it signifies anti-Klinian. But that's not even helpful because we're dealing with two different interpretations of Kline; and since both of us hold to the "administrative" reading of Kline, the "substantial" reading Kline folks (e.g., Lee Irons) would say we're both "anti-R." I can only argue my own position of course, which I don't necessarily understand as "anti-R" (depending on what one means by "R") and which is the "administrative" reading of Kline and more or less in lock step with the committee report as I understand it.

This was very interesting, and somewhat surprising yet revealing. It explains why we have so many points of agreement!

I don't think the committee is on board with the administrative reading. They were a bit coy, but from their membership (includes Swinburnson, but also Estelle) and the structure of the evaluation (administrative first, then substantial), I read the following:

* The committee is divided as to which reading to take.

We have presented two readings of Meredith Kline’s corpus on covenant theology. The committee does not find these two views equally persuasive; we all agree that one understanding of Kline offers a construction of covenant theology compatible with our doctrinal standards, and another understanding of Kline (that which sees in his corpus an advocacy of substantial republication) that does not.

* I take this to mean that the committee leans either 3-2 or 4-1 on the substantial side.

Could be wrong, though. 2-3 is possible.

Jeff Cagle said...

David: Deuteronomy 28 is a pure statement of law, Do this and live; cursed be he who does not do everything written in the book of the law. Granted. Taken in isolation from the "promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances ... all foresignifying Christ to come" (WCF 7.5), Deuteronomy 28 is a substantial covenant of works demanding perfect obedience as the condition for blessing (#1, #2).

This is a very Turretinic standpoint: Taken in isolation, the substance of the law is CoW; but taken in context of the CoG, it is an administrative overlay. He threads the needle between a subservient covenant view (which he mildly corrects) and a "pure covenant of grace" view (which he says "some have agitated about" -- some things don't change!)

Very happy with this.

But now I wonder about your seeming distinction between "demanded" and "required." On the one hand, the Law demanded perfect obedience; on the other hand, perfect obedience was not required?



David R. said...

RF, my initial thought is that this is super helpful in clarifying the precise nature of the connection between imperfect obedience (i.e., that of Abraham and Israel) and land acquisition/retention. Your analysis shows that the connection is *not* that of works meriting the reward, but rather that of works that are not only insufficient to merit the reward, but are actually so weak and defiled that they are insufficient to stand the severity of God's judgment, and yet, for Christ's sake, they are not only accepted by God but also graciously rewarded. Thanks for coming in here to help us out!

David R. said...

Jeff,

//I don't think the committee is on board with the administrative reading.//

I could have been clearer. I agree that the committee is divided on how to read Kline. At least Swinburnsen thinks Kline's view is a substantial republication. Perhaps Estelle thinks so also, but it would be ironic that the two guys on the committee who one would think are the most diametrically opposed, are actually in agreement on how to read Kline. (However, Irons and Ramsey agree on the "substantial" reading of Kline, so obviously interpreting Kline makes for strange bedfellows!) Additionally, the committee was clearly unanimous that the substantial reading of Kline is contra-confessional, so this would also entail that Estelle thinks Kline is contra-confessional, which would be hard for me to believe, though certainly not impossible.

Obviously Tipton wrote the section elaborating the administrative republication interpretation of Kline. And obviously the committee unanimously views this interpretation as, at the very least, not incompatible with the Confession. But perhaps I should have just said I agree with Tipton!

David R. said...

Jeff,

//He threads the needle between a subservient covenant view (which he mildly corrects) and a "pure covenant of grace" view (which he says "some have agitated about" -- some things don't change!)//

I don't recall reading in Turretin any criticism of a "pure covenant of grace" view. Can you help with a reference?

David R. said...

Jeff,

Okay I think I remember that passage in Turretin now. And to my recollection he is not discussing there particular views of the Mosaic covenant; rather he is addressing the question of the precise nature of the *Decalogue* and arguing against the view that it is to be *identified* with the covenant of grace.

David R. said...

Jeff,

//But now I wonder about your seeming distinction between "demanded" and "required." On the one hand, the Law demanded perfect obedience; on the other hand, perfect obedience was not required?//

I think RF's comment above has very helpfully clarified this.

David R. said...

I also think Turretin's attitude toward the sub cov view is not one "mild correction, " but rather, adamant rejection. But all in all, Jeff, it does seem we're having increasing difficulty finding stuff to disagree about!

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi guys,

So I'm pleased at the level of agreement. I want to be clear about what we are agreeing to.

It appears that the current proposal on the table is that

* the Law requires perfect obedience, but
* Imperfect obedience is accepted on behalf of a representative head: either the works of Abraham or David, which in turn are accepted on behalf of Christ; or the works of Christ directly.

Is that a fair assessment?

Jeff Cagle said...

@ David:

Yes, I was trying to read between the lines as to the views of the individual committee members also.

I would guess Swinburnson to be reading Kline as substantially republication, based on previous writings.

I would guess Troxel to be reading Kline as administrative republication, based on his protest re: Irons.

You would place Irons and hence Estelle in the substantial reading category, but I'm not convinced on either account. In the case of Estelle, he signed off on stating that substantial republication is contraconfessional. If he then reads Kline in this way, presumably also reflecting his own understanding, then he would be labeling his own views as contraconfessional. Possible, but unlikely.

Tipton is an unknown to me on this issue. He talked about the committee's work with Bucey et al, but I couldn't divine his own viewpoint. He certainly is comfortable with Gaffin, but that could still reflect a range of views.

Dixhoorn is also unknown to me on this issue, but my sense is that he leans anti-Klinean.

In the end, taking the committee's work as a whole, I was pleased with their bottom line.

The task given to the committee was somewhat ugly: Evaluate the confessionality of a dead man's writings, without the benefit of speaking to him directly. The committee was essentially tasked with conducting a trial without due process, so to speak.

They managed to turn it into something productive: "here are questions to ask of ministerial candidates." And the questions themselves are good, and leave room *still* for a diversity of views.

Jeff Cagle said...

I'm away from Turretin at the moment, but I'll hunt down the quotes tomorrow. It was my memory that Turretin first considers a subservient covenant view. He rejects it as erroneous, but on the grounds that the proponents are making a simple error in structure. And he labels the proponents as "some among the Reformed."

In other words, they are mistaken, but not in a manner that can be amended. (Much like a math proof that contains an error, but one that can be amended without changing the conclusion).

But when he comes to the question of a "pure covenant of grace", his words are sharper: "Now we turn to a question that has been agitated by some, whether the Mosaic Covenant is a pure covenant of grace."

In other words, he sees these proponents as not only mistaken (in that the Mosaic is not *purely* a covenant of grace, but a covenant of grace with an administrative overlay of works), but also agitators.

This is working from memory, though, which is not always reliable.

David R. said...

Jeff,

Thanks for the comments. I was getting ready to write a wrap-up comment as well. I agree with most of your comment concerning the report. It was certainly surprising that Estelle seems to take the "administrative" position, and yes, I agree that it's unlikely that he views himself as contraconfessional. However:

1. Irons is another story. He explicitly views Kline as teaching something akin to the sub cov view, i.e, what the committee would call a substantial republication. Take a look at his blog. Listen to his podcast. Check out the Meredith Kline FB page.

2. Tipton obviously wrote the "administrative" chapter on Kline. He's also presented his own views in at least a couple of lectures and several Reformed Forum episodes. He need not remain "an unknown" to you.

2. Dixhoorn I don't know, but from his WCF commentary I don't get the impression he is all that anti-Kline.

David R. said...

The task given to the committee was much more general than you make out, and not an "ugly" one at all I don't think. It was "to examine and give its advice as to whether and in what particular senses the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.” If someone were expecting the report to answer the question, "Is Kline confessional?" I think they'd be sorely disappointed.

David R. said...

Regarding Turretin, yes, he says "some among the Reformed" with reference to the sub cov view because it, in fact, was formulated by Reformed theologians. However, he is clear that he considers it a error, and for corroborating evidence of his strong feelings, consider the Formula Consenses, which he co-authored, which explicitly condemns the sub cov position as contra-confessional.

David R. said...

Jeff,

//* the Law requires perfect obedience, but
* Imperfect obedience is accepted on behalf of a representative head: either the works of Abraham or David, which in turn are accepted on behalf of Christ; or the works of Christ directly.

Is that a fair assessment?//

Yes, I think that's a fair assessment. I am grateful to you for probing me wrt my lack of clarity concerning how the law's demand for perfect obedience is compatible with Israel's "requirement" (I would not use that term now) of imperfect obedience for land retention. And I am grateful to Dr. White for persuading me that perfect obedience was required for both inheriting and retaining the land.

Given these things, however, it seems even less felicitous than before to label this phenomenon (i.e., Israel's tenure in the land) a matter of a "works principle." As the report says, "Israel spurned the typical indicative," that is, they failed to lay hold by faith of the perfect righteousness of the One to come. I will continue to process....

Cca Vector said...

I see your point about the formula consensus. There seems to be some conceptual (but non-necessary) link between subservientism and Amyrauld, such that the document is concerned to refute both.


In re: Irons, I don't feel compelled to fully defend his corpus. But I would caution that folk who frequently speak of New Cov in contrast to Old are not necessarily signalling a sub cov view.


In Irons' latest posting on FB, he portrays Kline and seemingly himself as holding to three covenants: CoW, pactum salutis between Father and Son, and CoG.

http://www.upper-register.com/papers/BOC-compared-with-KP.pdf

But I'm open to seeing further evidence.

In re: Tipton, I had actually made an effort to search out his republication views, but to no avail. Links?

Jeff Cagle said...

Oops, that was me, not cca's robotics
team...

David Rothstein said...

Regarding Lee Irons, here's a sample quote, taken from his blog article explaining Kline on the word principle. It's from the end of the section, "fourth misrepresentation of Kline:

//Again, Kline is not saying that the Mosaic covenant itself (the covenant between God and Israel that was inaugurated at Sinai) was a covenant of grace. It was not. It was a covenant of the works variety. But he is saying that God’s establishment of this Mosaic covenant of works was designed to advance the covenant of grace and that therefore it was a sub-administration of the covenant of grace. As other Reformed theologians have said, it was a “subservient covenant” intended not to be an end in itself but to look ahead to the coming Seed who would be born under it and fulfill it and thereby bring about the consummation of the covenant of grace.//

In its entirety: http://www.upper-register.com/papers/works-principle-mosaic-economy-exposition.pdf

You may recall that years ago he also published a blog article arguing that Bolton's view is a precursor to Kline, which you can still find online easily enough.

Here are a couple links for Tipton:

http://reformedforum.org/ctc451/

And this one from a couple years back: http://reformedforum.org/rf14_09/

David Rothstein said...

Oops, should be "works principle, not "word principle"....

Jeff Cagle said...

If you would like for me to delete the previous two comments to keep the "R" a mystery, I'd be happy to.

David R. said...

Thanks, Jeff, but it wasn't unintentional. I don't feel as much need to be guarded here, as I might on, say, OldLife.

Jeff Cagle said...

Your call. There is some degree of following at times.

But I'm you find the 'House to be a place to let your guard down.

Jeff Cagle said...

Here is the Irons "sub-cov" article: http://www.upper-register.com/papers/subservient_cov.pdf

I read it thus.

* Irons understands his view to be identical to Kline's.
* Kline'a view is anticipated by Cameron, Bolton, and Amyrauld (!).
* But is different in that for Kline, the Law is a "sub-administration" of the CoG, the upper layer of a two-layer cake; whereas for Bolton, the Law is a distinct covenant with separate aims.

This is a crucial distinction in light of the charge of dispensationalism that Kline carefully steered away from.

My Dispy friends really *are* Amyrauldian ("I'm a four-and-a-half point Calvinist"). And, they hold the Mosaic Law to be a completely different covenant with utterly different terms and towards a different end.

Kline's dissent from Bolton -- and Irons' -- is to tie the Law and CoG together such that the former is a sub-administration of the latter.

See also "Misrepresentations" 2, 4 in the linked article.

Now, whether that modification of Bolton in the direction of Turretin is enough? That's really the question.

rfwhite said...

David R.

If I may ... with respect to your summary assessment -- //* the Law requires perfect obedience, but * Imperfect obedience is accepted on behalf of a representative head: either the works of Abraham or David, which in turn are accepted on behalf of Christ; or the works of Christ directly. Is that a fair assessment?// --

I would agree with your statement. For the purpose of providing even greater clarity on this point, I think WCF 16.6 is a significant help as we reflect on "imperfect obedience": " ... the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections."

Some critics of republication seem to forget this paragraph and, effectively, to deny what the Confession teaches here, namely, that God does both accept and reward the good works of believers. In addition, can it be denied that WCF 16.6 is equally applicable to OT believers and NT believers?

Hence, as you imply, we might just as well make the following statement: "the person of Abraham (or David or pre-flood Noah, etc.) being accepted through Christ to come, his works also were accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, was pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections."

As was the case with Abraham, God rewarded his works of faith with seed and, in turn, his seed with land, as Gen 22.15-18 indicates.

David R. said...

Jeff,

//I read it thus.

* Irons understands his view to be identical to Kline's.//

True.

//* Kline'a view is anticipated by Cameron, Bolton, and Amyrauld (!).//

Yes, according to Irons.

//* But is different in that for Kline, the Law is a "sub-administration" of the CoG, the upper layer of a two-layer cake; whereas for Bolton, the Law is a distinct covenant with separate aims.//

Kline spoke of the Mosaic covenant economy being comprised of two “strata”: a foundational “substratum” that administered the covenant of grace and a typological “superstratum” that administered temporal blessings to the Israelite theocracy according to a works principle.

The million-dollar question is: In this model, (1) do the two strata together represent the Mosaic covenant (in which case Kline viewed the MC as an administration of the covenant of grace), or (2) does the superstratum alone represent the Mosaic covenant and the substratum alone the covenant of grace (in which case the MC is a substantially distinct covenant)?

Irons argues for #2. But others (e.g., Tipton) think #1. Personally, I think it is difficult or impossible to prove either position for sure because Kline didn’t clearly spell it out. I prefer to think #1 because I want to believe that Kline’s position isn't contra-confessional. Irons’ own position is clearly #2.

(Incidentally, Kline had apparently expressed essentially the same idea in early writings but using different terminology: He had spoken of the Israelite theocracy as a typological “intrusion” featuring (1) an “inner core” of already-realized eschatology—namely, the application of redemption common to all administrations of the covenant of grace—and (2) an “outer shell”—featuring a system of types and shadows pointing forward to eschatology not-yet-realized.)

//Kline's dissent from Bolton -- and Irons' -- is to tie the Law and CoG together such that the former is a sub-administration of the latter.//

I confess I’m not sure what “subadministration” of the covenant grace can mean here. Is it an administration of grace “under” some “superadministration” of grace (a literal understanding but not too comprehensible)? Or is it a specific period of the covenant of grace (perhaps more likely but a confusing use of terminology since a works principle can’t administer grace)?

David R. said...

RF,

As before, I agree with your comment 100% and find it very helpful.

But this again raises the question: If the land was given to Abraham and Israel as a gracious reward (a la WCF 16.6), then how can this constitute a “works principle” in any meaningful way?

I think we need different terminology, and I’m thinking maybe “federal representation principle” (though it’s too ponderous) since that is the actual principle being displayed in the analogy between Abraham and Christ. What do you think?

And when Israel fails to follow in the footsteps of the faith and obedience of father Abraham, they forfeit the gracious reward (since a reward of grace is only for believers, WCF 16.6) and thus recapitulate Adam’s sin and exile.

So, I see here the principles of (1) federal representation and (2) recapitulation, but no works principle. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

Jeff Cagle said...

Irons' view is not as clearly "subservient covenant" to me, but I can certainly understand. I would fault Irons (and somewhat Kline) for being less than clear in a polemically charged environment.

Because of the lack of clarity, it is hard to tell, when Kline is speaking of the Law and works-principles, and of the Mosaic Covenant in contradistinction to the New, what the status and boundaries and functions of the Old Covenant are.

T. David Gordon has a similar infelicity. He loves to speak of the many different covenants in the OT, but without tying them together as administrations of the covenant of grace. (see: Covenants in the Bible, in which he registers agreement with the Westminsterian view in a *footnote*(!)). Drives me nuts.

---

If OK, I would like to consider how our consensus deals with two issues in the Mosaic Covenant.

(1) The failure of Israel to keep the land.

We agree that keeping the land was according to the requirement of perfect law-keeping, BUT that God accepted the law-keeping of a mediator in place of perfection. All of this is in keeping with the covenant of grace.

But an important feature of the covenant of grace is that conditions are enabled by God. Hence, we in the NC do good works prepared in advance for us to do; we are led by the Spirit (in explicit contradistinction to the failure in the Old Covenant, Jer 31.31 - 35).

Likewise, a related feature of the CoG is that it is unbreakable; this is the crucial doctrine of perseverance that held as much in OT times as now.

And yet, Israel (a) failed, and (b) broke the covenant as a nation, believer and non-believer alike.

How does our model explain this?

(2) The dispensation of MC benefits to non-believers.

As Turretin points out, the benefit of outward cleanliness was granted to believers and non-believers alike upon performance of the sacrifice, with or without faith.

How does our model explain this?

David R. said...

Jeff,

Regarding your #1, Israel's failure to keep the land, I agree that is a most challenging question. I have a tentative answer (intimated above in my comment to RF, though I am interested in how he will answer too). In a nutshell:

1. It's not a works principle, for the reasons you gave: the imperfect obedience rendered is accepted only because of Christ and the reward is entirely of grace. Etc.

2. The actual principle is federal representation, or more specifically, representative obedience obtaining a reward. Over the course of Israel's history it was primarily the reigning king's representative obedience or lack thereof that either obtained or forfeited the gracious reward of the continuance of temporal blessings in the land.

And ultimately, Israel and Judah went into captivity largely because their ungodly kings led them astray and (in the case of Judah) their godly kings were too few and far between and even the best of them could only maintain Israel's right standing while they lived, and when they died, the chances were high that their successor would be a loser with God. And by virtue of these things, the redemptive-historical message could be read that what Israel needed was a righteous King who wouldn't die.

IOW, the connection being drawn was between imperfect obedience obtaining a gracious temporal reward, on the one hand, that was made to point forward to perfect obedience (i.e., that of Christ) meriting an eternal reward, otoh. A works principle only applied in the latter case, but what applied to both cases was that there was a reward that was obtained on behalf of others by virtue of federal representation.

What do you think? (I have a feeling that RF has already pretty much said most of this, only far better than I ever could....)

Regarding your #2, the dispensation of benefits to non-believers, I guess I would say that I don't really consider ceremonial cleansing a "benefit," given that the MC also dispensed the "liability" of ceremonial defilement to believers and unbelievers. These were simply types that had no value apart from what they signified in terms of the promise of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. So, while it's true that ceremonial cleansing as dispensed in the MC would restore someone to fellowship, this was only necessary because ceremonial defilement, also dispensed in the MC, had disbarred him in the first place.

rfwhite said...

David R.,

Thanks much for this interaction. I do welcome the work of learning to say better what is meant. I’m thinking that this point may take several iterations, but let’s try!
I do get your concern about a certain conceptual incongruity, at least potentially.

Let me start by saying that I take it that, when obedience functions as the ground of receiving or retaining kingdom blessings, the conditionality is that of the works principle, the opposite of the grace principle.

I would affirm that God gave Abraham the land as a reward for his obedience.

I would deny that God gave Israel the land as a reward for their obedience; He gave Israel the land as a reward for Abraham’s obedience. I would elaborate on this by saying that, as Israel read Abraham’s story in Genesis and read summaries of it thereafter, God was teaching them the grace principle: that is, while He showed them that Abraham’s own obedience was not the ground of His justification of Abraham, He also showed them that their own obedience was not the ground of their reception (entry) of the land; rather it was the obedience of another, namely, Abraham, that was the ground of their reception of the land.

Later, as Israel entered into covenant with God at Sinai and lived under the covenant of Moses, God kept rehearsing the grace principle by which they received the land and also taught them the works principle too. That is, He taught them that, to keep (stay in) the land God had given them, He required them to obey Him, to be holy as He is holy, perfectly, personally, and perpetually. Strikingly, they entered the covenant at Sinai declaring their own moral ability to keep God’s requirements (Exod 19.8). In that light, it would be the task of the pedagogue Moses to teach them the lesson of their own moral inability, an inability from which neither Abraham, Moses, or Aaron could deliver them. Such a deliverance would require a new covenant and a new mediator.

I would substantially agree that, when Israel fails to follow in Abraham’s footsteps, they forfeit the land. By grace through faith, they needed to lay hold of an obedience greater than Abraham’s or their own as their surety, both to receive and to retain the land.

In all this, in my view, God keeps teaching two main lessons: the works principle – He requires perfect, personal, perpetual obedience – and the grace principle – He provides what He requires in a representative, a Surety.

Maybe that unfamiliar term – surety – provides a way to go for terminology: the surety principle. Might be too unfamiliar. Worth reviving it? I’ll keep mulling it with you.

What do you think?

rfwhite said...

David R. and Jeff C. –

Jeff posed the following observation:

//But an important feature of the covenant of grace is that conditions are enabled by God. Hence, we in the NC do good works prepared in advance for us to do; we are led by the Spirit (in explicit contradistinction to the failure in the Old Covenant, Jer 31.31 - 35).

Likewise, a related feature of the CoG is that it is unbreakable; this is the crucial doctrine of perseverance that held as much in OT times as now.

And yet, Israel (a) failed, and (b) broke the covenant as a nation, believer and non-believer alike.

How does our model explain this?//

I would offer the following explanation: Israel failed and broke the covenant because the redemption and covenant of Moses provided no full or final solution for the people’s moral inability. Moses was not qualified to succeed where Israel failed, nor was he qualified to make provision for Israel's inability. Moses and the prophets after him did, however, bear witness to that provision to come in the redemption and covenant of Christ to come. It was He who would qualify to mediate the full and final solution to the people’s moral inability. Having Himself persevered in the righteousness and holiness required by the covenant of Moses, Christ would secure for believers the gift of perseverance (in the Holy Spirit).

Does this help?

rfwhite said...

It occurs to me that perhaps a key in this discussion is to clarify what it is that makes Moses an administration of the CoG. I would answer this way: what makes Moses an administration of the CoG is its inclusion of the surety principle, a principle codified especially in the mediatorial-messianic offices and in the ceremonial law. At least, that's where I'd begin by way of summary.

David R. said...

RF,

Thanks, I'm much appreciating the interaction as well. I'm not sure whether I'm tracking so if you'll bear with me while I try to get clear by asking a possibly silly question:

In your view, in order for obedience to function as the ground of receiving a reward from God (works principle), must it be perfect and personal obedience?

Near the end of your comment, you say "God keeps teaching two main lessons: the works principle – He requires perfect, personal, perpetual obedience," which suggests to me that you might answer my question, "yes," in which case I'll breath a sigh of relief.

But you also had said, "rather it was the obedience of another, namely, Abraham, that was the ground of their reception of the land, which causes me to wonder if you might answer it, "no," in which case my head will continue to spin and I'll ask some more silly questions....

Sorry if I'm being dense.

I think "surety principle" may have some potential!

rfwhite said...

David R. –
Sorry for the lack of clarity.

Your question was whether obedience has to be perfect and personal to function as the ground of receiving a reward from God. Bear with me here. By your comments, I realize there is some nuance here!

My first answer is, no, because, using the WCF 16.6 wording, God chooses to look upon believers’ works of faith in His Son and, despite their many weaknesses and imperfections, to dispense temporal blessings according to the works principle. We acknowledge by this that God blesses the individual believer who obeys (we might say, "by faith we obey" or "trust and obey"). We even recognize, as in our discussion, that God chooses to make the believer’s works the ground of blessing for others in some relation to the believer (e.g., because of their works of faith, God blesses believers’ family members, their fellow church members, their co-workers, their fellow citizens).

Yet I see that we can also answer, yes, in that God looks on believers’ works of faith, specifically, in His Son. I take it that, properly speaking, we have to say that no blessing attends the believer’s works apart from the perfect, personal, perpetual works of God’s Son. And let's add that this is the case for believers in both Testaments.

Is this clearer?

rfwhite said...

David R. -

A couple of other comments.

In my comment about Abraham's obedience as the ground of Israel's entry into the land, I'm taking for granted that God fashioned Abraham as a type of Christ. I am also taking for granted that, in fashioning types of Christ in a post-fall world, God takes certain believers as He finds them: with works of faith that have many weaknesses and imperfections. Further, I'm taking for granted that these weaknesses and imperfections are why the blessings that come through the types of Christ can only be temporal and never eternal.

David R. said...

RF,

A few additional thoughts to try to give more basis for my previous comment:

First, I can agree with your basic definition of a works principle, i.e., that "when obedience functions as the ground of receiving or retaining kingdom blessings, the conditionality is that of the works principle, the opposite of the grace principle."

However, while I agree with you that "God gave Abraham the land as a reward for his obedience," I don't see how (given your definition of a works principle) your claim that "it was the obedience of another, namely, Abraham, that was the ground of their [Israel's] reception of the land," doesn't carry the necessary implication that Abraham was under a works principle to obtain the land. (But I was under the strong impression, based on your previous comments, that you wouldn't want to affirm this.)

Personally, I think I would want to clarify that the "ground" for Abraham's (as well as Israel's) reception of the land was God’s acceptance and gracious rewarding of Abraham’s imperfect obedience for the sake of Christ to come. This makes it clearer (I think) that Abraham was under grace, not works; but it also allows us to affirm that the land inheritance came to Israel on account of (i.e., as a reward for) the obedience of another (Abraham).

Am I making any sense?

David R. said...

RF,

Yes, your above comments add some clarity. While I think we're in essential agreement, it seems we're using terms differently. For example, I am not comfortable saying that "God chooses to look upon believers’ works of faith in His Son and, despite their many weaknesses and imperfections, to dispense temporal blessings according to the works principle," because I think it creates unecessary confusion (I offer myself as evidence of this) to broaden the definition of "works principle" to include God's acceptance and gracious rewarding of the weak and defiled works of believers.

David R. said...

Also you had said that this is "the opposite of the grace principle." But how can a reward of grace be the opposite of the grace principle?

rfwhite said...

David R. –

Yes, I would agree with you: the "ground" for Abraham's (as well as Israel's) reception of the land was God’s acceptance and gracious rewarding of Abraham’s imperfect obedience for the sake of Christ to come. This makes it clearer. To be sure, I regret that the shorthand I used in my comments left this point unclear.

You also stated this: I think it creates [unnecessary] confusion (I offer myself as evidence of this) to broaden the definition of "works principle" to include God's acceptance and gracious rewarding of the weak and defiled works of believers.
I do hear your concern. Without establishing a shared recognition of what exactly I was talking about, I created unnecessary confusion. Though I’m not the only one who has written this way, particularly in the context of this discussion, I acknowledge that I have used the same term with two different referents. Specifically, I’ve applied the term “works principle” to Christ and to the types of Christ. As you’ve reminded me, the term “works” does not denote the same thing in those two instances.

So, let me add that, since in the case of Abraham I’m talking about the works of a believer whom God fashions as a type of Christ, I’m using the term “works principle” in a typological application, aka (with a modifier) “typological works principle.”
I’m sure this confusion is why we see some rejecting (or balking at) the use of the term “works principle” altogether and others insisting on using a modifier with the term like “typological.”

You made this comment too: I don't see how your claim … doesn’t carry the necessary implication that Abraham was under a works principle to obtain the land. Fair enough. I say what I said because – and I know you would agree with this – the grace principle by which Abraham was justified was not antinomian. That same grace uses God’s law for instruction in righteous character and conduct. I'm saying, then, that in the context of God’s acceptance of Abraham’s works of faith in Christ to come, God fashioned him as a type of Christ, counting Abraham’s works as the ground of Israel’s blessed entrance into the land.

You also asked this: how can a reward of grace be the opposite of the grace principle? Let’s back up a step: as I’m using it, the grace principle means that God blesses the believer because of the obedience of another, because of an obedience that is not his own. I don’t set that grace principle in opposition to the reward of grace. I would say that, as God administers the grace principle to believers, He rewards their own imperfect obedience out of (or “in”) that grace. The reward may consist in God blessing others because of the believer's own obedience.

Clearer?

David R. said...

RF,

Thanks much for going along with me on my attempts to gain clarity. Your comments confirm further for me that we are in essential agreement.

I do find myself still wanting to dig in my heels against the terminology of a "typological works principle" because in my mind, it is prone to causing the sort of confusion that we both agree exists. I honestly don't think we lose anything at all by saying instead (for example) "a type of the works principle that Christ came under" (yes, it does take longer to say) or that "Abraham's representative obedience typifies Christ's representative obedience" or that "the gracious reward of land inheritance typifies the justly merited reward of the heavenly inheritance," or some such phraseology that makes the connection between Abraham and Christ clear, while also keeping clear the essential discontinuity between the redeemed sinner (Abe) and the Redeemer.

Which is why I much prefer your "surety principle" or perhaps "representative principle" to "works principle," which in my mind should be reserved for an actual covenant of works.

But all in all, I'm pretty happy with where we are now and am grateful for the help you've been to me in thinking these things through!

David R. said...


Jeff and RF,

This is indirectly related to our discussion, but just for fun, and in case it might be helpful, and also to satisfy my inner geek, I decided to try to analyze the following three things in terms of the Aristotelian fourfold causal scheme: (1) Christ’s inheritance of heavenly blessings on behalf of the elect, (2) Abraham’s inheritance of land on behalf of his posterity, and (3) Israel’s retention/loss of land.

Perhaps we don't gain anything by this, but I would be interested to know what you think, and if you care to, what improvements you might offer, so here it is:

1. Christ’s inheritance of heavenly blessings on behalf of the elect

Efficient cause: the electing love of God in executing His decree to redeem sinners

Material cause: Christ’s purchase of redemption by His perfect obedience and suffering

Formal cause: the reconciliation of elect sinners with God and their union with Christ by the Spirit

Final cause: the glory of God in the redemption of humanity

2. Abraham’s inheritance of land on behalf of his posterity

Efficient cause: the pedagogical procedure of God in granting His redeemed people a typological holy realm

Material cause: God’s acceptance and gracious rewarding of Abraham’s imperfect obedience for the sake of Christ to come

Formal cause: Israel’s inheritance of the land grant of Canaan as a type of heavenly blessings

Final cause: that God’s redeemed people should learn that the inheritance comes by the obedience of another

3. Israel’s retention/loss of land

Efficient cause: the pedagogical procedure of God in making His redeemed people's continuance in the typological holy realm contingent on their obedience

Material cause: God’s acceptance and gracious rewarding of Israel’s (and especially of their king’s) imperfect obedience for Christ’s sake; or, in the event of Israel’s apostasy, God’s rejection of Israel and withdrawal of the gracious reward

Formal cause: Israel’s retention of temporal blessings in Canaan as a type of heavenly blessings, or the loss of temporal blessings in Canaan as a type of the punishment of hell

Final cause: that God’s redeemed people should learn that a stable and eternal inheritance comes only by the perfect obedience of the Mediator to come

Thoughts?

rfwhite said...

David R. -

I think we're tracking with each other.

Your comment about reserving the term "works principle" for the Covenant of Works has been lurking in the back of my mind. One reason I have wondered about that point is that I see a lot of wrestling with how to articulate the relation of works and grace within the Covenant of Grace. This conversation, by bringing to mind WCF 16.6 and God's rewarding of believers' imperfect obedience, has helped in that regard. I'm thinking that WCF 16.5 and 16.7, with their reflections on the unbeliever's works, helps us too.

Since I see the terms "works principle" and "grace principle" as opposites, I would see the terms "surety principle" and "representative principle" as alternatives to "grace principle." In fact, this interaction reminds me that in another place I have used the terms "personal obedience (merit) principle" and "representative obedience (merit) principle" as alternatives, respectively, to "works principle" and "grace principle." See my essay (with E. C. Beisner), “Covenant, Inheritance, and Typology: Understanding the Principles at Work in God’s Covenants,” in G. P. Waters and G. L. W. Johnson, eds., By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007).

Jeff Cagle said...

David R: I do find myself still wanting to dig in my heels against the terminology of a "typological works principle" because in my mind, it is prone to causing the sort of confusion that we both agree exists.

Could we consider the possibility that the alternative is more confusing?

As it stands, RF's view (like Turretin's, and like Kline's) takes a two-layer approach. The works-principle resides in the outer cloak, and exists in order to

* Teach inability
* Teach the necessity of a mediator

The surety principle resides in the inner substance, and exists in order to

* Provide actual salvation
* Allow fallen sinners to be physically preserved via a remnant

This (to me) seems intelligible, each layer doing its work as one unified covenant. It also accords with Paul's teaching about the Law.

The tricky part of this view is to understand how the works of fallen sinners could be accepted; the resolution is that the Law *required* perfect obedience, but the surety principle (ultimately drawing on the righteousness of Jesus) satisfied the Law with an alien righteousness.

By contrast, thinking of everything in terms of "grace" generates real confusion when it comes to explaining why Israel, including the believing remnant, was removed from the land.

For in the Exile, the essential features of the CoG, such as the condition being supplied and the covenant being unbreakable, are not present.

...

Jeff Cagle said...

...

The reason this matters is that when we dig into the writings of the "all is grace" side, we find that their explanations of the Old Covenant taken in itself are difficult to follow.

Take John Ball. He complains

Most Divines hold the old and new Covenant to be one in substance and kind, to differ only in degrees : but in setting down the differences they speake so obscurely that it is hard to find how they consent with themselves. -- John Ball, Treatise of the Covenant of Grace, 95.

Yet he himself explains

Some Divines hold the old testament, even the Law, as it was given upon Mount Sinai, to be the Covenant of Grace for substance though propounded in a manner fitting to the state of that people, time and Condition of the Church, It was so delivered as it might serve to discover sin, drive the Jews to deny themselves the Law, and fly to the mercy of God revealed in Jesus : but it was given to be a rule of life to a people in Covenant, directing them how to walk before God in holiness and righteousness, that they might inherit the promises of grace and mercy. -- Ball 102

In these passages [Ex 19.4; Deut 27.26] observe, that the Law is called a Covenant, as it is often elsewhere the Covenant of the Lord. What Covenant, but of grace and mercy? Even that wherein God promiseth to be their God, and take them to be his people, if they obey his commandments. -- Ball 103

And if without faith it be impossible to please God, or to obtaine Salvation, the Law which promiseth eternall life to them that keep it, doth require faith as well as love or obedience. -- Ball 111

Notice that Ball's explanation of inheriting the promises is conditioned upon law-keeping, and he insinuates that faith is a work of the Law.

Nor does he distinguish, as does Turretin, between concomitant and antecedent conditions.

Thus, he gives the strong (but inconsistent) impression that law-keeping is the ground for reception of the promise. I say "inconsistent", because elsewhere -- in the discussion of imputation, for example -- he is more clear about ground.

And he attempts to resolve the tension in the later discussion (115 ff.) in which he denies that faith is a work of the Law, but he struggles to give a clear account except to repeat the assertion that the covenant is of grace.

Don't take my criticism of Ball in this point to be a general rejection of him!

I am simply pointing out the confusing language that results from insisting on viewing the MC through the lens of grace only.

The tendency to make law-keeping the ground or means of reception of promises is the confusion that Shepherd fell into, although he took the confusion much further by insisting that works were an integral part of the definition of saving faith.

So the deeply ironic problem is this: by stopping short with the observation that the MC is gracious in substance, by failing to continue on and recognize the MC's two-layered nature, the accidental layer being a cloak of works, the "all of grace" interpretation creates confusion about the role that our works play. It tends to exegete the Law as grace, where Paul contrasts them.

This is why Turretin is so helpful here, for he recognizes the works-principle in the Law taken for itself. He isolates that works-principle to an "outer cloak of works", and in so doing, he lets grace be genuinely gracious.

Jeff Cagle said...

@ David in re: causal analysis.

Neat idea!

Two questions:

(1) Where does faith fit into #2?

(2) Am I correct in remembering that God does not ever trigger the "blessing" clauses of Deut 28? I think it is the case that land retention in fact only happens when God forgives their sins.

I don't know if this colors our understanding of #3, but it would seem that whatever principle Deut 28.1 - 14 is articulating, it remained hypothetical.

I'm open to correction here ...

David R. said...

Jeff,

I feel like we might be missing each other here because I pretty much agree with everything you just said. However: Turretin never referenced a "typological works principle" that I know of, nor do I know of that language being used by any known Reformed theologian (I acknowledge it could just be my ignorance) prior to Kline. What I am trying to point out is a problem with language, not substance.

rfwhite said...

David R. -

With regard to the Aristotelian scheme, I like it very much. To bring out the parallels between the Formal Cause under Christ's inheritance and Israel's inheritance, might we tweak the following:

Formal cause: the elect sinners' inheritance of everlasting blessings with God in the world to come

Now that I think about it, I wonder if you're thinking of the present inheritance of the elect.

David R. said...

Jeff and RF,

Thanks for the feedback!

Jeff, regarding faith in #2, I suppose it is implied in "​God’s acceptance and gracious rewarding of Abraham’s imperfect obedience." Regarding the Deuteronomy 28 blessing sanctions, as I indicated, I believe they are triggered in "God's acceptance and gracious rewarding of Israel’s (and especially of their king’s) imperfect obedience for Christ’s sake." Of course I agree with you that in terms of the perfect obedience demanded they remain hypothetical.

RF, yes, I think your tweak is a helpful one! I was thinking of the present inheritance entitled but not yet possessed, but your suggestion I think is a good one.

rfwhite said...

Jeff C. -

I think you and I are in sync when you analyze the CoG. I too find Ball to be, overall, confused and confusing.

David R. -

Allow me to add one other thought about adding the modifier "typological" to "works principle." Help me understand your willingness to apply "typological" to Abraham and David but your unwillingness to apply it to the works principle according to which they are reckoned as types. In what does their typification of Christ consist if not in their works of faith?

Let's grant for the sake of this interaction that the term is not used by Kline's predecessors. Yet where is the danger in using the term? Is it a contra-confessional term? Is it contra-biblical? To be sure, new terms may portend danger. But in this case, what is the danger, as you see it?

Please don't misunderstand: I don't mean to insist on the use of the modifier to describe the principle. I just am not following the resistance. If there's a danger I'm not seeing, I want to see it.

David R. said...

FWIW, the following criticism from the infamous Kerux review (which I read a few years ago) of TLNF has stuck with me and is in the background of my objection to the *language* of "typological works principle":

//First, in our view, the phrase “typological merit” does not deny the
substantial nature of Israel’s “merit” (as they call it), but rather affirms it.
For “typological” is here used simply as an adjective to describe “merit”. In traditional metaphysics and linguistic usage, an adjective simply qualifies
the noun it modifies. It does not change its essential nature. That is, a “white
horse” and a “black horse” are both horses, one simply has the accidental
quality of being black and other one has the accidental quality of being white.
Yet substantially they are both horses. Putting the word “white” in front of
“horse” does not change its substantial nature. It is still a horse. Thus, those
who speak of “typological merit” have simply affirmed that Israel’s obedience
was substantially meritorious and that it functioned in a typological way as
well. The phrase does not of itself deny (but rather affirms) the substantial
nature of Israel’s “merit”. It is still “merit”.//

David R. said...

RF,

I actually posted the above before reading your last comment, but it expresses my reservation with the language that you asked about.

//Help me understand your willingness to apply "typological" to Abraham and David but your unwillingness to apply it to the works principle according to which they are reckoned as types. In what does their typification of Christ consist if not in their works of faith?//

Does the above Kerux quote help at all? I doubt I can express this any better than I have already tried to do, but at the risk of redundancy, I'll try again: My reservation is that Abraham and David were not under a works principle. They were in fact under a grace principle such that the reward of grace granted to their works was extended to their posterity. Their typification of Christ consists in their representative headship status that obtained blessings for those whom they represented.

I do agree with what you said earlier that "surety principle and "representative principle" are alternatives to "grace principle," but I don't see that it follows that Abraham and David were under a "works principle." They weren't! I'll continue to ponder this, and who knows? Maybe I'll be persuaded, but so far I don't see it.

David R. said...

FWIW, I'm not thrilled with Ball either. I much prefer Turretin. I found Francis Roberts super helpful too. I also appreciate Vos's and Kline's (on the administrative reading) contributions. I would have hoped that these things are clear in all that I've said above.

David R. said...

Jeff,

//This is why Turretin is so helpful here, for he recognizes the works-principle in the Law taken for itself. He isolates that works-principle to an "outer cloak of works", and in so doing, he lets grace be genuinely gracious.//

Yes and amen. But at the risk of stating the obvious, he nowhere suggests or implies that Abraham and David were under a works principle. So I just don't see how his example works as a challenge to me on that score.

David R. said...

Hey guys, I've been pondering: If we want to speak of a "recalibrated works principle" or something like that, while also being clear to explain that Abe and David were were under grace not works and that the "works" we are speaking of here are the ones in accordance with WCF 16.6, I don't think I have a problem with that.

David R. said...

RF,

A thought just occurred to me that I'm hoping could possibly help resolve our disagreement: There is a difference between a typological "works principle" and a "typological works" principle. As you can see, the former option would suggest that Abraham was under a *works principle* that had a typifying function; whereas the latter option would merely be saying that his *works* had a typifying function. All along I have been assuming that you were speaking in the former sense (a sense that I don't think is terribly helpful), but now I wonder if you might possibly have been intending the latter sense (In which you'd have no argument from me!). So, if I may ask, which of these two possibilities is what you intended?

David R. said...

Jeff,

//David R: I do find myself still wanting to dig in my heels against the terminology of a "typological works principle" because in my mind, it is prone to causing the sort of confusion that we both agree exists.

Could we consider the possibility that the alternative is more confusing?

As it stands, RF's view (like Turretin's, and like Kline's) takes a two-layer approach.//

//By contrast, thinking of everything in terms of "grace" generates real confusion when it comes to explaining why Israel, including the believing remnant, was removed from the land.//

//The reason this matters is that when we dig into the writings of the "all is grace" side, we find that their explanations of the Old Covenant taken in itself are difficult to follow.

Take John Ball.//


I have read a little of Ball and I believe I have precisely the same concerns with him that you do. That’s why I really appreciate Francis Roberts’ approach in his treatment of the covenant of grace in which he makes extensive argument that the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace.

Toward the end of his argument, when Roberts considers various proposed responses to potential objections to his position (i.e., the “same in substance” view), he deals with the objection that Paul obviously understands Leviticus 18:5 as a covenant of works. Roberts first discusses Ball’s view that Leviticus 18:5 should be understood as demanding evangelical obedience. While Roberts has great respect for Ball, he ultimately dismisses his position on the grounds that it doesn’t satisfy (or even address) the objection.

Roberts then moves to a discussion of Burgess’s position on Leviticus 18:5: namely, that it does indeed display a works principle, but only when improperly abstracted in a Pharisaical way from the gracious elements in the Mosaic economy. Roberts states that this solution does indeed “cut the cords of the objection,” but he nonetheless acknowledges that it doesn’t do full justice to Paul’s citation of Leviticus 18:5 as a covenant of works.

So Roberts finally offers his own solution, which (in a nutshell) is that God dispensed the Mosaic covenant in such a way that, in addition to administering grace, it also pedagogically displayed the laws demand for perfect obedience that must necessarily be fulfilled either by the sinner or by the sinner’s Surety. I personally think this is an extremely helpful solution, and it seems to me that Turretin was heavily influenced by Roberts (he was writing roughly 20 years later I think, and there are passages in Turretin that appear to be pretty much lifted from Roberts).

So, in a nutshell, the difference between Ball and Roberts/Turretin (I take it) is that whereas Ball doesn’t give much (if any) attention to the idea that the covenant of works was republished declaratively (to sinners) and hypothetically (to be fulfilled by Christ); on the other hand, for Roberts/Turretin, this idea is crucial for making sense of Paul’s use of Leviticus 18:5 as a prooftext for the covenant of works.

All this to say, I’m fully on board with the Roberts/Turretin approach (as I know you are) so I can only suspect that you either misunderstood me, or that I miscommunicated, somewhere along the way for you to conclude that I’m advocating something akin to Ball’s approach. Fair enough?

David R. said...

FWIW, these two definitions from the OPC report, and especially the second one, seem like they could be helpful in terms of reaching some level of agreement on these issues:

typological merit: distinct from proper or ex pacto merit that applies to the perfect and personal obedience of sinless federal heads (Adam or Christ), Kline argues that key figures in redemptive history offer unique instances of Spirit-gifted obedience in faith that tethers such obedience to the acquisition (Abraham) or maintenance (Israel) of the typal kingdom.

works principle: In Kline’s writings, a “works principle” is, on an administrative reading, a covenantal feature that tethers the acquisition or loss of a promised inheritance to the representative obedience or disobedience of a sinless federal head (Adam or Christ), a believer (e.g., Abraham), or a nation (Israel). As such, the works principle is not identical to the covenant of works with Adam, because it can operate in both pre-redemptive and redemptive settings. A works principle, on a substantial reading of Kline, would denote the reappearance of a graceless principle of Adamic probation, set in substantial contrast to redemptive grace, that is applied at the typological level to the nation of Israel.

rfwhite said...

Jeff C. and David R. –

First, thanks for waiting on this kibitzer's :-) responses. I had to prepare for a session meeting amongst other duties. This conversation is, admittedly, more fun. (Let me add, somewhat in jest, “Is that wrong?”)

On the Kerux quote, a couple of things. As I mentioned sometime back, I’m willing to drop the term “merit” from my vocabulary when discussing the topic with any for whom it is a hindrance. That said, I question the usefulness of the concession in some cases. Speaking for myself, the Kerux quote is such a case because it misconstrues the issue. As I see it, the issue is not that the adjective changes the essential (= substantial) nature of the noun “merit.” The issue is the definition of the term “merit” and its cognates. I leave this aside because I don't see the need to pursue that point for our purposes.

As far as the appearance that I’m placing Abe and Dave are under a works principle, I fear we’re talking past each other. The challenge is to figure out why we’re missing each other. As I'm trying to articulate and apply an administrative reading of the works principle, I’m thinking that we’re stumbling over how being under the grace principle relates to the works principle and to the believer’s works of faith. Let me take a shot at it.

I would maintain that, by faith, Abe and Dave were under the grace principle, by which I mean that God blessed them with salvation because of the obedience of another, namely Christ to come. In making that affirmation, I would also maintain that, because Christ fulfills the works principle for them, Abe and Dave were no longer under the works principle; they were now under the grace principle. Yet – and this is a key point, as I see it – the grace principle still used the works principle to instruct Abe and Dave in Christ-likeness. In other words, in that Christ fulfills the works principle, He redefines Abe’s and Dave’s relationship to the works principle. United to Christ they’re under the yoke of grace. United to Christ, the works principle is obsolete for their justification, but it remains in effect for their sanctification. In the framework of the grace principle, then, works of faith – in which believers such as Abe and Dave are Christ-like – retain their typifying function, and God uses them to fashion types.

Jeff Cagle said...

David R: ...whereas the latter option would merely be saying that his *works* had a typifying function ... now I wonder if you might possibly have been intending the latter sense (In which you'd have no argument from me!). So, if I may ask, which of these two possibilities is what you intended?

Good catch. Yes, it's the latter sense. The whole Mosaic Covenant, on the physical level, is a typological situation.

David R: All this to say, I’m fully on board with the Roberts/Turretin approach (as I know you are) so I can only suspect that you either misunderstood me, or that I miscommunicated, somewhere along the way for you to conclude that I’m advocating something akin to Ball’s approach. Fair enough?

Yes. I divide Turretinic approaches from Ballian approaches according to the structure of "outer cloak of works" or "all of grace."

The argument that "Deut 28 required imperfect obedience, hence was a condition of the covenant of grace" is precisely Ball's argument. So I (mistakenly) associated you with his view, just as I (still) associate Murray and the "Merit and Moses" authors with Ball's view.

David R. said...

​Jeff,

I think we’re in basic agreement but I have a couple of observations that I hope will be helpful:

//Yes. I divide Turretinic approaches from Ballian approaches according to the structure of "outer cloak of works" or "all of grace."//

I've been pondering this and have some thoughts. I know it goes without saying, but I think we need to be careful not to conflate Kline’s view with Turretin’s (and I'm not saying you are). The reason I want to make this point is twofold: (1) Kline’s paradigm, unlike Turretin’s, does not actually lend itself well to showing how the covenant of works is republished declaratively in the Mosaic covenant. However, (2) Kline made helpful contributions in the area of typology (some things that Turretin had left undeveloped) that can easily be incorporated into Turretin’s model, and we get the best of both worlds. If you’ll permit me to try to unpack these things a little:

1. First, Kline’s paradigm does not actually lend itself well to showing how the covenant of works is republished declaratively in the Mosaic covenant.

Let’s take another quick look at the two models:

1.1 Turretin’s model: The Mosaic covenant is substantially the covenant of grace but it bears an accidental resemblance to the covenant of works (analogous to a statue that, though substantially marble, bears an accidental resemblance to George Washington). The condition of this covenant of works is the threefold law (moral, civil, ceremonial). In his analysis of the ceremonial law, Turretin helpfully shows how it functions as both law and gospel by distinguishing between its two "relations": (1) its "legal relation" (i.e., its pedagogical function within the external economy of law) and (2) its "evangelical relation" (i.e., its typical and sacramental function within the internal economy of grace). In terms of their legal relation, he observes, the ceremonies cannot take away sin, and, on the contrary, serve by their constant repetition only to continually expose it; but in terms of their evangelical relation, they typify and sacramentally communicate cleansing from sin through the obedience and suffering of Christ to come.

1.2 Kline’s model(s):

Kline presented two (that I’m aware of) different versions of essentially the same model:
1.2.1 Version #1: The Mosaic economy is comprised of two layers: (1) a foundational layer of already-realized eschatology, i.e., the ongoing application of redemption common to all administrations of the covenant of grace, and (2) an overlay that provides a scale model of the eschatological kingdom in typological earthly forms.

and

1.2.2 Version #2: Eschatology is like a projectile weapon that intrudes the consummate heavenly kingdom back into the history of redemption. Its composition includes: (1) an inner core of already-realized eschatology, i.e., the ongoing application of redemption common to all administrations of the covenant of grace, and (2) an outer shell that projects the eschatological kingdom in typological earthly forms (most notably during the Mosaic economy).

(continued in next comment)

David R. said...

1.3 Observations

1.3.1 Observation #1: One advantage of Turretin's model is that it shows how a substantially gracious covenant can nevertheless republish the covenant of works declaratively and hypothetically.

1.3.2 Observation #2: One advantage of Kline’s model is that it shows (in good Vossian fashion) the progressive revealing and unfolding of eschatology in redemptive history. (In fact, I might argue, this, and not God’s covenantal dealings with man per se, is Kline's focus, which is perhaps why it is so difficult to discern whether he taught substantial or administrative repub, he actually taught neither.)

1.3.3 Observation #3: One disadvantage of Kline’s model is that, because the “accidents” are completely identified with typology, it cannot adequately depict how the Mosaic covenant can declaratively and hypothetically republish the covenant of works (as stated above). (For tangible evidence of this, see how one Kline disciple attempts some impressive gymnastics feats in what I believe is a failed endeavor to solve this problem: http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/2015/03/third-misrepresentation-of-kline.html)

1.3.4 Observation #4: Since Kline's insights are primarily in the area of typology, and Turretin has given us a mechanism for explaining typology (in his discussion of the ceremonial law), it is possible to "fit" Kline's insights into (or explain them in terms of) Turretin's paradigm.

1.4 Conclusion: Since the declarative/hypothetical feature of the Mosaic covenant is a crucial aspect of its makeup, and essential for distinguishing law and gospel (as I think you would agree), I conclude that if our objective is a clear explanation of God’s covenantal dealings with man, we should utilize Turretin’s model (though if our objective is to explain unfolding eschatology, we might want to use Kline's instead). But additionally ...

(continued in next comment)

David R. said...

2. Second, Kline made helpful contributions in the area of typology (that Turretin had left undeveloped), which can easily be exported and then imported back into Turretin’s model (as per observation #4, above), leaving us with the best of both worlds.

While Turretin explained the ceremonial law in relative detail, there are at least a couple of OT types that he apparently passed over, perhaps because they were not part of the ceremonial law per se: (1) the imperfect obedience of Abraham, David and Israel functioning as types of Christ’s perfect obedience, and (closely related) (2) the reward of the inheritance of Canaan typifying the reward of the inheritance of heaven. As we know, Kline filled in these gaps. But (as noted above, observation #4) Turretin has also given us a mechanism for explaining these things, and if we take these Klinian insights and filter them through the Turretinic prism, as it were, I think we end up with something like this (which echoes somewhat our previous discussion):

2.1. Abraham’s, David’s and Israel’s imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience

2.1.1 Legal relation: Being the imperfect obedience of redeemed sinners, it was insufficient to obtain a stable and lasting inheritance, and thus insufficient to stave off the threatened curse, temporal and eternal.

2.1.2 Evangelical relation: It typified Christ’s active and passive obedience, necessary and sufficient to obtain a secure and everlasting inheritance for believers.

2.2 inheritance of Canaan

2.2.1 Legal relation: Being merely an earthly country it was insufficient to provide its inhabitants with either true or lasting blessedness, and expulsion from it pointed to the eternal punishment of hell to befall unrepentant sinners.

2.2.2 Evangelical relation: It typified the true and everlasting blessedness of the heavenly country that belongs to all who wait for it by faith.

And there you have it, my cursory attempt to extract the good stuff from Kline and inject it into Turretin's conceptual model. Hopefully this has been somewhat clear....

Some of the above is no doubt redundant, but my overall point (once again) is that Kline's contributions can be fairly easily incorporated into Turretin’s paradigm (though the reverse cannot be said), and we get the best of both. I thought it might be helpful (for myself if no one else!) to try to spell this out. Hopefully there's something useful here....

What do you think?

rfwhite said...

David R. -

Please forbear with my ignorance (or failure to keep up) and help me understand: can you restate what you mean when you say, in summary, "the Mosaic covenant can declaratively and hypothetically republish the covenant of works." I'm sure you've spelled out your meaning somewhere in this string; I just can't find it!

David R. said...

RF,

I'm sure the failure is in my communication.... I'm just trying to get across the idea that the law's demand for perfect and personal obedience, either from the sinner or from his Surety, as the condition for life, is declared in the Mosaic covenant administration.

David R. said...

Above, I had tried to contrast John Ball's approach with that of Turretin and Roberts and summarized the difference in approaches, as I understand them: Whereas Ball doesn’t give much, if any, attention to the idea that the covenant of works was republished declaratively (to sinners) and hypothetically (to be fulfilled by Christ); on the other hand, for Roberts/Turretin, this idea is crucial for making sense of Paul’s use of Leviticus 18:5 as a prooftext for the covenant of works. Does that help at all?

Jeff Cagle said...

@ David R:

Excellent work. I want to take some time to process, but for now: Good job.

I understand "declarative" republication to mean "restating the terms of the original covenant with Adam, but not making those terms the basis for the covenant of grace."

And "hypothetical" republication of CoW would mean "If anyone were to have completely and fully obeyed the terms of the CoW, they would have merited eternal life (as indeed Jesus did)."

Is that correct?

David R. said...

Jeff,

Thanks. And yes, exactly.

Anonymous said...

David R. -

Ok; thank you! Might we go ahead and fill out how the CoW was originally published at Mt Eden (Ezek 28.13-14)?

The CoW was originally published declaratively to Adam (in his innocence, not his fallenness), and it was originally published hypothetically to Adam (in the probation of Gen 2.15-17).

Do I have it right?

rfwhite said...

David R. - Sorry for the duplication ...

Ok; thank you! Might we go ahead and fill out how the CoW was originally published at Mt Eden (Ezek 28.13-14)?

The CoW was originally published declaratively to Adam (in his innocence, not his fallenness), and it was originally published hypothetically to Adam (in the probation of Gen 2.15-17).

Do I have it right?

David R. said...

RF,

Yes, I agree. But if we want to distinguish pre-fall (substantial) from post-fall (administrative) publication, could we do so by specifying that God *entered into* the covenant of works with innocent Adam (WLC 20)?

rfwhite said...

David R.,

Yes. I'm not clear on what we gain by changing the terms.

David R. said...

RF,

Sorry, I'm not clear on what you're not clear on. Would you care to elaborate?

David R. said...

RF,

Does this paragraph from the OPC report help clarify anything?

//Fourth, Reformed theologians could distinguish between the “making” of the covenant of works with Israel and the mere “declaration” of that covenant. For example, assembly member William Bridge argues that the Mosaic covenant is in substance a covenant of grace with aunique administration. Within this framework, he argues that although “both these covenants [i.e. of works and grace] were at once in the Jewish church, the one [was] declared and the other made with them.” Some decades later, Herman Witsius would seem to make use of this distinction in his discussion of the Mosaic covenant when he writes: “Though the covenant of works was delivered at Sinai, Gal. iv. 24. yet it was not made with the Jews.” Turretin also utilizes a form of this distinction when he describes the administration of the Mosaic covenant as being “clothed in the form of a covenant of works through the harsh promulgation of the law; not indeed that a covenant of works might again be demanded of a sinner [for this was impossible], but that a daily recollection and reproaching of the violated covenant of works might be made.” The covenant of works was not demanded of the sinner (or “made” with him), but as a declared reminder of its terms and previous violation. The actual relationship between God and Israel was essentially gracious, although the manner in which it was dispensed contained a declaration of the covenant of works. This declaration is a form of “administrative” or “accidental” republication because the declared covenant of works does not actually govern the terms of Israel’s actual relationship to God, nor does it apply to the way believing Israel will receive and retain the promised blessings of the covenant. Instead, it serves to communicate the grace of “conviction of sin,” and constantly shut them up and keep them in the promises of the covenant of grace.//

rfwhite said...

David R.,

Yes, now I get the context. Thanks.

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi guys,

I would like to open up a new front here, if OK.

How does Ps 106 fit in with our discussion?

Here is the excerpt:

...They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
to show them mercy.


And then separately,

they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi guys,

I would like to open up a new front here, if OK.

How does Ps 106 fit in with our discussion?

Here is the excerpt:

...They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
to show them mercy.


And then separately,

they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

rfwhite said...

Jeff, and David R.,

First take on Ps 106: As I come to the passage, I would take note that these verses review events that take place during the administration of the CoG in the time of (under) the old covenant. Psalm 106 shows us that, in accord with the old covenant, the nation’s sins exposed its moral inability and brought God’s punishments on them: adversity, defeat, and dispossession. While suffering His punishments for their sins, God heard the people’s cries, and in their cries they looked beyond themselves for a surety. On one such occasion, the Lord made Phinehas a surety for them. Phinehas had personal hope of heaven only through God’s grace in the Son of Abraham to come, only as a gift received by faith alone. But the Lord treated the specific work of faith that Phinehas performed with a typological significance so that he pointed to the Son to come.

David R. said...

Jeff and RF,

Jeff, good case study. RF, it seems to me you've got it right.

In terms of my proposed model above, perhaps we can say that in the narrative account of God's deliverance of His people via the righteous acts of various representatives, there is a twofold lesson given to us, to be expressed in legal and evangelical terms, something like the following (forgive the long sentences):

Legal relation: Although the representative obedience of the sureties whom God raised up (e.g., Moses, the judges, Phinehas) obtained temporal deliverances for those represented (Israel); the trying of God's patience through an endlessly repeated cycle of sin, judgment and cry for deliverance demonstrated that these sureties' obedience was insufficient to deliver from the shackles of sin, and thus futile for staving off the temporal and eternal curse threatened against sinners, and thus ultimately left God's people yet in need of a greater deliverance.

Evangelical relation: It taught that deliverance is secured by the obedience of another (a surety), and it typified the meritorious obedience of the true Surety and Deliverer to come, all-sufficient to accomplish the ultimate and greater deliverance of God's elect from the shackles of sin and Satan, and thus to secure their true and everlasting blessedness in this world and that which is to come.

David R. said...

RF,

I still owe you a response. You had said, "As far as the appearance that I’m placing Abe and Dave are under a works principle, I fear we’re talking past each other. The challenge is to figure out why we’re missing each other. As I'm trying to articulate and apply an administrative reading of the works principle, I’m thinking that we’re stumbling over how being under the grace principle relates to the works principle and to the believer’s works of faith. Let me take a shot at it."

I think we've been talking past each other because we've been using terms differently. In the paragraph that followed, you said, "Yet – and this is a key point, as I see it – the grace principle still used the works principle to instruct Abe and Dave in Christ-likeness. In other words, in that Christ fulfills the works principle, He redefines Abe’s and Dave’s relationship to the works principle. United to Christ they’re under the yoke of grace. United to Christ, the works principle is obsolete for their justification, but it remains in effect for their sanctification."

I can see from your explanation here that you are using "works principle" as a synonym for "law"; whereas I had been using that term to signify the operative principle under the covenant of works (which obviously would not apply to either Abe or Dave). But now that your terms are clear to me, I would certainly agree with you.

In general, I think my preference, would be to retain "works principle" for the covenant of works specifically, but the OPC committee definition I pasted above includes Abe's and Dave's works as falling under that rubric, so who am I to argue? (That wouldn't stop me from arguing of course if I had strong objection. ;) )

rfwhite said...

David R.,

Thanks much for addressing that earlier post. In reading my comments, you may realize, as I have, that, for expressing my views, I have found a lot of utility in the words and concepts of WCF 16.5-7 and 19.5-7. As I review the development of my reflections on those paragraphs from the WCF, it struck me that presumably they would have to have application to believers under the law as well as to believers under the gospel. That observation opened up ways of expression that I hadn't quite grasped before, at least as I have attempted to describe the relation of believers under the law to the law (works) and to the gospel (grace). Such is what I was trying to do in that post.

Jeff Cagle said...

So I think one mode of expression that we need to nail down (like Jello to the wall?) is what it means to "act legally" or what it means to be a "legal relation."

I have understood these terms, along with a "cloak of works", to indicate that the manner that these relations functioned was in accordance with the law, or by works.

NOT, as indicated above, exacting strict adherence to the law nor delivering benefits for merit proper; but in a manner that recalls the CoW over against the CoG.

What is that manner?

It seems to me that it cannot be the exact same manner as in the CoG; else, there is no "cloak of works" or "legal relation."

I seem to be at a place similar to the one Lane describes in OPC 11

Again, the larger questions have to do with how God treated Israel in the land, so I will take another stab at this question. On the one hand, if Israel was either to acquire or retain the land on the basis of their own perfect and personal obedience, then why weren’t they kicked out of the land far sooner than they were? If Israel was either to acquire or retain the land on the basis of Christ’s perfect and personal obedience, then why would they ever be kicked out, unless faith was made a necessary instrument? It seems dubious to me, however, to make acquisition or retention of the land dependent on the instrument of faith. Obedience and disobedience seem clearly to be a factor in Israel’s retention of the land, but if it is not perfect and personal obedience, then how do we understand this conundrum?

rfwhite said...

Jeff,

It looks to me that we’re circling back around to where, or close to where, we took up this discussion. This is a good thing! I’ll take Lane’s comments as a jumping off point.

He asks, On the one hand, if Israel was either to acquire or retain the land on the basis of their own perfect and personal obedience, then why weren’t they kicked out of the land far sooner than they were?”

My response: I’d break up the question into its components. On Israel’s acquisition of the land, I’d deny that Israel acquired the land based on their obedience; according to the terms of the Abrahamic covenant, they acquired the land based on their surety Abraham’s obedience. On Israel’s retention of the land, I’d affirm that, according to the terms of the Mosaic covenant, Israel was to retain the land based on their obedience, including their obedience to their divinely appointed surety, whether the surety be Moses, Aaron, the Levites, Phinehas, Joshua, the judges, David, or David’s sons. Key to the nation’s probation, then, was their walking in the footsteps of the faith of the divinely appointed surety. Yet, even then, until the true Surety came, the nation would find that the surety’s obedience was not fully and finally efficacious: his efficacy was limited by his own sin and death. Judges 2.6–3.6 recounts the point I’m trying to make, particularly about the correlation of the nation’s obedience and the sureties whom God raised up.

Arguably, the reason God did not kick Israel out of the land far sooner than He did is because their pedagogical probation involved God’s compassionate, longsuffering determination to raise up, again and again, sureties for them to follow (cf. 2 Chron 36:15). So long as the people followed in the surety’s footsteps of faith, they retained the land. Yet, because of Israel's persistent unbelief and apostasy, God’s longsuffering does not last forever; He does not allow His grace to be mocked by persistent unbelief and apostasy. The day of wrath had to come; the day of exile had to arrive (2 Chron 3.16-21). Still the day of exile is not hopeless: a day of a new exodus can arise, according to the terms of God’s covenant with Abraham. Ultimately, as we’d all agree, that day is coordinated with the arrival of the true Surety.

Lane also asks: If Israel was either to acquire or retain the land on the basis of Christ’s perfect and personal obedience, then why would they ever be kicked out, unless faith was made a necessary instrument?

My response: I’d affirm that, by faith, Israel would acquire and retain “the land” based on the obedience of Christ, the true Surety to whom they would look in faith. Key here, however, is how Christ’s obedience relates to Israel’s obedience. The grace that leads to acquisition and retention is not antinomian: the grace that imputes Christ’s obedience also conforms Israel to Christ’s image, conforming them finally to Christ's image. The conformation of believers to Christ’s image includes their obedience to God’s commandments, and that imparted obedience is inseparable from Christ’s imputed obedience as the fruit and evidence of justifying faith.

What do you think?

rfwhite said...

Jeff,

Correction: Above I wrote The grace that leads to acquisition and retention is not antinomian: the grace that imputes Christ’s obedience also conforms Israel to Christ’s image, conforming them finally to Christ's image.

What I meant to write was this: The grace that leads to acquisition and retention is not antinomian: the grace that imputes Christ’s obedience also conforms Israel to Christ’s image, imparting Christ's obedience to them.

David R. said...


Jeff,

Here's my take in brief (and I see that RF has also responded here and on GB, but I am commenting here before reading his comments, which I'll be sure to do after):

The term "legal relation" refers to the relationship that the Mosaic covenant sustains to the covenant of works. As far as the question how the MC relates to the COW, it does so in basically two ways:

1. It republishes the demands and sanctions of the covenant of works (obedience to the threefold law, moral, ceremonial and judicial as the condition for life).

2. It provides the blueprint (via the same threefold law) for a theocratic kingdom with a built-in failure mechanism; that is to say, its official representatives (sureties) can't secure the inheritance, its sacrifices can't take away sin, its temple is an empty man-made building (God doesn't dwell there), its real estate is merely an earthly country, etc.
Regarding Lane's "conundrum" that you mention, it seems to me that the solution to it is what we've worked out via our trialogue in the above thread. Let me try to sum it up (at the risk of some redundancy):

1. Perfect obedience was required in order to inherit or retain the land (or merit any blessings from God). (This speaks to legal relation #1, above.)

2. However, for the sake of Christ to come, God graciously accepted and rewarded the imperfect Spirit-wrought obedience of a surety (Abe, Dave, etc.) by granting the land inheritance to those whom the surety represented (this answers Lane's question, "why weren’t they kicked out of the land far sooner than they were?").

3. The Mosaic theocracy and its institutions (i.e., official representatives, ordinances, inheritance, etc.) were fashioned by God as types of Christ's suretyship and the heavenly kingdom He would secure on behalf of the elect by His meritorious obedience. (Evangelical relation.)

4. But the theocracy was designed to fail (as explained above, legal relation #2). Because the sureties' obedience was not sufficient to secure a stable or lasting inheritance (IOW, because it wasn't Christ's obedience); eventually Israel was expelled for their sins, and especially for the sins of their official representatives (this answers Lane's question, "why would they ever be kicked out?").

What do you think?

David R. said...

One little thing to clarify in my above comment. Concerning legal relation #2, I forgot to specify how it relates to the COW. It does this in that the purpose of the "built-in failure mechanism" is to underscore Israel's sin and misery in Adam, thus awakening them to it and driving them to the greater Surety offered in the COG. (I know you didn't need me to spell this out but just wanted to clarify....)

Also, slight formatting error: The sentence that begins, "Regarding Lane's 'conundrum' that you mention ..." should start a new paragraph.

rfwhite said...

Jeff and David,

Very much in the train of David’s remarks, let me try to articulate something. I’m finding that our interaction is clarifying a crucial point for my own understanding of how the MC is similar to and different from the CoW.

To try to articulate my point, I’ll take as a point of departure David’s statement: The term "legal relation" refers to the relationship that the Mosaic covenant sustains to the covenant of works. What follows is my attempt to summarize the relationship that the MC sustains to the CoW.

The MC is similar to the CoW in that the MC republishes the demands and sanctions of the CoW. The MC is different from the CoW in that the MC republishes the promise of the Surety who satisfies the CoW, and it is telling that that promise was not part of the CoW. Before the fall, in the CoW God did not promise Adam a surety to satisfy its terms; He did not require of Adam faith in that surety. Rather God required of Adam personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience to satisfy the CoW. The promise of a surety was introduced only after the fall, in the CoG and its several administrations.

After Adam’s fall, in the CoG the demands and sanctions of the CoW continued as a perfect rule of righteousness alongside the promise of the Surety. (In fact, that moral law continued to bind all people to obedience, both those who were justified according to the CoG [e.g., Adam, Eve, Abel, Seth, Noah] and those who were not [e.g., Cain, Lamech].) Since Adam, then, that law – as a perfect rule of life – has evidently continued at least in the form of the Two Great Commandments (cf. 1 John 3.11-12; Gen 6.9, 22; 18.19), even as it was later republished on Mount Sinai in the form of the Ten Commandments and has now been republished from Mount Zion in those same Ten Commandments.

Hereafter, you’ll read more wording that echoes the WCF. … After Adam’s fall through Christ’s appearance, true believers have never been under the law as a covenant of works by which they are justified or condemned. Nevertheless, the law has been of great use to them as well as to others. By informing them – as a rule of life – both of the will of God and of their duty, the law has directed and bound believers to walk accordingly. It has also revealed to them the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives. Therefore, through the ages since the fall, whenever believers have examined themselves in the light of the law, they have come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred of their sin, together with a clearer view of their need of their Surety and the perfection of His obedience.

So, to recap, the inclusion of the demands and sanctions of the CoW in the MC is a summary similarity (continuity) between the MC and the CoW. The inclusion of the Surety promise in the MC is the summary difference (discontinuity) between the MC and the CoW. The inclusion of that promise in the MC is also the summary similarity between the MC and all previous and subsequent administrations of the CoG. In fact, I’d maintain that the inclusion of the Surety promise in the MC is what makes the MC an administration of the CoG; in other words, the inclusion of the Surety promise in the MC is what makes the MC not a substantial republication of the CoW.

David R. said...


RF,

While I agree with your comment and find it a helpful perspective on the question of continuity/discontinuity; you are apparently understanding the term, "relation" in a different sense than I had intended (which is certainly my own fault for being unclear).

So if you'll forgive me for not responding (for now) directly to your recent comment, and instead trying to clarify my own last comment: I was not so much interested in the question of continuity/discontinuity, but rather, in that of how the MC relates to the COW specifically by throwing light on the sinner's plight under the broken COW (which I believe it did in the two ways I tried to delineate in my previous comment).

Thus, my definition should have specified that the term "legal relation" (i.e., according to Turretin's usage) refers to the relationship that the Mosaic covenant sustains to the covenant of works by drawing attention to sinful Israel's obligation to the terms of the broken COW and their consequent liability to God's wrath. (Whereas "evangelical relation" refers to how the MC relates to the covenant of grace by administering it via types and ordinances foresignifying Christ to come.)

And that brings me back to the notion I tried to briefly explain in my previous comment, namely that the Mosaic theocracy and its institutions, though functioning as a typological model of the heavenly kingdom (their evangelical relation), were nevertheless designed to fail (their legal relation). This basic idea constitutes an attempt on my part to integrate Kline's teachings with those of Turretin (as I understand them both) concerning the Mosaic covenant and economy.

To elaborate just a little (and risking redundancy): Turretin teaches that the ceremonies ordained in the law of Moses bore a legal relation (insofar as they were law) as well as an evangelical relation (insofar as they functioned typologically and sacramentally). (He finds the idea of a legal relation taught explicitly in Colossians 2:14, among other places, where Paul speaks of the ceremonies as "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us.")

But then Kline comes along and observes (following Vos) that not just the ceremonies but in fact the entire theocracy and its institutions were designed to typify the heavenly kingdom (which is to say they bore an evangelical relation).

So, what I'm now trying to figure out (this idea has come to me as the three of us have been discussing) is how to draw out what seems to me to be the implications of the above (i.e., Kline apparently advancing beyond Turretin). That is to say: if the ceremonies bore a legal relation because they were ordained in the law (as per Turretin), then the theocracy and its institutions (as per Kline's focus) must also have borne a legal relation since they too were (obviously) ordained in the law. (Perhaps you can help me think this through or sharpen it?)

Assuming I'm correct, the next question is, How precisely do we spell out the nature of the legal relation borne by the Mosaic theocracy?

I took a brief stab at this in my previous comment where I noted several examples of the failure of the theocracy and its institutions, namely that its official representatives (sureties) couldn't secure the inheritance (a principal focus of our conversation thus far), its sacrifices couldn't take away sins, its temple was merely a man-made building (God didn't dwell there), its real estate was merely an earthly country, etc.

I hope this all makes at least a modicum of sense. If there's any merit to the basic idea, then I'm sure there's much more to be said (hopefully by those with more theological acumen than I). But then again, it could be I'm too far out in left field....

Any thoughts? :) (And Jeff, I'm more than happy to hear from you too of course.)

rfwhite said...

David,

This makes "more than a modicum" of sense! I do acknowledge that my last comment was a bit of a sidetrack from your focus on the Mosaic theocracy. I'll join you in mulling it over.

I suppose it goes without saying that we could begin by thinking incrementally through Israel's history. What I mean is from the establishment of the priestly order, through the emergence of the judges, through the establishment of the kings. But is that the best way to frame the discussion? Not sure.

David R. said...

RF,

Thanks! Good to know I'm not crazy.... I'm not sure how to frame this either, will continue to ponder....

rfwhite said...

David,

I'm not sure if the following comments will advance the discussion of the point you're pursuing, but it looks to me that the terms "covenant" and "redemption" apply comprehensively to the theocracy and its institutions. Or am I wrong?

As you suggested, the Mosaic redemption and covenant were not efficacious to deal fully and finally with the sin and death of sinners. That is, the redemption mediated through Moses (i.e., Levi) delivered the nation from physical bondage to physical freedom, but had left them in spiritual bondage. They were no longer slaves to Pharaoh, but they remained slaves to sin.

In addition, the covenant mediated through Moses after the nation's redemption required them, as a people still in bondage to sin, to obey God’s Law from the heart (Deut 6:6) – something they could not do in their natural condition. Moreover, that covenant was powerless to deliver those slaves from their slavery (death) and provided them no enablement (life) to satisfy its requirements (Deut 5:28-29; 29:4; Gal 3:21). These observations relate directly to your point about the design of the Mosaic covenant.


Hence, as Paul put it, Mount Sinai bore children who were to be slaves in bondage to sin (Gal 4:24-25; cf. 4:1-3). Born beset with original sin as a result of the imputation of Adam’s sin, Israel was not morally competent (i.e., they were not free) to serve the LORD God and to keep His commandments. In addition, these sons of Sinai boasted in the sons of Levi, their priesthood, their sanctuary, and their sacrifices, even though the Levites, weakened by sin and death, could offer only a ceaseless cycle of sacrifices that could never take away sins (i.e., could never deal with sins fully and finally).

Accordingly, Israel was disqualified from being that righteous seed who would render to God the perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience -- active and passive -- as required by the Law, and the Law proved to be a covenant of condemnation, bondage, and death (2 Cor 3:6-14; Rom 7:10-11) that shut the nation up under sin (Gal 3:22) and its curse (Gal 3:10).

In the face of Israel’s sin, then, the Mosaic covenant functioned as God’s pedagogue to reveal the people’s spiritual inability, though it could not relieve it (Gal 3:21-24). The Law, however, also did something else as God’s pedagogue: it shut the people up to faith (Gal 3:22-24) in the redemptive work (Gal 3:13) of the one true Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:19) from the tribe of Judah and the order of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20; 49:10; Psa 110:4; Heb 7:4-14). It was He who would qualify as the righteous Seed. The Mosaic covenant bore its pedagogical witness to that Heir through the offices of prophet, priest, and king and through the promises, prophecies, ordinances, and types (“shadows”) related thereto. Together these testified to the person and work of the true Seed who would be a prophet greater than Moses, a priest greater than Levi, a king greater than David.

Though the Mosaic covenant was instituted as an administration of the Promise in shadow and type, it was not intended to produce the true Heir of the Promise, the true Seed qualified to fulfill the law's demands. It was the Abrahamic covenant, and later the Davidic covenant, that was instituted to anticipate the true Melchizedekal (Gen 14) and Judahite (Gen 49) administration of the Promise. With the arrival of the true Heir, the administration of Moses and the Levitical order must pass into obsolescence.

Are we making progress?

rfwhite said...

David R.

Regarding your post over there at Green Baggins about Part 11 of the OPC Report ... very nicely stated!

David R. said...

RF,

Thanks again! I couldn't have stated it half as nicely prior to our conversation.

And yes, I find your thoughts in your prior comment to be helpful! I'll reflect on them further, but one thing they got me thinking about is how we can speak of the contrast between the old and new covenants in such stark terms, as you did in your comments (and as Paul, sometimes, and the writer to the Hebrews also do) when we hold that they are substantially identical.

As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that the contrast being drawn is not one between a covenant of works on the one hand and a covenant of grace otoh (which would constitute a denial of WCF 7.5), but nor is it a contrast based on a mere Pharisaical misunderstanding. Rather it is a redemptive-historical contrast between covenant institutions (e.g., a redemption, sureties, and inheritance) that are designed to fail on account of sin, and those (antitypical) that are guaranteed success because founded on the obedience and suffering of the greater Surety. Would you agree?

David R. said...

I was playing a bit with the idea of framing our discussion in terms of an outline of Hebrews, and I came up with the following series of contrasts on the first pass through. Hebrews doesn't cover everything (focusing as it does more on the priestly office than the royal), but maybe this is helps (you covered much of this ground I think in your comment)?

Reveled by angels / revealed by incarnate Son (1:1-2:18)

Mediated by Moses the servant / mediated by Christ the Son (3:1-6)

Earthly inheritance / heavenly inheritance (3:7-4:13)

Sinful, and thus dying Aaronic priests / holy, and thus everliving Melchizedekian priest (4:14-8:6)

Breakable old covenant/law written on stone / unbreakable new covenant/law written on hearts (8:7-13)

Token sacrifices offered at earthly man-made tabernacle / efficacious sacrifice offered at heavenly divinely-made tabernacle (9:1-14)

Old testament sealed with bulls/goats blood / new testament sealed with Christ's blood (9:15-28)

Carnal shadowy worship / spiritual substantial worship (10:1-12:17)

Revealed from earth/Mount Sinai / revealed from heaven/Mount Zion (12:18-29)

rfwhite said...

David,

You asked,As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that the contrast being drawn is not one between a covenant of works on the one hand and a covenant of grace otoh (which would constitute a denial of WCF 7.5), but nor is it a contrast based on a mere Pharisaical misunderstanding. Rather it is a redemptive-historical contrast between covenant institutions (e.g., a redemption, sureties, and inheritance) that are designed to fail on account of sin, and those (antitypical) that are guaranteed success because founded on the obedience and suffering of the greater Surety. Would you agree?

I like the track you're on. The contrast I had in mind -- which you picked up on -- is between the Old Covenant (OC) and the New Covenant (NC), two administrations of the Covenant of Grace (CoG). The way I might summarize the contrast is that, whereas the OC was enacted on the violable oath of sinful and mortal Israel to the LORD (Exod 20:18-21; Deut 5:2-5), the NC is a covenant enacted on an inviolable oath of the LORD to sinless and immortal Jesus, the Surety who kept what the many violated (Heb 7:20-22, 28; 8:6). Predicated on Israel's oath to the Lord, it could only fail; predicated on the Father's oath to His Son, it could only succeed.

rfwhite said...

David,

I also like your observations from Hebrews, which, as you inferred, was formative on my comments. With regard to the royal dimension, it occurs to me that the twofold function of the king might prove a fruitful framing device. I'm thinking of his roles as holy warrior and as wise artisan (dragon slayer and temple builder, if you wish). The Law bore witness to the appearance of the true David who is also the true Solomon, the Judahite King born under the Law yet without sin, who would conquer sin and death and would thereby make His nation, called from all peoples of the earth, secure and pure for fellowship with God in His holy dwelling place. As you might guess, I say "true David who is also true Solomon" because each failed in his own way, or was denied the privilege of being both holy warrior and temple builder (both of which roles hearken back to Gen 1.28).

David R. said...

RF,

I apologize for the delay. I've got nothing to add right now but thanks for those thoughts, I will continue to chew on them. I also plan to reread your essay in By Faith Alone (cowritten with Dr. Calvin Beisner). When I first read it some years ago I thought it was the best thing I'd read on the subject. I've really appreciated the interaction and hope to pick it up again at some point! (If you have anything else to add, I'll keep an eye out.)

rfwhite said...

David,

Thank you very much for those kind comments. I have benefited decisively from our interaction, especially as you and Jeff have helped clarify the role of the surety in the Covenant of Grace and in the Mosaic Covenant. This is a point that I had not adequately grasped -- its implications had not adequately crystallized in my mind -- as Cal Beisner and I wrote that article 10 or more years ago. I mean that I see better how the grace of the Covenant of Grace and its various administrations is focused on the surety provision. This provision looks to be key to the debate over republication: its inclusion in the Mosaic covenant clarifies both the distinction between the Adamic covenant (aka Covenant of Works) and the Mosaic covenant and also the continuity of the Mosaic covenant and the Covenant of Grace. Turretin's exposition is really illuminating. All to say, thank you for engaging.