All over again

I’ve enjoyed Mark Jones work since I heard about his Antinomianism book. He’s now posting on Reformation21, and making the case for two things that re old bugaboo debates: the faith of Christ, the graciousness of the Adamic covenant, and confessional language.

I have some thoughts, mostly leftover questions from the last rounds of these debates that I feel never were competently addressed.

1. Adam, Moses, and Christ: I think a compelling case has been made that the confession portrays that mosaic covenant as part of the covenant of grace, one where legality is emphasized, but still part of grace. The presentation of an absolute contrast between Moses and Christ in some scriptures is a rhetorical highlighting of an actual relative contrast. Moses and Christ present the same way of salvation, even if Paul says the Jews of his day misunderstood it.

But Kline & Co have made a compelling comparison of Adam’s situation (placed in a garden, and loss of the garden and life though sin) and Israel’s under Moses (placed in a land, and loss of the land through sin). While deploying the term ‘typological’ to stay ‘confessional’ sometimes the similarity is made to seem substantial.

Can we acknowledge the analogy Kline has pointed to? If we do, does that change our understanding of the WCFs assertion that the Mosaic is the one covenant of grace? It has seemed to me the FV is an attempt to follow Kline in seeing the analogy, but also the WCF, and then saying the analogy means there is more strong analogy that disanalogy between the covenant of grace and “covenant of works/creation/initiation/immaturity”

2. Since nobody claims to like neonomianism, but neonomianism as I understand, arose withing the confessional church really quickly, and anti-neonomians were found by presbyteries to be unconfessional, is it possible the confessions contains irreconcilable conflicts that will not be resolvable by the confessions? Are there loopholes in the confession that a Shepherd could drive a flock of sheep through? Two suggested loopholes below.

a. Faith in Christ as Savior being a commanded duty under the first commandment. Thus, faith in Jesus is obedience to one of the commands of Moses. (though with the caveat that it is not the character of faith as a dutiful obedience that renders it useful in justification, but it’s extraspective character of dependence on Christ. Make the prior point though and “everyone looses their minds”

b. though some define ‘works covenants’ as any of those with specified consequences for obedience and disobedience, we find WCF 19 stating that working to keep the law (imperfectly) because the law promises rewards and threatens punishments sweetly complies with the gospel.

c. The well documented fact (at this point) that the confession was written to conform to the scruples of a few divines who favored the imputation of passive obedience only in justification.

3. The emphasis on Christ’s performance of the law as our substitute is true and good. But when we emphasize the equally true and good points of Christ as chief moral example (particularly in terms of humility, not glory-seeking) and Christ as exemplar of faith (depending on his Father to raise him from his obedience unto death, even when the law was cursing him for hanging on a tree, and made no promise of resurrection) is there a risk of undermining the latter?

3a. Lack of faith in God’s word was at the root of Adam’s disobedience and his curse of death. Faith in God’s word to raise Jesus from the dead was at the root of Jesus obedience unto death and his justifying resurrection. Faith in God’s word that Jesus life, death, and resurrection is for the sinner is justifying and at the root of our obedience. Is noting this is something all three have in common dangerous?

4. Is the crucial distinction of the Adamic covenant and the Covenant of grace not that Jesus is the surety of the covenant of grace, and Adam had none. Is that more crucial a bicovenantal distinction than the role of works? If that is affirmed can we still go wrong?

5. How should Adam’s status as ‘son of God’ color our understanding of his state? If he had a duty to obey God, is it a servile duty where any reward is counted as his due? Or is it a filial duty where any reward is subservient to the ongoing status of sonship? Why is the filial nature of Adam’s situation seemingly obscured by the works principle.

6. Claiming that Adam and believers stand by faith and obedience in the exact same way is disconcerting because Adam fell from his position, which threatens believers assurance. But since lack of faith was the root of Adam’s disobedience, is this actually a feature, not a bug, since we stand by faith in Christ as well? Also, since Adam had no surety but believers do, the analogy between them still stands mutatis mutandis (I love saying mutatis mutandis)

7. Why is it so hard to get people to consider analogies between Adam and believers and Christ and believers that are admitted to contain bicovenantal disanalogies. Why does anyone making any such analogy get accused on monocovenantalism?

8. If there were loopholes as I ask in 1) above, and we live post-Shepherd, is it necessary to clarify or revise the confession to rule out that which the reformed have virtually all taught, that there was grace in Adam’s situation? What would we loose with such a revision? How could it be accomplished?

9. Augustine expresses the place of a person dependent on grace thusly “give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt”. Was adam in such a place, or would he not need such a dependent expression of faith?


About p duggie

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