Over at Mr. Tuininga’s blog he discusses some propositions that he and Mr. Mark Van der Molen agreed upon regarding R2K. I take up to examine Mr. Tuinga’s reasoning on these matters.
“In practice I don’t think most people have any trouble distinguishing between the Ten Commandments as given and the moral substance of those commandments as timeless. After all, the commandments specifically address the covenant people of God (I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt), make promises unique to the covenant people of God (that you may live long in the land the LORD your God has given you), and provide reasons unique to the covenant people of God (for the LORD brought you out of a land of slavery). Such covenant language could not have been transferred to ancient Egyptians or Canaanites any more than it can be transferred to contemporary Tibetan Buddhists or even to American Evangelicals.”
Of course the paragraph above is inconsistent with what the Westminster Larger Catechsim teaches,
Question 100: What special things are we to consider in the ten commandments?
Answer: We are to consider, in the ten commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.
Understand what is being advocated by our R2K Practitioner is the idea that the Ten Commandments themselves serve as a kind of shell (husk) within which one finds the kernel of “moral substance.” In the new and better covenant, according to this theory, the shell of the ten commandments has fallen away and we now have only to do with the kernel of moral substance. This is the same way that the Barthians argue about the word of God as a whole. The Bible contains the Word of God (kernel) but it is not itself the word of God, but only the shell. How do the Barthians get to the kernel? By way of “encounter.” How does the R2K chaps get to the kernel of moral substance? No one quite knows yet.
Our R2K devotee talks about all the uniqueness that “proves” that we no longer have to do with the Ten Commandments themselves and yet, St. Paul, in the book of Ephesians seems not to agree with that argument. In Ephesians 6 the Holy Spirit does indeed transfer the covenant language of Exodus 20 to a Gentile congregation in Ephesus.
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Now why does the Holy Spirit bring up the husk of the commandment to the Gentile Ephesians if He was only going after the kernel of their necessity to obey the moral substance? Clearly He wouldn’t and didn’t.
Secondly, when our R2K Practitioner divides the people of God this way, it sure seems he is going all Dispensational on us. He is telling us that the promise of the 5th commandment no longer applies and it only applied to Israel. However, a reading of Ephesians 6 with a different eschatology could as easily see that the promise of the 5th commandment still applies to God’s people today in as much as the land God’s people are to inherit is the whole earth.
Thirdly,our R2K friend disconnects us from our covenantal brethren of the Old Testament. As Christians are we no longer to consider the delivery from Egypt as part of our History? Does that make any more sense then saying that I am no longer to consider myself an American because I wasn’t alive at the signing of the Declaration of Independence? True, the greater delivery has come with the finished work of Christ that has delivered that Church, come of age, from the slavery of our sin. Yet, the fulfillment, doesn’t negate the fact that part of my History, as a member of the covenant community, is the reality that God delivered my people from the hand of Pharaoh, and his house of bondage and that promises were made that still remain in force.
“Why not? Because the Ten Commandments are the centerpiece of a specific legal document, a covenant often referred to by theologians as the Mosaic Covenant and described in the New Testament simply as “the Law.” Neither Jews nor Christians have ever received them simply as a timeless statement of ethical principles, which is why Jews do not view the sabbath law as binding on Gentiles, and why Christians do not hold to the seventh day sabbath. If Christians literally believed that the Decalogue was given to all people in all places as a timeless statement of moral law, we would all be Seventh Day Adventists, seeking the reward for our obedience to our parents by relocating to the land of Israel.”
Our R2K Devotee fails on the 4th because the Church has always believed that the day was changed to Sunday by God, according to a hermeneutic where the good and necessary consequence of the Sabbath change was deduced from Scripture. The New Testament church, under the tutelage of the Apostles, changed the day of one in seven observance relative to the secular calendar. The change, like the change in the sacraments from Passover to Table and Circumcision to Baptism, was one where the substance remained while the form had changed. With Christ the re-creation age had come and in the re-creation age we find new and better sacraments and a new and better day of Worship. The first day of the week was lighted upon most probably because it was the day on which Jesus had been raised from the dead (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 25:1; John 20:1). Also, the risen Lord also chose the first day of the week on which to manifest himself to his disciples when they were gathered together (John 20:19,26). Regardless, it seems that the first day of the week probably came to be known as the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10), and seems to have been the day on which the church gathered with the approval of the Apostles (Acts 20:7), an approval that reflected their unique office. Certainly, our R2K Practitioner isn’t implying that the day was just kind of changed on authority that was independent from God’s authority? Such thinking would leave the Apostle’s incredulous.
If we follow the rationale of our R2K friend we might ask ourselves what other aspects of the Decalogue are we allowed to change by our own authority. If we changed worship from Saturday to Sunday on our own authority are we allowed to Honor only our Father’s but not our Mother’s on our own authority? Who is to say we are not allowed? By what principle?
Also, if his reasoning holds, and this idea of being governed by the substance of the moral law (as opposed to the ten commandments) is true, then not only in the common realm but also in the Church realm we are to be governed by Natural law (which he equates with the substance of the moral law). I mean, of all people it is Christians in the Church realm who are operating with the change in the 4th. At this point Natural law comes in and is the authority for the Church in the Church realm. How can he escape the idea that Christians are normed by the Natural law in the realm of grace?
“Most of us follow the lead of Christian theologians going back to the middle ages and distinguish between the moral substance of the Law – which we equate with the principle of love, or with natural law – and the covenantally contextual elements of that Law, usually described as the judicial and ceremonial law, which no longer bind us.”
Note here that this looks to be another move to dispensationalize the moral law. What we have now is that not only does the general equity of the judicial law not apply but also now the moral law as the moral law does not apply. What applies instead is the “principle of love.” It sounds to me that what he is doing here is defining the law by “love” as opposed to the more Biblical stance of defining love by law. Jesus Himself defined love by law when he said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” Are we to think that the commandments of the incarnate 2nd person of the Trinity were other than the Ten Commandments?
We have learned from what he has written that “principle of love”, “substance of the moral law”, and “Natural law” are all synonymous. These three abideth but the greatest of these is no literal Ten Commandments.
“In addition, we follow the logic of the theologian John Calvin, who distinguished between the rigor and contractual legal force of the law, which no longer binds Christians, and the truth or teaching of the law, which is always profitable for moral instruction.”
As long as we understand that the Same John Calvin said,
The French Confession
XXXIX. We believe that God wishes to have the world governed by laws and magistrates, so that some restraint may be put upon its disordered appetites. And as he has established kingdoms, republics, and all sorts of principalities, either hereditary or otherwise, and all that belongs to a just government, and wishes to be considered as their Author, so he has put the sword into the hands of magistrates to suppress crimes against the first as well as against the second table of the Commandments of God. We must therefore, on his account, not only submit to them as superiors, but honor and hold them in all reverence as his lieutenants and officers, whom he has commissioned to exercise a legitimate and holy authority.
1. Exod. 18:20-21; Matt. 17:24-27; Rom. ch. 13
2. I Peter 2:13-14; I Tim. 2:2
But this was sayde to the people of olde time. Yea, and God’s honour must not be diminished by us at this day: the reasons that I have alleadged alreadie doe serve as well for us as for them. Then lette us not thinke that this lawe is a speciall lawe for the Jewes; but let us understand that God intended to deliver to us a generall rule, to which we must tye ourselves…Sith it is so, it is to be concluded, not onely that is lawefull for all kinges and magistrates, to punish heretikes and such as have perverted the pure trueth; but also that they be bounde to doe it, and that they misbehave themselves towardes God, if they suffer errours to roust without redresse, and employ not their whole power to shewe a greater zeale in that behalfe than in all other things.
Calvin, Sermons upon Deuteronomie, p. 541-542
“In taking this approach to the Ten Commandments we follow the Apostle Paul in Romans. Paul argued that Christians are no longer under the Law, having been freed from it and bound to Christ just as a woman whose husband has died is free to marry a new husband. At the same time, he called Christians to love one another, declaring that by doing so they fulfill the moral substance of all the commandments.”
It is difficult to see how this is not a anti-nomian reading of Romans 7. The point of Romans 7 is not that Christians no longer have any relationship to the law. The point of Romans 7 is that Christians no longer have a relationship to the law in its capacity to condemn since with Christ they died to the condemning power of the law. Our R2K Practitioner sounds like some kind of dispensationalist who, in saying , “we are no longer law but under grace,” what he means is that we no longer have to consider God’s law word as a guide to life.
What does our R2K Devotee do with the Westminster Larger Catechism?
Question 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
Answer: For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed: That the law is perfect, and binds everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. That: What God forbids, is at no time to be done;: What he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. That: What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places. That in: What is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in: What is forbidden them.
“Everyone involved in the discussion agrees that the moral law as presented in the Ten Commandments is binding on all people and all places, and (as far as I can tell) everyone agrees that the elements of the law that were covenantally specific to Israel are not. Nevertheless, given the consternation of some Reformed Christians regarding those who try to explain why this is the case, the point clearly needs clarification. I hope this post has helped to provide just that.”
Understand what is being said here is that the moral law is binding on all people and all places but the Ten Commandments are not. Remember Husk and Kernel. Remember that our R2K friend equates the moral law with Natural law. It is Natural Law that is binding on all people and all places, not the Ten Commandments.
Yes everyone agrees that the elements of the law that were covenantally specific to Israel are not applicable but we do not agree what elements of the law were and were not covenantally specific to Israel. For example, many Reformed people believe, along with Westminster XIX:4, that the general equity of the judicials remain.
That this has long been an understanding among Reformed folk is seen in Gillespie saying,
“Though we have clear and full scriptures in the New Testament of the abolishing the ceremonial law, yet we no where read in all the New Testament of the abolishing of the judicial law, so far as it did concern the punishing of sins against the moral law, of which heresy and seducing of souls is one, and a great one. Once God did reveal his will for punishing those sins by such and such punishments. He who will hold that the Christian Magistrate is not bound to inflict such punishments for such sins, is bound to prove that those former laws of God are abolished, and show some Scripture for it.”
George Gillespie – Westminster Divine
Wholesome Severity Reconciled With Christian Liberty