The Weaknesses of New-Calvinism, Sonship Theology, New Covenant Theology

Any theology that teaches you that growth in sanctification is accomplished by meditation alone on Gospel realities such as one finds in “Sonship Theology,” New Covenant Theology, and in New-Calvinism circles is reductionist foolishness.

First, such a theology completely eliminates the historic Calvinist teaching regarding the third use of the law. The third use of the law teaches that God gives us His law as a guide to life to inform us how we might live in such a way that we might meet our aspiration of pleasing Him. The teaching of the third use of the law is not accomplished by telling people just to contemplate on the Gospel, but rather by teaching people what the path of godliness looks, though it is gladly admitted that gratitude for all Christ accomplished for us is the motivation for people to take seriously God’s law as it comes to us in its third use.

Second, such a theology eviscerates the idea that sanctification requires the work of putting to death the old man and bringing to life the new man. Putting off the sin that doth so easily beset us may be aided by contemplation but it still requires man’s concursive work of sanctification where man works out his salvation in fear and trembling.

Third, meditation or contemplation in New Calvinism becomes the new law that must be obeyed. All other Biblical law, the Neo-Calvinists tell us, is hypocritically embraced when it is pursued in obedience but the law of the New Calvinists of contemplation is a law that can be pursued in obedience that is not hypocritically embraced. How is it that if one believer pursues obedience to God’s revealed law that is hypocrisy according the Sonship theology but if another believer pursues the obedience of Gospel contemplation that is automatically noble?

Fourth, by the New Calvinists own standard, if contemplation is something that is pursued then it becomes a fruit that is stapled on instead of organically developed. This is true because it is still the subjective self who must do the contemplating and so their complaint about pursuing obedience not being valid because it is subjective boomerangs back on them since the subjective self is required to do the contemplating.

Fifth, as said earlier, certainly our pursuit of obedience to God’s concrete revealed law is animated by being filled with the Spirit of Christ, and by being mindful that Christ was put to death for our sins and raised to life because of our justification, but, as said earlier, it is reductionist to insist that sanctification is only a matter of Gospel contemplation.

Sixth, Gospel contemplation reminds us that we are forgiven for the sake of our beloved Christ when we see our failure of meeting God’s righteous requirements but that reminder is not the same as telling ourselves that we need not be concerned about the work required on our part to walk in newness of life. Contemporary expressions of Calvinism as found among some prominent Calvinists have seemingly brought us to the antinomian point where we need not preach on what righteousness looks like, thus answering the question, “How Shall We Then Live,” simply because we have been declared righteous. Such preaching completely forgets the Apostle Paul’s constant technique of telling people to “become what you have been freely declared to be.” Such preaching is long on “what you have been freely declared to be,” and is short on, “increasingly becoming what what has been freely declared to be.”

The Worldview embraced by New Calvinism, R2K, Sonship Theology, New Covenant Theology, is perfect theology for the triumph of Talmudism since such “Christian Theologies,” leaves a vacuum created by their implicit antinomianism that Talmudic law is more than happy to fill. The result is a Talmudic law defined social order that ends up defining Christianity.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

13 thoughts on “The Weaknesses of New-Calvinism, Sonship Theology, New Covenant Theology”

  1. It seems to me that there has been a de-emphasis on the doctrine of apostasy in modern Calvinistic teaching. Much of the New Testament (and Old) is dedicated to avoiding apostasy. I think that many people think that if we embrace the doctrine of apostasy, then we must reject the perseverance of the saints. However, such is not the case.

    If I may, I will share my thoughts on the doctrine of apostasy:

    First, Luke 8:13 makes it clear that there is the danger of being an unbeliever at heart, though in another sense being a believer (which sense Scripture is content to call “believing in vain,” 1 Cor. 15:2).

    Romans 4:20-21 teaches that Abraham’s faith was a full persuasion of God’s promises. There is a possibility of being somewhat persuaded, but not fully persuaded of the truth. Romans 10:9-10 teaches that it is with the heart of a man that a man believes unto righteousness and salvation.

    Hebrews 3:14 and Colossians 1:21-23 indicate that our justification is, in some way, conditioned upon perseverance to the end (because perseverance evidences true faith).

    2 Corinthians 6:1 indicates that ministers of the word need to exhort their flocks not to receive (believe) the grace of God in vain. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 indicates that in the visible church there are both true believers and vain believers.

    Scripture teaches that the best way to avoid believing in vain is to pass the test of faith: by doing good works, and by our mutual exhortation of one another (thus 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 2:21-22; Heb. 2:1; Heb. 3:13; Heb. 4:1; Heb. 4:11; Heb. 4:16; Heb. 6:1-3; Heb. 10:22-25; Heb. 12:4; Heb. 12:13; James 1:22; James 2:12; James 4:7-10; and 2 Pet. 1:10-11).

    Glory to God Alone

  2. I read your post looking for your criticisms of New Covenant Theology. I found very little of what you wrote that Classic New Covenant Theology would disagree with apart from the “third use of the Law.” Even then, if we enjoy Law properly, there is no disagreement. NCT believes that all people have always been and will always be under God’s absolute Law. The only place we disagree is that the highest expression of that Law was in the 10 Commandments that CT see as eternal and universal.

    1. Randy,

      In the post below I interact with a New Covenant Pastor (who I whimsically refer to as “Non Covenant Pastor”). I think you will see the problems I have in New Covenant theology in this post.

      I thought I would provide another post interacting with the same Non-covenantal Pastor (NCP =Jack Baptist) who I interacted with in a recent post. What makes this substantial, but I hope charitable, disagreement more interesting is that this gentleman and I graduated from the same Seminary at just about the same time frame.

      The reason that this kind of interaction is so profitable is that it allows people to see the profound differences in two different ways of understanding the Christian faith. In order to underscore the importance of such differences I am going to try and emphasize the ugly implications of the NCP position. Jack Baptist titles his article, What Makes Covenant Theology Legalistic

      (Bret responds),

      Legalism, in Theology, is formally defined as an attempt to obligate God into owing one his or her salvation on the basis of their achievements. It is the idea that God sets up a system whereby men can earn their way to heaven.

      NCP writes,

      There are two essential tenets of Covenant theology. The first is that there is an eternal, super-historical covenant forged between the three members of the Godhead, to bring about the salvation of the chosen.

      (Bret responds),

      Covenant Theology, which starts as supra-historical (counter Jack Baptist’s “super”), following the implicit teaching of Scripture, does indeed teach what has come to be called the covenant of redemption (consilium pacis). The idea is that in eternity past the members of the Trinity made covenant with one another with a view towards securing the gracious salvation for God’s Elect children. In this covenant of redemption (pactum salutis) the Father out of divine love (I John 4:10) gives to the Son a people (a) and the Son determines and agrees that He will, as a Federal Head substitute (b), take upon Himself the personal and just wrath of God against the sins of God’s elect (c) as well as provide for His people the positive righteousness required of the people of a Holy God (d), doing so by His perfect obedience to the requirements of God’s just law.

      Scripture — (a)I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do (John 17:4). I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given me for they are Yours (John 17:9). (b)For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19) (c) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5) For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)(d)God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (I Corinthians 5:21) It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. In conclusion, the Covenant of Redemption finds the One Triune God involved in an eternal plan of Salvation where the Father as Sender and Principal, and the Son as the Sent One who will Send on the basis of His successful work as Mediator and The Spirit as The Sent Applier, covenant together in being one to bring the one Salvation to God’s one people.

      The attendant reader will notice that in this Theology that is being accused by NCT as being ‘Legalistic’ there is no place for fallen man in contributing to or earning his salvation. Therefore all misguided accusations that Covenant Theology is legalistic must be said to be based on a understandings not well considered. This eternal covenant of Redemption is completely and entirely gracious and for it to be accused of legalistic says more about the accuser (Jack Baptist) than it does about the accused (Covenantal theology).

      NCT writes,

      The second is that all of the Biblical covenants are differing administrations of this one Covenant of Grace. It’s this second tenet that creates unsolvable tensions and problems for the evangelical.

      (Bret responds)

      This is really a infelicitous way to speak concerning the one covenant of Grace. For myself as a Covenant Theologian I would prefer to speak about the Covenantal progress of redemption rather then ‘differing administrations of this one covenant of grace.’ NCT’s language makes the covenant sound so mechanical, while the more apt metaphor would be organic. You see the covenant grows in the ongoing progress of redemption much the way my son grows in the ongoing progress of maturity. My Son at 18 is substantially different from when he was newborn but he is still the same son. In the same way the covenant of grace is newborn in God’s words to Adam and Eve upon their fall and as time passes that which is implied in that covenant of Grace comes to maturation just as what was potential in my newborn Son came to maturation with the passing of time. As that covenant of Grace matures it is different but it is still the same covenant of Grace.

      The problem with Non-covenantal thinking is that it consistently shows an inability to understand that Covenantal progress in redemption allows a maturation that is significant but still connected to the original covenant. The danger with Non-covenantal (i.e. Baptist) thinking in its inevitable tendency to emphasize total differences between covenants as opposed to maturative inspired distinctions in the one covenant of grace is that they often end up with one way of salvation for the old covenant saints with a new way of salvation for the new covenant saints which and this by necessity implies a God who is janus faced with His stern mien turned to His old covenant people and gentle faced turned to the new covenant people.

      NCT writes,

      Covenant theology is modalistic, in that each historical covenant is said to be mere modes ( administrations, re-publications) of the saving Covenant of Grace.

      Bret responds,

      Is my Son, who is about three inches taller than his father now, being a modalistic being when he goes through growth spurts? Is Anthony at 18 only a modalistic representation of who Anthony was when he was 6 months old? Is Anthony now only a modalistic representative of who Anthony will be at 40? The covenant of Grace is no more modalistic when it matures in the context of the progress of redemption then my Son is modalistic as he matures. The accusation of covenantal modalism is just a desperate attempt to impugn, without substance, the covenant of Grace and belies an inability to see how God incrementally reveals the fullness of His salvation in the progress of redemption.

      NCT writes,

      There is indeed only one plan of redemption, stretching from eternity to eternity.

      Bret responds,

      First, NCT’s theology keeps insisting that there is only one plan of redemption but his insistence that God’s covenantal framework changes completely in the New Testament will later force him into contradictory language.

      For example NCT can write elsewhere that,”If the Old and New Covenants are merely different “administrations” of a meta-historical salvation-covenant — one Covenant of Grace modalistically wearing two hats — then the New Covenant becomes the Old Covenant. This in the end puts you into a theology of salvation by law, even while trying to champion grace.

      Please note carefully the assumption. NCT is contending that the Old Testament saints (at least those in the Mosaic covenant) were saved by law keeping, and he is warning against the danger of embracing a covenantal understanding that legitimates what he considers to be a fallacious unitary covenant of Grace. His concern is that if this unitary covenant of grace is embraced then the saints in the Renewed and better covenant, fulfilled in Christ, can only be saved by law, which in his understanding is the same way he believes the Old Testament saints were saved. What NCT has done here is to contradict what he said in his paragraph cited above. According to NCT there are TWO plans of redemption. One plan in the Old Covenant which was salvation by law and another plan in the New Testament which is presumably salvation by grace.

      Of course on one hand NCT is correct. There is only one plan of redemption and by that one plan of redemption, which was expressed in God’s covenantal dealings with His People, grace alone secures salvation.

      NCT writes,

      It’s (Redemtion) not a covenant, though, since (A) the Bible never calls it a covenant, and (B) more importantly, covenantal language is inappropriate to apply to the three members of the Godhead. Redemption is their eternal counsel, not a covenant.

      Bret responds,

      Referring to (A) — Scripture never uses the word Trinity. Does that mean Trinity isn’t a Biblical teaching regarding God?

      Referring to (B) – We must be honest and admit that Scripture nowhere says,”And the Father speaketh to the Son and the Spirit and saith; ‘Arise up and let us make a covenant among myself.’ And the One God did arise up and make covenant among the persons. And He saw it was good.” But to insists on such a requirement does not allow the Scriptures their full teaching authority. If, throughout Scripture we find good and necessary reason to understand something conceptually we must teach that. Besides the passages considered above we have the Scripture putting in the Mouth of the Son declaring,

      “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:13)

      When were these children given to the Son if not in eternity?

      Clearly, there was some kind of eternal arrangement between the persons of the Trinity. That arrangement we are calling the covenant of Redemption.

      NCT writes,

      A covenant is a legal agreement. There is no chance of failure between members of the Godhead, therefore no penalties for failing, no bond-in-blood, and no covenant sign. The Godhead did not contract with Himself.

      Bret responds,

      All because God deigns to enter into a covenant doesn’t mean He does so because He thinks there is a chance for failure if He doesn’t enter into covenant. He may have entered into the Covenant of redemption so as to provide a archetype reality upon which the ectypical covenant of Grace could be understood.

      Secondly, a legal agreement does not require that there be no relational agreement at the same time. In other words agreements can be both relational and legal simultaneously. I have a very relational covenant with my wife which also happens to be legal.

      Thirdly, a case could be made that the elect themselves were the covenant sign between the members of the Trinity in the covenant.

      Fourthly, Jack Baptist doesn’t consider the possibility that covenant was entered into by way of gracious condescending to those who would trust Christ, thus giving them certainty that God does not lie regarding His promises.

      Finally, while most covenants were sealed in blood not all covenants were sealed in blood.

      NCT writes,

      The New Covenant is (obviously) a covenant, but that is established between God and His elect, via the redeemer, Jesus Christ.

      Bret responds,

      And Jesus Christ was never part of any of the previous covenants? If the Old Covenant was established between God and His elect, without the involvement in some manner of the redeemer, Jesus Christ, then how could they have possibly been saved? Could the elect of any age be saved apart from Jesus?

      NCT writes,

      The darker consequence of covenant theology is that it breaks down the distinctions between Old and New Covenants. As a result it blends the Law into the New, and/or projects the New backward into the Old.

      Bret responds,

      The darker consequence of NCT’s analysis is that he keeps believing that the Old Covenant wasn’t at all gracious. If the Old Covenant wasn’t gracious he might have a point but if the Old Covenant isn’t gracious then all of those people who lived under that covenant are damned to Hell. One wonders given his theology how he avoid believing that.

      NCT writes,

      It treats the New Covenant as the flowering of the Law, when in reality it is the flowering of the Abrahamic Covenant.

      Bret responds,

      Galatians clearly teaches that the law was certainly not against the promises of God. If the law is not in anti-thesis to the promises of God then the flowering of the one is the flowering of the other. Jack Baptist keeps thinking that God intended the law to be used the way that His enemies thought that the law should be used — to wit – as a means by which salvation could be secured. That was never the purpose of the law in the covenant of grace.

      NCT says,

      1.This is starkly contrary to the New Testament teaching of antithesis between these two covenants. Covenant theologians simply deny that such an antithesis exists. Their overriding emphasis, to the exclusion of everything else, is that all the covenants are essentially the same (The word “essential” is vague enough to justify practically anything). “The Old and New Covenants aren’t in antithesis,” they claim. “They just…um… a little different from each other, is all.”

      Bret responds,

      The covenants are essentially the same the same way that my Son now at 18 is essentially the same Son as he was at birth. NCT puts the anti-thesis in the wrong place. The anti-thesis is between those who try to be saved by the covenant apart from Christ and those who receive the Christ offered in the covenant. Those who seek to be saved by the law apart from Christ find the one covenant constantly reminding of sin (Hebrews 10:3) while those on the other end of the anti-thesis, who receive Christ offered in the covenant are constantly reminded of grace (Hebrews 10:12-18).

      NCT insisting that the Bible says,

      1.)The Law came through Moses, but saving grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). That “but” is an antithesis. Law vs. grace.

      Bret responds,

      First, the scripture has been misquoted. The proper reading is “The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

      So, since this Scripture is obviously being appealed to by NCT in order to prove that grace only came with Jesus Christ we must likewise believe that truth only came with Jesus Christ. Does NCT really want to advocate that no truth existed before Jesus Christ?

      More likely what this Scripture is teaching is that the emphasis of the Mosaic covenant was its law characteristic while the emphasis of the covenant come to full flower is grace. Scripture bares that out as part of the beauty of the renewed and better covenant is that in it there is no constant reminder of sin which the Mosaic covenant yet unfulfilled in Christ emphasized (See Hebrews). To say that the emphasis has changed because He who it pointed to has come is hardly to posit an antithesis.

      Really, John 1:17 must be understood in some such fashion for if it is not understood in such a way we run into major problems where Scripture can say elsewhere that the ‘law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good,’ and the affirmation that ‘we establish the law,’ and the idea that in the New Covenant the law from the Mosaic covenant is written on the hearts of the New Covenant people,’ and that Jesus did not come to abrogate the law but to fullfil it. The Apostle Peter also makes an amazing statement on this subject. He plainly declares that as Christ’s New Testament church we are “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [and] a people for God’s own possession (1 Peter 2:9). The remarkable thing about this text is that Peter is directly referring to the words of God when He established the Mosaic covenant. Obviously, if the law is something totally old covenant oriented there wouldn’t be such esteeming of the Law by the New Testament writers. This is really the problem with NCT’s interpretation. He doesn’t take into accountALL of the Scripture.

      NCT writes,

      2.)The Law makes the world guilty (Romans 3:20), while the New Covenant remits sin. Imposition of guilt vs. remission of guilt. Doesn’t sound like “an acorn growing up into an oak tree” to me!

      Bret responds,

      Does NCT really believe that people were only guilty in the old covenant? Does he really believe that sins weren’t remitted on the day of atonement as the elect looked through that Sacrifice that could never take away sin to the one who the Sacrifice spoke of who could take away sin? It seems unimaginable that anyone would suggest that God’s people in the earlier expression of the one covenant of grace never knew remission of sin.

      Second, it is true that the Law shuts people up to sin but that is good news to God’s elect for that realization of guilt causes God’s elect to look to Christ for remission of sin.

      NCT writes,

      The New Covenant righteousness of God is revealed apart from the Law. Romans 3:21. Justification without law.

      Bret responds,

      The Law as demand cannot save, yet the Gospel is not contrary to the Law of Moses as Romans 1:2 teaches. The Gospel was already proclaimed in the ‘Law and the prophets.’ BUT NOW (Rmns. 3:21), — (the time filled with redemptive significance because of the coming of Christ v. 26) — God’s righteousness comes to historical realization through Christ and His work.

      You know it is scary that week in and week out this guy is entrusted with a pulpit.

      NCT writes,

      3.)The New Covenant justified, but the Old Covenant did not. Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:11.

      Bret writes,

      The situation in Galatia swirls around the Judaizers insisting that the Galatian Christians adopt the Ceremonial law in order to be saved. That aspect of the Law was fulfilled in Christ so that to embrace that which Christ fulfilled was to reject Christ. Galatians 3:11 does nothing to remove the idea that the esteeming of the Moral Law in salvation is the natural consequence for justification as Galatians 5:19-21 teaches.

      Secondly, in Galatians 3:11 Paul is quoting Habakkuk, a man who lived under the Mosaic covenant. What could Habakkuk possibly have known about being justified by faith if he was one of those who had to be justified by law? There is no anti-thesis here.

      Thirdly, Romans 3:21 states a truism that has always held true. The law has always, throughout covenantal history, had a first use that brings knowledge of sin.

      NCT writes,

      4.)The Old Covenant could not give anyone the Holy Spirit, but the New Covenant does. Galatians 3:2. Spirit vs. no Spirit.

      Bret responds,

      Certainly one of the benefits of the renewed and better covenant is a more effusive outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people than in the previous covenant where the Spirit’s outpouring seems to be restricted to those who held representative offices (Prophet, Priest, King) among God’s people, but Scripture clearly teaches that the earlier expressions of the one covenant of grace knew something of the Spirit if only through their leadership. A true anti-thesis would be no Spirit in the Old Covenant and Spirit in the New Covenant, not, some Spirit in the Old Covenant but more Spirit in the New Covenant. We can only conclude, once again, that there is no anti-thesis here.

      NCT writes,

      5.)The Law curses, but the New Covenant blesses. Galatians 3:10. Blessing vs. cursing. I can’t think of two categories of divine action more clearly antithetical to one another than blessing and cursing!

      Bret responds,

      Now NCT is suggesting that those in the yet matured covenant of grace didn’t know God’s blessings? All that Galatians 3:10 proves is that no one can keep the law perfectly. Something with which no New Covenant Theologian would disagree and something with which no Old covenant remnant saint would have disagreed.

      Also we should note that Scripture teaches that just as the less mature expression of the covenant of grace could bless so the New Covenant has capacity to curse (Hebrews 10:29).
      Blessings and cursing of each covenant comes to those who are either the Israel of Israel or to those who are Israel but not Israel.

      NCT writes,

      6.)The Old Covenant is not of faith. Galatians 3:12. Faith vs. “doing” commandments.

      Bret responds,

      So, those in the old covenant didn’t have faith? Those in the old covenant were saved by doing? What about all those Old Covenant Mosaic members who are exalted for the very faith that the New Covenant saints are told to emulate? If the Old Covenant was not of faith what do we do with Hebrews 11?

      NCT writes,

      7.)God made His saving Abrahamic promises to Jesus Christ through Abraham, not through the Old Covenant. Galatians 3:16-17. Abraham, not Moses.

      Bret responds,

      So lets get this straight. From the time to Abraham to the time of Moses God deals graciously with His people but with the Mosaic economy he quits dealing graciously with His people and forces them into a covenant that only brings guilt and doesn’t provide remission of sin?

      What we have here from NCT is a God who deals one way soteriologically with his people through Abraham and then changes to deal with them a different way through Moses and changes AGAIN with Christ. Does NCT believe that God is immutable? O Palmer Robertson might be helpful to NCT at this point.

      “Secondly, Paul contrasts the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic periods of the Old Testament (Gal. 3:15-19). The apostle makes plain that the inheritance of God’s blessing is not based on law, but on promise. By such an anti-thesis, he sets the covenant of law over against the Abrahamic covenant. Yet, it must be recognized again that Paul’s ultimate purpose in this entire discussion is to distance the true Gospel of Christ from every approximation of the Judaizer’s false gospel. His discussion focuses on law as isolated from promise and its fulfillment in Christ. Law under Moses never was intended to function apart from promise. Separated from its promise-dimension, which reaced its fulfillment in Christ, law never could provide a way for making sinners righteous. Promise as under Abraham was the only effect way by which sinners could be justified before God throughout the history of the covenant. While the Apostle quite vigorously sets promise over against law, he actually sees a basic unity between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants in contrast with the legalistic proposals of the Judaizers. He emphatically focuses on the legal requirement of circumcision as that point which distinguishes the anti-gospel of the Judaizers from the true gospel of Christ. If the Galatians should receive circumcision Christ will not benefit them (Gal. 5:2). Yet circumcision, it must be remembered, historically found its initial institution under the provisions of the Abrahamic covenant of promise rather than the Mosaic covenant of law. This fact clearly indicates that the ultimate contrast in Paul’s mind is not between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants, but between the way of justification advocated by the Judaizers and the way of justification provided by Christ. Thus the emphatic antithesis in Paul between the ‘law covenant; and the ‘promise covenant’ must not be allowed to detract from the unity of God’s dealings under the covenant of redemption.”

      In the end, as I have said earlier, the anti-thesis presented in Galatians is between Judaizers misrepresentations of the Law and the Apostles accurate representations of the covenant of grace.

      NCT writes,

      8.)The Old Covenant offered eternal inheritance based on works, but the New Covenant offers it based on God’s gracious promise. Galatians 3:18. Works vs. promise.

      Bret responds,

      Only the Judaizers were insisting that the inheritance is of law. Certainly Moses, who was commended for his faith in Hebrews 11 as one who esteemed the reproach of Christ would be one who would give powerful testimony that the inheritance was always only by promise.

      NCT writes,

      9.)The Old Covenant was added onto Abraham’s covenant — it is not a re-published version of Abraham’s covenant. Galatians 3:19. Added, not continued.

      Bret responds,

      Appealing to O. Palmer Robertson again,

      “Indeed, it should be acknowledged that law in distinction from promise was given to reveal sin (Gal. 3:19). The radicalness of this exposure of human depravity is seen in the fact that the law, by its very form, was calculated to uncover sinful man’s inclination to self-trust. In this respect, Sinai represents a covenantal administration in sharpest contrast with Abraham’s promise-covenant. BUT this contrast must not be understood as rupturing the unity and progress of the revelation of the covenant of redemption.. Diversity indeed exists in the various administrations of God’s covenants. This diversity enriches the wonder of God’s plan for His people. But the diversity ultimately merges into the a single purpose overarching the ages.”

      In the end though even this adding onto can be seen as perfectly consistent with the Abrahamic covenant. By the emphasis on law the Mosaic covenant graciously revealed to the Israel of Israel the need for grace. The Mosaic covenant with it’s emphasis on law was gracious because it reminded the Israel of Israel that the law apart from the promise could never save. The Mosaic covenant worked in God’s elect elect people a steady trust in the scarlet thread of Redemption that was proclaimed in the Sacrifices. God’s law was gracious to God’s people as it worked in them a understanding of their sin nature and so made them pant for grace even more.

      NCT writes,

      10.)The Old Covenant ended once Christ came, but the New Covenant continues forever. Galatians 3:24-25. Temporary vs. permanent.

      Bret responds,

      “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24)

      Now can anybody explain to me how a covenant which had as its intent the bringing of God’s people to Christ can be seen to be in anti-thesis with a covenant that gives He whom the previous covenant was leading us to?

      The law functioned as a means to separate Israel from the surrounding nations. With the advent of Christ that function of the ceremonial law has now ended.

      Finally, it was only temporary because it is fulfilled in Christ.

      NCT writes,

      Due to this mingling of the Old and New Covenants into one because of the teaching that all the covenants are salvific (they’re not) and mere administrations of a single saving plan (they’re not), Covenant theology becomes legalistic by its very nature.

      Bret responds,

      If all the covenants were not salvific then how could the apostle say with a straight face that old covenant people were advantaged by being God’s people (Romans 3:1-2)? How much advantage could there be in being in a covenant that could only damn?

      NCT writes,

      Covenant theology doesn’t sometimes accidentally “veer” into legalism. It is legalistic in its theological DNA, when its essential principles are rigorously played out.

      Bret responds,

      This is just a stupid assertion. Just plain stupid! In order for NCT to say this he must insist that, Calvin was a legalist. Edwards was a legalist. Owen was a legalist. Warfield was a legalist. Sproul is a legalist. Thornwell was a legalist. Dabney was a legalist. Boston was a legalist. Witsius was a legalist. Hodge was a legalist. Kuyper was a legalist. Bavinck was a legalist. Vos was a legalist. Flavel was a legalist. Brooks was a legalist. Perkins was a legalist, and on and on and on.

      We saw right from the beginning that Covenant theology in its pactum salutis contends for the very essence of God alone salvation. We have seen how NCT mishandles and misapplies the Scriptures which inevitably leads him into anti-nomianism and as a anti-nomian he can only conclude that anybody who see’s that the law has a gracious ministry to God’s people are legalist.

      NCT writes,

      This creates great mental stress for the consistent Calvinist, who must on one hand affirm sola gratia/sola fide, but on the other hand is forced by covenant theology’s basic principles to say that people were saved via the Law — since according to Westminster Puritanism the Law was allegedly a simple re-publication of the Gospel!

      Bret responds,

      There really is no tension as NCT would see if he took the time to try and understand how the covenants fit as a harmonious whole instead of forcing his a-priori misguided undertandings on both the Scriptural text as well as on those covenant theologians who faithfully handle the text.

      NCT writes,

      Paul in 2 Corinthians says that the Old Covenant was a ministry of death! This fact clearly distinguishes it in antithesis from the New Covenant.

      Bret responds,

      First we would note that in II Corinthians 3 it is taught that the covenants in their various expressions share a glory. The degree of that glory is intensified in the renewed and better covenant but it is the same glory and not a different glory that is intensified. There is no anti-thesis here.

      Secondly, the glory that is spoken of in II Cor. 3 is a glory that is restricted to the letter apart from the Spirit. There is nothing in II Cor. 3 that teaches that those condemned in the old covenant were not saved by looking to Christ through the Sacrifices. Indeed, if we take Hebrews seriously we would say that the ministry of condemnation that Paul speaks of in II Cor. 3 was before them with every sacrifice (Hebrews 10:2-3). So, we quite agree that the less mature expression of the one covenant of grace was a ministry of death but only in such a way that it caused the Israel of Israel to fix their hope upon the author and finisher of their salvation. There is no anti-thesis here.

      The contrast then would be between the un-renewed and worst covenant that was constantly reminding of death and the renewed and better covenant today that constantly reminds God’s people of life. The old covenant saints laboring under the ministry of condemnation looked for the reality that was proleptically promised and given to them in the Sacrifices in a ‘not yet’ fashion while the renewed and better covenant saints experience the reality of the ministry of righteousness. The saints in the un-renewed and worst covenant were constantly reminded of their condemnation on the day of atonement when that sin was provisionally and typically taken away while the saints in the renewed and better covenant are constantly reminded of their righteousness by the fact that the Sacrifice has sat down at the right hand of the Father. Properly understood there is no anti-thesis here.

      NCT writes,

      Take this equating of the two covenants even further, and you end up saying that saving grace was mediated to Jewish worshipers through the Law’s sacrificial system (I’ve had Presbyterians vehemently insist to me that this was so).

      Bret responds,

      If we do not conclude that saving grace was mediated to Christian worshipers by grace alone through faith alone as they looked to Christ alone typically and proleptically presented in the Sacrifices it is difficult to see how these brethren were saved and how NCT is not advocating a different way of salvation for those in each of his anti-thetical covenants.

      econdly, NCT fails to appreciate the ‘now, not yet’ nature of the less mature expression of the one covenant of grace. In that earlier expression the emphasis obviously falls on the ‘not yet’ of salvation, but an emphasis on the ‘not yet’ of salvation is not the same as saying there was no salvation for these brethren.

      Thirdly, NCT must deal with Isaiah 6:6-7 (as only one example) where Isaiah’s iniquity is taken away because a coal is taken from the altar where Sacrifices, that pictured Christ, were offered and placed upon his person. Now, Isaiah lived under the Mosaic covenant. Is NCT insisting that Isaiah was not saved as he looked to Christ in faith through the sacrificial system? God says in that passage that Isaiah’s iniquity was taken away. God took that iniquity away in the context of the sacrificial system. What are we to conclude?

      NCT writes,

      They show confusion, however, as they move back and forth between saying that the Law pointed the worshiper to the need for forgiveness and the coming Christ (which is absolutely true), and saying that worshipers were saved by means of participating in the Tabernacle services (which is salvation by works!).

      Bret responds,

      I can only see serious confusion in somebody who cannot see the consistency in somebody saying that the law pointed the old covenant saint to Christ while at the same time saying that the worshipers were saved by means of looking to Christ who was pronounced in the Sacrifices that God required. Indeed this kind of language remains today. The minister in the reading of the law during the Worship service points the congregation for the need of forgiveness and then goes on to say the worshipers are saved by means of looking to Christ who is pronounced in Word and Sacrament.

      NCT writes,

      God says that the New Covenant is not like the Law (Hebrews 8:9).

      Bret responds,

      Hebrews very clearly teaches that the not likeness of the new covenant is found in the fact that because Christ has come the old testament ceremonial law is obsolete. All because my Honda civic is not like my SUV doesn’t mean that they aren’t also alike. Contrasting one thing from another does not forbid comparing one thing to another.

      NCT writes,

      The New Covenant regenerates, causes people to be adopted as God’s children (v.10), causes a saving knowledge of God, and justifies of sin (v.11-12). The Old Covenant was only for Jews, the New Covenant is for everyone. The Old Covenant didn’t atone for all sins, the New Covenant expiates everything wrong we’ve ever done. The Old Covenant was only concerned with foods and drinks, various washings, fleshly ordinances, and only sanctified the flesh (Hebrews 9:9-10, 13). It only provided shadows of future redemption, but never the redemption itself (Heb. 10:1-4).

      Bret responds,

      Hebrews 8 teaches that the law that is written on our hearts is God’s old covenant law. I know of no better repudiation to the above argument then simply noting that.

      NCT writes,

      A sign that points to my house, is not my house. The Old Covenant pointed to the New Covenant, but was not the New Covenant, not in “seed-form” or any other form.

      Bret responds,

      Well, first if the old covenant is pointing to the new covenant then it obviously isn’t in anti-thesis to it.

      Secondly, if the old covenant as a sign has some of the same materials out of which the new covenant is constructed then that the sign has in it the reality to which it points even if it itself is not the reality itself.

      NCT writes,

      It shows its deplorable non-grasp of the book of Galatians, or Paul’s theology of Law all-around.

      Bret responds,

      Let the reader decide where that which is deplorable lies.

  3. “Does NCT really want to advocate that no truth existed before Jesus Christ?” I don’t know if he wants to advocate that or not [I would venture to guess he doesn’t], but classic NCT certainly didn’t advocate that. John uses the words “true” and “truth” not in contrast to falsehood or error but in contrast to type and shadow. For example, Jesus said, “I am the true vine,” in contrast to Israel who was the typical vine (See Isa. 5). He produced what God had a right to expect, but did not receive from Israel. One of the inefficiencies of the old covenant was its inability to reveal God’s glory completely ( see–Exo 33: 17-23). In contrast to this and as a blessing of the NC, “we gazed on his glory, the glory as of the uniquely begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The Law was a shadow of the coming good things, but not the very image.

    As much fun as this is, I think I’ll wait to see if you post my comments so far before I spend any more time trying to correct your clearly biased assertions.

    1. The OC was inefficient but the new and better covenant is not a stranger to the OC but a flowering of everything that the OC anticipated.

      Was the Old Covenant gracious in your thinking?

  4. I do have one question before I go. You wrote, “I would prefer to speak about the Covenantal progress of redemption rather then [than I suppose] ‘differing administrations of this one covenant of grace.” In this “Covenantal progress of redemption,” do you believe everyone who was born into one of the progressive stages of that covenant [insert your own expression if you don’t like mine] was a redeemed child of God. If the Mosaic covenant was but a phase in the covenantal progress of redemption and not essentially different from the New Covenant in Christ, then it would seem to follow that everyone born under that covenant was redeemed by the blood of Christ, just as everyone who is united to Christ under the New Covenant is redeemed and justified. I think it is fairly clear from NT teaching that all the physical descendants of Abraham are not God’s sons (See John, 8 for example). If you could, explain to me how, if these are all the same covenant progressively working itself out in redemptive history, being born into the Abrahamic covenant and born under the Mosaic covenant does not necessarily translate into being justified freely by God’s grace. Certainly, being united to Christ and thus becoming heirs of the New Covenant secures for us all the blessings of that covenant. If that covenant is simply a part of the “covenantal progress of redemption” and is no different in character from the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic etc. covenants, why didn’t participation in those covenants guarantee the justification of all who were participants in them?

    1. Grace Reaver wrote,

      “If the Mosaic covenant was but a phase in the covenantal progress of redemption and not essentially different from the New Covenant in Christ, then it would seem to follow that everyone born under that covenant was redeemed by the blood of Christ, just as everyone who is united to Christ under the New Covenant is redeemed and justified. I think it is fairly clear from NT teaching that all the physical descendants of Abraham are not God’s sons (See John, 8 for example). If you could, explain to me how, if these are all the same covenant progressively working itself out in redemptive history, being born into the Abrahamic covenant and born under the Mosaic covenant does not necessarily translate into being justified freely by God’s grace. Certainly, being united to Christ and thus becoming heirs of the New Covenant secures for us all the blessings of that covenant. If that covenant is simply a part of the “covenantal progress of redemption” and is no different in character from the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic etc. covenants, why didn’t participation in those covenants guarantee the justification of all who were participants in them?”

      Actually, Paul himself instructed us that, “Not all of Israel, was of Israel.” So we learn that there were members of Israel who were not of Israel, just as there are members of the Church in the New Covenant who are not of the New Covenant (I John 2:19). Francis Turretin speaks of some belonging only to the covenant as members of the outward administration of the Covenant, and some as having the essence of the covenant. Still, even unfaithful Israel was in some sense (outward administration of the covenant) members of the covenant lest they could never have been expelled from the covenant. Could Esau have despised his birthright if he didn’t have a birthright to despise? Could natural branches be broken off if they were not in, in some sense?

      I do believe that the NC is different from the OC the same way that a flower’s bloom is different from the flower before it blooms. Same flower … different point of progress. Why, you might even say once the flower blooms that it is a new and better flower.

      In both the OC and NC participation in those covenants do not guarantee the justification of all who were and are participants because some did not combine the word they heard with faith. (Hebrews 4)

  5. Not sure if you are addressing me by Grace Reaver but if so, there are a number of things you seem to assume that are nowhere found in the text. If we could just stick to what the Scripture actually state rather than your unfounded suppositions, I think our discussion could be much more profitable.

    You wrote, “And is the implication of your position that the new and better covenant also does not require continual and inward obedience to its demands?” There are at least two interesting facets to your statement– First, you asked if my position is that the NC ALSO does not require continual and inward obedience. . . ” It sounds as if you believe I don’t think the OC required continual and inward obedience. Second, No, I don’t believe the New Covenant demands continual and inward obedience as a condition of remaining in God’s covenant favor. All its blessings are ours because Christ has fulfilled all the conditions of the Law for his people. He obeyed continually, completely and inwardly so that all the blessings of the covenant would be mine. I am complete in him.

    1. Grace Write Randy

      Second, No, I don’t believe the New Covenant demands continual and inward obedience as a condition of remaining in God’s covenant favor. All its blessings are ours because Christ has fulfilled all the conditions of the Law for his people. He obeyed continually, completely and inwardly so that all the blessings of the covenant would be mine. I am complete in him.

      Not all in the New Covenant are in Christ. If they had been there would have been no need for Hebrews 6, 10, Romans 11, Revelation lamp stands threatened to be taken away. Indeed, the Gospel was preached to the Old Covenant saints as it has been to us and yet they did not combine the word heard with faith and so did not walk in newness of life and so even though they were in the covenant they were not of the covenant (I John 2:19)

      It is precisely because I am complete in Him that I continue to put off the old man and put on the new man. It is precisely because I am complete in Christ that I walk in newness of life. It is precisely because I am complete in Him that I do not conclude that I should go on sinning that grace might abound. It is precisely because I am complete in him that I take the Pauline warnings to heart that are found in Galatians 5 — warnings written to believers — that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul’s point there is that those who do not exhibit the graces of the Spirit (vs. 22) will not take part in God’s eternal Kingdom. It is precisely because I am complete in Him I understand that as earth drinking in the rain that if I bare thorns and briers I will be rejected. Of course, that won’t happen because of God’s preserving power.

      We must not pit God’s grace and our completeness in Christ against the requirement to walk in newness of life (Romans 6).

      It would be easy to interpret your statement as a protest against the Lordship of Christ and in favor of antinomian Christianity.

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