God Loves You And Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life

“God Loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” So said a high profile ‘evangelist’ 50 odd years ago and that script has been hardwired into Evangelicals the way Bill Gates hardwires his machines with Internet Explorer. But is it true? Does God Love everybody and have a wonderful plan for his or her lives?

About a year ago this issue came up when I attended a Mormon open house designed to turn their best face toward John Q. Public. A blanket invitation was given in the local newspaper and I decided that it might be interesting to see what the Mormons look like when they have all their makeup on. Upon arriving one was greeted with the requisite punch and cookies as well as the ubiquitous Mormon smile. After the general bonhomie settled down they invited us into an all purpose room to watch a promotional film for the Mormon ‘faith.’ The lights went dim, the VCR whirred and the beautiful people came on screen. Imagine my surprise when one of the first things out of the TV people’s mouth was … “God Loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” (or something very much like that). Now in my exuberance I yelled out … “Stop the tape, Stop the Tape,” which they very obligingly did (when somebody is trying to impress you with how nice they are you can get away with murder). They assured me that they were glad for my questions wherever they came in the program and encouraged me to go ahead and ask my question. And so I did. I asked them, “If God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life then what is the purpose of becoming Mormon?” I mean, if God already is so hotsie totsie for me in my non-Mormon state then why should I change anything?


More Silence.

Of course the Mormon oi poloi are taught to evangelize according a very set pattern and if you get them out of that rut (which my question accomplished) they take on the statuesque demeanor of a herd of deer frozen in the mystery of fast approaching headlights. Perhaps some other time I will tell the rest of my ‘Mormon Open House’ story but the point that I made that night in that simple question with the Mormon tribe is the same point that Evangelicals need to consider when they embrace the notion that God loves everybody. The news to the lost that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life pre-empts the attempt made later in the conversation to set the Evangelical hook regarding repentance for what need is there for repentance if God already loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life?

Now, it might be the case that people will say at this point that repentance is implied in the statement about God’s universal love for everybody. To which my rejoinder would be, ‘Well if repentance is required before God loves people then it obviously is the case that those who are not repentant God doesn’t love, and therefore it is not true that God loves everybody.’ Then my rejoinder might go on to wonder if God doesn’t love the non-repentant then what is His dispositional state towards the non-repentant? Could it be a disposition of opposition? Could it be the case that the Psalmist is correct when he says that God hates workers of iniquity? And if those who are un-repentant are by definition workers of iniquity (what else could they be working) then it might be just as appropriate to say those who show up for your open house that ‘God hates you and unless you repent He has every intent to punish you for your iniquity working,’ though I wouldn’t suggest leading with either sound bite.

But we don’t say that and we never get to it. We don’t say that because even the hearing of that grates against the hardwiring even though the Psalmist can confess that he hates God’s enemies with a perfect hatred. To suggest that God Hates people is just not something that we have grown up being taught and early-learned ways of thinking are difficult to re-program. Another reason we don’t say it is that we think Evangelism is akin to selling cars and nobody buys a car when the Salesman starts off by saying, ‘if you don’t buy this you will be damned.’ So, thinking that we have to make the sell and close the deal, we look out for the esteem of the buyer and avoid those truths that would violate their esteem. Now, the idea that God hates both sin and the sinner, I am sure you would agree, definitely falls into the esteem-crushing category. But then perhaps that is what we mean when we talk about ‘the stone that makes men stumble and the rock that makes them fall?’

Why do we find it odd though to hear the words, ‘God hates workers of iniquity?’ Even we mortals who love certain truths find the countervailing truths and the people who hold them to be loathsome. For example, if we love the notion that abortion is wrong we are foursquare opposed to those who love the notion that abortion is right. Every truth that we embrace and cherish comes with the notion of despising the opposite. If we love freedom we will hate slavery AND those who would seek to enslave us. If we love Christian Education we will hate non-Christian education AND those who would seek to force non-Christian Education upon people. To love something is always to hate its opposite. A person cannot love without hating at the same time. Even the Scripture recognizes this when we are taught to ‘cling to that which is good and to hate that which is evil.’ And again the Psalmist can say, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). There is such a thing as Biblical Hatred and it is defined as the revulsion we have towards those things that are the opposite of what we are commanded to love.

Now, if this is true for we mortals, how much more so is it true of God? God’s love is ultimately set upon Himself in His Trinitarian Self and all those that despise Him God despises since He hates those who hate what He loves. If God loves in one direction then God hates in the opposite direction. If He loves the good He hates the wicked. If He loves the glorification of Himself He hates those who would steal His glory. If He loves His people then His wrath is upon those who oppose His people. If He loves workers of righteousness then He hates workers of iniquity (Psalm 5:5, 11:5). His Hatred, like ours, is but the reverse mirror image of His Love. As a principle it is impossible to Love without also hating, for to love that which is estimable is to hate that which is desultory.

But here is where it gets interesting. In matters touching Evangelism God’s Hate is often based on His love. That is to say in many cases His Hate is serving His love. Augustine, the 4th century Church Bishop had this in mind when he said, ‘Even when God hated us He loved us.” When God through the proclamation of the Gospel reveals His opposition to people who are by nature children of Wrath (Eph. 2:3) it is often with the purpose that His people would flee to Jesus for safety from His present wrath (Rmns. 1:18). That is to say that in God’s economy the reason God makes known His wrath against workers of iniquity is so He might pour out His love out upon those who take refuge in the self-appeasement He has provided in His Son. We who proclaim such a message do not take some kind of maniacal pleasure in God’s opposition to sinners, enjoying seeing people squirm, but rather the reason we declare God’s wrath (and what is Wrath but hatred expressed?) is so that His people would discover their sin and dreadful situation and flee to Jesus and in Jesus learn that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. When we proclaim God’s opposition it is with the express purpose that people might discover His unmerited favor.

We proclaim God’s hatred of the workers of iniquity so that we might proclaim to them that God’s hatred for those who look to Jesus has already been extinguished in the cross. That is to say that workers of iniquity can now become beloved of God because the hatred God had for them was poured out upon their substitute in the work of the Cross where His wrath against His people is exhausted. We also tell them though that if they will not look to Jesus and become part of a local covenant community (Church) then the Wrath of God remains on them. If we start by telling unbelievers that God loves them then the Cross makes no sense in the telling. The Cross only makes sense in the context of God hating sin and workers of iniquity. If God does not hate sin and workers of iniquity then the Cross was certainly stupid and definitely un-necessary.

If the objector now insists that God only loves people who repent then he ought to quit telling people who haven’t repented that God loves them because what he is saying is different then what he means and it certainly isn’t what Scripture teaches. What Scripture teaches is that God Loves and receives all those who labor and are heavy laden and are looking to Him for rest. What Scripture teaches is that God Loves people who are broken and contrite in heart. What Scripture teaches is that God loves those in the far country who come to themselves. Scripture does not teach that God loves everybody and has a wonderful plan for their lives and saying such things is putrid evangelism that gets in the way of someone who God is pursuing through their seeking and detracts from God’s Glory.

So, lets be done with ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’ The use of it is getting in the way of those of us who are trying to communicate something besides limp wristed notions of both God and love. If nothing else the present state and condition of the Church in the West testifies to the effectiveness of using that winning insight for the last 50 years. Indeed, it would be nice to be done with canned approaches in general. Certainly I am not advocating that the first thing out of our mouths to an unbelieving acquaintance is the truth of God’s hostility towards them. Shoot, given our culture the first thing may be time explaining the notion of God, the wickedness of autonomy, the reality of right and wrong, the idea of a Bible and other such topics.

A personal best

In order to keep in some semblance of condition I ride a bike. Typically I try to do a modest 100 miles a week. Usually I do that in 25 miles intervals. The best I’ve ever averaged for 25 miles is 16.5 miles per hour and usually I come in at about 15.5 mph. Almost always I ride by myself but today I had a riding partner. That may have been the difference as I averaged 17.2 miles per hour over 25 miles.

Now I feel guilty for not pushing myself harder when I ride alone.

Is Covenantal Theology Against The Scriptures?

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.

Newsflash — Americans Live With People They Like

In a recent book by Bill Bishop entitled “The Big Sort,” a new sociological phenomenon has been recorded that has former President Bill Clinton all agog. That newly observed sociological phenomenon recorded by Bishop to the tune of a large profit margin for his book is that (are you ready for this?) people gravitate towards communities in order to live where other like minded people already live.

This is a earth-shattering insight that ranks close to another recent finding of social scientists that hold that men and women really are different.

Recently, in a speech Bill Clinton cited statistics compiled by Bishop that found that in the 1976 presidential election, only 20 percent of the nation’s counties voted for Jimmy Carter or President Ford by more than a 20 percent margin. This stands in contrast to the 48 percent of the nation’s counties in 2004 which voted for John Kerry or President Bush by more than 20 points.

Clinton summarized Bishop’s work in his (no doubt well paid for speech) to a group of Democratic Governors that, “We are sorting ourselves out by choosing to live with people that we agree with.”

It amazes me that this kind of stuff can be take for profound. People like to live in a community of people who share their values. Hmmm … go figure. “Honey, you’ll never believe this. Smart people are saying now that like attracts like. What will they discover next dear?”

There have been those who have been saying and writing for years (I count myself as one of them) that America is not a nation that exists on the basis of a naked creed but rather like all nations, is a nation where a shared creed (faith) walks hand in hand with shared blood ties and shared culture. No successful nation state can survive as a people who are divided creedally, and ethno-culturally and when such division is introduced into a people by means of large scale immigration or government assault on a people’s creedal belief system and cultural expressions there you can expect to find balkanization, where enclaves are developed in order to keep people with a strange creed, a strange tongue and a strange culture out.

Liberal policies over the last 40 years have injected this balkanization and Kulturkampf into this country and now we are supposed to wring our hands that America has these differences that need to be healed? That’s just stupid.

I for one don’t think this balkanization that Clinton laments is accidental. Throughout history whenever Tyrants wanted to increase their grip on their Empires one thing they would do is force repatriation of particular peoples in their Empire to other geographic areas. This would eliminate any social cohesion that might work towards challenging the Tyrants grasp on power. In America the repatriation hasn’t been forced but the effect of untold millions of illegal immigrants combined with the American Government’s 50 year plus assault on Christianity has largely accomplished what tyrants used to seek to accomplish by the forced movements of large people groups. American government, being tyrannical, has sought to break down the social cohesion of this country and having successfully done so now it asks what can be done to heal the breach.

The answer to how the breach will be healed will be for the Government to come in and break up these creedal, ethno-cultural enclaves. Some boneheaded politician somewhere along the line will come up with legislation that forces a certain ideological, religious and ethnic quota for every community. Much like busing in the 70’s, communities will be told they have to have a set percentage of this that or the other. And you can be sure that the end goal of this will be to force Americans who believe in the biblical faith, freedom, family and guns (traditional creedal Americans) to become more like those who believe in paganism, government provided security, the state, and disarmament.

In the end it is not about people wanting to live with people they agree with. In the end it is about not tolerating people who don’t want to be herded by the State to embrace its values.

Dr. Jack England & Pastor Bret Discuss Evangelism vs. Doctrine

Jack England is a Ph.D. working in a ministerial middle management position in one of America’s Flag ship evangelical denominations. His portfolio includes work with mission.

Dr. Jack,

“While I believe that in the Christian faith there is only one true and absolute doctrine, humans are unable to define it.”

Dr. Jack England, what good is it to have only one true and absolute doctrine if nobody can authoritatively define it? For that matter Dr. Jack, If we are unable to define the only one true and absolute doctrine what the hell does anybody mean when they say “the Christian faith.” This sounds very Kantian in as much as you seem to be suggesting we cannot know the thing in itself.

In point of fact Dr. Jack I believe you have told us that in your estimation there is one true and absolute doctrine of the Christian faith that you as a human are able to define and that doctrine is that there are no other true and absolute doctrines that you are able to define. Your one definable absolute is that there are no other definable absolutes.

Finally, on this score if what you say is accurate then there is no reason to say that Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses or Unitarians aren’t Christian. After all, if we are unable to define doctrine well enough to know who should be in and who should be out then who are we to freeze anybody out of the circle?

“Because, you see, when they try to define it errors are made (we humans ARE frail, fallible, and finite); when errors are made, differences occur among humans; when differences occur, new paths form; when new paths form (within Christianity), denominations surface; when denominations surface, dogma arrives; when dogma arrives, divisions occur within an entity God would rather be unified. Thus, I believe that He only tolerates denominations, Bret.”

Dr. Jack, everyone agrees with the idea of the noetic effects of sin. Further everyone would agree that we see through a glass darkly. The point though is that we do see. The reality of human frailty, fallibility, and finiteness does not negate the ability of God to communicate his mind. Now, certainly no one would argue that we can fully comprehend God (finitum non capax infinitum) but all orthodox Christians believe that God can still be known because he is able to make himself known.

You say God would rather have us united? That is a doctrine, and if humans are unable to define it then why do you presume to define it here?

Your solution of a unknowable doctrine doesn’t work because it ends up being its own unique dogma that you putatively disdain. Indeed, your dogma keeps me from being united with you, and yet that is exactly what you say you want to avoid. Your path has been pursued many times before. It’s the kind of thing you might have heard from J. Barton Stone or Alexander Campbell.

It would be nice if we could all hold hands and sing Kumbayah Dr. Jack but unity can only be achieved and maintained by a mutually shared set of definable doctrines. The doctrine that there isn’t any doctrines that can be defined is not enough to base unity upon.

“Another thought to ponder at another time might be, why have I chosen to be a Baptist, or you, CR?”

Um, because you are confused and the CRC is a denomination that historically has held to the Biblical faith once delivered to the saints?

“Without defining that “one absolute doctrine,” perhaps it would be unfair to entertain the second part of your question, ‘how does it effect evangelism?'”

I don’t understand. If it is, a-priori not possible for humans to define ‘one absolute doctrine’ then why would we even try?

Bret had asked Dr. Jack earlier,

Q: How does the one absolute doctrine effect evangelism?

Dr. Jack responds,

Well, if we look to God’s Word as the basis for the one true doctrine, we find that evangelism is more overt in the NT and more covert in the OT. The reason would be found in the life and work of Christ recorded in the NT, and more specifically in the Savior’s words to those gathered just prior to His ascension, that which believers refer to as the Great Commission. Jesus commands that his followers make disciples. While there is more to making disciples than simply leading another to conversion and belief in Christ (evangelism), God gave authority to His Son to pass the authority to evangelize people on to those called the Apostles of Christ, and I believe to many other disciples who were present, and further on to disciples/followers in this present day (to you and me). So, I believe God’s plan before time (the crux of that absolute doctrine) centered on believers applying/sharing the gospel message.

How do you know this if humans can’t define the one true doctrine?

Still, I agree that we should be busy about evangelism and discipleship. But my question still stands. How do we do evangelism apart from Doctrine informing us? Who is Jesus? What is sin? What of the character of God in relation to evangelism? When God visits salvation upon a husband and wife are they to bring their children into the household of God with them? What does conversion look like? Calvinists, and Arminians answer many of those questions differently. You just can’t do evangelism Dr. Jack without addressing all kinds of doctrinal issues.

“that’s why evangelism outweighs doctrinal dogma/differences in the way I practice my faith.”

I’m sorry Jack, you just can’t divide evangelism from the doctrinal differences. For example, I know countless number of people who will tell you when they converted from Arminianism to Calvinism it was like embracing a different faith.

Another question that comes to mind might be: What IS the definition of evangelism?

You can’t answer that without doctrine and according to you it is not possible for humans to define doctrine because they are frail, fallible and finite.

“Okay, Bret, now answer my first question: In the Christian faith, isn’t there only one absolute doctrine?”