By Faith Alone, part 10

This article is written by John Bolt, and it is entitled, “Why the Covenant of Works is a Necessary Doctrine,” subtitled, “Revisitng the Objections to a Venerable Reformed Doctrine.”

Bolt takes aim (reluctantly) at his former teacher, Anthony Hoekema, and also John Stek for challenging the doctrine of the covenant of works. Bolt’s aim is to “restate the doctrine in its classic form, then summarize Stek’s and Hoekema’s objections along with similar ones from contemporary Reformed theologians, and finally indicate my own reasons for rejecting the challenge” (pg. 172).

The first section concerns itself with the definition of the CoW. He likes WCF 7.2 as a definition: “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” Galatians 3:12, Leviticus 18:5, Romans 5:12-21, Galatians 3:10, and Genesis 2:17 are cited as proof-texts. “From this summary evidence the doctrine’s basis and purpose is clear. God’s relationship to humanity from the outset was a legatl, covenantal relationship in which obedience was demanded and to be rewarded, disobedience proscribed and under sanctioned curse and punishment: ‘Obey and live; disobey and die'” (pp. 172-173).

He notes a’Brakel’s argument for the CoW, and the points used to establish the definition: 1. God gave a law to man; 2. Adam had the promise of eternal felicity; 3. Adam accepted the promises and conditions of the covenant (pg. 174). The difficulty of establishing the third is evident. However, he uses an argument from the lesser to the greater: if sinners know that the law of God is holy, just and good, then how much more did Adam know that. There are more arguments, but that is a very striking argument, it seems to me.

Bolt addresses the especially important aspect of the CoW, which is its exegetical basis as compared to its moorings in ST: “We therefore make a serious error when we dismiss the notion of a covenant of works simply on the basis that it fails to meet the standards of modern biblical exegesis. Even if true, and the point is debatable, the case for the doctrine never depended solely on the exegesis of a few ‘proof-texts'” (pg. 175). Rather, as Muller says, the doctrine is founded on a large complex of texts, a conclusion largely in harmony with the exegetical tradition (quoted on pg. 175).

The challenge to the doctrine forms the second major part of the article. He notes Stek’s arguments about overloading the exegetical foundation. Interestingly, Stek contends that it is incorrect to define covenants as relationships, a position I also share (as does Rick Phillips and a myriad of other Reformed authors). However, Stek also says that covenant is not “the central theological category for synthetica construal of he God-humanity relationship” (quoted on pg. 176). Stek appreciates Murray’s attempts in (what I think is biblicistic) exegetical endeavors to establish a biblical definition of covenant theology.

Moving on to Hoekema, Bolt lists his objections: CoW doesn’t describe the gracious elements of the Adamic administration; it is not called a covenant, no ratification ceremony, and the word “covenant” is always used in the context of redemption (pg. 177). By way of preliminary response, he states that “It is not clear, and Hoekema does not adequately explain, why the term covenant at least should not then be used, if not covenant of works” (in the light of the doctrinal truths of Adam as federal head, the probationary command, death to all through his disobedience, and as type of Christ, pg. 178). Bolt also takes a swipe at Herman Hoeksema’s equation of covenant with election (pg. 179).

In the third section, Bolt notes that these views are characterized by biblicism. It denies good and necessary consequence. The truths that are so integral to salvation, such as Adam’s federal headship, are preserved carefully in the CoW, and are seriously endangered if no agreement was made between God and man regarding the future of mankind: “If we deny the covenant of creation with Adam we unravel the tapestry of God’s redemptive plan in Christ” (pg. 184).

One criticism I would have of the article is to be found on page 185, where he says that these things are complementary truths: law is gracious and grace is legal/forensic. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion from the rest of his paper, which seems to be arguing in a very different direction. Maybe Bolt will be so gracious as clarify for us. A very interesting article. However, I am not convinced at all points.  

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90 Comments

  1. Craig Phelps said,

    February 26, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    “Bolt also takes a swipe at Herman Hoeksema’s equation of covenant with election (pg. 179).” This is commonly asserted, but where does Hoeksema actually equate covenant with election? Hoeksema equates the head for head members of the covenant with the head for head number of the elect. Hoeksema taught that men are elected to the covenant Head, the blood of the covenant is shed for them alone, that the Spirit of the covenant indwells them alone, covenant grace is for them alone. Hoeksema defined covenant as an unconditional bond of friendship and fellowship rather than a soveriegnly administered treaty based on near eastern law or a party pact. Again, Hoeksema taught that election is God’s choice of who is in the covenant of grace with Him, but is not eqaul with the covenant itself. Just a little reading of some pamphlets would help people at least know what they are rejecting when they reject the Protestant Reformed confession of the covenant.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I think all that Bolt meant was that the membership of covenant and election are exactly the same, something with which he would disagree vis Hoeksema. I’m fairly certain that, however the distinction is made, at least the umbrella of covenant has to be broader than election. I think the internal/external distinction that Clark talks about (in continuity with many Reformed authors, of course) does justice both to the fact that infants of believers are members of the covenant, and yet at least some of them do not have saving faith. Otherwise, I am not sure that there is any biblical justification for baptizing infants.

  3. Todd said,

    February 26, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    “God’s relationship to humanity from the outset was a legal, covenantal relationship in which obedience was demanded and to be rewarded, disobedience proscribed and under sanctioned curse and punishment”

    Lane, do you believe that God’s relationship with Adam in the garden was also filial? Does Bolt address this perspective?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Yes, God’s relationship with Adam was definitely filial in the Garden. Bolt addresses the issue only tangentially by describing the the Sabbath as “the preeminent sign of this relationality and communion” (between God and man, see pg. 186).

    I deny utterly that the filial relationship rules out the CoW as a legal pact-merit system whereby Adam would have obeyed in order to attain eternal life.

  5. pdugi said,

    February 26, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Kline sees the sabbath as the premmeinent sign of the works and legal charcater of the CoW. Man would have to earn the right to have sabbath rest by how probationary work

    I wonder if that’s valid.

  6. pdugi said,

    February 26, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    “how” = “his”

  7. Thomas Twitchell said,

    February 26, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    A filial relationship? Is Adam the son of God, Luke 3.38?

    Greenbaggins, are you saying that Adam could have attained eternal life by works? Dosn’t that deny that salvation comes by grace through faith and that not of ourselves? Isn’t the Tree of Life instrumental in any hope that Adam might entertain in inheriting EL?

    If God does not temp man then the tree of Good and Evil could not have been a temptation, could it? Then the covenant that God had made with Adam was not do this and live, but if you do that you will die. Rather, it is do this and live. Simply, Adam was given one commandment to eat of any tree except the one and live. In other words the first covenant was a convenant of Grace, good works prepared before that Adam should walk in them. No different than that which has been restored to us. If this is what you mean by a covenant of works, then I have to agree. But, if it is a works covenant, that by personal effort Adam could have attained what not other man could have, namely, eternal life found only in the Son then I would have to reject that. The new covenant is one of works, but it is not of law. Neither was that which Adam was given. The works that he wasa to walk in were prepared for him beforehand. It was by deception that he fell at the voice of his wife, she herself having been decieved. It was not a possibility that Adam could have chosen to violoate if/then, if not/the covenant. Unless of course he was created in the image of God able to choose to do sin.

    It does not follow then that the first covenant was anything like the covenant of the law, which was in deed a covenant of works dependant upon the exercise of obedience. Adam, could not disobey, could he? If he could, where did that disobedience come from in Adam? The CWF talks of the maleable will of Adam. The question remains, then, who bent it? Adam or Eve? Of Eve, who bent her will, she or the snake? The testimony of the Scripture remains that she saw the fruit as good. It might follow then that she also saw death as good and the means to attain life. In this case, then, she acts in obedience in as much as she understands, and doing so becomes the transgressor and Adam being doubly deceieved, hearing the words and seeing that she still lives. The fact that Adam fell does nothing to advance a “covenental agreement.” Adam was made for obedience, soley, to do the will of Him who created him, to do what was good, just as His father is good.
    The works then that were laid before him were not both good and evil. But, they were all good. Eat of any tree and live, but do not eat of this tree and live. There is only one commandment, and it is to do good.

    Do we still then have a covenant of works? Yes, but it is nothing like the inferior covenants that will come as exemplars which teach us that only by the covenant of “grace” can we do the “works” of God. Therefore, there are not two covenants, but one, and it required the Son of God for its fulfillment, so that He alone is the savior, not one of a potential two, he and Adam.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Thomas, I would have to disagree with this. The difficulty here, in my mind, is that you are confusing the pre-Fall with the post-Fall situation. Adam was not in the same situation as we are. God made a covenant with Adam that if Adam did not disobey, he would attain eternal life. The way the WS explain it is that, in the moral law, not only does a prohibition contain the equal and opposite command, but also the punishment threatened contains an equal and opposite promise. Therefore “do not eat” also contains, within it, the command to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind. The punishment threatened (“you shall die”) is balanced by an equal and opposite promise: you will attain eternal life. That is how the Westminster divines interpret both the moral law, and the CoW.

    Have you read Boston’s Fourfold State, by the way?

  9. Craig Phelps said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Briefly, we baptize infants because God brings forth the church from the church and that the promise of salavtion is to believers and their seed(the name of Hoeksema’a book explaining the doctrine of the covenant in relation to the pracitce of infant baptism.) God saves in lines of generations. Professor Herman Hanko also has a lengthy chapter on infant baptism and the relation of the external sphere, shell, etc. of the covenant as God works in history to gather His church and the actual members of the covenant in his book “God’s Everlasting Covenant of Grace.” Wheat and chaff. The chaff serves the growing of the wheat as reprobation serves election. Supra stuff.

  10. Craig Phelps said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    By the way, I must commend you for your gracious hosting of all us knuckleheads on your blog. You are a fine blogmaster.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    To be honest, I don’t know enough about Hoeksema to be able to answer you. You may be right about him. I guess I have to say that Bolt should answer you! :-)

    Thanks for your commendation of my bloghosting. It is fun for me to do this.

  12. pdugi said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    You’ve made that claim about the right exegesis of the moral law, but the command to not eat of the tree isn’t “moral law”. WLC 92 distingusihes the moral law from the “special command”.

    Bavink calls that special command “positive law” that is “arbitrary and fortuitous”.

    I also wonder how you would explain the relation of the fifth commandment viewed as a covenant of works versus a covenant of grace. It promises something to those who obey it, and presumably threatens the opposite. Is it following a works principle? Is it following a works principle for the OT, but not the NT. Line it out

  13. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Do you really think that “do not eat” is all there is to that command? Do you really think that the command did not also involve “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind?” To my mind, your reading is a biblicistic, minimalistic reading of the text. Surely, the command about the tree also involved the authority of God versus self-autonomy for man. As such, it involved the moral law.

    The fifth commandment gives a perfect example of the layers in the Mosaic economy. For someone to obey the fifth commandment for the purpose of obeying the law in order to inherit eternal life (the works principle), the fifth commandment promises life in the land. The point is that we cannot obey that commandment. Therefore, we need someone who did honor His Father and mother, and authorities, Jesus Christ. His law-keeping becomes ours by imputation in the CoG.

  14. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    “are you saying that Adam could have attained eternal life by works? Dosn’t that deny that salvation comes by grace through faith and that not of ourselves?”

    ~ God’s standard for eternal life always has been and always will be perfect and personal adherence to His Law. This is a work. We are saved by works, no question. The question is in whose works are we trusting? Adam would have been saved by his keeping God’s command, yet he failed. Therefore, it pleased God to send His Son to “work” by keeping that which Adam failed to do, the Law of God, personally and perfectly. The gracious aspect of the CoG is that God condescends to substitute Christ’s work for our own. Not only this, but God made provision for the appropration of this “work” ;it is through faith alone.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Amen, David!

  16. Stewart said,

    February 26, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    “God’s standard for eternal life always has been and always will be perfect and personal adherence to His Law. This is a work. We are saved by works, no question. The question is in whose works are we trusting? Adam would have been saved by his keeping God’s command, yet he failed. Therefore, it pleased God to send His Son to “work” by keeping that which Adam failed to do, the Law of God, personally and perfectly. The gracious aspect of the CoG is that God condescends to substitute Christ’s work for our own. Not only this, but God made provision for the appropration of this “work” ;it is through faith alone.”

    Amen, David! I don’t have a problem with this. It only become a problem when you start seeing these “works” as ski-ball tickets that can be used to purchase eternal life, as if God was sitting around waiting until someone collected enough tickets to buy the big prize. Saying that Jesus kept the law perfectly where Adam did not, is just another way of saying that Jesus was the faithful son that Adam never was. And that is what God wanted all along, a faithful son, a faithful Israelite.

  17. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    “Amen, David! I don’t have a problem with this”

    ~ Good. This means you believe the Gospel.

    “It only become a problem when you start seeing these “works” as ski-ball tickets that can be used to purchase eternal life”

    ~ No one is suggesting this. Eternal life is a gift of God, the Author and Finisher of our faith, lest any man boast. No problem here.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Although, eternal life would have been given to Adam on condition of perfect and personal obedience, thus being secured by Adam in the form of pact-merit.

  19. Stewart said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Sigh…

  20. Josh said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    I always took it that Adam lost eternal life. In the day you eat you will surely die. Physical death followed Spiritual death.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Well, that’s right, Josh. However, what I think you may be getting at is that Adam had the full deal, and then lost it. Is this what you mean? Most Reformed theologians think that there was something better, a glorified body that Adam would have obtained if he had remained obedient. This is inferred from the immensely difficult text in 1 Cor 15 that talks about the various kinds of bodies: Adam had one before the Fall, but there was a better Holy Spiritual body awaiting him that Jesus actually did obtain.

  22. Stewart said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Josh, that’s the thing. He wasn’t meriting, he was merely *abiding* in the love of the Father had already given him. All Adam had to do was simply remain faithful and avoid getting disowned.

  23. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Right Lane. Adam was created with the capacity to remain righteous. In other words, Adam was capable of securing eternal life prior to the Fall based upon his obedience, whereas we (being fallen) are not. Thus the need for a new and better covenant, one that makes provision for fallen humanity through the substitutionary atonement and righteousness of Christ.

  24. Todd said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    “Thus the need for a new and better covenant, one that makes provision for fallen humanity through the substitutionary atonement and righteousness of Christ.”

    But don’t leave out the resurrection, which makes our salvation more than a mere “return to the garden.” This connects with Lane’s comments about 1 Cor 15 in comment #21.

  25. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Right Todd. The salvation in Christ is better in one sense in that through the resurrection we have obtained more than Garden status.

  26. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    We must bear in mind that the CoW’s is gracious in the sense that God wasn’t obligated to enter into any type of relationship with man. He chose freely to do so, and as a result it should be viewed as gracious. The nature of the covenant varies from this fact though. The fact the nature of the CoW is based upon personal and perfect obedience to the Law of God in no way negates the graciousness of God’s condescension to enter to covenant with man in the first place.

    Likewise, God didn’t repeal the CoW when He made the CoG. The CoW is still the standard by which we are judged (do are keep the Law of God?). The CoG makes provision for the keeping of the CoW by mankind through the sending of Christ to fulfill the Law of God on our behalf ,thus satisfying the justice of God and graciously substituting the finished work of Christ in keeping the CoW for us.

    In short, Adam failed to keeo the CoW. Christ keeped the CoW. The CoG provides a means by which we appropriate Christ’s work of keeping the CoW.

  27. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Christ kepted*

  28. greenbaggins said,

    February 26, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    what is “kepted*,” David? Just curious. :-)

  29. Josh said,

    February 26, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Lane:
    “Well, that’s right, Josh. However, what I think you may be getting at is that Adam had the full deal, and then lost it. Is this what you mean?”

    Josh: Yes, that is what I meant. Honestly, I have a hard time accepting the idea Adam would have/could have attained a better body. Mostly because it seems foreign to me. Then again, if it was so, I can only see it as a thing that never would have happened anyway. Of which I think all Calvinists would agree to.

    I am never at a loss for new material to think on, keep it up Lane. I am loving the blog!

    P.S. Wow, what was that at the Heb 2 post LOL!

  30. pdugi said,

    February 26, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    So what does Paul mean when he tells kids to obey their parents in the Lord? and that they can expect the same (or better) reward? Is it a works principle?

  31. pduggie said,

    February 26, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Do you really think that “YOU SHALL WEAR A TASSEL ON YOUR GARMENT” is all there is to that command? Do you really think that the command did not also involve “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind?”

    Certainly, the ceremonial laws have divers instructions on moral duties “behind” them. But Adam’s tree-law was more like a ceremonial law than a moral law. Are we to say that all Adam had to do to keep the moral law was to keep one “ceremonial” law?

    Also, I’m just asking if you agree with WLC and Bavink that the law he had to keep was an “arbitrary” “positive”, and “fortuitous”, and distinguished from the moral law.

    Also, how then can Paul instruct kids to keep the 5th commandment in expectation of receiving the promised reward. Is *that* a works principle, then?

  32. David McCrory said,

    February 26, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Lane, I really don’t know. :-)

  33. John said,

    February 26, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    A question about meritum de pacto: If God promises to give me a reward for faithful service as an elder (1 Pet. 5) or for resisting temptation (James 1), and I serve faithfully and resist temptation, thereby keeping the terms of the arrangement, then … have I merited the reward de pacto?

    I was more than a little bit surprised at the Knox Colloquium to find Morton Smith saying “Yes, we do merit the rewards we receive.”

    To quote him precisely: “The fact that we are to be rewarded on the basis of good works does not in any way take away from the fact that we are justified by the grace of God. The Bible does not represent our salvation as resting on these good works, but rather they bring rewards over and above salvation. The reward according to works has to do with the relative station which a person has to occupy in the eschatological kingdom of God. The reward is graciously given by God, for he is the One who enables us to accomplish good works, and yet there is intrinsic good in works motivated by love to the glory of God, so that there is a meriting aspect of these works (The Auburn Avenue Theology, p. 114, lines 719-725, emphasis mine; see Rich Lusk’s comments on this on p. 146).

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, Lane. If we talk about Adam and Christ meriting their rewards de pacto, then can we be said (as Smith says) to “merit” the rewards we receive? Or is Smith wrong here?

  34. Stewart said,

    February 27, 2007 at 3:32 am

    Lane, what is insufficient about the way I described the pre-fall situation in comment 16? It clear that you are simply importing the “pact-merit” scheme. Where in the Genesis account do we see Adam “entering into” a “pact” with God?

  35. pdugi said,

    February 27, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Interesting quote from Smith. Fits with my thesis that nobody can keep any of this straight for a paragraph. Salvation is salvation from sin. Salvation CAN’T be salvation from being an Adamic Psuchicos being. Becuase then Adam’s psuchicos charcater would be a lack that needed to be made up from Grace, and you end up with what people (ignorantly) accuse Jordan of saying.

  36. pdugi said,

    February 27, 2007 at 9:03 am

    According to Kline, we don’t see adam ever enter into a “pact” with God, it’s just implied by creation in God’s image

    “For we will appreciate the fact that man’s hope of realizing the state of glorification and of attaining to the Sabbath-consummation belonged to him by virtue of his very nature as created in the image of the God of glory. This expectation was an in-created earnest of fullness, to be denied which would have frustrated him to the depths of his spirit’s longing for God and God-likeness. Whatever he might have been granted short of that for his obedience would be no blessing at all, but a curse. ”

    Pact-merit is apparently creation-merit or nature-merit. Which begs the question of why we think of a pact as something added to a state of nature.

    Oh, and Kline says that Adam had to be justified before he could be glorified. Even though I always thought that being created righteous and upright, he would aready be a justified person. So maybe Kline thinks Adam needed salvation from his psuchicos state, and his salvation would be by works.

  37. Stewart said,

    February 27, 2007 at 9:57 am

    pdugi,

    You sure do know a lot about Kline. :-)

  38. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 11:56 am

    To Pdugi’s #38: I’ll take your comment as partly facetious, partly serious. No, Kline doesn’t think Adam needed salvation from his psychikos state and that by works. Rather Kline argues, on the model of Paul in 1 Cor 15:44ff., that Adam’s first (psychikos) state is not his last (pneumatic) state. To move from the first to the last, Adam needed to stand his probation successfully by his obedience to the commandment of the Lord God his Creator. In other words, by standing his probation, Adam was to move from a state in which he is subject to death (i.e., mortality) to a state in which he is no longer subject to death (i.e., immortality).

  39. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Make that Pdugi’s 36. Sorry.

  40. Todd said,

    February 27, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    “To move from the first to the last, Adam needed to stand his probation successfully by his obedience to the commandment of the Lord God his Creator.”

    Dr. White, any openess to describing what God required of Adam as *faith*?

  41. Stewart said,

    February 27, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    “Dr. White, any openess to describing what God required of Adam as *faith*?”

    It certainly seems more biblical to see Adam’s obedience as *faithfulness to a loving father* than works earned and credited.

  42. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    “It certainly seems more biblical to see Adam’s obedience as *faithfulness to a loving father* than works earned and credited.”

    ~ Why not elements of both?

  43. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Todd and Stewart: My answer is, yes, to both questions. Here’s the larger context that I see. Adam is charged to serve the Lord his Creator and to keep His commandments (cf. Gen 2:15; as you may know, “to serve and to keep” is an idiomatic expression summarizing the duties of a priest). Those commandments are summed up in the requirements to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself. (I take it that the applicability of the two great commandments to Adam is a necessary implication of passages like 1 John 3.) It makes sense to me that the fulfillment of the two loves required of Adam would require both the faith and the faithfulness of Adam.

  44. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Stewart, forgive me. I did not respond to your question as you posed it. I would also affirm that it is right to see Adam’s obedience as “works earned and credited.”

  45. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    I posted this last night over on Blog/Mablog w/o any response. I thought I’d post it here, and get the readers thoughts here;

    “Mr. Wilson,

    WCFLCQ#55 asks, “How does Christ make intercession?”

    A. Christ maketh intercession by his appealing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth…”

    Are you in agreement with the Confession here? Do you believe the obedience of Christ was meritorious?

    If so, why can’t we say the first Adam held the “merit of his obedience” up to the point where he fell? It seems the difference between the first Adam and the Second is the latter was successful in confirming his meritorious works in keeping the Law perfectly and entailing it to his posterity, while the former was not.”

  46. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    To David McCrory’s #42: I would add, yes, elements of both. Adam was both son and servant.

  47. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you Mr. (Dr.?) White. I often think the issue is conflated into a stark either/or paradigm unnecessarily.

  48. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    David, for what it’s worth, I would agree. I understand it this way: as Adam was both a son and a servant but failed, so Christ, though a Son, learned obedience as a servant and succeeded.

  49. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks again for the reply. It seems clear the Confession understands Christ’s work to be, in some sense, meritorious. This seems to rather strongly imply that the first’s Adam work would have been as well had he endured unto righteouesness. If this is bad theology, or not distinctly Reformed, please let me know. But either way, I’d appreciate a response from the FV perspective.

  50. pdugi said,

    February 27, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Fowler: Thanks for the response. And Kline says that for Adam to move between those states would be by justification. Is that right? Does that really square with Adam having no lack of original righteousness?

    What was the active work that Adam had to do to succeed at the tree? All the righteousness he had up to the tree seems to be useless if he doesn’t do the right thing at the tree.

    I’m interested in Kline answer and your answer.

  51. Stewart said,

    February 27, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    “Stewart, forgive me. I did not respond to your question as you posed it. I would also affirm that it is right to see Adam’s obedience as “works earned and credited.”

    Thanks for taking time to responded, Dr. White. I suppose my only concern is that using terms like “merits” and “credit” tend to do make righteousness into a commodity that can be traded, or whatever. I share Doug Wilson’s concern that this lends itself to a depersonalization of the whole concept of obedience. I think this is what many of the FV folks are trying to avoid. I’ve frequently heard fellow Presbyterians explain the concept of “active obedience” in such a way as to be virtually indistinguishable to the Catholic notion of a “treasury of merit.” Doug Wilson has recently posted something on his blog that spells out exactly the type of “merit” concept he rejects. Do you agree with his overall criticism?

  52. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    With all due respect to everyone involved, I have to believe it is rather naive to suggest Protestant & Reformed men involved in this debate against Federal Vision theology would ever come close to using a term such as “merit” in a way even remotely similar to the RCC usage of “treasury of merit”, “condign merit”, etc. I don’t know what Mr. Wilson’s point is in trying to relate to two, but they are apples and oranges.

  53. Stewart said,

    February 27, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    David said,

    “With all due respect to everyone involved, I have to believe it is rather naive to suggest Protestant & Reformed men involved in this debate against Federal Vision theology would ever come close to using a term such as “merit” in a way even remotely similar to the RCC usage of “treasury of merit”, “condign merit”, etc”

    It comes close when men start referring to Christ’s righteousness as “property” that can be exchanged and so forth. I’ve seen it done on this blog.

  54. Todd said,

    February 27, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    “they are apples and oranges.”

    David, perhaps you could give a quick summary of the differences between the Reformed and the Roman Catholic views of merit, as you understand them.

  55. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Pdugi, your question deserves more thoughtful attention than I am able to give it at the moment, as I have an appointment that I have to prepare for. But here’s my quick answer: Adam’s original righteousness was hardly useless, but it was unconfirmed; that is, it was a righteousness that God determined to confirm by the probation of the tree. To put it differently, Adam was not created in a final, eschatological state. Adam would enter his final state only by completing his probation successfully and for that matter by resting from his work of ruling and filling the earth. (Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 15 and their implications are crucial, it seems to me.)

    I don’t know Kline’s exact answer to your specific question of Adam’s justification, but I’d predict that, for Kline, Adam’s sucessful completion of his probation would result in his justification. (I’d agree.) One way to get Kline’s view in his own words, as you may know, is to do a word search of his Kingdom Prologue, which is available for download in a searchable format.

  56. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    As I understand them, the Reformed view of merit applied to our federal heads alone (Adam and Christ, for they are the only two ever in a position of original righteouness). The justification for their merit lies in their ability to keep God’s Law personally and perfectly. Adam failed in his obedience to God therefore losing his righteousnes (meritorious works). As a result, rather than imputing righteousness to his posterity, we received imputed sin (Original Sin). Christ kept the Law of God perfectly, satisfying the justice of God. R.C Sproul suggests it is the merit of Christ’s works that demand His resurrection. Death could not hold Him as a result of His perfect fulfillment of God’s Law. In short, His work merited life. And that life (salvation) is subsequently imputed to us by faith.

    The RCC view view would seem to suggest not only are we capable of acquiring merit ourselves, but that we may gain such a degree of merit as to not only save ourselves but others as well. In this view, Christ’s merit is meted out as a superogated work which becomes our own (infused righteousnes).

    Do I pass?

  57. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Stewart, I have not had time to read Doug’s post, though I saw that he had pubished it. Allow me to get back to you after I have read it. We may have to take this line of thought up privately. Contact me at Knox Seminary if I don’t or can’t get back to you in a timely fashion.

  58. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Todd, what do you make of the Confession use of the phrase; “in the merit of his obedience..” speaking of Christ?

    Put that M.Div to work!

  59. Todd said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    I have no objection to the language of merit as it occurs in the WS and in our hymns and liturgies. In fact, no hope without it!

  60. David McCrory said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Do you object the notion the First Adam “had the potential” to obtain the same merit as the Second?

  61. Todd said,

    February 27, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Hmmm. The same merit? I don’t think I understand. And I’m not playing hard to get. If you’re quoting something from above, forgive me.

  62. Fowler White said,

    February 27, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Back to Stewart’s question in #51: having now read Doug’s essay, can you tell me what you understand Doug’s “overall criticism” to be? I’m not trying to be cute; I want to make sure I understand you.

  63. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 9:50 am

    My understanding of merit is that Adam’s merit would only be “according to pact.” Adam could have no condign merit, since he was a creature, and no creature can make the Creator beholden to him.

    Christ, however, having made a strictly condign covenant of redemption with the Father, did earn condign merit, which is imputed to those who have faith in Him. Both of these systems are dependent on the CoR. This is the point of the White/Beisner article. The CoR is what makes both covenants understandable.

  64. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Dr. White, thanks again for responding. I’ll try and explain what I think Doug Wilson is saying, although I’m sure I’ll fall short.

    When I was in grade school, I had this teacher who would put stars next to our name on a poster board. We could earn stars by doing various tasks like cleaning out our cubicles or making good grades, that sort of thing. We could also have stars taken away when we did bad stuff. So, at the end of the week she would pass out the prizes we earned. Fifty stars would get you a box of candy, the big prize.

    Anyway, what I’ve described above is the way that many think about Christ’s “merits.” We get his stars transferred to our name, and therefore we get the candy. I think this is what Doug Wilson has in mind. I think he objects to the notion that Christ’s “merits” are things that can be passed around. I think he objects to people referring to Christ’s “merits” in the same way they refer to Bill’s baseball cards or Tom’s merit badges.

  65. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 9:54 am

    But this overlaps with what imputation says, which is this: Christ’s merits are imputed to us. When you strip away the rhetoric (of which I am rather tired), I don’t see how this could be anything other than an attack on imputation itself. I refer to the Hooker quote here, for the best statement of our righteousness that I have ever found:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/by-faith-alone-part-6/

  66. Fowler White said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Stewart, thanks. I could be very wrong in what I’m about to say (such are the limits of blogging, I guess), your illustation suggests to me that you have a problem with the very idea of imputation. I was reminded of what Paul wrote to Philemon concerning Onesimus, “if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (v. 18). That is, Paul instructs Philemon to transfer to his account the demerit of any wrong Onesimus has done to Philemon. The implication, of course, is that when Paul repays Philemon for that wrong, the merit of Paul’s payment will be transferred to Onesimus’s account. Merit, then, is indeed transferable and may be separated from a person.

  67. Fowler White said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Stewart, one other consideration: when we talk of “merit,” “substance,” and transferability, most of us modern readers won’t think of “substance” as did the Medieval Scholastics. For them “substance” was the “what-it-is-ness” of something. Rocks have a physical substance, justice has an ideational substance, angels have a spiritual substance, men have both a physical and a spiritual substance. Merit has a qualitative substance, that is, it is the moral/valuable quality of deeds or objects. We shouldn’t depend on the physical notion of substance to get sympathy for an argument against merit as transferable. (My thanks to Cal Beisner for his interaction about this point.)

  68. David McCrory said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I agree with Lane’s #63. I would add, I believe Adam held the potential to secure righteouness for mankind just has he held the potential to condemn us. His choice imputed one of two possible things; unrightouesness instead of righteouness. It is my contention that only through the imputation of Christ’s righteouness that the curse of Adam’s imputation of unrighteousness can be undone. Does anyone agree or disagree with this?

  69. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:45 am

    David, that’s right.

  70. David McCrory said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:49 am

    This is why implict in the denial of an imputed righteouenss of Christ, I see a denial of the imputed unrighteoueness of Adam (Original Sin). This is why I asked if about Pelagiainism. It seems to point in that direction does it not?

  71. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Dr. White,

    Thanks for your response, and thanks for not dismissing my musings as pure rhetoric. This is a real concern that many Fv folks have, and I commend you for taking it head on.

    I guess I would have a problem with imputation as you described it in post 66, if by it you mean that “merits” or “works” are the instrumental rather than simply conditional. “Works” were a condition of the covenant, but they are not the covenant. What God required from Adam was faith, the out working of which was obedience to His command. The thing that ultimately doomed Adam was his lack of faith in his Father, manifesting itself in disobedience, not his failure to earn the full paycheck of eternal life.

    Dr White said, “We shouldn’t depend on the physical notion of substance to get sympathy for an argument against merit as transferable.”

    You point about the modern concept of merit versus the Medieval Scholastics notion is interesting. I’ll need to think on that a bit more. There is the possibility that I am conceiving of it this way.

  72. John said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Paul noticed my quotation from Morton Smith (back in comment # 33), but no one else has responded to it. I’d really like to know from Gary or Lane or Fowler White or Cal Beisner or anyone else posting on this blog.

    Do you agree with Smith that the rewards we receive are merited (de pacto or in any other way)?

  73. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    I have not forgotten about comment 33, John. I have merely been cogitating about it. It is not an easy question. I would say that Smith is right. However, the difference between pre-fall and post-fall needs to be carefully delineated. The difference in reward also needs to be pointed out. Adam would have merited by pact eternal life, whereas we merit by pact only degrees of reward (not salvation itself). Of course, the fact that it is merit by pact also means that the initiation and set-up of the whole situation is an act of condescension, and hence of grace. However, that should not negate the simple fact that degrees of reward do exist in the eternal state for varying degrees of work done here on earth. If God rewards us for things we do here on earth, then I don’t see the need to quash the category of merit, as longas we strictly preserve the term from our meriting salvation. I would not say that the two cases are precisely identical.

  74. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Lane, can you show me where in Genesis Adam “enters into” a pact with God? Did he agree to it? Could he have refused the pact? Just curious.

  75. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    If there was an agreement, then Adam obviously agreed to it, since he suffered the penalty for breaking the terms of it. The commands listed in Gen 2:16-17 are indicative in my mind for the legitimacy of speaking this way. I refer you to Turretin, vol 1, pp. 575-576 for specific proofs.

  76. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Lane said, “If there was an agreement…”

    Lane, that is what I’m asking. Where is this agreement of which you speak? It’s not in the text.

  77. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Lane,

    Adam was created in a covenant relationship. He opened his eyes to find himself already abiding in it. He didn’t enter into anything. Nowhere do we see him signing a contract with God, or agreeing on something. I’m just not sure where you’re getting that.

  78. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    The fact of the commands in 2:16-17 indicate that something started there. I would argue that it is a covenantal stipulation. Read Turretin.

  79. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Nobody is disputing that, so there is no need to argue that. We do indeed see God laying down a condition in Gen 2:16-17, but we don’t see Adam *agreeing* to it.

    I’ve asked you to show me exegetical where we see Adam agreeing to a pact and you simply tell me to go read Turretin? Unbelievable…

  80. John said,

    February 28, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Re. Comment 73: So you’re affirming, then, that Smith is correct and that we actually merit the rewards we receive. Would you be in basic agreement with a statement like this:

    If “merit” is understood as a purely economic term,
    then to speak of anyone meriting honors from God
    is untrue and offensive. But if we consider merit
    in a familial sense, it is as natural as an
    inheritance, or an allowance. In other words, as
    children in God’s family, we merit grace as a child
    earns dessert — by eating everything on his plate.
    What father begrudges his kids the gifts he gives
    them? Or resents those whom he rewards? As Saint
    Augustine wrote, “When God rewards us for our labors,
    He is only crowning His work in us.”

    Or this:

    Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace
    in the divine nature, can bestow true merit
    on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice.
    This is our right by grace, the full right of love,
    making us “co-heirs” with Christ.

    Or this:

    Christ has merited our capacity to merit — which
    He confers on us with the grace of His divine
    Sonship and the life of His Spirit.

    I’m playing with you a bit. The first and third quotation are from Scott Hahn’s Hail, Holy Queen. The second is from the new Catholic Catechism.

    Seriously, though, I was interested to see that Hahn affirms merit, not in a strict economic sense, but (apparently only) in a familial sense: you enter the family by grace, he’s saying, and by grace God gives you the power, within the context of family love, to merit rewards, like dessert after a meal, which is merited simply by properly receiving and using the previous gift of dinner.

    I honestly have a hard time distinguishing that from what you’re saying about merit de pacto, though there’s doubtless other stuff Hahn isn’t saying here which might make that distinction clearer.

    I’d add, though, that the Heidelberg Catechism appears to rule out what you and Smith are affirming about us meriting (de pacto) our rewards.

    Q. 63. But do our good works earn nothing, even though God promises to reward them in this life and the next?
    A. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.

    Here, the context is not justification or salvation; it’s reward. And the HC rules out any idea that we might merit the rewards we receive. Do you take that to be referring only to a certain type of merit and not to merit de pacto?

  81. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Stewart, why do I have to duplicate Turretin, when his argument is what I would say anyway? You’re the one who is unbelievable. I would be willing to bet any amount of money that you won’t read him. But your position wouldn’t seem quite so tenable if you read these post-reformation dogmaticians.

    To John, the HC still calls it a reward. I agree perfectly with Q. 63. Look at the Timothy proof-text, and you will see that the context there is Paul saying that he has fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, and God will give to him the crown of righteousness. It is reward, and it is grace. But the categories are not nearly the same for this as they are for salvation. That is the problem with the RCC quotes you provide: there is no distinction between salvation and “extra” rewards.

  82. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    And the context of Q 62 does indicate that the context is salvation.

  83. Todd said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    “I would be willing to bet any amount of money that you won’t read him.”

    I’ll take that bet. $5,000. Stewart, read it and I’ll give you half.

  84. John said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Re. the Heidelberg Catechism:

    Lane, I grant that the HC speaks of a “reward.” What it denies, however, is what you have affirmed, namely, that these rewards (and again, salvation is NOT the reward in view) are merited or earned.

    Isn’t it possible to have an unmerited/unearned reward? Surely that’s what an inheritance is, isn’t it? And that’s what the HC is affirming: Our rewards are gifts of God’s grace, God crowning His works in us (to borrow from Augustine), not something we merit.

    As for your comment # 82, I grant that the context is talking about salvation. The argument of Q&A 63, however, is this: “You’ve been saying that we can’t merit anything in connection with salvation. Well, then, if that’s really true, what about our rewards? Don’t we earn them?” And the answer is “Nope. They aren’t merited either.” The HC wants to close the door on the thought that we merit either our salvation or the rewards that we receive.

  85. David McCrory said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Someone named T.E. Wilder posted this over on the Puritanboard. I thought is was a rather interesting take:

    “Instead of having shadow and fulfillment on the axis of time with the work of Christ being shadowed (past) and fulfilled (afterwards), you have an upper story/lower story with the axis being vertical, with symbols in creation and the realities in heaven. What this does is promote static theologies, favoring monocovenantalism with its covenant leveling.

    Then once you flatten out covenant change, then you need to explain all the change language in the Bible some other way. That is what the New Perspectives on Paul is about. It gives an alternative way of explaining covenant change as simply an inclusiveness that allows the gentiles to join together with the removal of the excluding covenant boundaries markers.

    Also, this upper story/lower story typology axis promotes ritualism. If the typology is not about the foreshadowing of future realities, which are now accomplished and so the role the types if finished, but is instead an imaging in creation of the permanent things above, the representational role of the types and symbols of the things above remains. And so the types and symbold continue to do what they always did and the ritual use of them is permanently valid, and must be recovered in worship today.

    That is why Federal Vision theology of worship turns on such things recapitulating the Tabernacle. That it was it takes the form of Covenant Renewal services. Now, Klinites like the people at Westminster Seminary California like this Federal Vision worship, and so we get a strange idea about the Federal Vision from them that it is only the derivative doctrines, such as the recasting of justification, that are the bad FV stuff. But it really starts here with symbol and ritual.The Federal Vision people have not done much more than take elements that were already around in the OPC and put them together in new ways:

    1) Attack on the covenant of works because the language is not in Genesis: John Murray
    2) Attack on the visible/invisible church distinction because the language is not that of the Bible: John Murray
    3) A generalized playing off of the language of the Bible against the ideas of the Bible as organized in the Confessions: this is an extension by Norman Shepherd of what Murray started.
    4) Playing up paradox in theology, so that logical contradictions to the Confessions are a mark of truth: Van Til
    5) Engaging in typically Arminian exegesis of Biblical passages to promote the contradiction and paradox: Van Til
    6) Conflating faith and works: Van Til
    7) A vertical axis typology and wild symbolic theology: Meredith Kline.

    What the Federal Vision did was push these pieces around together with some other old ideas from Dutch Reformed churches until they started to work as a new system, much like those Trasformer toys that change between trucks and robots.The Federal Vision is the legitimate firstborn child of the OPC, and its deviant theologies that have been tolerated throughout the entire existence of the denomination.”

    Thoughts?

  86. John said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    In other words, I still think the HC excludes your position and that of Morton Smith. Not that you’re bound by the HC, since you’re not in a Three Forms of Unity church. =)

  87. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Lane, so Turretin will attempt to prove in vol. 1, pp. 575-576 that Adam *verbally agreed* to a pact with God other than the one in which he was already created, even though the text of Genesis doesn’t mention it? Could you give me other theologians that make this argument? Is Turretin the only one who argues this? Also, would you say that those who reject this are in serious error? What are the implications if one denies the existence of this verbal agreement?

  88. Stewart said,

    March 1, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Lane,

    Are you planning on responding to John Barach’s comments in #84? Also, I’d like you take on the DeGraaf quote John has posted here

  89. Andy Gilman said,

    March 1, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    With regard to John Barach’s comments in #33, Rich Lusk’s response to Morton Smith’s claim that “there is a meriting aspect of these works,” on page 146 (lines 964 and 965) he says:

    “Though Dr. Smith softened his written comments at the colloquium, I am still concerned that positing a meritorious covenant of works inescapably leads down this kind of path.”

    It would seem, from Lusk’s comment, that Smith must have clarified (softened?) this statement in such a way that Lusk no longer thought it necessary to press that point. Maybe Mr. Lusk could explain what he meant when he said that Dr. Smith “softened his written comments.”

  90. Fowler White said,

    March 1, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Hi, John. On your #33: someone has called my attention to Calvin’s Institutes, 3.17.3.


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