Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry

Despite some criticisms of this book (by Doug Wilson, although he has also some positive things to say about it), I read the whole book with the greatest pleasure. In fact, there were times I had to put the book down and literally dance around the room in pure glee, because of a point made that undermined the various heresies floating around today in Reformed-dom. Buy the book. That is not a request. It is a command. What with this book and By Faith Alone, which is just about to hit the stalls, the FV and NPP will have a hard time in Reformed circles from now on.

I’m just going to hit a few of the high lights. All the essays were top-notch, in my opinion. And just because I am mentioning some essays and not others, does not mean I found the unmentioned ones unprofitable. I have underlining on just about every page (and I am spare with the pencil!).

First up: Iain Duguid’s outstanding critique of covenantal nomism from the perspective of the OT. If staying in the covenant (to use Sanders’s jargon) means works, then Israel would have been sunk countless times. Even if we grant (which I don’t) that NPP authors do not hold to a view of the OT like this, it at least proves that the 2TJ that Sanders describes has nothing to do with the OT.

Scott Clark points out why it is that we no longer define Reformed theology by the symbols of the 3FU and the WS: “Rather than identifying ourselves as Reformed and defining Reformed by the symbols, over time we identified ourselves as conservatives and came to regard our Reformed identity as just a subset of a broader antimodern reaction” (pg. 6).

David VanDrunen and Scott Clark point out the importance of the pactum salutis. It underlies all of covenant theology. This is a very similar point to that made in the White/Beisner article in By Faith Alone. In fact, it was extremely interesting to compare the two articles, which have quite a bit of overlap (though by no means superfluous: buy both books!).

Michael Horton has a footnote in his article that destroys the “works of the law” interpretation of the NPP: “If in Romans 2 the Jews are condemned for not fulfilling the works of the law, that can hardly fit circumcision, dietary laws, etc., which they did in fact keep scrupulously” (pg. 214, footnote 45).

Godfrey quotes Bavinck as saying that there is no difference between Calvin and Luther on justification (pg. 268). Amen.

I decided not to do with this book what I did with By Faith Alone, since CJPM is twice as long, and even Doug Wilson does not do each article justice. So I merely point out some of the many highlights in an effort to whet your appetite for this fantastic book. Buy it. that is not a request.

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Some New Books

A few new books to check out: Waltke’s new commentary on Micah; Dan Doriani’s new commentary on James; and Peter Barnes on Galatians. For information on new commentaries, note that D.A. Carson has a new edition of his commentary survey on NT commentaries; and Tremper Longman has a new edition of his commentary survey as well.

Mad Cow Disease, Egyptian Style

Exodus 9:1-7

In the fifth plague, God strikes the livestock of Egypt. However, as Numbers 33:4 tells us, God was also striking at the Egyptian gods. There were many gods and goddesses represented by various forms of livestock. Foremmost among them is Apis (pictured here), a bull-god who represented vitality and life (Currid, pg. 192). Currid also lists Buchis, Mneuis, Isis, Hathor, and even Ptah and Ra as gods and goddesses which were occasionaly, or even normally represented by various forms of livestock. It comes as no surprise then, when the Israelites first go astray in the wilderness, that their idolatry takes the form of a golden calf (Ryken, pg. 263). They were doing what they already knew: and Egyptian solution to their problems. Ryken also notes that Apis represented sexual prowess, and Hathor (a goddess) represented female glamor (pg. 264). We worship these same gods and goddesses today in our sex-crazed culture. They are empty of meaning, since they divorce sex from God and from relationship, and from its proper place in marriage.

Notice the addition of “God of the Hebrews,” a quick reminder to Pharaoh of the identity of the God whom he is fighting (Currid, pg. 191). This God of the Hebrews is ratcheting up the severity of the plagues in this fifth plague. Not only is it now an attack on life itself (Enns, pp. 215-216), but also it is now the hand of Yahweh, not just the finger (as in 8:19), which is involved (Currid, pg. 192). This, of course, does not imply that Yahweh had to use any more effort to strike the Egyptians. Rather, it means that the severity of the plague is increasing. Lastly, the plague is just as heavy as Pharaoh’s heart. The word used in verse 3 is the same as that used to describe Pharaoh’s heart: the punishment fits the crime (Currid, pg. 193).

One difficulty this text raises is the identity of the “all” in verse 6: did every last one of the Egyptian livestock die? If they did, then how could there be any livestock to suffer in the plague of hail, which Scripture plainly says there were (9:19)? I like Currid’s and Ryken’s explanation the best. Currid notes that the word “all” can often mean “all kinds” of livestock, rather than every single one. Furthermore, the livestock described here is specifically that of “the field” (verse 3): they had been put to pasture. Thus the livestock closer to home had not been affected.

Pharaoh notices that a distinction between Egypt and Israel has been made. He sends out his agricultural agents (though he will not send out the Israelites). The remarkable thing, as Durham notes, is that, although Pharaoh is faced with the knowledge of the Lord’s hand against him, but not against the Israelites, and has proof of such a distinction, he will still not give God the glory. This proves that it doesn’t matter how much evidence an unbeliever can face with regard to the claims of the Gospel: with an unbelieving heart, they will still reject such knowledge. May we not.