The OPC Report on Republication, Part 1

The idea that the covenant of works has, in some sense, been republished in the Mosaic economy is an idea that has recently generated much more heat than light. On the one hand, proponents have not always been very clear in their presentations of the idea. It is a highly complex issue, requiring a great deal of nuance in order to avoid problems. On the other hand, critics have become so polarized against any form of republication (in reaction to some of the more extreme formulations) that all forms of the idea have sometimes been drawn and quartered as heretical. Surely there is room for a more sober analysis! We have it in the OPC report. I plan on blogging my way through this report in the next few weeks, and hopefully help shed some light on this complex series of ideas. Of the “Mandate” section, we will cover just the first two sections today.

A salutary emphasis of this report is on careful exegesis, cautious statements, and accuracy of expression. The report commences with a discussion of its mandate. The OPC has been troubled by these questions, particularly in the Presbytery of the Northwest. In other words, this issue arose in the church courts. It is not simply an academic question. It is an issue affecting the purity, peace, and unity of the church.

Republication is an enormously complex issue, and the nature of the Mosaic economy one of the most difficult Old Testament concepts to address. This the writers of the report acknowledge often. It is also an issue about which Reformed theologians have disagreed. Hodge favored a national covenant view of republication, while Murray rejected any form of republication. This ought to make us extremely cautious about our conclusions, as well as extremely charitable concerning those with whom we disagree. To jump to the conclusion of the report, some forms of republication are consistent with the Westminster Standards. Therefore, great precision, patience, and charity must characterize any discussion of these things. More light, folks, not more heat.



  1. Dave Sarafolean said,

    January 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Am looking forward to your comments. I have downloaded the report but have been unable to carve out the time to read it in its entirety.

  2. January 11, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    The view that bears the closest resemblance in Reformed history to Kline is that of the “Subservient Covenant View”. This view was rejected by the Westminster Assembly.

    Here are where the Subservient view is simliar and different to Kline’s view.

    As to where they Agree:
    1. The way of eternal salvation has been the same throughout the history of redemption, that is, by means of the Covenant of Grace.
    2. The blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant refer to temporal blessings in the land of Canaan.
    3. The Mosaic Covenant is distinct from the Abrahamic and New Covenants.
    4. The Mosaic Covenant is distinct from the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
    5. The condition of the Mosaic Covenant is works apart from faith in Christ.
    6. The Mosaic Covenant was designed to lead people to Christ by exposing their sin.

    As to where they Disagree:
    1. For the Subservient Covenant view, the condition of the Mosaic Covenant was perfect obedience whereas for Kline, less than perfect obedience was acceptable to obtain the blessings.
    2. Kline teaches that the righteousness of Israel in the Mosaic Covenant was typical of Christ’s righteousness whereas the Subservient Covenant view does not teach this at all.

  3. Ron said,

    January 11, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    I’ll get to this one of these days, but not in great detail anytime soon. It’ll be interesting though to see how much substantial middle ground they found since *at very best* Kline abandoned common theological language *if* his Mosaic construct is reconcilable with the Abrahamic covenant and the CoG. But that’s usually the seed problem, isn’t? Let’s employ contrary terms with qualification upon qualification in order to remain, or appear, orthodox. Then after all the nuances are forgotten all that’s left is the plain meaning of traditionally defined terms that communicate heterodoxy. I’m convinced that’s one way in which error is smuggled into the church. FV, I think, got its footing that way. Equivocation, even when unintentional, can be dangerous.

  4. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    The committee was erected in response to a request from OPC’s PNW Presbytery. Is that Presbytery similar to the PCA’s PNW in theological bent?

  5. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    @ Andrew: To expand on your Disagreement #2, because Kline is viewing the works principle as typological, it therefore also is accidental and not substantial.

    Thus chap 8 in the report:

    A guide for understanding Kline, borne out by a careful reading of his entire corpus, is that his biblical theology of the covenant of grace does not undergo any substantial alteration. Rather, from his earliest works up until his final work, a basic point of continuity emerges.

    The point is that while the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are essentially distinct administrations of the one covenant of grace, both have a typological feature that enshrines a works principle within them.

    So whereas the subservient view really has two distinct covenants of substance, Kline has one with a complicated administration thereof.

    So I would add Disagreement 3

    * Whereas the subservient covenant view holds the Mosaic covenant as a distinct covenant (cf Cameron, “Three-Fold Covenant”), Kline holds the Mosaic covenant as a distinct administration of the covenant of grace:

    The Old Covenant order, [Israel’s] by national election, was one of highest historical privilege. And while a works principle was operative both in the grant of the kingdom to Abraham and in the meting out of typological kingdom blessings to the nation of Israel, the arrangement as a whole was a gracious favor to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal. The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace, designed to further the purpose and program of the gospel.

    — God, Grace, and Har-Magedon

    (also as the report brings out).

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