The OPC Report on Republication, Part 3

This post will take us to the end of the introduction section of the report. In this section, the committee writes to distinguish between a more general works principle, and a more narrow works principle.

The more general works principle is defined thus: “Broadly defined, a works principle is merely communicating obligations with sanctions.” They take care to distance this term from the Old Testament scholarship’s definition of retribution theology, a la Koch. They say unequivocally that there is at least an echo of a works principle in the Mosaic covenant. Equally clearly, however, they assert that salvation is by grace through faith in the Mosaic covenant. How these two ideas are both true will, I’m sure, be seen in the rest of the report. The works principle in view has a great deal to do with Jesus’ person and work. This principle helps us understand how it is that Adam failed to attain the glorified state, whereas Jesus attained it.

The more specific sense of a works principle has to do with external blessings. Writers (like Kline) who talk in this way are separating the idea entirely from a works salvation view, and are instead tying it (typologically, in Kline’s case) to the pactum salutis, the eternal intra-Trinitarian covenant, as well as the accomplishment of salvation in history.

Some thoughts on the progress so far: 1. Starting with definitions is a very helpful way to proceed, especially in a thorny area of theology, and also given how much misunderstanding there has been in the discussion. 2. As I have already noted, the tone is one of light, not heat. This is so essential to any kind of understanding, that I will keep reiterating it as I go along, especially because this is a blog, and blogs have not always been known for preserving light instead of heat.

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1 Comment

  1. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    I was very grateful for these two paragraphs:

    Broadly defined, a works principle is merely communicating obligations with sanctions. Such a principle is seen clearly in the covenant of works (Gen 2:16–17). This principle, or something like it, has also been observed in the Mosaic covenant. As Geerhardus Vos stated, “The covenant with Israel served in an emphatic manner to recall the strict demands of the covenant of works.” … If the Mosaic law does introduce a works principle, it has direct application to the merit and ministry of Christ our Savior. We can say with confidence that the law was necessary for introducing a works principle that Christ would fulfill.

    I have not often heard anti-Klineans admit to any works principle in the Mosaic Covenant, and I hope that these words from the committee can help make that idea more broadly acceptable outside the pro-/anti-Kline debate.


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