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The Law Is Not of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant Paperback – January 12, 2009
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"Here is a serious and compelling summons to realign ourselves with both Scripture and, as it turns out, the Christianity of the Reformation, on an issue central to the church's current struggle over the meaning of justification by grace alone through faith alone. I commend this fine book for its courage, insight, wisdom, and biblical faithfulness." --David F. Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"This provocative volume makes a historical and biblical-theological case for understanding of the Mosaic administration in the covenant of grace as in some sense a 'republished' covenant of works, which teaches that only perfect obedience to the requirements of the law is sufficient to secure the covenant promise of life in communion with God. The authors ably refute recent attacks upon the classic Reformed understanding of the grace of free justification on the basis of the entire obedience and sacrifice of Christ alone. Though I am not persuaded by every formulation here, this volume deserves the careful attention of anyone who prizes the biblical teaching that the believer's justification rests not on any works of his own, but solely on the full obedience of Christ." --Cornelis Venema, President and Professor of Doctrinal Studies, Mid-America Reformed Seminary
"The debate about 'republication' and our Lord's active obedience is not a mere esoteric squabble of the academy. The life of the church, daily Christian discipleship, and our reading of Holy Scripture are directly affected by it. These essays sketch a history of the subject, examine key biblical material, and explore important theological and ethical implications, while insisting that the Christian life remain one of obedience to God's law. Presenting overwhelming evidence that the covenant of works republished at Sinai is Biblical teaching, the authors also treat differences in Reformed understandings in a respectful and non-condemnatory manner." --John Bolt, Professor of Systematic Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary
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The book is divided into three main parts: 1) Historical studies, 2) Biblical studies, and 3) Theological studies. Each part has essays that discuss the above mentioned topics. The longest part is the middle one - biblical studies. This part of the book really is the meat - the authors exegete and explain various texts that have to do with law, covenants, and justification (i.e. Lev. 18:5, Hos. 6:7, Rom. 10:5, Gal 5:1-6, etc.). Though detailed, the middle part was a good one.
I also very much appreciated two of the essays in part one (historical studies) - namely, the essay on Calvin and Witsius' understanding of the Mosaic Covenant and the essay that summarized different Reformed views on the Mosaic Covenant. Those chapters are very helpful in understanding the Mosaic covenant from a Reformed perspective.
As with all books that are collections of essays, not everything is discussed and it doesn't flow like a book with one or two authors. However, this book is a great contribution to confessional Reformed studies - specifically in the area of covenant theology. Even if one doesn't agree with every aspect of the book, it will lead readers to Scripture (primarily) and the Confessions (secondarily). Recommended.
For those who are a little alarmed by this perspective on the covenants, nonetheless take a look: the contributors discuss the many facets, fulfillments, and extensions of the biblical covenants and their inter-relation and dependence upon the covenant of works.
If you agree or not, "The Law is Not of Faith" is an: educational, cerebral, superb presentation.
Whereas many will not come to full agreement on the minutia of implications regarding the correct affirmations, let us always confess:
WCF 7: 1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.
2. 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.
3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.
4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.
5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.
6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.
There Are Moral Absolutes: How to Be Absolutely Sure That Christianity Alone Supplies
For example, Chapter 6 is solely devoted to examining one verse, Hosea 6:7, trying to see if Hosea 6:7 provides support for the existence of a "Covenant of Works" (and is the longest chapter in the entire book). Yet look at these frank admissions made in this Chapter:
PAGE 170 (Opening page of chapter):
"Does Israel's prophetic literature support the republication thesis? ... ... Hosea 6:7 is *PERHAPS* the great exception, and is *PERHAPS* the only Old Testament text that explicitly connects the person of Adam to the biblical covenants."
PAGE 209 (Concluding page of chapter):
"Hosea 6:7 thus provides PERHAPS UNEXPECTED SUPPORT for the `republication' thesis."
Is that the kind admission and language of a well supported thesis? Not at all, and throughout the chapter the author repeatedly admits there are various plausible interpretations. If *that* is the "strongest" proof for a Covenant of Works and Republication, then we should rightly reject that doctrine and thesis. Also, the very TITLE of Chapter 6 was "Hosea 6:7 and Covenant Breaking like/at Adam," with the backslash (/) included in the title and every page of the Chapter. The backslash is there because the author admits (as does many scholars he quotes) that the verse likely means a location site called "hadam", not the name of a person "Adam" from Eden.
My favorite chapter in the entire book was Chapter 8, "Abraham and Sinia Contrasted in Galatians 3:6-14." I enjoyed this chapter because I largely agreed with its arguments - but the ironic thing is that the arguments and thesis of this chapter actually undermine and even refute the Book's main thesis of Covenant of Works and Republication. Consider the following astonishing admission.
"Few contributions to Pauline studies in the last several decades are more important than THE NOW WIDELY RECOGNIZED lexical reality that for Paul, [ho nomos, 'the law'] means `the Sinai covenant' far more consistently than it means anything else. As DOUGLASS MOO has said: `What is VITAL for any accurate understanding of Paul's doctrine of law is to realize that PAUL USES NOMOS [LAW] MOST OFTEN AND MOST BASICALLY OF THE MOSAIC LAW.` That is, Paul uses the term VERY DIFFERENTLY THAN THE TERM LATER CAME TO BE USED in Christian theology, ORDINARILY to denote something like Gods's demand. Again, Moo is right to correct this notion: `As we have seen, THE REFORMERS, AS MOST THEOLOGIANS TODAY, use `law' to mean anything that demands something of us. In this sense, `law' is a basic factor in all human history; and man is in every age, whether in the OT or NT, confronted with `law.' What is crucial to recognize is that THIS IS NOT the way in which Paul usually uses the term nomos.'"
Consider what was admitted by these scholars: the term "law" (nomos) for Paul almost exclusively means "Mosaic Law," and does *not* mean what the Reformers and most Theologians came to define "law" as, specifically a universal standard of what man must do, which is essentially the concept encapsulated in the BOOK THESIS about a "Covenant of Works". In other words, when Paul spoke of the "law" and "Gospel," he was not speaking of a Law-Gospel Distinction in the Reformed sense, nor speaking of a Covenant of Works. That's because "law" means Mosaic Law, not Republication of Covenant of Works or anything close.
Some other comments worth making:
(1) The first 100 pages (i.e. 1/3 of the book) were of a historical nature, tracing the history of theologians who taught the Covenant of Works (and related concepts). The two points I would make here is that (a) nobody prior to the Reformers is quoted in support of this, and (b) with the impressive names listed from the Reformed tradition I was expecting some 'slam dunk' Biblical exegesis to support the Book's Thesis.
(2) The book, for the most part, was not concise and there was a lot of special pleading. The prime example is the one I gave earlier, where the longest chapter of the book was spent analyzing Hosea 6:7 and yet the author admitted the evidence was hardly conclusive for his thesis. Also, THROUGHOUT the book the authors quote various scholars while in the same breath the authors often freely disagree and reject those scholars' arguments at will. It's not that there is something wrong with disagreeing, only when one disagrees without basis, especially when an opposing scholarly viewpoint has equal if not greater merit.
(3) Many of the exegetical arguments in other Chapters contradict the repeatedly admitted fact that "law" in Paul almost always means "Mosaic Law," not something else (as quoted earlier). A clear example (of MANY) of this special pleading and contradiction is when Dr Waters on PAGE 225-6 says:
"It is this law (nomos)-the MORAL LAW-of which Paul speaks in Romans 2:12-16. Because Paul invokes a "law righteousness" pertaining to all kinds of people (Jew and Gentile) in Romans *10:5*, IT MUST BE THIS SAME [MORAL] LAW THAT HE HAS IN MIND THERE."
And on PAGE 237 WATERS "concludes" his examination of Romans *10:5* by saying that the person with faith "is freed from THE LAW AS A COVENANT OF WORKS because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ."
This is nothing but special pleading, seeking to prove what he's already convinced of but not sufficiently prove by any means. As I noted, these kind of arguments abound. As with many of the arguments, they take liberties to redefine Paul's term "law" to mean 'universal moral law', and even sneak other considerations in left and right.