Denying the Covenant of Works

Status
Not open for further replies.

Goodcheer68

Puritan Board Sophomore
If one denies the COW and sees only a mono-covenant structure, what is/are the possible trajectories? I readily see that imputation(vital to the Gospel) is lost- Romans 5:19.That is pretty clear. But can it lead to either antinomianism or neonomianism? It seems that it would conflate the Works/Grace principle which could lead to either one (anti or neo) depending on one's reading of certain verses. In other words I hear the FV talking about 'covenantal faithfulness' securing their justification, and then I listen to Ligon Duncan and he mentions that denying the COW leads to cheap grace. Anyone willing to elaborate on the trajectory of the denial of the COW?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Basically, I think that you have hit the nail on the head, Patrick. Denying that there is a covenant of works in distinction from the covenant of grace tends to lead either to Legalism or Antinomianism. The imputed righteousness of Christ, justification by faith alone, the law-gospel distinction, and orthodox notions of sanctification and good works are all contingent on accurately understanding the differences between the covenants of works and grace. The covenant of works is one of the key pillars of the Reformed faith. Overturn it and the whole superstructure will collapse.

If anyone denies the covenant of works, no matter how orthodox they might otherwise appear, they are to be marked and avoided in the sense that they ought never to be admitted to church office. In fact, they ought not to be admitted to the sacraments until they confess and forsake their gross error. This issue is not a minor one. If you follow the logic of mono-covenantalism through to its logical conclusion, you will abandon the gospel.

The fact that so many otherwise conservative Reformed denominations decided to give certain prominent theologians a pass on this issue is testimony to their unfaithfulness. It is an example to be lamented and avoided, not one to be imitated. The soul-killing effects of the Federal Vision, which, as you point out, are the (il)logical conclusion of denying the covenant of works are a warning from God that mono-covenantalism needs to be confined to the dustbin of theological history.
 

Post Tenebras

Puritan Board Freshman
I wrestle with this. I do not find the Covenant of Works perspicuous in scripture and every defense of the CoW I encounter is built upon the confessions more than upon the Bible. (Yes, I know the confessions simply summarize biblical doctrine.)

Providentially, just yesterday, this message by a local Anglican priest caught my attention. He exposits Deuteronomy and Galatians, and cites Rushdoony, and I do not find fault in his thesis that the CoW is a myth.

https://youtu.be/SmEbS0Tz0rY
 

Chad Hutson

Puritan Board Freshman
Leaving the inter-Reformed CoW argument aside, I can speak to the issue of denying the CoW among the non-Reformed. Without an understanding of the covenant relationship between God and Adam in the garden, focus shifts to the Old/Mosaic covenant. Seeking to explain the difference between works and grace, they point exclusively to the Law rather than to Adam. The result is an unnecessary disparaging of the Law of God or outright antinomianism. They fail to see the grace of each covenant of God from Gen 3:15, through Noah, Abraham, David, etc. They see little connection between them at all. In my opinion, a proper explanation of CoW on one hand and all the manifestations of the CoG on the other, balanced on the fulcrum of Gen 3:15 is essential for understanding the privilege of the New Covenant.
To the point(s) made in the OP, I agree with your assessment.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I wrestle with this. I do not find the Covenant of Works perspicuous in scripture and every defense of the CoW I encounter is built upon the confessions more than upon the Bible. (Yes, I know the confessions simply summarize biblical doctrine.)

Providentially, just yesterday, this message by a local Anglican priest caught my attention. He exposits Deuteronomy and Galatians, and cites Rushdoony, and I do not find fault in his thesis that the CoW is a myth.

So why do you have "WCF" in your signature when you dare to reject this precious biblical and confessional doctrine as a myth? Seriously, anyone who thinks that defences of the covenant of works are based more on the confession than on scripture needs to read more and talk less.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
The Covenant of Works is based on the following BIBLICAL considerations.

1. Genesis 2:15-17. The purpose for God's placement of humanity in the Garden of Eden is to work the garden and to guard it (the word is associated with priestly guarding of the temple from unclean intruders). Adam and Eve were supposed to guard the Garden from, say, Satanic intruders. Secondly, the terms of verses 16-17 indicate both the negative terms (don't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), and the corresponding positive terms (eat from all the other trees). The consequences are clear as well: eat from the TKGE, and they will die. Implied in that statement is that obedience will result in life.

The next step is 1 Corinthians 15, which implies, via vv. 44b-45 that Adam's body implied a future glorified state, a body better than the original. Paul changes the contrast between vs 44a and 44b. In the first part of the verse, the contrast is between the post-Fall buried body, on the one hand, with the glorified resurrected body on the other. In verse 44b, the contrast broadens to include the pre-Fall body of Adam in contrast to the glorified resurrected body. This is indicated by the quotation of the pre-Fall Genesis 2:7 immediately following, whereas 44a talking about the post-Fall body is evident from the fact that it dies and is buried. The implications for the CoW are these: the state of Adam in the Garden of Eden pointed forward to a glorified state that was obtainable for him. From this it follows that obedience would have resulted in the glorified state. Hence Vos's statement that eschatology logically precedes soteriology. The CoW held out to Adam the promise of the glorified state, not just a continuance of what he already had.

The next passage that bears on the question is Hosea 6:7. Although there are a variety of translations possible of this verse, the ESV gets it right: "But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me." On the proper exposition of the passage, see the article on it in the Shorter Writings of Warfield. The text claims that there was a covenant with Adam before the Fall, and that all those who are not part of the covenant of grace are transgressors of the covenant of works. The reason why it is called the covenant of works is that obedience (obedience to Genesis 2:15's reason for humanity being in the Garden and to the negative prohibition of 2:16) would have resulted in the glorified state Paul says Adam was looking forward to.

This proves the existence of the Covenant of Works without one reference to confessional material. I suggest, Scott, that you seriously revise your opinion, and do a LOT more studying. We do not tolerate rejection of the CoW on this discussion board.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The CoW held out to Adam the promise of the glorified state, not just a continuance of what he already had.

While I agree with this statement, to be absolutely fair and honest, we must recognise that this point was disputed among confessional divines. Some held that the reward of the covenant of works was eternal earthly life, while others (correctly, in my view) held that it was eternal heavenly life. Either way, they affirmed that life was the reward for perfect obedience.
 

Goodcheer68

Puritan Board Sophomore
wrestle with this. I do not find the Covenant of Works perspicuous in scripture and every defense of the CoW I encounter is built upon the confessions more than upon the Bible. (Yes, I know the confessions simply summarize biblical doctrine.)

Providentially, just yesterday, this message by a local Anglican priest caught my attention. He exposits Deuteronomy and Galatians, and cites Rushdoony, and I do not find fault in his thesis that the CoW is a myth.
I’m not looking for a debate on the COW in this post but asking what we lose if we deny it. Thanks
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Patrick, I think Wilhelmus a'Brakel says it as well as anyone:

Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well (The Christian's Reasonable Service, volume 1, p. 355).​
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
Patrick, I think Wilhelmus a'Brakel says it as well as anyone:

Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well (The Christian's Reasonable Service, volume 1, p. 355).​

I was going to post the same quote! Well done, sir.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
If you underemphasize or overemphasize the CoW, you get a lot of things wrong.

See the errors of FV or Klineanism (for Presbyterians).
 

Post Tenebras

Puritan Board Freshman
So why do you have "WCF" in your signature when you dare to reject this precious biblical and confessional doctrine as a myth? Seriously, anyone who thinks that defences of the covenant of works are based more on the confession than on scripture needs to read more and talk less.

Thank you for this. I forgot the biblical command that only people with 100% perfect theology, fully aligned with the confessions, are allowed to speak and that all believers with any doubts must remain silent.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well
When you reject the covenant of works, your covenant of grace becomes a covenant of works.
I have been thinking of this issue with regard to the FV. I understand in the FV the covenant of grace becomes a covenant of works. Is that correct? Can someone expand?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
The FV results in golawspel, a mixing of law and gospel. They usually say that there is only one covenant ever, both before and after the Fall. Folk like James Jordan will claim that Adam would only have matured in the position he already had, and that Adam and Eve would not have obtained any further state by the instrumentation of obedience, but by faith, which is redefined as faithfulness. Consequently, when it comes to the work of Christ, there is a denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, but not for the same reasons as Gataker, Twisse, and Vines did at the Westminster Assembly (following Piscator), but for the purpose of claiming that Christ was justified by faith-faithfulness just like we are.
 

Goodcheer68

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thank you for this. I forgot the biblical command that only people with 100% perfect theology, fully aligned with the confessions, are allowed to speak and that all believers with any doubts must remain silent.
This is a confessional board so it should come as no surprise, especially when you state you subscribe to the WCF, that when you out right deny and mock a position that is held you are going to get pushback and rightly so. I ask unless you can add to the OP, which I will be all ears, please refrain from posting in this thread. It’s not helpful
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Another way to look at denying the CoW. It functions as a sort of "grammar" for doing theology. Change that grammar and you change a lot.
 

Goodcheer68

Puritan Board Sophomore
Patrick, I think Wilhelmus a'Brakel says it as well as anyone:

Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well (The Christian's Reasonable Service, volume 1, p. 355).

I should have known you would post that quote:). I think in another thread I was reading on the COW you posted that. Its a good quote. I actually have a' Brakel and enjoy his treatment on this subject.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Thank you for this. I forgot the biblical command that only people with 100% perfect theology, fully aligned with the confessions, are allowed to speak and that all believers with any doubts must remain silent.

Scott, you are walking on very thin ice here. First of all, no one on this board believes they have a perfect theology. Second, as has been mentioned, this is a confessional board. If a person has a genuine question about something in the confessions as a sort of newbie, we have a forum for it called the Wading Pool. Of course, that is for people genuinely wanting to learn, not mock the confessional standards and try to divorce them from their Scriptural underpinnings. When you applied for membership to this board, you agreed not to advocate unconfessional views. That is a box you have to click to join this board. We take that commitment seriously. A confessional board means that we believe here that the 3FU and the WS, as well as the LBC offer Scriptural summaries of biblical teaching. Your level of snark at the teachings of the church is unbecoming as well. If a person wanted to say, "You know, I hold to the confessions, but I have this particular question about this teaching," and they phrase it in a way that showed they were genuinely wanting to learn, they wouldn't get any pushback on that. It happens all the time. That is quite different from what you're doing.
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
I wrestle with this. I do not find the Covenant of Works perspicuous in scripture and every defense of the CoW I encounter is built upon the confessions more than upon the Bible. (Yes, I know the confessions simply summarize biblical doctrine.)

Providentially, just yesterday, this message by a local Anglican priest caught my attention. He exposits Deuteronomy and Galatians, and cites Rushdoony, and I do not find fault in his thesis that the CoW is a myth.

I would suggest you do some serious reading and praying on this doctrine. It is no small matter to deny the CoW and call it a "myth." You will find linked some resources on this most foundational doctrine

Berkhof The Scriptural foundation of the Covenant of Works
https://www.monergism.com/scriptural-foundation-covenant-works

John Brown of Haddington on the Covenant of Works
https://www.monergism.com/covenant-works-0

John Colquhoun - The Covenant of Works
https://books.google.com/books?id=Z...ce=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Ligon Duncan's RTS Covenant Theology lecture on the Covenant of Works
https://subsplash.com/reformtheosem/lb/mi/+1489306

Thomas Watson on the Covenant of Works
https://www.monergism.com/covenant-works-0

I trust if prayerfully read, you will forgo such erroneous notions that the CoW is a "myth." I say that with due respect for you and for the integrity of the historic Reformed confessions.

I’m not looking for a debate on the COW in this post but asking what we lose if we deny it. Thanks

Please forgive me, OP. I know you do not want this thread to debate whether the CoW exists, as that should be a given for members of the Puritan Board.
 
Last edited:

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
If you underemphasize or overemphasize the CoW, you get a lot of things wrong.

See the errors of FV or Klineanism (for Presbyterians).
Can you expand on the later part of your last statement, specific to Kline. I'm sincerely not really familiar and would like to know, thanks!
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Can you expand on the later part of your last statement, specific to Kline. I'm sincerely not really familiar and would like to know, thanks!

Sure.

FV underemphasizes the CoW by removing it completely. Klineanism is an overreaction to FV in which Kline, et. al., overemphasize the CoW which leads to all sorts of craziness with application towards the Mosaic Covenant. This leads to aspects of antinominism in Kline's followers (though it differs depending on who you talk to). Kline & Co. would generally deny WCF 7.1 as well. Namely, "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."

They believe that man was under the CoW by virtue of their being created. This is wrong.

Those logically consistent with Kline's views will be antinomians though. A perfect example of one who is logically consistent is Lee Irons.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Sure.

FV underemphasizes the CoW by removing it completely. Klineanism is an overreaction to FV in which Kline, et. al., overemphasize the CoW which leads to all sorts of craziness with application towards the Mosaic Covenant. This leads to aspects of antinominism in Kline's followers (though it differs depending on who you talk to). Kline & Co. would generally deny WCF 7.1 as well. Namely, "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."

They believe that man was under the CoW by virtue of their being created. This is wrong.

Those logically consistent with Kline's views will be antinomians though. A perfect example of one who is logically consistent is Lee Irons.
May what you are explaining be seen as a type of easy believism in which fruit inspection is lacking in the life of the confessing Christian. I don’t mean to over simplify or stereotype, I’m just trying to get a handle on what this could look like, thanks! I’m wondering if this could be a greater problem then we even realize in our circles, short of falling into a mystical - legalistic understanding of these things.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Trying to work through this. How does overemphasizing the CoW lead to antinomianism? Could you connect the dots for me?

Somewhat difficult to explain actually and that's mostly to do with Kline himself and his inventive mind.

I guess I'd encourage you to learn more what he teaches like republicationism (which is key to understanding his different view on ethics) and his 'intrusion ethics'. Randy's website on this is pretty thorough: https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/

Where is Randy @PuritanCovenanter at anyway?

May what you are explaining be seen as a type of easy believism in which fruit inspection is lacking in the life of the confessing Christian. I don’t mean to over simplify or stereotype, I’m just trying to get a handle on what this could look like, thanks! I’m wondering if this could be a greater problem then we even realize in our circles, short of falling into a mystical - legalistic understanding of these things.

No, not easy believism. That's more just an error of evangelicalism. To summarize, for me, Kline et al (speaking in generalities), I'd say it is New Covenant Theology in reformed language.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Kline & Co. would generally deny WCF 7.1 as well. Namely, "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."

They believe that man was under the CoW by virtue of their being created. This is wrong.

Those logically consistent with Kline's views will be antinomians though.

Are you saying this is almost as if we are not owning our own inherent sin, our utter total depravity before God... that we are not so estranged on a personal (spiritual) level? I guess I’m maybe not following.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Somewhat difficult to explain actually and that's mostly to do with Kline himself and his inventive mind.

I guess I'd encourage you to learn more what he teaches like republicationism (which is key to understanding his different view on ethics) and his 'intrusion ethics'. Randy's website on this is pretty thorough: https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/

Where is Randy @PuritanCovenanter at anyway?



No, not easy believism. That's more just an error of evangelicalism. To summarize, for me, Kline et al (speaking in generalities), I'd say it is New Covenant Theology in reformed language.

ok, I understand. Thanks!
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Genesis 2:15-17. The purpose for God's placement of humanity in the Garden of Eden is to work the garden and to guard it (the word is associated with priestly guarding of the temple from unclean intruders). Adam and Eve were supposed to guard the Garden from, say, Satanic intruders.
Great Vosian theme here :)
Consequently, when it comes to the work of Christ, there is a denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, but not for the same reasons as Gataker, Twisse, and Vines did at the Westminster Assembly (following Piscator), but for the purpose of claiming that Christ was justified by faith-faithfulness just like we are.
.
Just clarifying my earlier thought - thus in the FV this denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ basically has created a system whereby the covenant of works has become the covenant of grace. Thus it is a form of Richard Baxter's neonomianism?
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Klineanism is an overreaction to FV in which Kline, et. al., overemphasize the CoW which leads to all sorts of craziness with application towards the Mosaic Covenant. This leads to aspects of antinominism in Kline's followers (though it differs depending on who you talk to).
I think you make a good point here. I have read some 1689 Federalists who are rightly critical of the FV, but tend to show an imbalance re the Mosaic Covenant.
Kline & Co. would generally deny WCF 7.1
I should add that though I have my concerns with 1689 Federalism, I have not come across any of its advocates who deny WCF 7:1 (also 1689 Confession 7:1).
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top