Essential presupposition of covenant theology?

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steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I'm looking for THE essential presupposition that undergirds covenant theology from both the Reformed and Covenant baptist perspective.

NO lengthy tombes, arguments or discourses please! I do not intend for this to be a debate, unless you disagree with someone of your own same confession. What is the fundamental assumption that you bring to your understanding of covenant theology? Presuppositions are basically unproven axioms, so no point trying.

From what I understand from the Reformed position: there has always been ONE way in which God has viewed and dealt with his people and has not changed in all generations.

Covenantal Baptist: The cross of Christ (New Covenant) brings out a fundamental change in the way God views those whom he calls his.

Is this essentially correct? I think this needs more tweaking and boiling down, but I'm looking for the basic of the basic.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The Bible is the Book of the Covenant which started with the 10C and has grown ever since.

There is one promise with a number of covenantal administrations, the essence of the covenantal promise being, "I will be your God and you will be my people."

remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.(Eph 2:12, ESV)

"the covenants of promise" - notice "covenants" plural, "promise" singular.

This is expressed theologically by the one Covenant of Grace under different religious administrations.

There are basically three administrations
(a) Patriarchal -Adam to Moses.
(b) Mosaic -Moses to Christ.
(c) Christian - Christ to the Eschaton.

The fundamental teaching of the Bible re covenant theology is that the way of salvation is the same for everyone - faith in Christ - thus the post - Edenic covenants are essentially one.

Covenantal Baptist: The cross of Christ (New Covenant) brings out a fundamental change in the way God views those whom he calls his.

The fundamental change for the Baptist - or one of the changes - is that with Christ's death and resurrection adults who profess are included in the administration of the New Covenant but their children are excluded. In fact Baptists would say that even adults that are wrongly baptised aren't in the New Covenant in any sense.

Which is a bit strange. Why would God introduce such a change of this sort in the covenant administration at this stage when we are still in this world with families and children?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
This is expressed theologically by the one Covenant of Grace under different religious administrations.

There are basically three administrations
(a) Patriarchal -Adam to Moses.
(b) Mosaic -Moses to Christ.
(c) Christian - Christ to the Eschaton.

The fundamental teaching of the Bible re covenant theology is that the way of salvation is the same for everyone - faith in Christ - thus the post - Edenic covenants are essentially one.

Richard, according to this scheme, would you say that Pre-fall Adam and the Christian are ontologically the same?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
My presupposition: God's word is true. All of it is infused with covenant.

The historic reformed position starts with the covenant of works. In the last 100 years or so (time?) the covenant of redemption idea has taken hold and includes the time before creation when God chooses a people to glorify His Son forever. (I still feel like there are a lot of assumptions in this position). The covenant is further revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses and David and reaches its full fruition in Christ.
 

torstar

Puritan Board Sophomore
God laid down the Law.

You can attain salvation by living it perfectly, and if that is not going to be possible, God provides another way.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Richard, according to this scheme, would you say that Pre-fall Adam and the Christian are ontologically the same?

I'm taking about post-Fall Adam here in this quote below - and the protoevangelium as the first revelation of the CoG - as I'm talking about the three religious administrations or dispensations of the one CoG.
(a) Patriarchal -Adam to Moses.

Maybe my philosophical language is erroneous but wouldn't it be more correct to say that pre-fall and post-fall Adam were in ethically and spiritually different states/positions rather than ontologically different states/positions? I may be wrong as "ontological" isn't a word I use often.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think one of the important presuppositional differences between the Covenant Theologian and non-CT Baptist is their different hermeneutical approach to the Bible. While the NT is the fulfillment of the OT, and while the NT writers revealed inspired truths about the OT's fulfillment in Christ...the Covenant Theologian, I think, would argue that the Baptist wouldn't be understanding the Old Testament (the "foundation") right in the first place on certain issues and therefore misunderstands the New Testament (the "building") on certain issues.

An example of what I mean is when the Baptist reads about the New Covenant in Hebrews and argues doctrines on the basis of the small section that Hebrews quotes of Ezekiel. In reality, the author of Hebrews wasn't pulling the Ezekiel passage out of its context but fully knew the context and was just quoting a section to make some points. Another example is that of Isaac, circumcision and other "types" or "shadows." The Baptist may read how Christ is the true seed of Abraham and thereby discount anything actually involving Isaac as not having any substance/reality since they were "types"...whereas the Covenant Theologian would argue that there was reality for Isaac in that time in circumcision and covenant inclusion, and that these things shouldn't be discounted because who he was foreshadowed Someone much greater (basically arguing that the Baptist needs to first get a good understanding of the Old Testament). Also, the Covenant Theologian would argue that the OT types did have much reality (even though they were shadows) as the types themselves were modeled after heavenly things (consider what the author of Hebrews says in reference to Melchizedek). Furthermore, some Baptists look only to the New Testament to derive the doctrines applicable to the Christian. On the other hand, the Covenant Theologian says that we should start in Genesis (where God starts His revelation) and if a command He gives is not (specifically or by good and necessary inference) changed or commanded against in the NT, then we should still obey it. To say it another way, some Baptists would think, "Am I commanded by Christ to do this in the NT?"...whereas the CT would say, "If God says something once and doesn't change it in the NT, than I should still obey it. God doesn't need to say something twice (in both OT and NT) for me to obey it." I mean, it makes sense to me. Why would God need to reveal the Law again as He did on Mt Sinai? Why would He need to give creation mandates again? Why would He need to command the Sabbath again or say that He will be a God to His people and to their children?

On a different note, I also think the widespread use of "I will be a God to them and to their children" all throughout the OT, and then in Revelation is a good indication of the continuity of God's covenant through Scripture.

These issues were what caused me to change some of my presuppositions to go from being a Baptist to being of a Covenant Theology persuasion. I would recommend that anyone interested to learn more on this presuppositional change read Dr McMahon's retractions of the Baptist position on A Puritans Mind dot com, as I found these to be very helpful.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
In answer to your question here's my answer
The essential presupposition of Covenant Theology is that God has made a promise and is bound by his own being to keep that promise - the promise is that he will overcome sin and its consequences and glorify himself through saving people from their sin and its consequences through His Son - the Promised Seed.

Galatians 3:16-18 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Thus for me the essence of Covenant Theology may be summarised in the words 'I will' (I do not suggest this as a theological framework but just a useful emphasis and distinctive):

Genesis 3:15-16 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." 16 To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you."

Genesis 17:7 7 "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

Genesis 6:18 18 "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark -- you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you.

Hebrews 8:10-12 10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

Now to the rest of your post:
You state your understanding of the difference between the Reformed and the Covenantal Baptist - while I know what you're getting at I must say that I believe you present a slightly false dichotomy. I guess the Covenantal Baptist position you state is correct (though simplistic), but the Reformed summary you provide in my opinion is not nuanced enough and in truth is one I as a Reformed Baptist could agree with.

'From what I understand from the Reformed position: there has always been ONE way in which God has viewed and dealt with his people and has not changed in all generations.'

As a Reformed/Covenantal Baptist that is also my position and is the position of the 1689 Confession of Faith - that is if you take 'dealt with' in terms of how he rescues/saves them from their sins. Any alternative position is not in any historical sense covenantal at all, but more akin to Dispensationalism. I believe that salvation has always been through faith alone by grace alone in [the] Christ alone - it was so for Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, and me. Thus in that sense God has indeed always viewed and dealt with his people in one way...and only one....in other words all the historic covenants are administrations of the one Covenant of Grace -

BCF - 7:3
3. This Covenant is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of Salvation by the 122seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, untill the full 123discovery thereof was compleated in the new Testament; and it is founded in that 124Eternal Covenant transaction, that was between the Father and the Son, about the Redemption of the Elect; and it is alone by the Grace of this Covenant, that all of the posterity of fallen Adam, that ever were 125saved, did obtain life and a blessed immortality; Man being now utterly uncapable of acceptance with God upon those terms, on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.
 

torstar

Puritan Board Sophomore
OP asked: NO lengthy tombes, arguments or discourses please.

That really did stand a snowball's chance didn't it...
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Ontology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Adam before the Fall had a body and soul with will, affections and intellect. The same was true after the Fall. He was ontologically the same but ethically and spiritually radically different in that he was in enmity towards God, he had lost his original righteousness, and God had withdrawn His presence.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Why do you think that there is necessarily one presupposition? There may be, but few systems of thought can actually be extrapolated from a single principle, nor can differences between systems usually be expressed in a single proposition. Now, in the 19th century, liberal Protestant historians tried that approach, attempting to discern the centraldogma of each significant theologian. That approach has been abandoned, though, because it's not accurate to the way humans actually form beliefs. Belief formation is more like spinning a web connecting several distinct anchor points.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
OP asked: NO lengthy tombes, arguments or discourses please.

Kent if that's a reference to my post may I also point out that he proposed a comparative statement of the Reformed and Covenantal Baptist schemes and then asked "Is this essentially right, most of what I wrote is a response to that part, and if quoting Scripture is an unacceptable 'tombe' apologies. The substantial answer was 5 lines long.

---------- Post added at 11:14 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:53 PM ----------

PS....that wasn't meant to sound snarky and it might do!.....just defending a little more length that perhaps asked for :)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In response, first to Paul's comment that a problem with the division between RCT and CBT as stated is he basically agrees with the OP's definition for the "Reformed" position:
1) I agree that the dichotomy presented is not symmetrical, however
2) it does highlight the fact that CBT differs from RCT primarily in a positive fashion, that is by addition of elements, rather than subtraction of elements.

Often, we focus on the baptismal question, and observe that the CBT seems to subtract from RCT by eliminating an external administration of the Covenant of Grace in the New Covenant era. True, so far as it goes. But given the fact that Paul can state his agreement with the essential contours of RCT, it seems clear that the difference has to be sought in whatever direction CBT has positively "moved beyond" certain RCT basics. I say the difference needs to be analyzed in those terms.

As it has been suggested by some (elsewhere) that infant-baptism is a leftover "unreformed" element of Patristic or Medieval piety, since it evidently aligns with RCT, that implies a theological lacuna in RCT, which must be remedied positively by CBT.​
_____________________________

In response, secondly to Daniel's OP,
1) As Charlie said, it's no simple task to reduce CT to one, unargued premise, an ideal starting point from which is deduced the "system."
2) What's been suggested above, including the "single redemption plan" motif, may well provide the best answer.
3) My contribution (below) does not claim to be adequate to the OP request, but it does present an important CT premise.
4) Here it is: The Bible as divine revelation has always been intended for reading as a whole (however whole it was), and from front to back, respecting its basic order.

No saint (of any era) had to be concerned that he could not understand any portion of previous revelation because it belonged to conditions too far outside his own experience. God so governed Scripture's formation that, minor details aside, we would experience the same faith as Abraham or David, because one day we are all going to stand together, singing the same song.​
What this perspective does is this: it allows, encourages, and legitimates (unique to the Bible!) our reading of Abraham as a Christian, of Noah as a Christian, of Samuel or Isaiah as Christians. We acknowledge the uniqueness of their historico-redemptive setting, allowing them their dispensation-specific requirements and expectations. But we refuse to grant that we have a new faith or doctrine, any more than that we have a different God.

We thus read the OT characters as our true fathers and mothers. We experience their lives through the record, and live and walk with them through the triumphs and failures of faith, and hope alongside them in Christ, not fearing in the least thing that we may be "importing too much" of our present faith-content into the vicarious moment. And the more we see them as one with us, and one of us, the more inclined we are to minimize our differences. It's why CT insists so strongly on demonstrated theological necessity (compelled by Scripture witness) for changes, even to externals. Because the greater the changes and differences, the harder it is to identify with our predecessors.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
thanks for the replies ... let's work through it.
my thoughts:

1. finding an essential assumption that is responsible for a worldview is helpful in discovering a system's basic foundation. for example, the atheists would posit that the only reality is that which can be confirmed by evidence. Reducing their assumption down to this allows us to judge it according to its merits.

2. RCT views Pre-fall Adam and the Christian being ontologically the same creature. In other words, had Adam fully obeyed God, he would have eternal life like that of the elect Christian. I need to do more reading, but my knee jerk reaction is that the Christian stands on a better platform than pre-fall Adam. Being united to Christ by grace is infinitely greater than being sinless in Eden. I think this is why the Christ event, in our minds, brings out a fundamental change in the covenantal landscape that Baptists seek to protect and hold on to - the stress that the New Covenant is far superior and distinct, built on better promises, etc. Do any other Baptists agree with me on this?

3. Rev. B., I understand what you mean by reading scripture front to back. My question: wouldn't the Baptist hermeneutic of placing emphasis on the New Covenant and reading the Old in light of the New be more adept at viewing Abraham and the OT Saints as Christians? If we take the presupposition: the new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed, only then would we be able to see that Noah, Abraham and the rest were trusting Christ. But if we read "front to back" they would not be Christians as much as we would be Jews, it seems to me.

That would lead to another presuppositional distinction: is it that we are Jews, or are that the Old Testament believers were Christians? or thirdly, they were Jews, we are Christians?

---------- Post added at 12:18 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:02 PM ----------

how's this for an illustration of the differences:

RCT: a single flowing river moving steadily across a flat plain. Drink anywhere along the river, cause it's all the same.
CBT: murky waters being purified as it passes through layers of rock until pure water emerges from the end. Drink at the end, cause that's where real, pure water can be found.
 
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Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
1. finding an essential assumption that is responsible for a worldview is helpful in discovering a system's basic foundation. for example, the atheists would posit that the only reality is that which can be confirmed by evidence. Reducing their assumption down to this allows us to judge it according to its merits.

Despite arguments from others (who are far more intelligent than I) I still would argue that if you hold to the WCF than the answer to the question is the creator/creature distinction (c.f. Gen 1:1; WCF 7.1).

2. RCT views Pre-fall Adam and the Christian being ontologically the same creature. In other words, had Adam fully obeyed God, he would have eternal life like that of the elect Christian. I need to do more reading, but my knee jerk reaction is that the Christian stands on a better platform than pre-fall Adam. Being united to Christ by grace is infinitely greater than being sinless in Eden. I think this is why the Christ event, in our minds, brings out a fundamental change in the covenantal landscape that Baptists seek to protect and hold on to - the stress that the New Covenant is far superior and distinct, built on better promises, etc. Do any other Baptists agree with me on this?


No RCT should deny that “Being united to Christ by grace is infinitely greater than being sinless in Eden”. Read Vos or Kline on this, they both do a great job in showing the eschatological nature of the covenant of Works.

The problem with saying that we are ontologically different is that you’re saying our actual being has changed, that in some sense we’re no longer human beings as we once were (made in the image of God). You’re bound to end up with some Roman Catholic/Greek scale of being understanding of redemption.

Nevertheless, this does raise some very interesting questions as to the nature of glorification!
 
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steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Despite arguments from others (who are far more intelligent than I) I still would argue that if you hold to the WCF than the answer to the question is the creator/creature distinction (c.f. Gen 1:1; WCF 7.1).
But this isn't something that LBCF'ers would deny or differ from in any degree that gives rise to differences in their reading of covenant theology. I'm looking for the assumptions that are "farther up the tree" as it were, where we can a clear fork of division.

2. RCT views Pre-fall Adam and the Christian being ontologically the same creature. In other words, had Adam fully obeyed God, he would have eternal life like that of the elect Christian. I need to do more reading, but my knee jerk reaction is that the Christian stands on a better platform than pre-fall Adam. Being united to Christ by grace is infinitely greater than being sinless in Eden. I think this is why the Christ event, in our minds, brings out a fundamental change in the covenantal landscape that Baptists seek to protect and hold on to - the stress that the New Covenant is far superior and distinct, built on better promises, etc. Do any other Baptists agree with me on this?


No RCT should deny that “Being united to Christ by grace is infinitely greater than being sinless in Eden”. Read Vos or Kline on this, they both do a great job in showing the eschatological nature of the covenant of Works.

The problem with saying that we are ontologically different is that you’re saying our actual being has changed, that in some sense we’re no longer human beings as we once were (made in the image of God). You’re bound to end up with some Roman Catholic/Greek scale of being understanding of redemption.

Nevertheless, this does raise some very interesting questions as to the nature of glorification!

Adam before the fall was not united with Christ, seated with him in heavenly places, and merited with Christ's active obedience. Though it doesn't change his substance compared with us, there is a marked difference in status. I'm wondering if any baptists would view pre-fall Adam and Christians as the same creature (?).
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
I agree with Mr. Padgett.

LBCF 7.1: The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

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 has been pleased to express by way of covenant.

I see these as starting at the same point even though their wording is slightly different. As long as the two can agree that fruition of blessedness and reward equals the reward of life, then they are both starting with God's voluntary condescension to man by way of a covenant made by Himself, with Himself.

In Christ,

KC
 

Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
I see these as starting at the same point even though their wording is slightly different. As long as the two can agree that fruition of blessedness and reward equals the reward of life, then they are both starting with God's voluntary condescension to man by way of a covenant made by Himself, with Himself.

I'm scratching my head a little on this one... :think:

When the LBCF says "yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part" does it mean that some sort of Grace (redemptive grace) was necessary for Adam to fulfill the Covenant of Works prior to the fall? Or is it saying that without God's special revelation in the Covenant of Works they could not have attained the reward of life?

Maybe it's because I hold to the WCF, but their wording seems much more clear.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rev. B., I understand what you mean by reading scripture front to back. My question: wouldn't the Baptist hermeneutic of placing emphasis on the New Covenant and reading the Old in light of the New be more adept at viewing Abraham and the OT Saints as Christians?

Dennis, I think the Covenant Theologian would argue that the apostles did not speak in a vacuum but in a specific context of a well-versed OT background. Some evangelicals these days come to the Bible with very little OT understanding, basing everything they believe on their misunderstanding of some elements of the NT because of their misunderstanding of the OT in the first place. I've heard it said before that the NT is like inspired commentary on the OT in light of Christ's coming, and I think that's a fair analogy for the discussion in this thread. Anyways, this is relevant for such questions as "What does a covenant look like?", "Are children still included in the covenant?", "Is baptism completely new, or does it have a foundation in the OT?" Based on the different approach that Baptists and Presbyterians take to Scripture, this is one reason why different doctrines can be believed.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
When the LBCF says "yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part" does it mean that some sort of Grace (redemptive grace) was necessary for Adam to fulfill the Covenant of Works prior to the fall? Or is it saying that without God's special revelation in the Covenant of Works they could not have attained the reward of life?

Maybe it's because I hold to the WCF, but their wording seems much more clear.

I think they are saying the same thing, and the LBC, written later with the WCF as template, was trying to be more clear than the WCF ;) I have to defer to someone more well versed to comment.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
The emphasis of the WCF in 7.1, I think, properly addresses the creator/creature distinction by acknowledging that man, as he was created, could never have known his purpose for being created without God condescending to reveal Himself, and that, by way of covenant. Some would argue that this is gracious, but then you would have to qualify if it is mere common grace, or if it was saving grace. For me, it is hard to think of how God's steadfast love, or covenant love, or covenant faithfulness isn't revealed even in His condescension. But here is where I would personally differentiate between love and grace.

For instance, Paul ends his second letter to the Corinthians with, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." He didn't put these things together just because they sounded good, but because there is a difference between them. Also, in his first letter to Timothy he says, "and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." Again, I don't think he separated these out because it seemed right, but because there is an obvious difference between grace and love.

So the condescension in which God revealed Himself to us, I would associate with His covenant love, not with grace. And obviously, the reward of life and the blessedness that comes with that when spoken of in relation to the first covenant, would not have been gracious, because there was no need of grace where there is no sin. But that is the real difference between the covenant of life and the covenant of grace, isn't it?

In Christ,

KC
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1. finding an essential assumption that is responsible for a worldview is helpful in discovering a system's basic foundation. for example, the atheists would posit that the only reality is that which can be confirmed by evidence. Reducing their assumption down to this allows us to judge it according to its merits.
But the same "approach" does not work for every question. There is not one, unique or best way to approach solutions. The method is subject-dependent. What seems to work best in sociology is the wrong approach for the engineer, and his best tack is inadequate for the chemist. Theoretical disciplines are not only distinguishable between each other, as to the best methodology, but even within a discipline like philosophy there are some issues that are irreducible to one basic axiom.

2. RCT views Pre-fall Adam and the Christian being ontologically the same creature. In other words, had Adam fully obeyed God, he would have eternal life like that of the elect Christian. I need to do more reading, but my knee jerk reaction is that the Christian stands on a better platform than pre-fall Adam. Being united to Christ by grace is infinitely greater than being sinless in Eden. I think this is why the Christ event, in our minds, brings out a fundamental change in the covenantal landscape that Baptists seek to protect and hold on to - the stress that the New Covenant is far superior and distinct, built on better promises, etc. Do any other Baptists agree with me on this?
I'm not sure this question has begun in the proper category. We typically speak of the 4-fold state, non pecare posse pecare, non posse non pecare, posse non pecare, and non posse pecare. So, speaking of our present condition as ontologically identical to Adam's (pre-fall) strikes me as erroneous.

Relevant differences include: 1) we are neither conceived nor born of the unfallen Adam's substance; 2) as one federally above us all, Adam's position was unique, relative to the rest of his natural progeny; we can't be restored to an equality we never could have enjoyed; 3) assuming Adam was saved "in Christ," since we also are saved "in Christ," and have a new federal head, Adam would be the first of us to recover "ontological equality" to the pre-fall Adam--this is not a biblical picture of post-fall, post-conversion reality; 4) the ontological unity of the race is oriented to progress in the age to come; we believe in Adam's pre-fall "probation," after which he hopes for the better non posse pecare estate. Likewise, after the fall and conversion, we all hope for the same estate.

In any case, I'm not prepared to concede that posse non pecare (where we are now) is better in se than Adam non pecare posse pecare, when it is clearly not better in every sense conceivable. In Christ now, we have a foretaste of the non posse pecare estate of glory; but we have not attained to it yet. Frankly, I think heaven will be better for us as redeemed sinners than it would have been (excellent) if Adam and his posterity had attained it by passing probation. Better to be "in Christ in heaven" than "in Adam in heaven."

3. Rev. B., I understand what you mean by reading scripture front to back. My question: wouldn't the Baptist hermeneutic of placing emphasis on the New Covenant and reading the Old in light of the New be more adept at viewing Abraham and the OT Saints as Christians? If we take the presupposition: the new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed, only then would we be able to see that Noah, Abraham and the rest were trusting Christ. But if we read "front to back" they would not be Christians as much as we would be Jews, it seems to me.
Dennis,
I would just say that your perception of the issue is illustrative of the significant difference in the way our two sides read Scripture. There's just no way of getting around it--the different approaches lead to different conclusions; the proof is in the pudding. Since Abraham is a "Christian," and he places the sign of the covenant on the individuals God tells him to, then it seems to me the "Christian" thing to do in our day is to place the sign of the covenant (as best we can) on the same individuals as originally prescribed, in the absence of any revised instructions.

Before we even get to the question of the New Covenant, we have to deal with the matter of Moses and Israel, and the progress of revelation. The earliest written revelation we are in possession of is Moses' account. So, right from the beginning of Scripture as we have it we have the very same issue. Is the faith of Moses and Israel the same as Abraham's? And is Abraham's the same as Noah's? And is Noah's the same as Seth's? It is abundantly obvious that the manner of religion instituted for the people of Israel is vastly different from the manner of religion of the Patriarchs. So, is it fair to say that Abraham is an "Israelite"? How about Noah? How about Seth?

On the same principle that I am asserting, each of them is not only a "Christian" to me, but the Israelites properly regard previous saints as "Israelites," even though they have no Tabernacle/Temple, no Levitical priesthood, no feasts (e.g. Passover), etc. See, it is not only an issue that arises with the entrance of the Christ. Revelation is constantly advancing throughout history.

We also do not have any access to the unwritten revelations of the prophets, so it is impossible for us to state with absolute certainty what things were NOT revealed, when ALL revelation was not preserved. We occasionally find tantalizing hints as to what they taught in later inspired records, such as Jude 1:14, who tells us that "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied... 'the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds...against Him'." Questions of apocryphal literature aside, Jude tells us this much: that the ante-deluvian saint taught some sort of second-coming doctrine of divine judgment. But this is not explicit in Genesis. Nevertheless, it must be true! Those people, prior to the flood, possessed a doctrine of a spatio-temporal "coming" of the Lord in judgment, and accompanied by the faithful ones.

So, in many cases we simply don't know exactly what or how much they did know, though we are convinced they did not possess the truth as clearly and fully as in later epochs. The truth is being added to, and clarified all the time. Not only this, but things that are known or believed are usually common-property some time before they are codified in writing. The exception to this rule is when the first-momentary event of revelation is part of the record. So, for example when Jacob prophesies that the Ruler's staff will not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes, we can be reasonably certain that this prophecy is first revealed about the time of Jacob's death, and not before.

The fact is, that New Testament doctrine IS present in the OT, though it is more concealed there than revealed. It is appreciated best in the light of the New Covenant revelation; but so too was Moses appreciated better in the light of the latter prophets' declarations and writings.

(gotta go...)
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Bruce, I agree with what you're saying, but I don't think you're defining ontology correctly here. The four-fold state isn't ontological, defining what man is, but ethical/moral, defining how man is in relationship to God. The only ontological change is mortal vs. immortal, and that's debatable, depending on whether you see Adam as created immortal but losing it, or created mortal but receiving immortality upon completion of the probation. I tend to favor the latter, in keeping with Irenaeus.

Reformed soteriology shies away from the ontological language in Roman and Eastern Christianity.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thank you for the definitions, Charlie. I hope I may still have addressed the issue at hand, using the wrong terminology, but on topic.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Dennis
Adam before the fall was not united with Christ, seated with him in heavenly places, and merited with Christ's active obedience. Though it doesn't change his substance compared with us, there is a marked difference in status. I'm wondering if any baptists would view pre-fall Adam and Christians as the same creature (?).

I'm no philosopher, Dennis, but I think that Adam, post-Fall Adam, unbelievers and believers are the same creature, namely Mankind. To speak any other way is just confusing.

E.g. The Scriptures speak of Man post-Fall as being made in God's Image (Genesis 9)

The changes that happened with regards to Adam were in the ethical and - following from that - the epistemological fields.

Even if we look at the subject of the Curse, Adam was the same man but with the seeds of death in his body.

God in Christ is in the process of redeeming humanity. It sort of defeats the purpose if Christians are different creatures to Adam.

Christ in Heaven - as to His humanity - is the same creature that He was on Earth i.e. a man. He is a glorified and exalted man, but He is still a man; the Man.

Maybe I'm just not getting what you're trying to say.

---------- Post added at 12:51 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:23 AM ----------

I see these as starting at the same point even though their wording is slightly different. As long as the two can agree that fruition of blessedness and reward equals the reward of life, then they are both starting with God's voluntary condescension to man by way of a covenant made by Himself, with Himself.

I'm scratching my head a little on this one... :think:

When the LBCF says "yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part" does it mean that some sort of Grace (redemptive grace) was necessary for Adam to fulfill the Covenant of Works prior to the fall? Or is it saying that without God's special revelation in the Covenant of Works they could not have attained the reward of life?

Maybe it's because I hold to the WCF, but their wording seems much more clear.

This thread is turning into a bit of a dog's breakfast - if an interesting dog's breakfast.

Having made Man God would treat him righteously, God being a righteous God.

But the CoW goes beyond God's righteousness in offering man a very easy way in which he and his offspring can become established in original righteousness and impeccable (incapable of sin).

Some theologians like to call this "grace", but this leads to confusion with the redemptive grace of the CoG. I prefer reserving the word "grace" for God's merciful dealings with sinful, demeriting, Man.

We could call it God's "bountiful goodness" to Adam.

Adam before he fell hadn't demerited anything and he could expect God to deal with him according to righteousness. But the terms of the CoW were unmerited.

Also the condition of the CoW - to not eat of the Tree - involved Adam in doing precisely nothing apart from what he already owed his Creator, which was to just keep on living the holy way he had been made until the end of the probation.

The reward for this was way beyond what God "owed" Adam in strict righteousness; or rather what God owed to His own righteousness in His dealings with the innocent Adam.
 
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steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I wonder whether it was God's intention for us to be anything but in Christ and receiving grace upon grace ... It's true that if Adam is saved, it can only be by Christ, but before his fall he was impeccable and immortal. However, was his impeccability of the same sort as Christ's? If I understand RCT rightly, then fulfillment of the CoW is the same as salvation.

I really hope a LBCF'er who's well versed in its theology can jump in and comment on whether Pre-fall Adam = saved Christian? But to me anyway, being in Christ is far better and was God's better, more loving and more gracious plan for us. This would be one way in which the New Covenant is seen as the climax of the covenants and thus the controlling hermeneutical lens in viewing what came before it.

so, as we narrow down the essential difference in our hermeneutic, RCT seems views the covenants and conditions as equal and level; while CBT sees it as rising toward an apex or climax, which, once reached, changes everything.

I think Rev B has been right along: which part of the Bible sets the tone for how the whole is read? - the beginning or the end?

---------- Post added at 01:44 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:35 PM ----------

another simple schematic to illustrate the difference:

RCT: C C C C C

CBT: c c c c C!
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Adam was not impeccable before the fall, and it is not clear that he was immortal. Impeccable means unable to sin. But, he sinned, therefore he was not impeccable. He was righteous. Also, some theologians believe that man was made mortal, but immortality would be bestowed on him by successfully completing the probation. This corresponds to Jesus earning immortality for his people by fulfilling all righteousness. It also fits with being in Christ as better than being in Eden.

On CT versus Baptist CT, I think it's largely a difference of opinion about what is essential versus accidental in the covenant of grace. CT'ers see "to you and your seed" as an essential part of the gospel promise, as the way God always works with his people. Baptist CT'ers view the inclusion of children in the covenant as typological, indicating the line through which Messiah would come. So, once Messiah has come, there is no longer any need for the type. Therefore, baptism actually signifies less than circumcision did, since baptism symbolizes purely spiritual realities, whereas circumcision had ethnic and social meanings that are no longer applicable. This is the basic argument of Paul Jewett's Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
I think Rev B has been right along: which part of the Bible sets the tone for how the whole is read? - the beginning or the end?

Ask this question, without the completion of the New Testament, how would the believers have understood their salvation? Jesus said, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." This was no doubt repeated to all the believers until the first book of the NT was widely disseminated. So, when did the new covenant commence? Only when the NT was canonized and could completely explain the OT? Sure, it benefits us. But Paul was using only the OT when he understood everything he wrote in his letters. So, his presupposition is not the NT first, but the OT.

In Christ,

KC
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
another simple schematic to illustrate the difference:

RCT: C C C C C

CBT: c c c c C!

I would make a slight adjustment here.

RCT: I would use O Palmer Roberstson's conical expansion-schematic, where the limits flare wider along the axis of temporal movement.

CBT: I don't know if your schematic could be improved (by your own intention) with an exponential curve, rising from the baseline.
However, your intention might be to show little eternal "progress" occurs along the graph, and then rises dramatically and off the chart at the institution of the NC.

The question we might ask is: where does glorification fit in each model? If the NC entirely-spiritual-administration is basically identical to the final state (ala CBT), the work of Christ basically took covenant-administration to infinity immediately on the completion of the cross-work. Those on this side sometimes refer to that view as an "overrealized eschatology."
 
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