Is 1689 Federalism Novel?

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Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Thank you. I'm not trying to make this about Westminster CT.




We are getting closer. Can you please elaborate on these two statements? Can you define "prospectively" so that I am clear what you do and do not mean? What does it mean for the eternal covenant to be activated in time? Are you arguing that the eternal covenant is atemporal? Does not the eternal covenant still include the death of Christ, an act in time - specifically in the future?
Brandon, I give up. :deadhorse:You literally ask me to restate my direct answers to your questions 2 or 3 times minimum. I am tired of having to make distinctions about my own Westminster CT just to have 1689 Proponents explain their position clearly. I cited how I understand those words from Westminster Chapter 8. The word prospectively can be easily googled.

Ex: (rhetorical)
1. Define atemporal
2. Define death of Christ
3. Define activated
4. Elaborate further on how you need me to elaborate further, I almost understand

It feels like your hustling me as a Mormon where we have 2 different dictionaries. It seems like my 3 simple questions are not being addressed. I think you know the answers to the questions you are asking me.
 
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Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
A helpful thread from a while back. One comment:

"The Greek word, "diatheke," conveys different meanings in different contexts. It can mean covenant or testament. What is new is the testament, or will, or dispensation. Under the old testament the blessings of the covenant were conveyed through men who typically and temporarily served as mediators until the fulness of the time. These promised blessings are now conveyed personally and fully by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and men.

"The 1677/1689 Confession was an antipaedoabaptist revision of the Independent's 1658 Savoy Declaration, which was a revision of the 1646 Westminster Confession as passed by the Long Parliament. To gain a fuller appreciation of covenant theology as a system it would be best to go back to the Westminster Confession as a source document, and then look at the revisions to see what has changed."

A helpful, brief discussion ensues. https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/new-covenants-relation-to-the-abrahamic.90173/
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
Grant, I'm sorry that you are so frustrated. It was not my intent to frustrate you. I can easily give you clear answers, but my understanding is that people in this thread do not want a list of resources to read to answer their questions. Instead you all want a conversation. I am attempting to have a conversation here, rather than just sending you to the links that answer your question. That involves some back and forth. I'm sorry that you are tired of having to make distinctions and define words, but that is entirely necessary in theology, especially on the issue of Westminster Federalism vs 1689 Federalism. That is how my mind works. I make careful distinctions and define words (at least I try to).

It feels like your hustling me as a Mormon where we have 2 different dictionaries.
It is sad that you think that lowly of me, but it is representative of how most Presbyterians tend to look at those of us who hold to 1689 Federalism.

Thank you for referencing WCF 8.6, but that does not help clarifying this point. Again, that just points to the means that God uses to apply the benefits of Christ's death to OT saints (and it is a point that we affirm). It does not comment on how that is logically possible.
The word prospectively can be easily googled.
I did look it up (and edited my post to add that). The definition does not match how you are using it. Merriam Webster defines prospectively as:

1 : relating to or effective in the future
2a : likely to come about : expected the prospective benefits of this law
b : likely to be or become a prospective mother
To prospectively apply something would be to apply it in the future. I think the opposite word "retroactive" more accurately communicates what you were trying to convey. The definition of retroactive is
: extending in scope or effect to a prior time or to conditions that existed or originated in the past especially
: made effective as of a date prior to enactment, promulgation, or imposition
To retroactively apply something would be to apply it to the past. Do you agree that retroactively is a more accurate word than prospectively here? Would you agree that God imputes Christ's righteousness to OT saints retroactively?

If so, I agree. The question is, on what basis can God do that? Here is how John Ball answered that question.

For the Foundation and Mediatour of the Covenant of Grace is our Lord Jesus Christ, but either to be incarnate, crucified, and raised from the dead, or as already incarnate, crucified, and raised from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. For there was never sin forgiven but in him alone, who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Therefore although before the Incarnation, Christ was only God, he was our Mediatour, yet not simply as God, but as the divine person, who should [i.e. will] take our flesh, and in it should [i.e. will] finish all the Mysterie of our Redemption, and therefore he is called the Lambe of God slaine from the beginning of the world, and the Fathers by his grace were saved, even as we. In the acts of Mediation three things may be considered.

[1.] Reconciliation, by which we are accepted of God.
[2.] Patronage, by which we have accesse unto the Father.
[3.] Doctrine, whereby God hath made himselfe knowne unto men by a Mediatour.

This third act might be done before he assumed our flesh, and indeed was done: but the two first did require his coming in the flesh, although the fruit of them was communicated to the Fathers under the Old Testament, by force of the divine Promise, and certainty of the thing to come with God.

If it be objected that the cause is before the effect, and therefore the incarnation and death of Christ must goe before the communication of the fruit and benefit thereof unto the Fathers.

The answer is, That in naturall causes [i.e. physics] the Proposition holds true, but in morall causes the effect may be before the cause: and so the fruit and vertue of Christ’s death was communicated to the Fathers before his Incarnation. But although the Sonne of God before he was manifested in the flesh, was our Mediatour with God (to whom future things are present) because he should be, and therefore for his sake sinnes were remitted, men did teach and learne by his Spirit, the Church was governed by him: yet the manner and reason of that Mediation was proposed more obscurely, the force and efficacy of it was lesse, and did redound to fewer.

https://archive.org/details/treatiseofcovena00ball/page/28/mode/2up
In short, OT saints could receive the benefits of Christ's death because Christ promised the Father he would fulfill his work in the Covenant of Redemption, thus securing the redemption of the elect. Thus it was a guaranteed certainty that the OT saints could "take to the bank." In other words, OT saints received the benefits of the death of Christ in "advance" of the actual death of Christ in a way similar to how one can go to a Pay Day Loan business and get an "advance" on their paycheck because of the certainty of the paycheck to come.

Here are a couple of similar affirmations
Christ can work out of that finished work in the future because it has been decreed and ordained. So the Holy Spirit can be active according to ordo salutis even in advance of the historia salutis pouring out.
Camden Bucey, Christ the Center 700 Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Old Testament believers enjoyed the benefits of union with Christ and His imputed righteousness prior to His earthy ministry. The covenantal-legal agreement of the pactum [i.e., the Covenant of Redemption] was sufficient in and of itself due to the Trinity’s utter trustworthiness to carry out its covenant-oaths. In other words, the stipulations of the pactum, an inherently legal arrangement, are the foundation for the application of redemption in covenant of grace.

J.V. Fesko, The Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 347

Do you agree thus far?

Now the question is how the New Covenant relates to this. We would argue that the efficacy of the mediation of Christ does not extend itself beyond the verge and compass of the New Covenant; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant. Therefore the only way for OT saints to receive the benefits of Christ's death is through the New Covenant. However, the New Covenant was inaugurated/established/promulgated at a specific point in history (I would say Pentecost to be exact). Thus we understand God to have applied the New Covenant retroactively to OT saints just as He did Christ's atonement.

Here are some quotes from other theologians affirming the same thing:

There are clear passages indicating that ‘the forgiveness of sins’ is unique to the New Covenant (“remember their sins no more”; Jer 31:34)… Kuyper seems to confirm this conclusion. He argued that the energies of the Spirit at Pentecost worked retroactively in the lives of OT saints.

Horton, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, p152ff (See extended quote here: Horton’s Retroactive New Covenant)

[T]he work of Christ is the source of all human salvation from sin: the salvation of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Moses, of David, and of all of Godâ’s people in every age, past, present, or future. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved through the new covenant in Christ. Everyone who is saved receives a new heart, a heart of obedience, through the new covenant work of Christ. So though it is a new covenant, it is also the oldest, the temporal expression of the pactum salutis… The New Covenant does have a temporal inauguration… the shedding of Jesus’ blood, a datable historical event, is the substance of the New Covenant, the Covenant that purifies, not only the flesh, but the conscience, the heart. Nevertheless, as we saw earlier, the efficacy of the New Covenant, unlike that of previous covenants, extends to God’s elect prior to Jesus’ atonement. When believers in the Old Testament experienced “circumcision of the heart,” or when they were Jews “inwardly,” they were partaking of the power of the New Covenant.

John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 79-81 (See extended quote here John Frame’s Retroactive New Covenant)

These pertain to the new testament [covenant], are the children of promise, and are regenerated by God the Father and a free mother. Of this kind were all the righteous men of old, and Moses himself, the minister of the old testament, the heir of the new . . . Let us, therefore, choose whether to call the righteous men of old the children of the bondwoman or of the free. Be it far from us to say, of the bondwoman; therefore if of the free, they pertain to the new testament [covenant] in the Holy Spirit, whom, as making alive, the apostle opposes to the killing letter. For on what ground do they not belong to the grace of the new testament [covenant]?

Augustine, A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 406-407 (See more quotes here)

[A]lthough the Old Law contained precepts of charity, nevertheless it did not confer the Holy Ghost…
the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Ghost, which is given to those who believe in Christ…
Nevertheless there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law…
As to those under the Old Testament who through faith were acceptable to God, in this respect they belonged to the New Testament: for they were not justified except through faith in Christ, Who is the Author of the New Testament…
No man ever had the grace of the Holy Ghost except through faith in Christ either explicit or implicit: and by faith in Christ man belongs to the New Testament. Consequently whoever had the law of grace instilled into them belonged to the New Testament… at all times there have been some persons belonging to the New Testament, as stated above.”

Aquinas Summa Theologica I-II, 106-107 (See more here and here)

There were . . . under the regimen of the Old Covenant, people who possessed the charity and grace of the Holy Spirit and longed above all for the spiritual and eternal promises by which they were associated with the New Law… [E]ven though the Old Law prescribed charity, it did not give the Holy Spirit, through whom “God’s charity has been poured into our hearts.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Aquinas (1964)

[W]hatever spiritual gifts the fathers obtained, they were accidental as it were to their age; for it was necessary for them to direct their eyes to Christ in order to become possessed of them… There is yet no reason why God should not have extended the grace of the new covenant to the fathers. This is the true solution of the question.

Calvin (Commentary Hebrews 8:10)

Does that answer your questions? If not, I am happy to elaborate. (I will return in a couple of days to check in).
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Grant, I'm sorry that you are so frustrated. It was not my intent to frustrate you. I can easily give you clear answers, but my understanding is that people in this thread do not want a list of resources to read to answer their questions. Instead you all want a conversation. I am attempting to have a conversation here, rather than just sending you to the links that answer your question. That involves some back and forth. I'm sorry that you are tired of having to make distinctions and define words, but that is entirely necessary in theology, especially on the issue of Westminster Federalism vs 1689 Federalism. That is how my mind works. I make careful distinctions and define words (at least I try to).


It is sad that you think that lowly of me, but it is representative of how most Presbyterians tend to look at those of us who hold to 1689 Federalism.

Thank you for referencing WCF 8.6, but that does not help clarifying this point. Again, that just points to the means that God uses to apply the benefits of Christ's death to OT saints (and it is a point that we affirm). It does not comment on how that is logically possible.

I did look it up (and edited my post to add that). The definition does not match how you are using it. Merriam Webster defines prospectively as:


To prospectively apply something would be to apply it in the future. I think the opposite word "retroactive" more accurately communicates what you were trying to convey. The definition of retroactive is

To retroactively apply something would be to apply it to the past. Do you agree that retroactively is a more accurate word than prospectively here? Would you agree that God imputes Christ's righteousness to OT saints retroactively?

If so, I agree. The question is, on what basis can God do that? Here is how John Ball answered that question.


In short, OT saints could receive the benefits of Christ's death because Christ promised the Father he would fulfill his work in the Covenant of Redemption, thus securing the redemption of the elect. Thus it was a guaranteed certainty that the OT saints could "take to the bank." In other words, OT saints received the benefits of the death of Christ in "advance" of the actual death of Christ in a way similar to how one can go to a Pay Day Loan business and get an "advance" on their paycheck because of the certainty of the paycheck to come.

Here are a couple of similar affirmations




Do you agree thus far?

Now the question is how the New Covenant relates to this. We would argue that the efficacy of the mediation of Christ does not extend itself beyond the verge and compass of the New Covenant; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant. Therefore the only way for OT saints to receive the benefits of Christ's death is through the New Covenant. However, the New Covenant was inaugurated/established/promulgated at a specific point in history (I would say Pentecost to be exact). Thus we understand God to have applied the New Covenant retroactively to OT saints just as He did Christ's atonement.

Here are some quotes from other theologians affirming the same thing:













Does that answer your questions? If not, I am happy to elaborate. (I will return in a couple of days to check in).
Yes, that at least provides more detail for consideration. So thanks. Further, No, I stand by my use of prospectively as relative to the OT saints. OT Saints looked to the future, NT looked to what was already accomplished. Of course there is a sense we are still looking to a future. I agree the terms prospectively and retroactively can vary depending on one’s starting point. If I could have been more clear on that I apologize.
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
…it is representative of how most Presbyterians tend to look at those of us who hold to 1689 Federalism.
Is that really a fair assessment? Seems like a broad brush. I would bet most Presbyterians have never even heard of “1689 Federalism.”
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Heb_4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Rev_13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

From the oldest book of the Bible.

Job 19:25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
Job 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Job 19:27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

My point I want to make here is that there is something all encompassing.

Eph_1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
I've been following this thread, and think that Grant and Brandon are addressing two different questions. I'll call them the "historia salutis" and the "ordo salutis" question. The historia salutis question is the same question for both groups (Westminster and 1689), and Brandon is trying to raise and answer that question. It asks "can a future event be the legal basis for current benefits" from the perspective of the OT saints. Both groups answer yes. You could also call this an "accomplishment" question.

However, the question that Grant has been trying to ask, and that seems to be lacking an answer so far, is the ordo salutis question, or the "application" question. It's not about the legal basis of benefits, and how that relates with time. It's about how the benefits are actually acquired subjectively by an OT saint, given that Christ's benefits are only given through the CoG. The Westminster answer is that the OT saints had, and were members of, the CoG, which was administered by the OT covenants. But the reason that they can actually subjectively experience the benefits in the ordo salutis, is because the CoG (the context of the ordo salutis) exists.

By contrast, in 1689 federalism, it asserts that the CoG does not exist. So the question is not one of Christ's accomplishment, by rather by what channel the OT saints subjectively acquire Christ's benefits, and the ordo salutis. Since they deny that the CoG exists in the OT, there is conceivably either 1) no way for them to experience Christ's benefits, or 2) a way outside of the CoG for them to experience Christ's benefits. Either of these is problematic. And if they say that they received the benefits through the OT covenants...then why do they reject that the OT covenants are administrations of the CoG, since "administering the benefits of Christ" is what is meant definitionally by "an administration of the CoG?"

I might be misreading the whole exchange, but I think that that's the question Grant is trying to ask, while Brandon is trying to answer the former question. Of course, the problem is that the one doesn't really answer the other. So to clarify the question for 1689 federalism: what is the method by which the OT saints subjectively receive the benefits of Christ during their lives, if not the CoG since it doesn't exist for them?
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
I've been following this thread, and think that Grant and Brandon are addressing two different questions. I'll call them the "historia salutis" and the "ordo salutis" question. The historia salutis question is the same question for both groups (Westminster and 1689), and Brandon is trying to raise and answer that question. It asks "can a future event be the legal basis for current benefits" from the perspective of the OT saints. Both groups answer yes. You could also call this an "accomplishment" question.

However, the question that Grant has been trying to ask, and that seems to be lacking an answer so far, is the ordo salutis question, or the "application" question. It's not about the legal basis of benefits, and how that relates with time. It's about how the benefits are actually acquired subjectively by an OT saint, given that Christ's benefits are only given through the CoG. The Westminster answer is that the OT saints had, and were members of, the CoG, which was administered by the OT covenants. But the reason that they can actually subjectively experience the benefits in the ordo salutis, is because the CoG (the context of the ordo salutis) exists.

By contrast, in 1689 federalism, it asserts that the CoG does not exist. So the question is not one of Christ's accomplishment, by rather by what channel the OT saints subjectively acquire Christ's benefits, and the ordo salutis. Since they deny that the CoG exists in the OT, there is conceivably either 1) no way for them to experience Christ's benefits, or 2) a way outside of the CoG for them to experience Christ's benefits. Either of these is problematic. And if they say that they received the benefits through the OT covenants...then why do they reject that the OT covenants are administrations of the CoG, since "administering the benefits of Christ" is what is meant definitionally by "an administration of the CoG?"

I might be misreading the whole exchange, but I think that that's the question Grant is trying to ask, while Brandon is trying to answer the former question. Of course, the problem is that the one doesn't really answer the other. So to clarify the question for 1689 federalism: what is the method by which the OT saints subjectively receive the benefits of Christ during their lives, if not the CoG since it doesn't exist for them?
Albert,

This is great. You have taken my caveman language and brought more clarity. I hope this helps Brandon and others see what I have been trying to ask! Otherwise the differences just seemed semantic with all the snip quoting of reformed forefathers. I know the differences run much deeper than semantics and was having trouble putting it into words. At least for my part, I can say you have correctly assessed my concerns and I think provided clarity. Thank you brother.:applause::cheers2::detective:
 
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brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've been following this thread, and think that Grant and Brandon are addressing two different questions. I'll call them the "historia salutis" and the "ordo salutis" question. The historia salutis question is the same question for both groups (Westminster and 1689), and Brandon is trying to raise and answer that question. It asks "can a future event be the legal basis for current benefits" from the perspective of the OT saints. Both groups answer yes. You could also call this an "accomplishment" question.

However, the question that Grant has been trying to ask, and that seems to be lacking an answer so far, is the ordo salutis question, or the "application" question. It's not about the legal basis of benefits, and how that relates with time. It's about how the benefits are actually acquired subjectively by an OT saint, given that Christ's benefits are only given through the CoG. The Westminster answer is that the OT saints had, and were members of, the CoG, which was administered by the OT covenants. But the reason that they can actually subjectively experience the benefits in the ordo salutis, is because the CoG (the context of the ordo salutis) exists.

By contrast, in 1689 federalism, it asserts that the CoG does not exist. So the question is not one of Christ's accomplishment, by rather by what channel the OT saints subjectively acquire Christ's benefits, and the ordo salutis. Since they deny that the CoG exists in the OT, there is conceivably either 1) no way for them to experience Christ's benefits, or 2) a way outside of the CoG for them to experience Christ's benefits. Either of these is problematic. And if they say that they received the benefits through the OT covenants...then why do they reject that the OT covenants are administrations of the CoG, since "administering the benefits of Christ" is what is meant definitionally by "an administration of the CoG?"

I might be misreading the whole exchange, but I think that that's the question Grant is trying to ask, while Brandon is trying to answer the former question. Of course, the problem is that the one doesn't really answer the other. So to clarify the question for 1689 federalism: what is the method by which the OT saints subjectively receive the benefits of Christ during their lives, if not the CoG since it doesn't exist for them?
I have a few minutes this evening and wanted to comment. Thank you Albert for chiming in and helping to clarify the question.

To clarify, we do not deny that the CoG/New Covenant "exists" in the OT. The question is over the nature of that existence. Does it exist as a legally established covenant? No. The CoG/New Covenant is legally established at Pentecost. However, the New Covenant can be applied to OT saints prior to its legal establishment for the reasons given above. From the FAQ titled "Did the Covenant of Grace Exist During the Old Testament?":
1689 Federalism teaches that only the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Neither the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, nor Davidic covenants were the Covenant of Grace. Neither was the Covenant of Grace established in Genesis 3:15.

The question then naturally arises: Did the Covenant of Grace exist during the Old Testament? The 1689 Federalism answer to this question centers around the meaning of "established"/"enacted" (Hebrews 8:6).

First, the 2LBCF states in 7.3 that "it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality..." Among its references on this particular statement are Hebrews 11:6, 13 "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him... by faith Noah... by faith Abraham... All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." Rom 4:1, 2, &c "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" and John 8:56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Thus when we identify the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant alone, we do not exclude those who lived before the establishment of the New Covenant - notably Abraham - from "the grace of this covenant." Nor do we believe that they waited to receive this grace until the death of Christ. In sum, this New Covenant of Grace was extant and effectual under the Old Testament, so as the church was saved by virtue thereof.

If the New Covenant of Grace was "in effect" since Genesis 3:15, then how can we say it was not established until the death of Christ? First, because its legal effectiveness as a covenant is entirely rooted in the death of Christ. Second, because the "establishment" of the New Covenant refers also to its being reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance - to its being made visible. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, was then made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church. When the New Covenant was given out only in the way of a promise (Gen 3:15, etc), it did not introduce a worship and privileges expressive of it. That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was then brought to light, and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was then solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, were all given for a statute, law, and ordinance unto the church.

The basic idea of the Covenant of Grace revealed and "in effect" prior to its legal establishment (where it is given ordinances of worship) is articulated by Louis Berkhof. "The first revelation of the covenant is found in the protevangel, Gen. 3:15. Some deny that this has any reference to the covenant; and it certainly does not refer to any formal establishment of a covenant... Up to the time of Abraham there was no formal establishment of the covenant of grace. While Gen. 3:15 already contains the elements of this covenant, it does not record a formal transaction by which the covenant was established. It does not even speak explicitly of a covenant. The establishment of the covenant with Abraham marked the beginning of an institutional Church." We would simply say that the New Covenant, not the Abrahamic Covenant, was the formal establishment of the Covenant of Grace and marked the beginning of the institutional Church.
Note also John Ball:
The Covenant of Grace is either promised or promulgated and established. Promised to the Fathers, first to Adam, and afterwards to the Patriarchs, and lastly to the people of Israel, and before their coming into the land of Canaan, and after their returne from the Babylonish captivity. Promulgated, after the fulnesse of time came. And hence the Covenant of Grace is distributed into the Covenant of Promise, or the New Covenant, so called by way of excellency. For the Foundation and Mediatour of the Covenant of Grace is our Lord Jesus Christ, but either to be incarnate, crucified, and raised from the dead, or as already incarnate, crucified, and raised from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. (27)
According to Ball, the Covenant of Grace was established after Christ's death. He identifies the establishment of the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant. Prior to that point, the Covenant of Grace is promised but not established. I encourage you to carefully read Owen's comments on Hebrews 8:6. See 1.2.1.9.2 in this outline https://www.1689federalism.com/owen/demo/owen_ordered.html

It remains to the exposition of the words that we inquire what this covenant was of which our Lord Christ was the mediator, and what is here affirmed of it.

This can be no other in general but that which we call “the covenant of grace.” And it is so called in opposition to that of “works” which was made with us in Adam; for these two, grace and works, do divide the ways of our relation to God, being diametrically opposite, and every way inconsistent, Rom. 11:6. Of this covenant the Lord Christ was the mediator from the foundation of the world, namely, from the giving of the first promise, Revelation 13:8; for it was given on his interposition, and all the benefits of it depended on his future actual mediation.

But here arises the first difficulty of the context and that in two things; for,

[1.] If this covenant of grace was made from the beginning, and if the Lord Christ was the mediator of it from the first, then where is the privilege of the gospel-state in opposition to the law, by virtue of this covenant, seeing that under the law also the Lord Christ was the mediator of that covenant, which was from the beginning?

[2.] If it be the covenant of grace which is intended, and that be opposed to the covenant of works made with Adam, then the other covenant must be that covenant of works so made with Adam, which we have before disproved.

The answer to this is in the word here used by the apostle concerning this new covenant: nenomoqe,thtai, of which meaning we must inquire into. I say, therefore, that the apostle does not here consider the new covenant absolutely, and as it was virtually administered from the foundation of the world, in the way of a promise; for as such it was consistent with that covenant made with the people in Sinai. And the apostle proves expressly, that the renovation of it made to Abraham was no way abrogated by the giving of the law, Gal. 3:17. There was no interruption of its administration made by the introduction of the law. But he treats of such an establishment of the new covenant as by which the old covenant made at Sinai was absolutely inconsistent, and which was therefore to be removed out of the way. To that end he considers it here as it was actually completed, so as to bring along with it all the ordinances of worship which are proper to it, the dispensation of the Spirit in them, and all the spiritual privileges by which they are accompanied. It is now so brought in as to become the entire rule of the church’s faith, obedience, and worship, in all things.

This is the meaning of the word nenomoqe,thati, “established,”say we; but it is, “reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance.” All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, are all given for a statute, law, and ordinance to the church. That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar to it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship to the whole church, nothing being to be admitted in that respect but what belongs to it, and is appointed by it. The apostle intends this by nenomoqe,thtai, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. On this the other covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the covenant itself, but all that system of sacred worship in accordance with which it was administered. This was not done by the making of the covenant at first; yea, all this was added into the covenant as given out in a promise, and was consistent with that. When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce worship and privileges expressive of it. To that end it was consistent with a form of worship, rites and ceremonies, and those composed into a yoke of bondage which belonged not to it. And as these, being added after its giving, did not overthrow its nature as a promise, so they were inconsistent with it when it was completed as a covenant; for then all the worship of the church was to proceed from it, and to be conformed to it. Then it was established. Therefore it follows, in answer to the second difficulty, that as a promise, it was opposed to the covenant of works; as a covenant, it was opposed to that of Sinai. This legalizing or authoritative establishment of the new covenant, and the worship to that belonging, accomplished this alteration.

I can guess what you will say next, but I have to leave it there for now. I will return when I can.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
To clarify, we do not deny that the CoG/New Covenant "exists" in the OT. The question is over the nature of that existence. Does it exist as a legally established covenant? No. The CoG/New Covenant is legally established at Pentecost. However, the New Covenant can be applied to OT saints prior to its legal establishment for the reasons given above. From the FAQ titled "Did the Covenant of Grace Exist During the Old Testament?":
Yeah, this totally defines that we are not the same. It is a debate about Administration as I found out years ago. The Baptist views are various and their views of stand alone Covenants falls short and definitely displays a form of dispensationalism foreign to the scriptures in my estimation. The Mosaic Covenant was where I first started to recognize the situation but the problem also moves into all the other Covenants. Some view all of the various Covenants as administrations of the Covenant of Grace where Baptists and 1689 Federalists believe the prior Covenants vary and are stand alone Covenants separate from being Administered by the Covenant of Grace.

I hope I cleared that up as good as muddy water. LOL.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yeah, this totally defines that we are not the same. It is a debate about Administration as I found out years ago. The Baptist views are various and their views of stand alone Covenants falls short and definitely displays a form of dispensationalism foreign to the scriptures in my estimation. The Mosaic Covenant was where I first started to recognize the situation but the problem also moves into all the other Covenants. Some view all of the various Covenants as administrations of the Covenant of Grace where Baptists and 1689 Federalists believe the prior Covenants vary and are stand alone Covenants separate from being Administered by the Covenant of Grace.

I hope I cleared that up as good as muddy water. LOL.

Then I would have to say you never really understood Baptist Covenant Theology very well because:

1) We don't believe the covenant are stand alone covenants
2) Our views fail the Dispensationalism test at just about every point of comparison

The "Dispensationalism" charge is absolutely ludicrous and is either:

1) A cheap rhetorical tactic designed to paint our view as negatively as possible
2) Borne completely out of ignorance of both our view and Dispensationalism

This is the same old "If it ain't WCF Federalism, it must be Dispensationalism" nonsense.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Then I would have to say you never really understood Baptist Covenant Theology very well because:

1) We don't believe the covenant are stand alone covenants
2) Our views fail the Dispensationalism test at just about every point of comparison

The "Dispensationalism" charge is absolutely ludicrous and is either:

1) A cheap rhetorical tactic designed to paint our view as negatively as possible
2) Borne completely out of ignorance of both our view and Dispensationalism

This is the same old "If it ain't WCF Federalism, it must be Dispensationalism" nonsense.
Or it could be possible that in our reading of the source language linked, there do seem to be similarities with Dispensationalist statements regarding how they view the covenants.

Also regarding your 1), my understanding is that your position maintains at least 7 distinct covenants in essence. Sure you state the CoG was somehow active but do you not say it is stand alone?

Referenced here:
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Then I would have to say you never really understood Baptist Covenant Theology very well because:

1) We don't believe the covenant are stand alone covenants
2) Our views fail the Dispensationalism test at just about every point of comparison

The "Dispensationalism" charge is absolutely ludicrous and is either:

1) A cheap rhetorical tactic designed to paint our view as negatively as possible
2) Borne completely out of ignorance of both our view and Dispensationalism
Hummm. It seems your response totally ignored the Administration discussion.

I am unclear what many Baptists hold to anymore. There seems to be a new strain pop up more often then we want to acknowledge. I was a Reformed Baptist for 30 years. I was 48 when I became Reformed. Maybe you can help me understand. I admit I could be wrong.
 

Jason F.

Puritan Board Freshman
Hummm. It seems your response totally ignored the Administration discussion.

I am unclear what many Baptists hold to anymore. There seems to be a new strain pop up more often then we want to acknowledge. I was a Reformed Baptist for 30 years. I was 48 when I became Reformed. Maybe you can help me understand. I admit I could be wrong.
If not for the negative connotations that go with the term "dispensation", I think it could almost be used synonymously with "administration".
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
Hummm. It seems your response totally ignored the Administration discussion.

I am unclear what many Baptists hold to anymore. There seems to be a new strain pop up more often then we want to acknowledge. I was a Reformed Baptist for 30 years. I was 48 when I became Reformed. Maybe you can help me understand. I admit I could be wrong.
You're in good company. I also am unclear what many Baptists hold to anymore :)
Every time I think I've got a handle on exactly where me and Federalism part ways, they come back and tell me that we're in exact agreement there, but I just don't understand the nuance.
What I wonder is, with such fine nuance at play, is it even worth saying there's a difference? Why bother with a new moniker if the only difference is so undetectably minute we can't seem to sort it out after umpteen pages of posts? It's not like we're trolls here deliberately obfuscating: we're mostly literate, well-read Christians seriously trying to figure out what our brothers believe.
 

Aspiring Homesteader

Puritan Board Freshman
I will confess, as someone whose only studying of Covenant Theology is half of Denault’s book and some John Flavel, rbis thread leaves me scratching my head.

(I landed in an RB church after I was saved; I did not go there out of conviction. Just now studying the topic.)
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
I will confess, as someone whose only studying of Covenant Theology is half of Denault’s book and some John Flavel, rbis thread leaves me scratching my head.

(I landed in an RB church after I was saved; I did not go there out of conviction. Just now studying the topic.)
The LBCF is a brief and well-worded place to start: God promised a Messiah in Gen 3, and progressively revealed facts about him in the various covenants, which were promises of Christ and painted pictures of him. All the promises, all the pictures, all the shadows, were fulfilled by Christ--it was all about Christ, start to finish "that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." No one was ever or will ever be saved apart from union with Christ.
It's unfortunate that the precise meaning of the term "covenant of grace" is so earnestly contended for, since the term is not found in Scripture. Some take it to mean "God's redemptive plan," because surely that is all of grace, and others to mean "The New Covenant in Christs' blood," and a huge controversy rages over a term that can be used in whatever way one likes. If everyone were to state briefly exactly what they take the "Covenant of Grace" to mean, perhaps all these pages could have been avoided.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
The LBCF is a brief and well-worded place to start: God promised a Messiah in Gen 3, and progressively revealed facts about him in the various covenants, which were promises of Christ and painted pictures of him. All the promises, all the pictures, all the shadows, were fulfilled by Christ--it was all about Christ, start to finish "that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." No one was ever or will ever be saved apart from union with Christ.
It's unfortunate that the precise meaning of the term "covenant of grace" is so earnestly contended for, since the term is not found in Scripture. Some take it to mean "God's redemptive plan," because surely that is all of grace, and others to mean "The New Covenant in Christs' blood," and a huge controversy rages over a term that can be used in whatever way one likes. If everyone were to state briefly exactly what they take the "Covenant of Grace" to mean, perhaps all these pages could have been avoided.

We 1689 Federalists haven't been coy about this at all. When we say "Covenant of Grace", we mean "The New Covenant in Christ's Blood".

We've been saying that over and over. I am not sure how you missed this.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a few minutes this evening and wanted to comment. Thank you Albert for chiming in and helping to clarify the question.

To clarify, we do not deny that the CoG/New Covenant "exists" in the OT. The question is over the nature of that existence. Does it exist as a legally established covenant? No. The CoG/New Covenant is legally established at Pentecost. However, the New Covenant can be applied to OT saints prior to its legal establishment for the reasons given above. From the FAQ titled "Did the Covenant of Grace Exist During the Old Testament?":

Note also John Ball:

According to Ball, the Covenant of Grace was established after Christ's death. He identifies the establishment of the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant. Prior to that point, the Covenant of Grace is promised but not established. I encourage you to carefully read Owen's comments on Hebrews 8:6. See 1.2.1.9.2 in this outline https://www.1689federalism.com/owen/demo/owen_ordered.html


I can guess what you will say next, but I have to leave it there for now. I will return when I can.

Brandon, I've read through this a few times. It's interesting. However, I think it's still addressing the historia salutis question, not the ordo salutis one - which is why you're able to reference folks like Berkhof and Ball for support (since Berkhof is definitely not a 1689 federalist, and seemingly neither was Ball as he was very favorably received by members of the Westminster assembly). I'm not too keen to get into a discussion about interpreting older authors as it's not really the focus, and I'm in the middle of moving. But I think that citing these authors shows that you're still addressing the question where we are in agreement (the historia one), and not the one where we are in disagreement (the ordo one).

To narrow the question down to a bit more specific one: when Abraham exercised faith during his life, did he at that point become a member of the covenant of grace? Or did he only become a member of the covenant of grace after Christ's work was complete? I think your wording of "retroactively" hints that in 1689 federalism the latter is the case.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Martin, I apologize for speaking to you harshly out of frustration. That was sin and it was wrong. I should have waited to respond until the frustration wore off. I've always appreciated your calm demeanor on the board and I let my emotions get ahold of me. I am just tired of the Dispensationalism charge after demonstrating 1689 Federalism isn't at all like it but that is no excuse at all for the way I responded.

I don't always know how to answer every question in technical detail, especially when I am not clear how terms are being used by both sides. Brandon is much, much more astute and educated in those regards than I am.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
How much newer is the current formulation of 1689 Federalism than that of what the WCF sought to capture?

How far back can you trace the WCF formulation?

If the "current formulation of 1689 Federalism" is taken to mean "the New Covenant in Christ's Blood alone is the Covenant of Grace", then it's actually older than the WCF formulation by over 1000 years. Augustine, for example, said that the Saints of the OT were saved by the New Covenant. I think he'd look at you funny if you tried to explain to him that the Old Covenant is of the same substance as the New Covenant.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
If the "current formulation of 1689 Federalism" is taken to mean "the New Covenant in Christ's Blood alone is the Covenant of Grace", then it's actually older than the WCF formulation by over 1000 years. Augustine, for example, said that the Saints of the OT were saved by the New Covenant. I think he'd look at you funny if you tried to explain to him that the Old Covenant is of the same substance as the New Covenant.
Would this not be somewhat anachronistic? With regard to the covenants of Scripture, was Augustine thinking in terms of substance and administration? Was he thinking in terms of continuity and discontinuity? When you say, "Augustine said that the Saints of the OT were saved by the New Covenant," even supposing those were his exact words, how do we conclude from this that he is arguing for a theological formulation that would not exist for another 1200 years?

So, with regard to this utilization of Augustine, I have a few questions:
  1. What were Augustine's exact words?
  2. What did Augustine mean by those words? If Augustine did say, in so many words, "Saints are saved by the New Covenant," my question would be, "As opposed to what?" The Old Covenant? The Covenant of Works? It matters. I'm a Presbyterian, and I would never say anyone was saved by the Old Covenant. Anyone who is saved is saved by union with Christ.
  3. What were Augustine's categories and theological framework with regard to the covenants?
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
One thing that I've learned in my years on the PB is that the early church fathers are often appealed to, but as soon as you think they say something that helps your position, they say or do something else that totally runs against it.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Sophomore
One thing that I've learned in my years on the PB is that the early church fathers are often appealed to, but as soon as you think they say something that helps your position, they say or do something else that totally runs against it.
Didn’t Calvin say much the same thing? The Fathers can be helpful in some respects, but often times they are all over the place. They also weren’t answering the same questions we’re asking.
 

Romans678

Puritan Board Freshman
One thing that I've learned in my years on the PB is that the early church fathers are often appealed to, but as soon as you think they say something that helps your position, they say or do something else that totally runs against it.
I'm pretty sure the early church fathers fancied Arby's over Lion's Choice...

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