Skirting the issue?


Dr. Clark wrote a recent blog on the Heidelblog here.

In Dr. Clark’s understanding the Republication issue shouldn’t be all that confusing. Well his understanding of it is for some of us who see things through the eyes of the Divine’s. Especially when we look at his Covenant Theology Thesis on his Westminster California Website. He seems to view the Mosaic Covenant more along the lines of the Lutherans than through the eyes of the Majority of the Divines during the time that the Westminster Confession of Faith was written. I have yet to see him discuss his differences with Anthony Burgess, Samuel Rutherford, or John Ball on this issue. He may have but I haven’t seen it.

I responded to his blog post but don’t expect an answer. I even expect my response to be deleted as usual.

Here is his understanding of the Mosaic in relationship to the Abrahamic and New Covenant.
Biblical / Exegetical section…
13. The Mosaic covenant was not renewed under Christ, but the Abrahamic covenant was.
16. With regard to the land promise, the Mosaic covenant was, mutandis, for pedagogical reasons (Galatians 3:23-4:7), a republication of the Adamic covenant of works.
17. With regard to justification and salvation, the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace.
18. The Israelites were given the land and kept it by grace (2 Kings 13:23) but were expelled for failure to keep a temporary, typical, pedagogical, covenant of works (Genesis 12:7; Exodus 6:4; Deuteronomy 29:19-29; 2 Kings 17:6-7; Ezekiel 17).
19. The covenant of grace, initiated in history after the fall, was in its antepenultimate state under Adam, Noah, and Abraham, its penultimate state under the New Covenant administration and shall reach its ultimate (eschatological) state in the consummation.
20. The term “Old Covenant” as used in Scripture refers to the Mosaic epoch not every epoch before the incarnation nor to all of the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures indiscriminately.
21. The New Covenant is new relative to Moses, not Abraham.

The blog post he wrote seems to signify something different than what he seems to be noting in his Covenant Theses. At least it appears to. I also guess we might need to define what New Covenant means in relation to the Old Covenant. Concerning the Covenant of Grace, many take the terminology to mean Renewed as Richard Sibbes states.

There are four periods of time of renewing this covenant: first, from Adam to Abraham;… Secondly, From Abraham to Moses;… The third period of renewing the covenant of grace was from Moses to Christ; and then it was more clear, whenas to the covenant made with Abraham, who was sealed with the sacrament of circumcision, the sacrament of the paschal lamb was added, and all the sacrifices Levitical; and then it was called a testament. That differeth a little from a covenant; for a testament is established by blood, it is established by death. So was that; but it was only with the blood and death of cattle sacrificed as a type.

But now, to Christ’s time to the end of the world, the covenant of grace is most clear of all; and it is now usually called the New Testament, being established by the death of Christ himself; …

Many take the term to mean renewed. Dr. David Murray makes this point in his podcast here.

Also when we speak of Republication one needs to be understanding about what the implications of republication might mean and what the Divines meant.

Either the substance of the Mosaic is the same as the New Covenant as the WCF 7.5,6 states or it isn’t. It seems from past articles and writings that Dr. Clark might mean something different. If I am understanding him correctly the Covenant of Works is Republished in some form as a Covenant within the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant is only an Administration of the Covenant of Grace in relationship to justification according to his Theses which I quote above. The rest of the Mosaic Covenant must pertain to a Covenant of Works (in some sense) in a pedagogical way. So it must be some kind of mixed Covenant. But is that how the Majority of the Divine’s understood it? From what I have gathered that is not the case.

Here is Joel Beeke / Mark Jones on the topic from their book ‘A Puritan Theology’. I would encourage everyone to read Chapters 16-18 of this book to see if Dr. Clark sounds like the Reformed Thought of the Puritans and Divines or if he sounds more like the Minority view which was rejected at the Westminster Assembly. I believe Meredith Kline and Dr. Clark are promoting the Minority view which was rejected.

Here is a small portion which deals with Republication…

Anthony Burgess likewise comments that the law may be understood largely, “as that whole doctrine delivered on Mount Sinai,” or strictly, “as it is an abstracted rule of righteousness, holding forth life upon no terms, but perfect obedience.”75 In the former sense, the law belongs to the covenant of grace; in the latter sense, the law was not of grace, but of works, which helps explains Paul’s polemic against the law in his New Testament writings (e.g., Galatians). These distinctions also help to explain the idea found in many Puritan authors who speak of the Mosaic covenant as republishing the moral law first given to Adam, written on his heart, engraved on tablets of stone as the Decalogue. For the most part, theologians who spoke in this way, whether dichotomists or trichotomists, made a number of careful qualifications in order to show that the moral law was republished not as a covenant but as a rule of righteousness for those in covenant with God. In other words, the moral law was not republished at Sinai to serve as a means of justification before God. For example, John Owen made clear in his work on justification by faith that the old covenant was not a revival of the covenant of works strictly (i.e., “formally”). Rather, the moral law was renewed declaratively (i.e.,“materially”) and not covenantally: “God did never formally and absolutely renew or give again this law as a covenant a second time. Nor was there any need that so he should do, unless it were declaratively only, for so it was renewed at Sinai.”76 The concept of republication of the moral law does not make Sinai co-extensive with Eden in terms of strict covenantal principles. If the moral law is abstracted “most strictly,” to use Roberts’s language, then Sinai certainly was a formal republication of the covenant of works. But, as Ball tried to argue, that certainly was not the intention of the old covenant. In the end, Ball’s position, which had been argued during the Reformation by Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr, and John Calvin, clearly influenced the Westminster divines.

Accordingly, chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession, “Of the Law of God,” begins by asserting that the moral law was first given to Adam, and goes on to say, “This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness, and as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables” (19.2). The Confession further asserts, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof” (19.5), and is of great use to believers “as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty…discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature…together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience” (19.6). Chapter 19 concludes that for a believer to do good because the law commands it or to refrain from evil because the law forbids it, “is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace. Nor are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it” (19.6–7).

Likewise, the Confession declares that the covenant of grace was administered “in the time of the law…by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances…all fore-signifying Christ to come.” Such outward forms were “for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation” (7.5). Hence it follows that “the justification of believers under the Old Testament was…one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament” (11.6).

p. 270-1

75. Burgess, Vindiciae Legis, 223.
76. Owen, Justification by Faith, in Works, 5:244.
Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 10634-10647). . Kindle Edition.

I also believe Samuel Rutherford dealt with this topic in his book the Covenant of Life Opened.

Samuel Rutherford was a very prominent Scottish member of the Westminster Assembly, which sat in the 1640s. He published an extensive treatise on the covenant. It appeared in 1655, as was entitled The covenant of life opened, or, A treatise of the covenant of grace. In the eleventh chapter, Rutherford deals with several abberant views on the Mosaic covenant. First he deals with the Amyraldian view (espoused first by John Cameron, and later by Bolton), which argues that the Mosaic covenant is not a covenant of works or a covenant of grace, but rather a third “subservient” covenant. This view is rejected by the Standards, as well as the Formula Consensus Helvetica. Second, he deals with those who make the Mosaic covenant a covenant of works, completely different from the covenant of grace. This is the view of all Lutherans, as well as a very small minority of Reformed theologians. It is also rejected by the Standards (WCF 19:1-2, LC 101, etc, but we will deal with that issue elsewhere). Finally, he deals with the Arminian view. It is similar to the Amyraldian view, in that it also argues for three covenants entirely distinct in substance.

You can read Chapter 11 of Rutherford here:

Here is Anthony Burgess again….

“We have confuted (proven to be incorrect) the false differences, and now come to lay down the truth, between the law and the Gospel taken in a larger sense.

And, first, you must know that the difference is not essential, or substantial, but accidental: so that the division of the Testament, or Covenant into the Old, and New, is not a division of the Genus (classification) into its opposite Species; but of the subject, according to its several accidental administrations, both on Gods part, and on mans. It is true, the Lutheran Divines, they do expressly oppose the Calvinists herein, maintaining the Covenant given by Moses, to be a Covenant of Works, and so directly contrary to the Covenant of Grace. Indeed, they acknowledge that the Fathers were justified by Christ, and had the same way of salvation with us; only they make that Covenant of Moses to be a superadded thing to the Promise, holding forth a condition of perfect righteousness unto the Jews, that they might be convinced of their own folly in their self-righteousness.” (Vindication of the Morall Law, Lecture 26 p.251)

I don’t believe Dr. Clark believes that the Covenant of Works is offered as a way of salvation as the Lutherans are reported to believe but it is offered as a Covenant in the Mosaic in some sense as Cameron and Bolton might have proposed which is noted to be unconfessional.  This issue is being discussed by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the OPC.  In fact I just learned that the Overture passed and will be taken to the OPC General Assembly.   You can read about the Overture and the booklet three Pastors have written on this topic at the following link.  Their conclusion in a sentence was this, ….the Republication Paradigm (ie., the views of Kline and The Law is not of Faithuses traditional language and concepts, but redefines them in the service of its own paradigm. Not only do these new definitions fail to harmonize with those contained in the Westminster Standards, they may lead to other systematic changes in our confessional theology.”

Here is another post concerning Anthony Burgess on this topic. I will post the intro to it and then the link to what he writes.
I have received permission from the author to publish is works on my blog. He writes….

Anthony Burgess

The following is taken from Anthony Burgess’s Vindication of the Law and the Covenants (1647). Burgess was a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. These lectures were internationally hailed as a solid defense of consensus Calvinism over against the more extreme views of the Calvinistic antinomians of the period, as well as those of the Papists, Socinians, and Arminians.

Burgess argues for the consensus position articulated in the Westminster Standards, that the Mosaic Law is a covenant of grace (cf. WCF 7:5-6; 19:1-2; LC #101). Over against this, he refutes three other aberrant minority views, who maintain that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works, a mixed covenant, or a subservient covenant. Note especially his insightful exegesis of the Ten Commandments towards the end: even the very form of the commandments presupposes that they are given in the context of a covenant of grace.

Burgess utilizes the precision of the scholastic method by distinguishing between the “whole doctrine delivered on Mount Sinai, with the preface and promises adjoined, and all things that may be reduced to it,” and in a more strict sense, the law “as it is an abstracted rule of righteousness, holding forth life upon no terms, but perfect obedience.” In other words, if we take the substance of the commands out of the Decalogue, and consider it merely in terms of these legal imperatives, abstracting it from its administration under Moses, we have a covenant of works. This can be affirmed in an orthodox sense only because the substance of the Mosaic Law (consider simply as the commandments abstracted from the preface and the promises) is the same as the law of the covenant of works, not because God actually made a covenant of works with Israel (for either earthly or heavenly life and blessedness)

This is very important for understanding the mainstream Reformed view, especially because Burgess reflects the Calvinistic consensus represented at the Westminster Assembly.

I have again updated some of the spelling to be more pleasing to the modern eye. In a few instances I have changed the word order in the interests of readability. I have in no way knowingly changed the sense or substance of Burgess’s arguments.

You can read the portion that Anthony Burgess wrote at the following link.

Now a word from our Covenant Theologian John Ball…..

Under this Covenant, the natural seed of Abraham bore the face of the Church and state, and God had promised abundance of temporals, and of spiritual a scantling; But all under the outward administration of the Covenant, were not in like manner partakers of the blessings promised in Covenant.  For some had their part in temporal blessings only, and the outward ordinances; others were partakers of the spiritual blessings promised.  But whatever good thing any of them enjoyed either temporal or spiritual, it was conferred upon them freely according to the Covenant of Grace, and not for the dignity of their works.  It is true, the promise is conditional, if they obey, they shall reap the good things of the Land: but obedience was not a causal condition, why they should inherit the Land…So that herein there appears no intexture of the Covenant of works with the Covenant of Grace, nor any moderation of the Law to the strength and power of nature for the obtaining of outward blessings.  But rather that God out of his abundant goodness is pleased freely to confer outward blessings promised in the Covenant upon some that did not cleave to him unfainedly, that he might make good his promise unto the spiritual seed, which by word and oath he had confirmed unto the Fathers.

(John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace [1645], 142).

It seems from Clark’s writings and his Theses that he does not believe that the Mosaic Covenant is purely an Administration of the Covenant of Grace but that it is only an Administration of the Covenant of Grace in relation to justification. That doesn’t appear to be thought of the Divines as I have conferred with other Drs., Profs., and Reformed Pastors. It appears to me that he believes other things out side of the justification issue in the Mosaic Covenant contains a Covenant of Works (in some sense) pedegogically. Thus he seems to be teaching contrary to what is meant by WCF chapter 7.5,6.

Here are a collection of my blogs discussing this modern Reformed paradigm shift or what I term Modern Reformed Thought.