30 May 2011

Hyper-Solafideism Part 6- Two forms of the Law/Gospel Hermeneutic

 This also brings us to what is often called the Law/Gospel hermeneutic. As we've discussed, there are several dynamics at work in how the Old and New Testament relate to each other.

There is an overarching unity in substance...Salvation by Grace through Faith Alone rooted in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Everyone from Adam to now was saved the same way regardless of their chronological placement. The Eternal Covenant and Jesus Christ are inseparable and form the basis of the Unity.

Looking strictly at the Old Covenant, Abraham and Moses belong to the same 'chronological' period...the Old, meaning pre-Christ. They lived in the First Days so to speak...we live in the Last Days. The promises made to Abraham were in part tied in with the typology related to the Old Covenant era, viz. the land of Canaan.

But as Paul makes clear in Galatians, the Abrahamic Promise was the New Covenant before the New Covenant had become a chronological reality and it worked on a different principle than the Mosaic Covenant, even though it shared the pre-Messianic chronological period.

People were saved during the Mosaic era by the Promise/Grace extended to Abraham, which though by faith...I would argue was also conditional in some sense.

And on a typological level, the Mosaic Covenant operated under a corporate provisional works principle. Israel was both a reiteration of the 1st Adam, and a typological picture of the 2nd Adam, the True Israel.

In terms of the overarching salvation....it's always been the same.

In terms of the chronology, there's a distinction between Old and New.

Within the Old there's also a distinction between Promise and Law, which sometimes is merely an additional layer, other times a radical break.

And along the same lines there's also a sharp distinction made between Moses and the New Covenant. If Moses is taken alone, a Law-Covenant mediated by Moses, it is in opposition to the Grace-Covenant mediated by Christ.

And yet you can't look at it from the angle alone. It's there and must be considered. Moses is indeed an administration of death, as we read in 2 Corinthians 3:

6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

Here, they're being contrasted in sharp terms, and the New is given the place of supremacy, a key hermeneutical principle. This contrast, a major theme in the New Testament...to emphasize the work of Christ, the glory of the New Covenant which itself is Salvation, is the right understanding of the Law/Gospel hermeneutic.

Substantially the individual was saved as we are, but at the same time they were under a massive multi-layered typological structure of forms...pointing both to life and death. The law was both a tutor bringing the people (collectively speaking) to the Gospel by both positive and negative emphases...but it was also a guilt-multiplying tool of condemnation.

It was both good and holy and at the same time a weak and a crushing yoke. It was life in what it pointed to, and death in what it could give.

A right understanding of this relationship between Law and Gospel helps us to understand the Church, the in-Christ, the Israel of the New Covenant. It helps us to understand why we would never want to return to the legal principle of the Mosaic administration nor its typological symbols which are Redemptively speaking anachronistic and obsolete, unnecessary and undesirable, and in light of the fully revealed Gospel...unhelpful.

The Old Testament is the Word of God and part of the overall story of the Seed of the Woman, Israel, God with us, the Risen King. It's entirely profitable and worthwhile. It's deep with riches and yet in one sense...is obsolete. It's related to our Covenant Canon, but chronologically speaking it is not 'our' canon. That will upset some and may be misunderstood. We can and absolutely should read it...in light of the superior revelation and the ultimate and final canon, the New Covenant.

For some the Law/Gospel hermeneutic represents an attempt to decipher the various texts of the New Testament in light of the Sola Fide system commitment. Every time there's an exhortation or command, this is reckoned 'Law' and serves only to drive us to Gospel.

I will happily affirm that our human inability when confronted with commands and imperatives must turn to the Gospel. We earn nothing and we don't set out to complete a checklist. We in the temporal Not-Yet are to persevere, something worked in us by the Holy Spirit...but at the same time something (at least empirically, or perspectivally)...we do.

Sometimes I wonder if it is akin to the phenomenological language found in some of the Old Testament narratives. Joshua commands the sun and moon to stand still. Now we know the sun doesn't stand still. If anything, scientifically, the earth temporarily quit spinning that day. And yet from Joshua's perspective, the sun stood still. He was right...from his limited perspective. We, 3500 years later have a fuller perspective, that informs of more, but in no way negates the veracity of his experience when viewed from that perspective.

I've wondered at times if this phenomenological dynamic (empirical observation vs. actual reality) is analogous to the many problems and factional battles concerning theological concepts like Covenant, Soteriology, Sacraments and so forth.

If our temporal perspective is not informed by Decretal Revelation then we're blind and left with the kind of theological naturalism you find in Mainline Churches...a kind of Deism.

To be continued.....


Anonymous said...

My apologies for not replying sooner.Since our last correspondence I have been giving this topic a lot of thought, and based on certain scriptures , I see merit in what you are saying here, however , my obstacle here is reconciling these scriptures with say, the doctrines of Election and predestination. I would tend to place eminence on passages such as John 15:16 where I know that it is the work of the Spirit in us that results in the desired outcome.
As I was reading through this latest post, it occured to me again that the law [Mosaic] was added because of transgression, distinctly different to the Abrahamic promise which I believe was extended by grace, but what I think we see in the Mosaic is a form of judgement , a covenant that was impossible to keeep.My thinking here John , is that perhaps parrallels should be drawn between the Abrahamic and new covenant rather than the Mosaic and the new covenant.


Anonymous said...

That's the key...do we reconcile, or do we 'do' theology differently?

Election is 100% true, but not every verse is dealing with that topic. Is there a danger in approaching theology in a Systemic mindset? If we do so, Election logically will be the starting point and every verse will be read through that lens. Some would say that's what we're supposed to do. I used to think so as well.

I agree with your last statement. I would argue that though Abraham was chronologically part of the OT order and shares some of the forms of the OT order....essentially the Abrahamic covenant is one and the same with the New. We are sons of Abraham. Abraham is the example of Justification by Faith. The problem is...some, then take the whole Old Order and try to bring it forward...just stripping off the parts that are obviously obsolete. That's also a mistake.

Chronologically speaking the whole Old Order has been fulfilled....and that includes Abraham.

Comparatively speaking the substance of the Abrahamic promise lives on in the New.

Chronologically and Comparatively, Moses has been fulfilled and is gone.

Does that make sense? Or am I running in circles? (smile)

Johannes der Proto

For some reason the Google Blog Comment tool is all messed up. I have to post as Anonymous right now as well!

Anonymous said...

If circumcision was for Abraham a seal of the promise to Abraham that
Abraham would have children and own a lot of land, then we cannot say
that circumcision is ONLY a seal of righteousness that he had by faith. The circumcision is a sign of more than one thing. But
paedobaptists tend to read the Old Testament as if the Arahamic
covenant and the new covenant were the same, and thus reduce the
Abrahamic covenant to being only about the righteousness earned by

In addition, the Romans 4:11 text says that circumcision was a sign to Abraham that he Abraham had the righteousness. The circumcision is a sign that Christ will bring in the righteousness, but not a sign to
anybody else that they have or are promised the righteousness.

Israel is a type fulfilled by Christ, not by a mixed body of justified and non-justified folks we call “the church”. Circumcision is a type of the forensic “cutting off” from legal identity in Adam by means of Christ’s death. Christ’s death is our death, and that death is not water, not regeneration, not “covenant membership” in a conditional (full gospel) probation.

It’s not water that fulfills the type of circumcision, because it’s Christ’s death to the law imputed to the elect which is the ultimate thing signified by circumcision. Christ did not become cleansed or regenerated, but His blood was shed to satisfy justice, and that’s the central truth to which circumcision speaks.

Protoprotestant said...

I don't know of any paedobaptists who reduce the Abrahamic Covenant to being 'only' about righteousness.

Actually, it is the Baptist who in an unwarranted fashion 'split' the Covenant rather than treat is a dichotomous whole....and then in the NT/Romans 4 they treat it as ONLY a seal of the righteousness by faith.

The promise mentioned in Romans 4 is two-fold. It extended to him, his children, and those that far off...but ultimately is for those who are 'in' Christ. The error many make is to view those categories as exclusive or to use one to negate the other having any concrete meaning.

The Church is used in many senses just as Israel was. Read Romans 9....Israel was Israel but then not all who were Israel were 'of' Israel.

Again, a dichotomy, a dialectic.

All your categories are eschatological....no room for means, no room for temporal forms.

Very consistent, systematic, logical.

Just not Biblical. You're torturing the text.

Circumcision represented the cutting away of sin, the putting on of the new man. They were told to circumcise their hearts.

Outwardly it was more complex and represented several different ideas.

Baptism represents the same general idea or else the Colossians 2 analogy makes no sense whatsoever....not to mention the analogies made in 1 Cor 5 and 10.

Nor Paul's statements in Romans 4, Galatians 3 or Peter in Acts 2.

Nor does any of the continuity language in John 10, Ephesians 2, Galatians 6 etc....

I don't agree with your wording in the last paragraph but for the sake of argument....we participate in Christ's death via Baptism.

It would help if you would provide some form of identification or else the conversation would get too confusing. I'm assuming you're the same hyper-Calvinistic Baptist that commented on the other post?