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Covenant Theology: Covenant of Grace (Part 2)

The Covenant of Grace was introduced earlier this week.  However there are a lot of difficulties associated with the CoG that need to be looked at in brief. Far from being comprehensive, this will simply introduce some of the major conflicts that exist within the Covenant Theology Community.

The Continuity

Both of the examples that I'm going to look at today revolve around perceived continuity of the CoG. Question 34 of the Larger Catechism begins to ask the question of how the CoG is administered in the Scriptures.

For the most part there are no effectual disagreements on the truth that Old Testaments covenant are made on the basis of the CoG. God's provision to Noah (and subsequently his sons and creation), Abraham (and subsequently his offspring and the nations) and David (and subsequently his seed) are all seen as contingent upon the CoG. But the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant are the major sources of splits. 

These splits have manifested themselves in many ways. The split of the Mosaic Covenant started with Meredith Kline. It has evolved into a view that sees the Mosaic Covenant as an extension of the CoW and not the CoG. This has led to a stark split in opinion between the Amillennial "Two Kingdom" camp of Westminster West and those who hold or are sympathetic to postmillennial theonomy. 

The other split is a three way split. This split occurs over the New Testament administration and the New Covenant. Baptist perceive children to not be included in the New Covenant by denying its connecting to previous covenants within the CoG. Federal Vision adherents teach that the New Covenant looks very much like the previous covenants in the CoG with children being participants. Modern Presbyterianism finds themselves somewhere in the middle affirming children in the CoG but not the New Covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant

The debate over the Mosaic Covenant is actually quite fascinating. I've stumbled through this debate on both sides. In an extremely general sense the debate comes down to symbolism. Was the Covenant at Mount Sinai given after salvation (the exodus from Egypt)? Or after apostasy (worshiping the golden calf)?

Another important question is the intent of the law. Was it simply a tutor to Christ (Gal 3:24-25)? Or was it truly a life giving entity (Lev 18:5)? In many ways this is a hermeneutical problem. The answers to the questions will stem from our readings of Romans and Galatians. It is my opinion that when the law is addressed in a negative sense it is almost always speaking in terms of justification and God's righteous judgment.

In a true conclusion to this section, it is my opinion that the inclusion of the word "passover" as an administration of the CoG requires the whole Mosaic Covenant to be another extension of the CoG.  Passover was a sign pointing back to redemption (Exo 12:13, 27). Much like the rainbow was a sign post-flood in God's "second covenant" with Noah, so also the passover sign reminds the covenant members of Israel about their deliverance.

The New Covenant

This one is just simply contentious. There are many shades of views on the relationship between the New Covenant and the CoG. The Larger Catechism is quick to supply that baptism and the Lord's Supper are signs of the CoG. It is under this general affirmation that Reformed churches have practiced infant baptism (don't get me started on infant communion). Seeing the New Covenant as a new, and final, administration of the CoG is the standard Reformed view. The break with Federal Vision adherents is on whether this New Covenant permits non-elect members as previous covenants have done.

The Reformed Baptists stand on the complete opposite of both these.  In a fair sense, Reformed Baptist deny that the New Covenant is a continuation of the CoG. The "betterment" of the New Covenant, as found in the book of Hebrews, prompts them to place the New Covenant in a class all its own apart from the CoG. The cessation of including kids in the Covenant of Grace actually shows that Baptistic Covenant Theology puts an end to the CoG with the introduction of the New Covenant.

Watching these three groups debate each other is fanciful. Though all three share a "border" with one of the other groups, it is almost impossible to just handpick and argument and apply it against the other two groups.

I personally can't perceive anything less than the New Covenant being a continuation in the series of covenants administered under the CoG. Though I have moved further and accepted the Federal Vision's perspective on the New Covenant, I find that even the Reformed perspective on a continuation of the CoG is essential to understanding the Bible. 

BBC: Psalm 2:7-12

Bethinking Conference: Stephen Hawking's "The Grand Design" (John Lennox)