A Priori Creation Ethics
Stephen Wellum discusses how ethics looks in Progressive Covenantalism. His issue with traditional Covenant Theology is not in the conclusions but "how we arrive at our conclusions" (216). On the surface, Wellum presents some good argumentation, but I have a dispute with his consistency.
In the chapter, Wellum has five basic points. His third point is that all Scripture must be read in light of — through the lens of — Jesus Christ. With this general point, Wellum argues that the Mosaic Covenant remains authoritative Scripture without being "a covenant" over New Testamant Christians. Thus he states,
"In order for Christians, then, to determine what God's moral law is, we must apply all of Scripture in light of Christ. God's moral law is not discovered, as covenant theology teaches, in an a priori manner, that is, by isolating the Decalogue from the law covenant and then applying it directly to us." (225)
Whether one agrees with Wellum or not, the section is thought provoking. The attempt to salvage the authoritative nature of the law is to be commended. However, Wellum in the next section performs a priori analysis of creation as the basis for his ethic,
"Just as it is cruical to begin the Bible's story line and covenantal unfolding in creation in order to grasp God's plan, it is also necessary to ground ethics in the norm of creation." (226)
Wellum believes that by adopting a story understanding of "the Bible's progressive unfolding of the covenant and the larger biblical-theological framework" the initial creation becomes fundamentally paradigmatic in isolation apart from Jesus Christ. This is the very a priori concern that he rejected in Covenant Theology.
Creation does not stand at the front of Scripture as something far removed from Jesus Christ. Paul in Ephesians makes clear that the early portions of Genesis are intimately concerned with Christ and the church (Eph 5:30). Karl Barth puts it more eloquently,
"The panorama of creation is not just the story of the genesis of the world and of man. It is also—and by virtue of being the story of our origins—the promise of revelation and reconciliation; it is a sign that the world has been declared 'good,' that is, has become the showplace for revelation. Thus the world already clearly indicates in all its aspects that God's revelation will be something unique in this world, that it will come as free grace and that that grace will be called Jesus Christ" (Quotation from The Theology of Karl Barth, 123)
Perhaps more clearly, Hans Urs von Balthasar quotes Barth saying "the history of the covenant of grace follows upon creation but not from it" (123). Wellum's story-telling/unfolding interpretation separates creation from the covenant of grace. This is not to say that Wellum is incorrect in his application of the principle. But the concept of a "creation ordinance" solely for the sake of removing passages from "the lens of Christ" seems contrary to what Wellum is principally arguing.
If there is any value in Wellum's principal point, it continues to linger even over his own promoted basis for Christian ethics.