Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Proving New Covenant Theology with Only One Bible Verse

As I've grown in my understanding of Scripture, I've come to realize that the Bible can only be rightly understood when it is viewed through the lenses of the covenants that God has established. As I've examined what Scripture says about itself and how it is to be understood, I've come to the conclusion that New Covenant Theology is the truest and most accurate way to view the covenants of God and Scripture as a whole. (Some have begun to call NCT by the name of Progressive Covenantalism but I prefer the more popular New Covenant Theology)

Now NCT is a small group of men and women. When my previous pastor wanted to describe how small a group he belonged to he would say, " we could have our conference in a phone booth" and this certainly fits the NCT group. However, the NCT group is growing and I suppose it will continue to grow as more begin to realize the fatal flaw of classic Covenant Theology and are brave enough to call the Reformed confessions into question on some points.

Because of the growth of NCT, more and more people are asking questions about what it is and seeking to understand if it really accords with Scripture. This article will seek to answer both of those questions.

WHAT IS NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY?

New covenant theology is a theology that sees the Mosaic covenant and law as completely fulfilled, thus having no binding significance on Christians. In other words, NCT says that we are no longer under the 10 Commandments, but we are under the "Law of Christ."  This sets NCT out as very distinct because both Baptist and Presbyterian forms of Covenant Theology state that we are in fact under the law of the 10 Commandments.

Covenant Theology divides the laws of the Old Testament into 3 parts, the civil law, the ceremonial law, and the moral law. The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, are described as being "the Moral law" and thus are binding upon all people at all times. New Covenant Theology denies this division and says that all the Old Covenant laws are fulfilled and gone. If one is gone, the rest go with it, if one is still binding then they all are still binding. This is what NCT teaches because this is simply what Scripture says. Thus, the law can't be divided, one must take it all, or leave it all. New Covenant Theology doesn't want to take it all because the law is a heavy weight that is a "ministry of death" (2 Cor. 3) so we choose to leave it all behind because we have "been released from the law." (Romans 7)

That's New Covenant Theology in a nutshell.

CAN NCT BE PROVEN FROM SCRIPTURE?

Yes. In fact, it can be proven true by only one verse, Galatians 3:15. Now to be clear, just because it
can be proven in one verse does not mean that there is only one verse which affirms it, but rather, it's so plain that it needs only one verse to verify it. In Galatians 3 Paul is answering arguments that the Mosaic Covenant caused the Abrahamic Covenant to change. Paul wants to assure his readers that the Abrahamic Covenant has not been changed by the Mosaic covenant, and he does this by attempting to prove that it is impossible for one of God's covenants to change. So in verse 15 of chapter 3, Paul writes, "to give a human example brothers, even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified."  

At first glance, Galatians 3:15 may seem like an insignificant passage but it actually destroys any form of Covenant theology that would seek to divide some of the OT law claiming that some of it has been abolished and some of it continues on fully in force.

Paul is arguing in classic Hebrew form knows as "Kal Va'chomer"  which is to say, "if the lesser is true, then how much more-so is the greater true?"  Jesus did this often as well, remember when he asked his disciples "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask?"  

Notice the progression of logic, if the lesser and weaker is able to do such feats, how much more so is the greater and stronger able to do them?  This is exactly what Paul is doing. In Galatians 3 he is attempting to prove that the Abrahamic Covenant was not changed or annulled or altered in any way and he does this by arguing that God's covenants can't ever be altered, period. He argues in the classic Hebrew "Kal Va'chomer" style, the lesser to the greater. If a human covenant (the lesser) is unchangeable once it has been established, then how much more so is one of God's covenants (the greater) unchangeable? He just proved that the Abrahamic covenant was not altered or changed by way of Kal Va'chomer.

Let's consider what he's saying here. Imagine for a second that you sign a mortgage on a house. The interest rate is agreed upon, the details of loan amount, monthly payments, penalties, late payment fees, causes for repossession of property, etc. etc. Once you and all other parties sign on the line, you cannot decide that you want to change a part of the agreement. It is impossible to wake up the next morning and decide that you want to annul some of the requirements but keep others; "even with a man made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified." Now if you wish to pay off the mortgage by entering into another mortgage agreement, then you can refinance by taking out another loan with the new details that you desire and paying off the old one. But once you pay off the old one, it is fulfilled and is no longer in force, not one single letter of it. This is what Christ did essentially. He paid off the Old Covenant and established a New Covenant.

The Covenant theologian must answer the question, "how is it that some Old Covenant laws have been annulled and some have not?"  Paul explicitly says that this is impossible with a man made covenant and is even moreso impossible with a Divine covenant. The CT is essentially telling Paul that he is wrong, that parts of God's covenants can be annulled or added to even after they have been ratified. But this is wrong. God's covenants are unchangeable and unalterable once they have been ratified." (Especially since the Old Covenant was ratified with blood Ex. 24).

How can one argue that parts of the Mosaic covenant are annulled, (it's now acceptable to sow two different seeds in one field) that some are altered, (the Sabbath day has changed from a 7th day required observance to a 1st day required observance) and that some are still in effect and in force (the other 9 commandments)?  This tears Paul's argument to the ground and spits on it. If CT is true, then Galatians 3:15 is not. Paul's erred when he suggested that God's covenants were unchangeable. This is of course the crux of the matter. Either Paul was wrong and God's covenants can be changed and altered even after they are ratified, or the Covenant Theologian is wrong. There is just no way out of it for the Covenant Theologian, he must be right, or Paul must be right, but they cannot both be right. Either God's covenants can be altered or they can't be.

I throw my lot in with Paul. I believe that the only way to alter one dot of the Mosaic Covenant is if someone comes along and fulfills it completely (pays off the mortgage). Otherwise, all agreements are still in effect and unchangeable. But isn't this exactly what Jesus said, "not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is fulfilled." God's covenants are unchangeable until it's fulfilled, just like man made covenants. And if a man made covenant can't be altered or changed after it's been ratified, then how much more the case with a God made covenant?!




COMING NEXT WEEK

Next week, we'll look at how Reformed Baptists approach the covenants and establish their own brand of Covenant Theology. We will examine how they err in identifying our relationship to the law of Moses, how they too fail to grasp the splendid newness of the New Covenant; and how they mistakenly adopt a contradictory hybrid of a Baptist view and a Presbyterian view of Covenant Theology.


Baptists agree that the whole Old Covenant has been abolished, so how do they explain their return to the 10 Commandments as the summation of all moral law for Christians?  The 1689 Confession clearly teaches this, but does Scripture?

Christo et Ecclesiae




2 comments:

  1. This does not prove anything and it misunderstands CT. You wrote, "The Covenant theologian must answer the question, "how is it that some Old Covenant laws have been annulled and some have not?" Paul explicitly says that this is impossible with a man made covenant and is even moreso impossible with a Divine covenant. The CT is essentially telling Paul that he is wrong, that parts of God's covenants can be annulled or added to even after they have been ratified. But this is wrong. God's covenants are unchangeable and unalterable once they have been ratified." (Especially since the Old Covenant was ratified with blood Ex. 24)."

    How exactly has CT annulled or change the Mosaic Covenant by holding that the 10 commandments still apply as a morally binding standard for today? The problem with the article is that we are not saying that the moral law (ie ten commandments) applies today as a the Mosaic covenant but rather as a normative moral standard that should be followed.

    New Covenant Theologians commit the fallacy of Division.

    Description: Inferring that something is true of one or more of the parts from the fact that it is true of the whole. This is the opposite of the fallacy of composition.
    Logical Form:
    A is part of B
    B has property X
    Therefore, A has property X.

    (A) The 10 Commandments are part of (B) the Mosaic Law
    (B)The Mosaic Law (has property x) applied as a covenant only to Ethnic Jews at that particular time.
    Therefore (A) the 10 commandments (has property x) applied only as a covenant to Ethnic Jews at that particular time.

    Another definition: A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true for the whole must also be true of all or some of its parts.

    It is true that the Mosaic Law applied as a covenant only to the Jews at that time but it is not true of all or some of its parts. This much is clear from scripture.

    Just because the whole Mosaic law was given to the Ethnic Jews as a covenant does not mean all parts of the Mosaic Law apply only to those ethnic Jews. NCT wrongly infers that the 10 commandments do not apply as a universal standard of morality to everyone else and thus commit this fallacy of division.

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    Replies
    1. Tim, thank you for your response. I do believe that you have missed a huge factor of Gal. 3:15. You claim that the Decalogue continues on, but Galatians says that it cannot be added to or taken away from. CT does both of these. It both adds to the Decalogue and it takes from it.

      First, it takes away the demand of resting on the seventh day of the week. According to Galatians 3:15 this is not possible.

      Second, it adds to it by suggesting that the 4th commandment requires attendance of a worship service.

      Let me quote it for you,

      “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

      At what point does that commandment require attendance at a public service? What if I wanted to stay home and worship God by myself all day? Is that acceptable? Not according to the CT who claims that the 4th commandment requires public attendance at a worship service. Thus, the CT has added to even the Decalogue when Gal. 3:15 says that a covenant cannot be changed once it's been ratified. According to Scripture, those commandments were ratified by blood. So if it has been ratified, how is it that the CT both adds to the commandment by adding to the requirements and takes away from the commandment by changing the day?

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