On 17, Feb 2015 | In Richard Barcellos | By admin
JOHN OWEN AND NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY:
Owen on the Old and New Covenants and the Functions of the Decalogue in Redemptive History in Historical and Contemporary Perspective
Richard C. Barcellos
John Owen was a giant in the theological world of seventeenth century England. He is known today as quite possibly the greatest English theologian ever. His learning was deep and his writings thorough and profound. He has left the Christian Church with a legacy few have equaled in volume, fewer yet in content. In saying this of Owen, however, it must also be recognized that some things he said are difficult to understand. Some statements may even appear to contradict other statements if he is not followed carefully and understood in light of his comprehensive thought and the Reformation and Post-Reformation Protestant Scholastic world in which he wrote.
If one reads some of the difficult sections of Owen’s writings, either without understanding his comprehensive thought and in light of the theological world in which he wrote, or in a superficial manner, some statements can easily be taken to mean things they do not. When this is done, the result is that authors are misunderstood and sometimes, subsequent theological movements are aligned with major historical figures without substantial and objective warrant. Two such instances of this involve John Owen and New Covenant Theology (NCT).
This covenant was conditional because it was a legal/works covenant that promised life and threatened death. Israel failed to earn the blessings promised in the covenant. But under the New Covenant, the Church becomes the Israel of God and all her members are kings and priests (a kingdom of priests). Christ, as our Surety (Heb. 7:22), has kept the Old Covenant for us and earned every blessing it promised.3
The reader of Owen’s treatise on the Old and New Covenants in his Hebrews commentary, however, will quickly realize that Reisinger’s comments above do not give the full picture of Owen’s position. For Owen did not view the Old Covenant as a covenant of works in itself. He viewed it as containing a renewal of the original covenant of works imposed upon Adam in the Garden of Eden,4 something emphatically denied by Reisinger.5 Neither did Owen teach that Christ “kept the Old Covenant for us and earned every blessing it promised.”6 On the contrary, Owen taught that obedience or disobedience to the Old Covenant in itself neither eternally saved nor eternally condemned anyone and that its promises were temporal and only for Israel while under it.7 According to Owen, what Christ kept for us was the original Adamic covenant of works, not the Old Covenant as an end in itself. Owen says:
The phrase ‘Old Covenant’ will be used throughout as a synonym for ‘Mosaic or Sinai Covenant.’ ↩
John G. Reisinger, Tablets of Stone (Southbridge, MA: Crown Publications, Inc., 1989), 36. ↩
Reisinger, Tablets of Stone, 37. ↩
John Owen, The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), XXII:78, 80, 81, 89, 142. Owen viewed the Old Covenant as containing a works-inheritance principle of the broken covenant of works. The reintroduction of this element of the covenant of works, however, functioned on a typological level under the Old Covenant and applied to temporal promises and threats alone. See Mark W. Karlberg, Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000), 167, 184, 217, 218, 248, 273, 346, and 366 for a similar understanding of the works principle of the Old Covenant as it relates to the covenant of works on the typological level of kingdom administration. ↩
The following is taken from John G. Reisinger Abraham’s Four Seeds (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 1998), 129. In it he denies both the covenant of works and the covenant of grace as traditionally understood. “Some time ago I discussed the basic theme of this book with a group of Reformed ministers that was about equally divided on the subject of Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, and the view that I hold. Several of those who held strongly to Covenant Theology insisted on using the term covenant of grace as if it had the authority of a verse of Scripture. They made no attempt to prove their assertions from Scripture texts. They kept speaking in terms of logic and theology. I finally said, ‘We agree that the Bible is structured around two covenants. However, the two covenants that you keep talking about, namely, a covenant of works with Adam in the garden of Eden and a covenant of grace made with Adam immediately after the fall, have no textual basis in the Word of God. They are both theological covenants and not biblical covenants. They are the children of one’s theological system. Their mother is Covenant Theology and their father is logic applied to that system. Neither of these two covenants had their origin in Scripture texts and biblical exegesis. Both of them were invented by theology as the necessary consequences of a theological system.’” Though Reisinger denies the Edenic covenant of works, he does not deny the theology of the covenant of works entirely. He simply does not go back far enough in redemptive history for its basis (cf. Hosea 6:7 and Romans 5:12ff). Because of holding to a modified covenant of works position (i.e., the Mosaic Covenant is the covenant of works), Reisinger’s writings uphold the law/gospel distinction which is crucial in maintaining the gospel of justification by faith alone. For this he is to be commended. ↩
Reisinger, Tablets of Stone, 37. ↩
Owen, Works, XXII:85, 90, 92. ↩
On 27, Jan 2015 | In Resources | By admin
Theonomy may not be heard regularly from pulpits, but it is a view that is alive and well among Christians who take the Bible seriously and are struggling to understand how to apply it to the world they live in.
As appealing as theonomy may be for its apparently simple answer to a difficult subject, it is actually entirely (100%) incompatible with 1689 Federalism. Theonomy, properly defined as the belief that all nations today are obligated to obey Israel’s judicial laws because they have not been abrogated, relies upon an extreme version of the “one substance, multiple administrations” view of covenant theology. It stresses that the Old Covenant is really just the Older Covenant and the New Covenant is just the Newer Covenant – both being administrations of the covenant of grace. Since 1689 Federalism rejects this model, there is no way to hold to both theonomy and 1689 Federalism.
Theonomy, as Greg Bahnsen uses the term.5 is a view of the Bible that argues for the continuing validity of God’s revealed law in every area of life. Bahnsen argues that unless a specific Old Testament law has been abrogated by the New Testament, either by specific revelation or because of an application of a New Testament principle, its authority is still morally and/ or judicially binding. “The methodological point, then, is that we presume our obligation to obey any Old Testament commandment unless the New Testament indicates otherwise. We must assume continuity with the Old Testament rather than discontinuity. This is not to say that there are no changes from Old to New Testament. Indeed, there are — important ones. However, the word of God must be the standard which defines precisely what those changes are for us; we cannot take it upon ourselves to assume such changes or read them into the New Testament.”6
It is not, therefore, the peculiar command for the institution of the legal priesthood that is intended, but the whole system of Mosaical institutions. For the apostle having already proved that the priesthood was to be abolished, he proceeds on that ground and from thence to prove that the whole law was also to be in like manner abolished and removed. And indeed it was of such a nature and constitution, that pull one pin out of the fabric, and the whole must fall unto the ground; for the sanction of it being, that “he was cursed who continued not in all things written in the law to do them,” the change of any one thing must needs overthrow the whole law…
And the whole of this system of laws is called a “command,” because it consisted in “arbitrary commands” and precepts, regulated by that maxim, “The man that doeth these things shall live by them,” Romans 10:5. And therefore the law, as a command, is opposed unto the gospel, as a promise of righteousness by Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:11, 12. Nor is it the whole ceremonial law only that is intended by “the command” in this place, but the moral law also, so far as it was compacted with the other into one body of precepts for the same end; for with respect unto the efficacy of the whole law of Moses, as unto our drawing nigh unto God, it is here considered…
It is therefore plainly declared, that the law is “abrogated,” “abolished… disannulled.”
A separate question, however, is whether or not nations today may or should enforce the general equity of Israel’s judicial laws in their own civil laws. Here are two resources to help unpack 19.4 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession from a 1689 Federalism perspective:
On 04, Dec 2014 | In Resources | By admin
The Difference Between the Two Covenants
But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:6)2
There is no material difference in any translators, ancient or modern, in the rendering of these words; their significance in particular will be given in the exposition.
In this verse begins the second part of the chapter, concerning the difference between the two covenants, the old and the new, with the pre-eminence of the latter above the former, and of the ministry of Christ above the high priests on that account. The whole church-state of the Jews, with all the ordinances and worship of it, and the privileges annexed to it, depended wholly on the covenant that God made with them at Sinai. But the introduction of this new priesthood of which the apostle is discoursing, did necessarily abolish that covenant, and put an end to all sacred ministrations that belonged to it. And this could not well be offered to them without the supply of another covenant, which should excel the former in privileges and advantages. For it was granted among them that it was the design of God to carry on the church to a perfect state, as has been declared on chap. 7; to that end he would not lead it backward, nor deprive it of any thing it had enjoyed, without provision of what was better in its room. This, therefore, the apostle here undertakes to declare. And he does it after his usual manner, from such principles and testimonies as were admitted among them. Read more…
This is a slightly revised version of Owen’s exposition taken from Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen, Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2005) and is used with permission. The footnotes are the ones in the Coxe/Owen volume. Those bracketed with [ ] were provided by the editors of the Coxe/Owen volume. ↩
Νυνὶ δὲ διαφορωτέρας τέτυχεν λειτουργίας, ὅσῳ καὶ κρείττονός ἐστιν διαθήκης μεσίτης, ἥτις ἐπὶ κρείττοσιν ἐπαγγελίαις νενομοθέτηται. Exposition.- Turner remarks that nuni., now, is not here so much a mark of time, as a formula to introduce with earnestness something which has close, and may have even logical, connection with what precedes. See also for this use of the term, ch. xi.16, 1 Cor. xv.20, xii.18, 20; in which passages it does not refer to time, but implies strong conviction grounded upon preceding arguments.- Ed. [Banner of Truth Edition.] ↩
On 03, Dec 2014 | In Resources | By admin
Below are excerpts from various baptist catechisms related to covenant theology.
19. Had it not been a discomfort to the believing Jews to have their Children unbaptized, and out of the Covenant?
The want of Baptism to Infants was never any grievance to Believers in the New Testament, nor were they thereby put out of the Covenant of Grace.
20. Was not the proper reason of Circumcising the Infants of the Jews the interest which they had in the Covenant to Abraham, Gen. 17.7. to be a God to him and to his seed? Read more…
“Here is a rare glimpse into the baptismal debate that raged in England between the 1620’s and, well, today. After questioning the infants interest in the covenant while delivering the 1627 catechetical lectures at Magdelan Hall, Oxford, John Tombes pondered his views for 15 years before he finally came to credobaptist (believer’s baptism) convictions. For another Seventeen years, he championed the cause for credobaptism as a needed reform in the National Church. This Short Catechism was published as a distilation of 32 years of thought as regards baptism. Here is Tombes’ mature, yet succinct presentation of the essence of baptism. During these 32 years, Tombes engaged the leading theological minds about this topic. He had a public debate with an ingenious Baptist who convinced him 1 Cor. 7:14 was no basis to practise infant baptism, he had a public debate with Richard Baxter on the subject, he exchanged polemics directly with Marshall and Ballie, and he wrote against more than thirty proponents of paedobaptism during his age. His writings are exegetically based, historically accurate, and theologically informed. Of all the men in the history of the Church who have written about baptism, Tombes’ has more published pages than anyone. Yet, he has been lost to the modern reader. There are some anomalies in his thought. However, there is great profit to be found from time spent with a man who has become my friend, though dead, John Tombes, BD.” Mike Renihan, Grace Chapel, Editor, 1995 ↩
On 02, Dec 2014 | In Richard Barcellos | By admin
A Brief Overview of Seventeenth-Century
Reformed Orthodox Federalism
Richard C. Barcellos, Ph.D.1
It is no secret that various seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox theologians articulated theology utilizing a federal or covenantal model. There are many sources (primary and secondary) available for the contemporary reader which amply display and discuss this model.2 We will examine briefly a few of the more important federal theologians of the seventeenth century to introduce readers to the world of seventeenth-century federal or covenant theology. This brief survey understands federal theology as a method and not as a distinct school.3
Federal or covenant theology did not begin in the seventeenth century. The seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox built upon the labors of their Reformed predecessors, who built upon the labors of others before them. Such theologians as Zwingli, Bullinger, Calvin, Ursinus, Olevianus, Rollock, Perkins, Ames, and Ball all played key roles in the early development of federal theology.4 We will look briefly at some of the key contributors to the development of federalism in the early and late seventeenth century, and even into the eighteenth century, to provide a wider context to introduce the reader to the thought-world of post-Reformation federalism. This should assist the reader as he continues through this volume. Knowing the historical-theological issues of the most productive era of the formulation of federal or covenant theology (among paedobaptists and Particular Baptists) will introduce readers to the ways and means utilized in such formulations and help understand some of the post-Reformation confessional statements and the biblical and theological issues at stake. Read more…
Richard C. Barcellos, Ph.D., is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA (www.grbcav.org), and author of The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology: Geerhardus Vos and John Owen – Their Methods of and Contributions to the Articulation of Redemptive History, Better than the Beginning: Creation in Biblical Perspective, and The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory. This chapter is a slightly revised section from the author’s The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology and is used with permission. ↩
For instance, for primary sources see Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man: Comprehending A Complete Body of Divinity, Two Volumes (Escondido, CA: The den Dulk Christian Foundation, Reprinted 1990); Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen, Covenant Theology From Adam to Christ (Owensboro, KY: RBAP, 2005); Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprint edition of 1978); Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity: In Two Parts – Part I. the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace; Part II. An Exposition of the Ten Commandments (Edmonton, AB, Canada: Still Water Revival Books, Reprint edition of 1991); Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Two (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1994); and for secondary works see A. T. B. McGowan, The Federal Theology of Thomas Boston (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1997); John Von Rohr, The Covenant of Grace in Puritan Thought (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986); John L. Girardeau, The Federal Theology: Its Import and Its Regulative Influence (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press, 1994); Charles S. McCoy and J. Wayne Baker, Fountainhead of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenantal Tradition (Louisville: Westminster/John Know Press, 1991); Mark W. Karlberg, Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective: Collected Essays and Book Reviews in Historical, Biblical, and Systematic Theology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000); Lyle D. Bierma, German Calvinism in the Confessional Age: The Covenant Theology of Caspar Olevianus (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996); Rowland S. Ward, God & Adam: Reformed Theology and The Creation Covenant – An Introduction to the Biblical Covenants – A Close Examination of the Covenant of Works (Wantirna, Australia: New Melbourne Press, 2003); Peter Golding, Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2004); Peter Lillback, The Binding of God: Calvin’s Role in the Development of Covenant Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001); Willem J. van Asselt, The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669) (Leiden, Boston, Koln: Brill, 2001); John Murray, “Covenant Theology” in Collected Writings, Volume Four (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 216-40; Geerhardus Vos, “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology” in Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., editor, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1980), 234-67. ↩
Cf. Willem J. van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology: Archetypal and Ectypal Theology in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Thought,” Westminster Theological Journal (WTJ) 64 (2002): 323, where he notes, “This should warn us against any facile juxtaposition of federal-biblical theology with scholastic-dogmatic theology…” ‘This’ in context refers to the fact that many late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed theologians utilized Junius’ classification of archetypal and ectypal knowledge. Van Asselt claims that this is true of continental Reformed theologians as well as some English Puritans. John Owen makes such distinctions in his Biblical Theology (Pittsburgh: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994). (Cf. Chapter 8 of my The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology, Owen, Biblical Theology, Chapter 3 Book I, and Sebastian Rehnman, Divine Discourse: The Theological Methodology of John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 57-71 for an extended discussion as it relates to Owen.). Once again, this is further evidence that Reformed scholasticism was a complex method and not a static system of theology. Reformed orthodox theologians could be and were often both scholastic and federal. ↩
For a well-referenced treatment of the history of federal theology in the post-Reformation era see Ward, God & Adam. Cf. also Golding, Covenant Theology, 13-66. ↩
Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants
A Review Article
Just as the Israelites feared to enter Canaan because there were giants in the land, so also the one who approaches Kingdom through Covenant2 must consider the viability of digesting and interacting with a work of such magnitude. That being said, Gentry and Wellum have produced a book worthy both of digestion and interaction. Read more…
Samuel Renihan, M.Div., is a pastor at Trinity Reformed Baptist Church, La Mirada, CA. This review article was published in the Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies (2014): 153-76, and is used with permission from RBAP. ↩
Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, 848pp.). ↩
Pascal Denault recently taught on the covenant theology of the 1689 London Baptist Confession at the first annual 1689 Conference.
Here is the MP3
Here are other formats.
Here are the rest of the sessions from the conference.
On 24, Nov 2014 | In Resources | By admin
Below is an essay from John Owen found in his introduction to his commentary on the book of Hebrews. I’m posting it here for simple reference as I cannot find it anywhere else online as a single, separate article. The text is copied from http://www.godrules.net/library/owen/131-295owen_q3.htm
This essay has very important implications for how to properly interpret the olive tree of Romans 11.
Note that Owen argues against the idea that the nation of Israel was the church. Instead, he argues that the church in the Old Testament was the elect remnant within the nation of Israel. He says there were two offspring of Abraham: physical and spiritual. And there were two types of promises made to Abraham to correspond to these offspring: physical/temporal and spiritual/eternal. And these two types of promises were both covenantal promises. They were both parts of the Abrahamic Covenant. Thus the Abrahamic Covenant is both carnal and spiritual. It existed in a mixed state until the coming of Christ, but it has now been separated. Owen’s essay on the Oneness of the Church should be read in light of the following comment he makes later in his commentary:
When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though it were not before in existence and effect, before the introduction of that which is promised here. For it was always the same, substantially, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and effectiveness, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted, grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, — that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, —was the only way and means of salvation to the church, from the first entrance of sin.
But for two reasons, it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect to any other things, nor was it called a covenant under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it to Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but this covenant with Abraham was with respect to other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely, under the old testament, the covenant of grace consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture,
ONENESS OF THE CHURCH.
1. Oneness of the church — Mistake of the Jews about the nature of the promises.
2. Promise of the Messiah the foundation of the church; but as including the covenant.
3. The church confined unto the person and posterity of Abraham — His call and separation for a double end.
4. Who properly the seed of Abraham.
5. Mistake of the Jews about the covenant.
6. Abraham the father of the faithful and heir of the world, on what account.
7. The church still the same.
On 22, Nov 2014 | In Resources | By admin
-Anonymous Particular Baptist