Sunday, October 28, 2012

On Covenants & books

I'm reading through this excellent book: Kingdom through Covenants, by Gentry and Wellum, and it has been really helpful in understanding some of the implications of what it means to establish a covenant.
I'm currently on their discussion of how God covenanted with creation, however, and I find the idea to be somewhat... insufficiently argued up until this point. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm very much pro-covenantel, and I do think that God covenanted with Adam. I would also agree that God covenanted with Noah and therefore the creation through him, but I remain (as of the time of this writing) unsold on God's creation being a covenant with creation. And why do I bring this up?

Because these two authors have done a really good job helping me see (or more accurately, have been able to lift some of the fog in my own understanding) what a covenant really is. In Hodges systematic theology a covenant is defined as an agreement between two parties, naturally a covenant can not be less than this, so I figured this had to be right. But these two guys have shown me more clearly that you can call a covenant an oath bound agreement between two parties, but then again you can call a string quartet some guys rubbing horse hair together. Hugenberger is helpful to point out that a  covenant is more like:
1. A relationship
2. With a non-relative
3. That involves obligation
4. Taken by an oath.
And I might add that a covenant presupposes an existing relationship between these two parties.

Unlike a contract, which is entered into for expected benefits or mutual agreements and is often thing oriented, a covenant is a desire for relationship, it's person oriented and the obligation is not on performance but loyalty, or better yet, faithfulness. Classic example: marriage. It's not about things, it's not about what you can get, nor is the desire to terminate, it's about going deeper with a person, being faithful to them, and loving them.

When that definition was presented that intuitive part of me that checks this kind of thing gave me a green light- it feels right. But once I did that I had to throw up my hands, clutch the air as I ball my hands into fists of rage and shout so loud that the kids might wake up, for the model that I have used, the Covenant of Redemption is kicked over. CURSE YOU DAVID PONTER YOU UNASSUMING PINK HAIRLESS APE! NOW I KNOW WHY THE HYPERCALVINISTS HATE YOU- BECAUSE YOUR SPIRITUAL PANTSING IS HUMILIATING! MY DAY IS COMING SIR, ONE DAY IT WILL BE MY TURN!
Ahem.
Ponter has always held that the Covenant of Redemption is a suspect tool read back into the text. While it is an agreement between the three persons of the Godhead to save mankind, it's immediately obvious that it can't be a covenant because they are already family, they don't need to take oaths, they are not estranged, and so forth. It don't fit at all. What it is is the love of the Son to do the will of the Father, what it is not, is a covenant.

Ah well. I still have the Covenant God makes with Adam, and nobody has been able to take that one away from me yet.

3 comments:

David said...

You say: "Ah well. I still have the Covenant God makes with Adam, and nobody has been able to take that one away from me yet."

Hey Phil, let me try to take it away for you. :-)

Firstly, just a small but big point, you say: "a covenant is a desire for relationship, it's person oriented and the obligation is not on performance but loyalty, or better yet, faithfulness."

David: I think you have set up a false dichotomy there. The very nature of a so-called works covenant is that its performance orientated. Faithfulness finds its expression in "works" which meet the "contractual" obligations part of the covenant.

With Kline's blast of cold air in his emphasis on Hittite suzerain treaties, this idea of conditional works covenants kicks in on steroids, with lots of other goodies, like how Big King relates to vassal king, etc.

But back to your other comment:

You set out some criteria for identifying a covenant.

1. A relationship
2. With a non-relative
3. That involves obligation
4. Taken by an oath.

And then later you apply this criteria to the CoR, saying:

"it can't be a covenant because they are already family, they don't need to take oaths, they are not estranged, and so forth."

Apply this to Adam.

He was already "family" in the familial created-ectypical sense (created son of God and all that). They didnt need to take oaths and there is no oath stated or implied, and they were not estranged, and so forth.

A trivium, outside of Genesis, in the OT how many references to Adam are there? And in the NT? And yet the CoW is supposed to carry so much freight relative to the Bible's actual reference to Adam.

David :-)

Phil said...

It's in Hosea 6, but it's not mentioned beyond that.
I'll have to think it over some more obviously.

David said...

Hey Phil,

The Hos 6 reference to Adam has a shaky foundation in terms of meaning. But even if one grants its a reference to Adam, that's a covenant, that is one thing, but a covenant of WORKS, that's a whole new enchilada. A simple covenant is one thnig, but covenant of "works" that's a naked invention of an overly active legalist mind. :-)