Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some thoughts on the COW

The bible is a book that in many ways is like life itself, it must be read forwards and understood backwards.
Failure to do so results in strange consequences.
For example, if you start at the front, in the OT, and study the idea of a covenant sign, by the time you get to the NT you see that padeo-baptism is the only thing that makes sense. The covenant signs are to be given to all the members of the covenant community, children are of the community, therefore baptism should be given to children. However, if you start by thinking through the same issue backwards, you realize that the new covenant is something new, and that baptism is for professed believers, which means it's not for babies. The new covenant community is by believing, not by ethnicity or bloodlines. Very different conclusions arise depending on where you start your thought process.

So it is with the Covenant of Works. If you start at the the front and read about Adam you naturally come to the idea that this is a good model for understanding the holiness required by God. This is buttressed by the idea of the Israelites being told to keep the law and be holy, just as God is holy. Then when you get to the part in the upper room in John where Jesus now calls them friends and no longer just servants, well, case closed.
As such it has the support of the Bible, which makes for a very strong concept, no matter what that theological cyborg David Ponter says. But even though it's very compelling and logically sound, it's wrong, because that's the same worldview the Jews had, and look at the rebuke they get in the NT.
I hadn't thought through the COW too much, honestly, because it seemed right, and it explained a lot as I moved through the Bible. I really focused on looking closely at the pieces, going from one bit of evidence to the next and never really took a step back, way back, and examined the big picture, the idea that I should be holy because it will get me good things, and if I'm good enough, God will reward me. 100% wrong. I don't obey God because I'm a mercenary, I obey because I'm His son.

If you start back to front then you get a very different understanding of God's covenant with Adam. It seems to me now that the covenant of works is really only the outword working portion of the covenant of sonship. God makes Adam as a son, in His image, just as Seth was a son in Adam's image, then God covenanted with Adam not to set up a master/servant relationship, but to draw him closer to Himself through joyful obedience. The point of the covenant was a relationship, expressed through works. The whole point was to deepen the relationship, which was already there.
Did God give Israel the law before or after the Exodus from Egypt? After. After they were free. And so is the covenant with Adam, it's given because he's a son, not in order that he may become one.

A son works, and obeys, and does what His father asks, because he's a son. Working, and listening, and obedience does not make you a son. This is the mistake of the Covenant of works - it sets up the manifestation (or proof) of the covenant as the chief end- work for righteousness sake. The angels are to understand God as a master, but we are to understand Him as a Father. Which means our covenant with Him is a personal, intimate, delightful thing, and as a result we obey His commands which are not burdensome.

And this seems to me to be the reason why the covenant of works seems so Biblical - because I've been thinking it forward, while Paul has been showing me the truth- the Bible must be understood backward, with Christ at it's center.

14 comments:

Bob Gonzales said...

Philip,

Enjoyed reading the post. I do have two questions:

1) Why must the prospect of a "test" or "probation" be construed as incompatible with an already existing relationship of friendship and/or fellowship? Abraham was the "friend of God," yet Yahweh tested him (Gen 22). Jesus was the "son of God" yet his Father led him into the wilderness (in contrast with a Garden) to be tested (Matt 4)

2) Is the prospect of "reward" and/or "perfection" inconsistent with an already existing relationship of filial love and provisional blessing? IOW, Christians on earth are presently God's sons and daughters but they look forward to the prospect of a higher status of sonship with more profound blessings. Similarly, Jesus the mediator was God's son throughout his earthly ministry. But God conferred on him a higher level of sonship (privilege and blessing) at his resurrection (compare Psa 2:7 with Acts 13). So a "covenant of works" need not be construed as the means by which Adam has to become what he's not (i.e., a son) or attain what he doesn't yet have (i.e., a relationship with God). Rather, as in the case of Abraham and Jesus, it is the means by which Adam confirms who he is and by which he and those united to him as covenant head come to enjoy as reward the fullness of blessing and life.

David said...

1) The idea of a probationary period is strange and just speculation. Horton said at the Leithart trial said that Adam had to earn the right to eat of the tree of life. That is just so much bunk. It is one thing to say that at some point Adam may have been confirmed in his naturally righteous state, its another to say that he underwent a probationary period where he had to earn something. Also to test or try someone to draw out faith or to test faith is something different again. Horton better understands the point I think. Adam had to earn something.

2) The second case is the case in point from Bob's comments. Christians are rewarded with heavenly life, but not as a result of works or earning it or of merit. Ironically, Bob has described the Adam-God relationship as filial not as federal/contractual. All that he says along filial lines is fine. But this is not the case with the classic CoW.

It could be the case, however, with Adam as understood apart from the classic idea of a *Works* covenant. In the case of the Christian, the believer is rewarded for his "works" which have been effected by the HS: but the relationship between the Christian and God is not one of *Works* or contract. The basis for the rewards is fundamentally different here, being an expression of grace; and so not set in juxtaposition to grace.

In the case of the classic CoW, this cannot hold. Adam was required to perform his work in his original state of nature. The fundamental basis of relations and relationship between God and Adam was a works/contract model.

3) Bob's comments are reasons why one can reject the CoW because one can retain all the actual elements involved in a filial relationship where obedience is rewarded as an act of grace and love.

Just expunge all the elements of contractualism, merit, works, legal covenant, probationary period, and federal representation. These are all totally extraneous to the biblical narrative. It strikes me that Bob has virtually eviscerated the classic CoW of its original 17thC theology. That is fine, but all that one needs to do next is just delete the terminology of "Works" altogether as its fundamentally misleading and inappropriate in a filial model (see above). The retention of the Works language is just a hang-over from Catholicism. It adds nothing and only misleads and confuses. If one wants to insist on retaining the language of covenant, use covenant of life or covenant of creation: if you have to.

Bob Gonzales said...

David and Philip,

(1) I'm not really that interested in defending what may or may not be the classical view of "the covenant of works." I'm more interested in real exegetical data and appropriate theological inferences.

(2) Adam was created as God's image-son. Similarly, Christ is God's image-son (par excellence). Hence, there is a filial relationship. But such a filial relationship need not exclude the idea of federal or covenant headship (Rom 5:12-21).

(3) I have no problem understanding God's relationship with Adam as "gracious" in character provided that we define grace in prelapsarian terms, i.e., God's kindness, goodness, favor, etc. Certainly not as saving favor to the ill-deserving.

(4) God was under no obligation to create an image-son. In this sense, his decree and act of creation can be understood as pure and unmerited condescension.

(5) Nevertheless, I don't agree with those classic theologians who view the covenant of works as a donum superadditum, i.e., as non-instrinic arrangement between God and man that the former added in addition to creation. Rather, once God determined to create man as his image-son, God bound himself to relate to man covenantally. So just as the atonement may be defined as a *consequent* necessity as opposed to an absolute necessity, so the creation covenant may be understood as a consequent necessity.

(6) As Yahweh-Elohim's vice-regent, Adam was commissioned to fill and subdue the earth with loyalty. This commission not only entailed a *terminus a quo* (starting point) but also implied a terminus ad quem (ending point). Hence, there was eschatology before the Fall.

...

Bob Gonzales said...

(7) The sanctions of a divine-human covenant--whether blessing or curse--are predicated on the keeping or failure to keep the covenant stipulations. Hence, fealty toward the Lord of the covenant *merits* blessing while disloyalty *merits* the curse.

(8) By *merit* I refer to that which deserves or justifies a reward. In the case of Adam and Christ, the reward is not bestowed arbitrarily. For this reason, I'm uncomfortable with the implications of the WCF 7.1, namely, that any reward God would confer upon man can only be understood as "voluntary condescension" and undeserving. This notion implies that God was under no obligation to reward Adam's loyal love and obedience with blessing. But as I argue above, once God freely decided to create man as his image-son, God placed himself under obligation to relate to humans covenantally. As I argue in my study, postlapsarian covenants echo the elements of the prelapsarian covenant. And those elements involve stipulations (i.e., expectations) and sanctions (rewards or penalties).

(9) In the case of biblical covenants--whether those of the suzerain-vassal variety or those of the royal grant type--the reward or punishment is predicated on the vice-regent's conformity to the covenant stipulations or lack thereof. To be more precise, the suzerain binds himself to give the vassal what the latter deserves. So the reward is not merely a matter of "goodness" but it is also a matter of justice.

(10) Hence, both divine goodness and also divine justice bind Yahweh-Elohim to reward his image-son--whether it be the First Adam or the Second--in accordance with deserts. Theologically, the image-son is like a "mirror" in which the Creator sees himself. When the reflection is accurate, God *must* say "Amen!" and respond accordingly. When the reflection is distorted, God *must* disapprove and respond accordingly.

(11) The Bible elsewhere predicates eschatological reward or punishment on one's "deeds" or "works" (Eccl 12:13-14; Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 2:19-23; 20:11-13). This is another way of describing attitudes and behaviors that either conform or fail to conform to the expectations of a covenant relationship. What's more, the Bible doesn't make a dichotomy between "works" and a filial relationship with God (Eph 2:10; Titus 3:8; James 2:14-26). Hence, I fail to see the problem with describing the basis for the covenant sanctions in terms of "works" or "merit."

(12) Our salvation in Christ is based not only on God's faithfulness to his gracious promise but also on God's justice (Rom 3:25-26; 1 John 1:9). Jesus *merited* our forgiveness and eschatological reward and God would violate his own nature if he withheld such from those who are in union with Christ.

Whether or not the points above are consistent with the classical CoW model is inconsequential to me. But I'm persuaded by the biblical data that God related to Adam by way of covenant. Moreover, I think the idea of a "covenant of works" is, when properly defined, consistent with the theology of Scripture.

David said...

Some Prelimis.

1) The probationary period is critical for the CoW. The assumption behind the CoW is that by obedience Adam would obtain something he did not have in his creation per se. This is all part of the donum superadditum that Bob mentions below. Check out Muller's Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological terms. I will scan the section and send it along, Phil. It seems to me that the CoW reflects the older Scotus position and perhaps I am arguing for a Thomistic position. I will have to research that more.

2) So when someone like me replies that Adam was already given life, he already had all access to every tree, except one, there is nothing he had to Work for, in order to obtain which he did not already have. Folk like Horton must say, can only say, something like, nonetheless, Adam had to earn the right to *eternal* life. And so Horton, specifically, says Adam had to earn the right to eat of the tree of life. So Adam had life, but he had to earn eternal life by way of the alleged probationary period. The problem is, he had free access to the tree of life already. There is nothing stated or implied which suggests that Adam had to qualify himself to eat of it by complying with certain conditions (ie a positive law-code). All he had to do was not to disqualify himself by disobedience.

3) In my mind, if one restricts their thinking purely to the narrative at hand, there can be no grounds for hypothesizing a CoW and all that it entails.

4) Theological covenants versus biblical covenants. There is a very subtle operation of thought in all this that is best captured by noting the distinction between theological covenant and biblical covenants. Theological covenants are posited by way of inferences determined by wider system assumptions and considerations. For example, probably the more substantial reason why a CoW is posited is because for many it is now impossible to conceptualize how original sin could be imputed to all mankind apart from a Federalist construct. Therefore a theological covenant between Adam and God is posited in order to sustain imputation of sin. Other subtle and pervasive concerns can be the idea that Christ had to submit himself to the CoW in order to ground the NC and its blessings. This seems to posit that Law must precede grace, as shadow displays light. Hence one prof said in class "grace in the Adamic covenant undermines grace in NC" (my paraphrase). I always found that a baffling statement. The upshot is that now the CoW is all inter-connected with other doctrines that they are seen as inter-dependent, and to challenge one is to challenge the entire theological architecture of justification by faith alone.

5) In what I say below I will try to offset works from Works, the latter being a legally instantiated system of works which is opposed to grace, specifically salvation by grace, apart from works. By Covenant I mean the instantiated covenant as made with Abraham or Moses, as opposed to covenants more informally represented in Scripture. Law will denote an instantiated legal system as opposed to a law or laws or precepts and rules.

David said...

Hey Bob,

Part 1:

You say:
(1) I'm not really that interested in defending what may or may not be the classical view of "the covenant of works." I'm more interested in real exegetical data and appropriate theological inferences.

David: But system thinking injects itself. It has to simply because the narrative itself never speaks to a Covenant or a Works (as opposed to grace) covenant. Therefore inferential thinking as to insert itself to get to the doctrine of a CoW.

You say:
(2) Adam was created as God's image-son. Similarly, Christ is God's image-son (par excellence). Hence, there is a filial relationship. But such a filial relationship need not exclude the idea of federal or covenant headship (Rom 5:12-21).

David: There is the circular reasoning right there. You have assumed a Federalist model so you read that into Romans 5. Romans 5 says nothing about a federalist compact between parties representing other parties, etc etc.

You say: (3) I have no problem understanding God's relationship with Adam as "gracious" in character provided that we define grace in prelapsarian terms, i.e., God's kindness, goodness, favor, etc. Certainly not as saving favor to the ill-deserving.

David: Sure you are free to do that, but in terms of the historic version of the CoW, while the creation of Adam and engagement of Adam in a (alleged) covenantal relationship may be of grace (Murray), in terms of the intra-Covenantal relationship, it is based on Law or Works set in juxtaposition to grace. That is why it was classically called a law-grace distinction. Law came from the CoW, which may have been republished at Sinai (according to what version of Federalism one may subscribe to) but Grace comes with the NC. The original law-grace hermeneutic was pushed back to Adam.

You say: (4) God was under no obligation to create an image-son. In this sense, his decree and act of creation can be understood as pure and unmerited condescension.

David: Sure but that is actually beside the point. This is Murray's objection and valid as far as it goes but it has been shown to be irrelevant. We can even say that Murray's point was adopted by men like AA Hodge and even Turretin. Like this, a man graciously and mercifully brings about a Covenant with another. However, the terms of the Covenant in its connection between obedience and rewards or curses, is that of strict legal Works relationship. Even when one factors in the so-called Pactum Merit of Boston its still strict law and works. Its actually a subtle form of pelagianism.

You say: (5) Nevertheless, I don't agree with those classic theologians who view the covenant of works as a donum superadditum, i.e., as non-instrinic arrangement between God and man that the former added in addition to creation. Rather, once God determined to create man as his image-son, God bound himself to relate to man covenantally. So just as the atonement may be defined as a *consequent* necessity as opposed to an absolute necessity, so the creation covenant may be understood as a consequent necessity.

David: To speak as a friend Bob, the problem here is that you are just making this up Bob. Sorry to be blunt. You say it, but its a product of an already conceived system that reads itself back into the narrative.

David said...

Take the Trinity for example. In classic Augustinian theology, what unites the persons of the Trinity is love. It was a family of love (Augustine). There is no Works contract between the persons of the Trinity as per the CoR. For over a 1000 years folk had no problem with this and this accounted for all the necessary biblical data, eg predestination, plan of salvation, economic roles of the Trinity, etc etc. But since the 17thC for many, ie for Federalists, its inconceivable that the Son as the eternal second person could relate to the Father Non-Convenantally. For these folk, God being a Covenanting God (as understood by them) meant that the Father's basis of relationship with the Son could only be by way of some sort of Covenant Compact.

The problem is, there is nothing that explicitly or implicitly suggests any of that, but nonetheless, for many modern Federalists, it is beyond conception that the Father and the Son and the Spirit could relate by some other mechanism to the exclusion of the CoR. They may allow for the filial, but it can only be set alongside the Federal basis. If there is no Federal basis in the CoR there can be nothing.

So when I read you saying that about the CoW, all I hear is the same thing that folk say about the CoR. It is the "system" which is creating or suggesting what is and is not theologically possible in relation to how God relates, in terms of the Trinity or in terms of mankind.

You say: (6) As Yahweh-Elohim's vice-regent, Adam was commissioned to fill and subdue the earth with loyalty. This commission not only entailed a *terminus a quo* (starting point) but also implied a terminus ad quem (ending point). Hence, there was eschatology before the Fall.

David: And so?

David said...

Part 2:

You say: (7) The sanctions of a divine-human covenant--whether blessing or curse--are predicated on the keeping or failure to keep the covenant stipulations. Hence, fealty toward the Lord of the covenant *merits* blessing while disloyalty *merits* the curse.

David: Again you are just saying that. Lets leave aside the MC and all other explicitly stated covenants, let us restrict ourselves to the so-called CoW. Because you have already assumed a system of thought as being operative in the case of Adam, the above sentence, for you, follows quite naturally and is perfectly coherent. I am saying, we can take out the System thinking (for all the reasons Ive mentioned, primarily because its circular logic), and we can still see a sound basis for curse and reward in the pre-fall administration, without postulating a proper or literal or actual CoW.

Here I am not talking about the simpler idea that God was in covenant with Adam in some other sense of Biblical covenants, such as the one with Jonathan and David (which is by far not a Works covenant) or other like covenants.

You say: (8) By *merit* I refer to that which deserves or justifies a reward. In the case of Adam and Christ, the reward is not bestowed arbitrarily.

David: But this is Bob reformulating the CoW. Aquinas used the word "merit" in many ways. There was condign merit and congruent merit, and all that. But for him, there was a form of merit, or way of speaking of merit wherein it could be said that even with resepect to the truth and actuality of the Spirit-effected works in us, that, nonetheless, "we" merited life or death. Here, it seems to me, he means something very simple, our obedience obtains or qualifies for us the just reward, and conversely our disobedience earns or qualifies for us curse. We today might relate this to causa sine qua non conditionalism. Aquinas said this in terms of a context of pure divine grace, from first to last in all that God does in us and all that we do in response. This shows us that there are other ways of conceptualizing the matrix or complex of obedience-rewards or disobedience-curses which is other than a Works model. I mention Aquinas because he uses the word merit, which gets him in a lot of trouble with modern Reformed thinkers.

If we leave out the word "merit", sons are disciplined by the Father, and clearly this chastising is not arbitrary or disproportionate (punishment fits crime by a just and constant ratio as determined by the inscrutable mind of God).

But in terms of the CoW, Adam was bound to perform or comply to a Law, based on his own natural ability. Hence Work is set in juxtaposition to grace. Adam was required in this manner to in a sense auto-generate his own salvation, by way of compliance to the Law, in the alleged probationary period. This totally undercuts a filial model. It would be like a Father, while motivated by grace and mercy, entering into strictly legal relationship with a son, and mediating all "grace" and all wrath through this legal arrangement. This model may work for commercial partners, or even as a temporary pedagogical tool, but is totally foreign to normal familial relationships. And I just dont think this as the relationship God had with Israel either, contra Kline and others. It is just a foreign concept that implies a pelagian self-salvation idea

David said...

You say: For this reason, I'm uncomfortable with the implications of the WCF 7.1, namely, that any reward God would confer upon man can only be understood as "voluntary condescension" and undeserving. This notion implies that God was under no obligation to reward Adam's loyal love and obedience with blessing. But as I argue above, once God freely decided to create man as his image-son, God placed himself under obligation to relate to humans covenantally. As I argue in my study, postlapsarian covenants echo the elements of the prelapsarian covenant. And those elements involve stipulations (i.e., expectations) and sanctions (rewards or penalties).

David: Sure, but its all in the eye of the System, Bob. I know my saying that sounds trite, and is probably terribly annoying, but that is how it reads to me. One has already posited a supposition and then uses that supposition to explain certain texts. It sort of reminds me of the same logic behind the Q document. A Q document is posited as a supposition to then explain the synoptic problem[?].

You say: (9) In the case of biblical covenants--whether those of the suzerain-vassal variety or those of the royal grant type--the reward or punishment is predicated on the vice-regent's conformity to the covenant stipulations or lack thereof. To be more precise, the suzerain binds himself to give the vassal what the latter deserves. So the reward is not merely a matter of "goodness" but it is also a matter of justice.

David: Sure, but to me this is all beside the point in terms of the CoW. I grant that one could believe in the Klinean conditional Covenants relative to the stated biblical covenants, and all that, but its bearing upon the C0W is all still speculation. For me, the fact that believers in the NT--which itself is just as conditional as the OT--do not stand under a Works template for the basis of rewards or blessings presents another way of looking at God's relationship with Adam. I see grace and law operative in both the MC and the NC, just not proper merit or Works as per a so-called Legal covenant. My thinking here goes back to the assumption that the MC is not a republication of the CoW, nor is it a mixed covenant of Law (as Works) and Grace.

You say: (10) Hence, both divine goodness and also divine justice bind Yahweh-Elohim to reward his image-son--whether it be the First Adam or the Second--in accordance with deserts. Theologically, the image-son is like a "mirror" in which the Creator sees himself. When the reflection is accurate, God *must* say "Amen!" and respond accordingly. When the reflection is distorted, God *must* disapprove and respond accordingly.

David: But this is what you have done, something roughly like this: God's relationship with B, C, and D, is by way of a expressly stated covenant, therefore his relationship with A must be by way of a covenant (even tho no covenant in the narrative is mentioned). And then on top of that, at least for some, it must be of a certain type of covenant, namely Works. I am saying, "Why?"

Covenant, like Law, is God's response to to Sin and Fall. God comes to man as Suzerain-vassal because of sin, and as King he institutes Law (as a System-code). In the garden, however, God relates to man (in Adam) as father, friend and creator. He walks with Adam, and he does this as Creator-friend. Man in the garden is not something that needs to be mastered or tamed or constrained or pedagogically instructed in the way of righteousness. Man in the garden is the pinnacle of creation. You are treating pre-fall Adam as an person who needs to be treated (by God) as a post-fall sinner. Pre-fall Adam does not stand in a univocal relationship to God as post-fall Israel does.

David said...

You say: (11) The Bible elsewhere predicates eschatological reward or punishment on one's "deeds" or "works" (Eccl 12:13-14; Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 2:19-23; 20:11-13). This is another way of describing attitudes and behaviors that either conform or fail to conform to the expectations of a covenant relationship. What's more, the Bible doesn't make a dichotomy between "works" and a filial relationship with God (Eph 2:10; Titus 3:8; James 2:14-26). Hence, I fail to see the problem with describing the basis for the covenant sanctions in terms of "works" or "merit."

David: Sure, but beside the point, Bob. The issue is not that its the CoW or antinomianism (non-responsibility for moral actions). Its not as if its either the CoW or that God has no basis to judge or ascribe blame or praise. The problem is not works, Bob, but Works. For sure, you can discipline your sons for disobedience and yet the internal complex of relationship you have with that son is not a Federal Compact or Works template.

You say: (12) Our salvation in Christ is based not only on God's faithfulness to his gracious promise but also on God's justice (Rom 3:25-26; 1 John 1:9). Jesus *merited* our forgiveness and eschatological reward and God would violate his own nature if he withheld such from those who are in union with Christ.

David: As an aside, where does it say exactly that Christ *merited* our forgiveness?

You say: Whether or not the points above are consistent with the classical CoW model is inconsequential to me. But I'm persuaded by the biblical data that God related to Adam by way of covenant. Moreover, I think the idea of a "covenant of works" is, when properly defined, consistent with the theology of Scripture.

David: I *think* you want to operate by standard filial mechanisms to under-gird a broader covenantal framework between Adam and God (which justifies rewards and punishment), and you do this because you think the way God interacts with other persons demandss a covenantal structure between Adam and God.

[Ive tried to word that preceding sentence carefully, tho I suspect not entirely accurately. For some folk, any divine dealings between person and person, whether divine persons or between divine and human persons, demands a covenantal construct to mediate that relationship. I dont know if you want to go that far. I do gather you want to say that any divine-human person interaction must be mediated by way of Covenant, one sort of another.]

As I read you, there is so so much of what you say that I would agree with. Its just all the stuff that comes along with it. It is just so much unnecessary speculation perfectly comparable to all the Lapsarian speculation we have floating around.

Lastly, always your respectful friend,
David

Phil said...

Again, I'll begin with the caveat that I am in a state of flux about this and am only for the first time in my life really thinking this through. With that in mind:
The COW so neatly explains much by appealing to God's justice and the fact that mankind is fallen, but it's a system that I think collapses outside those parameters.

Dr. Bob you mention that reward is a just response to works, even for the Christian, eg Eph 2:10. But I don't see that Christian works are anything like the COW "you do good you get the prize" but rather in terms of "I've been saving this so we could do it together." It's like how I did pumpkin carving on Halloween with my son, I went and picked out a pumpkin ahead of time and then invited my son to work with me on it. That kind of works is not work, it's something more akin to grace. I have been invited to partake with God in doing a number of things, and it brings me joy.

I think that Dave is right when he points out that pre-fall the COW make no sense. What use is it? Adam is in a state of perfection, created in the image of God to be His son. What use does He have to be make peace with His overlord as a vassal? The sonship model postulated explains the post fall situation just as well, but seems to me to be the only one to explain the pre-fall state of affairs.

The first thing I did when realizing that this new model might have legs was to run it up against those passages that I believe made a strong case for the COW. I find now that the sonship model is more simple and straightforward. For example, I used to think that Romans 2 was an appeal to the COW, but where did I get this interpretation? The COW itself. Paul could merely be appealing to God's just nature, rather than an existing agreement to reward something.

I'm not sure I have arrived at understanding this issue in it's fullness, but the more I consider it, the more confident I am the COW needs to be junked.

Bob Gonzales said...

I don't think it needs to be junked. I think it needs to be redefined. Unfortunately, the Medieval theologians and the Reformers assumed a certain view of "merit" that's skews the whole discussion. Nominalism, which the Reformers tended to prefer, means God could have atoned for humanity's sin with an ass. Yet the Reformers resisted the realism of Aquinas because of the infinite distance between God and man. There's a better way to understand the concept of merit that corresponds to the idea of rewarding fealty with favor that exceeds the favor already enjoyed. In any case, stay tune for more installments of my series on the creation covenant. And if you want to do some reading in the meantime, I'd recommend the following:

Lee Irons, "Redefining Merit: An Examination of Medieval Presuppositions in Covenant Theology," Creator, Redeemer, Consummator: A Festschrift for Meredith Kline, ed. Howard Griffith and John R. Muether. Glenside, PA: WTS Bookstore.

Gregory Beale, Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (IVP, 2004).

Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Broadman&Holman, 2006), 277-97.

Howard Griffith, "Eschatology Begins with Creation," WTJ 49 (1987): 387-96.

Geerhardus Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament. ed. James Dennison (P&R, 2001), 73-76.

Phil said...

I'll take a look at those, thanks Bob.

David said...

Hey Bob,

Keep in mind that none of the original Reformers held that Adam had to, or did merit anything before God. The standard objection you see from Calvin and others is that nothing we do can obligate God. And keep in mind that none of the original Reformers had a Works based CoW or a Works based CoR.

So I dont think that the Reformers had a problem of merit relative to pre-fall Adamic obedience. The problem with merit starts somewhere else and then was re-injected back into pre-fall Adamic obedience by the later Reformed Federalists.

A lot of the early Reformers were the ones who originally rejected Scotus' speculations regarding such things as merit in the garden, lapsarianism relative to Scotian voluntarism, and the Scotian idea of sufficiency of Christ's death.