Characteristics of the Church

Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Rexlion, Jun 4, 2021.

  1. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    2,334
    Likes Received:
    2,205
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    I talked about this in the covenant theology thread at length:
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/john-davenant-and-covenant-theology.4301/

    In brief, the word covenant is present in the Scriptures sure, but what it came to be re-interpreted as, among the Reformed theologians, was something like "a series of changing rules of how man relates to God". In the "covenant of works", they said we are justified by works, but in the "covenant of grace", no no, it's totally opposite and works will not justify and now it's something else. The very nature of how we relate to God, what salvation means, how we reach and approach the divine, has kept changing, according to Covenant Theology. The question of whether "covenant theology" is in the Bible is different from whether the word "covenant" is in Bible. The Church has never understood the Covenants of the Old Testament in the way that "Covenant Theology" took over and reinterpreted the word.

    Very simply. The pattern that God has established, kept changing. The rules he set up, were contingent. The structure of salvation was unstable and quite mutable.

    You may think that that's small peanuts now, well in modern Christianity maybe. But in historic Christianity we've always seen it that God never changes his rules; the pattern he sets up is perfect for all time; the decisions he makes are not subject to alteration, ever. The one choice he makes at the beginning doesn't get revoked even at the end of the world. For ever. That's traditional Christianity.

    Covenant theology was formulated by a series of Reformed theologians of early modern Europe. First inklings in the late 1500s with Zacharias Ursinus and his followers; and fully developed in the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, by Johannes Cocceius.

    The contrast I make with Anglicanism in the above thread is, we have never allowed covenant theology within our walls, that's one of our major differences from the Reformed tradition. And even a few theologians like John Davenant that did flirt with it, put an Anglican spin on covenant theology which totally made it impractical and incompatible with the Reformed theologians. I explain in the thread. So there are huge consequences in accepting or rejecting this view, and the Anglican tradition has been universal in rejecting it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  2. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,220
    Likes Received:
    933
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    For the study of those who may be interested in how God's Covenants guarantee their salvation and the conditions that must be met by the believer to obtain and maintain an assurance of salvation:
    The characteristics of The Church are exhibited by anyone who keeps the relevant covenants which God has made with them. Obedience to Christ as LORD therefore is the primary identifying characteristic of The Church.

    4. Man in the Covenant of Works. God at once entered into covenant relationship with man. This original covenant is called the covenant of works. a. Scripture proof for the covenant of works. (1) Paul draws a parallel between Adam and Christ in Rom. 5:12-21. In Adam all men died, but in Christ all those who are His are made alive. This means that Adam was the representative head of all men, just as Christ is now the representative head of all those who are His. (2) In Hos. 6:7 we read: "But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant" (Am. Rev.). Adam's sin is called a transgression of the covenant.

    b. The elements of the covenant of works. (1) The parties. A covenant is always a compact between two parties. In this case they are the triune God, the sovereign Lord of the universe, and Adam as the representative of the human race. Since these parties are very unequal, the covenant naturally partakes of the nature of an arrangement imposed on man. (2) The promise. The promise of the covenant was the promise of life in the highest sense, life raised above the possibility of death. This is what believers now receive through Christ, the last Adam. (3) The condition. The condition was that of absolute obedience. The positive command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was clearly a test of pure obedience. (4) The penalty. The penalty was death in the most inclusive sense of the word, physical, spiritual, and eternal. This consists not only in the separation of body and soul, but more fundamentally in the separation of the soul from God. (5) The sacrament(s). In all probability the tree of life was the only sacrament of this covenant, - if it was indeed a sacrament. It seems to have been appointed as a symbol and seal of life.

    c. The present validity of the covenant of works. Arminians hold that this covenant was wholly set aside. But this is not correct. The demand of perfect obedience still stands for those who do not accept the righteousness of Christ. Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:12. Though they cannot meet the requirement, the condition stands. It holds no more, however, for those who are in Christ, since He met the demands of the law for them. It ceased to be a way of life, for as such it is powerless after the fall.

    Man in the Covenant of Grace. For the sake of clearness we distinguish between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. The two are so closely related that they can be and sometimes are, considered as one. The former is the eternal foundation of the latter. 1. The Covenant of Redemption. This is also called "the counsel of peace," a name derived from Zech. 6:13. It is a covenant between the Father, representing the Trinity, and the Son as the representative of the elect.

    Covenant of Redemption.
    a. The scriptural basis for it. It is clear that the plan of redemption was included in God's eternal decree, Eph. 1:4 ff.; 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9. Christ speaks of promises made to Him before He came into the world, and repeatedly refers to a commission which He received from the Father, John 5:30, 43; 6:38-40; 17:4-12. He is evidently a covenant head, Rom. 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:-22. 22. In Ps. 2:7-9 the parties of the covenant are mentioned and a promise is indicated, and in Ps. 40:7, 8 the Messiah expresses His readiness to do the Father's will in becoming a sacrifice for sin.

    b. The Son in the covenant of redemption. Christ is not only the Head but also the Surety of the covenant of redemption, Heb. 7:22. A surety is one who takes upon himself the legal obligations of another. Christ took the place of the sinner, to bear the penalty of sin and to meet the demands of the law for His people. By so doing He became the last Adam, a life-giving spirit, I Cor. 15:45. For Christ this covenant was a covenant of works, in which He met the requirements of the original covenant, but for us it is the eternal foundation of the covenant of grace. Its benefits are limited to the elect. They only obtain the redemption and inherit the glory which Christ merited for sinners. c. Requirements and promises in the covenant of redemption. (1) The Father required of the Son that He should assume human nature with its present infirmities, though without sin, Gal. 4:4, 5; Heb. 2:10, 11, 14, 15; 4:15; that He should place Himself under the law to pay the penalty and to merit eternal life for the elect, Ps. 40:8; John 10:11; Gal. 1:4; 4:4, 5; and that He should apply His merits to His people by the renewing operation of the Holy Spirit, thus securing the consecration of their lives to God, John 10:28; 17:19-22; Heb. 5:7-9. (2) And the Father promised the Son that He would prepare for Him a body, Heb. 10:5, would anoint Him with the Holy Spirit, Isa. 42:1; 61:1; John 3:34, would support Him in His work, Isa. 42:6, 7; Luke 22:43, would deliver liver Him from the power of death and place Him at His own right hand, Ps. 16:8-11; Phil. 2:9-11, would enable Him to end the Spirit for the formation of the Church, John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14, would draw and preserve the elect, John 6:37, 39, 40, 44, 45, and would grant Him a numerous seed, Ps. 22:27; 72:17.

    Its Requirements and Promises 2. The Covenant of Grace. On the basis of the covenant of redemption God established the covenant of grace. Several particulars call for consideration here.

    The Covenant of Grace a. The contracting parties. God is_ the first party in the covenant. He establishes the covenant and determines the relation in which the second party will stand to Him. It is not so easy to determine who the second party is. The prevailing opinion in Reformed circles is that it is the elect sinner in Christ. We should bear in mind, however, that the covenant may be viewed in two different ways: (1) As an end in itself, a covenant of mutual friendship or communion of life, which is realised in the course of history through the operation of the Holy Spirit. It represents a condition in which privileges are improved for spiritual ends, the promises of God are embraced by a living faith, and the promised blessings are fully realised. So conceived, it may be defined as that gracious agreement between God and the elect sinner in Christ, in which God gives Himself with all the blessings of salvation to the elect sinner, and the latter embraces God and all His gracious gifts by faith. Deut. 7:9; II Cron. 6:14; Ps. 25:10, 14; 103:17, 18. (2) As a means to an end, a purely legal arrangement for the realisation of a spiritual end. It is evident that the Bible sometimes speaks of the covenant as including some in whom the promises are never realised, such as Ishmael, Esau, the wicked sons of Eli, and the rebellious Israelites who died in their sins. The covenant may be regarded as a purely legal agreement, in which God guarantees the blessings of salvation to all who believe. If we think of the covenant in this broader sense, we can say that God established it with believers and their children, Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; Rom. 9:1-4.

    b. The promises and requirements of the covenant. Every covenant has two sides; it offers certain privileges and imposes certain obligations. (1) The promises of the covenant. The main promise of the covenant, which includes all others, is contained in the oft-repeated words, "I will be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee," Jer. 31:33; 32:38-40; Ezek. 34:23-25, 30, 31; 36:25-28; Heb. 8:10; II Cor. 6:16-18. This promise includes all others, such as the promise of temporal blessings, of justification, of the Spirit of God, and of final glorification in a life that never ends. Job 19:25-27; Ps. 16:11; 73:24-26; Isa. 43:25; Jer. 31:33, 34; Ezek. 36:27; Dan. 12:2, 3; Gal. 4:4, 5, 6; Tit. 3:7; Heb. 11:7; Jas. 2:5.

    (2) The requirements of the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace is not a covenant of works; it requires no work with a view to merit. However, it does contain requirements and imposes obligations on man. By meeting the demands of the covenant man earns nothing, but merely puts himself in the way in which God will communicate to him the promised blessings. Moreover it should be borne in mind that even the requirements are covered by the promises: God gives man all that He requires of him. The two things which He demands of those who stand in covenant relationship to Him are (a) that they accept the covenant and the covenant promises by faith, and thus enter upon the life of the covenant; and (b) that from the principle of the new life born within them, they consecrate themselves to God in new obedience.

    c. The characteristics of the covenant. The covenant of grace is a gracious covenant, because it is a fruit and manifestation of the grace of God to sinners. It is grace from start to finish. It is also an eternal and inviolable covenant, to which God will always be true, though men may break it. Even in its widest extent it includes only a part of mankind, and is therefore particular. If its New Testament dispensation is called universal, this is done only in view of the fact that it is not limited to the Jews, as the Old Testament dispensation was. This covenant is also characterised by unity. It is essentially the same in all dispensations, though the form of its administration changes. The essential promise is the same, Gen. 17:7; Heb. 8:10, the gospel is the same, Gal. 3:8, the requirement of faith is the same, Gal. 3:6,7, and the Mediator is the same, Heb. 13:8. The covenant is both conditional and unconditional. It is conditional because it is dependent on the merits of Christ and because the enjoyment of the life it offers depends on the exercise of faith. But it is unconditional in the sense that it does not depend on any merits of man. And, finally, it is testamentary as a free and sovereign disposition on the part of God. It is called a 'testament' in Heb. 9:16, 17. This name stresses the facts, (1) that it is a free arrangement of God; (2) that its New Testament dispensation was ushered in by the death of Christ; and (3) that in it God gives what He demands. The covenant of grace differs from the covenant of works in that it has a mediator. Christ is represented as the Mediator of the new covenant, I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24. He is Mediator, not only merely in the sense that He intervenes between God and man to sue for peace and to persuade to it, but in the sense that He is armed with full power to do all that is necessary for the actual establishment of peace. As our Surety, Heb. 7:22, He assumes our guilt, pays the penalty of sin, fulfils the law, and thus restores peace.

    Louis Berkhof. Summary of Christian Doctrine (Kindle Locations 617-767). Kindle Edition

    If you all think I'm going to put links in to all the Biblical references, like I usually do for yoyr convenience, you can all think on. :laugh: do your own homework if you want to prove any of this wrong biblically.

    So having read and understood all this, exactly what are the objections being raise against it all on Biblical exegetical terms?
    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,424
    Likes Received:
    1,196
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    When it comes to Covenant Theoloty, methinks Tiffy has been sand-bagging his high cards. :laugh:

    What I find interesting in what you said here is the "huge effort" that had to be expended "to force all facts into a heavy theory..." I am of the feeling that some facts became folded, spindled, and mutilated in the process. ;)

    It might be worth noting (and Tiffy will probably agree) that no theologies were systematized until the last few hundred years. Pointing out the relatively young age of the well-developed and systematic theologies we read today is not entirely probative of their falsity. If we were assume that the 'best' theological system is the first one to be well developed and fleshed out by churchmen, I'm afraid we'd be staring at the RC one. :rolleyes: Thus, the best criterion is not 'appearance of age;' instead we want to look for the one that matches up best with the Bible.

    How does Covenant Theology fare in this latter regard? Simply put, we read of many covenants in the Bible (covenants with Abraham, Israel, David, etc are specifically and clearly revealed), but we don't read in the Bible any details concerning the establishment of a 'covenant of grace' or of a 'covenant of law.' Covenant Theology owes its existence purely to deductive (not inductive) reasoning.

    Covenant Theology is obliged to interpret the OT in light of the NT. A Scottish theologian named James Orr had this to say about the hermeneutics of that theology: "It failed to seize the true idea of development, and by an artificial system of typology, and allegorizing interpretation, sought to read back practically the whole of the New Testament into the Old. But its most obvious defect was that, in using the idea of the Covenant as an exhaustive category, and attempting to force it into the whole material of theology, it created an artificial scheme... It is impossible, e.g., to justify by Scriptural proof the detailed elaboration of the idea of a covenant of works in Eden, with its parties, conditions, promises, threatenings, sacraments, etc."

    Covenant Theology has a very rigid unifying principle in the Covenant of Grace, and this rigidity prevents the theology from admitting the actual progress of revelation from God over the centuries.
     
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,028
    Likes Received:
    388
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Well said.
     
    Tiffy and Rexlion like this.
  5. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,220
    Likes Received:
    933
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    :laugh: Louis Berkhof is a heavy hitter isn't he. :yes: I can't find a single thing I disgree with in his summary of the importance of God's covenants, with and to mankind, as found in the scripture, when we diligently search details of them them out.
    We don't read anything about a Trinity or about women receiving communion but deductive reasoning is not denigrated or forbidden in those cases. Why, in God's name, should they be?
    I don't think proper covenant scholars have though, particularly Berkhof. To say we cannot refer to a 'Covenant of Works' because such a covenant is not directly referred to in scripture is reasonably tantamount to saying we cannot logically refer to 'The Trinity' as a means of identifying what we are talking about when considering the nature of The One God.

    "(1) Paul draws a parallel between Adam and Christ in Rom. 5:12-21. In Adam all men died, but in Christ all those who are His are made alive. This means that Adam was the representative head of all men, just as Christ is now the representative head of all those who are His. (2) In Hos. 6:7 we read: "But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant". Adam's sin is called a transgression of the covenant."

    I think there is sufficient scriptural evidence here to point to a 'covenant' which depended upon the human race being obedient to God, (which it turns out they weren't, so we can't get to heaven or obtain eternal life by means of it, because of OUR inability to keep to its terms, even though it is still functioning and still in force.
    I'm still unsure what American believers mean by the term 'Covenant Theology'. They seem to be talking about a phenomenon apart from another phenomenon they call 'Reformed Theology' but in fact Reformed Theology just deals with and understands 'Covenants' wheras other theological positions of other Christian denominations have limited knowledge, through lack of study, of what the Apostles taught concering covenants, and limited knowledge of how covenants operated in the Old Testament world, mostly through lack of interest.

    I am forced to think that what is going on must be something similar to the way 'Dispensationalism' is a different mythical beast, that has something to do with 'Dispensations', which actually do exist and are referred to by Apostles in the scripture. Similarly 'Covenant Theology' is another straw man target, at which those who are ignorant of covenants in scripture, hurl their brickbats thinking that by so doing they are preserving an imagined purity of interpretation of scripture.

    I can't see anything much in Berkhof's Summary of Christian Doctrine which conflicts with the established doctrines of the Anglican communion. Compared to Roman Catholic doctrine and Puritan doctrine I find Berkhof remarkably Anglican. I don't know if he was one.
    .
     
    Invictus likes this.