The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

The new Calvinism considered

with 125 comments

Note: for those interested in a more developed treatment of this same issue, you can find it beginning here.

A year or two ago it seemed that ‘the new Calvinism’ was all the rage.  Perhaps it has already reached and passed its peak.  Maybe the mission has already become a movement and will shortly become a museum.  Only time will tell.  Certainly the wild rush of the past few years has slowed a little; the river seems broader and flows more gently.  Consolidation has occurred around such organisations as the Gospel Coalition and there are nexuses (nexi?) like Together for the Gospel (T4G) and Acts 29 that also function as anchor points.  Not so long ago you could not read a book, website or news article in some Christian circles without coming up against one of a range of personalities.  The new orthodoxy needed one of a string of names to back it up: “Piper/Grudem/Carson says . . .” almost became the equivalent in some circles of, “The Holy Spirit told me . . .”  It seemed as if the new Calvinism was sweeping the board.  More conservative evangelicals felt the pressure, often ‘losing’ their young people to the heady atmosphere of the new movement.  There was a certain triumphalism in some quarters, a sense of having seen the working future.  In others, there was a sometimes uninhibited aggression.  However, there seemed to be little middle ground: you were either for or against, a committed friend or a committed foe.

I tried to understand what was taking place by immersing myself in the stream for a while: I read the books and the blogs and listened to the sermons and addresses.  I hoped that I got a fair and accurate understanding of this movement.  I found things that were attractive and stimulating and provocative and controversial and worrying.

At a little distance from the swirling storm of popularity and controversy, I recently saw a very brief list of those things which characterise the new Calvinism, written very much from within the movement.  Looking at that list, I thought, “Yes, but . . .” and began to sketch out some other qualities that, it seems to me, are embedded in the mass of new Calvinistic identity.  The list got reasonably long in the end, but I thought that I would work it up and put it out.  It may prove useful, or interesting, or controversial, or pointless.  I think that some new Calvinists would acknowledge and admit much of what follows, sometimes quite cheerfully, but not always.  They might not agree with all the labels I use, or with my own stance on them, but I have set out to be fair and accurate.

Some caveats: I have attempted not to identify and discuss individuals (except where obvious and necessary, and for occasional examples) because this is not about supporting or attacking any one individual.  I also recognise that there are exceptions to most if not all of these rules, hence the introductory wording to each suggestion: I am not trying to make out that the movement is more monolithic than is in fact the case.  Furthermore, I have not attempted to distinguish between the positive and the negative (which will differ depending on where you stand anyway!) but have rather lumped them all in together.  I have not attempted to list these characteristics in order of priority or significance.

That will probably do by way of introduction.  So, then . . .

1.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by a desire for the glory of God.  In this sense, I do not think one can legitimately deny that this is a Reformed resurgence.  There is an evident, open, sincere aim at the glory of God in all things, and I think that God is much glorified in many ways by the words and works of many of my new Calvinist brothers and sisters, and I rejoice at it.

2.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by deep-rooted spiritual joy.  This may be one of the reasons why it is so attractive to so many, perhaps especially to those from more conservative Reformed circles who feel that this is one of the things that has been lacking in their spiritual experience.  It flows, no doubt, in large part from the emphasis on the grace of God (see below) and it may flow into some of its more exuberant expressions of worship.  Again, the public face of the new Calvinism is one in which men and women with their hearts made clean through the blood of the Lamb rejoice in their so-great salvation.

3.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by missonal zeal.  As with any vibrant gospel movement, the desire to take the good news into all the world is central.  Evangelising.  Witnessing to Christ.  Church strengthening.  Church planting.  Church rejuvenation.  Training pastors and preachers.  There is a Scriptural readiness to overcome or ignore the boundaries too readily established in the mind and the heart and to preach the gospel to every creature, and to use as many means as possible (although the Biblical legitimacy of some might be questioned) to promote the truth, propagate the gospel, and advance the kingdom of Christ Jesus.  As the movement has advanced, neither the local nor the international elements of this have been left behind.

4.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by an emphasis on the gospel of grace and the grace of the gospel.  Everything is ‘gospel’: New Calvinists do ‘gospel-this’ and ‘gospel-centred that’ and ‘gospel-cored the other’, sometimes to the point of inanity.  By that, I do not mean that the gospel ought not to be at the heart of things, but if we are genuinely evangelical then by definition the gospel should be at the heart of things, and the tendency to badge everything with the word ‘gospel’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is gospel-soaked and gospel-centred, nor does it guarantee that it will be.  That aside, this is a movement that desires to preach the good news as good news, to proclaim the free and undeserved favour of God to sinners in a way that is engaging, fresh, real and powerful.  One of the great anathemas of new Calvinism is legalism.  Whether or not this is rightly or fully understood I will not argue here, but these friends are desperate to highlight and declare the primacy of grace.  Of course, this is intimately related to the joy they feel and the glory of God they pursue.

5.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by complementarianism.  We are told by these friends to distinguish between the theological equivalents of national boundaries and state boundaries, to appreciate the different between distinction and division.  At the same time, it appears that complementarianism is one of the new Calvinist shibboleths.  That does not mean it is wrong, of course, but it is interesting that of all the things that we are told do not matter in the consideration of unity and separation, complementarianism has become something of a sine qua non.

6.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by a return to a more Biblical masculinity.  One could argue that at times this has almost become a caricature (and I would agree, and it has indeed been parodied and caricatured), but it is a welcome if sometimes extreme reaction to the anaemic and limp manhood too often displayed elsewhere in the nominally or actually Christian world.  Alongside and arising from the complementarianism, dignified and vigorous male leadership has received a welcome fillip from the new Calvinism.  Like many gospel movements of the past, this one has been characterised in many respects by the salvation of men (often young men), the calling of men to preach, and a readiness by men to take the brunt and lead from the front.  This is not to say that women are excluded from the movement, but the Scriptural emphasis on male leadership has seen a welcome return.

7.         Again related to complementarianism, it seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by the promotion of the family as a basic unit of church and social life.  Once again, such an emphasis can easily become an over-emphasis, but the evident loving affection for wives and sons and daughters that is characteristic of many of the leaders of the movement is an excellent testimony.  The re-establishment of the God-ordained family unit, the outworking of masculinity and femininity in the family sphere, an encouragement to family worship, a readiness to discuss and instruct concerning relationships between men and women, single and married, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers and children, and the like, is often part and parcel of new Calvinism.

8.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by charismatic convictions with regard to spiritual gifts.  It seems as if the nature, extent and degree of the Spirit’s work in what some would say we cannot call post-apostolic times has become almost a moot point in new Calvinism.  What was for so long a genuine line of divide between Christians has seemed to be smoothed over with the rise of the so-called ‘Reformed Charismatic’, a label willingly embraced by many if not all of the leaders of new Calvinism, most of whom would be happy – to various degrees and in different ways – to acknowledge themselves to be continuationists, as the lingo has it.  Interestingly, this is one of the fault lines that seems likely to become apparent again, not least because of its significance.

9.         It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by Calvinist soteriology, with some departures and aberrations.  Again, here is one of the areas where the claim to the name ‘Reformed’ is at stake and much debated.  Generally speaking, in line with the emphasis on the gospel of grace and the glory of God in salvation there has been a distinctively Calvinist take on this issue, and it is here – probably more than anywhere else – that the movement derives the ‘Calvinist’ part of its name.  At the same time, there is – in many of those who are at the forefront of this group – more than a hint of Amyraldism, so I am not sure to what extent this is going to hold water for long.  You will also note that I identify Calvinist soteriology as apart from other elements of historic Calvinism, many of which I think one could argue have been neglected, ignored, or abandoned by new Calvinists.

10.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by a generally thoughtful ecumenism.  You only need to look at or think about the names that are at or clustering about the centre to see how broad a movement this is.  It has genuinely united Christians from a variety of backgrounds, and garnered sympathy from many who would nevertheless be unable to share all the distinctives of the movement as a whole.  Issues such as baptism, ecclesiology, the spiritual gifts, and worship have – to some extent – not been allowed to prevent the coming together of believers to serve God either in community or at the very least in co-operation.  Interestingly, though, this ecumenism seems to reach over the middle ground.  By this I mean that there is a readiness to receive and relate to (and receive critique and input from) those close to the inner core of the movement, and then a readiness to reach quite far out from that core for critique and input and relationship, leaving those in the middle ground somewhat isolated.  So, for example, consider the speaking list at some of the last few Desiring God conferences: where else would you find Piper, Dever, Driscoll, Warren, Wilson, Keller, Baucham, MacArthur, Sproul, Storms and Ferguson.  At points on that list you are moved to cheer.  At others, a very Scooby-Dooish cry of “Yoicks!” – mingled alarm and distress – rises from the lips.

11.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by an often pragmatic ecclesiology.  I am glad that it is characterised by ecclesiology at all, that the church of Jesus Christ is in many respects given its rightful place in his plans and purposes for the kingdom.  At the same time, there is often more of the light of nature than the light of Scripture in some of the decisions that seem to be made.  This, then, is a movement in which statistics matter.  This is a movement in which, if you cannot keep up, you have to drop off.  Are you in the way of progress?  Then you are fired.  We are moving onward and upward, so we will hire a worship pastor used to larger crowds or able to generate them; we will hire a technology deacon to take our presentations within and without the services to a new level.  Are you not willing or able to move this fast?  Then goodbye, because you are holding up the advance.  Multi-campus doctrine is one of the examples of this pragmatism; branding and advertising are given a prominence beyond anything the Scripture provides for.  Everything is made to serve the growth of the church numerically and the advance of the mission as stated by the church.  At times the church seems less and less like an organic whole in which every member has her or his part and more like a business in which the chief executive and his team get to hire and fire at will, moulding the structure and its activity according to human will and purpose.  If the church were a business, would I fire some of her workers?  Sure.  But it is not, and I am not at liberty to decide who I want or do not want in or working for the advance of a kingdom that belongs to and is ruled by a sovereign King.  I should, however, add – in fairness – that perhaps at times others outside the movement have not been pragmatic enough, or dynamic enough, in seizing opportunities for gospel advance and employing means about which the Scriptures are silent (this comment is not about the regulative principle, by the way).  By the way, you have to love the names of the churches: all portentous, bastardised Greek or catchy, thrusting urban vim?  Fantastic!

12.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by a neo-Kuyperian view of culture.  Here the mantra is that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”  There is much to be said for such a declaration, but it also needs to be read in terms of the already/not yet dichotomy.  In new Calvinist orthodoxy, it seems to be very much ‘already’ and this often means that culture is considered neutral, and all to be claimed for Jesus.  By extension, nothing seems to be out of bounds, and much that the world says and does can be tidied up, baptised, and brought into the service of Christ’s church.  Of course, it tends to be the culture from which the converts are drawn (see below) that comes into the church, and so we get our reference points and illustrations from all the hip and cool sources, or those made trendy by the movers and shakers.  Star Wars?  Check.  Lord of the Rings?  Check.  The Matrix?  Check.  So we get to be all funky and populist.  Then we get to name check Lewis and Chesterton and Dostoevsky and O’Connor and come over all literary and high-brow.  By and large, the new Calvinism seems ready to co-opt, co-operate with, and/or capture this culture now, without always making assessments about the origin, tendency and direction of particular elements.  Under this heading I am willing to place the whole issue of contextualization, although it might be considered worthy of its own heading.

13.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by doctrinal if not practical antinomianism.  Most of the movers and shakers appear ready to align themselves with New Covenant Theology in some form or other.  As so often, the Lord’s day Sabbath is the first point of contact and conflict on this issue.  However, the default position here, as – I believe – across broad evangelicalism as a whole – is that the moral law has no abiding relevance in the life of the new covenant believer.  That assumption is woven throughout many of the key texts and declarations of the new Calvinism, from the ESV Study Bible downwards (for example, consider these comments in the ESVSB on Romans 14.5: “The weak thought some days were more important than others. Given the Jewish background here (see v. 14), the day that is supremely in view is certainly the Sabbath. The strong think every day is the same. Both views are permissible. Each person must follow his own conscience. What is remarkable is that the Sabbath is no longer a binding commitment for Paul but a matter of one’s personal conviction. Unlike the other nine commandments in Ex. 20:1–17, the Sabbath commandment seems to have been part of the “ceremonial laws” of the Mosaic covenant, like the dietary laws and the laws about sacrifices, all of which are no longer binding on new covenant believers (see also Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16–17). However, it is still wise to take regular times of rest from work, and regular times of worship are commanded for Christians (Heb. 10:24–25; cf. Acts 20:7)”).  This is having and will continue to have implications perhaps not so much in the sphere of justification (though that will follow) as in the sphere of sanctification.  It is going to mean much for the development of true holiness, and it is only in the next two or three generations of the new Calvinists that these chickens will come home to roost.  Key names among the new Calvinists have laid the foundation for this widespread antinomianism, and it is for me one of the most concerning aspects of the whole movement.

14.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by contemporary worship.  By definition, all of the service ought to be worship, and by definition, anything done today is contemporary, however old-fashioned or new-fangled it may be considered, but you know what I mean.  I personally have no difficulty with songs and music written in the present day, but that is not the same as a willingness simply to co-opt the forms and patterns of the entertainment of the world for the worship of the church.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the sung worship of the church.  Into the mix here also come the charismatic and cultural convictions of many of the key figures.

15.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by the driving force of several key personalities.  You know them: there is a centre circle reasonably well-defined, and then the concentric circles around them together and individually.  Piper.  Carson.  Mahaney.  Dever.  Mohler.  Driscoll.  Keller.  Grudem.  Chandler.  Anyabwile.  Harris.  DeYoung.  Chan.  Perhaps a little further out are Duncan and MacArthur and Sproul and Trueman.  Among the bloggers, Challies and Taylor and others.  Read long enough and widely enough and the same names will crop up time and time again.  You might place them more or less close to the centre, but they will be there or thereabouts.  My apologies to those who ought to be on the list and are not, and to the groupies who are now offended because I did not put their idol on the list.  Here you see more than a little of that ecumenism mentioned before.  No new Calvinist conference is complete without at least one and ideally more of these men on the platform.  Each is a little chief in the centre of his fiefdom, many of which overlap.  Of course, it can all seem a little nepotistic, even incestuous at times, as these figures read, invite, commend, and endorse one another in ever-decreasing circles.  Again, God usually works by men in the world, and those men naturally attain to a right and reasonable prominence, but the concentration on a few key personalities, especially in the early days of the movement, was distinctive.  Of course, some of those names are already second-generation names, and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

16.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by the ready embrace and employment of new technologies and media and the platforms that they provide.  The new Calvinism is, to a large degree, an internet phenomenon.  Sermons, videos, blogs, other social media, swirl around ceaselessly in this milieu.  The exchange and discussion of ideas takes place largely online.  Conferences are broadcast and live-blogged, and the lines and colours are laid down by a thousand artists simultaneously, often painting on the same canvas.  Cross-reference and self-reference generate a stupendous amount of traffic.  Look at some of the key blogs, for example, and you will find that they all tend to highlight the same books, events, people and things at almost precisely the same time.  All these platforms nevertheless provide a potent thrust for new Calvinist dogma and praxis, and where others are left behind, the new Calvinism is often at the cutting edge, adopting and co-opting the latest technology (hardware and software) in order to promote either Christ or his servants, depending on your take on particular individuals and circles.  Of course, we must state here that no self-respecting new Calvinist would be found dead using a PC.  The Apple Macintosh and its related accessories are the technological sine qua non of the true new Calvinist.  (I deleted the next bit because it counted as mockery, but let’s just say that it went in the direction of cool glasses and coffee shops, tattoos and T-shirts.)

17.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by a concentration on a younger, more urban demographic.  I recall one new Calvinist church-planting leader voicing his concern at how many church-planter/ing applications he saw targeted precisely the same group as all the others: the young, trendy, hip (when did this admittedly serviceable but not especially remarkable joint become so popular?), urban crowd.  Although some of its leaders are getting old enough to be in them, you will not find much of the new Calvinism catering to the full range of society.  It tends to be quite selective.  I know of a number of churches that – when they began going in this direction – did begin to attract far larger numbers of a certain type and age, but they also began to lose many others.  Again, you can only ride the crest of the wave for so long: what happens to the water ahead, and the waves coming in behind?  This is one area where the willingness to preach the gospel to every creature perhaps needs to take account of the fact that every creature doesn’t like the same fashion, music, art, style, clothes, and approach as those who have made new Calvinism what it is.

18.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by the desire to be big and to have a seat at culture’s table.  Bigness does seem to be a great concern for many.  Bigness – size and numbers – as a by-product of the pursuit of right things in a right way and for the glory of God is perfectly acceptable, but bigness as an end in itself is not something that the Bible promotes in isolation.  Alongside of this goes what sometimes looks like an obsession with being accepted and heard in wider society.  Consider the orgiastic and ecstatic applause and self-congratulation when the big names get on national television, or when the movement gets name-checked by Time magazine.  Is there a danger here that the movement is too concerned with the applause and adulation and recognition of the world?  Does this tie in with the attitude to culture, and what may be a failure to recognise that in this present evil age we are strangers in a strange land?

19.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by an ambivalent relationship to church history.  I know we all tend to pick and choose the bits that appear or tend to support what we now believe, but it is right there on the surface of the new Calvinist vehicle.  Sometimes there is what I can only call a chronological snobbery.  This is not meant to sound as pejorative as it does.  It is part of the laudable enthusiasm of the movement.  What I mean is that there is a freshness of discovery that excites us: we feel, if I may work through Wodehouse back to Keats,

. . . like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

However, just because I have recently discovered some theological gem does not mean that it has never been discovered before, or that I therefore become the sole guardian and interpreter of the tradition.  There may be a whole bunch of trekker’s rubbish upon that peak in Darien from those who have been and camped before.  Neither does the popularity or promotion of our discovery entitle us to be the arbiters of the canon.  Anyway, there is a tendency among new Calvinists either to claim that ground long-broken has been only recently broken by them, or that it has never been broken before and now needs to be broken by them, or because they have broken it no one else is allowed to set foot on it, or that there is no other way of it being broken.  In this way, the great and the good of the past all become proto-new Calvinists.  Take a bow, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Bunyan, Cowper, Calvin, Lewis, Owen, Augustine, etc. etc.  Of course, all this demands quite a bit of historical revision, of which there is perhaps no finer example than C. S. Lewis, one of the new Calvinism’s patron saints.  I am not suggesting that these intelligent and well-read men are not aware of it, but at least let us not pretend nor give the impression that Lewis fits seamlessly into the mainstream of Reformed orthodoxy!

20.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by sensitivity to the judicial and social aspects of the gospel at work in society.  Perhaps in part because there is a left-wing as well as right-wing political input to new Calvinism, it is nevertheless a recovery of emphasis on the God who defends and protects the widow and the fatherless and the stranger, who is concerned for righteousness and justice in heaven and on earth, who takes note of the presence or absence of ethical integrity in the thoughts, words and deeds of men.  Of course, this is very easily dismissed as politically correct or touchy-feely nonsense, but there is, perhaps, more of it in the Scriptures than others have always been ready to admit.  So, on such matters as abortion, adoption, euthanasia, care for the poor and hungry, help for the homeless, and so on, there is a welcome re-engagement and re-appraisal.  Confusion still exists (as, no doubt, it always will) about the relative roles of the church and the individual Christian citizen or subject (two kingdoms theology, anyone?), but there is an awareness of and sensitivity to these issues that is welcome.

21.       It seems to me that the broad stream of the new Calvinism tends to be characterised by Americocentrism.  Here let me bother with another caveat: this is not an instance of cultural jealousy or bitterness, nor is it in and of itself intended as a condemnation.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and of course the movement spills over, especially into the UK and Australia, where the linguistic heritage is shared (so perhaps I should speak more of ‘the West’ that I do of ‘the States’, although I think it is fair to say that America is probably the dominant Western culture, having more influence on others in the West than they have on it).  However, while there are adherents, some of them prominent, outside the USA, the movement has its spiritual and cultural home in the States.  Could this be where some of its cultural distinctive and pragmatic attitudes derive?  Is this part of the reason for its determination and enthusiasm and can-do mentality?  Is this driving the concentration on technology and the referents and foci of the movement?  Time after time we hear men and women happily cradled in the bosom of American/Western culture assure us that the future of the church is in the so-called Third or Developing World.  Is new Calvinism in danger of exporting more of America/the West than it is of Jesus?  By definition, we are to some extent products of our culture, and that is part of God’s sovereign design for our sphere of influence and usefulness.  But could it be that there is sometimes a lack of cultural awareness and a degree of cultural supremacism that penetrates new Calvinism further than we are aware?  This, I acknowledge, is nebulous, easy both to defend and attack precisely because it is so hard to quantify, but it seems to me that this is an inherently Western movement, if not an inherently American one, a movement very much of a certain time and place.  That does not make it inherently bad, but it certainly does call into the question the degree to which it can both last and spread beyond its immediate environs.

At this point, I see no reason to change the assessment I made several months ago, after reading Collin Hansen’s survey of the movement, although I hope I have a better grasp on the whole: “There is much that is splendid about the movement . . . but it contains within it some fascinating and fearful tensions, as well as some wonderful prospects.  Much depends on the legacy of the present leaders, and the readiness of those who follow to pursue a comprehensive Scripturalism that will govern head and heart and hands. . . . observers and participants [need] to gauge both the trajectory and the likely terminus of this curious company, but [they] should also challenge us about the extent to which our faith and our life are keeping pace.”

So there you have it.  Do you agree or disagree?  Is there anything to add or remove?  I should be interested to know what you have to say.

125 Responses

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    I am staggered by the length and comprehensiveness of this article. I can do nothing but totter away, my head reeling…

    Jonathan Hunt

    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 18:03

    • Sorry, Jonathan. Hope your head is better this morning!

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 09:03

      • Jeremy, technical note:

        The “New Calvinism” should not be confused with “Neo-Calvinism” (neocalvinism). The latter is largely synonymous with Kuyperianism (as in Abraham Kuyper).

        These resources my help:



        Saturday 29 May 2010 at 08:02

        • Thanks, Baus. I had only heard them used interchangeably (perhaps in part because of #12 above?), not least in articles like the Time survey of ideas changing the world. Is this a case of popular vs. accurate usage? I don’t know. I am not suggesting that because it is a popular mistake it does not matter, but is there more than one technically accurate answer to the question? Anyone else know how this works out?

          Jeremy Walker

          Saturday 29 May 2010 at 09:11

          • I was thinking as I read the article that ‘New Calvinism’ is a better name than neo-Calvinism, which could be confused with Kuyperianism (on which New Calvinism does seem to depend)

            Sam Bostock

            Monday 31 May 2010 at 11:38

            • OK, gents, I have changed the title to reflect what seems to be the clearest and least confusing label (the link remains unchanged). I have not changed the rest of the language, although I recognise that “neo-Calvinism” is not the clearest designation, given the fact that it is also technically and previously applicable to Kuyperianism, which – to muddy the waters further – plays into the new Calvinism to a reasonable degree. Thank you for the enlightenment. I imagine that the two terms are interchangeable in the popular sense, and the strict meaning is identical anyway.

              Jeremy Walker

              Monday 31 May 2010 at 23:03

            • I have taken a few minutes to work through this to change all the instances of ‘neo-Calvinism’ and the like I could find to ‘new Calvinism’ or whatever was appropriate.

              I still contend that popular usage (even within the movement) understandably confuses the essentially identical meaning of new and neo Calvinism, but accept that if one is to be technically accurate, what I am referring to is “new Calvinism” (next question: does new get a capital N?) as distinct from that Kuyperian strain of Calvinism generally labelled neo-Calvinism. Welcome to an even more complicated debate than the use of the word r/Reformed!

              By doing this, I hope to avoid having it pointed out by countless individuals that I am confusing two concepts that bear some relation to each other, but which should not be used interchangeably.

              Happy now?

              Jeremy Walker

              Thursday 3 June 2010 at 17:12

  2. Jeremy,

    Until Jonathan’s head stops spinning, I’ll be the first to state my reaction to this very comprehensive assessment; it is enthusiastic agreement, I’ll even let the Apple Mac comment pass, because it also is accurate, though you will probably have to update to the iPad as being the ubiquitous toy of our Neo-friends, the IiPhone now being old hat!

    I’m not at all sure I can, or need, to add anything. Point 19 is an excellent expression of something that has quite frankly been infuriating me for some time. The patronage of many of the old writers is just plain silly and not a little arrogant.

    Point 13 as you note is probably the most important criticism, but is sadly very accurate. Unless this is “reformed” there will be a very ill harvest I fear.

    Oh I will stop, there is just so much to agree with. Well done.

    I wonder if you put this in book form would you get many recognisable endorsees? I could be a bit cynical and say yes you probably would!


    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 20:33

  3. The one area I would disagree with is with your 13th point. Though the Baptist among the New Calvinists are overwhelmingly not Sabbatarian a large number of those who identify themselves as paedo baptists would not agree with your point. You have also assigned the non-sabbatarians the New Covenant Theology label. That just does not wash. Your descriptive “Doctrinal if not practical antinomianism” words give evidence of your own bias. Sabbatarian sanctification is as problematic as sanctification via circumcision of the flesh. I believe the larger part of your post is a fair summation of the movement. I would encourage you to edit out #13 or at least remove the phrase in question. Peace & Grace!

    Moe Bergeron

    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 21:45

  4. Jeremy,
    I think your article is very insightful at many points. There are perhaps a few details that I might tweek and perhaps see a bit differently but I appreciate the effort to speak of the good and those elements of these happenings that give cause for caution and on certain points alarm. I did want to mention one other factor that is perhaps my greatest area of alarm. It seems from my reading and knowledge of at least some of these men that there is a fundamental theological error that may in the years to come be exploited to the undermining of the gospel. I mean by that the clear gospel/law distinction that is preserved by a commitment to covenant theology and a covenant theology that embraces the concept of the covenant of works(or whatever one wishes to call it) with Adam. In an effort actually to guard against a brand of Antinomianism some may fall into a view of law and grace that defines them more in terms of a continuum than a contrast and this is rooted in the desire to speak of the original adamic adminstration as a covenant of grace not a covenant of works.


    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 21:54

  5. I feel I need to add that this is certainly not the case with some of the men you mention(and this is diffculty when trying to critique a “movement”, no two men are exactly the same. However there are some whose names are among the well known who reject covenant theology, even in it’s particular baptist form.


    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 21:57

    • Thanks for these two comments, Jeff. I appreciate your zeroing in on the matter of covenant theology, and the necessary distinction between law and gospel. My instinctive response goes three ways: I think that there is a danger of failing to see the newness of the new covenant in Christ, and that is where I appreciate the emphasis of some of these brothers on the gospel of grace; I think that there is a need to maintain the distinction between law and grace, and not to eradicate those distinctions (e.g. reading grace back over the law in a way that subsumes it); and, I think that there is a need to state the relationship between law and grace clearly, in terms both of the old and new covenants. I am not sure that this is as clear as I want it to be, but that is as much true of the inside of my head as it is this comment! Consider this, then, a thinking-out-loud work in progress, and an appreciation of your stimulating insights.

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 09:17

      • Jeremy,
        My concern is not really so much the issue of the newness of the new covenant. As a Baptist I appreciate that emphasis(though I would not agree with those who avow NCT). Nor when I speak of the law/gospel distinction am I speaking primarily of a distinction between the old and new covenants. I am speaking of a distinction between the covenant of works with Adam and his posterity and the covenant of grace administered beginning with Gen. 3:15 in the context of the unfolding of the divine redemptive covenants (often subsumed under the headings old and new covenants). The relation of the Mosaic covenant to the covenant of works and the covenant of grace is, of course, another matter that requires careful thought and articulation. However again my real concern is the popularity among some of rejecting the concept of the covenant of works, or the concept that Adam was under a probation while in the Garden…that if he had fulfilled the conditions would have resulted in glorification, consummation and confirmation in holiness. There are various nuances in the manner in which this covenant of works(creation, adamic administration etc..) is set forth and understood by different men who hold it but I believe to reject it undermines the framework and the nature of the gospel of grace through faith and the necessity of a positive imputation of the righteousness of Christ for justification This is something that concerns me about a significant portion of present day Calvinism, whether in the camp of those who consider themselves Neo-Calvinists or Old. First I believe it’s unbiblical and second I believe it leaves brothers vulnerable to the subtle distortions of the gospel that mark the new perspective, federal vision, Norman Shephard, Daniel Fuller etc…

        However having said all of this, it would be wrong for me to apply to brothers all the necessary implications of what they may believe. As you know a person may hold to something that is an error but that does not mean they have realized or hold to all the implications of that error. Also I would like to say that on the whole I personally am quite encouraged by and thankful for the ministeries of many of the men you mentioned. I am glad to see a resurgence of Calvinistic soteriology joined to an emphasis upon experiential reality(though I would not endorse the continuationism that marks some, not all). I think that there are things that RB’s could learn from some of these men. And at the same time I think there may be some things that they could learn from confessional RB’s as well. May God grant that this would be so from both sides of the equation.

        Thank you again, brother, for the summary and the insights that you gave concerning developments and tendencies. I think your thoughts are very helpful and I believe “thinking out loud” and discussion of these things can, indeed, be profitable.


        Jeff Smith

        Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 15:38

  6. Some may reject covenant theology as you understand covenant theology but that does not mean they are without law even in a doctrinal sense. If the Spirit of Christ is in them then the fulfill the Law of God in its highest sense. To say, even as a matter of semantics, that a man is against law is one and the same as saying he is without the Spirit of Christ in him. 2 Cor 3 leaves you no other choice. It’s an awfully cruel charge to make to a brother in Christ. There was a time when Wesley and his followers applied it to Calvinists. It is as wrongheaded now to apply it as it was then. Grace & Peace!

    Moe Bergeron

    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 22:12

  7. Moe,

    Jeremy said that not all the points would apply to all and that was why he was appending the prefix he appends to each point, thus there is no need to amend point 13 just because it does not apply to everyone.

    ” I also recognise that there are exceptions to most if not all of these rules, hence the introductory wording to each suggestion: I am not trying to make out that the movement is more monolithic than is in fact the case. ”

    Nor does Jeremy assign to non-sabbatarians the New Covenant Theology position.

    What he does say is,

    “Most of the movers and shakers appear ready to align themselves with New Covenant Theology in some form or other.”

    e.g. Piper -“In regards to his views on the Mosaic Law, he seems closer to new covenant theology than covenant theology, although once again it would not work to say that he precisely falls within that category. (

    Jeremy then says that the usual first point of contact in this discussion is on the Sabbath. Surely this is accurate and hardly controversial?

    Furthermore I’m not at all sure that most of the paedo-baptists you refer to are sabbatarian at all regardless of their relationship to NCT. There seems to be an ongoing discussion, in the PCA for example, on the Sabbath issue . Indeed does not R. Scott Clark gives a sizable portion in his book on Recovering the Reformed Confession to this subject. If this is not a problem, as you suggest why bother? I have read a good number of PCA bloggers who have been lamenting this very issue.

    Since Sabbath breaking has historically been viewed as practical antinomianism, and since D.A. Carson are providing a theological justification for this, then this is doctrinal antinomianism.

    I fail to see what the problem is in Jeremy’s assessment.


    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 22:16

  8. Paul, Obvioulsy you must recognize that I am an advocate of NCT and have been for many years. I’m not new to the scene. Apart from Piper I have known very few leaders in the public forum who would be comfortable with the label. I am aware that there is a growing discussion within PCA circles with regards to the Sabbath. In addition to the Sabbath question there is the desire of some to align their teachings on the covenants to a more precise biblical view rather than a view derived from a theological construct.
    We will just have to differ on #13.
    Thank you for your kind reply.

    Moe Bergeron

    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 22:27

    • Moe & Paul – thank you for the spirit in which you have conducted this bit of the discussion. Moe, I gladly submit to the charge of having an opinion (bias?), but I stand well-defended by Paul, who I think has made the points that I would have done. I do recognise that this is no monolith.

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 09:06

  9. Hi Jeremy,

    Long time no see. Interesting article. I’ll comment on only 2 points.

    12. IMO, my brothers here are practicing “hyper-contextualization.”

    13. You seem to equate non-Sabbatarianism with NCT. However, non-Sab. may also be Disp. or no system.

    Also of the 19 celebrities you mention in #15, not one of them has publicly endorsed NCT (although some have some “seeds”). And ~7-8 of them are pro-Sab. Covenant Theologians.

    If you want to call non-Sab. “antinomianism,” then you’re also implying that many of the apostolic fathers were antinomian since not even one of them applied the 4th command to Sunday or called Sunday the “Sabbath”.

    In the end, we need to ask, “Is this a revival sent by God?” Sometimes, revival doesn’t look like we expect. “You will know them by their fruit.”

    That said, every movement (including the Reformers and Puritans) is a mixture of truth and error, just like you’ve shown in the “New Calvinists”. I find more truth than error among the “New Calvinists”. Our task is to learn from their truths and avoid their errors.

    Greg Gibson

    Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 23:36

    • Hello, Greg – please see Moe & Paul’s exchange above, and my response. I agree in principle with your comment that there is nothing of unmixed excellence upon this earth, and that the best of us are still wrestling toward more truth in our faith and our life.

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 09:08

  10. Jeremy,

    This is an extremely generous assessment.

    The movement is certainly much more noticeable by its absence now than a mere handful of months ago.

    There are obvious tensions in what you’ve remarked on here. One is the doctrinal aberrations – the co-opting of the name of Calvinists when four-point adherence is just as valid as five-point, and when the whole system of Calvinistic doctrine is too readily condensed into a fairly vague concept of “sovereignty”. Sovereignty sounds great and tremendously calvinistic, but often the term occurs in contexts where it is indistinguishable from what an Arminian could heartily concur with. Calvinism always has been much more than soteriology, but it’s a great pity that even the soteriology of this movement isn’t particularly robustly Calvinistic. The tension then is between the stated aim of being gospel-centred, and the missed opportunities to reaffirm the historic understanding of what that gospel actually consists of (in theology and in life).

    Then there is the tension between no. 18 and no. 1. It’s relatively easy to say you’re out to give God the glory, but there’s something suspect when you, first and uniquely out of everyone else in church history, discover that God is most glorified when the trendy personalities have measurable success in the non-Christian world.

    Then there is the interesting relationship (perhaps a conflation rather than a tension) between no. 14 and no. 2. Spiritual joy – what does that mean? Exuberance ditto. Joyfulness in connection with religion doesn’t necessarily equate to spiritual joy. When these joyful people leave their college campus bible studies and can’t make it to massive national bible conferences, do they remain joyful? Remember the queues of people who lined up to slate Dr Masters when he offered what was only ever a perfectly respectable critique of the new Calvinists’ worship styles – would there still be evidence of joy if these congregations only had a boring old organ available?

    Then, what value is there in an aggressive assertion of male leadership, etc for everything listed in #5-7, where aggressiveness is of course not one of the Bible’s ideals for godly manhood, when the whole issue so conveniently matches the mood of American angst at the moment? Cf #21. Oh, America. It’s interesting that you consciously took steps to familiarise yourself with this movement – without knowing anything about your background, I think this will be familiar to many people in the various quarters of the UK who have generations of faithful Calvinistic heritage to call on. The new Calvinistic movement is alien (perhaps not absolutely, but largely so) to existing, well-established, historically aware, communities of believers in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and presumably also Wales. It’s not necessarily a /problem/ that it’s different, but you’d think that a movement which co-opts the name of what has historically been a very well defined set of theological distinctives, and one which always went hand in hand with a very definite idea about lifestyle/’conversation’, would be able to strike a chord, not only with the trendy American urbanite, but also with those who aren’t so much new on the scene as that they never went away in the first place. Now obviously these well-established groups will have their own problems which the new movement doesn’t share, yet supposedly we all share the same gospel, right? The “biblical manhood and womanhood” thing hasn’t (so far as I’m aware) really taken off in the UK – it doesn’t really speak to our rather different political and social situation – and also the importance attached to it within the new Calvinist movement is disproportionate to its significance in the scriptural scheme of things (aka the gospel). So the virtue in giving it such great prominence is rather hard to see.

    Has it, after all, petered out? all that excitement was always going to be hard to sustain. If the excitement dies down and allows a solid attachment to the full-orbed doctrines of grace as sketched in the Reformed Church’s historic confessions of faith to take deep root in the hearts and lives of the erstwhile excited ones, there will have been little to worry about. If on the other hand the fuss goes down and converts fall away as cult figures age and musical preferences change, then there will have been much more to worry about than we realised.


    Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 00:01

    • An excellent response in many ways, Cath, especially the nuances and challenges of the historical and cultural read-across.

      As others have also pointed out, trying to review a movement that is by definition not monolithic is tricky, but I do think that this is where some of those tensions arise, and you have identified them. So, for example, I do think that a genuine desire for God’s glory co-exists alongside a far less laudable desire for bigness, including a big voice. I also agree that there is a difference between mere emotional and physical exuberance and true spiritual joy, and that there are dangers of confusing one with the other, especially in the context of certain styles of worship. I could also add the emphasis on grace that almost certainly feeds, in some instances, into the tendency toward antinomianism.

      It is these tensions that I think will make the coming days of the movement at once so fascinating and perhaps so fraught with drama. Like you, I ask, “What will be left when the excitement dies down?” As I said to one brother who got in touch, I have learned a lot from some of these men, but when the initial dazzle fades, and some of these friends ask “What next?”, I think that is when the kind of communities you have described need to be ready to give a kind, principled, gracious, friendly and welcoming answer.

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 09:26

  11. JW said, “…I think that is when the kind of communities you have described need to be ready to give a kind, principled, gracious, friendly and welcoming answer.”

    I agree. I wonder if your critique, however, will be taken as non-friendly fire and viewed as you planting your flag against all things neo-Calvinistic. I realize you did not throw n-Cism under the bus. I think that would be wrong. But, it seems to me, that critiques such as yours can be taken as another example of Old Calvinism not loving all Christians. I hope it is not taken that way. That would be unloving.

    Rich Barcellos

    Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 14:00

  12. For historical Reformed Calvanism the idea that notions which are left of field can co-opt the name Calvinism really sticks in the throat. Mainly because most of what has gone before, which has been left of field, has been simultaneously characterised by faulty doctrine and Armianism.

    It is frankly unthinkable to many that anybody who would call themselves either Reformed, Calvanistic or both could endorse the use of a ‘modern’ bible version, give in to a ‘contemporary’ hymn book or deny the ‘enduring moral law’, amongst others.

    The fact of the matter is that the Reformed faith has by and large stopped reforming. Not all, but some of the characters mentioned in your article are representative of convictions which are keen on ongoing reformation. We are often presented with the idea that the Reformed faith has got all the issues licked, and systematic theology is presented in a neatly wrapped packet – no need for questions. But in some of the free thinking that we have seen coming out of ‘neo-calvinism’ there is a new robustness to exegesis, a willingness to grasp nettles which have for too long remained untouchable with little or no examination. Finally, preconceptions are being put to the test of scripture and in many cases with deep seated ferver for the truth, not to mention the gospel.

    Sad to say that, whilst ‘neo-calvinism’, as you have rightly pointed out, has had a distinctly Americocentric flavour, this has largely been the case, because here in England we have been unable, predominantly due to fear of reprisal or, what we have been told, are the likely results of such thinking, to step forward and think in a truely reforming manner. America to its credit has.

    Until we are willing to put our long held convictions to the test on a regular basis, the Reformed faith will become dangerously fossilised. That we can ill-afford.

    Like most movements, not everything which is promoted will indeed stand the test of scripture, but open and honest debate and a willingness to engage will provide a healthy basis upon which to test assertions and refine doctrines. Hopefully this underlying principal will be adopted by many beyond the limits of neo-calvinism.


    Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 21:11

  13. […] points as well as the discussion generated by his post, let me encourage you to visit his blog “The Wanderer.” You’re also welcome to comment below and share whether you think Jeremy’s assessment […]

  14. Jeremy,

    As a Reformed Baptist who was tied to the “Old School” – no longer the case – I find your article edifying, instructive and balanced. I am en route to a “NEXT” Conference with my 20 year old son and I passed it to him so that he may have an edifying, intelligent and balanced take on the “context” where we will spend the weekend. I disagree with equating non-strict sabbatarianism with anti-nomianism (if this is what you meant, but maybe you did not), for I am not a strict sabbatarian any more but definitely not an anti-nomian, and regarding article #15, yes, it is true that the same names seem to be ubicuitous but that is human nature, I spent 14 years attending a Pastor’s Conference that was centered around the same promiment men (albeit good and godly men), and in retrospect, they were too much tighter and closed in their circles than what we could attribute to these “New Calvanists”.

    Again brother, I find your article balanced, charitable, edifying and I would definite recommend it to any person who wants to have a balanced view on the subject.

    Great subject for a book, but I would rather find a way to present it not as a “critique” so that you do not shut down potential readers, but to be creative enough to see how far and wide you can penetrate the new generation with your insightful points

    Your servant

    Edwin Gonzalez

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 15:04

  15. This is one of the best summaries I’ve ever read of what is good and bad in the ‘neo’ or ‘new’ Calvinism movement. Thank you for your labors here in writing/posting.

    A comment I shared in another forum on this issue regarding #13 and the Sabbath discussion:

    -This is certainly much bigger/deeper than the Sabbath; but the Sabbath is the most obvious departure from historic reformed theology, thus it is often the hill we all die on.

    -Based upon James 2:10-11 (and other texts), the moral law of God stands or falls as a unit. Thus, when us traditionally Reformed/Covenantal brothers see the 4th commandment abrogated either in doctrine or practice, we see the rest of the commandments abrogated (if nothing else, they’re left open to theological negotiation). So from our perspective, antinomian is the proper term. And this is also (I believe) why the author connected an abrogation of the 4th to the denial of the moral law as a whole.

    -Antinomian, as I understand it being used, has a lot to do with history, kind of like the term ‘orthodoxy’. That is, the term ‘antinomian’ has been used down through history to refer to anti-sabbatarrians (see my point above), and so we just using the terms defined by history (someone correct me if I’m wrong here). And ‘doctrinal’ antinomianism is certainly much different than practical (real) antinomianism, which is why I believe the author used such a term.

    Nathan White

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 16:17

    • Be consistent. If your doctrine were true you would know that to break Sabbath in any manner doctrinally or otherwise is to break faithfulness to the covenant. If our Lord taught that a man who looked wrongfully upon a woman not his wife is guilty of adultery then the “doctrinal” watering down of the fourth commandment can be no less serious.

      I do not need to appeal to the confessions to know that if one is “in” the New Covenant then he is no longer under the Mosaic Covenant and its cultic ritual and that would include the fourth commandment. If a man be “in” Christ he lives under His gracious rule and that rule being the New Covenant of the Spirit. Paul made a clear and simple contrast between Israel’s law (Mosaic) and the law of Christ:

      I Corinthians 9
      19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

      We also know that the law engraved upon stone (Israel’s Mosaic law) has been abrogated at the cross. If you say that you remain under the authority of the Old Mosaic covenant in any way whatsoever as binding authority then you have turned your back on grace and the blessings of the New. Or would you have us be wedded to just a little bit of the Mosaic Law Covenant? Whether the amount be great or small it would be spiritual adultery.

      Romans 7:4: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

      You should also know that a person cannot be faithful to the Mosaic and the New covenants at the same time. The Scriptures clearly teach that God has inaugurated the New, and that of the Spirit.

      My brother, I must kindly and lovingly say it is an impossibility to be against law if that law be of the old letter. If one is to understand themselves to remain under the authority of the letters engraved upon stone as a covenant, even though said law was once and for all time set aside as a rule of life, then I am inclined to ask two simple questions. 1. Of what covenant are you a minister? 2. Who are you married to?

      II Corinthians 3:
      1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

      So my brother what would you prefer, being cast as an anti-nomian for failure to keep the 4th commandments or as a doctrinal adulterer by embracing Law + Christ?

      I have nothing more to say. All I have written was written in love.

      Thank you JT for permitting this conversation.

      Moe Bergeron

      Friday 28 May 2010 at 18:03

      • Sorry, Should have read “Thank you JW for permitting this conversation.

        Moe Bergeron

        Friday 28 May 2010 at 18:28

  16. I agree with Jeff Smith.

    Rich Barcellos

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 17:04

  17. I believe that Jeremy tried to be accurate in his critique of the New Calvinism. Unfortunately, he may have not considered that the movement is not monolithic. Some of his points are true with some segments of the movement, while not being true with others. For example, some in the movement have a very theologically informed ecclesiology (e.g. 9 Marks). Some will be critical of the continuation of the miraculous gifts (e.g. MacArthur), while others are very supportive (e.g. Mahaney).

    I believe that what can be said is that the movement, even though it is theologically informed in some areas, is theologically unstable. It lacks the stability of a broad reformed confessional christianity. Our response should be to pray for these dear brothers, as they make their way out of evangelicalism into a deeper calvinism.


    Friday 28 May 2010 at 17:51

  18. Thank you for all the comments so far. Naturally, I am grateful for the positive responses, but I also appreciate those which do not agree more or less, even if they are not changing my mind.

    However, may I underline a couple of courtesies requested of all commenters?

    First of all, I appreciate that Christian brothers here are seeking to write in love. Please ensure that writing in love also works out in writing lovingly, even where disagreeing. I have no problem with straight talking, but please maintain a robust level of Christian courtesy.

    Secondly, please read the post carefully before disagreeing or agreeing. I have explicitly stated that neo-Calvinism is <em>not</em> a monolith, and am fully aware that my characterisations are not universally applicable. That is why I have prefaced each opinion with the carefully-chosen words, “It seems to me that the broad stream of neo-Calvinism tends to be characterised by . . .” I know that there are exceptions to these broad brush strokes in the portrait, but I have deliberately avoided picking on individuals, and hope to avoid doing so either in defence or in attack, because that is not the purpose of the article. So, quoting an instance of an individual not fitting the pattern does not necessarily invalidate the argument, although it does demonstrate the broadness of the strokes that I have used.

    Thank you for taking the time to note these minor housekeeping issues, and please continue to comment. Thank you, also, for taking the time to respond. I hope to take the time at some point to respond more substantively to the matter of one or two comments when I have time to read them more carefully.

    Jeremy Walker

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 19:06

  19. Hi Moe-

    I don’t think this forum is the proper place for me to respond to everything you have written here. But since you replied to my comment specifically, let me try to respond to the point I deem most important.

    Specifically, let me lay aside all of the covenantal disagreements and background (which is necessary, I might add –see Jeff Smith’s comment above). Let me just tackle your comment on the “Law of the New Covenant or Spirit”.

    Neither I nor the Confessions declare a man a covenant breaker for breaking the Sabbath. And neither I nor anyone else is a perfect Sabbath-keeper. I strive to obey, but fail more often than not. Jesus Christ must forgive and cover my Sabbath-breaking with His righteousness, just as He must cover my lustfulness and covetousness.

    And of course, nobody is arguing that breaking the Sabbath is akin to turning ones back on grace or abandoning Christ. If you are serious about these charges, then I encourage you too to be consistent and pronounce anathemas on those who hold to the Christian Sabbath, just as Paul did on the Judaizers in the opening verses of Galatians.

    Those who are in Christ are freed from the Law as a covenant of works, but are still called to walk in obedience to the law in the covenant of grace. This law is the rule of love. This rule of love or “Law of Christ” includes the Ten Commandments, as defined by the New Testament:

    John 13:34

    “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

    Further defined by the apostle:

    Romans 13:

    “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

    So from the text, we see that those in Christ are called to obey, that this obedience is love, and that this love is summarized and fulfilled in the Ten Commandments. And by “any other commandment”, Paul is including the 4th commandment.

    This could be further demonstrated by the explicit use of “Law of Christ” as Paul uses it in Galatians:

    Galatians 6:2

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

    Looking at the 4th commandment, we see the notions of ‘burden’ all throughout. Directed at heads of households, the 4th commandment contains a responsibility to ‘bear the burdens’ of family, servants, outsiders, and even animals by doing whatever is in our power to provide them rest. I would argue that, far from demanding personal rest to lead to personal piety, the proper Sabbath rest necessarily includes serving others in some capacity so that they are able to rest too.

    All of this to say: Certainly you would not label such accusations at me for calling men to love. And since the scripture defines love as the fulfillment of the Law, which Paul affirms is entailed in the Ten Commandments, which includes the 4th commandment, which is also taught by our Lord, then I’m not sure why you would accuse us of turning our back on grace. We are attempting to define love, NT Christian love, according to the scriptures.

    When properly understood, the 4th commandment is the furthest you can get from works-righteousness, ceremonial divisiveness, or legalistic superiority. It embodies the essence of Christian obedience and love from the heart, towards God and neighbor.

    Those in Christ are wed to Christ, which is to say they are one with Christ. In Christ is the perfect fulfillment and embodiment of the law. We practically follow the righteousness by which we are justified in through His merits. We walk as He walked. We go into all the world teaching the nations to observe what He taught. And without a doubt, this includes the responsibility and commandment to observe the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, the 4th commandment.

    You drive a wedge between the Old Testament and New Testament rule of obedience that cannot be defended exegetically. The Ten were not created at Sinai, but have roots that go back into all eternity. Stripping Sinai from its ceremonial and civil aspects, and even self-righteous perversions, our Lord restores –in our understanding– the law of creation, the moral law of God, and the law of love as embodied in the Ten Commandments.

    There is nothing ‘Mosaic’ about it!

    Nathan White

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 19:50

  20. Thanks for the reminder, etc., Jeremy. I need that more than I realize!

    For the record, I do not believe, nor have I ever taught, as far as I can remember, that Christians are under Israel’s Mosaic Law Covenant. That Covenant is long gone. If I ever taught that, I would have been very wrong. John Owen’s view on this issue pretty much sums up my view.

    Rich Barcellos

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 20:21

  21. Thanks for your labors Jeremy (pardon my American spelling, it is one of my ways of contexualising as a Brit living in the US).

    Having been around the corner in the RB world and now living in the context of the New Calvinism you have evaluated Jeremy a number of things came to mind as I read your article.

    Desiring to be brief rather than long something that I have found myself pondering in the US touched on your 13th and 21st point.

    Your final point speaks of the American aspect of the New Calvinism movement and the cultural and pragmatic influences that bear upon it as a result. There is surely no doubt that this is a valid enquiry. However surely the same principle applies to the Puritan movement of 17th Century England and New England too? How much of the cultural situation of that time shaped the teachings and views of the Puritans and found their ways into the Confessions of the time?

    Here is the issue connected to point #13 and the issue of the Sabbath. At the turn of the year I taught an introduction to our 1689 Confession in our Adult Sunday School Class and gave some four weeks on the Historical Context of the Confession. This caused me to think through the very issue of culture and context and also turned up ‘The Kings Book of Sports’. This book lays out the Sabbath laws of Charles I at the time of the second wave of the Puritan movement. The writings of the Puritans on the Sabbath was largely a response to this royal edict.

    I say all this because I do believe it needs to be looked at in terms of the final phrase of Chapter 22 of our Confession and the way Puritanism as a movement taught and observed the Lord’s Day. How much of the statement in our Confession is exegetically sound and how much reflects a response to culture that was not only spiritually but politically motivated?

    How long has the issue lasted? Here we are in 2010 and 1640’s are a long time ago, yet we still are influenced by it in more ways than perhaps we understand.

    I appreciated your article Jeremy, I am encouraged by it and share your analysis in the main, for me the issues of a biblical view of the Lord’s Day needs looking at amongst as RB’s for the reason mentioned above.

    As for the Americocentrism of the New Calvinism, undeniable and inevitable as its leaders all live here. As a Scot and lover of the Puritans, especially one of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived, Oliver Cromwell, I do have to admit that the English movement will always have greater influence, but I do rejoice that the New Calvinism is doing much good throughout the world and is perhaps more global in its vision because it is American than the Puritan movement was because it was English and came at a very different time in history.

    Warmest regards

    Robert Briggs

    Robert Briggs

    Friday 28 May 2010 at 21:06

  22. Robert,

    Without entering into the Sabbath debate as such can I make one comment about the above.

    You write

    “The writings of the Puritans on the Sabbath was largely a response to this royal edict.”

    I’m not at all convinced that that could be sustained from a historical position because in the preamble to the Book of Sports (1633) we can clearly see that the Book of Sports itself is a response to the Puritan doctrine of the Sabbath;

    “Our dear father of blessed memory, in his return from Scotland, coming through Lancashire, found that his subjects were debarred from lawful recreations upon Sundays after evening prayers ended, and upon Holy-days; and he prudently considered that, if these times were taken from them, the meaner sort who labour hard all the week should have no recreations at all to refresh their spirits: and after his return, he further saw that his loyal subjects in all other parts of his kingdom did suffer in the same kind, though perhaps not in the same degree: and did therefore in his princely wisdom publish a Declaration to all his loving subjects concerning lawful sports to be used at such times, which was printed and published by his royal commandment in the year 1618, in the tenor which hereafter followeth:

    Whereas upon our return the last year out of Scotland, we did publish our pleasure touching the recreations of our people in those parts under our hand; for some causes us thereunto moving, we have thought good to command these our directions then given in Lancashire, with a few words thereunto added, and most appliable to these parts of our realms, to be published to all our subjects.

    Whereas we did justly in our progress through Lancashire rebuke some Puritans and precise people, and took order that the like unlawful carriage should not be used by any of them hereafter, in the prohibiting and unlawful punishing of our good people for using their lawful recreations and honest exercises upon Sundays, and other Holy-days, after the afternoon sermon or service, we now find that two sorts of people wherewith that country is much infected, we mean Papists and Puritans, have maliciously traduced and calumniated those our just and honourable proceedings: and therefore, lest our reputation might upon the one side (though innocently) have some aspersion laid upon it, and that upon the other part our good people in that country be misled by the mistaking and misinterpretation of our meaning, we have therefore thought good hereby to clear and make our pleasure to be manifested to all our good people in those parts.”

    Thus paragraph 1 identifies the context of the 1618 Book of Sports issued by James as being the pre-existent enforcement of Sabbath restrictions. Historical context shows this to have been the Puritan Sabbatarian influence.

    The other two quoted paragraphs refer to Charles and he again re-issues it in the context of Puritan sabbatarianism this time clearly notating the Puritans as the cause.

    Thus when the Puritans come to write the Westminster Confession in 1646 they are merely codifying their doctrine of the Sabbath Day which pre-exists both 1618 and 1633 Books of Sports.

    Indeed one finds a developing Christian Sabbath doctrine in the late 1500’s with the likes of Perkins “Cases of Conscience”, Rich Greenham’s “Treatise on the Sabbath” and Nicolas Bownd’s ” The True Doctrine of the Sabbath” published in 1595 all promoting a sabbatarianism akin to that formulated in the Westminster and Baptist Confessions.

    I admit I have not read these works (proverbial hen’s teeth some of them) but have read detailed summaries in secondary literature.

    Therefore it may be accurate to say that the Puritan’s providential situation contributed to the development of their doctrine, (controversy frequently does), but all this pre-dates the Books of Sports thus my discomfort with your stated theses.

    However even if the doctrinal development is influenced by the culture and context of the late 1500’s this does not render it null and void, or faulty, nor does it mitigate necessarily against the exegetical strength of the case. As a parallel we see that the doctrine of the Trinity is developed in the context of controversy, yet we receive Nicean doctrine etc. nonetheless, likewise we also see that the doctrine of the Trinity is also exegetically stable in spite of this background.


    Friday 28 May 2010 at 23:48

    • Paul good point, I appreciate your clarification.

      I know the original Kings Book of Sports was indeed written by the Bishops of James I and VI, Charles I’s republication of it did come in the context of the controversy already in existence as you state. Notwithstanding this clarification I still believe the point is one in need of consideration by us.

      My point was simply that no movement in history is without cultural dynamics and I am persuaded that the Puritan movement, which as you know evolved from Henry VIII’s time through the 1689 Confession was a developing movement in a specific political and religious context. This reality undoubtedly had a bearing on the conclusions of good men whether they or we recognize it or not. How much? That is the question I am raising in terms of things like the strict Sabbatarianism of some Puritans which is more akin to “Old Covenant Sabbath’ observance morphing into Pharisaical Sabbath observance than that which the New Covenant demands.

      I do not decry the exegesis of the Puritans where it is accurate exegesis, indeed Historical Theology teaches us that where there was accurate exegesis in the development of truth we continue to embrace and follow it.

      The exegesis of Isaiah 58 is a case in point however and undoubtedly contributed to the wording of the WCF and the LCF. Could it be that the position articulated in the Confessions ie WCF 1643 which was during Charles I and after the 1633 re-publication of the Book of Sports was an over-reaction and over-statement due to the context of the time rather than the accuracy of good exegesis? This is simply the question I am raising and was reminded of by Jeremy’s points #13 and #21.

      Thanks for the input.

      Warmest regards


      Robert Briggs

      Saturday 29 May 2010 at 02:21

      • Following up and just for further emphasis regarding the Sabbath issue.

        Do you notice in this pre-amble quoted that there were actually penalties for Sabbath breaking?

        This clearly indicates that the Puritan view of the Sabbath was more theonomic than New Covenant. Surely a further endorsement of the fact that some of them taught and observed a Sabbath more closely aligned with Sinai than Calvary.

        This being so, their exegesis needs a good looking at along with the political reasons for their position which is too much to address here but is not disconnected from their increasing opposition to the Divine Right of Kings doctrine and the political upheavals that came upon England during the 17th Century.

        Robert Briggs

        Saturday 29 May 2010 at 02:33

        • Hi Robert,

          I believe it’s the case that where Puritans were able to gain control they did exercise an authority that extended beyond the bounds of Gospel obedience. I’m not sure how common it was but it makes it easy for ant-Puritan historians etc to make the case against Christianity by mis-applying the past to the present. A salutary warning to all those in positions of authority, be it political or otherwise.

          This may be a reason for some recent reactions against Sabbatarian-ism. That is, the mis-application of the law or at the very least an over zealous desire to keep the Sabbath and to make every one else feel they should do the same. Comments like – and this is fairly common – ‘God will never bless those’ when clearly He does, are extremely unhelpful in the Sabbath debate.

          Not sure if that contributes, but every blessing.

          Jeremy, thanks for a very interesting and thought provoking article. I look forward to your measured response to the comments.


          Wednesday 2 June 2010 at 12:30

  23. As I have written here before and in light of the above comments, our good confessions of which I am a lover, are the main reason why we blindly accept a covenant which exists nowhere in scripture. The covenant of grace is a misnomer and the source of a large amount problems which are the cause of the kind of exchanges typified by the discussion between Moe and Nathan above.
    As Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel have pointed out (this is a paraphrase from their book New Covenant Theology) there are probably three good reasons why the term ‘covenant of grace’ should be abandoned:
    First, whilst it is a given that systematic theology requires the use of words which are not found in the bible, nevertheless this right is always reserved only for occasions where no suitable bible word exists to express the concept. The obvious example would be the term ‘The Trinity’.
    When it comes to the Covenants this is not the case however. The bible expressly and widely uses the term ‘covenant’. This means that we are at the very least, limited in our use of the term.
    Second, sometimes systematic theology has confined a biblical term which has numerous applications to one overarching meaning for the purposes of having one biblical term to use when talking about that particular biblical concept. An obvious example would be ‘sanctification’, this biblical word has several applications in scripture, but theology has typically given it the one overarching meaning of growth in the Christian life. The bible uses it this way, but it also uses it in other ways.
    To use ‘covenant’ in this demonstrable sense – so that one covenant encompasses all of redemptive history – requires a demonstration that the bible uses it thus. This is especially true since other biblical phrases which actually mean ‘God’s redemptive plan’ exist.
    The bible uses several different phrases to express God’s redemptive plan: ‘an eternal purpose’ (Eph 3:11; 2 Tim 1:9); ‘a decree’ (Psalm 2:7); ‘a determinate council’ (Acts 2:23; 4:28); ‘a foreordination’ (1 Pet 1:20); Jesus called it ‘His Father’s business’ (Luke 2:49); ‘the work given to him by the Father’ (John 17:4); and ‘the will of him who sent me’ (John 6:38; Hebrews 10:9); however, there is no biblical phrase, ‘covenant of grace’.
    To then equate ‘covenant of grace’ with the ‘New Covenant’ which is delineated in scripture is a misappropriation of a term which holds huge significance in the bible.
    Third, substituting ‘Covenant of Grace’ for ‘New Covenant’ invites confusion, since the bible has much to say about the New Covenant.

    If a case is to be made for the use of ‘Covenant of grace’, then the burden of proof lays with those who would use it and good reason must be given for adding another term for God’s redemptive purposes to the list of biblical ones which already exist.

    Until we are willing to return to sola scriptura rather than continuously reading scripture the lens of our confessions we will be unable to find common ground for discussion.
    There is no biblical grounds for a covenant of grace and that changes everything if you are arguing essentially for covenantal continuity as opposed to discontinuity, which is what classic Reformed theology does – even Baptistic Reformed theology.


    Saturday 29 May 2010 at 00:00

    • Tim, Well said.

      Do you have a blog out there that you call home?

      Moe Bergeron

      Saturday 29 May 2010 at 00:48

    • Just like to point out that I do not, nor do many if any that I personally know equate the covenant of grace with the new covenant. I do hold to the theological concept historically embodied in the term covenant of grace, but again do not equate the covenant of grace with the New Covenant. Also the confession that most RB’s embrace(the LBC 1689) does not equate the covenant of grace with the new covenant. It states that “the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament”. That is not the same as equating the covenant of grace with the new covenant. Therefore in the latter part of your note you have built a straw man.

      The covenant of grace is simply the theological terminology historically employed to refer to the one way of salvation by grace through faith in Christ(or in other words the gospel) progressively revealed beginning in Gen. 3:15 and in the context of divine redemptive covenants that God has made with men in history culminating in the New Covenant.It distinguishes that one eternal purpose and plan of salvation by grace in contrast with the covenant of works with Adam in man’s original state. I agree that the language covenant of grace can be misleading since there is not an actual covenant called the covenant of grace that is made at some point in history with mankind. Indeed the language covenant of works could perhaps be improved on as well(as some have attempted to do, though I’m not sure very succssfully). However the terms have a long history and should not be quickly disregarded. The bottom line is the theological concept and biblical truth the terms stand for historically. Reject those concepts and truths and you land in great difficulty.

      Jeff Smith

      Sunday 30 May 2010 at 04:30

      • Jeff,
        Thanks for the observation. I acknowledge the generalisation. However, in my experience at least, there seems to be more talk of the covenant of grace than there is of the new covenant. Very little is spoken of the new covenant in RB circles in my experience. Perhaps this is reflective of the LBC 1689 which has practically nothing to say about the New Covenant and conversely devotes an entire chapter to the Covenant of Grace.

        It’s time to put aside theological concepts which take precedence over biblical ones and return to sola scriptura. The confessions are important, I don’t think anybody would deny that, but they have also brought about blindness amongst brethren who would not dare to suggest a single point of the LBC 1689 could be anything short of scriptural.
        Many have read the LBC 1689, how many have read every proof text?

        Suggesting a rejection of these concepts is not a rejection of them because they are old, or because they are part and parcel of the Reformed faith; but the fact that the terms are theological and not biblical demands that the concepts themselves be examined biblically.

        As I’ve quoted above, Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel have made an excellent case for the reasons why non-biblical terms may be acceptably introduced. Even if we take your definition of the Covenant of Grace, it meets none of the criteria to justify it’s use as theological term.

        I wonder how we would express our theology, if we did not have access to the terms covenant of works and grace.

        I maintain that the concept of the covenant of works and covenant of grace have brought about an oversimplification of the unfolding plan of God and have served to flatten out his redemptive plan in a fashion which is inconsistent with scripture. The bible explicitly tells us that the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:13), this calls for a greater degree of discontinuity than is currently accepted in traditional reformed thinking.

        Lets get back to what the bible says. The first covenant God introduced was with Noah.


        Thursday 3 June 2010 at 14:07

        • I fear Tim from reading your last response that perhaps you are really not that aware of what confessional RB’s really believe or of how much they do or do not speak of the New Covenant. More of the RB’s I know have very carefully thought out biblically based views on these matters than you allow and are not merely blindly following a confession. Plus you make statements as though RBs don’t believe certain things that in fact they do believe. For example you say, “The bible explicitly tells us that the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant, this calls for a greater degree of discontinuiy than is currently accepted in traditional reformed thinking” Do you think confessional RB’s don’t agree with that? Obviously we do because we are Baptists and not Presbyterians. Concerning your statement that the first covenant God introduced was with Noah I would only assert that I think you are wrong about that but time will not allow me in this context to give all the reasons and exegetically based arguments for viewing God’s original relationship with Adam as covenantal. I would encourage you to get the edition of the Reformed Theological Review in which Bob Gonzales addresses this question. Also a copy of the lecture given by Sam Waldron and Eddie Goodwin regarding the gospel/ law distinction and it’s relationship to the nature of the prefall relationship of God to Adam. These can probably be acquired by contacting Rich Barcellos or anyone working for MCTS. (also from a paedobaptist I would recommend Meredith Kline’s Kingdom Prologue in the section where he addresses the nature of God’s relationship with pre-fall Adam.)

          I would wish to ask you, since you so easily renounce the concept of the covenant works, what your take is and your understanding is of the nature of God’s prefall relationship with Adam. Are you saying that you do not believe that Adam was in a state of probation or what exactly is it about the concept traditionally referred to as the covenant of works that you reject? Is it just the terminology and therefore just a semantic thing with you or what exactly is it. I would be interested in knowing. As I’ve indicated earlier the terms “covenant of works” or “covenant of grace” are not the real issue with me, it’s the biblical truth embodied in shorthand form in those terms. One could simply refer to the first as the creation covenant or the Adamic administration and I’ll not fight with them over that, though I still think covenant of works captures it best. Also in terms of the second phrase (covenant of grace) I have no problem with someone simply referring to it as God’s eternal plan or purpose of salvation by grace, though I think the language covenant of grace at least is consistent with and seeks to express the reality that this eternal purpose of grace is unfolded in redemptive history in the context of organically and thematically connected divine redemptive covenants with men and come to it’s full discovery and fruition in the New Covenant. Again to make a big to do about the terms is not my issue, it’s the theological and biblical realities those terms are used to describe that is.

          Jeff Smith

          Friday 4 June 2010 at 07:04

          • Jeff,
            Thanks again for your thoughts. Perhaps I could ask you, from an entirely genuine motive, to express what the Reformed Baptist view is of the unfolding plan of God, from the fall of man through to the redemption of man using biblical language only, for clarity’s sake.

            As one brother to another, I humbly accept that my understanding is undoubtedly deficient and I genuinely would like to know what the standard Reformed Baptist position is.

            My only contention is that, much like Greg has expressed below, any theology which requires an extra biblical construct for it’s expression needs to look at itself. In other words I have no problem with any systematic theology which uses extra-biblical terms to express itself, the problem occurs when that same system relies on extra-biblical terms in order to express itself.

            Jeremy, I do hope you will allow this conversation to continue. Open forum is so badly needed and this topic is of particular importance!



            Friday 4 June 2010 at 14:27

  24. Robert,

    Your points are interesting. And it’s possible that cultural-political pressures influenced the Puritan Sabbath. But didn’t the Puritan Sabbath grow out of one covenant of grace = one moral law? IOW, wasn’t the primary influence the CoG, moreso than politics?

    P.S. Can someone please document the quote by J.I. Packer where he said something like, “The Puritans created the Christian Sabbath”?

    Greg Gibson

    Saturday 29 May 2010 at 02:42

    • Greg asked:
      “Can someone please document the quote by J.I. Packer where he said something like, “The Puritans created the Christian Sabbath”?”

      I believe you have this wrong. I’ve heard Packer recite John Owen in that the Regulative Principle of Worship was the essence of Puritanism –which of course, entails the Christian Sabbath– but nothing of the sort you mention above.

      I do believe that the Puritans made some mistakes in their few/obedience to the Sabbath. There needs to be more work done on developing the doctrine Sabbath-keeping within the church. But it all starts with convincing this hedonistic culture that the command is still applicable to our lives…

      Nathan White

      Saturday 29 May 2010 at 19:48

    • Greg

      My point is not that the Puritans invented the Christian Sabbath but that they formulated it in greater specifics than had been previously considered.

      My point is really I wonder how much of that was influenced by the peculiar context of their time religiously and politically and how much of it is truly substantiated by accurate and sound exegesis.

      I want to get time to look at this more thoroughly as it does bear looking at I believe.

      Warmest regards


      Robert Briggs

      Saturday 29 May 2010 at 20:18

  25. “The Puritans created the English Christian Sunday-that is, the conception and observance of the first day of the week as one on which both business and organised recreations should be in abeyance, and the whole time left free for worship, fellowship, and ‘good works’.” Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 235.

    The Puritans did not create the Christian Sabbath, they further developed the doctrine and formulated it into their confessions.

    Rich Barcellos

    Saturday 29 May 2010 at 20:01

    • Rich

      Regarding the unfolding formulation of the Christian Sabbath pre-Luther and post apostles can you give me any help in terms of sources to read?

      Also during the Reformation with the distinctives of the first and second wave, Continental and English reformation understood, what sources apart from Owen do you recommend?

      Warmest regards


      Robert Briggs

      Saturday 29 May 2010 at 20:22

  26. Rich, thanks for the quote. Are you saying that the Puritans created the English Christian Sabbath, but not the Christian Sabbath? If so, who first taught the Christian Sabbath, and when in church history?

    To all Sabbatarians here, can you tell me when is the first time in church history that anyone…

    1. Called Sunday “the Sabbath”?
    2. Applied the 4th command to Sunday?

    Robert, when you finish your historical research, please share it with us here.

    Jeff (and Rich who agreed with you) said, “undermining of the gospel. I mean by that the clear gospel/law distinction that is preserved by a commitment to covenant theology and a covenant theology that embraces the concept of the covenant of works(or whatever one wishes to call it) with Adam…my real concern is the popularity among some of rejecting the concept of the covenant of works…but I believe to reject it undermines the framework and the nature of the gospel of grace through faith”

    It’s OK to believe the CoW. But when you relate it to the gospel, that’s another story. Please consider the implications of your view. If the CoW is related to the gospel, then…

    1. The apostles never explicitly preached the whole gospel in Acts.

    2. Christ’s Church did not fully understand the whole gospel until the CoW was invented (~16th century?)

    3. 98% of Christ’s Church today either don’t understand or reject part of the gospel.

    4. People incapable of logic (children and the retarded) can’t understand the whole gospel.

    5. The most comprehensive explanation of just. and the gospel, Gal., doesn’t even mention the whole gospel

    I’d like to believe that the gospel is explicit, not implicit in Scripture. Jeff, are you sure you want say the CoW is related to the gospel?

    Jeff said, “to reject it (CoW) undermines…the necessity of a positive imputation of the righteousness of Christ for justification”

    Remember, some who reject the CoW still believe in IAO via union with Christ.

    Finally, you also mentioned the importance of the CoG. My tentative understanding of the historical origin of the CoG is…

    1. When: 16th century
    2. Who: Zwingli
    3. Why: To justify paedobaptism (If so, isn’t ironic that RB’s believe it?)

    True or false in your understanding?

    Greg Gibsson

    Sunday 30 May 2010 at 01:05

  27. Greg,
    To have never heard of or fully understande the theological terminology covenant of works is not the same as rejecting the basic truth contained in that theological construct. I would argue that Christ and the apostles did preach that concept and the apostles wrote about it in the epistles. Did Paul not write that the wrath of God abides on those who are under the law and that justice demands the damnation of all those who do not obey God without fail. Did he not teach that all fell in Adam and we because sinners and under wrath first by virture of Adam’s failure to obey God? Did Christ not expose the insufficiency of the righteousness of the Pharisees and condemn those who trusted in themselves that they are righteous because presumeably no one is. Why are these realities realities? Where did anyone ever get the idea that God demands obedience if we would be justified by works. Does that reality hang on a sky hook or is it rooted in truth concerning God’s dealings with man in Adam and with his posterity and what our condition is and what our relationship to God is apart from the entrance of the gospel. And concerning what has historically been called the covenant of grace, did not Christ and the apostles preach the gospel of salvation by faith thought grace? Well then they did teach the very truths embodied in the theological concept that has been termed the covenant of grace. Your last question would take some time to respond to. As an RB I do hold the basic concept embodied in the term covenant of grace as set forth in the Baptist confession of faith, so obviously not as a means of justifying paedobaptism. My difference with Presbyterians is not over whether there is a large measure of continuity between the Old and New Testaments, or the Old Covenant administration and the New Covenant Administration, it is over the degree to which there is also difference. Confessional RBs and Reformed Paedobaptists agree that the gospel message is the same from Gen.3:15 through every covenant administration, though progressively more clearly revealed.

    Jeff Smith

    Sunday 30 May 2010 at 04:49

  28. […] on the defining features of New Calvinism […]

    On controversy « stayawake

    Monday 31 May 2010 at 16:27

  29. Hi Jeremy,

    thanks for this perceptive post. Very perceptive indeed.

    Daniel Chew

    Monday 31 May 2010 at 16:41

  30. I don’t know whether this is something extra, but the sheer flat-in-your-face triumphalism that exudes from the New Calvinists is something that really bothers me. The movement lives for the now with little thought of the past or the future.

    When Colin Hansen called his book “Young, Restless, Reformed”, it seems very appropriate to describe a movement which general youth shows itself in general immaturity and rashness. The YRR crowd seriously need to grow up.

    Daniel Chew

    Monday 31 May 2010 at 17:15

  31. The main trouble with this movement is that it is a lot of knowledge without much experience. I have questioned some of these young men who are “reformed” and “Calvinists” who have no understanding or experience of their own depravity. Many of them have never felt the power of personal conviction or the real joy of resting in Christ. Listen to many of their own words and what you hear is excitement about knowledge…a new philosophy. As you read the experiences of God among the old Calvinists and then those in the new movement there is no comparison as to depth. A Calvinist who has not been faced with his own depravity and closed with Christ for his own heart’s need will end up away from the presence of Christ as quickly as an unrepentant drunkard.


    Monday 31 May 2010 at 18:42

  32. Okay, so was that “Calvin crucified” or “CHRIST crucifed”?


    Tuesday 1 June 2010 at 16:00

  33. This is now the 2nd Reformed Baptist blog where I’ve posted the question, “Did Zwingli invent the CoG for the motive of justifying paedobaptism?” Belcher and Throop chose not to challenge it. This is a question that all Reformed Baptist’s (and even paedobaptist’s) need to answer. I plan to try to answer the question by researching the history, and quoting Zwingli on my blog later.

    Greg Gibson

    Wednesday 2 June 2010 at 23:02

    • Greg:

      that frankly is irrelevant to whether the Scrptures teach it. It is a question of historical theology, not of systematic or biblical theology.

      Daniel Chew

      Thursday 3 June 2010 at 05:29

      • Daniel, Gregg’s question is important and should not be dismissed out of hand as irrelevant. If you are going to insist on historical theology I’ll ask the next question. How far historically do you want to take this? We will end up in the Roman Church if you are not careful. Sadly we sound like Rome when we point men to the traditions of the fathers to validate non-biblical practice. We need to get back to the Word of God as our authority. That was the goal of most the Reformers and that is our goal as well.

        Colossians 2:
        16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

        Moe Bergeron

        Thursday 3 June 2010 at 16:34

  34. […] in-depth analysis of the “New Calvinism.”  Don’t agree with all the conclusions from the article, but a worthwhile read.  On […]

  35. Tim’s point is interesting that the 1689 spends more time on what the Bible doesn’t say (CoG) than what it does say (NC). Is it any wonder that SOME older CT preachers sound more like the OT prophets convicting an unregenerate nation, than the NT apostles encouraging a regenerate church? When the NC is seen merely as a new administration of the one CoG, legalism’s seeds are built into the system. (Thankfully, many younger CTs have grown beyond the limitations of their system with the influence of gospel-centered thinking.)

    Several years ago, I tested some of the prooftexts of the WCF, and was shocked to see how many verses they misinterpreted. I”m not exagerrating when I say that the authors with their allegorical hermeneutic would flunk a good seminary hermeneutics course today. (No, I’m not even premil.) If you haven’t taken the time to test all the prooftexts in your favorite confession, I highly encourage it. You might be surprised what you discover.

    Surely everyone here agrees that if we believe the same doctrine as the Spirit, then we should be able to explain it in the same words as the Spirit, without relying on extra-Biblical terms, right? For example, if we were limited to using Biblical terms, we could easily prove the Trinity and Limited Atonement by explicit verses and logic. But who could possibly prove the Covenant of Grace using Biblical terms with explicit verses and logic? I’d like to challenge any CT to try to do that here.

    In CT’s system, the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace are the 2 most important truths for understanding all of Biblical history. But doesn’t it seem strange that God did not EXPLICITLY tell us the 2 most important truths to understand redemptive history? How could uneducated farmers and fishermen ever understand how the Bible fits together? CT makes the Bible so complex, outside the reach of the uneducated.

    But any high-school student with the Bible and the Spirit can understand God’s prehistorical, one decree/plan/purpose in Christ which structures all His historical covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Christ. No one needs a seminary Ph.D. to understand that. Brothers, it’s so simple…

    God’s prehistorical, eternal, one purpose in Christ organizes…

    Creation: Present with Christ (Gen. 1:1 – 2:25; 3:8-9)
    Sin: Presence of Christ lost (Gen. 3:6, 23-24)
    Gospel: Prophesy about Christ (Gen. 3:15)
    Noah’s Covenant: Preservation for Christ (Gen. 8:9-17)
    Abraham’s Covenant: Promise of Christ (Gal. 3:16-18)
    Moses’ Covenant: Preparation of Israel for Christ (Gal. 3:24-25)
    Christ’s Covenant: Progressive coming of Christ’s kingdom
    …..Start/1st coming: Proclamation about Christ (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:14-15; Mt. 13:31-35; Acts – Church history)
    …..Climax/2nd coming: Present with Christ (Rev. 21:3)

    P.S. Jeremy, since most of the players believe in the 5 points of Calvinism, it seems a better title would be, “The New Calvinists.” It’s the men who’ve changed, not their Calvinism.

    Greg Gibson

    Friday 4 June 2010 at 04:00

  36. Jeff: I would encourage you to get the edition of the Reformed Theological Review in which Bob Gonzales addresses this question. Also a copy of the lecture given by Sam Waldron and Eddie Goodwin…I would recommend Meredith Kline’s Kingdom Prologue

    Has anyone else noticed how often CT’s recommend articles and books instead of Bible verses? That’s why 99% of God’s people in 3rd world countries are not CT. They don’t have access to the books, and if they did, they couldn’t understand them.

    If a heathen lived on an island, and a Bible washed ashore, and the Spirit saved him, what are the odds that he would learn the CoW and CoG from reading his Bible alone? .0000000001

    BTW, I read Bob G’s paper. It’s a fair-minded effort. But I believe it’s built on a foundation of Paedobaptist-style inferences: “If A and B are true, then C also could possibly be true.” (Kind of like, “Paul baptized the whole household; households often include infants; therefore Paul probably baptized infants.)

    Jeff: what exactly is it about the concept traditionally referred to as the covenant of works that you reject?

    I have many objections to the Covenant of Works. But here are the 2 biggest…

    1. The Covenant of Works is built on the foundation of a logical fallacy…

    1) God commanded Adam that if he ate the fruit, then he would die.

    2) A threat of punishment for disobedience implies a promise for obedience.

    3) The implied promise of, “if you eat, then you will die,” is “if you don’t eat, then you will earn eternal life.”

    False! The implied promise (opposite) of the threat is, “if you don’t eat, you will continue living in your present life” (NOT you will earn [works] a higher state of eternal life.) Jeff, can you see how CTs have to assume what they’re trying to prove in the CoW?

    2. How many times did Adam have to obey to earn eternal life: Once, a hundred, one day, one year, etc.?

    P.S. Remember the Covenant of Words was omitted by the early Reformed confessions: The French, Scottish, Belgic, 39 Articles, Heidelberg, and 2nd Helvetic. And John Murray denied the CoW. So did he undermine the gospel?

    Those who confuse their doctrinal distinctives with the gospel find fellowship with few Christians. But those who base their fellowship on the gospel alone (not doctrinal distinctives) find fellowship with all Christians.

    Greg Gibson

    Friday 4 June 2010 at 08:59

    • Greg – I am afraid I am obliged to call foul on your first part of your response. Even in the comments above there are NCTs who are recommending books and paraphrasing other authors, and there are men who hold to some form of covenant theology who are giving Scripture proofs for their convictions. I will leave it in because it provides some context for other elements, but it is neither fair nor accurate nor balanced, even in terms of the discussion you have been having.

      Jeremy Walker

      Friday 4 June 2010 at 09:11

    • Greg

      Whilst i do believe that some of the things you raise need to be re-evaluated by Reformed Baptists. I have long been persuaded that RB’s have allowed paedobaptists to do too much of their thinking for them and that the construct for the defense of paedobaptism does color everything in paedobaptist thinking.

      I would say that the hypothesis of desert islands and bibles etc adds nothing to the discussion in terms of usefulness. Few people if any apart from Robinson Crusoe ever have that experience and missionaries taking the gospel to unreaches parts will take their theology with them and hopefully teach whoever comes to faith in Christ.

      If I read you correctly the second objection to the idea of a Covenant of Works is the implication made about attaining eternal life. You would however agree that God did make a promise with Adam? The promise was death for disobedience which God was faithful to. So even allowing for your position is it still not a covenantal arrangement of some kind? A promise that Adam was given and did not keep. So you do still see a covenant relationship of some kind?

      Warmest regards


      Robert Briggs

      Friday 4 June 2010 at 15:51

  37. As a general point, brothers, can I remind you that this post has to do with the new Calvinism, and not with covenant theology? It may not be an invalid discussion, and I have let it run a fair way, but it is not the topic of this post.

    Please see my updated and explicit code of conduct.

    Jeremy Walker

    Friday 4 June 2010 at 09:14

    • Thanks Jeremy. Sorry for contributing to a divergence from the post topic. It’s hard sometimes not to take the bait.

      Jeff Smith

      Friday 4 June 2010 at 14:05

  38. Jeremy, I wasn’t referring only to this blog thread. I’ve noticed CTs often use the book referral method in many other discussions both online and offline.

    P.S. A foul is better than a strike :-)

    Greg Gibson

    Friday 4 June 2010 at 09:17

  39. Robert: You would however agree that God did make a promise with Adam? The promise was death for disobedience which God was faithful to. So even allowing for your position is it still not a covenantal arrangement of some kind? A promise that Adam was given and did not keep. So you do still see a covenant relationship of some kind?

    God promised a threat. But if we call every threat and promise in the Bible a “covenant,” then the Bible contains hundreds of covenants, right?

    Think of the different elements covenants usually contain, such as sacrifice. How many of those elements are present in the CoW?

    I think most of us here would agree the Reformers carried some extra baggage out of Rome. What I’m asking us to also consider is, “Did the RB’s carry some extra baggage out of Paedobaptism? Consider the following quote in the New Dictionary of Theology…

    “Only as a result of those debaes (with the Anabaptists), however, did Zwingli make the covenant the main argumentfor the Reformed understanding of infant baptism.” P.A. Lillback in New Dictionary of Theology, Edited by Ferguson, Wright, and Packer

    Greg Gibson

    Friday 4 June 2010 at 22:45

    • Greg

      I think it is a valid question to raise regarding the construct for a paedobaptist polemic. I have long believed the Reformers had to keep everyone ‘churched’ for political reasons at the time of the Reformation. I do believe the flattening of the distinctions between the Old and New Covenant served their purpose.

      Zwingli’s input is something I need to look into, Calvin’s I am well familiar with. I have thought Calvin was the main promoter of the covenantal infant baptist position.

      It is interesting that in recent years studying through the biblical covenants I have often wondered if the term of covenant of grace is a useful term. This has highlighted a long standing wrestle, RB’s for too long have allowed paedo-covenantalists to do their thinking for them.

      In all of this however, I have two concerns.

      We must avoid a spirit of arrogance and argumentativeness from governing our interaction on these things.

      We must strive to understand one another even if our terms are not the same, often we divide over terms and not substance and that is a fatal mistake.

      Benefitting from this.

      Warmest regards


      Robert Briggs

      Sunday 6 June 2010 at 00:19

  40. Here’s some more evidence about Zwingli’s paedobaptist motive for creating the CoG…

    “Covenant theology, then, emerged on Swiss soil, particularly in Geneva in Calvin’s thought and in Zurich in the writings of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who as a result of his debates with the Anabaptists made the covenant the main argument for the Reformed understanding of infant baptism, and in the sermons of Johann Heinrich Bullnger (1504-1575).”(A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Reymond, p. 503)

    And why isn’t the CoG in Gal. or Heb.?

    Gal. is the most comprehensive NT book explaining redemptive history. But Paul never uses the CoG idea to explain R.H. And Heb. is the most comprehensive NT book explaining the OC – NC. But the author never uses the CoG idea to explain the 2 most important covenants.

    If the CoG idea is in the Bible, shouldn’t we expect to see it in Gal. and Heb.? The NT authors wrote Gal. and Heb. without mentioning the CoG. But how many CT’s can teach Gal. or Heb. without mentioning the CoG?

    And one more thought on the CoW…The other Divine, Biblical covenants include a sacrifice and sign. But what was the sacrifice and sign of the CoW?

    Greg Gibson

    Saturday 5 June 2010 at 14:31

    • Greg,

      Leaving terms aside (covenant etc.. as I already mentioned…no need to cloud the real issue by debating what terms are best to use) also leaving view of paedobaptists aside (since I am not a paedobaptist but a committed baptist, thus obviously my covenant theology is a baptist version)…here are a few questions related to your view of man’s original state in Adam that I would like to propose to you. 1.Do you believe Adam was a glorified man in Eden? 2. Was Christ a glorified man before He finished the work the Father gave Him to do? 3. Was Adam capable of sinning in the Garden? (0bvious answer yes) and will we be capable of sinning in the final state? 3. Do you believe the salvation acquired for us by the second and last Adam(Christ) simply restores us to what Adam was and had before the fall? 3. Do you believe that what Christ accomplishes as our representative was what Adam failed to accomplish as our representative? 4. Do you believe justification only consists of the forgiveness of sins? 5. Do you believe Adam had already fulfilled and received all that God had purposed for him before he fell, or do you believe there was not only something Adam lost but something Adam failed to gain? 5. Did Adam fulfill the creation mandate of Gen. 1:28 before the fall? 6. With respect to the tree of life in the garden and the reoccurring references to the tree of life in the book of the Revelation in connection with the eternal state, what do you believe to be the significance of the tree of life? 7. The sabbath in Gen. 2:1, do you believe it was intended to point us back to God’s rest or did it have forward reference to a rest that awaits or both?

      I know these are a lot of questions and time may not permit you troubling yourself with answering them here. I would be interested to hear your answers if you could but more than that I present these questions for your thought and consideration.

      On the statements you made below:




      Here are my short answers: 1. To the first set of questions: 1) I remind you that I do not argue nor do I know any RB who argues that there is some reference in the bible to THE covenant of grace. All references using the word covenant in the bible are referring to actual historical covenants. So we are agreed about that.This is why Paul does not mention “the covenant of grace” nor does any other biblical writer. 2) However the concept embodied in the theological terms “covenant of grace” is very prominent in Galatians. I remind you brother as I’ve mentioned in early notes that, whether one prefers the terminology “covenant of grace” or not is not the real issue. As I’ve said if one prefers to refer it as God one eternal purpose of salvation by grace through faith that’s fine with me because that is basically what the term “covenant of grace” is shorthand for. It is a tag given to a biblical truth that there is from Gen. 3:15 forward throughout scripture one plan and way of salvation by grace, progressively unfolded(in the context of historical redemptive covenants with men or mankind…i.e Noahic (common grace, providing the stable world context for the gospel), Abrahamic (which both a physical national element to it as well as a universal spiritual element…not the best description but perhaps you’ll know what I’m getting at), Mosaic,Messianic, and New Covenant. Now back to the point, this concept is found in Galatians and is in fact fairly prominent in Galatians. Does not Paul argue that the Mosaic law did not set aside the promise made to Abraham regarding salvation by grace through faith…etc….In other words Paul is arguing that the new covenant gospel he preaches is not entirely and completely new….it’s the same gospel preached and promised through Abraham.

      With reference to the question about the covenant of works and the absence of sacrifice…Again you seem to keep trying to make the real issue here whether the term “covenant” should be used, however that’s not the real issue. If you prefer not to use the term covenant to refer to God’s pre-fall relationship with Adam, fine(I still prefer it for a number of reasons). However, regardless, it should be obvious why there is no sacrifice connected to the covenant of works…namely it is a covenant of works, not grace. No need for sacrifice when no sin has yet been committed and when to fulfillment of man’s side of the relationship requires that there be no sin committed.

      Jeff Smith

      Saturday 5 June 2010 at 18:57

      • By the way forgive please all the mispelled words and sloppy sentences I’m in a real hurry at present.

        Jeff S.

        Jeff Smith

        Saturday 5 June 2010 at 19:02

      • Jeff,
        With all due respect, if the bible uses phrases and words which mean what you are suggesting is the obvious meaning of CoG, i.e “God’s one eternal purpose of salvation” then why did anybody ever conceive of creating a new term. The concept of God’s one eternal purpose of slavation is amply represented in scripture. The only reasons why people decide to intoduce new terms which aren’t found in the bible are essentially two fold:
        1. There is no sufficient biblical term to describe the bibilical concept in question. E.g the Trinity
        2. A term is needed to help describe an element of a theological construct.

        The first application is acceptable since the concept is bibilical AND no one bibilical term can be found in the bible to represnt it.
        The second application is not acceptable because the underlying concept has a theological origin and not a bibilical one.

        Greg is showing the theological beginnings of the term CoG and thus proving that it is an invalid designation. The reason why it is important, contrary to what you have said above, is that it has logical implications which result in erroneous theological doctrines. That’s what we need to steer clear of. Why muddy the waters?

        If your definition of CoG is what you have said it is, there is no need for it ever to be implemented or used again. The bible, as the infallible Word of God has got better phrases and terms for the concpet you have suggested than any theology could ever counjour up, surely!

        Clearly the underlying requirement for the CoG is father reaching than what you have suggested and it’s use is a prerequisit for a theological construct.


        Saturday 5 June 2010 at 20:24

        • Tim,

          As I have stated I am not interested in debating with you or Greg about the propriety of the terms “covenant” of grace or “covenant” of works nor was that the original concern when I first raised what one of my concerns is with “some” of the new calvinism in response to Jeremy’s blog. I have indicated numerous times in this interaction that I’m willing, for the sake of discussion, so we can get to the real issues, to waive the terms(though I still think they are a valid way of saying it and the historical shorthand tag that has most often been used, but entering into a long defense of that is more time consuming and a another subject that we could perhaps discuss another time). My issue from the beginning (as I keep emphasizing) has been with the truth the theological constructs covenant of grace and covenant of works are intended to convey(that is in a confessional RB understanding of them, not a paedobaptist one). My wish is that you and Greg would address THAT (Greg has sought to in some degree regarding COW and in doing so revealed the presence of the very thing that concerns me about “some” of the new Calvinism) and not continue debating whether the terms covenant of grace or covenant of works are good tags or not. One could just as easily say to you, brother, “why muddy the waters” by arguing so much about the propriety of the terminology “covenant” and not addressing the real issue regarding whether you believe the basic reality attempting at least to be conveyed by it and if not why you don’t. I suspect that the real differences between me and my NCT friends and brothers is not really, when you boil it down, whether the term “covenant” of grace is a good use of language or the term “covenant” of works. So let’s get to what the real issues are if we are going to have a truly profitable, brotherly, discussion in which we are not completely missing each other. I honestly do realize that these matters are not all no-brainers and that serious minded genuine brethren may disagree on certain points regarding the precise relationship between the old covenant and the new and the precise manner in which the original state of Adam should be explained and understood. However, these are very important issues.

          It would help me to know how men with the views that you brothers have would answer the questions that I proposed above to Greg regarding the original state of Adam.

          I have a number of other questions I have for a long time wanted to ask NCT friends. For example is beastiality a sin under the New Covenant? If so why? What law is it that is written on our hearts in the New Covenant and what does it mean that it’s written on our hearts? I really would like to know your response to those questions and there are others.

          Obviously we’ve already taken a lot of our time…blog discussions can be so time-consuming and I’m not sure in the end if they are ever all that profitable. Therefore maybe you guys would like to pass on us getting into this any further or perhaps we can interact in another way or forum.

          Be assured of my well wishes, respect, and appreciation for our common bond of love and commitment to the same Christ.

          Jeff Smith

          Jeff Smith

          Saturday 5 June 2010 at 22:08

        • Hey Greg and Tim

          I do think if the issue simply is a debate over terms Jeff has sought to honestly and fairly address that. How about graciously answering his other questions so we can create a greater clarity regarding the deeper issues?

          It is kind of disingenuious to keep arguing the same point, I think those of us following this see the point your are making over terminology what we are still to hear from you is a deeper biblical understanding of the issues.

          Hopefully we can continue to interact on the issues without going round and round and round and round…

          Warmest regards


          Robert Briggs

          Sunday 6 June 2010 at 00:04

  41. Jeff, thanks for the reply.

    Just to clarify, I’ve not required the term CoG be found in Scripture. I’d be content with the idea (like the Trinity). That’s why in my last post I intentionally mentioned the CoG IDEA.

    Jeff: I have a number of other questions I have for a long time wanted to ask NCT friends. For example is beastiality a sin under the New Covenant? If so why?

    Please see my blog: “Does New Covenant Theology Allow Beastiality and Incest?

    Jeff: What law is it that is written on our hearts in the New Covenant and what does it mean that it’s written on our hearts?

    The law of God, which is now the NC law of Christ revealed by Him and His apostles in the NT in the 1st-century. (Also, God’s unchanging, moral law (“conscience law”) for all humans is defined in the sin lists for all humans, not the Decalogue.)

    “Written on the heart” is probably a metaphor/picture of regeneration. IOW, laws written on the heart means that God regenerated us to obey the NC law of Christ.

    Jeff: I know these are a lot of questions and time may not permit you troubling yourself with answering them here.

    Some of your questions are good while others are speculative. (I wonder if someone gave some of them to you? :-) I’ll be glad to try to answer them. But first, I think it’s only fair to ask you to answer at least some of my most important questions and points above, such as…

    1. Who first called Sunday the Sabbath, and when?

    2. Who first applied the 4th command to Sunday, and when?

    3. Did Zwingli invent or popularize the CoG for the motive of justifying paedobaptism?

    4. Is the CoW based on a logical fallacy from Gen. 2:17?

    5. How many times did Adam have to obey to earn eternal life?

    6. Is the CoW part of the gospel?

    Greg Gibson

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 00:06

  42. As I have somewhat glanced at the conversation developing in the comments, I can’t help but noticing how:

    -Greg’s affinity of linking paedobaptism to Covenant Theology is exactly like how the Arminians love to paint John Calvin as a murderer –a point so completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand that it only makes them look desperate and insecure in the actual arguments.

    -And, in Tim’s insistence of “using the Bible” as he calls it, or using terminology of scripture, I can’t help but notice how he has just indicted himself for ever using terms such as TULIP (Total depravity, etc.), or Premillennalism or Amillennialism, etc. And this to say nothing of the fact that, unless he intends on arguing using the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, he already is taking the actual words of scripture and putting them in his own (English) terminology.

    Seriously, talk about grasping at straws!

    When we get to the actual issue at hand: anyone who believes that God’s plan of salvation has been the same down through all the ages (Adam, Abraham, etc. were saved in the exact same manner as we are), by default believes in some sort of Covenant of Grace.

    And regarding the Covenant of Works, it is much more complex, granted, but connecting the dots from Romans 5 are indeed easy enough that a child and/or a brand new believer to easily conclude. What right did Christ have to save a people? Why would His obedience save anyone but Himself? Why did He have to live on earth at all? What is meant by the clear typology and correlation of Adam and Christ both here and in 1 Cor 15? Whether you subscribe to Covenant Theology or not is really not the issue here; the issue is that it is not near as far-fetched as you all are attempting to portray it.

    Nathan White

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 00:08

  43. Correction: I said I never required the term CoG be found in Scripture. But I did require it be explained in Biblical terms and logic.

    Sounds like Jeff is claiming that CoG is a synonym for God’s eternal plan/purpose in Christ. OK, he’s satisfied my requirement for Biblical terms. But I think his definition of CoG is watered down.

    Greg Gibson

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 00:15

    • Watered down maybe, but what about answering some of the questions that really matter here? Can you set out what the real issue is at the heart of your concerns? Jeff has done an excellent job in laying out the key issues we need to address, please don’t just ignore them.

      Robert Briggs

      Sunday 6 June 2010 at 00:25

  44. Robert: We must avoid a spirit of arrogance and argumentativeness from governing our interaction on these things.

    Is it I?

    Robert: We must strive to understand one another even if our terms are not the same, often we divide over terms and not substance and that is a fatal mistake.

    That’s one of the blessings of the Internet. Those of us who were formerly isolated in our fellowship have now met brothers outside our small circles. We’re discovering that they don’t believe what we thought they believed, and what we believe may not be as as solid as we assumed. And we’re challenging one another to grow in the knowledge of the Lord. This has been a profitable discussion.

    Robert: I have thought Calvin was the main promoter of the covenantal infant baptist position.

    Augustine laid the theological foundation for PB in his disputes with the Donatists. Calvin and Zwingli built on Augustine’s foundation.

    Tim: The only reasons why people decide to intoduce new terms which aren’t found in the bible are essentially two fold…2. A term is needed to help describe an element of a theological construct…The reason why it is important, contrary to what you have said above, is that it has logical implications which result in erroneous theological doctrines…it’s use is a prerequisit for a theological construct.
    Robert: It is interesting that in recent years studying through the biblical covenants I have often wondered if the term of covenant of grace is a useful term…Can you set out what the real issue is at the heart of your concerns?

    So why am I so concerned about the CoG? Because as Tim pointed out, once we allow the terms CoG, then CT’s often use it to reason about other doctrines…

    1. One covenant of grace = one people of God (believers and their children)
    2. One covenant of grace = one moral law (Decalogue and Sabbatarianism)

    (I’m sorry, I can’t the accurately state CT’s “logic” above. Perhaps a CT here can state it more accurately for us.)

    Perhaps some RB’s here are thinking, but I believe in the CoG without Paedobaptism. True. But historically the CoG has proven to be a slippery slope from RB to PB. Consider how many converts each side has made from the other’s camps. “The RB’s have slain their handful, but the PB’s have slain their hundreds.”

    So my concerns about the CoG, are that I want Christ’s Church purified from unregenerate infants who grow into hypocrites. And I want all God’s people to be one (in doctrine) so that the world may know that He sent Jesus.

    But what’s interesting, is that we agree on one plan/CoG (call it what you want) and one spiritual people of God (credobaptism). And I agree with you on one so-called moral law. So where we differ is the identity of that “moral” law.

    Scripture never applies the whole Decalogue to all humans including Gentiles. It even explicitly states that the Gentiles don’t have the (whole) law (Ps. 147:19-20; Rom. 2:12-14; 1 Cor. 9;21). But it explicilty defines the sins of all humans in the sin lists for all humans (Lev. 18; Rom. 1; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8, 22:15). So maybe our real difference boils down to the Decalogue and the Sabbath?

    Greg Gibson

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 01:29

    • Ah, I agree that a large difference I have with NCT has to do with the decalogue and the sabbath and I an very much aware of NCT’s views on that. Addressing and interacting with that would require pages and pages and I have done that in another context in a long series of sermons. I am tempted to get furhter into that issue with you brothers but I fear we wouuld be writing comments til the end of the year or longer. I will simply say that yes I do believe the law Jeremiah refers to is the decalogue and yes I do believe that their is a continuing New Covenant expression of the Sabbath day. But this is not really the issue that I have raised in this blog discussion. The issue I initially raised was the issue of the covenant of works and my fear that the tendency in “some” of the new calvinism to reject the theological concept hitorically embodied in the terminology covenant of works leaves them vulnerable to movements afloat that undermine the gospel by rejecting the law gospel distinction. Somehow things got away from that. I confess I took the bait and the bait still looks very tempting but really I would like to get back to the matter of the covenant of works. Im glad Greg raised it again in part in some of the latter questions he asked in his last response. It is late Saturday evening here in Florida right now. God willing I will plan to return to this Monday (unless I get terribly under conviction that I’m wasting precious timne God has given and owns. I know that’s struggle for all of us when it comes to discussions on blogs) Until may each of you have a blessed Lord’s Day.


      Jeff Smith

      Sunday 6 June 2010 at 02:06

    • Greg

      My two concerns were made as general observations not as personal. Things we all must keep an eye on in discussions like these.

      A couple of things arise from your comments.

      Does it follow that one must believe the people of God consist of believers and their children in every covenantal administration because one believes in an overarching covenant of grace? Not sure merely stating that proves it.

      What is the issue with the perpetuity of moral law and sabbath? Surely you simply mean sabbath, as you would not deny moral law. Decalogue yes, but not nine commandments, which seems to be the issue at the root of your opposition to the idea of a covenant of grace.

      Arguing about slippery slopes is really not something I am interested in wasting time about. I can argue slippery slopes all over the place in church life, the way to avoid slippery slopes is to know your bible, trust the Lord and stay faithful.

      Regarding the issue of the decalogue not applying to all human beings, what about the work of the law written on the heart in Romans 2, what work of what law is that referring to? What is the sum of the commandments? Love to God and love to our neighbors as ourselves, a summary of the decalogue surely?

      Surely you do not reject the responisbility of Christians to love God and to love their neighbors? Surely you do not forsake the assembling of yourself with believers on the Lord’s Day?

      So what is the difference between us? Different terminology, maybe, different practice, I would be surprised, but I look forward to learning.

      My concern is that to deny the believer’s responsibility to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law is surely to deny true evangelical obedience in the life of the Christian. I am sure you are not saying that are you?

      Robert Briggs

      Sunday 6 June 2010 at 04:06

  45. So maybe our real difference boils down to the Decalogue and the Sabbath?”

    Greg, it seems to me that many of the new Calvinists also deny the continuation of the Ten commandments as a rule of life for the NC believer [I know their are exceptions]. To put it plainly, this is my greatest concern with the new Calvinism [this brings us back to where we began]. How important is this? Very! Both sides have written on it [for example Richard B, In Defence of…]

    If there are two different moral laws [with Old and New Testaments], then,

    1. There must be two distinct judgments–one of the OT wicked and one for the NT wicked.

    2. Two righteousness’ by which we are justified–one for the OT believer and one for the NT believer.

    3. Two Spirits–one to enable the OC saint to keeps the OC moral law and one for the NC saint to enable him to keep the NC moral law.

    4. Two definitions of love–one for the OC ethic and one for the New.

    Actually there needs to be three, for what about those who lived before Moses? Let’s say, Adam, Abel, Abraham, etc.

    Three of everything? Yes! Or else–there is one moral law, one righteousness, and one Spirit.

    Do we not love the same God, have the same Spirit, and obey the same basic law as saints who lived before and after Moses? Are there three religions, or just one?

    “O how I love your law” (Ps.119:197). “I delight in the law of God in the inner man” (Rom.7:22).

    Mike Waters
    Heritage RBC

    Mike Waters

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 02:14

  46. Greg said:

    “One covenant of grace = one moral law (Decalogue and Sabbatarianism)”

    I’m glad Greg made this point. I believe it reveals the *true* opposition to the CT Grace/Works framework. It appears to me that some schools of thought are rejecting the framework not because it fails to find logical/scriptural warrant, but because it is inconsistent with some of their other presuppositions.

    That is, if one rejects the Sabbath based upon Col 2:14 (for example), then they will fight to fit everything else into that framework.

    Again– my point through all of this is not to argue or defend the CT perspective, but to expose inconsistencies and demonstrate that the framework finds deep exegetical and theological plausibility.

    Nathan White

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 02:28

  47. Jeff: my fear that the tendency in “some” of the new calvinism to reject the theological concept hitorically embodied in the terminology covenant of works leaves them vulnerable to movements afloat that undermine the gospel by rejecting the law gospel distinction.

    Which movements are you concerned about: FV, etc.?

    Mike: Greg, it seems to me that many of the new Calvinists also deny the continuation of the Ten commandments as a rule of life for the NC

    All NCT authors agree that we “obey all that Christ commanded” (NT commands). Personally, I believe that includes 9 of the 10 transferred to the NT.

    Mike: If there are two different moral laws [with Old and New Testaments],

    No one believes that. I believe God has one eternal, unchanging law for all humans, Gentiles, Jews, and Christians, revealed in the conscience and also in the sin lists for all humans. (The only change may have been shortly after creation when Cain, etc. married. Incest became a sin later.)

    Greg Gibson

    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 03:51

    • Greg,

      You asked, “Which movements are you concerned about: FV, etc.?”

      Answer: FV, New Perspective, Daniel Fuller, Norman Shepard etc..These are not all the same and must not be grouped as all NP for example. However they do all have in common a rejection of COW(I’m not talking about the term necessarily but the concept). They also as a further development of their rejection of COW(especially NP, DF and NS) advocate a gospel that I believe conflates law and grace.

      It also needs to be made clear that, mentioned early on, I’m not saying that all who reject COW distort or reject the gospel. As I said in an earlier point we cannot attribute to folks all the logical implications of something they may believe unless they actually have come to also believe and confess those logical implications. However the rejection of COW if worked out to it’s end leads to hanging the doctrine of the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers on a sky hook. Does Christ’s finished work merely provide atonement for sin and or is their a positive imputation of righteousness by which the reward of eternal life and glorification is secured? Does Christ’s work merely bring us back to where Adam was before the fall by providing forgiveness or does his work also accomplish what Adam failed to accomplish and thereby secure for us the reward of eternal life and glorification?

      Jeff Smith

      Monday 7 June 2010 at 04:59

  48. Hebrews explicitly tells us that the new covenant has replaced the old covenant (Heb 8:13). The old covenant had a priesthood and a law which were inextricably linked to it. The decalogue is even described as ‘the words of the covenant’ (Exodus 34:28).

    If Hebrews tells us that the old covenant is obsolete, that means that everything to do with that covenant is obsolete. According to Hebrews it is as unwarranted to suggest the perpetuity of any part or all of the OC law as it would be to suggest the perpetuity of the Levitical priesthood. ‘For when there is a change of the priesthood there must also be a change of the law.’ (Heb 7:12).

    The order is straightforward, so far as Hebrews is concerned. The priesthood belongs to the covenant and the law is given on the basis of the priesthood in question. So, the OC had a priesthood which stemmed from the family of Levi, but Christ was not from the family of Levi, but from that of Judah and his priesthood is that of the order of Melchizadek.

    The OC law simply will not allow for a priest from any other line than that of Levi. Christ’s priesthood would therefore represent the breaking of the OC law and therefore a breaking of the covenant itself.

    Thus there had to be a new covenant based on the priesthood of one who is declared to be living. When there is a change of the priesthood there must also be a change of the law. Thus Christ brings about a new law which is part of his new covenant, inaugurated in His blood. (Heb 7, Gal 4 and 1 Cor 9)

    Previously, obedience to the OC law was the means of gaining temporal blessings for the vast majority of Israelites. Thus the repeated refrain throughout the OC scriptures: ‘if you are careful to obey all my laws…then you will be blessed in…’. However, the law of the Christ is the means by which believers show that they love their Saviour. (1 John 5:3) Christ is the means by which they get blessed. He bought their righteousness at the cross, from whence flows all their blessings.

    None of the 10 commandments are applicable today because they all belong to the OC. It is easy to take them and strip them of their particulars and present them as enduring moral law, but that wont do. This is law and every part of the stipulation is applicable as an integral part of that law. In the same way that an American couldn’t plead his innocence at carrying a firearm here in England by saying the law has no geographical limits, one simply cannot take away from the 5th commandment for example, the fact that lack of obedience to one’s parents resulted in a short life in the land. Which land? Palestine of course.

    The ten commandments are people bound, covenant bound and time bound. All one can say is that if we find a law contained within the NC scriptures which does speak about children obeying their parents – which we do – that we conclude that God has seen fit in His infinite wisdom to give believers a similar law, but it is not the same law!

    Are not all God’s laws moral? He is moral, so surely his laws are moral. It is not a question of morality, it is a question of perpetuity. It was immoral for an Israelite to mix his yarns under the OC. It was immoral for the Israelites to bring false fire during ceremonial offering, which Nadab and Abihu learnt at the cost of their lives. It was immoral to carry sticks on the Sabbath. None of these things are immoral for NC believers because we are under a new covenant and God hasn’t stated that these things are abhorrent to him.

    The ten commandments had a specific purpose according to the bible – they were the words of the OC. They have served their purpose, just as the OC has and thus they are no longer applicable. What matters is what is applicable to us under the NC.


    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 14:13

    • Tim-

      I do not wish to enter into a full debate on NCT and the things you have stated above. Your comments aren’t really the topic of this blog post, and other men have sufficiently addressed elsewhere many of the things you say. Particularly, John Owen’s exegesis of the passages in Hebrews you cite is the most thorough refutation of some of your conclusions.

      However, I would briefly respond to your comments with the following:

      I find that your assertions about the Old Covenant, a new law, the law of Christ, and the 10 commandments to be a bit to simplistic and superficial. You are inserting a wedge between the Old Testament and New Testament that simply cannot be supported by actual exegesis of the biblical text. NCT seems to read everything through the lens of a particular viewpoint of Paul’s epistles, and thus comes to conclusions that cannot be supported when the rest of the Bible and New Testament are closely examined. A few examples to back up what I’m saying here:

      -Funny how when NCT talks about this new, higher, law of Christ, different from the OT law, but the actual words of Christ are often ignored. What did Christ do but continually reference back to the Law, particularly the 10 commandments, again and again? And the fact that Jesus taught proper observance of the Sabbath –rather than proper annulment of it– is of course entirely ignored. Christ brought up the law and the ten commandments on more than a few occasions –and yet supposedly His law is a different law?

      -In addition, the origins of this new law, the law of Christ, are a little obscure in your theology. Sure, we agree that Christ is the ultimate lawgiver, and that He is our king and that “the coastlands (Gentiles) wait for His law.” But again, when the actual text is examined, we don’t see Christ throwing out the old law and bringing His new law. Rather, He upholds the Law in Matt 5. He also says –more than a few times–, things like “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” (John 7:16), and “I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” (John 8:26), and “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” (John 8:28), and “I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49), and “the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24), etc. In other words, Jesus, just like when He taught on the 10 commandments, never claimed to be bringing anything new or unique to Himself, but instead claimed to be revealing/manifesting what the Law had been saying all along. He simply does not explicitly claim to bring a new law; His teaching is always exegesis of the old law.

      -You also mention 1 John 5:3. Interesting however, that the context reveals that these ‘commandments’ are not Christ’s commandments specifically, but are the Father’s. See 1 John 5:1-5:

      “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

      Christ is distinguished from God the Father in verse 1, and is called the ‘Son of God’ in verse 5. So when coming to verse 2 and the phrase ‘love God and obey His commandments’, how are we to understand this verse? Well first, “God’s commandments” there are attributed as the Father’s commandments. And what commandments could those be? Sure, by the teaching of scripture as a whole we know this includes Jesus (who is also God), and it includes His teaching, but the phrase ‘God’ here is clearly God the Father, and thus the phrase here ‘commandments’ is clearly the 10 commandments. This is paralleled exactly in 2 John 6, where believers are exhorted to obey the Father’s commandments –not as if they are different from Christ’s, but because the Father’s commandments, the Ten, ARE Christ’s commandments. Your use of 1 John 5 does not deal with what the text actually says, but is based upon outside presuppositions that are coloring your interpretation. If we do the justice of allowing ‘God’s commandments’ to speak for themselves, as they are used in scripture from beginning to end (particularly in how a NT church without a copy of the New Testament would have understood them), then the meaning is clear. Walking according to God’s (Ten) Commandments is the immediate application/understanding of this verse.

      -Of course, Jesus did give “a new commandment”. But obviously, not only was ‘love’ not something intrinsically new or different from the Old Law, but Jesus and the rest of the NT affirm that love is obedience to the 10 commandments and vise versa –including the Sabbath commandment as I demonstrated in the comments above (Rom 13:8-10, etc).

      -The dichotomy between OT and NT, old Law and new law, simply does not do justice to clear texts such as Rom 3:31, where NT believers are described as upholding/establishing the OT law, and Rom 8:4 where, “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” –Clearly, the scriptures teach here that New Covenant obedience is a fulfilling/practicing out of the righteousness of the Old Covenant/Old Testament Law. You have stripped this verse from its power and meaning when you place a wedge between OT and NT law. A new law or a different law makes these two texts a bit irrational.

      -I could go into the promises of the law being written on our hearts, the ‘royal law’ as described by James, etc., but I digress.

      In conclusion, as has been pointed out above, God’s ethics and righteousness do not change. Sure, the OT law was so written as to specifically apply to Israel, but the essence has not in the least bit changed. To say “All OT Laws Cancelled”, or “NT/Law of Christ Only” is superficial and runs the danger of completely missing the point. The evidence on scripture is that the Decalogue clearly transcends the Mosaic covenant –proven by its appearing before Sinai and its appearing after the abolishment of the Old Covenant.

      Clearly, if anything is the “Law of Christ”, then its the ten commandments, viewed through love of God and neighbor. We can come to no other conclusion exegetically.

      Nathan White

      Sunday 6 June 2010 at 19:48

    • Tim,

      Just a brief response to this part of your comment…You said, “If Hebrews tells us that the old covenant is obsolete, that means that everything to do with that covenant is obsolete.”

      Do you believe the gospel had any place in the Mosaic administstration? If so how can you say that everything to do with that covenant is obsolete? Furthermore how could Paul say, referring specifically to the O.T. scriptures (since the N.T. was not yet inscripturated) that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS” I agree that the Old Covenant administration is obsolete but this is not the same as saying that everything contained in the OC administration is obsolete and from my perspective that includes the moral law summarized in the ten commandments. There were universal abiding truths concerning God, his nature, what he requires of mankind and the way of salvation etc.. that transcend and were woven into the Old Covenant administration and that are threaded through every covenant administration. The divine redemptive covenants are both organically and thematically connected though not identical. Let me also say that many of my RB brothers agree, as I do, that the OC administration of the law summarized in the ten commandments and the OC administration of the gospel are obsolete but that is not the same as saying that the gospel itself or the moral law summarized in the ten commandments themselves are obsolete. For example in the ten commandments we read “Honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you” The command honor your father and mother is one thing, the OC. application and promise attached to the law as given under Moses is another. The promise is related to OC realities (the land the Lord your God gives you). Therefore when Paul applies this same law to believers under the NC in Eph. 6 the promise attached is different, though the command is the same. Paul writes, “Honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the earth” That’s a new covenant promise though the moral or natural law is unchanged. The land under Moses was typcial of the inheritance that is ours in Christ. We as Chrisitian do not merely receive the land of Canaan, we are heirs of the world. The meek shall inherit the earth. According to Rom. 4:13 the promise to Abraham and his seed did not merely have as its terminus the land but the world. So the promise attached by Paul in
      Eph. 6 is different but the command itself is unchanged and Paul actually makes one of his arguments for obeying this command the fact that it is part of the ten commandments( “which is the first commandment with promise” first implying first in a series, the series referenced obviously being the ten commandments) My point is that we recognize that there are OC attachments to and applications of the moral law summarized in the ten commandments(applied for example in the civil statutes of Moses, also, with respect to the 4th commandment, the seventh day is an old covenant application) that do not apply under the New Covenant administration. But the fact that the Old Covenant is obsolete does not equal that the gospel or the moral law summmarized in the ten commandments and woven within the fabric of the OC are obsolete or that many other things that God reveals in the OC concerning Himself, his character, his ways etc..are obsolete.


      Monday 7 June 2010 at 04:30

      • Anonymous above is me, Jeff Smith. I was using my wife’s computer and didn’t realize until I sent the comment that it didn’t record my name

        Jeff Smith

        Jeff Smith

        Monday 7 June 2010 at 04:35

  49. Nathan,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond and particularly for pointing out John Ownen’s work on Hebrews. I haven’t checked that out yet, but I’m sure it will be worth consideration.
    Iron sharpens iron brothers.

    Blessings in the Lord.


    Sunday 6 June 2010 at 22:12

  50. Jeff: You asked, “Which movements are you concerned about: FV, etc.?”
    Answer: FV, New Perspective, Daniel Fuller, Norman Shepard etc..These are not all the same and must not be grouped as all NP for example. However they do all have in common a rejection of COW

    I’ve known ZERO NCT’s who have joined those movements. But I’ve seen hundreds of PB’s join them. So I think you should focus your concern more on PB’s than NCT’s.

    Jeff: Do you believe the gospel had any place in the Mosaic administstration? If so how can you say that everything to do with that covenant is obsolete? Furthermore how could Paul say, referring specifically to the O.T. scriptures (since the N.T. was not yet inscripturated) that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS”

    I agree with you that the OT still reveals the gospel, attributes of God, etc. Yes the whole OT (Law and Prophets) are not abolished for prophetic fulfillment (Mt. 5:17-19), teaching just. by faith (Rom. 3:31), and doctrine/revelation/sanctification (2 Tim. 3:16-17). (Remember “All Scripture…” includes the whole OT, not the Decalogue alone.) But the OC is abolished as a legally binding contract for direct obedience (Eph. 2:15; cf. Greek in 2 Cor. 3:7, 11, 13, 14).

    CT’s herm. is that whenever the NT speaks positively of the Law, it must mean the Decalogue/moral law alone. But whenever it speaks negatively of the Law, it must mean the civil and ceremonial laws alone. But they fail to understand Paul’s common, 2-fold definition of the word “Law”…

    1. Law as regulation (Old Covenant commands)
    2. Law as revelation (Old Testament Scripture)

    You can see 3 examples of this 2-fold distinction in the word “Law” in Rom. 3:19, 3:21; and Gal. 4:21. (For further explanation, see my PDF “But Christ Did Not Come to Abolish the Law”.)

    Brothers, we’re under the NC, not the OC. God made the OC contract for a mostly unregenerate nation. But He made the NC with a regenerate Church. Our ethic comes from the kingdom of heaven, the new creation, the heavenly Jerusalem.

    Robert, my concern about the CoG is that it seems to be the #1 defense for PB’s. So take away the CoG, and you’ve undermined PB’s foundation. If you really want to refute PB, then why not use Biblical terms instead of PB terms?

    You asked several questions on my view of law. To try to make a long story short…I believe that all OT laws are cancelled, and we obey all that Christ commanded (NT commands). 2 covenants = 2 canons. (If that raises more questions, please see my PDF “But the Ten Commandments Are the Eternal, Unchanging, Moral Law of God.”)

    And you asked an excellent question about how I differ from RB’s in practice. Not too much. Sometimes on Sundays, especially late afternoons, I worship by working with all my heart to the glory of God. My use of time before and after church on Wed., Sun., etc. is influenced by Heb. 10:25 and Lk. 8:1-18. So although we have a different nomology, we have similar practices. IOW, we take different routes to arrive at nearly the same destination.

    But how I differ in heart from RB’s may be a different story. Since changing my theology from being partially under the OC to under the NC alone, the Lord has made my joy more complete. It’s hard to experience unspeakable joy when we’re extracting the Decalogue from it’s law-works context (Ex. 19:5-6) and trying to motivate obedience without Christ-centered indicatives (Ex. 20:1-17). (Why do you think God called it “the Law?”)

    CT’s who fail to see the typological nature of the OC, tend to take it as an end in itself, instead of a shadow of Christ and the Christian life. That’s why I mentioned above, SOME old school CT preachers sound more like the OT prophets convicting an unregenerate nation, than the NT apostles encouraging a regenerate church? When the NC is seen merely as a new administration of the one CoG, legalism’s seeds are built into the system. (Thankfully, many new school CTs have grown beyond the limitations of their system with the influence of gospel-centered thinking.)

    Robert, from the little I know of you, you strike me as a new school RB.

    I prefer that this is my last post on doctrinal issues.

    Greg Gibson

    Tuesday 8 June 2010 at 02:49

    • Tim,

      The discussion has probably gone on too long but perhaps it has helped us all in some ways to understand one another better. I do think that at some points you have misunderstood what confessional RB’s believe and perhaps we (I) have misunderstood at some points what NCT’s believe. A brief comment on this statement of yours below:

      “CT’s herm. is that whenever the NT speaks positively of the Law, it must mean the Decalogue/moral law alone. But whenever it speaks negatively of the Law, it must mean the civil and ceremonial laws alone.”

      This is not strictly accurate, at least not in a broadbrushed way. There may be some who have done this but many, as I do, understand the law references in Paul sometimes(indeed often) to refer to the whole Mosaic law or to the Old Covenant administration when spoken of negatively. Also by CT’s (even PB’s) there are those who make a distinction between the law in the hand of Moses or as a covenant of works and the law in the hand of Christ or the law as it functions within a gospel context in the life of believers. Also just a reminder of what I said in my last comment, “many of my RB brothers agree, as I do, that the OC administration of the law summarized in the ten commandments and the OC administration of the gospel are obsolete but that is not the same as saying that the gospel itself or the moral law summarized in the ten commandments themselves are obsolete”. I quote this again just to reiterate that we agree that the Old Covenant is null and void. The difference between us partly is an issue of what each of us believe concerning what is in contained in the Old Covenant administration that is not merely Old Covenant. It may also involve our understanding of the Old Covenant itself….I’m not sure about that…but I think there is often confusion in traditional PB-CT and NCT and RBCT about the nature of the Mosaic Covenant…i.e. was it a covenant of grace or a covenant of works or was it in some sense both. This is a question I have wrestled with and I have come to believe there is a sense in which it was both. This is perhaps a whole other subject that could be discussed in detail at another time or in another forum.

      May God help me and all of us to be humble and teachable as we seek to grow in our understanding of God’s wonderful plan of salvation through Christ and the manner of it’s unfolding revelation in redemptive history.

      Jeff Smith

      Jeff Smith

      Tuesday 8 June 2010 at 06:37

      • Excuse my mistake above. I addressed the comment to Tim but I was actually commenint on Greg’s last comment

        Jeff Smith

        Tuesday 8 June 2010 at 06:41

        • Greg,

          One other last comments…You commented:

          “Jeff: You asked, “Which movements are you concerned about: FV, etc.?”
          Answer: FV, New Perspective, Daniel Fuller, Norman Shepard etc..These are not all the same and must not be grouped as all NP for example. However they do all have in common a rejection of COW

          I’ve known ZERO NCT’s who have joined those movements. But I’ve seen hundreds of PB’s join them. So I think you should focus your concern more on PB’s than NCT’s.”

          I think you make a valid point here. Yet my original concern raised was not addressed to NCT it was addressed to what was described in the blog as “the new calvinism”. And I do beleive that whatever form of Calvinism it is, if the concept of probation in Adam’s original state is denied it does leave brothers vulnerable to the tendencies in those I mentioned. All those who follow gospel law conflation of NP or of Daniel Fuller are not paedobaptists. i.e Don Garlington and it seems that at an earlier time John Piper though Piper has in past years clearly distinced himself from Fuller on matters related to justification and the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers. I have greatly appreciated his books Counted Righteous…and his other book(can’t remember the title ) in which he takes on N.T. Wright, However as muc as I have appreciated those books and Piper’s strong stance on behalf of positive imputation and have felt as I’ve read him that he has left a chink in his armor the men like Garlington and Wright will, if they have not already, seek to take advantage of. I am interested in reading Wright’s response to Piper’s critique of Wright’s views on Justification. I haven’t had a chance to do that yet.

          May Christ’s richest blessings rest upon you.

          Jeff Smith

          Jeff Smith

          Tuesday 8 June 2010 at 06:50

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