Ralph Smith's "Eternal Covenant" Critiqued

Discussion in 'A Puritan's Mind Updates' started by C. Matthew McMahon, Dec 31, 2004.

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  1. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Dear Friends of A Puritan´s Mind and Puritanboard,

    A Puritan´s Mind has been recently updated again with a new paper that critiques a Modern Theologian (Ralph Smith) who is theologically associated with the Auburn Avenue Theology, and the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP). The book is entitled *Eternal Covenant: How the Trinity Reshapes Covenant Theology* and purports to revise two important theological terms: covenant and Trinity. Unfortunately, Smith´s revision is at the expense of orthodox theology. It purports Tri-theism, and Covenantal Nomism. Smith has done away with the historical formulations of Trinity to espouse James Jordan´s views, and has redefined *covenant* to set forth a view held by Federal Visionists called, in Christianese, *covenant faithfulness*.

    The critique can be found at:

    It is titled:
    Blurred Vision: Theological Degeneration In Ralph Smith´s Misconceived Covenantal Theology, By C. Matthew McMahon.

    I hope it is of help to the ever-emerging trend of bad theology and inaccurate historical theology that continues to churn out of the Federal Vision camp.

    A summary of this paper will be seen in the Whitefield Journal at some time in the first quarter of next year.
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  2. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    If anyone has anything to add or comment on in the work, let me know.
  3. Irishcat922

    Irishcat922 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks Matt this will be very helpful. I have a friend caught up in the FV and this will give me some more ammo.
  4. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    I hope it helps.
  5. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    A few typos Matt but otherwise good so far. Typos are in bold.

    Barth paragraph
    "Instead, he has redefined it using liberal theology. According to Barth it means that God´s being is at work within the Bible, and is simply used as a gateway to God (which is really existentialism). So when Barth uses terms like God, Bible, Jesus Christ, revelation, and the like, he means something very different than what historic Christianity has taught. He is diligently redefining the truth to make it culturally relevant to the era in which he lived, and he accomplished this using liberal theology, and became the father of neo-orthodoxy."
    (You have some mixed past and present tenses in the paragraph in reference to Barth. I posted this portion just to show you. It would probably be better to keep a consistent past tense since Barth is dead. Also, "and is used", You probably meant "and it is used" refering to the Bible)

    Just after footnote 22
    "the Covenant of Redemption, or the decrees of God (chapter 3 in the Confession) set the covenantal framework for "œcovenant" as a pact or agreement" in time under the guise of both the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Redemption." (you are missing some quotes between "covenant" and agreement")

    Next paragraph after footnote 28
    "This is a strange statement since Reformed Theology has held these truth for hundreds of years being exceedingly clear on what they mean, and exegetically poignant (which cannot be said for Smith since he offers no exegesis at all.) " ( I think you meant either "this truth" or "these truths" )

    Beginning of paragraph containing footnote 29
    "Next, finally, Smith begins to quote a few Bible verses."
    ( Pick one or the other "next" or "finally", not both)

    Just before footnote 32
    " In actually, a part of Smith´s misunderstanding of the Covenant of Redemption is that it is the first of the covenants to deal with after setting forth one´s Theology Proper." (I think you meant either "Actually" or "In actuality" )

    [Edited on 2-1-2005 by puritansailor]
  6. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Thanks brother. any more you find let me know. I fixed those. (Hit refresh on your browser if you go read it again.)
  7. bigheavyq

    bigheavyq Puritan Board Freshman

    I am a little ignorant of the npp and fv. I want to stay away from any heresy. But, isn't there a relationship of some kind between the three persons of the trinity? In their existence before time, they didn't need us, but chose to create out of love. What is the orthodox teaching on this?
  8. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Any good systematic theology will help you out with that. Theology Proper is NOT the same as what these guys teach. They are redefining the Trinity to be "Three persons in one covneant bond of love." That makes them Tri-theistic and not mono-theistic. They have been careless with their words and thier ideas to propagate a new "works" salvation that stems from a wrong Trinitarian perspective.
  9. Mayflower

    Mayflower Puritan Board Junior

    Dear Math, did also send your paper with critiques to Ralph Smith, if so i like to read his response ?
  10. CalsFarmer

    CalsFarmer Puritan Board Freshman

    Matthew, Thanks for the WONDERFUL critique of Ralph Smiths liberal diatribe. I do not know if you are aware of what this new theology is doing to the church, especially those in the southern states. If anyone is interested, I have all of the papers presented at the Auburn Avenue Colloquium in adobe format. I am happy to share them with anyone who asks.

    Sinclair Ferguson spoke at Westminster in Dallas in the fall of 2004 and presented even more historical information. Its amazing that these people figure that the Apostle Paul was all wrong and that these modernists know better the early Jewish christians. (New Perspective on Paul, which is tied to this Federal Vision).

    This new theology is a true horror. I believe it is an attempt to make G-d more palatable to the rest of the world. Sort of a Star Wars theology....everyone gets saved.
  11. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    You are welcome Grace.

    If you have those papers in Adobe, then email them to me. That woudl be a great help. I'd like to post some of them, or parts, on APM. [email protected]


    His daughter got an email that it is posted on APM.

    We should hear something from them at some time in the near future. They will probably put out a "blog" on their site, or something.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I do have several questions:
    Just out of curiousity, have you read Smith's other works, Trinity and Reality and Paradox and Truth: Rethinking Van Til on the Trinity, just wondering what your take on them is.

    is Pericherosis (sp?) inherently wrong? I don't have the Bavinck quote with me at the moment (my computer is down and I am on a friends's), but I seem to remember him saying something along those lines in The Doctrine of God. I promise to quote that later.

    I thought you did a great job reviewingthe contents of Smith's work, although I am not as convinced of the modernism-like charges. I don't know if I would put Smith and Barth in the same category, but that is me.
  13. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    I have not read his other works.

    Perichoreisis, not necessarily bad. But, if used in Smith's case, detrimentally bad. In other words, if you are explaining the final relationship of action, then no, its fine. Each person in the Trinity exhausts one another (they all know and relate to one another perfectly and completely). But the moement you go where Smith did, you come up with Three Persons bound in covenantal fellowship as a definition for the Trinity - which is Tri-theism. Here's the thing - Smith's can't use regular formualtions of the Trinity, or of theology in general, and hold onto his Auburn Theology. Modern Theologians MUST redefine terms in order to stay "liberally" consistent with themsevles. That is WHY he wants to redefine the WCF.

    Smith, Barth, Leithart, Jordan, LaCunga, Rahner, Wilson even, are Modern Theologians if you know characteristics of Modern Theologians. I would suggest reading "The Modern Theologians" by David Ford. It is a non-Reformed overview of Modern Theology. They all have the same characteristics about them, but jumble thier theology in different ways. Its always about being "fresh", "culturally relevant", existential, and redefining of past orthodoxy, while at the same time being rather ignorant of past orthodoxy.

    Remember also, Auburnites are always Van Tillian because it is the only theological system that can carry contradictions (espeically Trinitarian ideas in this case) while attempting to remain theologically consistent. Auburnites, for example, could NEVER be classical apologists because that scheme does not allow thier illogical inconsistencies to revolve around Theology Proper. They have to be Van Tillian.

    [Edited on 1-3-2005 by webmaster]
  14. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Just a comment Matt. These guys could not possibly be both "Van Tillian" and not reformed. Van Til's thought only works consistently with reformed theology (as he adamantly argues), not the form of arminianism these Auburnites are devising. If they are claiming Van Til, they are doing so inconsistently. :2cents:
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Even more oddly, the subtitle of one of Smith's books is Reclaiming Van Til's Doctrine of the Trinity. Anyway, none of the Auburnites would make the claim to being Classical apologists.
  16. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher


    I think, though, they are taking some of Van Til's thoughts and bringing them to thier logical ends. At least that is the critique coming out of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Rick Phillips.
  17. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Interesting. Always more to study.....
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I have to admit, I always wanted to apply Van Til's Transcendental reasoning to the trintiy; that is, without the Triune God, you can't prove any thing. I would believe this to be the case with respect to the One and the Many.
  19. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    So really, then, when you think, you can't know your thinking about anything. You don't start with the Trinity, you wind up there along the road.
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    What I was getting at was an attempt to solve the One and the Many. Man without reference to God cannot make sense of particulars and universals at the same time. However, he is faced with them everyday. His worldview cannot account for reality. However, in teh Trinity we have unity in diversity. The One and teh Many is neatly solved. Ah, but some might object, "You are just adding a neat fact to your system to make it coherent. You still haven't proved the Trinity." Well, I would then engage in Transcendental reasoning along trinitarian lines. Now, I am not claiming that this is neatly solved. I realize it is not and there are HUGE theological questions that have not been addressed by me. I realize that. I am trying to use this as a springboard.
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I would also say that within my worldview (presupposing the Trinity), this mystery of Three-in-One," Unit-in-Diversity makes sense. Yours {the unbeliever} does not.
  22. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    It seems like some folks wants to be "cutting edge". But there is a fine line between cutting edge and fringe.

    Eternal Covenant=Fringe :down:
  23. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Agreed! :down:
  24. Presbyrino

    Presbyrino Puritan Board Freshman

    Here it is:

    A Brief Response to Mr. McMahon
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