The main problem with Republicationism

Discussion in 'Controversial Topics' started by Peairtach, Dec 24, 2009.

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  1. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The main problem with the theory of the Republication of the Covenant of Works in the "Sinaitic" Covenant is its name.

    Many could agree that there was a typological teaching aid in the Mosaic Covenant whereby there was a condition that no sacrifice would be available for certain gross breaches of the Ten Commandments and death would ensue for those properly convicted, thus expelling them from the typological Land; and that if Israel as a nation fell below a certain level of faith-produced godliness as a whole nation, she would be, at least temporarily, also expelled from the Land of Promise.

    But to call this a Republication of the Covenant of Works is inaccurate, confusing and misleading. It also needlessly loses some friends for this teaching.

    Apart from anything else, the condition(s) would have to be met by grace, because the nation of Israel consisted of sinners.

    Discuss over the remains of Christmas Dinner and a few beers
  2. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. It isn't confusing to me and some of my friends. I do have some friends that do disagree with me but we haven't lost our friendship over it either. You have too many assertions and assumptions in your argument. Just my humble opinion.

    Now we can also argue over beer. If it aint clear I don't want to partake. LOL
  3. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    We can also wear party hats to take the heat out of the conversation :cheers2:
  4. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    You guys could almost pass for brothers, y'know :)
  5. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I'll admit I have some misgivings over the republication idea, most of which have to do with the possession of the land. Many republication guys limit the republication of the covenant of works to the possession of the land, while relegating salvation itself solely to the covenant of grace. In my opinion, if there is republication, this (the possession of the land) is the only place one could find it. Salvation was by grace alone through faith alone immediately after the Fall, and always thereafter. Of course, everyone in the Reformed camp should agree that the covenant of works is still in effect, even though broken. The way this is put is: if a person does not belong to the CoG, he will be judged by the broken-yet-still-binding conditions of the CoW. "Do this and live" is still applicatory as a hypothetical-yet-practically-impossible way of getting eternal life. Theoretically, if someone could be perfect, they would earn heaven. However, due to sin, this is impossible.

    Everyone should also agree in the three uses of the law. Balancing the first (pedagogical) and the third (continuing moral use of the law as a guide for the Christian life) is not very easy, especially since the pedagogical use of the law is still relevant even for the Christian. The law must continue to drive us to Christ by still reminding us that we have broken the CoW. Indeed, one could put it this way: the first use of the law, insofar as (and only to this degree!) we remember it after we become a Christian, can be said to be part of the third use of the law. Great care must be taken not to confuse the first and third uses of the law themselves, however, as that would be to confuse law and gospel.

    The Westminster Confession emphatically states that the law of the CoW and the Ten Commandments are one and the same (19.1), although there is room for the law as given to Adam to be in a more inchoate form than the definitive giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. The WCF stops short of saying explicitly that the CoW is republished. In most forms of republication, the WCF would allow for it, though that is not the same as saying that it is required. This is why I believe the debate to be in-house: both republication and non-republication formulations are allowed by the WCF. Republication is consistent with the WCF, but not necessary to it. The confessional question comes down to this: is the law equal to the CoW, or not? If it is equal to the CoW, then there must be some sort of republication in the Ten Commandments. If it is not, then there is room for saying that it is not. This is the question I have not settled in my own mind yet. I have heard good arguments on both sides, but have yet to decide. I was much more firmly republication about a year ago than I am now.
  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Brothers were born for adversity! LOL. Make mine a 100 proof clear and mix it 50/50 and we can do it up. Sounds fun. Lets do it.
  7. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    But, at least in my case, my beard covers a multitude of chins. :lol: I'm sure in Randy's case his almost Aaronic facial fuzz covers a chiselled jaw.
  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Lane, what impact would the formulation of the law as law of nature, covenant of works and rule of life have on your ideas about republication? It seems clear that if you hold that the law is the law of nature but is also given in the form of a covenant, and is also the rule of life under a completely different covenant that you can't argue that law=covenant of works. I thought John Brown's treatment of the topic was stimulating, but probably insufficiently discursive and thorough to provide explicit answers to this kind of question.
  9. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Nope. It is like yours except it is saggy now due to old age and loss of a lot of weight. LOL.

    Is this the problem? The fact that calling it republished makes it a renewed Covenant? That is a misconception or misunderstanding in my estimation. That isn't how those whom I have read understood the issue.
  10. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It's a barmy name, because a lot of what Republicationists say could be agreed with by the no-Republicationists.

    I think everyone would agree that there is a Republication of the law at Sinai, as per the WCF. But even from the preamble to the 10C it is in a gracious context.

    The special conditions the Israelites were under were clearly a typological teaching aid and shouldn't be called a RoCoW. If they attained to these conditions as individuals, and avoided expulsion by the death penalty, or as a nation, and avoided expulsion, it would be as a result of common or saving grace or a combination of the two.

    Since any avoidance of the death penalty or national expulsion was a by product or bonus of grace working in individuals and the nation as a whole i.e. the good works of the individuals and nation were evidence of grace
    and since it's difficult if not impossible for the individual believer to live in the atmosphere of a Covenant of Grace and a Covenant of Works at the same time, I think that in order to obtain the goal of remaining in the Land - which after all was a type of Heaven itself - God wanted the Israelites to look to His grace rather than their works by which to do it. At best they were to look to their works produced by grace to stay in Canaan.

    The Pharisees looked to works not produced by grace, or to grace and works, covenantal nomism, and they didn't prevent the Romans from dealing with them, etc. The true grace and gospel of God needed to be looked to even to produce those works necessary to avoid expulsion by death or by invasion.

    Remember also that when they didn't get into Canaan in the first place for forty years, that was traced to lack of faith. And faith is produced by grace.

    If they were believers, they couldn't avoid being subject to the death penalty if they fell into sin, and entering Heaven by this means, or avoid being expelled with the nation if it went astray, but they didn't go astray e.g. Jeremiah.

    A simple comparison of the Covenant of Works and the elements of Moses even as presented e.g. by Horton, shows that to call Moses a RoCoW is silly, misleading, and downright confusing.

    It seems to be a typological teaching aid which at best echoes some aspects of the situation of Adam and Eve in the Garden.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2009
  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    This is a very interesting question. One could argue that different epochs in redemptive history have an effect on how one views the law, and on how the law was used. After all, the third use of the law did not come into effect at all until the CoG was established. Of course, we do not want to head in a dispensational direction. However, the use of the law and how the people of God view the law did change in various epochs.

    The law itself reflects the character of God. Therefore the essence of the law is unchangeable, just as the character of God is unchangeable. What changes is humanity. The question then becomes whether the nature of the CoW is connected to this unchangeable nature of the law (and thus to the unchangeable nature of God) or not. Of course, even the answer to that question wouldn't solve the question of the connection of the CoW to Sinai, because one could argue that the CoW was still in existence, though parallel to Sinai, and not a part of it.

    I suppose one must bring into the discussion here the covenant of redemption. Several people have argued convincingly, in my opinion, that the CoR stands behind both the CoW and the CoG, that the latter two are grounded in the CoR. Would the CoR provide then the connecting link between the CoW and Mt. Sinai? Maybe. Another interesting question.

    The Heidelberg Catechism treats the Ten Commandments in the section on gratitude, not in the section on guilt, thus making the third use of the law the most foundational or basic. Certainly the law as given on Sinai is foundationally given as to its third use. But if the first use lingers on at Sinai, one could connect that with the republication. But if one did that, one would have to be prepared also to say that there is republication in the new covenant also, which I am prepared to say, in that the CoW is still in effect. I guess I am feeling drawn more towards a position that says that the CoW and the CoG are parallel but distinct.
  12. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Quote from me
    It seems to be a typological teaching aid which at best echoes some aspects of the situation of Adam and Eve in the Garden.

    And I should say that the Land of Israel under the Law of Moses, standing as it does midway in redemptive historical scheme, between Eden and the Heavenly Kingdom, not only echoes Eden but anticipates the Heavenly Kingdom.

    Canaan/Israel/Palestine is also, of course, geographically very central.

    In the New Covenant, we are in the "already ..........not yet" of that Heavenly Kingdom.
  13. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    This is what I see Lane. But I see that the CoW is subservient to the Covenant of Grace in that it is used to reveal sin and is the schoolmaster that is mentioned in Galatians. It is useful as Paul mentions in Romans 7:5-13.

    What do you guys think about Witsius in this portion of his Economy?
  14. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It's probably one of the major problems with this whole area of study. Maybe there should be a competition for the best new name for the doctrine. :D
  15. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Okay, you can scream Uncle now or I will bar you from drinking beer. LOL
  16. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    It's a perfectly valid name in my mind not because it says the sinai covenant was made with non-sinners but rather with the corporate people of God who had the CORPORATE responsibility of being righteousness and when an individual broke the law there was a discipline process. the goal was to teach individual sinners by pointing to the existing covenant of grace and even more importantly to the coming fulfillment of it in the new covenant (i.e. the fulness of the covenant of grace). just some thoughts....
  17. Casey

    Casey Puritan Board Junior

    Confessionally speaking, it is a thoroughly inappropriate name. The Larger Catechism has:
    Q. 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
    A. The covenant [of works/life] being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.

    Q. 30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
    A. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

    Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
    A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.​
    The covenant of works/life, according to the Confession & Catechisms, was made with Adam. Adam was/is the head of the covenant of works. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, is head of the covenant of grace. There are two covenants, the covenant of works (with Adam as head) and the covenant of grace (with Christ as head; albeit, in two administrations: law and grace). That's it. There is no other. The Standards are abundantly clear: there are only two covenants and two heads.

    When you say that the covenant of works was "republished" at Sinai with Israel, you redefine the theological term "covenant of works" in a way incompatible with the Standards. Who is the head of this so-called "republished covenant of works"? Belief in republication of the covenant of works is not only not permitted by the Westminster Standards, it is positively contrary to the Standards. Again, the Standards are abundantly clear:
    Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
    A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.​
    The Mosaic Covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace. If you say it is a covenant of works, you are contrary to the Confession. Nowhere does the Confession call the Mosaic covenant a "republished" covenant. I believe the Westminster Confession of Faith is biblical.

    Jesus once saved an adulterous woman from being stoned. He told her that he did not condemn her (I have brought you out of the land of Egypt). He then told her to "sin no more" (thou shalt have no other gods before me). Jesus treated her just as Israel was treated, forgave her sin and called her to obedience. If you say that since there were laws in the Old Covenant with promises attached (honor your father and your mother, and you will live long in the land), therefore it is a republication of the covenant of works -- then the same applies to the new covenant, because the new covenant likewise has commands with promises attached (Eph. 6:1-3).

    Seems to me this doctrine of republicationism will logically/consistently go in one of two directions: antinomianism (like the Lutherans) or neonomianism (like Federal Visionists). No such thing as the "lesser of two weevils." That's the problem with republicationism. It's not Scriptural and it's not confessionally Reformed.
  18. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Well said Casey!
  19. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    Casey, that was a VERY interesting post!

    I am currently doing some reading in covenant theology (Peter Golding, John Ball, Thomas Boston, Herman Witsius, Roland Ward, Mark W. Karlberg, O. Palmer Robertson, Peter Lillback) and am quite interested in the subject of republication as it bears upon the Refomred understanding of the covenants.

    Does anyone know of a succinct statement of the issue and the pros and cons offered by the various "sides" of this one?
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2010
  20. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    I think Casey did a blog entry a while back in which he attempted this. I think whether or not the modern version of the republication of the covenant of works is considered to carry any pros or cons depends on the framework from which it is evaluated. Theocratic sorts, including the Westminster divines, would find such proposals unacceptable, due to the evisceration of Old Testament judicial ethics. People who want to make out the magistrate as a neutralist in matters of the first table would latch onto this as a golden key to escape historic Reformed thought on the point.

    Depending on one's starting point, it appears that republication is generally all pros or all cons.

    Not sure how helpful that is.

  21. Rogerant

    Rogerant Puritan Board Freshman


    publish: 1a. to make generaly known. 1b. to make public announcement of. 2a. to disseminate to the public. 2b to produce or release for distribution

    republish: to publish again or anew

    WCF Chapter XIX

    Of the Law of God

    1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

    2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

    3. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits

    2. "This law"..." was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai"

    3. Besides "this law"..." God was pleased to give to the people of Israel"

    So then God gave this law to Adam 1., and then 2. "delivered it to" and also 3. "Was pleased to give" to the people of Israel, or:

    You could say, God:

    1a. to make generaly known. 1b. to make public announcement of. 2a. to disseminate to the public. 2b to produce or release for distribution

    republish: to publish again or anew

    I really don't know how people are trying to say that WSC's teaching on the republication of the covenant of Works is in contradiction with the WCF. It seems quite clear to me that it fits quite clearly with the WCF. The WCF asserts that the Law that was given to Adam was "made generaly known, announced, disseminated, and released for distirubution" to the nation of Israel.

    And besides this law, God game the Israelites the ceremonial and sundry judicial laws as a body politic that would prefigure and symbolize the coming Kingdom of God. They had obligations under this law as a nation to demonstrate the Glory of God and they were to bear the guilt as a nation for breaking these laws. I believe this is consistent with the teaching of the WCF chapter XIX sentences 1-4.
  22. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Actually, the debate is less over whether the Adamic law is the same in *content* as the Decalogue, but rather whether the law's essential FUNCTION/PURPOSE is different.

    WCF 19.1 clearly states:

    --the law was given to Adam AS A COVENANT OF WORKS.


    Any rational person can see the Divines ascribed different language to the purposes to the Mosaic law compared to the Adamic law. To argue that the Divines ascribed the function of the Mosaic law as a "covenant of works" for Israel are either being deliberately revisionist and/or ignoring the plain language of the confession itself.

    The Kerux review makes this elementary point as well.
  23. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  24. Rogerant

    Rogerant Puritan Board Freshman

  25. Casey

    Casey Puritan Board Junior

    The Westminster Standards speak of the republication of the law and not of a covenant. These are two different things. The law is not the same as a covenant, and law is itself not a covenant. If you are merely saying that in the Mosaic covenant there was a republication of the law, then I agree with you that the Confession says such. But if you are saying that the Mosaic covenant was a republication of the covenant of works, then I disagree with you and do not believe the Confession agrees with you. In Eden, the law was given to Adam as a covenant of works. At Sinai, the law was given to Israel in the context of the covenant of grace.
  26. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps it is 19.2, so there are no changes that I'm aware of. I was quoting from the language of XIX quoted a few posts above, which is the same language I've seen quoted before. My mistake on the citation.
  27. Rogerant

    Rogerant Puritan Board Freshman

    I see your distinction and concern now between the republication of the law and the republication of the covenant of works.

    I will have to read the Law is not of Grace and a sound opposing view. Is there any other crtique out there that is not full of rhetoric and straw man arguments like the KERUX review?

  28. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Well when we compare the CoW with Adam, with what the Republicationists might mean by the RoCoW "in some sense" we find a "chalk and cheese" situation:-

    (a) The CoW was made with one Man and his posterity in him.

    The RoCoW was made with a whole nation.

    (b) The CoW was made with a Man who had original righteousness and was capable of keeping the law perfectly without grace, as we understand it in the post-Fall situation.

    The RoCoW was made with sinners.

    (c) In order to keep the CoW, Adam had to obey God, without the aid of grace as we understand it in the post-Fall situation.

    In order to keep the the RoCoW Israel needed the grace of God by faith.

    (d) Adam and Eve could have been justly cast into Hell for their breach of the CoW.

    Any Israelite who had true saving faith and yet breached the RoCoW by sinning presumptiously against the Ten Commandments, could suffer the typological penalty of removal from the Land by death, and yet go staraight to Heaven.

    The nation of Israel as a whole could suffer the typological penalty of being cast out of the Land - along with its believing remnant - and yet be brought back 70 years later.

    (e) The law was given to Adam as a CoW.

    Even if for the sake of argument we accept for a minute that a RoCoW was given to Israel, grace was behind it, as it was calculated to lead the elect sinners to faith and repentance.

    (f) Adam had to keep the law perfectly.

    Individual Israelites, in order to avoid excommunication by death, or even simple excommunication, had only to avoid committing certain sins presumptiously, wilfully and grossly.

    The nation as a whole, in order to stay in the Land, did not have to render perfect obedience to the law, and after 70 years of exile, was allowed back to at least a partial return from exile under the rule of various Gentile nations.


    How can a RoCoW that was given in grace to drive sinners to Christ, properly be called a RoCoW? It's oxymoronic.

    Israel was under grace not works, and it was more under grace than any other nation on Earth. Typological teaching aids like the death penalty for certain sins, without any recourse to typological sacrifice being made available, and exile of the nation from the Land for prolonged and gross national rebellion against God were also of grace to the nation as a whole.

    Obviously excommunication by the death penalty for some was their equitable, just and typological entrance into Heaven, whereas for others it was their entrance into Hell.

    God sometimes had to be "cruel to be kind" with His wayward Son, Israel, "under age" (WCF).

    I'm sure others can think of more contrasts between the CoW and "the RoCoW in some sense".

    Also people may suggest why they think the RoCoW should be called such.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
  29. Rogerant

    Rogerant Puritan Board Freshman

    How can a RoCoW "that was given in grace to drive sinners to Christ", as a gracious covenant, result in the death of 3,000 souls? In the descent of the law from heaven down to man, 3,000 souls perished in the camp. Exodus 32. In direct contrast, in the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the True Israel of God, 3,000 souls were blessed with salvation. (Acts 2:1-41) Moses makes it clear that God "made a covenant with us at Horeb" and he directly references the two tablets of the law in reference to the covenant. Deuteronomy 5:1-22. And He added no more...vs22.

    I see a direct contrast between these two events. One bringing death, the other resulting in life. The covenant of law brings death to a fallen nature, the covenant of grace brings life to God's elect. How can a covenant of commands to turn sinners to Christ be gracious WITHOUT the regenerative power of the Spirit in the Covenant of Grace? How can it be gracious if God does not provide the means to the sinner to turn to Christ?
  30. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    How many souls have been hardened under the Gospel? It is after all a savour of death unto death to them that are perishing.

    The difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant is that the judgment of God in eternal death was sometimes typologically signified by physical death or exile from the Land. Why was this layer of law necessary in God's grace under the Old Covenant. This was necessary because of the childhood state of the Church.

    God didn't give the Sinaitic Covenant with all its stipulations and penalties so that lots of Israelites would die; that was down to their own unbelief and sin. But it was calculated for their good so that as many as possible - his elect - would be saved.

    Those Israelites who avoided death by producing the necessary works, did it by grace, not works otherwise they would have had something to boast about.

    The fact that the death spoken of under the Old Covenant was only a type of eternal death and God's judgment, and that life in the Land was only a type of life under God's blessing and in the eschatalogical Heavenly Kingdom, is shown by the fact that anyone who had genuine faith under the Old Covenant, and yet died under its stipulations or in exile from the Land, went straight to Heaven.

    Therefore these typological teaching aids, including any "RoCoW in some sense", whatever that precisely means once its precisely defined, were given graciously to the nation of the Jews, because it was necessary that God's grace be revealed to them in that way at that time.

    Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. (Gal 3:19, ESV).

    Notice that in reference to the Mosaic Covenant, the Apostle doesn't call it a CoW or a RoCoW, but "the law". The moral law was republished at Sinai with various childhood typological aids, that were needed for the church-nation of that time. They are no longer needed for the New Covenant adult church-nation and have fallen away.

    These provisional laws were needed because of transgressions. We can see how they were needed respecting the transgressions of the Old Covenant nation, before the Spirit had been poured out in His fulness, before Christ had come, and before the Bible had been completed, in all three of the uses of the law:-

    (a) The provisional laws of Sinai were necessary for the Old Covenant church-nation in the civil sense, to keep order among believers and unelievers and to restrain and punish sin and those sins that were also crimes. This was of God's gracious provision to Israel.

    (b) The provisional laws given through Moses were necessary and calculated to drive Israelites to God's grace in Christ, which was revealed to them by various means, many also provisional. The elect among Israel were destined to make saving use of these means. This was of God's gracious provision to Israel.

    (c) The provisional laws of Moses were calculated to help believers in Israel understand and observe the moral law. This was all of God's grace to Israel, and particularly His true Israel among them.

    I don't see how any of this has to do with a RoCoW but it has everything to do with the republishing of the moral law in a particular context, for a particular people and a particular (babyhood) point in redemptive history.

    I don't see how a RoCoW could be kept by sinful individuals or by the whole sinful nation without God's grace, which means that it's not a RoCoW.
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