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In David VanDrunen’s book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms he gives a helpful discussion of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant, is a prominent covenant in Scripture. It is repeatedly pointed to in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, Israel is reminded of the promises God made to Abraham. In the New Testament, believers are called children of Abraham (2 Cor 11:22; Gal 3:29; Heb 2:16). Thus point is clear, the Abrahamic Covenant is of great significance as it is expressed many times and in many ways throughout Scripture. Therefore it benefits us, that we understand some of the key features of it, how this covenant is different from others, and how this understanding affects Christians today.
The key distinction of the Abrahamic covenant from the covenant with Noah, is the Abrahamic is religious in its scope and redemptive in its purpose as it sets aside a particular people for God. It is helpful to contrast this covenant with the post flood covenant of Noah. Whereas the Noahic was a covenant with all of creation, that wasn’t redemptive, and was temporary the Abrahamic is not. The Abrahamic Covenant is not concerned with the ordinary life of all people but about the religious worship and faith of a select group. This covenant that establishes true religion, offers salvation for a select people, and is eternal rather than temporary. Here are key features worth studying: (more…)
When God makes a covenant we must give attention to it, study it, understand why God has made the covenant and ask for the implications of it. The Covenant with Noah in Genesis 8:20-9:17 is one of the most over looked covenants in Scripture. When we remember the magnitude of the trauma that all of humanity and creation experienced in the Flood, we understand the significance of the Noahic Covenant. In the Noahic Covenant, God speaks a word of promise and comfort.
There are a number of Reformed works that discuss the Noah Covenant and its significance. I believe David VanDrunen in his book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms provides a perspective of the Noahic Covenant that is helpful. In a general sense, God has guaranteed in the Noahic Covenant that there will now be a normal order for all of humanity and creation till the end. It won’t be a redemptive covenant but it is made to ensure the establishment of law in order in the relationships between creation and humanity. Here are some of the particulars of the Noahic Covenant (more…)
From the book “The Law is Not of Faith” David Vandrunen writes an essay entitled “Natural Law and the Works Principle Under Adam and Moses”
The ideas of natural law and of the works principle in the Mosaic covenant in fact share an intriguingly similar history. While both concepts were standard features of early Reformed theology – natural law unambiguously and the works principle in the Mosaic covenant with some variation – both have fallen upon hard times in Reformed thought in the last century. p 283
By natural law I refer to the idea as it was commonly received though the first several centuries of the development of Reformed theology. According to the Reformed tradition, the content of God’s moral law is made known to every human being through natural revelation….Though fallen sinners have a continual propensity to repress and pervert this law, it is known to all people and, through the mystery of providence, serves to constrain all people against the full outbreak of lawlessness in this world. p 284
To associate the idea of natural law merely with a philosophical ethical theory of Roman Catholicism that fails to account for the devastating imact of sin upon human knowing and willing is quite simply erroneous historically. p 284
Works principle…I take the works principle to describe the law’s demand for perfect, personal obedience, with sanctions of blessing and curse to follow obedience and disobedience respectively to this demand. p 284
Throughout much of the Reformed tradition has seen a works principle operative in the Mosaic covenant within God’s broader gracious dealings with israel, not as a way of attaining everlasting life but for redemptive-historical, typological purposes such as reminding sinners of their fall and judgment under Adam…p 284
Francis Turretin (1623-1687) makes relevant comments in anumber of paces. In speaking of different characteristics of the “covenant of nature” (the Adamic covenant of works), for example, Turretin grounds this covenant in human nature generally and in the natural law specifically. Turretin explains shortly thereafter that Adam’s natural obligation was more fundamental in the covenant of works than was the obligation that God placed upon him by special revelation. p 287
Herman Bavinck also associated the Adamic covenant of works with the common human consciousness of the moral law and its corresponding sanctions. p 288
Barth reworked Reformed theology and rejected both the covenant of works and natural law. p 288
Kline refuses to separate the act of creation in the image of God from the establishment of the covenant with Adam. For Kline, the very act of creation in God’s image entails the establishment of the covenant….By separating these two acts, older theologian seemed to be caught on he horns of a dilemma, namely, being compelled to speak of a natural knowledge of the works principle while feeling constrained to defend the meaningfulness of a covenant relationship that is not simply superfluous. p 291
Any good, standard history of Christian political ethics (like O’Donovan and O’Donovan, From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought, 150-1628) demonstrates that the two-kingdoms motif can be found in the church fathers, especially Augustine (see Robert A. Markus’ work), weaves its way in modified versions through the Middle Ages, and is given vigorous voice not only by Luther but also by Calvin and other magisterial reformers.