Pristine Grace

Modified Covenant Theology
Part 2
A Response from Dr. Richard Bacon
by Brandan Kraft

Modified Covenant Theology

Response from Dr. Richard Bacon – Covenant Theologian

Brandan, please see below. My comments in maroon. FWIW, I call the view I hold "Covenant Theology." My view is available as RA from our website for download. I have the same series (42 sermons) available as MP3's, which I can and would send you on CD if you would send me your snail mail addy.

Dr. Richard Bacon, Pastor
First Presbyterian Church
Rowlett, TX

CT vs. NCT vs. MCT - a short comparison
CT = Covenant Theology
NCT = New Covenant Theology
MCT = Modified Covenant Theology

Adam
CT: Adam was perfectly righteous before he fell.
NCT: Same as CT.
MCT: Adam was righteous according to the laws given to him but still needed the righteousness of Christ. 

RB: My opinion is that Adam was not only created righteous, but with a positive inclination to obey God in all particulars. However, to inherit eternal heavenly life, he would need the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Adam’s legal arrangement and the fall
CT: If Adam had kept the law he would have merited eternal life. This is known as the “covenant of works”. Adam broke the covenant of works and merited eternal death.

NCT: There is no “covenant of works”. If Adam had obeyed the laws given to him, he could stay in the garden but that wouldn't merit eternal life. He broke the law and merited eternal death.

MCT: There is a covenant of works. If Adam had obeyed the laws given to him, he would have stayed in the garden, but not merit eternal life. However the point of giving this covenant of works was to cause the fall to demonstrate Adam’s need for an alien righteousness and point him to Christ. The Old Covenant is another form of this covenant of works. 


RB: There was a covenant instituted in the garden. That much is clear. While it is arrogant of theologians to speculate regarding "what-ifs," in my opinion, nevertheless this has become fair game it seems. My exegesis of 1 Cor. 15:45ff leads me to conclude that 1) Adam had no life-giving ability; his sin but not his righteousness could be imputed; 2) his origin and therefore his life was completely earthy, not heavenly; 3) his life was a natural life, not a spiritual life; 4) the Adamic image in us could only have led to an earthly, natural life and the image of the Lord of heaven would under any circumstances have been needful for us to attain to a spiritual, heavenly life.

Moral Law
CT: The “moral law” is fully expressed in the Decalogue.

NCT: There is no “moral law”.

MCT: All men are cursed by some form of law, not necessarily the same laws found in the original covenant of works or the Law at Sinai. There is a “moral law” that is revealed in nature which all men are obligated to obey. The OC Decalogue shines further light on this law.

RB: Neither CT nor Bacon maintain that the moral law is "fully" expressed in the Decalogue. Rather, we maintain that it is "summarized" in the Decalogue and further summarized in the two great commandments of Matt. 22:37-40. This moral law was originally "written" on Adam's heart -- meaning he was given by God an actual desire to obey it. So, too, the regenerate elect. One thing that characterizes our conversion (not election) is a desire to do God's will.NB: that desire is altogether absent from the unconverted, even though they may, for wrong ends and motives, do those things commanded in the law.


Covenant of Redemption
CT: The three persons of the Trinity covenanted with each other for the purpose of salvation of the elect.
NCT: There is no covenant of redemption. There was just an eternal decree.
MCT: Same as CT.

RB: God is a covenant God, meaning the three persons of the Trinity have always been in covenant with one another as co-equal and and co-eternal persons in the same unity of being. This covenant is best characterized as one of love and friendship. The purpose of the covenant of redemption (which is an ad extra decree) was to bring man, created in the image of God, into that covenant life.

Covenant of Grace
CT: God made a covenant of grace with Christ and His people. Christ’s people are found in all ages of history including Adam. The OC is a form of the covenant of grace.
NCT: There is no covenant of grace. God redeems His elect from every age; but the OC was a law covenant; therefore the term “covenant of grace” must not be used to describe these various covenants.
MCT: There is a covenant of grace which is best understood as the new covenant instituted in eternity and constituted on the cross. All the elect of all ages are partakers of the covenant of grace. However, unlike CT, the OC at Sinai is not an administration of the covenant of Grace; but is a law covenant meant to bring condemnation.

RB: The covenant of grace is the outworking in time of God's purpose of bringing elect men into the covenant that he has always enjoyed with himself. Thus it is that the covenant of grace is not with elect sinners as such, but is with elect sinners in Christ. The covenant at Sinai had incidental elements of the CoW and incidental elements of the CoG. But it was in its essence a national covenant designed in great measure to secure a holy seed until Shiloh came.

Christ’s Imputed Righteousness
CT: Christ kept the law for His people in the Covenant of Grace thus fulfilling the Covenant of Works which merited for them eternal salvation.

NCT: Christ kept the law for His people to become the perfect sacrifice, but the righteousness wrought through this obedience is not imputed to the elect. Only Christ’s righteousness through “passive obedience / death” is imputed to the elect. (not all NCT people deny vicarious law keeping.)

MCT: Same as CT. However, Christ’s active obedience involves far more than legal obedience; it was obedience apart from the law – obedience to the Father’s will in everything thus fulfilling the covenant of redemption. Christ’s righteousness is a divine righteousness which was imputed to all of His elect on the cross.

RB: Christ fulfilled "all righteousness." Since the fall, there is no other righteousness available to man. It is not simply the righteousness of his human nature keeping the law given in the garden or at Sinai. Rather, it is a divine righteousness characterized in the New Testament in several places as "the righteousness of God." However, the legal model of the covenant is insufficient to explain the imputing of a divine righteousness. It is a covenant model, but one based upon love and friendship, not simply or merely legal stipulations and restipulating (agreeing to the stipulations).


View of the different Covenants
CT: The covenant of grace can be found in all the covenants (excluding the covenant of works) because they are derived from the covenant of redemption.
NCT: Since there is no covenant of redemption, all covenants are related and culminate in the new covenant.
MCT: The covenant of grace is best understood as the new covenant which is an overarching covenant and represented in all other covenants excluding administrations of the covenant of works (eg. Sinai). 

RB: From Genesis 3:15 until now the only way anybody was ever justifiedwas by the blood of Christ (his death) as the basis for his forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ (see above) as the basis for his justifying righteousness. There has never been another way of eternal salvation. The everlasting covenant was always the ground-motive for the salvation of the elect.


Abraham’s Seed
CT: The main heir to Abraham was Israel, the “church” of the OC. (Some would affirm agreement with NCT).
NCT: The main heir to Abraham is Christ and His Sheep (spiritual Israel).
MCT: Same as NCT

RB: Actually, I don't know of a CT author who maintains what you claim for CT. Galatians clearly teaches that the seed of Abraham is Christ (and those who are in him by covenant).

The Holy Spirit
CT: The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in and indwelt in believers of all ages.
NCT: The Holy Spirit didn’t indwell believers until after the cross. (Some would affirm agreement with CT).
MCT: Same as CT

RB: The "indwelling" of the Holy Spirit is not metaphysical. It is primarily epistemological and ethical. As we are brought into the everlasting covenant by the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit, we "dwell" in God the same way the several persons of the godhead "dwell" in one another. Because the Father communicates his love to the Son through the Holy Spirit and the Son communicates his love to the Father through the Holy Spirit, it is most appropriate that the love of God be communicated to us by the Holy Spirit in our effectual calling and that our love for God be communicated to him by the Holy Spirit in "groaning which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26).

The law as a rule of living
CT: The OC law is a rule for living, but only the “moral law”. The ceremonial and civil laws were abolished.
NCT: All of the OC law was abolished and only the laws of the NT apply to the believer.
MCT: The OC was a covenant of works. The believer’s rule of living has always been Christ regardless of what age in which they lived. The OC law was given to drive the elect to Christ and cause them to rest in His vicarious obedience to the Father, including the fulfillment of the revealed law because this truly defines righteousness in terms of His life. Commandments involving timeless principles (from all covenants) are good as a rule of conduct, but the law of God is written on the heart of every believer and thus every believer is motivated to obey the law to Christ out of love and gratitude instead of obligation.

RB: Even the OT civil and ceremonial laws, understood in their proper equity, have some ethical significance for the Christian. The law has three uses, one of which is as a rule of thankful obedience to God. Believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, but that is not to say that they have no objective rule for their behavior. We offer thanksgiving to God not only with our lips, but also with our obedience. The everlasting covenant is characterized primarily as on of friendship and fellowship with the eternal God; but Christ not only calls us friends, he promises to enable us by his Holy Spirit to live lives of friendship in obedience to him (John 15:7-19).
Sign of the New Covenant

CT: The sign of the new covenant is baptism just like circumcision was in the OC. Many believe babies ought to be baptized just like babies were circumcised in the OC.

NCT: The sign of the new covenant is baptism and only believers ought to be baptized.

MCT: The sign of the covenant of grace is the circumcision of the heart which is the inner testimony and assurance of the Holy Spirit in the gift of saving faith. Water baptism is an outward testimony commanded by Christ to celebrate the reality of participation in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection through Holy Spirit regeneration unto belief in the gospel.

RB: Circumcision of the heart is not a "sign," but that to which the sign points. Circumcision of the flesh pointed to the circumcision of the heart that is the reality of the new covenant (i.e. regeneration or effectual calling). Thus the true meaning of circumcision was not an OC sign, but a NC sign. Though it was applied to many who were in the nation, it was not intended primarily for them. Thus, though Isaac and not Ishmaelwas the promised son, God commanded that circumcision be applied to Ishmael as well as Isaac (Gen. 17:18-22). In these last days the sign of washing (baptism) signifies the washing of regeneration as surely as in the previous days the sign of circumcision signified the circumcision of the heart. So also in our day there are Ishmaels (Simon Magus, Judas, etc) among the Isaacs.
Brandan, you may not agree right away with everything I have said above; but I hope you will see that we are more in agreement than disagreement. Of course, it is impossible to write in 99 lines (or whatever the number in an email) what it took me 42 hours to say in preaching. But let me know your desire and I will send either RAs or MP3's on a CDR for you to listen.

PB