Pristine Grace

Modified Covenant Theology
Part 3
A Follow-up to Dr. Bacon
by Brandan Kraft
Modified Covenant Theology


Dear Dr. Bacon,

Oh don't worry - I forwarded your e-mail to a couple people as well including Mark. Mark McCulley has slammed Reisinger for his belief in common grace and the well-meant offer. Have you read his letter to Reisinger here?

What was funny was I had just recently e-mailed and received an e-mail from McCulley over his interest in pacifism, and the next thing you know I get another e-mail about pacifism - but it's in response to the e-mail I sent you! hahahahaha! 

Anyway, here are the few comments I have... My response is in dark blue.

I also took the liberty to e-mail my response to a couple other people including Mark… Much of my response was formulated by my mentor and brother in the Lord, Robert Higby. So I must give him credit for this response. Some of it I reworded and some is pretty much verbatim what he wrote. Amazingly, I found myself in agreement with him once again. Of course, I consider Christ to be my Shepherd and Teacher, but I believe He has gifted Bob in so many ways which have been instrumental in my growing in grace and knowledge of Christ.
CT vs. NCT vs. MCT - a short comparison
CT = Covenant Theology
NCT = New Covenant Theology
MCT = Modified Covenant Theology (or BCT for Brandan's Covenant Theology lol)

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.
BK: I am very pleased that we agree that Adam had need of the righteousness of Christ before the fall. However, I believe it is a paradox to suggest that Adam had no inclination to do evil prior to the fall. Obviously when Adam willingly sinned, there was an existing impulse toward evil – did this impulse arise out of nowhere, or was it latently with Adam from the beginning?

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.
BK: This is awesome! I definitely agree with this! However, I think it contradicts your earlier statement that Adam had a positive inclination to obey God in all particulars. Adam’s natural righteousness in my opinion only existed because he had no reason to rebel. He could eat of any fruit – and had no desire to eat of the forbidden fruit because he was in the perfect environment. It wasn’t until Eve was deceived did he see a reason to rebel, and this is when his latent impulse toward evil was manifested in my opinion.

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.
BK: Not much for me to comment on here – I’m still studying whether unconverted men have any natural desire to obey some aspect of God’s law. Rom 2:15 speaks of the consciences of natural men “excusing them”, and I think further study on this is necessary.

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.
BK: Agreed – although I’ll have to look into this “ad extra decree” stuff you’re talking about. 

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.
BK: Just because Sinai had incidental elements of the CoG does not mean that it is in essence a covenant of Grace (I’m not sure if you’re saying this or not). In my opinion, it is best understood a demonstration of God’s covenant of works with all mankind (Adam) as it is a covenant of law, works, and condemnation in essence. Further, I do not think it was needed to secure a seed until the incarnation because that is maintained through the covenants of grace with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and David. The Sinai covenant did not bring forth a holy seed – it merely coexisted alongside those other covenants and did not affect or change the promise of Christ.

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).
BK: “Since the fall, there is no other righteousness available to man?” Here is another paradox in my opinion. You just stated earlier that Adam needed the righteousness of Christ in his pre-fall state. Maybe you slipped here… I agree with everything else you have to say here – Amen Brother!

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.
BK: Amen!

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).
BK: You’re right! I think I confused CT with Dispensationalism – DUH!

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).
BK: Seems confusing to me – but I think I agree. I definitely agree that the Holy Spirit indwells Christ’s people epistemologically rather than metaphysically!

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).
BK: I disagree with the “third use” of the law but agree with Luther on the two purposes of the law. I believe the positive rule of life for the believer is the Spirit reigning in internal law according to the new covenant.