The Absurdity of Covenantal Theology

Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.1

Some of the tenets of Covenantal theology pertain to the slicing and dicing of Mosaic Law into three separate tranches; moral, civil and ceremonial. Moreover, a favored traditional understanding, reflected in The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), suggests that the whole moral component can be encapsulated within the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). This Decalogue constitutes “a perfect rule of righteousness”, which was given to Adam and “bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience”3. And this perfect rule of righteousness was even more perfected by Christ’s “expositions”; although the radicalism of Christ’s “expositions” stretches the semantic meaning of that term into amorphous incoherence.

No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”3

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.4

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” What I hear most often is “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”5

 Christ’s warning about new patches on old garments and new wine in old wineskins was in response to a query about the practice of fasting, which is not even part of the Mosaic Law proper. This practice arises naturally as product of common human concepts of religiousity, which even affected the Israelites after the rendering of the Law. In its universality, one could argue that this practice is evidently more written on the hearts of men than even monotheism, the worship of God without imagery, or Sabbath keeping. Thus, since Christ’s admonition was not in conjunction with Mosaic Law, it could be obtusely dismissed as not relevant to discourse on the relationship between the Old and New Covenant.

However, Christ’s argument speaks directly against the folly of grafting or superimposing a New Covenant upon an Old. The mismatch of old cloth and new patch jars the senses. The new patch, as it settles in, frays at the edges and pulls upon that to which it is sewn, until it makes the tear worse. It is illogical absurdity to destroy the integrity of new cloth in order to repair the used, the withered and the ragged. The old cannot contain the new without bursting at the seams. Each of those developments occur, when attempting to interpret New Testament injunctions onto a Mosaic Covenant paradigm.

Tim Keller can have his frustrations. However, charges of Christian inconsistency by outsiders naturally and legitimately arise out of the rational incoherence, inscrutability and appearance of arbitrariness in selectively picking and choosing which components of the Old Covenant Laws to adopt into Christianity. It not only discredits Christian arguments in the gay marriage debate. It discredits Christianity; period! For, the slicing and dicing of the Mosaic Law is both rationally and scripturally indefensible; leading to all manner of internal contradictions, conundrums and perverse absurdities; lending to the same manner of justified scorn and scathing by secularists against Protestant / Evangelical Jesuitry as that barked at Catholicism by Luther and the original Reformers. “For the name of God is blasphemed among the nations through you, as it is written.”6

Had I not met Christ long before having to parlay with the stupidity of many who claim to be His disciples; I, like Mahatma Gandhi would never have come to Christ. For, whereas in my solitary and monkish nature I found a God, who demonstrated an extraordinarily level of sublime and scrupulous intellectual, moral and legal rationality; I encounter the fog of befuddlement amongst His current adherents. Even, as I know now, of the limits of reason and the frailty and fallenness of my own rationality; in the whole doctrine of Justification or Sovereignty of God (and not the truncated T.U.L.I.P travesty), I experienced a sufficient appreciation of those doctrine’s pristine rigorous logic to marvel at “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”7

If this essay fails in being sufficiently irenic, it is due to not mistakenly exchanging “speaking the truth in love”8 for the wimpish effeminacy of Evangelical niceties. It is not the poor sod on the pews who invariably will suffer under this muddle, which these theologians inflict; to whom this dissertation is addressed. It is to the arrogant folly of theologians who “go beyond what is written”9; who are more beholden to defending indefensible creeds, confessions and catechisms of Catholic and various Protestant/Evangelical Magisteriums than Scriptures; who furnish metaphysical paradigms and contexts to which Scriptures do not readily fit, unless retrofitted by hermeneutical pretzelism and/or further contorted by a yeasty malignancy that the logic of their theological innovations inevitably lead. As a student of history, it is evident that God utilizes the working out of history to demonstrate the folly of those, in this case Westminster divines, who add or subtract to His counsel.

Excerpt from "The Moral Law of God Written in the Hearts of Men"
 

 

Endnotes:

  1. Proverbs 30:6
  2. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, “Chapter XIX – Of the Law of God”, Article I & II
  3. Luke 5:36-39. Also Mark 2:21-22, Matthew 9:16-17
  4. Matthew 9:16. Also Mark 2:21
  5. Tim Keller, “Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency”, Redeemer Report, June 2012
  6. Romans 2:24. (AKJV). ‘Gentiles’ is replaced with ‘the nations’ in this rendition to keep consistent with the literal translation of the Greek text, although in the context of the passage, referring to Jews, it probably meant Gentiles.
  7. Romans 11:33
  8. Ephesians 4:15
  9. 1 Corinthians 4:6

 

 

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