The conflation of the two Covenant regimes of ‘law’ confuses the Christian himself/herself. And how could it not be so? If the underlying ethos and emphasis of the Mosaic Code is justice and the law of Christ is graciousness; the nature of their respective forms of holiness will differ. The admixture is akin to plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together. 1 Each ethos and emphasis has its own tangential proclivities, pulling away from the other. Those conceiving of Christ’s ruminations as adjuncts to the Mosaic code; to conceive His admonitions in the tinted light of the Old Covenant justice; will underestimate the extent of graciousness, we are called to live by. (“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called.”2)
Cursory observation of the different faith traditions writings and behaviours gives confirmation that while the Dispensationalist is prone to promote grace and graciousness at the expense of justice, the Reformed and orthodox Protestant tradition becomes hooked on justice at the expense of grace/graciousness. The tendency and danger of the former is toward antinomianism and lawlessness; of theological innovations without Scriptural warrant which lead to ethical travesties. The shameless and irksome rush to forgive the rapist and murderer of their children before the parents have given due consideration of their child’s and their own loss, the evil and the injustice, is one manifestation of this unsound form of graciousness.
The tendency and danger of the latter is toward high Pharisaic moralism and legalism; of dutiful observance of the “Christian Sabbath” and tithing, which clean and plain rendering of New Testament does not give warrant; of a tendency towards de facto hierarchical marriage and disciplinarian child rearing; of disingenuous dismissal and override of Scriptural injunctions concerning liberty of conscience and of civic impositions of Biblical law. The historical reputation of dour and anal-retentive Calvinists is not entirely without warrant; although those who were most enlivened and zealous in the Reformed tradition are far less sourpussed than their lessers. However, that dynamic validates the contention. That is; lesser minds and less lively hearts within those traditions will be prone to stultifying legalism and anal-retentive moralism. It is built into the emphasis.
Cursory observation also perceives a historical Dispensationalist propensity to ‘otherworldly’ and Separatist unconcern for the particulars of sociopolitical affairs; at least, until that unconcern allowed their adversaries to threaten their very ability to remain Separatist. Or to perceive that the only legitimate form of morality is private morality. Having denigrated and ignored the counsel contained in the Mosaic Law, but more so in the Prophets, this emphasis on private morality forms of sociopolitical governance lends major private actors to oppress the weak and defenseless and to promote a ruthless and heartless law of the jungle within a rotting hulk of a civilized framework. However, the call to peace must include social peace as well a private peace. And extreme disparities in wealth have overwhelmingly demonstrated historically to lead to civil conflagration. And Scriptures and history demonstrate, though counterintuitive to human belief, that civil conflagration has not been conducive to the purity and spread of the Gospel (i.e. Thirty Years War, American Revolution).
On the other hand, those conceiving of Christ’s ruminations as adjuncts to the Mosaic code; to conceive His counsels in the tinted light of the Old Covenant social justice and forms; have been prone to subscribe to varying degrees of theonomy; of imposition of Biblical norms on an unwilling populace. The problem in this day and age is that because of the major error that a moral law of God, innately inscribed on the hearts of men exists; these theonomic pretensions are abhorrent to the unbeliever.
Contrary to prevailing belief and longstanding theological assumptions; the Biblical norms, desired by Christendom to impose, are incomprehensible to large sections of society. It is not a matter of suppression of Law, which the unbeliever knows innately or thoroughly, through natural revelation. Although suppression of that which an unbeliever knows is scripturally, rationally and empirically valid; that which an unbeliever knows of the natural rhythms of existence is only partial and limited. Not all has been inscribed in the heart. Therefore, what evils that the unbeliever does, will have some basis in ignorance for some as well as some basis of suppression of knowledge in others. This is even true of regenerated Christians!
In clean and plain rendering of the New Covenant to which the converted are called, there is little in the way of sociopolitical advocacy or in promoting private and social virtues through sociopolitical means enjoined by New Testament Scriptures. A call to peace, which must include social peace as well a private peace, is encouraged. Prayer for the welfare and wisdom of sovereigns is another enjoinment. And if one takes 2nd James discourse to heart, those who pray for the welfare of others must be willing to be the conduit by which such is achieved.3 However, if the New Covenant becomes adjunct to the Old; the theonomic pretensions become manifest; although there is neither warrant by Christ, nor by Apostles nor the first three centuries of Christian history.
- Deuteronomy 22:10. Also 2 Corinthians 6:14
- 1 Peter 3:9
- James 2:14-16