By Brad Finkbeiner
Published May 2, 2008
Rogers denies the charge of evasion. He says he responded to as many of my points as space allowed. This debate, however, requires exegetical responses. He agreed to a debate revolving around textual exposition. I am still waiting for him to answer my opening expositions and to provide me with his own.
Have I Gone Off Track?
Rogers suggests I have gone off topic by not restricting my focus to the “civil” laws, the hallmark concern of Theonomists. I suspect his complaint is due to the obvious fact that he was unprepared for an attack on his foundational assumption that at least the Decalogue is still binding. But that is not my fault. Though it is understandable why he wants me to direct my axe at the branches of his argument instead of chopping away at the trunk of his tree, he cannot expect me to seriously entertain his claims about the binding nature of some laws when I have argued that none of them are binding. If the OC is abolished then he is wasting his breath. He needs to explain why it is not abolished, and a simplistic quotation of Matthew 7 (with which I’ll deal later) does not explain away those texts.
Rogers could have trapped me had I relied on the standard Reformed view that the only Decalogue was still legally binding; he could have charged me with arbitrariety and inconsistency. Now he is at a loss as to how he should defend his foundation against my attack. Rather refute my exegesis, he resorts to ad verecundiam tactics and (implicitly) charges me with Dispensationalism. (I guess he doesn’t realize that traditional Dispensationalists have consistently denied that the NC was inaugurated. According to them, the NC will be enacted with the Jews when Christ comes to restore the kingdom to Israel. Their “Church Age” is not the spiritual nation of the NC. My doctrine is anathema to those thinkers).
The Greatest Commandment
Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in the Law. This is why He cited Lev 19:18 rather than the NC commandment to love others as He loved. But what about Deut 6:5? Wouldn’t a wholehearted love for God entail Christlike love? Well, if love is defined as obeying God’s commandments, and if God did not require OC believers to love as Christ loved, then Deut 6:5 did not require Christlike love. This does not imply that God was requiring something less than complete moral rectitude before Christ. It means only that God was not then requiring men to pour out their lives on the altar in selfless service of others. Men could not have known what such love entailed until they had seen it modeled in Christ. This is why adherence to Moses keeps us from exemplifying true Christian charity.
Upon reading the final section of Rogers’ 3rd round I was left utterly dumbfounded. In spite of my clear claim to the contrary, he recklessly stated that my “main objection” was that Jesus’ NL caused the OL law to pass away!
OC & OT
Rogers continues to equivocate on his use of “Old Covenant” and “Old Testament.” For example, since first century Christians (prior to the NT) relied on the OT, Rogers has inferred that they were still under the OC. That is a non sequitur. The OC was the formal agreement made with the nation at Sinai. The OT is a collection of 40 documents that pertain, in various ways, to those under the OC. It is a confusion of terms to say that the OT “binds” anyone. The Jews were not legally bound to the book of Esther.
I have never argued that the OT is “not applicable” to the NC believer. As the Christ-centered drama of redemption, the OT is a source of invaluable edification for NC members. I have argued only that the OC as a covenant is not legally binding on those of us under the NC. Rogers has NOT rebutted this point—my real “main objection.”
The Organic Unity of Old Covenant Law
An organic unity exists between the formal stipulations of a legal compact; that is, the legally binding force of each stipulation depends on the abiding existence of the whole compact. The OC was one agreement between God and the nation; it was a unified legal covenant. This explains why James told his contemporary Jewish readership—who lived before 70AD—that “whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles at one point has become guilty of all” (2:10, italics mine). James’ commitment to the organic unity is presupposed by the above claim. To violate one stipulation of the covenant was to violate the whole agreement, for the agreement was to obey all of God’s stipulations. As I noted in my opening, Paul argued from the same premise—“…every man who receives circumcision is under obligation to keep the whole law” (Gal 5:3). One stipulation could not be violated without violating the whole Law. Therefore, one stipulation could not be abolished without abolishing the whole Law.
Moral vs. Ceremonial Law
A conceptual distinction can be made between moral law, as that which requires intrinsic righteousness and prohibits intrinsic unrighteousness, and ceremonial law, which does not. But we cannot infer from this conceptual distinction an organic division between them. So why have many Christians made this division? Why can’t they just accept the obvious fact that all the OL has been abolished? I suspect the primary motive has been fear of antinomian anarchy, i.e., a fear based on the voluntaristic assumption that the perpetuity of the OL is the necessary condition for maintaining objective moral standards. (I have already explained why that supposition is muddleheaded)
Proponents of the division will (in an a priori fashion) interpret every abolishment-text as pertaining to only the “ceremonial” law. Some contexts give this interpretation a prima facie plausibility (e.g., Eph 2; Col 2) if we do not keep the unity of the Law in mind. But even texts referring to the entire Law (e.g., 2 Cor 3; Rom 7), are nevertheless crammed into their paradigm.
I’m convinced these interpreters will not repent unless we could show them a text in which Paul explicitly identified the sixth commandment, for example, as abolished. But the request for such an explicit claim is unrealistic. Under what conceivable circumstances would Paul have felt compelled to remind anyone that they were no longer obligated by the command “You shall not murder”? Of course Christians are still obligated to refrain from murder. But does that imply that the OC, which just happened to include that prohibition as one of its many formal stipulations, is still binding? If so, I suppose we’re also bound to the Solonic code given to the Athenians in the sixth century BC, as well as hundreds of other civil codes given throughout history that just happened to prohibit murder. But of course that is pure lunacy. Yet it is hardly more absurd to suppose that we are bound to the historically and geographically restricted code give to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai.
Yet Paul did claim (by logical implication) that the sixth commandment was abolished: He (1) identified the tablets of stone as abolished (see my exegesis of 2 Cor 3) and (2) asked believing Jews whether they should “sin” since they were no longer under the Law (see my exegesis of Rom 6). Hence there is no room for restricting the abolition to only the ceremonial laws.
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