Monday, February 09, 2009

Adam and Christ in Covenant Theology - Part II

In looking over some very thoughtful comments in my earlier post on Adam/Christ in Covenant Theology I need to make a few follow-up remarks.

1. I think Covenant remains a very useful unifying tool, especially when tied to eschatology and christology, for elucidating and the overarching meta-narrative of the biblical storyline. But this needs to be done with care so that the biblical covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New Covenant) are not flattened out to make way for covenants attributed to the eternal divine decisions to provide salvation through Christ.

2. There clearly was an Adamic arrangement (call it a covenant, dispensation, or administration as ever you please), and Adam was created for immortality and Eden was a foretaste of that paradisal state. There was something interim and provisional about the Edenic state. There is also a clear link to the task given to Adam and that given to Israel as being Lords and Masters of God's creation. So I am happy conceptually with a covenant of works/covenant of creation, if you will, as long as we don't read into it a law/gospel antithesis and then project that antithesis further along into the life of Jesus, where Jesus becomes a heavenly frequently-flyer traveller who gives us his bonus points. Likewise, to follow one commentator, yes, Jesus takes us forward to the new Jerusalem which is an eschatological Eden (a la Greg Beale).

3. I probably should mention (thanks to John Davies for reminding me) the work of William Dumbrell which is most informative on this subject, esp. his works Covenant and Creation and The Search for Order.


sujomo said...

Hi Mike,

When you read the preface to Bill Dumbrell's "Covenant and Creation" you will find that he mentions that the translation of 'covenant' for 'berith' does us a disservice. This is because we instinctively think of covenant in terms of a mutual pact. Scripture is merely underlining the fact that God bond Himself to us by the very fact of creation

Bullinger emphasised that God, El Shaddai, accommodated to finite humans in entering into a 'covenant' relationship so that creature could relate directly with Creator. In other words, God used concepts that humans were familiar with. We must, therefore, be careful that we do not impose a 'covenant theological' grid on Scripture but, rather, seek to understand the salvation history of Scripture as God has chosen to reveal it.

John Davies comments on your previous blog are very relevant. Even though we word 'covenant' is not used in Genesis 3:15 there is clearly the promise of a restored relationship between Creator and creature. Thus Adam prefigures Christ. The first time the actual word covenant is used (Genesis 6:18) it is in the form 'my covenant' which presupposes the covenant is already in existence - an infralapsarian covenant of grace with Adam and his seed.


C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I would call "covenant" an abused word. It takes so much effort to explain what you do mean and what you don't mean and to distance yourself from all the meanings that others have invested into the term that it might be better to just abandon the effort and come up with a different word.

JosephMinich said...

Mr. Bird,

Thanks for the clarifications! I hope I can bother with one "follow up." Do you reject the law/gospel antithesis in every sense? Do you see a difference in the relationship between Adam/Christ's work and the eschaton and OUR work and the eschaton? That is to say, was their entering into glory (at least in some sense) based upon their work in a way that ours is not?
In asking this, I don't mean to prejudge what we mean by work. Call it "task of humanity," distinctive calling of the Messiah, etc. However, it seems to me that if we admit that there is a difference, then we admit something of a law/gospel distinction when it comes to the principle for attaining eternal life. Maybe it is better, however, to speak in terms of indicatives and imperatives than "law" and "gospel" since the latter have such complex biblical nuance and cannot be reduced to the former. Thanks for any thoughts you can offer! Great discussion!


dopderbeck said...

You didn't address my comment in the prior thread about the problems with a historical Adam. It seems to me that theology needs to engage with all of reality. If your theology depends on a perfect "first man" designed for immortality, that is utterly out of touch with the reality of the history of human biological development. How do you reconcile this? I really wish thoughtful theologians such as yourself wouldn't dodge this kind of question. Otherwise, it seems to me you're mostly creating an elaborate house of cards.