Lee Irons on the Law of God

I confess I enjoy reading Lee Iron’s blog. It is one of the thirty blogs I read frequently on my google reader. But my interest in Irons is the interest Libertarians have for Republican propaganda: Once in a while they make a good observation. In fact, there may be some overlap and we may even agree with certain things like limited government and free market capitalism. But while we agree with certain things, we come to these conclusions for different reasons and through different routes. Whereas Irons and I concur with infant baptism, we disagree on the nature of infant baptism, its efficacy, and its role in covenant life. Whereas, Irons and I concur with covenant theology as a system, we have completely different perspectives on its nuances and application. He chooses the Klinean route and I the Bahnsen route.

But most significantly, our differences lie in our view of the law of God in this New Covenant era. Iron argues:

The Decalogue was the central, summarizing core of the Old Covenant, and therefore it cannot be the immediate standard of conduct for the New Covenant people of God. If it was, we would be required to observe the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (as the fourth commandment teaches: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exod 20:9-10).

For someone who claims to adhere to Biblical Theology, it is an odd statement to misunderstand the nature of the Sabbath in the New Covenant. As it has been understood for many centuries in Reformed exegesis, the Sabbath–which was on the sixth day–takes on new significance in the New Covenant as the Lord’s Day. The Sabbath is never abrogated in the New Covenant; what has been abolished are ceremonial celebrations and certain Old Covenant feast days, as Paul argues in the epistles. But what is most bothersome about such statements is Irons’ complete dismissal of how the early church and Reformed dogmatics has understood this simple connection. Just as circumcision takes on new significance in the New Covenant as the washing symbol of water, so too, the Sabbath becomes the Lord’s Day of exaltation to the great God of heaven and earth.

Irons continues by arguing thusly:

If the Decalogue per se, as given to Israel on Mt. Sinai and recorded on tablets of stone, were the immediate standard of conduct for the New Covenant people of God, then we must all move to modern day Israel so that our obedient children can live long in the land that the LORD our God is giving us (the fifth commandment).

Truly, I am saddened that Irons had to go through such difficulties in the OPC. He could certainly find a home in the PCA. I am aware–unfortunately–of many pastors who would take similar positions to Irons, perhaps not formally, but in their preaching and practical life. Or perhaps Irons would find an even better home in the Lutheran tradition, where it is common to dismiss the application of the Ten Commandments as archaic and part of a different dispensation. The arguments used by Irons and others are somewhat pristine, in that they want to see Christ as the fulfillment of the law, meaning that Christ has abolished the law. But while attempting to maintain such pure and noble motives, they make Christ an abstract being. One that demands no allegiance; One that is satisfied with a limited realm of glory; One that sees the world as neutral ground shared by believer and unbeliever alike; One that teaches if you love Me, then do not keep the commandments of my Father in the Old Covenant, but only my new commandment to love one another. But how is this love demonstrated? How can it be demonstrated without an absolute standard?

Another idea that is also erroneous is Irons’ assumption that God viewed Israel as a distinct piece of land and her laws as distinct Sinaitic laws meant only for a specific time and a specific people. Richard Pratt has argued persuasively that what God intended for Israel was the conquering of the Abrahamic promises. This Abrahamic promise guaranteed the whole world as an inheritance (Romans 4).There is no dispute as to the size of this inheritance. There may be dispute about the nature of the laws in the New Covenant and how they are to be properly applied using epochal adjustments, but Irons will not grant me even that. So, my fascination will continue with Irons and our ever continual list of disagreements.

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in The Law of God. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Lee Irons on the Law of God

  1. If the whole law and the prophets hang on two commands, how is it that we can define those commands without the whole law and the prophets? The law and prophets might be summed up by the two commands, but it is still just a summation. We have to know what has been summarized in order to know how to love God and to love one another. Without it, we are all just doing what is right in our own eyes.

    Good blogpost.

  2. I do realize a major Theopolitical tome is entitled “By What Standard?”. And that Theonomy is the reigning school in Reformed circles. Although it is perhaps a scary thing to acknowledge the parity the righteousness now required of us in the New Covenant has with the Moral Decalogue and yet realize that so much of the heart religion is unaddressed in that covenant. Is observance in fellowship with Judge Roy Moore really all that is the sine qua non to be truly Reformed as regards the law of God? Or is it much, much more requiring the personal filling of the Holy Spirit. Dr Irons does advocate mining the Decalogue for much meaning that remains in that summary. I see his findings as in the school of Calvin rather than later teachers. I believe he would grant you use of the Old Covenant (which Theonomists and others argue was not a recapitulation of stipulations and sanctions, but I don’t see how) in modified ways in the New Covenant, if I understand him. Thanks for being so even-handed and charitable about this hot-button subject. I’ll grant it does not fuel Theopolitical/Presuppositional/Postmil yearnings, and of course that means it will be despised as these have won hegemony.

  3. Uri Brito says:

    Todd, please follow me on my new blog: uribrito.com

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