New Covenant Theology and the Decalogue, Part III

Part I, Part II

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Greg Gibson for some helpful insights and quotes.

Preface

Covenant and Dispensational theologians have long debated the issue of continuity and discontinuity. Barcellos notes that New Covenant theology is ” a recent entrant into the debate.” (7) NCT seeks to find a middle ground “between stress on continuity in traditional Reformed theology and the radical discontinuity of some older forms of Dispensationalism.” (7) But as Barcellos contends, NCT does not reflect the teaching of Scriptures. This new theology produces ” a reductionistic, myopic and truncated view of Christian ethics.” (7)

Barcellos admits that critiquing NCT is a difficult task for the following reasons:

First, NCT is not monolithic. Advocates of this position have different nuances. Second, it is a relatively new school of thought, hence there is no definitive work on NCT. Third, Barcellos mentions that a major proponent of NCT has altered his view of the Old Covenant.

Barcellos summarizes his own view of the law thusly:

The whole Law of Moses, as it functioned under the Old Covenant, has been abolished, including the Ten Commandments…the New Testament teaches both the abrogation of the law of the Old Covenant and its abiding moral validity under the New Covenant. (p. 61)

 Whether he succeeds in proving his theses and offering a response to NCT, we shall see.

Commentary: Covenant theologians also differ immensely with one another. Even the Westminster Confession of Faith was written as a consensus document. There were debates over the idea of a “Covenant of Works,” “active and passive obedience,” etc. Every system will inevitably–in light of continual research–lead to questioning certain details. Even if a document such as the WCF is produced with a clearly laid-out view on all systematic issues, there will still be those who will take exception to it (the Sabbath as a major exception in virtually every PCA examination). Confessions are not Scriptures, so they must be continually examined in light of Scriptures.

The addition of NCT is a helpful attempt to examine the role of the Mosaic Law in the New Covenant. I welcome this attempt to distance itself from Dispensationalism with its fundamentally flawed separation of Israel and Church. As a Covenant Theology advocate I too find places in which traditional CT expressions need to be improved upon. For instance, the idea of a “Covenant of Works” seems largely foreign to a grace-saturated revelation.  This over emphasis in a works-based Edenic administration has led to the abomination of Klinean covenantalism.

New systems need to be welcomed and examined. Barcellos has done the extraordinary task of examining the claims of NCT and offering a response.

In the next post, I will focus on the Introduction to the book.

New Covenant Theology and the Decalogue, Part II

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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11 Responses to New Covenant Theology and the Decalogue, Part III

  1. Greg Gibson says:

    “Barcellos ‘ critique is based on his presupposition that the Decalogue has not been abrogated.”

    Actually, it’s the opposite. He believes the Decalogue was cancelled then reinstated. This may be a new hermeneutic for CT? And it raises the question…

    “The 30-Second, Law-Hermeneutic Test”

    Here’s a simple test to identify anyone’s law hermeneutic in less than 30 seconds. If a Christian child dishonors his parents, which command did he violate?

    1. Both Ex. 20:12 and Eph. 6:1 (Covenant Theology)
    2. Neither Ex. 20:12 or Eph. 6:1 (Antinomianism)
    3. Only Eph. 6:1, not Ex. 20:12 (New Covenant Theology)

    That test will clearly and instantly define anyone’s nomology. Does Barcellos hold an NCT herm. with CT nomology?

  2. Uri Brito says:

    Greg, can you show me where Barcellos makes that claim? I’d gladly edit the section if I am wrong.

  3. Uri Brito says:

    Barcellos agrees with the LBC when it says:
    “The moral law [Decalogue] doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation (19:5).”

  4. Greg Gibson says:

    Here are 3 quotes…

    “The whole Law of Moses, as it functioned under the Old Covenant, has been abolished, including the Ten Commandments…the New Testament teaches both the abrogation of the law of the Old Covenant and its abiding moral validity under the New Covenant.” (p. 61)

    “the Old Covenant and its law, as Old Covenant law, has been annulled by Christ’s death…Paul’s Views of Old Covenant Law as Both Annulled and Binding” (p. 67)

    “The New Testament clearly abrogates the whole Old Covenant, including the Decalogue, as it functioned within the Old Covenant, and yet borrows from its documents as the basis for New Covenant ethics” (p. 68)

    So this leaves me with 2 questions…

    1. If a Christian child dishonors his parents, which command did he violate?
    IOW, does he obey the 10 from the OT, NT, or both?

    2. Is his herm. “cancelled, then reinstated” or “cancelled, then uncancelled?”

  5. Greg Gibson says:

    Yes I agree he believes the Decalogue is binding, but from which authority, OT and/or NT?

  6. Greg Gibson says:

    Where Barcellos departs from popular CT is that he concedes Christ cancelled the whole Law, not just 2/3 of it. But somehow(?) he tries to reinstate 1/3 of it into the NC. I find his herm. confusing.

  7. Uri Brito says:

    Greg, thanks for your thoughts and quotes. I have edited my post and given you proper credit. Perhaps in the future I could have you on my radio show trinitytalk to discuss this matter together with Barcellos.
    My curiosity also comes in his assertion about the law being reinstated. My position is similar, but for different reasons. I will try to focus on this in future posts and look forward to interacting with you.

  8. rajjilicious says:

    I’m not an expert on this stuff, however I do want to say, that a long whiles back, I came across an article on the net, by some baptist preacher, and this article was saying a lot of things that NCT was. The thing was however, at no point did he claim to be an advocate of NCT or even show any familiarity with it.

    What I think is that NCT has taken some sort of a more formal shape in recent years, however there are trains of its thoughts that go back a good bit. How far back? I don’t know. I’ll leave that for some church historian person to sort out.

    So its sort of like the Doctrine of the Trinity – long before Nicea, it was there, although no one sat down and wrote down a formal description.

    God Bless,
    R. Rao

  9. Greg Gibson says:

    Uri, thank you for the invitation. Yes I’d be glad to speak on your radio show with Barcellos or any other CT. Please contact me regarding the details.

  10. Uri Brito says:

    Greg, let me speak to Barcellos…and I will let you know. It will quite informal, but helpful for those new to the discussion. I will contact you in the new year. Blessings

  11. Pingback: New Covenant Theology and the Decalogue, Part IV « Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

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