A Clarification of the Review of Divine Covenants and Moral Order by David VanDrunen

David VanDrunen

Carl Trueman had this gracious response to David VanDrunen’s Clarification of Trueman’s review.

I am grateful to my good friend David for his critique of my review and for the clarification of his position. It seems evident to me that I did not present his view with the balance it requires and I am most happy to concede the point. The difference between us is rather one of emphasis than substance, it seems, and there is no real distance between friends here. I thus find myself in the oddly pleasurable position of being happy to acknowledge that I was wrong on the points concerned.

This is a model of how Christians ought to deal with misunderstandings and differences.

The editor

*           *           *

I am grateful for Carl Trueman’s thoughtful and generous review of my book, Divine Covenants and Moral Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law. In most respects an author couldn’t ask for a better critically appreciative review of a long and serious work.

I am writing this brief note of clarification, however, to correct a few of Trueman’s comments describing my view of the Mosaic covenant. If this concerned a small matter of little interest to people I would not bother following up in this way. But since Ordained Servant is a publication of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (of which both of us are ministers) and the General Assembly of the OPC has appointed a study committee to report on issues related to the Mosaic covenant, I believe I should make clear that I unambiguously disavow certain views attributed to me in the review.

When reading the review (which I saw only after it had been posted on opc.org), I was initially disappointed to see it claim that I understand the Mosaic covenant “as” the republication of the covenant of creation. As a general rule, I avoid identifying the Mosaic covenant with such a republication, emphasizing that in its essence the Mosaic covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace. Thus I made this point a number of times in Divine Covenants and Moral Order (e.g., pp. 12, 266–68, 284–85). I write, for example: “I consider the Mosaic covenant a covenant of grace (or, specifically, as an administration of the one covenant of grace spanning redemptive history), along the lines of the Westminster Confession of Faith (7.5–6)” (pp. 284–85). In fact, I purposefully did not use the term “republication” in Divine Covenants and Moral Order to describe the relationship of the covenant of creation and Mosaic covenant. Instead I described a “recapitulation” of Adam’s probation and fall as part of the larger purposes of the Mosaic covenant.

Of greater concern to me, the review states that in my book Sinai is “reduced to” republication and “reduced simply” to a recapitulation. I heartily reject such a view, and in Divine Covenants and Moral Order I tried to emphasize that fact. For example, on the first two pages of my chapter on natural law and Mosaic law (pp. 282–83) I use italics twice to add emphasis: “I argue that one of the chief purposes of the Mosaic covenant was to make Israel’s experience a recapitulation …;” and “The Mosaic law served, in part, to govern Israel’s existence in a way that mirrored how the natural law governs all the peoples of the world in their identification with Adam.” My extended discussion on p.284 argues strongly against a reductionistic view of the Mosaic covenant. On the top of p.285 I say again that I understand the recapitulatory aspect of the Mosaic covenant to be in service to the gracious work of redemption administered in this covenant. I quote the helpful statement of Geerhardus Vos, who summarized a prominent view in the Reformed tradition (with which I am in sympathy):“At Sinai it was not the ‘bare’ law that was given, but a reflection of the covenant of works revived, as it were, in the interests of the covenant of grace continued at Sinai” (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, p. 255). While I understand that this view is disputed among Reformed theologians, it is anything but a reductionistic approach to the Mosaic covenant.

David VanDrunen is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, serving as the Robert B. Strimple professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. Ordained Servant Online, November 2015.

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Ordained Servant: November 2015

Jonah's Baptism

Also in this issue

Jonah’s Baptism

Divine Covenants and Moral Order by David VanDrunen

Insightful Fool’s Talk: A Review Article

Interpreting the Prophets by Aaron Chalmers: A Review Article

Inventing the Individual by Larry Siedentop (Briefly Noted)

To Persuade or Not to Persuade: A Review Article

Cowper’s Grave

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