Heidelcast 100: Recovering The Covenant Of Works (1)

In contemporary Reformed Christianity, even in confessional churches, i.e., those churches where they not only formally hold the historic confessions but where they still profess to believe and seek to practice what we confess, two of the most disposable doctrines seem to be the Christian Sabbath and the Covenant of Works. In this episode we’re re-considering the second, the covenant of works. In some American Reformed and Presbyterian churches the historic doctrine of the covenant of works has become lost because it has not been taught for a long time. Go back through Reformed theological literature over the last century and you will find relatively little discussion of the covenant of works. Even in those places where we might have expected it to be taught clearly and unequivocally, it was revised or even discarded. It has only been in the last several years that one could even find a popular presentation of Reformed covenant theology that taught the covenant of works. This is remarkable for at least two reasons: 1) it is clearly, explicitly, and repeatedly confessed in the Westminster Standards and 2) because it was clearly, repeatedly taught by the classical Reformed theologians of the late 16th century and through the 17th century. It was taught in the 18th century, and in the 19th century, e.g., at Old Princeton by Charles Hodge. It was taught by Dutch, German, French, British, and American Reformed theologians. It was really only in the 20th century that the Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works fell on hard times. It’s time to re-set the baseline.

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