Office Hours: From Ryrie To Reformed

Office Hours 2016 full sizeThere are about 60 million evangelicals in North America. A good percentage of them are part of a nineteenth-century movement known as Dispensationalism, which was founded by the English clergyman John Nelson Darby (1800–82), who was ordained in the Church of Ireland (which he left in 1831). He was the founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement. We might speak of original Dispensationalism (e.g., Darby), modified Dispensationalism (e.g., Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1871–1952 and Charles Ryrie 1925–2016), and also, since the 1980s, of Progressive Dispensationalism. These movements have their differences. Arguably, earliest Dispensationalists taught salvation by works under the Mosaic Dispensation, a view rejected by the the modified and Progressive Dispensationalists. They also have things in common. They all see God’s promises to national Israel as the heart of the biblical story. They look forward to a pre-tribulation rapture, a millennial kingdom (featuring a restoration of the national Israelite kingdom), and the restoration of the temple and the sacrifices. Another thing that binds most  Dispensationalists together is a rejection of covenant theology. In some Dispensational schools, students are warned against the alleged dangers of covenant theology. Typically, adherents to this movement hear about covenant theology more often than they read for themselves the sources of covenant theology or hear it from its proponents. So, the journey from Dispensationalism to Reformed covenant theology is not easy since it is, for many Dispensationalists covenant theology is an undiscovered country.

Pat Abendroth is Senior Pastor of Omaha Bible Church. He was educated in Dispensationalism but he is a regular attender at the annual faculty conference and a student of Reformed theology. He wrote his DMin project on covenant theology and we sat down recently to discuss his journey from Dispensationalism toward a Reformed understanding of redemptive history.

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  1. Correction. Darby was a founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement. Brethren (without the “Plymouth”) have been a part of the Mennonite and Anabaptist tradition since the Reformation.

  2. I love “The Village,” too … and it’s better than Pat suggests! Really appreciated his testimony.

    I’m not a defender of dispensationalism – in fact I grew up in an environment where it was taken for granted, and the movement away from that environment was long and sometimes painful (and maybe not complete – I’m not sure).

    But to make historical points, rather than theological … Darby did affirm Adam’s federal headship, and did believe that Hosea 6:7 taught that Adam broke a covenant. In fact, in his translation of this verse in his Bible, Darby highlighted this by swapping his own preference, “Adam,” for the AV’s “man.” It’s true that Darby argued that the righteousness of God generically speaking is imputed to us in justification, rather than that of Christ, and yes that’s related to his views on law.

    “The earliest Dispensationalists taught salvation by works under the Mosaic Dispensation” – that’s a really big claim, and it isn’t true of Darby, and credible dispensationalists would agree with him, but it keeps getting repeated in Reformed polemic. Part of the problem here is that Scofield adapts Darby in important ways and it’s his much more abbreviated and approximated version of dispensationalism that comes to define the norm. Darby is a very comprehensive writer – 34 vols of collected writings, 7 of Bible overview, and 15 or so more of notes and comments, all of hundreds of pages each – and unpublished manuscripts remain. Scofield’s annotations don’t really compare.

    We need to be careful here about claiming that Darby received new revelations. He never made that claim, as far as I know, but the cult that has organised as one branch of the exclusives has elevated his ministry out of all proportion in historical terms and now makes all kinds of claims about his experience. Brethren history writing is itself polemical and represents the conflicts between different parts of that movement, each of which wants to claim the founders, but from very different positions. Readers might find Mark Stevenson’s recent book helpful – “The doctrines of grace in an unexpected place” – it shows how brethren theologians almost without exception held to an only slightly modified Calvinism until the end of the c19th. The early brethren had much more in common with the hyper-Calvinism that predated them in Plymouth (thanks to Robert Hawker) than they did with the Arminian or low-church evangelical views by which their opinions were eventually modified in the mid-c20th. Happy to say there is a revival of Calvinism (not “Reformed theology,” RSC!) among brethren now, with several assemblies in the UK and USA teaching eg the Shorter Catechism and the 1689 confession. But sorry to say that there is also a very sharp rejection of this, and a revival of views that are similar to open theism, dressed up in its most conservative sounding form.

    Also agree that progressive dispensationalists and Klineans are much closer than most people realise. But then I also think Darby and Cocceius are pretty similar in the way they divide out Scripture, but maybe not as similar as Darby and Owen …

    Reading on both sides of the debate (and crossing this particular evangelical Tiber now 25 years ago) persuades me that Reformed people and dispensationalists spend a lot of talking past each other. Part of the problem here is that we have a really strong body of historical work focused on Reformed sources, but very little on dispensationalism, even though in North America and perhaps globally it dominates born-again protestantism. This means that we can have very precise views on the most important Reformed sources but our grasp of the history of dispensationalism, or changes in its theology and hermeneutic, can be quite hazy.

    Thanks again for such a stimulating conversation. Sorry this is so long – a testimony to the importance of the subject.

    • Crawford,

      Thanks for this. I’m at a disadvantage since I’m relying on others to tell me about Darby but I do know Cocceius reasonably well and I can’t imagine that Darby and Cocceius were working from the same paradigm.

      My sources for my language about Darby weren’t Reformed polemicists. I relied on Dispensationalists to tell me the story so, as I say, I’m always trying to get things right.

      Even Progressive Dispensationalists see Israel at the center of redemptive history and no Klinean I know (and Meredith was my professor) reads Scripture that way.

      As to being Reformed, to borrow a phrase, of course we continue to disagree. The Reformed confession lives and I’m dearly hoping and praying that Dispensationalists and others will continue to find and embrace it.

      It seems quite unhelpful to tell them that all that they’ve found in the Reformed confession (defined both narrowly in terms of the ecclesiastical documents) and broadly (the confessional Reformed tradition) doesn’t really exist. It most certainly does. We may not be theocrats but theocracy was never of the essence of the confession, whereas our doctrines of Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, sacraments, last things, and the Christian life certainly are. persist and find enthusiastic (in the best sense) adherents in our time.

  3. Hi Scott – always grateful for your work. I’m writing about Darby’s soteriology over the next few years dv so will hope to be better informed at the end! Happy to resign my claim to the label “Reformed” in the meantime.

  4. PS Cocceius and Darby had different theological paradigms, yes, and contrasting hermeneutics, but similar ideas of law. More on that anon.

    • Actually, I think they had very different ideas of the law, precisely because they had different theological paradigms and contrasting hermeneutics. From my contact with Darby Dispensationalists, it seems clear that they teach that the law is the way for salvation and earthly rewards for the Jews but that new covenant Christians have nothing to with the law, including the moral law, so that they receive heavenly rewards by grace alone. Contrasting theological paradigms and hermeneutics results in the Reformed to see the purpose of the law as the same for all people since the fall, first as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ, and secondly as the norm for showing gratitude for salvation in Christ alone. They see unity. The Dispensationalists see two different peoples that God uses and establishes a relationship with in two different ways, the Jews through the law, for earthly rewards, and the Christians by the abrogation of the law for the sake of being the spiritual people, seeking spiritual rewards.

    • Hi, Angela. I’ll have to respectfully disagree. As a general rule, dispensationalists do not teach that Jews are saved by law. Those dispensationalists who do make that case are no more representative of their tradition than … I almost said … Reformed baptists are of theirs. Cocceius, on the other hand, did argue that OT saints were justified in a different way that were NT saints (Casey Carmichael’s book, p. 97), and that claim was central to the Dutch debate in the 1650s and after. There’s a lot going on here. I’m just concerned that people in this particular debate are talking past each other much of the time.

      • Crawford,

        When you refer to “Casey Carmichael’s book” (p. 97) do you refer to Casey Carmichael, A Continental View: Johannes Cocceius’s Federal Theology of the Sabbath (V&R, 2019) or to his (marvelous) translation of Summa de foedere et testamento dei in the CRT series? I do not find Casey making any such claim in the former volume nor have I ever, in my many readings of the Summa ever seen Cocceius saying anything about OT saints being “justified in a different way tha[n] were NT saints…”. There’s some ambiguity in “different” but if “different” signals “materially different” or “by works” then I think not. In the Summa he was at pains to stress justification sola gratia, sola fide and the substantial continuity of the covenant of grace even as he traced the progressive abrogation of the covenant of works through redemptive history. Yes, there is a difference between living under types and shadows and living under the reality of the NT and his view of the Sabbath was certainly controversial and he certainly taught that Adam, under the covenant of works would have been justified by works before the fall, but under the covenant of grace after the fall, such a thing would be impossible. As I understand Cocceius, for him, the republication of the covenant of works under Moses was pedagogical not material.

        Can you help me nail this down?


        I checked with Casey and he reminded me of Cocceius’ distinction between paresis and aphesis, passing over and forgiveness. This was indeed controversial in the period but I’ve never considered it (nor did Cocceius consider it) a substantial revision of the Reformed doctrine of salvation. In both the Sabbath dispute and in this argument, Cocceius was trying to account for the progress of redemption and revelation. The Voetians saw more continuity and Cocceius more progress but even with the distinction the substantial continuity of the covenant of grace was maintained. In Summa de foedere (§ 353) Cocceius wrote:

        And with this significance justification is called by some active, and it is equally a good of Old and New Testaments. Or it observes the sentence of God pronounced about righteousness for the soul of man the sinner, whereby God, as it were, speaks and intimates to him, “I am your God.” And this is called passive, because it is with the sense of grace whereby the sinner is justified. That is more imperfect in the Old Testament, because the effects of wrath were mixed with the consolation there. And for that reason πάρεσις is called passing over of sin not yet expiated. His name is made more perfect in the New Testament, after the law was destroyed in Christ, and it is the testimony of the Holy Spirit for our spirit that we are sons of God (Rom. 8:16). It is the “pouring out of charity,” whereby God loves us, “into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). He, “the Spirit by whom we cry ‘Abba, Father,’ is the “Spirit of sonship,” opposed to the “spirit of fear” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6–7). He is the Spirit of promise, who is received by faith (Gal. 3:14; John 7:39), whom John 1:12 hints at, “To all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to become children of God,” i.e., to conduct themselves as sons of God, or as sons of God to conduct life with God, as we have also said in §7. For this one that is of the covenant and
        friendship of God is a son who is absolved in the covenant of grace manifested through Christ. For a son is in a twofold state. He is in the likeness of a servant through childhood and thereafter in the freedom and faith of a son (Gal. 4:1, 3, 5). A seal is attributed to this Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:22). The right of sons conveys an inalienable inheritance (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7) and for that reason hope, which does not confound, and boasting in the hope of the glory of God in them and their sufferings. Paul explains this rather more clearly in Romans 5:2–5. This πληροφορία τῆς ἐλπίδος, fullness of hope, and ὑπόστασις, confidence, is required as the τελειότης, perfection, of faith (Heb. 6:1, 11). (p. 247)

        This passage comes under the heading of the Benefits of the New Testament. In §350 he wrote,”The saints of the Old Testament lacked display of this righteousness.” In §351 (p, 242) he argued “this wisdom revealed in the New Testament was veiled throughout the time of the Old Testament” (p. 242). He wrote, in subsection 2 (p. 245) that the OT saints “received the Spirit who sanctifies” but they didn’t receive the “disposition (affectum) that was worthy of God as Father and of them as sons.”

        It’s not clear to me that Cocceius was describing objective differences between OT and NT believers as much as subjective or even affective differences.

        Witsius did react to a another provocative passage in Cocceius:

        IV. In the first place I imagine, that these following words of a celebrated interpreter have justly given offence to learned men: “The scope of these words is to show, that though very great temporal benefits were bestowed on the Israelites, yet before the last times, none that were true and permanent; nor was salvation itself actually discovered to them,” Coccei. Ult. Mos. p. 886.

        V. Who that reads or hears these words, would not be led by their very sound to imagine even this, that though the Israelites really enjoyed temporal privileges, such as possession of the land of Canaan, a peaceable government, a flourishing kingdom, prosperity as subjects, long life, and the like, yet they had no benefits that were true and permanent; by which one can scarce forbear thinking, that they had no communion with the Messiah, nor part in his peculiar blessings, as reconciliation with God, peace of conscience, reformation after the image of the divine purity, foretastes of the joys of heaven, and a happy removal of the soul from this to an immortal life? For these, if any, are deservedly and usually called true and permanent benefits, and salvation itself. Whoever therefore affirms, that very great temporal privileges, and in the same breath denies that such as were true and permanent were bestowed on, and salvation itself, disclosed to the Israelites, speaks in such a manner as to suggest to the mind of the reader that the spiritual blessings of the soul and eternal life were neither bestowed on nor discovered to them.

        VI. And it is also scarcely possible for the reader not to be confirmed in that suspicion, if in another part he reads that the only delight the Israelites had was that they could extend their meditations to the felicity of the latter times, which yet they were not to see with their own eyes. But the same author’s preface to the Psalms inculcates this in a set, premeditated discourse, not far from the beginning: “This, indeed, was their only solace; for while they were singing most of the Psalms, they were, in the type of David, either singing beforehand the afflictions and exaltation of Christ, or reaching forwards to the latter times; and, deploring their present forlorn case, were endeavouring to change it into the joy of the future time, nay, assuming the disposition, the joy, the zeal, and sharing in the combats and victories, of those who were to see what themselves did not, to hear what themselves did not hear. This, I say, was their only comfort. For neither what they saw could yield them any delight, because they were shadows; nor what they heard, because it was only, partly a promise, partly an accusation of sin and guilt, with which man is born, but was not then abolished and blotted out; nor what they possessed, because they were to leave them, or because the wicked enjoyed them as well as they: in fine, because they were no real blessings capable to satisfy the soul.” Who may not gather from this, that, in the Psalms of David, the present blessings of saving grace were neither foretold, commended, or celebrated, and therefore the Israelites did not possess them, though not only the hopes of these blessings, but also the actual possession of them, have been, in all ages, the subject and cause of unspeakable joy. For if David, in his Psalms, can celebrate even such spiritual blessings, which are connected with eternal salvation, as himself and other believers enjoyed even at that time; with what design can it be said, that their only solace and comfort consisted in meditating on the joy of the time to come, and that they possessed blessings which were neither real nor sufficient to satisfy the soul? Who, on reading these things, could imagine he was perusing the writings of a reformed doctor?

        VII. But I would not have you to believe that this very learned author, though he writes in this style, is gone over to the Socinians, whom, in almost all his writings, he has strenuously opposed and happily confuted. He repeats it a thousand times over, and makes it appear by cogent arguments against those most pestilent heretics, that the promise of the spiritual and heavenly inheritance was made to the fathers of the Old Testament, and the possession of it granted to them in consequence of the testament of grace. And in the very place we first quoted, §. 885, he writes: that “Jehovah was the Father of that people, for he purchased and made them, and bestowed all good things upon them, which is to be understood, not only in a figurative sense, or with respect to any external favour, but with respect to the benefit of redemption, the new creation, and the donation of all things necessary for life and godliness, by which he is in truth manifested to be the Father of that people, with respect to his elect children, who were at all times contained in that people, as in a seminary, but less frequently in the great multitude of the Israelites of that age.” So far well: I could wish he had stopped here.

        VIII. But these two assertions are so different, that they seem to be even contradictory. For as the blessing of redemption, the new creation, and the donation of all things necessary for life and godliness, and in fine, to have God, not in figure, but in truth for their Father, are indisputably true and permanent blessings, and are even salvation itself; whoever asserts, that these things were bestowed on and discovered to the Israelites, and yet denies that true and permanent blessings had been conferred upon and discovered to them, seems to involve himself in a manifest contradiction.

        IX. What then? Did memory, did judgment, did soundness of mind fail this very learned author, when he advanced things so contradictory? But his acknowledged learning forbids us to suspect any such thing. Let us then declare the matter as it is. By true and permanent benefits, which, he says, were not bestowed on the fathers of the Old Testament, he means the blessings peculiar to the New, as the truth is opposed to the type, and what is permanent to the shadow that was to evanish. And salvation with him denotes complete salvation. He has found an interpreter and apologist in a divine of very great name, who with great confidence tells us, that this assertion is for the most part in Scripture terms; which might have been better understood by divines, if they had taken as much pains to read and meditate on the writings of God as of men; and he endeavours to show, that some of the things peculiar to the New Testament, as such, are sometimes held forth by the name of salvation, and of true and permanent benefits. For this purpose, he quotes, Heb. 2:3, where salvation is said, “at the first to have begun to be spoken by the Lord;” that is, the work of salvation, which Christ now began to perform; or even that clear and effectual doctrine of the Gospel, which calls us to salvation. He further observes, that those benefits are sometimes called true, which are opposed to those which were typical, as John 1:17: “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;” and as the blotting out the hand-writing which was against us, and that glorious degree of adoption, mentioned Gal. 4:5, are said to be true benefits; he asserts, that they are justly called permanent, in contradistinction to the covenant of grace, as it was a covenant with the Israelites, which was neither faultless, nor permanent, Heb. 8:7, 9. From all which he concludes, that is to speak agreeable with the scriptures to say, that true and permanent benefits, and salvation itself, were not bestowed on and discovered to Israel.

        X. These things require a particular consideration. It is my real judgment and persuasion, that these learned men would have acted a far more prudent and generous part, if sometimes, for the sake of truth, they had abandoned those whom they have set up as heads of their party; confessing, both that they were men, and that sometimes their thoughts and discourses were less accurate; and not first to excuse every thing however incautiously spoken with great confidence, and then to defend it as most genuine and most exactly agreeable to Scripture language, though but with very indifferent success, and at the expense of the reputation of their brethren.

        Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 2 (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 325–28.

        I haven’t yet found him interacting directly with Cocceius, however, on Rom 3:25.

    • cg, very interesting that you almost said that, those Dispensationalists who say that Jews are saved by the law are no more representative of their tradition than “Reformed” Baptists are of theirs. As we see in 1689 Federalism, the framers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession, saw the covenant of grace as synonymous with the new covenant, so that there was no administration of the covenant of grace until the new covenant. They see the Mosaic\Abrahamic covenants as the republication of the covenant of works, promising earthly rewards and tenure in the land for obedience, not spiritual salvation, so I probably should not have even used he word “saved.” God was using the Jews as the line from whom the Savior would come, as a descendant of Abraham. Dispensationalists teach that the Jews will have their reward in Israel, as an earthly people, which is the fulfillment of the promise of rewards on this earth, in the promised earthly Jerusalem, complete with the rebuilding of the temple and reinstitution of the Mosaic sacrifices. That is why Dispensationalists are so excited about developments in Israel, which they see as confirmation of their interpretation of prophecy. So as far as I can see, Dispensationalists and 1689 Baptists see two different people of God. One is earthly and under the covenant of works for earthly rewards and the other is spiritual and under the new covenant \covenant of grace. OT saints who were saved, could only be saved under the new covenant\covenant of grace– which didn’t exist and therefore was not yet administered! At least with Dispensationalists, the Jews are going to receive an earthly Jerusalem, while Christians will be the heavenly Bride of Christ. Under Dispensationalism, obedience to the law establishes a favorable relationship with God and his people, the Jews, for earthly rewards. The same is true under 1689 Federalism, until the new covenant, which is the covenant of grace, so that everything that comes before the new covenant is an administration of the covenant of works, for the Jews, that earthly people. Only in the new covenant is there agreement of 1689 Federalism and Reformed on the uses on the law for Christians, the spiritual people. Where the Reformed see continuity and unity of God’s purpose under the covenant of grace for one people of God throughout Scripture, Dispensationalists and Particular Baptists see two people and division of Scripture into periods of law and gospel.

    • Hi Scott – apologies, the page reference in A Continental View is to p. 96, not p. 97, where Casey Carmichael states that the disputes that kept the two Dutch parties apart were “the question of whether the Sabbath applies to Christians, and … the question of whether the Old Testament saints were justified in the same manner as the New Testament saints; the Voetians answered these questions in the affirmative and the Cocceians in the negative.” On the previous page (p. 95) he introduces this thought by stating that “the divide was rooted in different understandings of the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.” You nailed this down better than I could have done, and now we know you are not a Voetian! Thanks for taking the time to clarify what is at stake.

      • Crawford,

        Vern Poythress, whose ironic book on Dispensationalism in the late 80s influenced me, writes:

        An important dispute nevertheless remains that does touch on the doctrine of salvation. The doctrine of the covenant of grace, as a covenant characterizing redemption from beginning to end, unifies the message of the Old and New Testaments. By contrast, dispensationalists emphasize the discontinuities. They speak of different ‘dispensations’ with characteristically different modes in which God relates to man. In the eyes of many Reformed people, this differentiation threatens to break up the unity of the Bible and deprive Christians of the use of the Old Testament.

        And indeed there is a danger. At times some dispensationalists, in their zeal to distinguish grace from law, used language that suggested there might be different ways of salvation offered for different dispensations. For example, the Scofield Reference Bible, in its note on 1 John 3:7, says baldly, ‘The righteous man under law became righteous by doing righteously; under grace he does righteously because he has been made righteous’ (Rom. 3:22; Rom. 10:3, note). Commenting on the petition in the Lord’s Prayer to ‘forgive us our debts’, the Scofield Reference Bible states, ‘This is legal ground. Cf. Ephesians 4:32, which is grace. Under law forgiveness is conditioned upon a like spirit in us; under grace we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and exhorted to forgive because we have been forgiven. See Matthew 18:32; 26:28, note.’ We hope that Scofield did not intend it, but it sounds as if the Israelites under Moses were saved by works, whereas now the church is saved by grace.
        Representative dispensationalists today all repudiate the idea of two ways of salvation, and insist of the unity of one way. In this respect, they are affirming the heart of the theology of the covenant of grace, whose main function is to articulate precisely this unity. But more subtle differences still crop up. The sharp distinction between grace and law can tempt some dispensationalists into formulations that leave out or deny the fact that Christian believers should be careful to obey God’s standards (the third use of the law). Dispensationalism’s founder, J. N. Darby, shows the same tendency in a pronounced and even denunciatory form. Darby says:

        All this [the Westminster Confession’s statement on the covenant and on the law of God] is a fable and a mischievous fable. And I notice it because it is the foundation of the whole religious system to which it belongs.… The basis of the entire system of moral relationship with God in Presbyterianism is false; and it has tainted the whole Evangelical system everywhere.

        In return, warnings were issued by Presbyterians. In the 1944 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., a committee appointed to study dispensationalism reported that it was incompatible with presbyterian beliefs:

        It is the unanimous opinion of your Committee that Dispensationalism as defined and set forth above is out of accord with the system of the doctrine set forth in the Confession of Faith, not primarily or simply in the field of eschatology, but because it attacks the very heart of the Theology of our Church, which is unquestionably a Theology of one Covenant of Grace. As Dr. Chafer clearly recognizes, there are two schools of interpretation here which he rightly designates as ‘Covenantism’ as over against ‘Dispensationalism’.

        That is, the ‘covenantism’ of the Westminster Standards is diametrically opposed to ‘dispensationalism’. This judgment is accurate, if what we mean by ‘dispensationalism’ includes the suggestion of different ways of salvation or a pronounced antinomianism that dispenses with any requirement of obedience for New Testament Christians (The Practical Calvinist, p. 422).

        FWIW, here is the 1944 PCUS report on Dispensationalism.

        • On Cocceius’ distinction between παρεσις and αφεσις Brian Lee (Johannes Cocceius and the Exegetical Roots of Federal Theology [V&R 2009]) writes:

          Coccieus insisted that, while there was true justification in both the old and New Testament, the mode in which this pardon was experienced differed before and after Christ’s coming. Along with his teaching on the Sabbath, this distinction was perhaps the greatest sticking point among his critics, leading to a renewed debate in 1656–57. Opponents found it to be similar to the Socinian view that the Old Testament was on a lesser plane from the New.

          …Cocceius holds that all three of these opponents [Jews, so Socinians, and Papists] deny that Christ’s death was both necessary for the forgiveness of sins (Socinians and Jews) and entirely sufficient (Papists). These two elements—necessity insufficiency—are at the very heart of the Reformed orthodox understanding of Christ’s satisfaction for sin and the resultant justification of believers. Further, precisely the two aspects of necessity and sufficiency are made explicit by the contrast between Old and New Testament saints. Necessity dictates that not until Christ’s death could the full blessings of justification be experienced. Sind could not be remitted until the mediator was “made perfect…in his sufferings” (Heb 2:10). Sufficiency demanded the complete abrogation of the Old Testament sacrificial system, which was designed to portray the outstanding debt for sin.

          In order for the discontinuity between the two testaments or economies to prove his point, there must be some minimal degree of continuity between the two periods as well. If the Old Testament saints were merely saved by some manner other than justification sola fide—as both Jews and Socinians maintained—this discontinuity proved nothing. Therefore, Cocceius seeks to demonstrate both fundamental continuity in God’s saving work (all are saved only through Christ), as well as a great historical divide, before and after the “demonstration of his righteousness,“ Romans 3:25. Thus he rejects federal theologies which state that Moses held forth life only via a foedus operum, or that there was little or no soteriological continuity between the Old and New Testaments (pp. 156–58).

          As to my personal sympathies, I’m not certain that I’m a Voetian on Rom 3:25. I’m not with Cocceius on the Sabbath (I’m with the Synod of Dort on that) but I understand his point on Romans 3:25. I’m agnostic. His account of the differences between the testaments in Summa de foedere is generally helpful. I certainly want to affirm that the types and shadows the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic administrations of the covenant of grace were genuine, typological administrations of the covenant of grace and not mere witnesses to it but we need to take Rom 3:25 seriously and account for the progress of redemption.

          Nothing here, however, is Dispensational (in any version that I know about).

    • Hi Angela, thanks for laying out your thoughts so clearly. I’m still not absolutely clear about some of the implications of 1689 federalism. I’m a slow learner…

    • cg, I’m not sure I have been all that clear. The point I am trying to make is that “Reformed” Baptists, such as the 1689 Federalists, who are rediscovering their Baptist distinctives in the writings of the framers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession have very different understandings from the Reformed in such important areas as, hermeneutics, redemptive history, sacraments, ecclesiology, eschatology and who the people of God are. The fact that they share similarities with Dispensationalists highlights those differences. Both see two people of God, the Jews as an earthly people seeking to obtain earthly blessings through their obedience to the law, and a spiritual, new covenant people under grace. They both see discontinuity and division in Scripture. This is very different from the Reformed who see one covenant people seeking spiritual, and heavenly salvation through grace since the fall to the end of time. The view shared by Dispensationalists and “Reformed” Baptists divides God’s people and divides Scripture into periods where God deals with his people inconsistently, some on a works basis and others on the basis of grace. Simply put, Baptists are not the same as Reformed and it is just confusing that they want to share the name.

  5. But seriously, Scott — this was a very helpful tool for many of us trying to engage in conversations with others. Thanks.

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