Conversations From the Porch Episode #50 is a discussion between a proponent of NCT (Dustin Segers) and a proponent of the 2nd London Baptist Confession (Jason Mullet). For those interested, the conversation is worth listening. It shows have far NCT has come (at least this version of it). Segers notes that to deny a constant, unchanging absolute law that binds all men (something some proponents of NCT have denied) is a serious error. Segers argues this unchanging absolute law transcends the Old Covenant but also overlaps with many Old Covenant commands (he says 9 of the 10 commandments). The Old Covenant as a unit was abrogated, but absolute law continues. I offered the following comments on the web page.
Thank you for the discussion, gentlemen. Jason gave a disclaimer that he hasn’t necessarily studied all the details of 1689 Federalism. With that in mind, I’d like to clarify a very important point.
1689 Federalism agrees with Dustin that the entire Old Covenant, as a unit, was abrogated. On this point, we disagree with Westminster covenant theology. Note Richard Barcellos:
“Hearty agreement must be given when New Covenant theologians argue for the abolition of the Old Covenant. This is clearly the teaching of the Old and New Testaments (see Jeremiah 31:31-32; Second Corinthians 3; Galatians 3, 4; Ephesians 2:14-15; Hebrews 8-10). The whole law of Moses, as it functioned under the Old Covenant, has been abolished, including the Ten Commandments. Not one jot or tittle of the law of Moses functions as Old Covenant law anymore and to act as if it does constitutes redemptive-historical retreat and neo-Judaizing. However, to acknowledge that the law of Moses no longer functions as Old Covenant law is not to accept that it no longer functions; it simply no longer functions as Old Covenant law. This can be seen by the fact that the New Testament teaches both the abrogation of the law of the Old Covenant and its abiding moral validity under the New Covenant.”
-In Defense of the Decalogue, 61.
For more on this, see:
- 1689 Federalism & Theonomy (discusses Old Covenant law as a unit)
- 1689 Federalism Response to New Covenant Guy (Youtube)
- 1689 Federalism Response to Wellum’s Progressive Covenantalism and the Doing of Ethics
- How Christians Should Regard Moses (Luther)
- Note the chart here acknowledging this point: http://nct-blog.ptstn.org/wp-content/uploads/NCT-Compared-1689-v.1.3.pdf
It seems that Dustin is also unfamiliar with 1689 Federalism distinctives. He said there are only two possible approaches to law in the NT: either all Old Covenant commands are binding unless explicitly repealed, or all Old Covenant commands are abrogated unless explicitly repeated in the New. Neither approach is held by 1689 Federalism, which argues that all Old Covenant law was abrogated with the Old Covenant, however, when the Old Covenant was abrogated, what remained was a transcovenantal law that pre-dated the Old Covenant. We call this the moral law, while you call it absolute law. But the basic concept we agree on.
The question then is how do we know which Old Covenant commands overlapped with absolute law? You say “Those that are repeated by the Apostles in the New Covenant.” We say, “No, that’s not something that the Apostles say” (a point Justin brought out well). We believe that the Apostles’ hermeneutic should be our hermeneutic. Obviously the Apostles did not determine which laws were absolute by looking at what was repeated in the NT. They had to have a method of reading the Old Testament and determining which ones still applied (which ones were absolute law). Whatever their method was is our method as well. Their method was not “whatever is repeated” and neither is ours. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of Christ, we believe that the Apostles avoided being arbitrary by carefully studying the Old Testament and recognizing that some laws were distinguished from other laws from the beginning. Some laws were written in stone by the finger of God (Ex 24:12; 32:16; 34:1, 28) and spoken by God (Ex 20:1), and the rest of the laws written by (Ex 24:4;34:27) and spoken by (Ex 21:1; 24:3) Moses. Only the 10 Commandments/tablets of stone were placed in the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:16; 40:20; Deut 10:1-6; 1 Kings 8:9; Heb 9:4). We believe this was the hermeneutical tool or filter that the Apostles used to determine which Old Covenant laws were absolute.
For more on this “filtering” concept, see
- Theonomy Debate: Analysis
- The Decalogue in the Thought of Key Reformed Theologians with Special Reference to John Owen
Also, a clarification regarding the Sabbath. Jason seemed to suggest that some who hold to the 1689 Confession deny there are any changing aspects of the 4th commandment. He said “I don’t think the Sabbath’s application in the OT fits that, otherwise God would have been resting every 7th day from all eternity.” The comments were a bit ambiguous and likely involve some misunderstanding on either Jason or Dustin’s part, or both. To clarify, the 1689 Confession teaches that the Sabbath was a moral-positive law. 22.7 says “in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment…” Positive refers to a law that is not eternal and not necessitated by God’s nature. Thus the Sabbath reflects an unchanging principle: that man is to set aside time to worship God. Which day is a matter of God’s choice via positive law. For an explanation, see Positive law and covenantal canon. See also Owen’s lengthy discussion of how positive law relates to the 10 commandments.