March 30, 2012

Schreiner, the Threefold Division, and the Law of God

by Mike Riccardi

With all the discussion surrounding the legitimacy of the use of law in evangelism, one of the issues that surfaces time and again is whether the Mosaic Law should be divided into three parts. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the notion that the tripartite division of the Law into moral, civil, and ceremonial components is a helpful informal categorization of the various commandments God has given to Israel. Where theologians part ways is whether to make such categories theological constructs by which to build one’s doctrine of the Old Covenant Mosaic Law’s relationship to the New Covenant believer in Yahweh.

I want to quote generously today from Dr. Tom Schreiner, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Question 14 of his 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law takes up the issue of the tripartite division, and I find his comments very insightful. Let me say at the outset that I recognize that he is not the authority, but that Scripture alone is. I’ll also add that this is not a journal article or a book-length treatment of the threefold division, so expecting exegetical argumentation for every point will likely leave you frustrated. Nevertheless, I do think we can profit from his comments, and that they will advance the discussion on the believer’s relationship to the Mosaic Law.

Moral, Civil, Ceremonial

“The distinction between the moral, ceremonial, and civil law is appealing and attractive. Even though it has some elements of truth, it does not sufficiently capture Paul’s stance toward the law. As stated earlier, Paul argues that the entirety of the law has been set aside now that Christ has come. To say that the ‘moral’ elements of the law continue to be authoritative blunts the truth that the entire Mosaic covenant is no longer in force for believers.

“Indeed, it is quite difficult to distinguish between what is ‘moral’ and ‘ceremonial’ in the law. For instance, the law forbidding the taking of interest is clearly a moral mandate (Exod. 22:25), but this law was addressed to Israel as an agricultural society in the ancient Near East. As with the rest of the laws in the Mosaic covenant, it is [obsolete] [cf. Heb 8:13] now that Christ has come. This is not to say that this law has nothing to say to the church of Jesus Christ today. As Dorsey says, it still has ‘a revelatory and pedagogical’ function” (89–90).

Schreiner goes on to give examples of Mosaic Laws that are no longer in force for believers in this age. He mentions circumcision (Rom 4:9–12; Gal 2:3–5; 5:2; Phil 3:2–3; Col 2:11–12), the Passover (Rom 14:5–6; Gal 4:10; Col 2:16–17), sacrifices and temple worship (cf. the Book of Hebrews), and food and purity regulations (Mk 7:19; Ac 10:15; Rom 14:14, 20; 1Cor 8–10) (90–91). He even mentions the Sabbath, offering further comment because it’s one of the Ten Commandments:

“Believers are not required to observe the feasts, festivals, and special days of the Old Testament calendar. This includes the Sabbath, even though the Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:8–11). Such a judgment surprises some but it must be recognized that the entirety of the Old Testament law is [fulfilled] in Christ. Paul clearly teaches that Christians are free in regard to the observance of days. No day, in principle, holds pride of place above another (Rom. 14:5). Clearly, the Sabbath is included here; since it was observed weekly, it was the day that would naturally come to mind for readers. Colossians 2:16–17 makes this even clearer. The Sabbath belongs to the shadows of the old covenant and is a matter of indifference now that Christ has come. … The Sabbath finds fulfillment in the Sabbath rest granted by Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 3:12–4:13)” (91-92).

Having thus discussed some of the so-called “ceremonial” laws, Schreiner goes on to address the “civil” laws. I’ll skip that discussion, because unless you’re a theonomist, we don’t have to make the case that we shouldn’t be trying to turn our countries into the Israelite theocracy.

All of the Law is Moral

He sums up:

“We have seen thus far that it is overly simplistic to say that the ceremonial and civil law have passed away, while the moral law still retains validity. Instead, the Mosaic law and covenant are no longer normative for believers. And yet at the same time the law finds its fulfillment in Christ. Further, even though the divisions of the ceremonial, civil, and moral have some cogency, they are not clearly articulated in the New Testament, and the distinction between what is moral, civil, or ceremonial is not always clear.” (93)

I think this is a strong point. We all want to recognize that Christ has fulfilled the Law, and thus is described as “the end of the law” (Rom 10:4). But what my brothers who hold to the tripartite division seem to overlook (or at least, not talk about much) is that Christ is the fulfillment of the whole Law. If you ask these dear friends why we don’t keep the whole Mosaic Law, but only the so-called moral division of the Law, the answer you’ll generally hear is, “We don’t practice the civil and ceremonial law because they are fulfilled in Christ.” But the thing is: Christ fulfilled the “moral” aspects of the Law too! Jesus is not merely the fulfillment of part of the Law. He has fulfilled “all righteousness” (cf. Matt 3:15).


Besides this, as Schreiner alludes to, all of the Mosaic Law is moral. When God gives a command to His covenant people—whether it is, “You shall not murder” (Exod 20:13) or “You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together” (Deut 22:11)—disobedience is immoral. If an Israelite didn’t obey a “ceremonial” commandment, he was still morally accountable before God for that disobedience. Schreiner says, “Many of the so-called ‘ceremonial’ laws have a moral dimension that cannot be jettisoned” (94).

Law of God vs. Law of Moses

So wait. I’m putting the moral and civil/ceremonial laws on the same level, and I’m saying that we are not under the Law. So am I arguing that because it’s OK to mix fabrics, it is OK to murder? Am I some kind of rabid antinomian?

No, I’m not. But how do I account for the continued relevance of many of the so-called moral commands of the Mosaic Law? Schreiner helps here again:

“It is perhaps instructive to note that in most instances Paul does not argue that the moral norms from the Old Testament are authoritative on the basis of their appearance in the Old Testament, though in some instances he does cite the Old Testament command (e.g., Rom. 13:9; Eph. 6:2–3). … They are not normative merely because they appear in the Mosaic covenant, for that covenant has passed away. It seems that they are normative because they express the character of God. We know that they still express God’s will for believers because they are repeated as moral norms in the New Testament. It is not surprising that in the welter of the laws we find in the Old Testament (613 according to the rabbis) that some of those laws express transcendent moral principles. Still, the mistake we make is trying to carve up neatly the law into moral and nonmoral categories.” (93-94).

Here Schreiner gets to the heart of the matter. The reason that certain Old Testament commandments are normative for believers today is not merely because they show up in the Old Testament. Murder isn’t wrong because it’s in the Law of Moses, because, again, a prohibition of mixing fabrics is also in the Law of Moses, and we don’t argue that that is wrong for believers today. No, the reason that certain Old Testament commandments are normative for believers today while others are not, is because those that are normative express the transcendent, unchanging character of God. They express the “transcendent moral principles” which make up what the New Testament calls “the law of God” (1Cor 9:21), that divine standard of absolute righteousness to which all are universally held accountable.

On Monday, we’ll look more closely at what Scripture has to say regarding the law of God, law of Moses, and law of Christ, and then examine the implications that has for the recent discussion surrounding the use of law in evangelism.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Thanks Mike! I found this very helpful!

  • Gus P

    Mike, this morning at breakfast we were having the SAME conversation with Ruben Videira! Very opportune! Thanks again.

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    “the reason that certain Old Testament commandments are normative for believers today while others are not, is because those that are normative express the transcendent, unchanging character of God.”

    Excellent!!!! All in a nutshell!

  • Tom M

    This is a very important discussion — thank you for delving into the topic. I also believe it is not quite biblical to divvy up the Mosaic Law into parts; however, I wrestle with some implications. For example, how does one approach incest? It is morally wrong. But *why* is it wrong? It was pronounced wrong by God until Lev 18:6, in the Mosaic Law. There are obviously many examples of (what we would consider today) incestual relationships. Indeed, procreation would have been impossible without incest during the times immediately following the Fall and the Flood. It was not illegal until the Mosaic Law.

    If we say the Mosaic Law is obsolete, we would not say incest is obsolete. If we say it reflects God’s character as a timeless moral absolute, then we have to wonder why was it “legal” in early mankind?

    I do not bring this example up because it is a comfortable subject nor because I think incest is moral (it’s not). I bring it up because it can be an apologetic issue and because I find it hard to be consistent when I “plug it in” to the topic that Mike is raising on how to look at the Law as a whole.

    Insight from any is welcomed!

    Tom

    • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      Tom,

      Excellent question!!! I will be thinking about this all day long, now.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful question, Tom. I appreciate your sincere desire to understand these very nuanced issues carefully and clearly.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for you for why incest was “legal” for early mankind, as you put it, and yet forbidden in the Mosaic Law. My only response is that such a conundrum does not actually provide any refutation of Schreiner’s arguments against the threefold division, nor does it provide any positive evidence for the perpetuity of a so-called “moral law.”

      Further, I don’t think arguing for the threefold division of the Law and the perpetuity of the so-called “moral law” is the right way to defend the immorality of incest. In other words, “(i) Incest is wrong, (ii) there’s no NT command against incest, (iii) there is an OT command against incest, therefore (iv) there is a “moral” division of the Mosaic Law still in force today”… is not a very healthy way to do theology. That would go something like: (a) conclude that incest is wrong, (b) yet not have an NT command that says so, (c) and as a result go to the Mosaic Law, which the NT explicitly states is no longer in force (Heb 8:13), (d) impose fabricated theological constructs upon the Law in order to preserve a part of it, (e) so that that part can remain binding for today, (f) in order to provide a rationale for condemning incest. Yikes.

      I don’t like the idea of saying God simply made an exception early on in order to fulfill His purpose to populate the earth. But I’d take that explanation over (a) through (f) in a heartbeat.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for reading.

      • Tom M

        Mike, thanks for the response. I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion that “such a conundrum does not actually provide any refutation of Schreiner’s arguments against the threefold division, nor does it provide any positive evidence for the perpetuity of a so-called ‘moral law.'” I also agree that your (a) to (f) example is a good (bad?) example of eisegesis.

        However, unless I’m misunderstanding you, I don’t see how, in light of this, incest can be refuted. It seems that perhaps we *start* with the idea that incest is wrong (perhaps because it is “icky” or the well-proven health issues as a result of it — but these aren’t exactly exegetical reasons) but then we’re left hanging as to *why* it’s wrong. We can’t say because it’s in the Law because then we’re saying we’re under it. We can’t say because because it’s a timeless moral law (and support it by maybe appealing to 1 Cor 5) because we still have to deal with the “exception” of early mankind.

        Like you said, the latter is an easier to pill to swallow then the former, but I find it still wanting.

        As it relates to your post, I think that it is unbiblical to divide the Law up. However, I think we can unknowingly be doing so *practically* even when we deny it *confessionally.* Do we do it when we call incest (as one example) immoral? Do we call it immoral because Lev 18 says it is? Why else would we? That’s what I’m getting. I think consistency is important and this my working out on how to be just that.

        Thanks!

  • Is there a unique tag for this series that I can link to?

    (I’ve had my eye on that book for a while now. Need to get it!)

    • Hey Dan. Not at the moment. But if you link to the first installment, which was Jesse’s expression of appreciation and respect for Ray Comfort, you can get to all the others from there through internal links. When we finish the topic, we’ll add links to the series guide page: http://thecripplegate.com/series-guide/

      Thanks for asking!

  • Poet

    Thanks, Mike, for relaying these comments by Dr. Schreiner. Very helpful discussion, especially when discussing with people the biblical position on homosexuality.

  • Michael Delahunt

    Wow Mike, what a powerful post! I feel that this pairs up well with Jesse’s post, and answers a lot of questions I had. It is easy to get wrapped up in covenant-theology, and forget the God behind the covenants; the covenants show who God is, and yet we can fix on the covenant rather the character of the God behind said covenant. Thanks!

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  • Thanks for posting this, Mike. I am growing in my understanding of the Mosaic Law and the Law of Christ, and this was very helpful. Looking forward to the next piece!

    It may be helpful to plug Dr. Mayhue’s lecture from the Shepherd’s Conference here as well…a must-listen!

    • Thank you for your humility, Justin. The humble and teachable way you’ve received all of this, amidst many examples to the contrary, has been encouraging and very refreshing to me. Acts 17:11.

  • Jmv7000

    The real reason many need a moral law to continue distills from a big picture understanding of Scripture based on a covenant of works. But since Scripture does not promote a covenant of works AND says believers are united with Christ and free there is no reason to even consider the “moral” law . . . and to the great objection, “Then murder would be okay.” Paul says, Romans 6ff “How shall how we who died to sin still live in it?”

  • Guest

    Thanks for your post Mike!

    Nathan Busenitz did a nine-part series on this issue at Pulpit a few years ago: http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/02/28/wrapping-up-the-law/

  • csrima

    Very helpful post. Thanks!

  • Larry

    At times I fear we have become so refined in our Bibliology, it is more important to know if one of us is a cessationist, preterist, dispensationalist, theonomist or any kind of “ist” Paul mentions, he prefers not to know anything among us other than Jesus Christ and him crucified. I wonder if we were all in one room, would be on one accord, or would our refined theology get in the way of us loving Christ and each-other. Jesus said, people would know we are his disciples because we loved one another. Could it be that we are speaking the tongues of men and of angels and have not love? John said, we know that we have passed from death to life because we love the bretheren. I think of the woman at the well, whom, after she encountered Jesus, went back to her village and shared what she experienced, and many passed from death to life. I doubt very seriously if she had a refined methodology, relative to sharing Christ with an unbeliever. Sharing Christ out of a pure heart based on a pure and authentic encounter with Jesus is what attracts sinners and seeing/sensing a lifestyle that is Christ centered is what convicts. Paul gave King Agrippa his personal testimony, which brought Agrippa to the crossroads of salvation, so much so, Agrippa said, “You almost persuaded me to become “one of those” Christians” Perhaps Agrippa would have “bowed the knee” had Paul’s presentation been more “spot on” (oooops! Sorry Paul).

    • Honestly Larry, if I may be frank, I feel like your comment is a bit of a cop-out. Your basic complaint is that my theology is too refined. I kinda feel like I should just say, “Thanks,” and move on. A man once approached the Puritan preacher Richard Rogers and said, “Mr. Rogers, I like you and your company very well, only you are too precise.” “Oh Sir,” Rogers replied, “I serve a precise God.”

      I believe God has spoken clearly, and in many areas has been very precise. I want to know my God. And I don’t want a merely approximate picture of Him, with blurred edges and fuzzy splotches. I want to know precisely who He is, so that I can see the full beauty of His glory, with clarity and contours and definition. And insofar as He’s revealed Himself and made that possible, I want to pursue that with all my might.

      …Paul mentions, he prefers not to know anything among us other than Jesus Christ and him crucified.

      I don’t think that means quite what you seem to imply it means. Paul made that statement in chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians has 16 chapters. And that’s to say nothing of the 12 other letters he wrote, making up half of the New Testament, containing doctrines that span bibliology, theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, hamartiology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and more.

      I wonder if we were all in one room, would be on one accord, or would our refined theology get in the way of us loving Christ and each-other.

      It’s likely that we would not all be of one accord. But unity is not achieved by sweeping our doctrinal differences under the rug. Unity is achieved by hashing out our disagreements over Scripture, imitating the noble Bereans, and pursuing true unity based on truth, not a superficial concession to agree to disagree.

      Could it be that we are speaking the tongues of men and of angels and have not love?

      I’ve re-read my post, and I can’t quite see anything that comes off as unloving. Unless you define “unloving” as disagreeing with a doctrinal position, and seeking to set forth what I see is the biblical alternative. In which case, your disagreement with me makes you unloving as well.

      I think of the woman at the well, whom, after she encountered Jesus, went back to her village and shared what she experienced, and many passed from death to life. I doubt very seriously if she had a refined methodology, relative to sharing Christ with an unbeliever.

      Again, I’m sorry, but I want to know more of Christ than the basics. I find Him so compelling, so glorious, so lovely, that I want to know Him as He is. I don’t want to conceive of Him in any way other than He is. By God’s grace, Christ’s loveliness does not allow me to be satisfied with a merely surface-level understanding of my Savior and His Word.

      Sharing Christ out of a pure heart based on a pure and authentic encounter with Jesus is what attracts sinners and seeing/sensing a lifestyle that is Christ centered is what convicts.

      I have to disagree with you here. Our sincerity–or anything else about our presentation–doesn’t attract sinners. We can be sincere, and be sincerely wrong. Only the Word of God, preached faithfully and accurately, convicts of sin and regenerates the sinner (Rom 10:17; 1Pet 1:23-25; Jas 1:18). And because of that I want to make sure that I’m representing the Word accurately.

      Paul gave King Agrippa his personal testimony, which brought Agrippa to the crossroads of salvation, so much so, Agrippa said, “You almost persuaded me to become “one of those” Christians” Perhaps Agrippa would have “bowed the knee” had Paul’s presentation been more “spot on” (oooops! Sorry Paul).

      I think Agrippa would have responded if Paul used the Ten Commandments. Someone should have told him about the Law and evangelism.

      🙂

      • Larry

        Mike, my comments are not meant to be dismissive of you nor the content of your post. My apologies if the heart/spirit of my comments were not discerned. My intent is not to “kill” with the letter. A little humor (perhaps mis-placed) can be mis-construed as well. I have no need to “point/counterpoint” with a brother. However, I didn’t say our “sincerity” attracts sinners. I said, “Sharing Christ out of a pure heart based on a pure and authentic encounter with Jesus is what attracts sinners and seeing/sensing a lifestyle that is Christ centered is what convicts.” The Holy Spirit creates a pure heart, (A “sincere” one can be sincerely wrong.. I agree with you) and if one has an authentic encounter with Christ transforming their lives, and shares it, the Holy Spirit can work the miracle of regeneration for an unbeliever, as well as the person becoming convicted due to seeing a Christ centered lifestyle, which relationally opens the door to share Christ. In our “backrooms” our “ologies,” and “ists,” have their place. They absolutely do. In fact, I love this blog-site. Reasoned and principled disputations are healthy. Modern technology has taken away excuses for Believers to be ignorant of the hope in which we believe. I feel the greatest evangelism is a radically transformed life, where the mind, will and emotions have been turn God-ward, (Through the true gospel of course). We then “make “disciples” out of persons who have become sheep. It seems to me Paul’s engagement in the “marketplace of ideas” was to proclaim Christ as very God and to highlight his death, burial and resurrection to pay our sin debt and secure our salvation. My point is, “bibliology, theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, hamartiology, soteriology, ecclesiology,eschatology, and more,” expounded on through a Christological, biblical worldview cannot be understood by the natural mind because of the sin nature. But their conscience will confirm they ARE a sinner and need a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

        • Thanks for responding patiently, Larry. Please forgive me for any misunderstanding.

  • I found a good article in BibSac on this topic by a guy named J. Daniel Hays. You can read it here: http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/05-Deuteronomy/Text/Articles/Hays-ApplyingLaw-BS.htm

    Some excerpts:

    “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) is followed in the very next verse by the law “do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” (19:19). Should verse 18 be applied as binding, while verse 19 is dismissed as nonapplicable altogether? The text gives no indication that any kind of hermeneutical shift has taken place between the two verses. On what basis can one decide that one verse is universal and timeless, even for believers in the Christian era, while the commandment in the very next verse is rejected? Many of the so-called moral, civil, and ceremonial laws occur together like this without any textual indicators that there are differences between them.

    […]

    The New Testament affirms the fact that the Mosaic Covenant has ceased to function as a valid covenant. Hebrews 8-9 makes it clear that Jesus came as the Mediator of a covenant that replaced the old one. “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). Thus the Mosaic Covenant is no longer functional or valid as a covenant. This has important implications for one’s understanding of the Law. The Old Testament Law specified the terms by which Israel could receive blessings in the land under the Old (Mosaic) Covenant. If the Old Covenant is no longer valid, how can the laws that make up that covenant still be valid? If the Old Covenant is obsolete, should not also the laws in that Old Covenant be seen as obsolete?

    Read the whole thing.

  • Greg Pickle

    A friend of mine made this point to me while in OT Survey at TMS by suggesting that someone take three highlighters of different colors and try to color-code every commandment one (and only one) of the three colors to represent moral, civil, or ceremonial. It takes about 15 seconds to realize you can’t do it.

    In fact, it was this learning this very idea concerning the unity of the Mosaic Law from that illustration, coupled with Dr. Essex’s explanation of it in class, that made me modify my “best book ever” review for WOTM on Amazon (which had been printed in one of the editions of the book as one of its endorsements!).

    As Jesse has stated in his posts, there is a ton to like about WOTM, but 2 Timothy 2:15 is still in my Bible and I want to be approved by God.

    So why not stand on the shoulders of these zealous men, use the great things they promote, and refine it to be even better?

  • Jonspeed

    I think what we are watching right before our eyes is a move of Grace Community back to a more traditional form of dispensationalism.

    • It’s interesting you should say that, Jon, considering that Schreiner is a covenantalist.

      This isn’t about dispensationalism, CT, or NCT. This is about the text of Scripture, accounting for all of what’s there, and developing our theology and our practice from the text.

      • Shane Dodson

        “…considerning that Schreiner is a covenantalist.”

        Jon’s observation was about Grace Community, not Schreiner, who is not in leadership at Grace Community.

        • Jon’s point is that the viewpoint expressed in this article represented Grace Community’s reversion to a more traditional form of dispensationalism. And yet the viewpoint expressed in this article is identical to that of one who is a covenantalist. And not just Schreiner, by the way. Doug Moo, who was referenced in the previous thread, is also a covenantalist. Again, this is about Scripture, not theological systems.

          The discussion goes much better if we get it out of our minds that labeling someone means we no longer have to deal with their arguments.

          • Mike,

            I’ve enjoyed many of your posts in the past and have benefited from many of the posts on The Cripplegate by other authors as well. And I recognize, as I’m sure all do, that the text of Scripture is what really matters. I’ve long thought that the practice of tossing out labels is often a way for one to dismiss someone without reckoning with his arguments, whether it be due to unwillingness or inability. But, when accurately used, labels can simply be a convenient way to note the basic outlines of a disagreement or controversy that has been going on for generations. If the dispensational label here is illegitimate then shall we abandon the use of labels like Arminian as well?

            Tom Schreiner is not a covenant theologian. That is, unless you’re operating from a point of view that consigns all non-dispensational theologians to the covenantal camp. Doug Moo is also not a covenantalist. One need look no further than his essay against covenantalism’s view of the law in “Continuity and Discontinuity” to see that. Besides this, both of them reject the idea of “one covenant of grace with two administrations” and perhaps other things that covenantalists usually teach with regard to theological covenants that they infer from the Scriptures.

            No covenant theologian could agree with Schreiner’s view of the law. The threefold division of the law and the perpetuity of the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments (and the believer being under them as a rule of life i.e. the Third Use of the Law) is one of the hallmarks of Reformed covenant theology. Were one to compare Schreiner’s teaching on the law with that of the Westminster Standards or any other detailed Reformed confession or systematic theology of that general persuasion, (including covenantal Baptist ones) the differences are very clear.

            While I’m not sure whether or not he would accept the label since there’s still no consensus on what exactly it is, (as opposed to what it opposes) Dr. Schreiner is closer to New Covenant Theology than he is to either dispensationalism or covenantalism. NCT’s position on the law (all flavors of NCT in this case) is much closer to that of dispensationalism than the essentially covenantal view that is being criticized in this series of posts. Now, NCT and related views do typically state that the Church is the “New Israel” and often does so in less nuanced ways than many CT’s have done. But NCT’s (and Schreiner’s) view of the moral law is about as far from CT as the east is from the west. A reaction against CT’s view of the moral law was the primary impetus behind the development of NCT in the first place.

            Through the years, I’ve noticed a tendency for more traditional dispensationalists to place anyone who disagrees with them on things like pre-trib and related teachings into the covenantal camp. You see the same thing with many covenantalists doing the reverse, consigning men like Schreiner and Moo into the dispensational camp because of their views on the law and a rejection of their understanding of the covenant of grace. In this case, for you to assert that Schreiner and Moo are covenantal when they are anything but suggests to me a rather narrow dispensational orientation (and perhaps, education) that has more of an impact on your thinking than you may realize.

          • But, when accurately used, labels can simply be a convenient way to note the basic outlines of a disagreement or controversy that has been going on for generations.

            This is true, if, as you say, they are accurately used and defined (which, in my opinion, they have not been in these instances), and if the one who uses them actually gets to the argumentation, rather than simply says, “Ah, silly dispensationalist!” and then ignores the argumentation put forth in a series of posts.

            …unless you’re operating from a point of view that consigns all non-dispensational theologians to the covenantal camp

            I don’t assume that, no. I am not of that “rather narrow dispensational orientation,” and understand the distinctions there. But as far as I knew, I believed Schreiner self-identified as a covenantalist. At the very least, until recently he self-identified as an Amillennialist, and, as far as I know, does not see a distinction between the church and national Israel. Combining that with his never actually accepting the NCT label, I don’t think it was imprudent of me to make that statement.

            But, I’d just as soon revise my comment. Even though I understand the difference between covenantal and non-dispensational, in the present context, all that would be needed to refute Jon’s claim above is to note that Schreiner is not a dispensationalist. So, I’ll go with that.

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