Blog 58: 2.7.2 - 2.7.7

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More covenant theology from Calvin: the covenant with David is a line of continuity with Moses, and the entirety as a preparation for the coming of Christ. Calvin walks between the (Lutheran) Scylla that the sole purpose of the law is pedagogic (what Calvin calls the narrow sense, "Christ is the end of the law unto salvation" Rom. 10:4) and the Charybdis where the law functions as a moral guide for the Christian life ("the law is graced with the covenant of free adoption").

Taking the former sense, Calvin outdoes Luther: "they (the curses of the broken law) hang over ... and pursue us with inexorable harshness, so that we discern in the law only the most immediate death." And in language that sounds as though Calvin believed in the perpetuity of the covenant of works, he asks to what end do the promises attached to obedience serve? Given that we cannot fulfill the law's demands, are the promises empty and insincere? Not at all, and here Calvin anticipates what he will later say of justification by faith, God provides one who obeys the law on our behalf and "causes us to receive the benefit of the promises of the law as if we had fulfilled their condition" (2.7.4).

Elaborating further on the pedagogic function of the law Calvin writes that the law "shows God's righteousness ... (and) condemns every man of his own unrighteousness" (2.7.6). Those who deny their status as guilty are prideful or insane. The law functions as a mirror in which we contemplate our weakness, just like mirrors show the spots on our face. And here Calvin shows personal acquaintance with the deceptiveness of sin: "There is no doubt that the more clearly the conscience is struck with awareness of its sin, the more the iniquity grows. For stubbornness of its sin, the more the iniquity grows. For stubborn disobedience against the Lawgiver is then added to transgression" (7.2.7).

How Calvin knows my heart!

Posted March 25, 2009 @ 10:21 AM by Derek Thomas
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