God’s Promise Plan And His Gracious Law -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:3 (Sep 1990)
Article: God’s Promise Plan And His Gracious Law
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

God’s Promise Plan And His Gracious Law

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.*

The way to test the greatness and incisiveness of any truly evangelical theology is to ask how it relates Biblical law to God’s gospel of grace. The history of the Church’s achievement on this issue has not been remarkable or convincing.

The so-called three uses of the law were vigorously debated by the Reformers, and more recently by their descendants, but with few clear exegetical results that have stood the test of time. It is no wonder, then, that when “dominion theology,” under the leadership of Greg L. Bahnsen,1 raised the question of law and grace in a form that few had ever thought of before, a cry of “legalism” went up from evangelicals and fundamentalists. Not only were the traditional unanswered questions of law versus grace and continuity versus discontinuity between the Testaments brought to the forefront again, but now there was added the unresolved issue of the political use of the law. The law/grace question must now be answered in the larger context of the Church/state tension. Was Martin Luther’s model of the two kingdoms correct? Suddenly we were no longer dealing merely with matters of soteriology and the problem of relating the Abrahamic-Davidic-new covenant to the Mosaic covenant. Now we had to settle all those questions in the context of a fairly extensive ecclesiology and eschatology. Bahnsen, Rousas John Rushdoony, Gary North, David Chilton and James B. Jordan2 have unleashed a number of furies from a theological Pandora’s box. Life will never be the same. But

* Walter Kaiser is professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

this is not all bad, for the Church has always found that challenges have forced her to grow in her doctrinal expression.

In order to clear the ground, as it were, a number of firmly-held interpretive principles must be faced. Each of them exercises so strong an influence over the discussion of law and gospel that no exegetical progress can be made on our understanding of the uses of the law in the life of the Christian community until we come to some agreement on this part of evangelical traditional theology.

I. Is The Law An Indivisible Unity?

Most fundamental to all of these principles is this: The law is an indivisible unity.3 Any attempt to divide the law, it is strenuously argued, is wrongheaded and will result in almost certain error. Accordingly if the law has been set ...

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