Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
Journal: Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
Volume: JIRBS 02:0 (NA 2015)
Article: Book Reviews
JIRBS 2 (2015) p. 159
Divine Covenants and Moral Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law,
(Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014, 545 pp.),
reviewed by Micah Renihan
In 2010 David VanDrunen published his first major work on natural law entitled Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. He has followed up that work with another examination of natural law in Divine Covenants and Moral Order. While the first book focused upon the place of natural law and two kingdoms theology in the history of the theology of the church, this present volume approaches the topic from the perspective of Scripture. VanDrunen seeks to show that Scripture itself presents a robust theology of natural law. In particular, the covenants God makes with man provide the framework for understanding natural law.
The book consists of two parts. In part 1 VanDrunen elaborates on the relationship between covenant and natural law as seen in the created order and with reference to the entire human race. Chapter 1 argues that in the very act of creation God set man in the context of natural law by way of the imago Dei and the covenant of creation (or covenant of works). As such, man was bestowed with a “protological image” in which Adam was to image God’s pattern of working and achieving rest (41, 72–73). This protological image required that man act with “creative and loving fruitfulness” and “pursue proportionate retributive justice” (without mercy) as he sought to fulfill the creation mandate (91–93).
Chapter 2 could be considered the most important chapter for VanDrunen’s thesis. In it he argues that, because sin made it impossible for man to fulfill the requirements of the protological image, it was necessary for God to reissue the creation mandate in a refracted form. In the Noahic covenant “God preserves (but does not redeem) the world and maintains human beings in his image,
JIRBS 2 (2015) p. 160
and thereby continues to promulgate natural law” (96). The Noahic covenant becomes the lens through which the original covenant requirements to Adam are refracted upon the entire human race. But it does so at a penultimate level. It does not save man from his predicament; it simply preserves him in the midst of it. This leads VanDrunen to say that “(common)-grace-preserves-nature and (saving)-grace-consummates-nature” (98). The common grace shown in the Noahic covenant establishes the basis by which humanity may be preserved. Thus it gives to us a “bare minimalist ethic concerning intrahuman affairs” (123). The requirements of this ethic include proper eating, proper procreation, and proportionate retributive justice that is tempered by forbearance. VanDrunen argues th...
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