Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 3:1 (Spring 90) p. 85
“A Gospel Without Law,” Maurice Roberts, The Banner of Truth, April 1989, pp. 1–6, 18.
In recent years Reformed and dispensational theologians have arrived at agreement in specific points of doctrine. Yet, one of the existing impasses between the two systems is the debate over the form and function of Mosaic Law in the NT. Many dispensationalists argue that the Mosaic Law was God’s prescribed method of administering moral precepts primarily and solely to Israel as a theocratic community. Reformed theologians, on the other hand, hold that the Mosaic Law has a specific application to the Church. In essence, this is the view expounded in Roberts’s article. His thesis is stated at the outset: “Somehow modern evangelicalism has got itself into a false position on the subject of God’s law. We mean here, of course, not the ceremonial law, which passed away at the death of Christ, but the moral law, which is permanent”(p. 1). And more specifically, suggests Roberts, “If a church loses the moral law, it will not be long before it loses the gospel” (p. 1).
According to Roberts, “Much chronic anaemia in the modern Christian church is traceable to its neglect of the moral law” (p. 2). This neglect of “the moral law” is said to be fostered by the following problems: (1) “the problem of the low view of sin which is to be found in the churches at the theoretical level” (p. 2); (2) “the problem of shallow professions of faith which leave discerning Christians perplexed” (p. 2); (3) “the problem of chaos in the public worship of God” (p. 2); (4) “the closely related problem of what we might call ‘heresy of spiritual character’” (p. 3). In light of these problems, Roberts believes that there are two fundamental reasons for renewed stress upon “the moral law”: (1) “men need to be more thoroughly wounded in soul than is generally the case at present” (p. 3); and (2) “we need to teach Christians that the rule of their daily life is to be found in the moral law and what the law involves and what the law implies” (p. 4).
At the very outset, Roberts’s article betrays a lack of awareness of recent doctrinal developments within Reformed orthodoxy and within evangelicalism as a whole. In the early 1980’s a leading evangelical scholar observed that, “the threefold distinction of moral, ceremonial, and civil law as separate categories with varying degrees of applicability is simply
JOTGES 3:1 (Spring 90) p. 86
unknown in the first century, and there is little evidence that Jesus or Paul introduced such a distinction” (Douglas J. Moo, “‘Law,’ ‘Works of the Law,’ and Legalism in ...
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