Covenant and Common Grace -- By: Mark W. Karlberg

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 50:2 (Fall 1988)
Article: Covenant and Common Grace
Author: Mark W. Karlberg

Covenant and Common Grace*

Mark W. Karlberg

Gaining considerable notoriety in American evangelicalism in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the movement known as theonomy or Christian Reconstruction has as its aim the reconstruction of American society along the lines of the ancient covenant between God and the nation of Israel. Christian Reconstructionists seek to reinstitute the civil code of Moses as the standard for social morality in America, and they view this as a return to the principles and standards of our original founders. Though there is a historical precedent for theonomic social ethics, it is clear that the teachings of the Christian Reconstructionist movement are a departure from Calvinist theology.1

For purposes of this present discussion we shall refer to this theological movement in terms of its characteristic teaching, that which is determinative of its system of doctrine, namely, dominion theology. We begin with a brief outline of this theology as developed in Gary North’s Dominion and Common Grace, and then proceed to a critical analysis of his position. Of fundamental import in North’s study is the restructuring of the history of God’s covenantal dealings with humanity in creation and redemption. Rejecting the traditional doctrine of the Covenant of Works, North regards the original covenant of creation as remaining in effect after the Fall. This covenant between God and all humankind, which North calls the dominion covenant, continues to shape the course of civilization. All biblical law

* Gary North: Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987. xv, 295. $8.95).

is a republishing of the law of the creation covenant: obedience brings blessings, while disobedience brings curses.

According to North, there is a progressive manifestation of God’s kingdom seen in the emergence of Christian dominion over all the earth, so that “the civilization of the world will gradually reflect God’s biblically revealed law-order.”2 Repeatedly, North stresses that this global extension of biblical law necessitates only an external compliance on the part of the nations’ citizens. “People at that last day need only be externally obedient to the terms of the covenant, meaning biblical law. This book attempts to explain how this externally faithful living might operate.”3 To achieve this goal North argues for a particular version of the common grace doctrine, one which, North admits, differs from traditional...

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