Curt Daniel on the covenant of works

Excerpts from Curt Daniel's The History And Theology of Calvinism (the "covenant of works" is the pernicious doctrine that posits the possibility that Adam could erase the God-Man Mediator from history):

>>Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587), Heidelberg theologian and co-author with Ursinus of the Heidelberg Catechism, made the next major step in the development. Not only did he teach the one Covenant of Grace gradually revealed, but he stressed that it was made between God and Christ. It is made with the elect by Christ being their representative, or Federal Head. It is entirely of grace to us, for even the condition of faith is a gift of God's grace. Olevianus was also the first to posit 2 other important covenants: the eternal inter-trinitarian Covenant of Redemption and the pre-Fall Covenant of Works with Adam. These 3 covenants form the basic foundation for Covenant Theology. Olevanius' views were summed up in his Concerning the Nature of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect (1585).<<

>>[Robert] Rollock [1555-1598] honed down the finer points of the Covenant of Works with Adam before the Fall. He taught that the conditions of that Covenant was complete obedience to the Moral Law of God summed up in the Ten Commandments, revealed to Adam implicitly on his heart.<<

>>9. The Covenant of Works.

A. This is the first covenant in time. It has been variously termed the Edenic Covenant, the Covenant of Nature, the Covenant of Life, the Covenant of Creation, etc. Except for one text, it is not specifically called a covenant in Scripture, but Federalists contend that we can see in Scripture all the essential elements of a covenant regarding Adam in Eden.

B. The one disputed text is Hosea 6:7, "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." Non-Federalists contend this should read "like men" (though it is singular) or "at Adam" (though the word is a comparison not a location, and no such place as "Adam" has been located or mentioned anywhere else).

C. Federalists also argue that Rom. 5 and 1 Cor. 15 require Adam to be a covenant head just as Christ was a covenant head. Christ had a covenant; Adam must have had one, else Paul's argument breaks down. Paul insinuates that Adam did not keep his covenant obligations, whereas Christ did. Adam was the Federal representative of all men, except for Christ (for Christ did not have a human father). Those whom Christ represented were the elect in the Covenant of Redemption.

D. "The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience" (Westminster Confession, VII:2). Most Federalists posit that Adam was placed in this covenant for a probationary period. If he passed, the test would be over, there would be no more temptation, and he would receive eternal life. Others said it was perpetual, not temporary, probation.

E. Adam agreed to the covenant imposed on him. That it was imposed brings out the aspect of Law in it. Some theologians said that there had to be a seal to this covenant; they usually say it was the Tree of Life, which Adam never partook of because he did not keep the covenant. This was the first sacrament.

F. Of course, Adam had to fulfill certain conditions of this covenant. Some Federalists say it was simply obedience to the command not to eat the forbidden fruit. Others say that he was to follow the Moral Law written on his heart by nature (Rom. 2). Others say this comprehended the 10 Commandments in an implicit though not explicit way. In any case, Adam did not obey.

G. It was a Covenant of Life in that had he obeyed, he would live. If not, he would die (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam died spiritually at that time and physically later on. Since he was head for all his posterity, all humans inherit this guilt and penalty. We call this Original Sin (Rom. 5:12, Psa. 51:5, etc). The earliest Calvinists, following Augustine, usually said that we receive sin and death because we were physically in Adam (a la Heb. 7:10). But as Federalism grew, so did a developed doctrine of Original Sin: Immediate Imputation. The theory that we were physically in Adam and thereby physically inherit his sin and guilt and punishment is called Realism or Traducianism. This teaches that we receive Original Sin mediately. The Federalist doctrine goes one step further:  Adam's sin is imputed to us "immediately," even as Christ's righteousness is imputed to us "immediately" (i.e., we were not literally in Christ nor is He literally in us). Scholars differ as to whether Calvin taught the one or the other theory. And of course Arminians and Roman Catholics strongly reject this Federalist doctrine.

H. When Adam sinned, the Covenant was abrogated, at least in certain aspects. Some Federalists say it continues as a broken covenant for all men. That is, all men are born covenant-breakers deserving death and are still called on by God as Creator to fulfill the Moral Law. In this sense, we are to preach the Law as a repetition of the Covenant of Works to remind men of their need of a Savior.

I. Federalists differ somewhat also on the historic progression of this covenant. Some say it was repeated at Mt. Sinai in a form for Israel. In any case, it is pure Law as a Covenant of Works, summed up in the principle  "Do this and you will live," or conversely, "Disobey and you will die" (cf. Luke 10:28, Rom. 10:5, Gal. 3:12, Lev. 18:5, Ezek. 18:4-9, 20:11, 13, 21, etc.). Most Federalists say it is further summed up in the 2 love commandments (Matt. 22:34-40). All men have this condition written on their hearts by Nature. But of course, no man except Christ has ever kept it.<<