Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Triplex Usus Legis

Despite the fact that the Bible rarely, if ever, uses the term "law" in an a-historical fashion denoting the theological category into which all divine imperatives—whether found in Genesis, Jeremiah, or John—must fit, it is precisely this assumption that makes the taxonomy of the triplex usus legis (the threefold use of the law) possible. A more redemptive-historical and covenantal paradigm, on the other hand, would yield similar conclusions while employing a different method in reaching them.

The schema that I am proposing would avoid extrapolating a general and universal notion of "moral Law" (with a capital L) which is then applied to people in varying ways depending upon their individual status before God. Rather, this approach would seek to discover the application of the divine will to individuals by identifying which covenant, and thence which law, they are under. As I hope to demonstrate, there are three principal covenants identified in Scripture under which men and women throughout redemptive history have stood in relation to God. Each covenant contains its own law, with its own respective uses.

I will unpack this in future posts, but for now I will just set the taxonomy forth:
1. All people, by virtue of the imago Dei, are under the covenant of creation and are subject to its law, the law of nature.

2. Israelites in time past were under the Old Covenant and were subject to its law, the law of Moses.

3. Believers today are under the New Covenant and are subject to its law, the law of Christ.
"Law" in this schema is connected to, and coextensive with, the covenant of which it is a part. Moreover, each law (-of nature, -of Moses, -of Christ) has its uses built into it, which eliminates the biblical acrobatics needed to decode how "the Law" applies to people in their varying covenantal contexts.

OK, fire away....