Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Should the Kernel Leave the Husk?

I'm still in the U.K. (Oxford, no longer Aberdeen), but I finally have some internet access, so I thought I'd post a long-overdue installment in our discussion on the law and the believer.

The tendency of some of our Reformed systematicians to (unnaturally) separate the demands of the Mosaic law from the context of its delivery on Mount Sinai creates, for me, some tension with respect to the New Covenant saint's motives for obedience.

Sometimes the "kernel" can't live outside the "husk."

According to the writer to the Hebrews, the giving of the law to Moses was accompanied by darkness, by tempest, by thunder, and by threat. Moses "exceedingly feared and quaked," we are told. Its preamble notwithstanding, the function of the Decalogue was to instruct God's people in the context of a covenant that threatened disinheritance for failure to "keep all things written in the law, and do them."

To ignore the relationship between the Mosaic law's form and its content (i.e., the fact that its demands had concomitant threats of curse, albeit typological) is to fall into the very trap I've been warning against: Wrenching Moses from his covenantal and canonical context and simply plopping him down wherever we think he'd look best (he's not a piece of furniture, after all).

The New Covenant saint's instruction, as I've been arguing, comes from the hand of Jesus, who, contrary to what we are often hearing of late, is not simply a kinder, gentler Moses. Rather, he is the One who could only issue his will to his church sans curse by actually becoming a curse for us by his death upon the cross. The law of Christ, therefore, can command us in the context of an already-fulfilled law of God. That's why we needed a New Covenant: so that we can obey without fear.