The Puzo Hermeneutic

Since Blogorrhea has been dead for quite a while, instead of dropping comments on the H&S FV (CoW) post, I figured I’d make whole posts out of my thoughts.

First off, I was quite unimpressed by Jacob’s (Jacob Moya was the FV representative) Godfather analogy (which you can hear starting at 24:25 of the debate). I don’t object, as one might think, to using a sinful man as an analogue for God — Jesus himself did the same (Matt 7:11). And I get Jacob’s point, that just as the Godfather is insulted that the gardener attempts to buy a favor on his own terms, God is insulted when men attempt to win His favor on their own terms.

The problem with the analogy is that, before the Fall, it was not a question of whether Adam tried to please God on his own terms; God had established the covenant with man, and God laid out the conditions of fulfilling the covenant, ending the probation, and earning the reward: fill the Earth, take dominion, cultivate the garden and guard it from uncleanness, don’t eat from the ToKoGaE. The fact that God specified the terms of the covenant, is what makes the Covenant of Works (CoW) a covenant of merit; obedient works would have been meritorious, because God had defined those works as sufficient to earn (merit) the specified reward.

Similarly, Christ’s work was meritorious, because in the eternal Covenant of Redemption (CoR), the trinity had defined among themselves the work that the incarnate Son needed to accomplish in order to purchase the elect; to redeem them from slavery to sin.

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28 Responses

  1. Right. I was offended for being castigated by FV for orthodoxy’s (CoW’s) supposed characterization of God as a mere “human” business partner right after FV’s God is to man as Don Corleone is to an undertaker asking him for a favor.

    This is the standard FV tack following Lusk who claimed that Thomas Aquinas said that God is too separate/great for him to ever be obligated to reward a vassal. Aquinas, however, went on to say that this state of affairs could only obtain if God was the initiating partner in such a “contract” (unlike Don Corleone’s relationship with the undertaker). God, of course is free to do anything he wants (might makes right??). Hence WCF VII uses “condescends” language.

    The error with Lusk/Moya is that God is now reduced to a being incapable of making a promise since any promise (made by the living God) by definition entails being obligated to fulfill it.

  2. In other words, the FV is damnable heresy.

  3. Worse than Arminianism then?

  4. Exegeting the Godfather rather than Scripture is symptomatic of a problem.

  5. […] The Puzo Hermeneutic […]

  6. It seems the reason you dislike the analogy, Rube, is because you disagree with Jacob’s position on the nature of the Adamic Covenant. That’s fine. But the analogy did convey more than adequately the FV’s position on the nature of the Adamic Covenant, and thus it was a good analogy. You don’t have to agree with the position to acknowledge that an analogy represents said position.

    The point of analogy was not who initiated the terms, but the nature of the terms themselves. The analogy would have been equally effective had the Don gone to the gardener offering him this favor with terms attached. The TR CoW Don would have given the gardener a to-do list, the items of which the gardener would have been free to grumble over as he completed them and still be considered a *good worker*. The FV Don would have demanded loyalty to the family, which would have included duties of course, but the gardener would have had to perform those duties faithfully, not merely outwardly. Regardless of who initiated terms first, this is what happened in the movie, which is why it is a good analogy. The gardener was offered the opportunity to be more than a mere *good worker*. He was offered a position as a faithful son.

  7. Rube said,

    The fact that God specified the terms of the covenant, is what makes the Covenant of Works (CoW) a covenant of merit.

    This doesn’t follow. God specified the terms of the CoG as well, but it isn’t a “covenant of merit”.

  8. Bruce said,

    The error with Lusk/Moya is that God is now reduced to a being incapable of making a promise since any promise (made by the living God) by definition entails being obligated to fulfill it.

    I don’t see how this follows either. We (FV) agree with glee that God is capable of making promises and obligates Himself by said promises. How does the FV position on the Adamic Covenant affect this? It seems to me that the TR position which makes Adam’s potential and the Second Adam’s actual reward an issue of strict justice neglects the fact that it is a *promised* reward and therein *alone* lies the justice as it pertains to rewards. It is just for God to keep His promises. But since God is never obligated to make promises, His giving of promises as well as His giving of promised rewards can rightly be called gracious.

    Hebrews 6:10 is a great example of this. The author here places the rewards for works in the *CoG* in the category of justice. But we affirm that all the rewards we receive from the Father are gifts of pure grace:

    Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 24:

    Question 63. What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?

    Answer: This reward is not of merit, but of grace.

    The author in Heb 6:10 is simply pointing out that God has obligated Himself via promise and is not unjust to forget His promises. This fits fine with FV.

  9. And so it begins… You’re going to have to be patient, because I am going to intentionally throttle my replies in order to stay sane. (James 1:19)

    The TR CoW Don would have given the gardener a to-do list, the items of which the gardener would have been free to grumble over as he completed them and still be considered a *good worker*.

    Please provide links/quotes confirming that TR believes that outward obedience/inward disobedience counts as meritorious, “personal, entire, exact, perpetual” obedience? Also see the next post

  10. One more, since it’s quick:

    63. What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?
    Answer: This reward is not of merit, but of grace.

    The reward given to justified sinners (who never completely stop sinning) is not of merit, but the reward given to sinless Christ (and hypothetically sinless Adam) would have been of merit.

    I’m sure there are plenty of other catechetical artifacts that it would inappropriate for Christ (& pre-fall Adam) to confess, such as HC #1, #2, …

  11. Ron,

    Can you provide a concise definition of grace?

    S2C

  12. Grace is favor. This can easily be seen in the phrase “in one’s good graces”. It means one has bestowed favor upon you.

    Thus, theologically, grace is God’s favor.

  13. Please provide links/quotes confirming that TR believes that outward obedience/inward disobedience counts as meritorious, “personal, entire, exact, perpetual” obedience? Also see the next post…

    I have posted a response on “the next post“.

  14. Ron,

    Favor can also be deserved, right? Some favors are returned for other favors quid pro quo. Isn’t this definition of grace to broad?

    S2C

  15. … the reward given to sinless Christ (and hypothetically sinless Adam) would have been of merit.

    That is the crux of the argument at hand and thus you have begged the question, and if you aren’t making an argument, then you have merely asserted your position without any proof. Here is a proof I find quite convincing:

    To say that one could merit reward from God presupposes falsely that the creature has something of equal value to God’s reward with which he can make an equitable exchange. How could Adam’s *temporal* obedience merit *eternal* life? Surely the latter is much more valuable than the former.

  16. Favor can also be deserved, right? Some favors are returned for other favors quid pro quo. Isn’t this definition of grace to [sic] broad?

    I’ll concede (I have no desire to argue otherwise) that favor can be deserved/earned/merited from one creature to another because they both have things of equal value to exchange. But as I noted above, it is impossible for the creature to give the Creator anything that is the equivalent of His favor, and thus the creature is incapable of meriting favor from the Creator.

  17. How could Adam’s *temporal* obedience merit *eternal* life? Surely the latter is much more valuable than the former.

    In the same way *temporal* disobedience could merit *eternal* death, i.e. because God sez so. God is sovereign, he sets the terms, he defines justice.

    Also Kline responded to your question 14 years ago (before there ever was a FV):

    For one thing, the alleged disparity in value between Adam’s obedience and God’s blessing is debatable. It could be argued that insofar as man’s faithful act of obedience glorifies God and gives him pleasure, it is of infinite value. But the point we really want to make is that the presence or absence of justice is not determined by quantitative comparison of the value of the act of obedience and the consequent reward. All such considerations are irrelevant.

    One way to show this is to note the theological trouble we get into if we let the factor of relative values be the judge of justice. For example, in the case of the eternal intratrinitarian covenant, we would end up accusing the Father of injustice towards the Son. For the value of the Son’s atonement payment was sufficient for all mankind, yet the Father gives him the elect only, not all. We can avoid blasphemous charges against the Father only if we recognize that God’s justice must be defined and judged in terms of what he stipulates in his covenants. Thus, the specific commitment of the Father in the eternal covenant was to give the Son the elect as the reward of his obedience, and that is precisely what the Son receives, not one missing. Judged by the stipulated terms of their covenant, there was no injustice, but rather perfect justice. By the same token, there was no grace in the Father’s reward to the Son. It was a case of simple justice. The Son earned that reward. It was a covenant of works, and the obedience of the Son (passive and active) was meritorious.

  18. To make the point of equitable exchange clearer, the value of the things exchanged must be equivalent to *both parties*. In other words, if Adam’s temporal obedience was to merit eternal life, Adam’s temporal obedience had to be just as valuable to God and eternal life was valuable to Adam. That is the only way the exchange can be said to be equitable and therefore qualify as merit.

    If I mow Bill Gates’ lawn and in return, he gives me a Ferrari, it can hardly be said that I *merited* the Ferrari. I would call that a gift of pure grace. Neither can a creature have anything to give the Creator that rises to the value of eternal glory in union with said Creator.

  19. Ron,

    If you are trying to say that temporal obedience is not worth much…what does this say about Jesus?

    Jesus who is the Second Adam endured the temptations just as first Adam, yet did not fail. And in Christ’s obedience we receive the inheritance of eternal life according to WCF 8.5:

    “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hat fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.”

    You’re argument is not confessional at best and not biblical at worse.

    S2C

  20. the value of the things exchanged must be equivalent to *both parties*

    Why? According to Jacob, we can’t trust our modern, capitalist instincts.

    And I still say, if you stick to that argument, then God is infinitely unjust to punish people eternally for temporal disobedience.

  21. If you are trying to say that temporal obedience is not worth much…what does this say about Jesus?

    No, temporal obedience is very valuable. I am just saying that it is not the equivalent of eternal glory.

    You are locked in thinking in terms of merit. Receiving a reward for obedience does not merit make as has been noted earlier on this thread (HC 63). Also, WCF XXXIII notes that at the final judgment, we will receive according to what we have done in the body, good or evil. Again, we cannot call this merit.

    Think of it in terms of inheritance (that is biblical and confessional, right?). If my sons continue in my good graces, they will receive an inheritance from me. Further, their children could benefit from the inheritance, and thus it could be said that they received an inheritance for their sons “by their obedience”. But they did not earn or merit it any more than they chose to be my sons. It is a gift. It may or may worth more or less (probably much less) to them than their faithfulness is worth to me. But if they fall out of my good graces, they get nothing and that is what they have earned.

  22. Why? According to Jacob, we can’t trust our modern, capitalist instincts.

    I don’t recall the context of that statement, but how can I merit a Ferrari by mowing a lawn. Even if Gates and I made a formal covenant, which would then make it a matter of justice, I can hardly merit a Ferrari by mowing a lawn.

    And I still say, if you stick to that argument, then God is infinitely unjust to punish people eternally for temporal disobedience.

    How? the Bible says that death is earned. It is merited. Where does it say this of life? Life is a gift. Good night.

  23. I don’t recall the context of that statement

    In the Q&A, the question was “Jesus purchased us with his blood; how is a purchase anything other than a Covenant of Works?” I didn’t discern any actual answer in Jacob’s discussion of capitalism and value.

    Where does it say this of life?

    John 17:4-5, Rom 4:4, Rom 10:5, Gal 3:11-12, Rom 5:18, Rev 2:7,

  24. Ron,

    Are you saying that the confession is wrong in stating that Christ obedience during His incarnation (i.e. temporary) is not adequate to merit eternal glory for the elect?

    S2C

  25. […] Spells “Grace” (part I) Posted on July 12, 2008 by RubeRad It appears it is necessary once again to discuss the definition of “grace”.  In English (as in […]

  26. S2C,

    You quote WCF 8.5:

    “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself,

    I bolded the part you seem to ignore for the purpose of your argument. I am un-convinced wrt both sides of this argument for now, so don’t think I’m arguing against you. However, I just need to point out that the confession here doesn’t say what you’re trying to make it say. It puts Christ’s “perfect obedience” together WITH His “sacrifice.” You’re trying to say that it was just His perfect obedience that is equal to His inheritance.

    Just a small point I wanted to share.

    kazoo

  27. Christ’s humiliation included undergoing God’s wrath, the cursed death on the cross, and continuing under the power of death for a time So perfect obedience and sacrifice, all together, are temporal.

  28. Kazoo,

    Wasn’t Christ’s sacrifice part of His obedience…”Father, not my will but yours be done”?

    The cup that Christ drank on our behalf was an act of obedience in fulfilling the Father’s will.

    S2C

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