Antithesis Of The Law

The present reviewer regards Fuller’s conclusions as antithetical to the Reformation.

Reprint, Pasadena, CA: Fuller Seminary Press, 1990. According to Fuller, both Dispensational and Reformed theology posit an unbiblical discontinuity between Gospel and Law. The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology stirred up a maelstrom of resistance from Protestant reviewers when it was first published in 1980.[1] The response from Reformed reviewers was perhaps the most vehement.[2] Covenant Theological Seminary’s (P. A.) journal Presbyterion published a duet of reviews criticizing Gospel & Law.[3] These reviews were followed by a rejoinder from Fuller himself,[4] which was in turn followed by more articles criticizing Fuller’s position.[5] This exchange is emblematic of the backlash that ensued after the appearance of Gospel & Law.He writes, “there [can] no longer be any antithesis in biblical theology between the law and the gospel.Moreover, Fuller’s exposition of Paul’s view of the Gospel-Law “antithesis” is grounded in only two texts: Romans 10:5-8 and Galatians 3:1-12 (pp. As Douglas Moo has pointed out, there are other key texts (2 Corinthians 3, Romans 7) which cast “serious doubt on the viability of Fuller’s thesis.Certainly a discerning reader must remain unconvinced of Fuller’s proposal as long as these texts remain unexplained.”[9] Fuller’s cursory historical analysis leaves much to be desired.However, this idea is a distorting oversimplification of the historical picture.As is widely known, “‘Covenant theology’ generally designates the distinctively covenantal theological structure developed by Cocceius, Witsius and others a century after Calvin, and this tradition differed from Calvin’s theology in some significant ways—not least on the relationship of law and gospel.”[11] Does Fuller know that citing Calvin in this way can lead to mischaracterizations of Covenant theology?To the extent that Fuller’s thesis builds upon a definition of these terms, to that extent Fuller’s argument will not stand.Fuller argues for a novel view of Galatians -12, “Galatians -12 affirms that the law and the gospel are one and the same, and the antithesis stated in Galatians represents the Jewish misinterpretation of the law” (p. Fuller’s exposition of Paul’s discussion of the law in Galatians three completely misunderstands the salvation-historical context of Paul’s remarks.[14] Paul could not be clearer that the law that he is referring to is the Mosaic law.Fuller’s book is riddled with unclear definitions of key terms.As Moo has criticized, “In a book devoted to Gospel and Law, one would expect some indication of the way in which these key terms are being used.”[12] On a number of occasions, Fuller uses Gospel as an equivalent of grace (p. Yet the New Testament does not equate these two terms.

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  1. Toni Morrison’s speech “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature” was given as the Turner Lecture on Human Values October 7th, 1988 at the University of Michigan, and appeared in print in MQR’s Winter 1989 issue.