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Products>Five Views on Law and Gospel (Counterpoints)

Five Views on Law and Gospel (Counterpoints)

, 1999
ISBN: 9780310493440
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Do the Law and the Gospel belong to two separate dispensations? Has the Gospel replaced the Law? What is the relevance of the Old Testament Law to our lives as Christians? Is there continuity between it and what Christ expects of us in the Gospel? It is no secret that Christians have differed widely on these questions. This book explores five major approaches to this important biblical topic that have developed in Protestant circles. Each of the five authors presents his particular perspective on the issue and responds to the other four.

Resource Experts
  • The Law is the Perfection of Righteousness in Jesus Christ: A Reformed Perspective, Willem A. Vangemeron
  • The Theonomic Reformed Approach to Law and Gospel, Greg L. Bahnsen
  • The Law as God's Gracious Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
  • The Inauguration of the Law of Christ with the Gospel of Christ: A Dispensational View, Wayne G. Strickland
  • The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View, Douglas Moo

Top Highlights

“The entire Mosaic law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that this law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people. Christian behavior, rather, is now guided directly by ‘the law of Christ.’ This ‘law’ does not consist of legal prescriptions and ordinances, but of the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles, the central demand of love, and the guiding influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.” (Page 343)

“Specifically, I will argue that the Mosaic law is basically confined to the old era that has come to its fulfillment in Christ. It is no longer, therefore, directly applicable to believers who live in the new era.” (Pages 322–323)

“When the New Testament uses nomos to depict the body of commandments given to Israel through Moses, the word is never connected with faith or said to have salvific power.” (Page 330)

“First, the Mosaic law is not simply revelation of God’s character; it is a demand for conformity to that character and contains threats of punishment for disobedience.” (Page 335)

“The purpose of the law is Christian growth in grace, not justification or merit.” (Page 42)

Stanley N. Gundry is executive vice president and editor-in-chief for the Zondervan Corporation. He has been an influential figure in the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of ETS and on its executive committee, and is adjunct professor of Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of seven books and has written many articles appearing in popular and academic periodicals.


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  1. Vinicius Dutra
  2. Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari
    This review is from a Lutheran perspective. The Zondervan Counterpoint Series book Five Views on Law and Gospel was a very interesting read. The book represents a non-theonomic Reformed view (W. VanGemeren), a Theonomic Reformed view (G. Bahnsen), W. Kaiser’s evangelical view, a Dispensationalist view (W. Strickland) and a modified Lutheran salvation-historical view (D. Moo). Among the many questions the authors grapple with are: • How did Jesus deal with the law? • How about st. Paul? • How about the other NT writers? • How much is there continuity or discontinuity between (Old Testament [Moses’]) Law and the Gospel? • How is the word “law” (torah/nomos) utilized in different parts of the Scriptures? • Is the distinction (between Old Testament ceremonial, civil and moral dimensions inside the law justified? • If so, is only the ceremonial and civil part abrogated – and the moral part still valid? • Or is the whole law (ceremonial, civil, and moral) abrogated? • If not, what role does the law play in civil affairs (theonomics and theocracy)? • What is the author’s view on the threefold use of the law (triplex usus legis): political or civil use (usus politicus, civilis), use of convicting sinners (usus paedagogicus, elenchticus) and use in the sanctification of the Christian (usus normativus, didacticus)? • Does the law hold an implicit or potential promise of eternal life (for those who could somehow pull through and fulfil it to the last letter)? • Slightly touched upon, but not really tackled on is the question between the law of Moses and the natural law. • The main question is: how relevant is the Old Testament law (or Moses’ law) for Christians today? At the bottom line, really only two options remain: continuity between law and gospel in VanGemeren’s, Bahnsen’s, and Kaiser’s views, and discontinuity between law and gospel in Strickland and Moo’s views. As a Lutheran I found myself mostly in agreement with Dr. Moo’s modified Lutheran perspective. As expected, the Reformed writers or authors emphasized the third use of the law (usus normativus, didacticus) in the sanctification of the Christian much more than the others. In Lutheranism the first two uses of the law have always been more prevalent. I have two complaints: First, the new Pauline Perspective (NPP) could have been tackled with much more. Second, there really was no classical Lutheran view on the law and gospel represented in this book. Dr. Moo’s modified Lutheran view was/is salvation-historical, focusing on the epochs of law and gospel in the consecutive lives of the peoples of Israel and the Church, rather than personal, as in classical Lutheran distinction. The dialectics of the law and gospel (in classical Lutheran doctrine) pertain not so much to epochs in peoples’ (= as in nations’) lives, rather than to the language being used and to individual salvation. In classical Lutheran distinction of the law and gospel: where God requires something of us, or where God threatens us, that is law. And where God promises something to us (with no strings attached, that is: unconditionally), or where God comforts us, that is gospel. Thus there are plenty of gospel passages in the Old Testament and plenty of law passages in the New Testament. As a Nordic Lutheran living in a welfare state, the view most “exotic” for me was G. Bahnsen’s, advocating theonomy (a much more direct application of the OT civil laws into political and secular affairs; for example advocating the death penalty etc.) All in all: If you’re interested in the questions above, this is a recommended reading!
  3. Jonathan Hitz

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