Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Edinburgh Dogmatics: Adam and Christ

Five down, four to go! The sixth paper at Edinburgh Dogmatics was given by my distinguished college principal, Professor Andrew McGowan (Highland Theological College, Dingwall). You all got that? Distinguished, I said.

Anyway, a brief summary of the paper:

  • The premise of the paper was that the Adam-Christ parallel (as taken up by Paul in 1C15 and R5) is key to understanding salvation-history and yet has not been given sufficient priority. Even in Reformed theology, its importance has been undermined by smothering it with covenant language. To free it, Prof McGowan proposes Headship Theology.
  • Exegetical evidence shows that the Adam-Christ parallel has startling implications for Christology. James Dunn argues for recognition of Paul's 'Adam Christology' that was 'already quite sophisticated' in the early church.
  • Irenaeus was the first of the Fathers to make significant use of the Adam-Christ parallel, from which he developed a recapitulation theory, where Christ lives every stage of life to redeem life. The key mediatorial role of Christ is uniting God and man in his own body. So the virgin birth enabled Christ to 'gather up' Adam, who had his origin from God, not man. Even Eve is included, since Mary is the advocata of the virgin Eve. Boersma has developed this view recently.
  • Augustine argued for a propagation of 'original sin', a view that falls short of the notion that it was the sin of the 'one man' that brought death.
  • Covenant theology is codified in the Westminister Confession. In this account, God makes a Covenant of Works (federal head: Adam) and hence enters a relationship with all humanity. Breaking the covenant has consequences for all humanity. God then makes a Covenant of Grace (federal head: Christ), a result of the Covenant of Redemption between Christ and the Father. The problem is that none of these covenants appear in scripture. The proposed relationship between these and the Old and New covenants is then unclear.
  • The Federal Vision movement (which is on the receiving end of heresy trials in the PCA) attempts to reinterpret Covenant Theology. There are links with the work of Norman Shepherd and the NPP. It comes down to whether the relationship between Adam and God was a gracious act (Murray) or a legal agreement (Kline). Covenant theology, especially in it's over-reaction to FV, is in danger of becoming legalistic and meritorious.
  • Barth gives priority to Christ, not Adam when analysing R5. Murray points out that Barth is saying something different to Paul, who is clear that Adam is First and Christ Second (this comes out in Barth on the Imago Dei and was the point I was trying to put to Bruce McCormack, but which bumbled into imprecision and ultimately embarrassment!).
  • Torrance, like Irenaeus, argues for atoning significance to the incarnation. However, it is difficult to avoid universalism here (as Kruger does not).
  • There is similar thought with Dunn, who sees importance in Christ taking 'fallen humanity', not the humanity of Adam before the fall.
  • Although Covenant Theology is the most persuasive schema within Reformed Theology, it is burdened by difficulties. These would be resolved by focussing not on covenants but on Two Heads, building on the theology of John Murray. We should talk of an Adamic Administration and a Messianic Administration.
  • A Headship Theology helps us to deal with some of the difficulties between Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists (Blocher has done some work on this).
There it is. Good one! It is fairly nuanced but, as can be seen in the continuing fallout from the Murray, Kline, Shepherd thing, it is important and has implications for the character of Reformed churches, the message preached and, ultimately the doctrine of God itself. My own feeling is that Klinian Covenant Theology has had more influence on Presbyterism than one might think - and not in a good way.