Old Doxoblogy

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Calvin's Three Uses Of The Law

According to John Calvin, and the majority of those who came after him, the Law has three uses. Those three uses are pedagogical, civil, and didactic.

To say that the Law has a Pedagogical use is to say that it teaches us our sin. Paul says,
"...I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'" (Rom 7:7)
This is the first function of the Law. To show us our helplessness in keeping it and revealing our sin. Indeed the Law not only reveals sin, but increases our sin.

Then there is the civil use of the Law. This civil use is the way we normally think of laws in general. They restrain evil. Even so, the Law that God gave through Moses in the Mosaic Covenant has this use. It keeps people from sinning.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions... (Gal 3:19)
Not because people don't want to sin, but because they fear the punishment the Law demands for breaking the Law. However, when opportunity presents itself and the chances of getting away with our lawbreaking is greater then our chances of being caught and punished, we break the Law. So sin is still present in us, but the outworking of that sin is restrained by Law.
<>That's why capital punishment is the only way to keep would-be murderers from becoming murderers and would-be sexual offenders from becoming sexual offenders.< /unabashed conservative politics>

Calvin's third use of the Law raises concern in my mind. The didactic use, or the teaching use, of the Law says that the Law should be used to urge believers into good works. But this is a concept that is never alluded to in the Scriptures. There is no place where believers in the New Covenant are commanded to use the Mosaic Law as a means of provoking good works. Do you want to know why? The Law can't provoke me to good works. It can restrain me from acting on my sinful passions, but it cannot excite the will to do good in me. That is the function of Grace. And that is what Paul tells us time and again in his various treatments of the relationship between Law and Gospel.

But hey, .667 isn't a bad batting average for Calvin, is it?

12 comments:

bluecollar said...

The Law of Christ.

It is interesting that the worldling is more aware of this law than professing Christians. Let a professing Christian return a slap or punch and instantly the worldling cries out,'Hey, I thought Christians should turn the other cheek'. Then there is the constant challenge from them for us to love our enemies. They know we have a law to obey and live by better than we do.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I agree.

bluecollar said...

It is interesting that all those verses that speak of becoming Christ-like in this life (Gal. 4:19; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph.4:11-16; Romans 8:29) never seem to include mention of conforming to the Mosaic law.

The New Testament: We Study, meditate and obey it, and God The Holy Spirit transforms us into Christ's image in the process.

bluecollar said...

I shall also mention that Christ-likeness can be found throughout the OT. We should devour it as well to see how Christ would have us live, for there are many types of the Christian to be found there.

Rose~ said...

I liked this:
<> ... < /unabashed conservative politics>

Peter D. Nelson said...

Okay Jeremy well you've spurred me on to use a quote from a bunch of respectable Lutheran Scholars aka Jakob AndreƤ and Martin Chemnitz. Enjoy.

Daniel said...

The didactic use, or the teaching use, of the Law says that the Law should be used to urge believers into good works. But this is a concept that is never alluded to in the Scriptures.

In Deuteronomy we read about the Jew who sells himself into the service of another Jew (as a slave). After six years of service, his master not only had to set him free, but he had to provide the (former) slave with livestock and goods and whatnot before sending him on his way.

The man sold himself as property to another man. During his six year enslavement, the man served because of the wages he received (twenty or thirty shekels usually). But after the six years, the slave was given the option of remaining in bondage. The first six years were "paid" as it were, but if the man found that he loved his master, he could become a "bond" slave - doing the whole awl-through-the-ear-and-into-the-door thing. After that time the bondslave belonged to the master forever.

The law produces slaves, and grace bondslaves.

Just because a believer is justified by faith alone doesn't mean that they suddenly begin to walk in the Spirit. They don't, they walk in the flesh - and as long as they are in the flesh, they are no bondslave, but merely a slave, and the only righteousness they will have will be that pseudo-righteousness produced through being "urged" by the law to do good works.

The law urges those who walk in the flesh to perform deeds befitting repentance - it is what is pictured in Romans Seven - a man under the law and not under grace.

But my conviction is that this is -not- supposed to be the normative Christian experience. We who have the Spirit are encouraged to walk by that Spirit, and when we do the "law" of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death.

I think that the third use of the law is appropriate if qualified by saying that if you are in the flesh, this rule applies to you; but if it is being applied to you, that is because you are not being what you were called to be.

If that makes any sense.

Bhedr said...

I agree. Good post Jeremy. I am glad you are thinking biblically and understood that Calvin understood some great truths but was only a man and incorrect in this view.

Bhedr said...

BTW, I am glad Jesus batted a .1000 so that I wouldn't have to.

But of course he did because he was inherently righteous:-)

Ah we won't go there. Why stir that up when we agree on something here?

By the bye, did you ever notice that in my arrogance I finally broke and conceded that you were right that sanctification is indeed synergistic? It just came to me all of a sudden that you were right while I was wearing my Spidey boxers and drinking a quart of milk while eating chocolate cookies.... waiting on God to give me self-control.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Daniel,
I think we said basically the same thing from opposing angles from which we disagree as to what we are in agreement about.
Don't try to out-confuse me on my own blog, buddy.:-)
Actually I understand exactly what you're saying and I strongly disagree.

Brian,
I knew it!

Daniel said...

Jeremy - When I read the math text, it said that if your combine 2, 4, and 10 together: 2 + 4 + 10 you get 16. You, having read the same text, combined the same numbers (2 x 10) - 4 to get the same answer: 16; only you and I got there differently.

I am curious as to where I went astray that you disagree.

Steve said...

My understanding of the didactic nature of the law is that it teaches us what pleases God. It shows us the kind of behavior that God expects of us, namely the moral law.

The Bible does say that we are created to do good works; how else will we know what those good works are unless we have some idea of the kind of behavior God expects? Jesus commends law keeping, as does Paul ("we uphold the law"). Neither does so as a means of self-justification, but as a "map" showing you how to behave.