Ugh, what a crazy week. End of year is a difficult time for accountants, and because I support accounting’s technical needs that busyness tends to spill over onto me. I didn’t program a single line of code this week, so I’m going to head in today and tomorrow and hopefully get some forward motion going on my current project. Of course I also want to see at least a small bit of forward motion on Shadow Covenant Theology, so I’m going to write up this post before I head out.
To recap where we’ve come, I’m developing an alternative framework of redemptive history to challenge the primary views of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. At the same time, I am working to incorporate the good parts of both systems into my own framework. The key benefit I believe that Dispensationalism provides is its distinction between national Israel and the Church; holding to this distinction allows us to take scripture at face value in many areas where Covenant Theology is forced to allegorize the text; I will develop some examples of this in future posts.
However the key flaw in Dispensationalism I believe is the theological system itself, the reasoning it erects to explain this distinction. Why does God have two distinct peoples when there is one story of redemption? This is a question that is often raised by covenantal proponents. It is explained by saying that God acts differently in different economies or eras of history, and this is where I find my sharpest disagreement with Dispensationalism. Its disjointed view of history as discontinuous eras does great damage to the beauty and continuity of God’s overarching story of redemption as revealed in scripture.
So I am endeavoring to provide an alternative answer to that question, one that incorporates the many benefits of historical and theological continuity that have been developed under the covenantal paradigm. Why does God have two distinct peoples when there is one story of redemption? My answer is that one of those peoples is a shadow or picture of the other.
In the post Shadow I developed the idea that one of the primary ways God communicates truth is by casting a shadow – by taking spiritual truth and casting it alongside a concrete picture or example. For example, physical life in the body is a type or shadow of spiritual life in the soul; physical life is in the blood, and spiritual life is in the Spirit.
In the post Covenant then, I incorporated Covenant Theology’s contribution of viewing redemption as a covenant between God and His people, a bond in blood. However in posing the question, “What kind of blood?”, I highlighted the idea that hypothetically there could be two kinds of covenants – a bond in physical blood, and a bond in spiritual blood. If the overarching covenant of redemption is a bond in spiritual blood, rescuing us from the spiritual death that we would experience as covenant breakers, then it stands to reason that God, given the way that He teaches truth, might also develop a shadow covenant, a bond in physical blood that serves as a type or picture of God’s greater covenant of redemption.
So now we are in search of that covenant in scripture. In my last post I noted that the overarching story of redemption is bracketed by two critical points in history – the creation of the universe and the final judgement and re-creation of the universe. So I posited that if there truly is a shadow story of redemption, tracing the history of a shadow covenant, then this story should also be bracketed by similar points of shadow creation and shadow judgement.
In this post then I would like to identify and examine the point in history that serves as a shadow or picture of creation. Probably most people reasonably familiar with scripture will already know where I’m heading with this, because the event holds significance regardless of your theological system. Two thousand years after God created the heavens and the earth, God created the earth a second time. In the flood of Noah’s day, the earth was given a second beginning.
The parallels between the flood and creation are unmistakable. Robertson makes the following observation from a classic covenantal paradigm:
“Much of God’s bond with Noah entails a renewal of the provisions of creation, and even reflects closely the language of the original covenant. The reference to the ‘birds…cattle…[and] creeping things’ of Genesis 6:20 and 8:17 compares with the similar description in Genesis 1:24,25,30. God’s charge to Noah and his family to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Gen. 9:1,7) reflects the identical command given at creation.” (Christ of the Covenants, p.110)
Even the structure of how the earth was re-created mirrors closely the structure of the original creation. A few of the following observations may be a bit speculative, but a definite pattern emerges:
The Two Creations of Genesis
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (1:2)
In the flood, the earth is covered with water, and the sky with darkness and storm.
Wind of God
“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (1:2)
“And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” (8:1)
Light and Darkness
“And God said, Let there be light…and God divided the light from the darkness.” (1:3-4)
“The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed [presumably allowing the sun to shine once more].” (8:2, 9:13-14)
Sky and Ocean
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.” (1:6-7)
“The rain from the heavens was restrained.” (8:2)
Ocean and Dry Land
“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear…And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas.” (1:9-10)
“And the waters receded from the earth continually…the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat…the tops of the mountains were seen…the waters were dried from off the earth.” (8:3-5,13)
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth” (1:11)
“And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.” (8:11)
Birds and Land Creatures
“And God created…every winged fowl after his kind…and God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind…and God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply.” (1:21,22,25,(possibly 28?))
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.'” (8:15-17)
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (1:26)
“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.” (9:1-2)
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” (1:29)
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (9:3)
Clearly there are deep parallels between the original creation of Adam’s day and this subsequent re-creation of Noah’s day (and some important differences). Why did God institute a second creation at this point in time? There certainly may be a number of reasons; for example the immediate in-history cause of this judgement and re-creation was the great wickedness of man (Gen 6:5-7). Also, as we will see in the next post, every instance of re-creation is paired with an instance of judgement wherein darkness is separated from light. It could legitimately be said that like the original creation, this is one of several pictures that looks forward to a future judgement and re-creation of the earth (compare e.g. Matt 24:37-39)
However I would argue that at least one reason for God’s initiating this second creation of the earth was to begin a shadow story. As I will begin to demonstrate next time, this shadow of creation starts a period of history that rests in parallel with God’s greater story of redemption. And it is within this period of history that we can expect to find the shadow covenant that parallels the greater covenant of God’s redemption.