Michael Bird is quickly becoming one of my favorite theologians (at least of those with whom I largely disagree:). Especially helpful is his analysis of the New Perspective on Paul (on which I largely do agree with Bird, and have benefited greatly from him). In a recent blog post, he explains why he holds to what he calls “monocovenantalism.” The reason I’m sharing this though, is for his excellent explanation of the test of Adam in the garden.
I believe in covenant theology, I think what we call a covenant of grace is God’s plan for taking people from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ.” But I reject the binary covenant of works vs. covenant of grace view, also called bi-covenantalism. So I’d breakdown covenant theology this way:
First, there is no covenant of works which required Adam to keep a law that was a protological version of the Mosaic law and covenant.
The Adamic adminstration was a probationary period rather than a meritorious exercise. Adam could have retained his relationship with God and even gained immortality had he remained obedient to God in the garden during that probationary period in Eden. Adam’s failure was not the failure to keep the commandment as a law, which, if obeyed, would have acquired merit for himself; rather, breaking the commandment meant severing his relationship with God on account of his desire for autonomy from God. Salvation will henceforth mean restoring the ruined relationship between Creator and humanity as opposed to accruing the meritorious law-keeping that Adam allegedly failed to achieve…
I don’t fully agree with the rest of his post (since he still defends the Covenant of Grace), but it’s well worth the read, if for no other reason than to see a respected Covenant theologian question the common interpretation of the Garden as an arena in which Adam had to earn salvation meritoriously. Read the full post here.