Tom Parr’s Backdrop for a Glorious Gospel: The Covenant of Works According to William Strong marries in its title two things that God has joined together that man should never rend asunder: deep theology and doxalogical application. Backdrop for a Glorious Gospel summarizes and explains a section of Puritan William Strong’s A Discourse of the Two Covenants.
Though I had not heard of Strong until Parr introduced him to me, his work of recovery is valuable. Strong’s covenant theology is exegetically deeper than any recent writing on the covenant of works that I’ve read. In addition to exegetical depth, Parr also brings out the rich applicational and devotional aspects of Strong’s work.
The extensive footnotes are a bonus feature. They compare and contrast Strong’s teaching with that of other Puritans. Thus, the reader is educated on the continuities and discontinuities of Puritan thought on the various topics under discussion. In this way the book is a broader entry into Puritan thought on the covenant of works.
Those holding dispensational or progressive covenantal positions may wonder if it is worth their while to read this treatise on the covenant of works. The answer is a clear, “yes.” First, though some dispensationalists reject the idea of a covenant of works, not all do. There is no systemic need for them to do so, and there are important theological reasons for them to affirm a covenant of works. Progressive covenantalists already hold to a creation covenant, and there are good theological reasons for them to view the creation covenant as a covenant of works. People from both systems will benefit from reading Strong’s case that the covenant of works is truly a necessary backdrop for the glorious gospel.
This is not to say that dispensationalists, progressive covenantalists, and even certain Baptist covenant theologians won’t find areas of disagreement, especially in the discussion of how the Mosaic law relates to the covenants of works and grace. However, Strong, as summarized by Parr, gives the best and most nuanced argument for the view that the Mosaic law is an administration of the covenant of grace that I’ve read. Though this is not my position, I think Strong’s argument is one that readers of every persuasion ought to reckon with.