Cain and Abel – participants within a universal covenant
RE-FORMATION THESIS #39 of 95. "Justification" or acceptance before God within the inclusive Universal Covenant is by evincing a God-given quality (faith/faithfulness), manifested by the exercise of compassionate love


Gen4:7(Masoretic) – If you (Cain) do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Gal5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.


It took a full chapter of my book to explain what this all about. I will quote a few paragraphs which summarize what is meant by the Universal Covenant and suggest reasons why it has been eluded by theologians.                                                                                                                                    

Theologians cannot rely on a single passage in Genesis but must compare Scripture with Scripture, and the concept of a Universal Covenant for fallen humanity implicit in the Cain and Abel story (explicit utilizing the Masoretic text) does not fit well with much else as it has been historically and universally interpreted ever since Christian doctrine was systematized. Moreover, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) renders the key verse about God’s warning to Cain differently and that is the version to which most of the apostles and the early Church referred. The Hebrew (Masoretic Text) is no less reliable but it was not utilized by the apostolic Church, the Greek language being lingua franca for the Roman Empire and therefore the Greco-Roman Church.

“It is therefore no surprise that the apostles do not make direct reference to Gen4:7 in this context whilst the early Fathers always quote from the LXX, which refers to Cain’s incorrect division of his offering and that he should “be at peace and rule over him”; the “him” or “it” presumably referring to the devil. Such obscurity will have been an intentional veiling on God’s part regarding an understanding of a Universal Covenant, yet it is not dependant on this verse alone but can be deduced from Cain’s punishment and curse in which he became excluded from the nature of the relationship with God that his brother, his fallen parents AND CAIN HIMSELF experienced before the fratricide (Gen4:11-14).

“But the main reason for what in a dual sense might be termed “the Lost Covenant” [It has been lost and concerns “the lost”] pertains to the nature of the Bible itself. This divinely inspired library of books was never intended to be a comprehensive account of God’s creation. For example, relatively little is disclosed about the angelic realm from which evil had sprung and with which mankind will one day participate. Scripture’s focus is the salvation history for the world centred on Christ and His peculiar peoples – the Jewish nation and the Church.

Hence Abraham is a vastly more significant figure than Abel. Both were representatives within covenants, but Abraham initiated the exclusive covenant by which God would work from within through an elect people to enlighten and reconcile the world to Himself. The inclusive covenant in which Abel was declared to be righteous and Cain defaulted does not have a direct role in that salvation story. That is firstly because it pertains to that which is intuitive, so is not dependant on special revelation, and secondly because individuals are not “saved” through it, i.e. they are not cleansed from sin and spiritually empowered to maintain in life the integrity of the intellectual vessel the soul currently inhabits (1Thes4:4).

The Universal Covenant determines a person’s post-mortem fate, but also prior to that his involvement or otherwise with Satan as an agent within God’s mysterious providential role for evil (chapter six). That is why the type of those rejected from it being Cain was brand-marked and protected rather than destroyed. These issues are, as it were, the unilluminated side of the revelation globe, pertaining to the final Mystery of God.

“Consequently, biblical theologians have for ever been attempting to fit three square pegs (soteriological categories) into two round holes (soteriological outcomes). Hence the numerous, seemingly intractable tensions in Scripture typified by the “narrow way” leading to life that few will attain on the one hand and frequent intimations, not least by Paul, of God’s broader scale intentions to reconcile all redeemable humanity to Himself on the other.

It is also to be observed that Adam had three sons as did our postdiluvian Patriarch Noah, and from these have sprung all humanity: Adam’s son Seth and Noah’s son Shem represent the elect line; Adam’s son Abel and Noah’s son Japheth the “righteous” within the Universal Covenant whilst Adam’s son Cain and Noah’s son Ham were the accursed defaulters albeit that only one of Ham’s sons was cursed (Canaan) as Ham had already received a blessing.

Once we arrive at the Abrahamic Covenant, Isaac represents the elect line resulting in Israel whilst Abraham’s other son Ishmael who was also blessed by God and remained in His favour and care was not elected to the exclusive Covenant of Promise. Yet such as he, representing most of humanity, remain within the inclusive Covenant of life from which Cain defaulted provided they do not follow in his way (Jude11) .

Such multi-dimensional effectual grace (innate and celestial) can only be distinguished and systemized within a sacramental and synergetic soteriological framework so it is no wonder that such a schema has yet to be established, for on the one hand it undermines some early (fourth/fifth century) Catholic biblical theological groundwork whilst on the other is incompatible with the Protestant conviction of total depravity, sola fide and sola gratia. The Reformed concept of “common grace” is not linked to the Atonement, does not pertain to the individual and is deemed ineffectual for forgiveness or the avoidance of perdition.

Since Vatican II through the Spirit’s prompting the Catholic Church has effectively acknowledged a third soteriological category being the “people of good will” who do not find their way into the Church but will ultimately be accepted into God’s eternal Kingdom. What has been lacking for the last fifty years from the Catholic side is a workable biblical underpinning for such a proposition, for that cannot be provided without substantial doctrinal deconstruction involving contradicting earlier conciliar pronouncements that the Church deems to be immutable”.

[Excerpt from The Little Book of Providence – chapter two]

The 95 theses for the re-formation

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