Peter J. Gentry (Old Testament professor at Southern Seminary) and Stephen J. Wellum (systematic theology professor at Southern) have co-authored a groundbreaking book, offering a robust and detailed biblical theology of the covenants, entitled Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants. Crossway will publish it in June. Amazon is currently selling it for 51% off, though I imagine the discount will drop once it’s actually published.

My prediction is that among serious students of God’s word this will become a much-discussed and debated book. I suspect their “progressive covenantalism” (which I think is right) will change some paradigms, similar to the way in which progressive dispensationalism has made dispensationalism more tethered to biblical theology. At nearly 850 pages, virtually no stone is left unturned as Gentry works through each of the covenants in painstaking detail, and Wellum frames the book in terms of theology, theological systems, typology, hermeneutics, and implications for the church and the Christian life.

Here are some of the commendations:

“Gentry and Wellum offer a third way, a via media, between covenant theology and dispensationalism, arguing that both of these theological systems are not informed sufficiently by biblical theology. Certainly we cannot understand the scriptures without comprehending ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and here we find incisive exegesis and biblical theology at its best. This book is a must read and will be part of the conversation for many years to come.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Kingdom through Covenant is hermeneutically sensitive, exegetically rigorous, and theologically rich—a first rate biblical theology that addresses both the message and structure of the whole Bible from the ground up. Gentry and Wellum have produced what will become one of the standard texts in the field. For anyone who wishes to tread the path of biblical revelation, this text is a faithful guide.”
Miles V. Van Pelt, Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and Director, Summer Institute for Biblical Languages, Reformed Theological Seminary

“Gentry and Wellum have provided a welcome addition to the current number of books on biblical theology. What makes their contribution unique is the marriage of historical exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology. Kingdom through Covenant brims with exegetical insights, biblical theological drama, and sound systematic theological conclusions. Particularly important is the viable alternative they offer to the covenantal and dispensational hermeneutical frameworks. I enthusiastically recommend this book!”
Stephen Dempster, Stuart E. Murray Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Atlantic Baptist University

Matthew Claridge at Credo Magazine has a very helpful and informative interview with the authors about what they are seeking to accomplish—first with Wellum, then with Gentry.

Here is one of the interactions with Gentry:

In a summary fashion, what do you think is the most distinctive aspect of your approach to the covenants in contrast to other standard “covenantal” readings such as Covenant Theology?

What I think we have been able to do is, first of all, take the basic passages in the Scriptures that deal with the major covenants and given them a completely fresh exegesis based upon four things: 1) looking at the cultural setting; 2) looking at the linguistic data; 2) looking at the literary structures in the text; and 4) always keeping an eye on the relationship of the passage with the metanarrative or plot line of Scripture.

When I look at the books out there on the covenants, there hasn’t been any fresh exegesis of the key passages in over 40 years. For example, scholars in the school of Covenant Theology continue to refer to the work of Meredith Kline, but a great deal of more information has been developed in the last several decades that requires a new, fresh approach. There has been tremendous advances in our understanding of the cultural setting of the ANE (economic, political, social, religious background and historical events) and in the area of linguistic analysis, particularly in the field of “discourse grammar.” In terms of literary structures, I have read most of the books on the market today unpacking covenantal structures, and I don’t see a rigorous interaction with the shape of the text.

Secondly, we have zeroed in on many passages in the Bible that discuss the relationships between one or two covenants together and explain the implications of this phenomena for a whole-Bible theology. If we collect these passages and pay attention to them, then we are enabled to put the covenants together in a structure that comes from the Bible and not from our own imagination. The problem with both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, is that ultimately, the meta-narrative they are providing is not the meta-narrative of the Bible. It owes too much to a story outside the Scripture and to the times in which they were developed. Our goal is to uncover a methodology that will tell me if my meta-narrative is more true to the Bible than another.

Today, there are many books available dealing with “four views” of one thing or another. The contributors typically provide their “view” out of how they put the Bible together and not simply out of collecting proof-text. Unless we find a way to adjudicate whether one metanarrative is better than another or truer to Scripture than another, we will not get beyond this impasse. At the end of the chapters to which I contribute in Kingdom Through Covenant, I am careful to relate the discussion to the rest of the biblical story and covenants.

And here is one of the exchanges with Wellum:

Covenant theology and Dispensational theology draw two different conclusions from the New Covenant. The former collapses Israel into the church and the latter excludes Israel from the church. Where’s the error here?

We believe the error is ultimately found in Christology.

That may seem strange so let me explain.

As one works through the biblical covenants, all of the covenants and their mediators find their fulfillment in Christ. In Christ he is the last Adam, Abraham’s true seed, the true Israel who obeys completely, and David’s greater Son who does what no Davidic king ever did. In this way, all the promises to “Israel” as the “son” of God and typological pattern of Christ are fulfilled. Israel, in her role, loses nothing but finds her fulfillment perfectly in Christ.

Dispensational theology often fails to recognize this point and thus does not see how Israel as a nation is the type which points forward to Christ as the antitype, and that the church now in relationship to Christ receives all the promises of God in and through her covenant head. In this way, dispensational theology fragments Israel and church because she does not unite them properly in Christ.

Covenant theology, in our view, grasps the Israel to Christ relationship better, but then does not see properly how the genealogical principle is transformed as Christ, the new covenant head, brings all the previous covenant mediators to their end, and stands as the head of his believing people. She does not also see that the covenant communities are also different, due to the difference between the old and new covenants. In this way, covenant theology moves from Israel to the church too fast, without first seeing how the covenants find their consummation in Christ, the true Israel, and thus the newness and greatness of what Jesus has won as our new covenant head, including the difference in the nature and structure of the covenant communities.

In the end, we believe that the root problem of both systems is that they do not sufficiently trace out how the biblical covenants unfold, how all the types and patterns of the OT are fulfilled in Christ, and thus the better nature of the covenant our Lord Jesus has inaugurated.

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87 thoughts on “A Major New Defense of a More Biblical Way than Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology”

  1. Walter Smith says:

    Justin, wipe up the drool and settle down. This is just another book defending covenant theology and attacking dispensationalism. It offers a few semantic tweaks to the language that covenant theologians use, but nothing more. Don’t act like this is a dispassionate “new” “third option” that really strikes a balance between the two. It does not. It is a defense of covenant theology.

    “In this way, dispensational theology fragments Israel and church because she does not unite them properly in Christ.”

    This is a misnomer. Just because one teaches that there is a Biblical distinction between Israel and the church doesn’t mean that they are not united in Christ. Dispensationalists teach that there is only one way to be saved and that all the elect will be united in Christ.

    This book cleans up a few poor language choices made by covenant theologians and then proceed to defend all the major points of covenant theology, especially with regard to Israel.

    It is misleading to present this book to your readers as anything other than a defense of covenant theology with a few minor linguistic tweaks. Sadly, you will gleefully endorse any publication that teaches that God will not literally fulfill His unconditional promises to Israel. You should heed Paul’s warning to Gentiles in Romans 11:18.

    1. Mike says:

      Walter,
      I am not sure how you arrived at your last paragraph based upon this short excerpt. When I read it, I remembered that even George Ladd would basically agree with these guy but still allow for a future of ethnic Israel, that is, unified in Christ. Unless I missed something, I don’t see the data to arrive at your final conclusion.
      Cheers,
      Mike

    2. MarkO says:

      Walter,
      You said that “sadly you [Justin] will gleefully endorse any publication that teaches that God will not literally fulfill His unconditional promises to Israel.”

      I would like to also add my endorsement to the above publication AND also to another previous publication which reads…

      “NOT ONE of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; EVERY one was fulfilled” (Joshua 21).

      and elsewhere this previous publication reads…
      “…You made a covenant with him [Abraham] to give to his descendants the land… You HAVE KEPT your promise because you are righteous” (Neh 9).

      and elsewhere this previous publication reads…
      “You gave them this land you had sworn to give their ancestors, a land… They CAME in and TOOK possession of it…” (Jer 32).

      I am encouraged that the Scripture bears witness to the fact that God does indeed keep His promises, esp. when we can see Him make a promise and within the Scripture is a clear witness to His promises being literally fulfilled in the PAST.

      Apparently the Holy Scripture is non-Dispensational too.

    3. Justin Taylor says:

      Walter, would love to hear how you got a pre-pub copy of the book already!

  2. KB says:

    Baptist rubbish. The subtitle of this book should read: Our Attempt to Justify Credobaptism.

    1. RN says:

      To justify credobaptism, all you need is the Bible.

  3. FirstRP says:

    Walter,
    No covenant theologian is going to embrace this book. Wellum already made a sad attempt in Believer’s Baptism to rewrite covenant theology to cram it into his “adult-only” baptism hermeneutic. It wasn’t impressive. But no Reformed person will welcome this book with open arms.
    Cheers!

    1. Henry says:

      I’d be interested to know if there is a good paedobaptism review of Wellum’s chapter in Believer’s baptism. I thought it was very persuasive, but can’t find a paedobaptist response. There was apparently one by Gregg Strawbridge but it is no longer online.

      Anyone know what’s up?

      1. Jonathan Anderson says:

        Here is a link to my pastor’s review of Dr. Wellum’s article in Believer’s Baptism. I took Dr. Wellum for Theology I, II and III, and I don’t believe he has an answer to this critique.

        http://www.communitypca.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/Infant-Baptism-New-Man-New-Creation.pdf

        1. Brent Parker says:

          Jonathan –

          Actually, Dr. Wellum does have an answer to Bill Smith’s response. Having assisted him for this project, he has a couple of footnotes answering Smith in one of the last chapters of the book dealing with baptism. So I think you have been too hasty in your assertion here. At certain points he picks up the Strawbridge critiques as well. As far as we see, none of these critiques are substantial.

          1. Jonathan Anderson says:

            What book dealing with baptism? How have I been too hasty in my assertion? Where has he dealt with these exegetical arguments?

            In reading what Gentry says: no fresh insights in the exegesis of Covenant Theology in the last 40 years.

            Are they ignoring the Dutch tradition, Herman Hoesksema and his arguments against the CoW, Norman Shepherd and his covenantal dynamic approach, the Federal Vision/Auburn Avenue movement within the Reformed world, the work of NT Wright and the NPP.

            As I mentioned, I took Dr. Wellum for all three of my Systematic classes, and I have recently listened to his lecture on the extent of the atonement so I don’t believe my statements were “too hasty”.

            Unfortunately, the book in quesiton, isn’t going to provide anything new on the issue of baptism and covenant theology. Baptist are still missing the larger presuppositions issues behind the debate. Until there is a coherent theology of children from a Baptist perspective, I am not going to see any new or significant insight on baptism coming from a Baptist.

            You might be offended by my statesments as it appears by your statement – “too hasty”. However, I spent 5 years on this issue. I attended Boyce College and was a member at the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville before finally becoming convinced of paedobaptism.

            1. Jonathan Anderson says:

              I re-read your response and now see that in the upcoming book he addresses Bill Smith’s response in the footnotes. I thought you were referencing a past work on baptism that you assisted him with.

    2. Bruce Russell says:

      FirstRP:

      The only “Adult Only” Baptists I’ve run into were the ones who read the Puritans too deeply.

      What’s up with that?

      Bruce

    3. Justin Taylor says:

      Van Pelt is a covenant theologian teaching at RTS.

  4. David says:

    Is this much different than New Covenant Theology?

  5. frank says:

    “She (Covenant Theology) does not also see that the covenant communities are also different, due to the difference between the old and new covenants.”

    Nope, CTers understand the differences between Old and New covenants. The problem is that baptists dont understand the similarities between the Abrahamic and New covenant.

    Also, dispensationalism is hilarious.

    1. FirstRP says:

      Well said :)

    2. John Botkin says:

      When a popular covenant theologian says he believes “the church has had elders since Moses” then, sorry, but to me CT does NOT understand the difference between the covenants.

    3. T L says:

      frank, would be hard to describe all baptists at once.

      NCT Calvinist baptist here sees the similarities between Abrahamic and New covenants.

      Would describe the CT problem as not understanding the disparity between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.

      1. Jim Rairick says:

        I have read almost all of Beale’s works including his ANTBT. I wrote a review on it for a seminar in OTT. There are many things that Beale, Wellum and Gentry would celebration about how the OT interprets the OT, and how the OT hermeneutic is picked up and used by NT authors, and many more nuggets. But, a major distinction is the overall understanding that Gentry and Wellum present for how kingdom-through-covenant is a united idea; the nature of the covenants; how there is continuity/discontinuity already in the OT tied to covenantal structures, and then how these covenants and their heads are brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Beale’s book ultimately works from the classic reformed covenant theology position. There is nothing wrong with this, if one is convinced that the RCT explanation is right. But, for one as myself, who has read Gentry’s works and much of Wellums, they are not the same OT-NT system. It seems there would be a good bit of wisdom for folks to not weigh in so dogmatically until they have read it. I hope folks do.

  6. Arminian says:

    How would this compare with Beale’s recent celebrated magnum opus / biblical theology?

    1. Joseph says:

      Considering zero people have read it, and only about twelve people have read Beale’s NT theology cover to cover, you might have to wait for a substantive answer.

      As of right now, comparatively, its a few hundred pages shorter than Beale’s, the cover is uglier, and it is co-written.

      1. Kris says:

        I almost said I was one of the 12, but I haven’t finished the book yet, so I guess I’m not in that category right now. :)

    2. Kris says:

      I would like to know that as well as I am currently working my way though Beale’s book.

  7. Tomas says:

    This book’s position sounds exactly like New Covenant Theology, and I’m surprised that the authors said that no exegesis of the covenants has occurred in the last 40 years. I’m also surprised that no one else recognizes this. NCT isn’t popular because it’s historical precedence is incomparable to Covenant Theology, and frankly it’s not as exciting as Dispensationalism’s end time current events. But, as the book suggests, I’ve found it to be strikingly Christocentric and it’s provides the over-arching meta-narrative which the Bible demands.

    Please, at least google New Covenant Theology, or check out ids.org, or Sound of Grace, or Solo Christo. I hear many people today, especially in this “new Calvinism” wave, preaching a Christocentric meta-narrative which is almost exactly what NCT espouses and also what this book appear to be about.

    1. Delina says:

      Thank you for saying this. I think the posters who are arguing are missing the forest for the trees…

      I think one way this differs with NCT is that NCT has a different view of Israel (NCT is *almost* replacement theology, in that sense). The one explained here is more consistent with Scripture, IMV.

  8. Danny says:

    I’ll give it a read before mocking it.

    1. Mike says:

      Smart man!

    2. John Botkin says:

      What a concept!

    3. Ron says:

      and I’ll try to determine if it’s “worth” reading before reading it.

  9. VALERIE KERMIN says:

    Absolutely right, I do agree with your post. By the way I work for church. We use church calendar software of Congregation Builder. It’s easy to enter data, and print reports. Church Web Calendar is really good application by this we can manage the events for church & lots more options available.

    1. MarkO says:

      Valerie,

      Yes, I can see how Congregation Builder relates directly to this post about The Kingdom. Do you offer your software to accommodate both views – a Dispensational software calendar or a Covenantal software calendar?

      :)

      1. Rob says:

        I wonder if Valerie’s software also builds the Kingdom itself. The possibilities are endless.

  10. Mike says:

    On the surface, it seems to lean toward CT. As a Southern Baptist, I can tell you many reject Disp. And CT and attempt to fall somewhere in the middle (in my small circles) so my initial thought is this, this book will make some waves in the Accademic circles of the SBC, which is a good thing. My guess, master level seminary students better get ready to read this monster of a book!

    I am looking forward to it, and give these guys ten stars for the attempt to web systematic and BT together. weather you agree with their points, you got to give credit where credit do.

  11. Glenn says:

    Thanks for this Justin! Walter Kaiser’s Promise Theology is my favorite lens to examine scripture and balances a position between Covenant and Dispensational theology. I can’t wait to see how this compares.

  12. David Burkhardt says:

    More indepth explanation of NCT earlier presented by Zaspel & Wells.

  13. Andrew Case says:

    Justin, do you know if Crossway will release this title on Kindle?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Yes, all Crossway books are simultaneously published as print and ebooks.

      1. Jon Dansby says:

        Except for Total Church, for some reason :(

  14. Mark says:

    As a former student of both of these men, I believe many of your prejudices will be shown to have been straw men.

    Dr. Gentry is the type of fastidious person that does not feel qualified to write upon a topic unless he has read everything on it. Hence, his miniscule publishing record on a popular level. But if you ask anyone in the scholarly community (SBL for example), his name will garner instant respect.
    He is an exegete par excellance. Only after you have walked with him through his exegesis of the text do you deserve the right to criticize him. In the end you may come to disagree with him,
    but only honestly if your exegesis of the text can adequately withstand his arguments.

    I do wish that these men stood more firmly in the historic Baptist, covenantal stream. I know that Wellum is pro-New Covenant Theology, (which I do not agree with), but that doesn’t change the fact that my own classical Baptist covenant theology was refined and challenged by Wellum’s.

    As to whether Gentry will come across as pro-New Covenant Theology remains to be seen.

    I eagerly await this book.

    1. T L says:

      best comment. thanks

  15. J says:

    I like how the “distinctives” are the same exact disciplines that every exegesis class employs across America. The method is not any different than Covenant Theology in that way. In fact Covenant Theology still stand as a unique “method” one in which “New Covenant Theology” keeps failing to mirror. This is another attempt at trying to make Credo baptism fit Covenant Theology. The Title of this post should be “a more overly-realized eschatological way”. My advise would be to put down Wellum and Gentry and pick up Gaffin, Beale, Ridderbos, and Vos. Oh yea, and reread Kline on “By Oath consigned”. I also think the genealogical reference is interesting. Don’t try to pass this off as something it isn’t, just be honest. Just say that Covenant Theology isn’t “Baptist” enough.

    1. Casey says:

      Or just maybe, they really aren’t satisfied with how CT has handled the exegesis of the covenant texts, like they say. It’s funny that you can accuse them without even possibly reading the book. How can you say, “Put down Wellum and Gentry,” when you haven’t even read it? What if it’s the most convincing of all those you mentioned? Oh wait, it can’t be. It’s written by Baptists.

  16. Kris says:

    I also wonder how this will compare with Greg Nichols book “Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God’s Covenants”.

    Any ideas? Maybe from those who have read Nichols?

  17. Gary McQuinn says:

    I’m really excited to read this. This post and the view I imagine them espousing reminds me of a book I read several years back by Bill Kynes called ‘Christology of Solidarity: Jesus as the Representative of His People in Matthew.’ Kynes looks at Matthew’s presentation of Jesus and argues convincingly for what he calls “mediated continuity.”

    Gentry and Wellum seem to adequately see the continuity of the biblical-theological storyline, while also paying attention to the progressive development and ‘mediated continuity’ that Christ provides as the corporate representative of both the Old and New Covenant Communities.

    I’m also on board with those wondering about its relationship to Beale’s book… which I have loved.

  18. Jon Mathys says:

    Justin,

    Having myself not read this book, can you tell me which particular brands of covenant theology or covenant theologians he interacts with?, i.e. Kline, Murray, Robertson? all of whom have very different ways of constructing the system. As you know, Reformed covenant theology is anything but monolithic.

    Thanks for the post.

  19. Chris says:

    Out of curiosity… A lot is made of Jesus being the “true Israel.” But where do covenant theologians point to in Scripture to make that assertion? As far as I know, Jesus is never referred to as the “true Israel” (or even Israel for that matter).

    1. Rob says:

      Chris, funny that you have received no answer to your question. I think it tells us all something…

    2. Jon Mathys says:

      Chris, or it could be that he just posted his question and we have all jobs outside of blogging…

      Just a couple thoughts: this issue is integral to the doctrines of active/passive obedience, for which much ink has been spilled regarding the doctrine of justification and the efficacy of the atonement. All the references referring to Christ’s fulfilling the Law of Moses, both precepts and judgment, on account of His people are part and parcel of this exposition. Just a couple explicit examples from Matthew (THIS IS NOT EXHAUSTIVE): 1) Matt 2:15, Matthew’s explicit identification of Israel with Jesus, i.e., “my son” 2) Matt 4, Christ’s temptations by the Devil, proving himself to overcome the temptations that overcame Adam and Israel according to their corresponding covenant of works, 3)Matt 3:15, Christ’s statement that he came to “fulfill all righteousness,” which to a Jewish audience would signal the righteousness of the Law given to Israel.

      Jesus as the “true Israel” comes from the overarching motifs of biblical theology that focus on the Lord and Servant of the covenant, foreshadowed under the types and shadows of the Old Covenant, who fulfilled what Israel could not as the “true Israel.”

      As a Reformed Christian, I would recommend Horton’s “God of Promise,” Kline’s “Structure of Biblical Authority,” Bavinck’s “Dogmatics” Book III, and J.V. Fesko’s “Justification” for your further edification.

    3. Mike Sung Im says:

      Both Adam and Israel are given the title “son of God” in the scriptures. Jesus is held up as being their fulfillment.

      (The following is obviously non-exhaustive)

      Adam:
      Luke 3:38
      “the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of ADAM, THE SON OF GOD.”)

      1 Cor 15:45
      “Thus it is written, “‘The FIRST man Adam became a living being'; the LAST Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

      Rom 5:12-21
      Too long to paste. :)

      I think it is generally uncontroversial in evangelical circles to present Christ as a replacement Adam or “the last and successful Adam” to the “the first and failed Adam.”

      Israel:
      Matthew 2:4,5
      And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”

      Who is the title “my son” referring to here? Clearly, Matthew uses the title to refer to Jesus.

      Matthew says that Josephs actions in taking Jesus to Egypt then bringing Him out fulfills Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”

      Who is the title “my son” referring to here? Clearly, Hosea uses the title to refer to the nation of Israel.

      I won’t cut and paste the rest of chapter 11 for brevity’s sake, but Hosea 11 is a recounting of Israel’s infidelity and failure as God’s “son.” (cf Ex 4:22-23 “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, ISRAEL IS MY FIRSTBORN SON, and I say to you, “Let MY SON go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'”)

      Matthew explicitly draws our attention to a passage about the failure of the sonship of Israel as being fulfilled properly in Christ-the-son and not being fulfilled by the nation Israel-the-son. Hosea 11:1’s lament about God’s unfaithful son, Israel, doesn’t even seem to be a prophecy, much less a clearly messianic one and yet Matthew presents it as obviously fulfilled in Christ.

  20. Sphen says:

    Walter,

    The verses you quoted do not support the position espouse. You REALLY need to watch this video and honestly answer the question that’s posed:

    The Question Amillennialists Cannot Answer

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TCi_TW5EKd8

    1. MarkO says:

      I give it a try:
      “…Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world…” Rom 4:13 – notice the past tense verb ‘received’indicating that Abraham as already received it.

      1. Sphen says:

        Mark,

        My original post was actually meant for you, not Walter.

        You cannot be seriously stating that Abraham has been resurrected and is currently living in the promised land. There is no past tense “received” at all in the verse you quoted.

        1. MarkO says:

          Actually I am saying what the Scripture says. The Scripture says: “…received the promise…” past tense – this means it is already done.
          http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%204:13&version=NIV

          The New Covenant Scriptures explain that this promise to Abraham continues to expand to all nations AND will be eventually filled up in the New Heavens and New Earth.

          1. MarkO says:

            Romans 4:13
            New International Version (NIV)
            13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

          2. MarkO says:

            Hebrews 6:15
            English Standard Version (ESV)
            15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.

          3. MarkO says:

            Galatians 3:8
            Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
            8 Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.

            Romans 15:8
            Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
            8 For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the Jewish people in order to show God’s truthfulness by making good his promises to the Patriarchs,

          4. MarkO says:

            So the Lord gave to Israel ALL THE LAND of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. ALL CAME TO PASS.

            1. Sphen says:

              Mark,

              The verse doesn’t prove your point. “Their fathers” does NOT refer to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; rather, it refers to those whom Moses led out of Egypt (Josh 24:6). Note that the promise was given to the house of Israel, and not to the patriarchs. When God made the land promise to Abraham, the “house of Israel” did not exist.

              1. Jon Mathys says:

                Sphen,

                I don’t mean to step in on this conversation, but your argument is not sound.

                1) Josh 24:6 does not settle your argument because a) it does not state the promise was given to Israel, and b) 24:2 also ascribes the patriarchs as the “fathers.”

                2) When the promise or swearing of land is referred to in connection with the “fathers,” it often refers explicitly to the patriarchs, i.e. Exod 32:13, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”; ”Deut 1:8, “the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”; Deut 6:10, “the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”; Deut 9:5, “confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”; Deut 29:13, “that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”; Deut 30:20, “that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them”; (see also Micah 7:20; Luke 1:55).

                There are many such passages that help us better understand those other passages that refer to God’s oath made to the seemingly ambiguous “fathers” who are set in juxtaposition with the then current Israel. Therefore, the exegesis is not in your favor, and the burden of proof is upon you. Cheers.

              2. Marko says:

                the original promise: given to Abraham
                the heirs to the promise: Abraham and his sons
                execution of the promise: God has fulfilled what He promised – “ALL came to pass” Jos 21:45

                What God is doing now in our time is simply expanding exponentially on His already executed promise to Abraham. That’s grace.
                We are blessed to overflowing in Abraham and thru Christ.

              3. Marko says:

                yes Jon I agree, very helpful. thanks.

  21. Mike says:

    Here is an article by Peter Gentry titled Kingdom and Covenant that provides great insight into his position. Definitely worth a read.

    http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2010/02/sbjt_121_gentry.pdf

  22. Luma says:

    Justin, I’m late to this conversation today so I don’t know if you’ll see this or not.

    Question: Has Carson interacted with this book or some of these ideas? If so, where can I find a response from him?

  23. Kyle says:

    “When I look at the books out there on the covenants, there hasn’t been any fresh exegesis of the key passages in over 40 years.”
    Other than not looking very hard, I hope he’s willing to interact with the Reformed scholastics on this, whose exegesis is not small thing. If you’re going to “rewrite” CT as Wellum has tried in the past, you’d better be consulting Witsius, Turretin, Owen, Cocceius, Voetius, F. Roberts, A. Burgess, and William Strong. Unfortunately, Baptists are too scared or too ill-informed to do so. Maybe these guys will show the courage.

    1. Brent Parker says:

      Kyle,

      I cannot speak for Gentry but I strongly doubt your comment about Wellum rewriting CT. In his articles and in the chapters of this book Dr. Wellum can only cover so much territory. But I know from taking colloquium and PhD seminars with Dr. Wellum that we have read a lot of Dr. Muller’s Post-Reformed Dogmatics and not little of John Owen’s works. I am almost certain that Dr. Wellum has worked through significant portions of Turretin. Therefore, while the book is focused on current streams of CT, not everything can be covered such as all of these Reformed scholastics (for myself, I have Witsius right here in my office). So Baptists are not too scared or too ill-informed after all. Happily I have now been able to inform you now on these matters.

      1. Kyle says:

        Well, I have two copies of Witsius on my shelf, so that doesn’t mean much. The sad reality is, Baptists have failed to interact with the most potent Reformed exegesis. Wellum’s chapter in Schreiner’s book on Baptism cited Doug Wilson more than anyone. If he’s read “a lot” of Muller, Owen, and Turretin, I’m surprised he was footnoting the guy most of the Confessionally Reformed disagree with. He didn’t do himself a service, and he didn’t really help to advance the Baptist cause. So…I guess I’m still waiting.

      2. Kyle says:

        It’s also interesting you say he’s interacting with “current streams of CT” even though, by their admission, not much exegesis has been done in 40 years. Huh…

        1. Brent Parker says:

          Kyle –

          In the Believer’s Baptism book Wellum did interact with Wilson, but he also interacted specifically with Murray, Berkhof, Venema, Booth’s Children and Promise and the whole volume of the Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism. Do these gentleman not articulate the reformed case for infant baptism? Do Owen and Turretin have more substantial arguments than all the ones provided by the theologians and works listed above? Or have these Cov theologians forgotten their past and don’t have as strong of arguments as the scholastics? Please. Most everyone agrees that the first half of Wellum’s chapter was very fair and even-handed in presenting the covenantal case for infant baptism. What you need to do is actually genuinely think about the arguments he does present instead of just writing it off because he didn’t interact with your favorite theologians. In fact I would say it is incumbent of you as a Christian to read the chapter fairly and weigh the arguments sincerely even if in the end you do not change your position.

          Also, read the comment about the exegesis of the various covenants in the past 40 years in context. Gentry is not saying that no one has written on these things or has not presented a significant case about how the covenants relate to one another (I can think of Dumbrell and McComiskey, and I know Gentry has read Dumbrell). No, but that no real engagement has occurred in light of new ANE findings, linguistics (discourse grammar), and other features such as literary analysis in a significant way in the last 40 years. I do think there is a lot to this as the findings of George Mendenhall are often recapitulated.

          1. Rob says:

            Is it funny or sad — that this discussion topic has arrived at the question of infant or adult baptism?

            I suggest everyone watch the baptism video debate/discussion between John MacArthur and RC Sproul.

            In summary, MacArthur presented a forceful, clear, simple and powerful exegesis of various texts to argue his case.

            Sproul by contrast expounded a complex, mysterious, and confusing explanation of how he arrives at infant baptism.

            Now, isn’t this really the problem in this debate over Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology? The former lets the text do the hard work, while the latter comes up with complicated, confusing interpretations of the text in order to fit the text to a predefined system.

            As Dylan wrote: “it is hard to win with a losing hand”, and that seems to be the case here. Covenant Theology as a system appears as if it cannot even decide upon whether something as fundamental as infant or adult baptism is the Biblical interpretation. Is it then any wonder that the world looks on and sees mess built upon mess? How can I bring my atheist friends to the Bible, let alone myself, when the plain meaning of words has to be re-interpreted by scholars before I can understand it.

          2. Kyle says:

            Brent,
            What you need to do is actually not assume I haven’t dealt with the arguments. Thanks. I don’t care much for Booth or Strawbridge and (along with Wilson) would not count theirs as definitive and constructive arguments for infant baptism. With few exceptions much of what has been produced on the topic in the last 100 years has been confusing. I attribute it to the influence of evangelicalism and baptist thinking. I have absolutely no problem with Murray, Venema or Berkhof. But all three of them would readily admit they stand on the shoulders of giants (come on, Berkhof is a parrot and watered down version of Bavinck even as Hodge was of Turretin).
            I don’t even think the first section was “unfair.” Shallow…but not unfair. My point is, Wellum in that book (and it looks like this one as well) is seeking to rewrite covenant theology; a system his Baptist predecessors largely–but not consistently–embraced, i.e. Nehemiah Coxe, John Gill, and RBC Howell. But if you’re going to strike at the very pillar of Reformed theology you ought to go the pillars themselves. While Murray, Venema and Berkhof are stalwart theologians, I’m not sure I’d say any of them are the “definitive” voice of CT. Baptists make themselves irrelevant by failing to interact with men like Witsius, Owen, Turretin, Roberts, Strong, Burgess, and…the list could go on.

            “No, but that no real engagement has occurred in light of new ANE findings…” Um? Westminster Seminary California? But this is really quite irrelevant in many ways. ANE is helpful, but too many are taking it as the lens through which we must understand Scripture and, though not admitted, assault sola Scriptura (I think this was Kline’s mistake). Why do we need to understand Scripture in light of ANE?

    2. frank says:

      baptists like to start fresh every time they do theology

      Witsius? are you kidding? yeah right after they finish reading the latest Tim Keller or Narnia book

  24. Sphen says:

    Jon,

    The burden of proof is squarely on your shoulders that Abraham and his Seed (singular: who is Christ) have received the everlasting land promise that God promised to Abraham through an oath. Acts 7 is crystal clear that when Abraham was alive “God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on”, yet “God promised to give it to him for a possession.” Did God lie to Abraham?

    You need to linger long and hard here: http://heirsofthepromise.org/

    1. MarkO says:

      I find it helpful to read the whole context of a passage (ie., sermon) to get to the correct interpretation (otherwise I risk prooftexting if I box in one phrase without what goes before AND after).

      Stephen goes on to say in his sermon (Acts 7)
      17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill His promise to Abraham…”

      Notice “as the time drew near” will not allow me to insert a BIG GAP of thousands and thousands of years so I can say that Abraham finally gets his promise in the Millennium.

      “near” I interpret literally here.

      “fulfill” I interpret literally here to mean that God actually delivered on what He said He would do.

      Then Stephen goes on to say
      45 “…our ancestors under Joshua brought it [the Tabernacle] with them when they took the land…”

      “our ancestors” I interpret literally to mean the people who were actually alive when Joshua was alive. I interpret that to refer to Abraham’s actual descendants.

      “the land” I interpret literally to mean thee land God promised Abraham and his children which Joshua led them into.

      So again, it is exciting to see how God HAS MADE promises and KEPT promises in the PAST – that is in history.

      In our fallen condition we have to insert phrases in our advertising or contracts that say something like “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

      Yet, with our Sovereign God we can look forward with confidence because we can look back at what He has said AND done.

      He made a promise to Abraham and to his descendants He KEPT IT.

      Amen!

      The Abrahamic promise is a fulfilled promise that strengthens my faith in future things God will do for the Redeemed.

      1. Sphen says:

        Mark,

        You are reading Acts 7 incorrectly. I will copy a response (related to this) from the comments of the video I linked earlier:

        The promise which Steven referred to is in Gen. 22, when God prophesied that Abraham’s seed would be in slavery, but that God would bring them out in the 4th generation. But, that has nothing to do with God’s promise to Abraham that HE would personally inherit the land as an everlasting possession.

        1. MarkO says:

          Sphen,

          Again it helps to take in the WHOLE context, not just a phrase here and there.

          from Gen 22 we also learn that –
          God said “to Abraham…’I swear by myself, declares the Lord…your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies…”

          Where were these “cities”?
          They were in the Land which God promised and gave (past tense) to Abraham and his descendants.

          Joshua chapters 18 thru 21 list the allotment of city after city after city given to the children of Israel which they took “from their enemies.”

          I stopped counting when I got to 100. Lots and lots of cities.

          That’s pretty cool. The descendants of Abraham didn’t have to build their own cities as they initially possessed the Land. They could literally just move in.

          It is exciting to see God make promises IN history and He keep those promises IN history. This strengthens my confidence in our Great Sovereign LORD who we will worship tomorrow in the company of the Redeemed who are also children of Abraham.

          blessings to you bro.
          shalom

    2. Jon Mathys says:

      This is why blog debates spiral and do not progress. I have a very simple answer to your new query, but until you answer the references I carefully searched out and provided, this debate shall not continue. Blessings.

  25. Tom Thiessen says:

    There is some serious anti-Baptist sentiment flying around here. Where does that come from? Not a lot of “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” kind of comments.

    Just buy the book and consider the arguments if you can. At least try to understand your Baptist brothers at our best. If you are so sure you are right, then you shouldn’t be so afraid of someone questioning your paradigm.

    1. Bruce Russell says:

      “Baptist brothers at our best”

      Sadly that’s all to rare :( …but it is definitely true in this book.

    2. Jon Mathys says:

      Well said, Tom. As a confessionally Reformed Christian, I myself am happy that Baptists have taken upon themselves to add their voice to the theological dialogue on these important issues.

  26. Kris says:

    Does anyone know if this will be in a pre, post, or amil distinction or if this view will be able to incorporate more than one?

  27. Chris says:

    Just taking the final comments by the authors, it seems a serious reduction to speak of a uniformity amongst reformed theologians regarding the formals covenants. There is a great deal of “family” disagreement within the reformed (presbyterian) church regrading this.

    The basic reformed position is that there is only one mediator and one covenant, but a history of formal expressions through history. I have never read any reformed literature that would suggest that any previous “covenant mediators” are still in place, because there are no other mediators save Christ alone. Finding a reformed writer who suggests otherwise would be difficult, I think impossible. It seems that the authors accuse covenant theologians of conflating previous formal administrations with the actual thing- as though Moses is Christ. (Unless they are suggesting that the ethics or the cultic practices have changed – which is a different matter).

    Either way, they seem to misunderstand covenant theology. O Palmer Robertson’s book “The Christ of the Covenants” (now a regular text at many seminaries) does a fine job of countering what they suggest here.

    I hate to see authors use straw-men arguments, although I understand that it sells books. But I shut down when I hear this kind of polemic any more. I know what I believe, have studied and concluded, and the way they define my beliefs here is just wrong. I am committed to covenant theology, but it is not how they describe it.

    Christ is all, and in all.

  28. Chris says:

    What I really wanted to say:
    Just taking the final comments by the authors, it seems a serious reduction to speak of a uniformity amongst reformed theologians regarding the formal covenants. There is a great deal of “family” disagreement within the reformed (presbyterian) church regrading this.

    However, the basic reformed position is that there is only one mediator and one covenant of grace, but a history of developing formal administrations. I have never read any reformed literature that would suggest that any previous “covenant mediators” are still in place, because there are no other mediators save Christ alone. Finding a reformed writer who suggests otherwise would be difficult, I think impossible. It seems that the authors accuse covenant theologians of conflating previous formal administrations with the actual thing- as though Moses is Christ, or they themselves conflate the entire covenant structure with the Mediator, subsuming all the content in Him too (which is a kind of mysticism the NT writers’ ethics contravene).

    Either way, they seem to misunderstand covenant theology. O Palmer Robertson’s book “The Christ of the Covenants” (now a regular text at many seminaries) does a fine job of countering what they suggest here.

    I hate to see authors use straw-men arguments, although I understand that it sells books. But I shut down when I hear this kind of polemic any more. I know what I believe, have studied and concluded, and the way they define my beliefs here is just wrong. I am committed to covenant theology, but it is not how they describe it.

    Christ is all, and in all. Blessing to you Justin.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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