This blog is devoted to the written presentation defense of Christian theism. The principal essence of theology is God. Human knowledge is inescapably revelational. Man knows because God is. Reason nor science can function properly without radical transformation by God's regenerative work of grace. No other position on the subject of reason or science achieves epistemic coherence with the principle of Sola Scriptura.
Τοῦτο λέγω, ἵνα μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς παραλογίζηται ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ. (Col. 2:4)
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
A Humble Covenant Theology
I was brought to a saving knowledge
of Christ our Lord at the age of 14. Up until that time, I had been to two
church services my entire life. I was not raised in the church. When the Lord
opened my heart to the gospel, it was outside the church through an uncle that
had been saved out of the drug culture. He was a former hippy and now, a
traditional Pentecostal Christian. I began my journey in the Church of God,
headquarters, Cleveland, TN. I quickly became a non-traditional Pentecostal,
denying the miracle workers on TV, the abuses, and that tongues were for
everyone. Then I moved away from the Pentecostal ranks. But the dispensational,
rapture fascination was deeply imbedded in my thinking. Eventually I would come
to the doctrines of grace and loosen my grip on the rapture until I reached the
leaky dispensation views of my favorite minister, John McArthur. John is still,
by far, my favorite preacher.
Don't say a word to anyone
Today, my theological views
continue to slowly morph over time. I suspect that is how it is supposed to be.
While we ought not to be like ships tossed about at sea with every wind of
doctrine that comes along, we must remain open to growing in our understanding
of the truth God has given us. I have learned that just as I once had an aversion
to Calvinism, like many non-Calvinists, and now I am one, that my aversion to
covenant theology has also improved, as I have remained open and teachable. This
is not to say that I do not acknowledge the difficulties and challenges in the
system to which I now find myself subscribing. But I have always be blessed to
see the problems and difficulties in whatever system I have found myself in, be
it the Pentecostal movement, Arminian dispensationalism, and now, a humble
proponent of reformed Baptist covenantal, historic premillennialism.
Really? That can't be true.
My first difficulty was with the
question of hermeneutics. I have always been a strong advocate of a
grammatico-historical approach to the biblical text. And I really don’t think
that has changed with one exception: the OT must be interpreted by the New. The
principle that the OT is in the New revealed and the New is in the Old
concealed must be a guiding principle in our hermeneutical method.
My second question concerned the
existence of a Covenant of Works with Adam. I have often wondered if there was
an actual covenant with Adam in the garden prior to the fall. After adopting a
more humble approach to the possibility that such a covenant was present, I
have adopted the view that the biblical evidence supports the view that Adam
was indeed in a covenant relationship with the LORD prior to his fall. Hosea
6:7 tells us that “like Adam, they have transgressed the covenant.” The easiest
reading of this text is that Adam is literally Adam our father from the garden.
Alternative interpretations seem to display an aversion to the covenantal idea
the text clearly espouses. The bottom line is that I found no good exegetical
reason not to take the text at face value.
Paul claims we are all one body now. Can this be true?
The third question concerned the
relationship of the Old and the New, national Israel and the Church. What then
is the relationship between Israel and the Church? Is the Church Israel and is
Israel the Church? Is there a future state in which Israel will return to the
land and even set up the sacrifices once removed by the efficacy of Christ’s
sacrifice? To be perfectly frank, I am still working out these complexities in my personal studies. I admit that I am hesitant and very cautious concerning the view that physical Israel will be converted. The
emphasis of those texts seems to be on the unfailing Word of God as opposed to
loyalty to national Israel. If it is true that national Israel in the OT was a
type of NT Church, we have reason to scrutinize any view that seems to run
contrary to this basic theme. The fact is that national Israel was
predominantly in a state of apostasy during most of the OT period even though
we are reminded that God had always had His elect throughout the ages. But as I
have done in my journey into a confessional reformed covenant Baptist position,
I will remain open as I continue to study the future of Israel. That being
said, I will also confess that I continue to hold pretty firmly to a historic
premillennial position at the present time. It seems that an earthly reign of
Christ over the nations for 1,000 years at the end is one that will not be so
easy to dismiss due to the exegetical evidence in favor of that position. And
we are, in the end, in hot pursuit of an understanding of God’s revealed truth
as opposed to a certain theological scheme.
My final question centered on the
question of law and gospel and the nature of the New Covenant as it relates to
the way NT writers seem to think about the Mosaic Covenant. I think due care
must be exercised in order to ensure we make sound distinctions between the Mosaic Law and the New
Covenant. I do believe that dividing the Mosaic Covenant into three sections
seems reasonable from a literary standpoint. It seems clear that some
components of that law are moral, some judicial, and some ceremonial. What I do
not think is sound is transference of any part of those laws into the New
Covenant. While it may be true that certain components of the Mosaic Covenant
are more directly related to the divine moral law written on the conscience, it
does not follow that we must conclude that some of Moses is still applicable
today. We know this because we can see the divine moral law in play prior to
Moses. Therefore, I understand that in the New Covenant we see a different
administration of the divine moral law than what we see in the Mosaic Covenant.
This does not mean it was a different law. It was not. What it means is that
just as there were components of the universal moral law of God expressed and
administered in the Mosaic Covenant, there are components of that same moral
law expressed and administered in the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not the
same as the Old Covenant. It is a different Covenant. We must seek to avoid the
legalism that comes with the failure to recognize the discontinuity of the Old
and the New Covenants while at the same time guarding against an antinomian
attitude that lends itself to an ungodly casual disposition in our relationship
with the LORD our redeemer, and soon coming King.