Kingdom through Covenant review: Chapter 3

So I hope you guys are ok with me being honest... I'm really tired of trying to get through this chapter. I've read so much more already over the actual covenants because of this reason: I often start big books like this but never finish because I get burnt out in the opening chapters where the authors cover their butts and explain their presuppositions and methodology. Don't get me wrong, I know it's important, but personally it gets very boring sometimes. With that said, I'm just gonna go ahead and offer some comments on what I've read of this chapter and then move on to the real meat of the book. The covenants!!

The (partial) review

How do we approach Scripture? To reveal our commitments.

How do we interpret Scripture? To begin the conversation and show how we differ from Covenant Theology (CT) and Dispensational Theology (DT).

It’s important to let Scripture define itself, and to interpret itself.

…we affirm that Scripture is God’s Word written, the product of God’s mighty action through the Word and by the Holy Spirit whereby human authors freely wrote exactly what God intended to be written and without error. (83)[1]

…we expect an overall unity and coherence between the Testaments, despite the diversity of Scripture, that together declares God’s unfailing plan and purposes in this fallen world. (84)

Scripture must therefore, ultimately, be read canonically; in other words, one sub-plot (e.g. the giving of the 10 commandments) must be understood in light of the main plot (e.g. the entire bible, especially as it culminates in Christ).

In fact, to read the Bible canoncially is demanded by the nature of Scripture and its claim regarding itself. Thus, not to read Scripture in this way is to fail to interpret it correctly and to be less than “biblical.” (87)

Strong words. So that’s part of how the Bible should be read. Now let’s take a look at what it is

…Scripture is … a word-act revelation… Scripture is God’s own authoritative interpretation of his redemptive acts through the agency of human authors.

First off, Scripture is a “word-act revelation.” That’s theological jargon that basically means it’s God’s version—which necessarily is The Version—of a story told through people of how he’s saving his wrecked creation (87). In other words, “God’s revelatory word interprets God’s redemptive acts” (88).

Secondly, Scripture is a “progressive revelation.” God just didn’t appear one day with a BOOM and say, “Surprise!! Here I am! Check me out. Look at this! Look at that! Look at these!” No…

Revelation, alongside redemption, unfolds in a progressive manner by unique twists and turns in separate but related epochs, largely demarcated by God’s acts and redemptive covenants. (89)

At heart, Scripture is a story centered on giving a history of the redemption of the past and of the ensuing eschatological redemption of the future (91).

So, if that’s what Scripture is, then how do we read it? How do we piece it all together? Important in these regards is understanding that “the entire plan is organically related”, yet all the while reflective of certain points of diversity, demanding that “a proper balance between the continuity and discontinuity of God’s plan as it reaches its culmination and fulfilment in Christ” is extremely important if we’re to let the text speak for itself, not diluting or flattening its message and dynamic, developmental complexity (92).

A central question along these lines is How do we know what the NT upholds from the OT and what it absolves – for instance the promise of land to Israel? This is a a touchy subject for most Christians where I come from because it ties directly to their eschatological and political viewpoints. Things we in the South hold dear. Haha. A basic line of division in answer to this question that situates Covenant theologians on one side and Dispensational on the other can be summarized like this: While both groups esteem the NT to be more "updated" revelation, as far as God's grand scheme goes, a dispensationalist will let the unconditional promises of the OT still stand in and through the NT, unless its explicitly done away with, while a "covenantist" muffles this allowance (according to some dispensationalist, like Feinburg) (112–113).

In the following pages, Wellum goes onto explain how this isn't an entirely accurate description (114–118) in which there are some real nuggets of information, but on the whole it might be said that Wellum and Gentry find fault with both systems, which they argue employ the same (fallacious) hermeneutic! Ironically enough. Wellum then proceeds to explain how the ensuing analysis will be characterized in the following manner in which due weight and priority will be given to each covenant and its cultural and theological miliue to determine how they are related to one another:

 

  1. Look at the immediate context of each covenant. Only in letting it stand on its own (for at least a second) will we not flatten its broader implications.
  2. Look back at what precedes the newly established covenant in light of previous redemptive acts to more fully understand its purpose.
  3. Look forward to see what follows – even if they be new covenants – to see how it is built upon in redemptive-history.

Only in such a zommed and removed viewpoint can we give a full and dynamic assessment of the covenants and their relationship to one another.

Well that's all for now. There were some really interesting points in the final pages on how Wellum disagrees with CT and DT that I think I'll post as an appendix before the next chapter review. But any thoughts on what's been laid out so far are welcome. Thanks for joining me in carrying this hefty plow!


[1] What does Wellum mean by “without error”?