Kingdom through Covenant: Chapter 3 (some closing comments)


As I noted in my last post, I kind of rushed through my briefing of chapter 3. Life got hectic and it really became a chore to try and nail down some of the key points – there were so many! As a perfectionist, and never fully being satisfied with my work, I returned to the last couple pages of the chapter that I really just skimmed and decided it was only fitting to thrown down a few more thoughts from chapter 3. So here they are. Dig with me.

I basically want to talk about Wellum's remarks on how Covenant Theology (CT) and Dispensational Theology (DT) deal with biblical typology, e.g. the great exodus is a typology – something that mirrors and points towards – the great escape we as believers (Israelites) partake in as we are freed from the clutches of sin and death (Pharaoh and Egypt). To summarize, he notes that each system of theology interacts and applies typology in different manners (though noting that both systems agree on many major typological comparisons/models). The primary differences being related to how each theological system understands the relationship between Israel and the Church (and Jesus).

For instance, CT argues that the Church is just another type of Israel: they're basically one and the same. Thus, circumcision and baptism both represent the same things and serve the same purposes. Where Wellum argues that this position falls flat is found in the fact that it, basically, glosses over the transformative nature of the new covenant community that Christ evokes in his inauguration of new creation – Jesus himself being the forerunner and firstborn of this new reality. In other words, if one were to acknowledge the newness of God's work through his son Jesus, then one would be aware of the altered nature of the covenant community, viz. they no longer have hearts of stone but (circumcised) hearts of flesh; no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness; have been completely reborn (into a new realm). If this is the case, then the Old Covenant community (customs, i.e. circumcision) cannot be regarded on equal footing with the New Covenant community (and their customs, i.e. baptism). In short, it's apples and oranges.

250165_15764481_lzWellum (122) puts it this way...

What is missing is a careful analysis of how Scripture moves across the covenants—from Israel to Christ and then to the church—which results in some major changes in how we conceive of the nature of the church and the significance of its covenant sign, namely baptism.

And later on more pointedly, he (124) notes...

It is a mistake to think that the genealogical principle of the Abrahamic covenant is not reinterpreted as we move from promise to fulfillment.

Don't worry – I haven't forgotten about DT. (Someone at work said today that here in the south of Texas we don't live in the Bible Belt, we live in the belt's buckle! I laughed and thought how true. To be certain, DT is the mainline adopted theological system proposed from the pulpit and thus espoused from its listeners – but, like Wellum, I find some major holes in this system's fabric... the other holes I doubt Wellum would agree with though). So, while DT similarly notes several typological relationships in Scripture – between the tabernacle and/or the patriarchs and Christ, etc. – they seem to splice hairs on how to interpret the typological nature of the promised land of Israel and the nation itself. For instance, a dispensationalists maintains that the literal land is to be literally inherited by the people of Israel (correct me if I'm wrong, but without drawing a distinction between biblical Israelites and modern day Israelis) – no matter what. It's an unconditional and literal promise. While they would not suggest it is void of any "typological-ness" – they would carefully parse how it is.

Basically, DT regards the promised land to be typological in appearance, but not in essence.

In other words, there's still a real physical land to possess, even though the messiah, Jesus, does appear as the herald and proof of a new promised land being ushered in and through his death on the cross and victory over the grave. Wellum and Gentry, of course, argue that this cannot be the case and that to assume such a position totally flattens 1) the covenantal obligations of the land "promise" and 2) ignores the radical and transformative fulfillment of the land type brought about in Christ and through the church.

But what do you think? Are CT and DT proponents so simple-minded that they cannot perceive of this fundamental development? Or is doctrinal tradition so strong that to adjust the pillars is too daunting (and outrageous) a task? ...Or is Wellum way off the mark?