As I mentioned in my first post, the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle. Theological systems are attempts to put the pieces of the Bible together. How well you do this will determine how clearly you see the grand mosaic of Scripture. And that’s why I love New Covenant Theology.
I believe New Covenant Theology best puts the pieces of the puzzle together. So over the next several posts we will be looking at seven distinctives of this theological system suggested by Blake White. But before we jump into these distinctive, we first need to get a lay of the land. And to do this, I want to give you a brief introduction to the other two major theological systems: Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology.
For this post we’ll start with Covenant Theology (CT). Though every view has variations, CT typically views the Bible as consisting of three overarching covenants:
1. The Covenant of Redemption. This is the covenant made in eternity past between the members of the Trinity. It is basically an agreement to work together to redeem fallen humanity: the Father in sending the Son, the Son in taking on flesh and dying for the sins of the elect, and the Holy Spirit in empowering the Son to accomplish his mission and applying the benefits of his death to the elect.
2. The Covenant of Works. This covenant is made in the garden between God and Adam, who stood as the representative for all mankind. It promised life for obedience and death for disobedience. Adam, and all mankind in him, broke this covenant when Adam sinned and came under it’s curse. This covenant is still in effect, the substance of which is found in the moral law i.e. the Ten Commandments.
3. The Covenant of Grace. Immediately after Adam’s fall, God promises to raise up a descendant of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). This promise is viewed as the historical inauguration of the Covenant of Grace. All subsequent covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants) are viewed as differening administrations of this same gracious covenant, which culminates in the sacrificial death of the Better Adam, Jesus Christ. Viewing the Bible this way leads CT to stress the unity of the Bible across the covenants. Here are some examples:
- CT argues that both Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church are mixed (regenerate/unregenerate).
- CT replaces infant circumcision with infant baptism as the new sign of entrance into God’s covenant people.
- CT views the Ten Commandments are the eternal moral law of God.
Opponents of CT often criticize it for using non-scriptural language. After all, none of these three covenants are mentioned explicitly in the Bible. But it is important to remember that CT views these covenants as “theological formulations.” This simply means that CT is trying to take the vast data of Scripture and synthesize it. Thus they might use non-biblical terms in order to better explain the whole of biblical revelation. One example of this is the way theologians use a trinitarian formulation, including non-biblical words, to better explain the scriptural data affirming one God in three Persons.
What do you find helpful/non-helpful about Covenant Theology?