Covenant Theology

God's Kingdom through God's Covenants

There are two primary theological systems that influence how Evangelicals read and apply their Bibles. One, most popular among Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Baptists is called Covenant Theology. This belief is that, while the particulars of God's rule has changed through the Bible (and the centuries), God has held to one overarching "covenant of grace". The other, likely more popular position, is known as Dispensationalism. It maintains that God has ruled over history and his people in distinct ways (hence the term, dispensationalism). If you have read books like the Left Behind series or listened to preachers like Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, or John MacArthur, you are familiar with the teachings of dispensationalism

In the past few years a new system has been growing in popularity. It is conciously attempting to be a middle-ground between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. Sometimes it is referred to as New Covenant Theology, other times it is called Progressive Covenantalism. Whatever term is used, there is still minor differences among those who would accept the label. Nevertheless, it is becoming a distinct system of thought and biblical interpretation.

Having earned my Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary I became familiar with Progressive Covenantalism as many of the professors held to it. Peter Gentry (Professor of Old Testament) and Stephen Wellum (Professor of Christian Theology), in particular, wrote an extensive work critiquing both Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, while promoting their understanding of a middle-ground. At 848 pages, Kingdom through Covenant was an intimidating and detailed exegetical and theological work. In order to make their argument more accessible to a wider audience they distilled the book down to its key arguments, removing many footnotes and academic interactions. The same thing was done with Tom Schreiner's massive New Testament Theology (titled Magnifying God in Christ).

Unlike the summary of Schreiner's New Testament Theology, this distillation of Gentry and Wellum's work is difficult to read. Their goal of making the larger argument more accessible was achieved, but I'm afraid it came at the cost of readability. This summary reads more like a detailed outline than a well written academic work.

I was initially excited about this summary of Kingdom through Covenant because I had wanted to engage with their larger work but continually found myself unable to commit to it because of time. Yet, I'm afraid that they may have gone too far in editing it down to create God's Kingdom through God's Covenant. The result is a slow-moving, almost lifeless work that fails to communicate the passion and expertise of it's authors.