I’m not sure how many of the readers keep an eye on my “currently reading” list but a few weeks back I read a book titled, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical–Theological Understanding of the Covenants, by Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum. I like to read academic theology books in addition to more popular fare for the following reasons: 1. God has given me an insatiable desire to know more about him and he has provided the wherewithal to accomplish the task. 2. I want to know what I believe and why I believe it. 3. Theology helps me to know God more and when I know God more I grow and flourish and am transformed more into the image of Christ (my writing has a lot to do with this also). 4. I am the kind of person that thrives on rigorous and complex challenges. 5. It opens my eyes to the un-surpassing beauty and glory of Jesus Christ. 6. I am convicted to share of the grace I have been given through my writing.
My Personal Thoughts on Kingdom through Covenant
I don’t know Hebrew and I don’t know enough theology to go through Kingdom through Covenant the way D.A. Carson or other highly trained theologians would. I did, however, want to write out a few of my own personal thoughts about the book: One of the biggest reasons I liked the book is for the sheer fact that the authors were not afraid to go back and look at the two major theological systems of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology through a Biblical Theological methodology. Here are a few simple take–aways, which as of right now I happen to agree with:
1. Contra Dispensationalism, Gentry and Wellum argue that the Church is the new true Israel
2. In line with historic Reformed thought, Gentry and Wellum argue for particular and effectual atonement
3. Gentry and Wellum assert that Covenant Theology “flattens” the New Covenant for the sake of covenantal continuity, also flattening the Abrahamic Covenant. In the effort to argue for a seamless covenant, relevant distinguishing aspects of both are diminished. They also argue that Covenant Theology is “too quick” to draw a line between circumcision and baptism
4. Gentry and Wellum assert that Covenant Theology takes the genealogical principle (“to you and your children”) from the Abrahamic Covenant and applies it in the same way in the New Covenant.
As of right now, I find myself in agreement with these points. I do believe the Church is the new true Israel, I do believe in effectual atonement, I am not convinced that baptism is the new circumcision. I believe it is a discounting of the New Covenant and the radical change brought by the power of Christ and the cross to continue with the OT genealogical principle applied the same way to New Covenant believers as if nothing else had changed.
In my experience, I had embraced covenant theology in a way that in retrospect seems to have hammered the covenants together and plastered over the seam, and gave me an attenuated Jesus. If the covenant is one, my presuppositions said, my life should be as similar to the life of OT saints as it is to NT saints. An over-emphasis on the continuity led to a heavier concentration on God the Father, with God the Son as a supporting role.
In Kingdom Through Covenant, Gentry and Wellum show convincingly how to maintain biblical continuity without discounting the newness of the New Covenant, mapping out a “middle way” between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. In my estimation, this way of understanding the covenants, this via media as Gentry and Wellum call it, does a better job at subjecting all the covenants and our systematization of the them to Christ.
So many things could be said and discussed here, I suppose that’s why Kingdom through Covenant is such a massive work. I’ll end with this quote from page 697:
“The most fundamental meaning of baptism is that it signifies a believer’s union with Christ, by grace through faith, and all the benefits that are entailed by that union. It testifies that one has entered into the realities of the new covenant and, as such, has experienced regeneration, the gift and down payment of the Spirit, and the forgiveness of sin.”