Monday, January 28, 2013

Kingdom Through Covenant

I attended a Dispensational seminary, but am not a Dispensationalist. I have some Covenantal leanings, but I remain firmly credobaptist. I have found that I have more in common with Presbyterians than most Baptists, but I keep seeing comments that "there is no such thing as a Reformed Baptist." Obviously, that is true, but I needed to have some name for what I believed.

I am extremely thankful for the book Kingdom Through Covenant. Gentry and Wellum wanted to use this book to propose a middle way between the two systems. They acknowledge the strength of both systems, but also point out some glaring weaknesses. Much of these problems center around the Abrahamic Covenant. They rightly point out that each system chooses which part they will take literally. The Dispensationalist focuses on the land promise to Abraham and the Covenantalist focuses on the genealogical promise. This book shows how both miss the mark in ignoring the whole promise.

The book is strongest in parts one and three, which were written by Wellum. Part one presents their thesis and hermenutic while part three summarizes how it all fits together based on all the exegesis done in part two. You really could get away with checking this book out from your local seminary library and reading just those parts. That would save you about 460 pages of very technical writing leaving you with about 250 very readable pages.

I would not recommend part two for anyone who does not know Hebrew. Although there is a lot of transliteration there is also a fair amount of straight Hebrew text. Obviously a book focused on exegesis is going to have to deal with the language, so be warned that this section is not for the casual reader. Be prepared for some tough sledding through this section. I saw in another review where someone wrote that the middle sections felt like disconnected papers. I suppose that is true to a degree, but that's also the nature of such academic work. Despite the difficulties, this part is essential for proving the authors' thesis. I believe that they accomplished their goal.

I particularly appreciated their point that the Dispensational distinction between conditional and unconditional covenants is an unnecessary one. It was also valuable to see how the physical promise of the land to Abraham has already been fulfilled, but that the promise is actually much bigger in how God is going to give the whole earth to Abraham's children. In other words, to get all excited about a strip of land in the Middle East is to miss the bigger promise. It is also encouraging to see them make some distinction between Israel and the church. The church is indeed a new thing that, unlike Israel, is composed entirely of believers.

I suppose I'm somewhat biased because I wanted to like this book. I finally have a book that describes what I have come to believe on my own. It is possible to be strongly Calvinistic in soteriology, but strongly Baptist when it comes to the ordinances and the composition of the church. I still find that I have more in common with Covenantal brothers than most Baptists, but I am glad to have this middle way. When you're not in a large camp it is comforting to know that you are not on your own.

1 comment:

David C Brown said...

A bit complex to me!
Back to the Bible. Grace be with you.