Monday, October 15, 2012

Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored

About a week ago, my three sons and I set out on a quest.  We had spotted some tadpoles swimming in the little creek in the city park and we were determined to go and to catch a few.  What we learned was rather simple, but profound.  Those things are fast.  Beyond their speed it was apparent that they do not want to be caught.  We fished with a bucket for a good forty-five minutes, most of which was an epic failure and we were feeling not the least bit mocked by those little creatures who defied every effort of ours to take them home in our trusty bucket.


Now I am not writing this about tadpoles or our inability to catch an animal that we dwarf in development, I am rather writing about Theology.  Covenant Theology to be specific.  I have been trying to understand Covenant Theology for a while now.  I believe I understand the basic premise, that the covenant is the framework for God's revelation and the manner in which He “administers His kingdom”, even if I am not able to state it in a succinct manner that fully does the topic justice.  While I feel I have a firm, mostly, grasp on the basic premise of Covenant Theology, and a significant disdain for its common opponent, dispensationalism, the more complex aspects of CT remain rather elusive to my comprehension, like a tadpole jettisoning away as my hand/bucket/tears fall towards the water.

I read and reviewed Dr. Horton's Introduction to Covenant Theology, and I will read it again now.  But I needed a more basic, introductiory work.  Dr. Horton is a blessing to me and the greater Chrisitan community as a whole, but introductory is not his style.  Thanks to the great people at Monergism.com, I was made aware of the book Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored by Michael Brown and Zach Keele with a foreword by Michael Horton.  This is truly an introductory level look at Covenant Theology and it is worth its price and the time reading it.  I have become accustomed to reading a book and giving it away in preparation for our future move to Brazil, but this book will stick around my house until we leave and if I am unable to find an electronic version by then, it may just have to hideaway in my carry-on.

“The gospel message falters without its covenantal foundation.”  This is a bold claim made by the authors of the book and if you did not agree with this statement before reading, you will be substantially closer to agreement after being led on a tour of Holy Scripture by the authors.  Each chapter of Sacred Bond is set up in a basic format of (1) a brief theological description of the covenant examined, (2) biblical evidence for the covenant and biblical evidence of its theological implications, (3)looking at how the covenant being examined has been explained by historic confessions and theologians, and (4) The practical impact of the specific covenant on the Christian's daily life.

To whet your appetite for this book, I will list the covenants and the definition given by the authors.  If you want to see a defense of their definition and see how the covenants interrelate you will have to read the book...or possibly give me a chance to read it one or two more times and we can talk about it then. :-D

Covenant of Redemption- Covenant established in eternity between the Father, who gives the Son to be the Redeemer of His elect and requires of Him the conditions for their redemption; and the Son, who voluntarily agrees to fulfill these conditions; and the Spirit, who voluntarily applies the work of the Son to the Elect.

Covenant of Works-God's commitment to give Adam and his posterity in him, eternal life for obedience or eternal death for disobedience.

Covenant of Grace-Covenant between God and believers with their children, in which He promises salvation through faith in Christ who merited their salvation by obedience in the covenant of Redemption.
 
Covenant of Common Grace-Noahic Covenant; God's covenant of common grace with the earth, despite mankind's depravity, to sustain its oder until the consumation

Abrahamic Covenant-Covenant of grace established with Abraham and his offspring; wherein God promised the entire future of his covenant kingdom, in both its old covenant and new covenant stages

Mosaic Covenant-God's law covenant with Israel wherein He graciously leads them to Christ by showing them the perfect righteousness that only Christ could fulfill to redeem sinners

Davidic Covenant-God's promise to David that, when his righteous son bulds a house for God's name, God will grant him an eternal kingdom.

New Covenant-God bringing forth the new creation in His people through the finished work of Christ, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Sacred Bond is an excellent primer on Covenant Theology.  In an Evangelical sub-culture that is so saturated with Dispensational Lahayeism, it is important to become familiar with a framework for understanding Scripture that is more indebted to Biblical fidelity and a historic understanding of theology and Scripture than it is to breaking news headlines and patriotism-gone-awry.  Also, with much of the Young, Restless, and Reformed coming out of traditionally Dispensational and Baptist  church backgrounds and seemingly middle ground works like Kingdom through Covenant* being published, an understanding of traditional Covenant Theology is imperative, even if agreement on every point is not.

Sacred Bond will leave you with a solid, basic understanding of Covenant Theology and a desire to go to greater depths with the Hortons, Klines, Robertsons, Berkhofs, Owens, etc...  Not only will it help spark a desire to go deeper, it will equip you to be able to interact with and accept or reject whatever you find there.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
  
*I have not read Kingdom through Covenant.  I bought it and decided to read Sacred Bond first as a primer, at the urging of the Monergism.com staff.  I am certainly glad that I did and look forward to starting Kingdom through Covenent soon.