In this post I want to record what I see as some of the major problems of Covenant Theology (CT). I know many very fine and godly people hold and have held to this position. Therefore, any particular conflict I may have with the theology should certainly not be viewed as a lack of sincere respect and even admiration of many CT’s.
Let me also say that I don’t believe I am overly concerned to defend Dispensational Theology (DT). I try to do theology based on certain presuppositions, all of which are derived, I think, from the Bible. It is because of a conflict between these biblical assumptions and the teachings resting on them, and CT that I cannot see how CT is faithful to “the whole counsel of God” and so rightly represents what God has revealed to men. In this post I shall set forth what I hold to be the most significant errors of CT. I shall develop these points in other posts. This set of posts will overlap somewhat with another group of articles where I outline what I call “The Parameters of Meaning”: i.e. the limits within which an interpreter must keep if he or she is to not step outside the Word of God.
Not all will agree with me, and I have no theologian’s ‘golden touch’, but I hope to stimulate a bit of thinking hither and thither.
The Biggest Problems With Covenant Theology
1. Covenant theology depends for its credibility upon theological covenants with virtually no exegetical proof. This is especially the case with the “Covenant of Grace”
2. However, the “Covenant of Grace”(C of G), which is really a theological inference rather than a teaching from Scripture, wields such excessive interpretative authority upon the text of Scripture that the wording of Scripture is often obscured behind the constructions demanded by this “covenant.”
3. The “Covenant of Grace” becomes the hermeneutical lens through which much of the rest of Scripture is interpreted. Thus interpretations filtered through the C of G are often constructed upon the same inferential base as the C of G. This means that some of the most important doctrines of CT are in actuality, inferences built upon other inferences.
4. By assuming, without sufficient warrant, that the New Testament must be used to [re]interpret the Old Testament, CT in practice denies to the OT its own perspicuity, its own integrity as inspired revelation, and creates a “canon within a canon.” To paraphrase George Orwell, in CT “all Scripture is inspired, but some Scripture [the NT] is more inspired than others [the OT]”.
5. By allowing their interpretations of the NT to have veto over the plain sense of the OT this outlook creates massive discontinuities between the wording of the two Testaments. This is all done for the sake of a contrived continuity demanded by the one-people of God concept of the C of G.
6. CT thus interprets the Bible with different rules of hermeneutics depending on the presuppositions above.
7. Though they would consciously deny the charge, it is undeniable that CT ‘s way of reading the Bible (as above) creates a major problem philosophically in that it strongly implies that God equivocates. More seriously still, the manner of equivocation means that equivocation belongs to the essential nature of the Godhead.
These are my main objections to Covenant Theology, and I think they are serious. Perhaps they can be addressed? My experience, however, is that the specifics of these charges are evaded or else simply denied without argument.
Let it be noted that objections to CT are not arguments necessarily in favor of Dispensationalism. Thus, it will not do to reply to these issues by arguing against DT.
Lord willing, I shall expand on these observations in the New Year.