Short Review: Commentary on 1 & 2 Kings by David Schreiner & Lee Compson

Review of David B. Schreiner & Lee Compson, 1 & 2 Kings: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2022, hdbk, 315 pages.

This commentary on the books of First and Second Kings combines exposition with homiletics. This way of doing things was popular in the 19th century (think Lange or the Pulpit Commentaries). As with many of these commentaries, the homiletic portions are often of little use (ironically, one of the best of the bunch is Bahr’s exposition of 1 & 2 Kings in Lange’s Commentary).

I’m going to say something about the homiletic portions here and then concentrate on the exposition. After the usual orienting pages, the volume begins with roughly twenty pages of overview of preaching passages from 1 & 2 Kings (13-31). These have enough content to be helpful for a preacher to consider without being too lengthy. Mercifully, no preaching outlines are supplied here, although they are given under the “Preaching and Teaching Strategies” throughout the book.

Skimming through the preaching portions in the book I couldn’t find very much of value. Whether reading the “Exegetical & Theological Synthesis,” the one sentence “Preaching Idea,” the “Contemporary Connections,” or the “Creativity” sections I’m afraid I find them uninspiring. This could be just me of course, but I don’t think so. In any case, I couldn’t recommend the work for this feature; although, to be fair there are one or two good suggestions (e.g. 213), plus some thought-provoking one-liners such as “Details determine if our worship flourishes or fails.” (114).

What of the exposition? Well, I think overall it is well done. David Schreiner thinks the books of Kings were likely the work of multiple authors (41). His introduction is well done. Perhaps the space given to Kings as part of the Deuteronomistic History is more than what most preachers need, but may have something to do with Schreiner’s quite critical stance (e.g., 42-48, 55, 64). Most of his authorities are critical scholars.

Reading through Schreiner’s contribution I must say that he is a fluent writer who doesn’t waste his readers time. He packs a lot of information and relevant data into his writing. His exegetical studies are good, as are his background insets. He does a good job of reading the texts within their historical settings, and he does not explain away the miraculous elements.

Theologically he is also helpful. As an example, I agree with Schreiner that 1 Kings 11 “is arguably one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament.” (152). He has a keen eye for theological development. I have to say that I benefitted from Schreiner’s commentary and that this book, which comes with a fairly thrifty price tag, is worth the money. The book contains many helpful panels which provide information on places, charts, scholarly conclusions, names, archaeological evidence etc.

Deciphering Covenant Theology (22)

Part Twenty One

Looking Deeper into the Problems with Covenant Theology

8. CT thus interprets the Bible with different rules of hermeneutics depending on the aforementioned presuppositions.

Covenant theologians will often display a varied array of hermeneutical practices, sometimes in the same passage. This is because the theological covenants require conformity to their dictates. The conformity includes the OT being interpreted on the basis of a particular understanding of the NT; a first coming hermeneutic when dealing with most prophetic texts; one people of God throughout Scripture; hence no national future for Israel in the kingdom; the covenants of God that can be found easily in Scripture must be subsumed beneath the covenant of grace (particularly); and those same covenants can be morphed out of recognition by their “fulfillment” in the Church.

We should remind ourselves that J. I. Packer said that Covenant Theology is a hermeneutic or way of reading the Bible. Others have said the same, but my focus here is how CT’s understand this (although I might say that Progressive Covenantalists employ the same hermeneutics, more or less as CT’s do).

Here is a sample:

“Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom that could be entered immediately by submitting to the rule of Jesus through faith in Him…Jesus defines His kingdom as operating differently than the kingdoms of the world by bearing witness to the truth (Jn. 18:36-37). The present, spiritual reality of the kingdom means, according to the parables, that the kingdom begins small, is hidden in the way it works, and can be rejected by people. Yet Christ reigns now as King as He sits at the right hand of the Father…governing the world for the sake of His people (Eph. 1:22). The promises of the Davidic covenant are fulfilled in Christ… who occupies the throne of David.” – Richard P. Belcher, Jr., The Fulfillment of the Promises of God, 130.

I give this as a sample of CT interpretation. CT’s believe that Jesus is reigning right now on David’s throne. His position is helped by his connection with the parables, especially the parables of the kingdom, which include the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like” (e.g., Matt. 13:24, 31, etc.).

In response I would point out that the NT nowhere states that Jesus is reigning now. Neither does it say that Jesus is sitting on a throne presently. In fact, as Belcher alludes to, the Bible says that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. 1 Peter 3:22 says Christ is “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:2 is clearer. It says that Christ is now “at the right hand of the throne of God.” See also Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1. These passages all agree that Christ is not seated upon the throne in heaven but at the right hand of the throne. But what about Revelation 3:21? Here it is:

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

This verse is not saying that Jesus is sitting on the same throne with the Father. It is not a dual throne. If such were true then all the overcomers would also sit on it. It is not a massively multi-seated throne. The last part of the verse is best interpreted as Christ sitting next to God’s throne. But neither is one throne referred to in the verse. There is “My Father’s throne” and there is “My throne.” To fail to admit this is to have interpretive blinkers on. As Robert Thomas says, “to merge them into one is to ignore the obvious.” – Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1 – 7: An Exegetical Commentary, 325.

The parables of the kingdom and the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like” must be interpreted in context. In Matthew 13:36-43 the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is explained. Jesus says that at the end of this age,

The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness…Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! – Matthew 13:41, 43.

It appears that when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom He will first remove the wicked and then the righteous will enter in. This agrees with the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 which begins with the words, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. (Matt. 25:31), which indicates that the sorting does not happen until after Jesus has returned. Hence, Jesus’ own testimony is that He will not sit upon His throne until the second coming! The words “the kingdom of heaven is like” therefore do not refer to the inaugurated kingdom but the progress towards it.

Belcher uses Ephesians 1:22 to claim that Christ as King is reigning now at the right hand of the Father. But no one reigned from beside the throne (i.e. “the right hand of the throne”). They reigned from the throne. Ephesians 1 is speaking about Jesus in relation to the Church, of which He is Head, but it says nothing about the throne of David. Belcher, as CT’s generally, is conflating the data to fit his theology. David’s throne was and will be in Jerusalem, not heaven.

But Belcher provides more support from O. Palmer Robertson.

In a footnote (130 n. 28) Belcher cites Robertson using 1 Chronicles 29:22 (though I think he means v. 23) as proving ” a convergence of the throne of David” with God’s throne:

Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him. – 1 Chronicles 29:23.

According to O. Palmer Robertson this text shows that the throne of David that Solomon rules from is the throne of Yahweh. But this simply untenable as God’s throne is in heaven (Psa. 11:4; 103:19) not on earth. In 1 Chronicles 29 “the throne of Yahweh” does not refer to God’s own throne but to the throne established by God for the Davidide line. Robertson claims the opposite: “The throne of David’s descendants is nothing more than the throne of God itself.” – The Christ of the Covenants, 250.

Except it isn’t. This is because Robertson also holds that, “David’s line anticipated in shadow-form the eternal character of the eternal reign of Christ,” – Ibid, 249. So Solomon’s throne was called “the throne of Yahweh” for the sake of typology! But not any typology, but a typology which meets the redemptive-historical requirements of CT. CT needs the two thrones, the throne of David and the throne of God to be the same, and 1 Chronicles 29:22-23 is their proof-text.

Returning to Belcher, he believes that 1 Chronicles 29:22 (23) may be linked to Isaiah 9:6. But Isaiah 9:6-7 is a prophesy which includes within it both advents. In the quotation below I have underlined the part of the prophesy that accords with the first coming.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9:6-7

Here is a clear prediction in which CT’s want to take the underlined part literally and everything else spiritually, so that it can be incorporated into the first advent “spiritual kingdom” they say is ruling the world now. In other words, they use two hermeneutical methods to interpret a single prophecy. Thus, whatever hermeneutic is needed; literal, spiritual, typological, symbolical, will be employed by CT’s depending on what fits the requirements of the system.

May I add another quick example? In his popular book A Case for Amillennialism Kim Riddlebarger, when wrapping up his chapter on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks declares,

“The final three-and-one-half years of the seventieth week as interpreted by John is symbolic of the church on earth during the entire time of its existence.  It also is a reference to the tribulation depicted in Daniel.” – Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, 156.  

So the great majority of the seventy weeks of years are literal, but the very last three-and-a-half years are nearly two thousand years long and counting? He further believes that the “covenant” that is made “for one week” in Daniel 9:27 is of all things the covenant of grace! One has to wonder what hermeneutical system is making him arrive at these conclusions. What are its rules and where do they come from?

Part 23

Covenant Connections in Paul (9)

Part Eight

The Transformation of Our Bodies

The mention of the transformation of our bodies calls to mind the mystery of 1 Corinthians 15:50-52:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

The language of transformation is linked to the kingdom of God in this text.  Paul says that “flesh and blood” cannot inherit this kingdom – a kingdom that is in the future.  What does he mean by this?  This is to say that our present earthly frame is not prepared for the glories in heaven.  As Schreiner puts it, “The bodily flesh of this age is subject to weakness and death…our corruptible earthly body cannot enter the future kingdom.”[1] 

            The apostle tells us that we shall all be changed, that is, we shall become incorruptible and glorious.  And this transformation will happen in an instant.  It will occur “at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:52).  I wish he had elaborated a little more on the trumpet!  Which “trump” is he referring to?  The book of Revelation refers to seven trumpets which are blown by angels, with the seventh recorded cryptically in Revelation 10:5-7 and finally blown in Revelation 11:15.  There is a sense of finality that comes with this blowing, but is this what Paul had in mind when he wrote about “the last trump” some forty years earlier?  I think this is doubtful.  Trumpets were used to get people’s attention and to summon them (e.g., Exod. 19:13, 16, 19; Lev. 25:9; Neh. 4:20).  Sometimes the trumpet raised the alarm (Joel 2:1; Amos 3:6; Zeph. 3:16).  Jesus Himself taught that a trumpet would be blown when the angels were sent to gather up the saints at his second coming (Matt. 24:30-31), which may be synonymous with the seventh trumpet of Revelation, although to me that appears doubtful.[2] 

            It seems better to think of “the last trumpet” as the final blast in a succession of trumpet calls which precede the transformation of our bodies, although there is no way of nailing it down more than that.  For Paul then the coming of Christ is the time of our appropriation of the glory of the resurrection that Christ has procured for us.  The next question that arises is whether 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 is connected with the “snatching up” (harpazo) described in 1 Thessalonians 4:12-18.  Here is the part of the passage which describes the “rapture:”

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.

            I am approaching the text as neutrally as I can, which means that I am not as concerned with when it will occur but what will occur and its connection, if any, with the change described by Paul at the end of 1 Corinthians 15. 

            The first thing that I have to point out is the rather obvious fact that this passage nowhere pinpoints the timing of the harpazo.  This is not the reason Paul wrote the words.  Some writers have referred to inscriptions on the tombs of famous men of the past where harpazo is used as a euphemism for death; thus, they were “snatched up” by death.[3]  That cannot be the meaning here because the living are contrasted with those who have “fallen asleep” and both will be caught up together (1 Thess. 4:15-17).  The link between this passage and 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 is the trumpet that is blown (1 Thess. 4:16).  At the blast of this trumpet things happen to the saints; they are transformed and glorified.  And this change is one reason why I believe the snatching up of the saints cannot be post-tribulational, for then who would go into the millennial kingdom, have children and grow old as per Isaiah 11, 65, and Zechariah 8?  Glorified people will not procreate nor age.  It therefore looks like the “rapture” of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the corresponding transformation of 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 must occur before the second advent.  This brings the rapture back to either pre- or mid-tribulational or “prewrath.”  I will investigate the timing of this event later, but I do want to address one “pretrib” text which is occasionally used.                              


[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, Downers Grove, IVP, 2001, 142.  “The resurrection will involve somatic existence, although not fleshly existence. ‘Flesh and blood,’ that is, our present fleshly bodies, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50).” – George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983, 465.

[2] See the exposition of Revelation 11 later in this volume. 

[3] E.g., Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and the Hope of Glory, 112-113.

A Fourth Response to Josh Sommer

Part Three

In addressing Josh’s fourth post reacting to my Deciphering Covenant Theology series I am up-to-date with him so far. Josh’s main concern is with the covenant of works, which I critiqued in Parts Four and Five. But he also takes brief aim at my Rules of Affinity which I referred to in one of the posts. But he shows a severe lack of concentration in saying that they constitute “five a priori categories.” If they did then he would be right in claiming that I was employing my own form of deductive inference.

Are the Rules of Affinity Deductive?

But if one examines the Rules of Affinity it ought to be crystal clear that that are necessarily a posteriori or inductive. By the very nature of the case the “Rules” cannot be applied until the biblical passage is set out. It then compares the passage with external uses of the passage to see if they match up. A quick example may help: If I claim that the Bible supports gay relations and use as my proof-text David’s grieving words about Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:26 it would look something like this:

TEXT

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
You have been very pleasant to me;
Your love to me was wonderful,
Surpassing the love of women

PROPOSITION

David’s love for Jonathan was so deep that it must have resulted in homosexual relations between them.

Well, this is not what the verse actually says. It has nothing direct to say about sexual orientation. Therefore , there is no C1 (direct) relationship between the text and the proposition. Neither is there an inevitable conclusion that must be made from the text that David was gay, so no C2. What about the best inference? Is the text at all inferring that David and Jonathan were lovers? No, so no C3. And as the “Rules” recommend that no doctrine be formulated with anything less than a C3 connection between text and what is said about the text the case is closed. 2 Samuel 1:26 says that Jonathan was “very pleasant,” that is, kind and considerate to David. Their friendship was years long and their bond of friendship was close. Some men have known bonds of friendship with other men that went beyond even their relationship with their wives. Think, for example, of police partners and the level of trust and commitment that is created by working together in high-stress conditions. The “homosexual” is being read into the passage and the Rules of Affinity help ferret it out.

Josh also claims that my C2 category “is essentially a restatement of ‘good and necessary consequence’ as it has been historically understood.” But this is not true at all. A C2 comes about only if the link between the text or texts lead inevitably to a conclusion; something that could never be claimed for the theological covenants of CT. That is why I designated the covenant of grace as a C4, which is a statement which is founded on no clear or plain statement of Scripture.

So What About the Covenant of Works?

Josh starts off his defense of the covenant of works by stating,

“In substance, all that is meant by “covenant of works” is the divine imposition of conditions upon man in the garden with blessings for obedience to those conditions and curses for failing to obey.”

And I reply with, “and just where in Genesis 2 is there any mention of blessings for obedience? There are none. Furthermore, you see once more the loosening of the definition of covenant as though it is the same as a promise or agreement. Genesis 2:16-17 records God’s word to Adam that he could eat from any of the trees in the garden except for just one:

“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:17.

There is no agreement. There is no oath. There is a prohibition and a consequence for disobedience, but a prohibition and a consequence do not constitute a covenant. What has to be done is for “covenant” to be made to mean something like “promise and warning” when there is no affirmative promise in the chapter. CT’s identify the absent promise with the gift of having access to all the other trees. Often the insinuation is that this was a temporary arrangement conditioned on whether Adam could pass the test (for some unstated period of time) of not eating from the forbidden tree. Again, this is not in the text, although a generous critic might allow that the concept of probation is a reasonable inference.

To introduce a bit of exegesis into the argument Josh comments:

“The Hebrew term for “command” (swh) is the same term used within the context of the giving of the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 19:7.”

True enough, but no covenant is made in Exodus 19. And even when the commands are put into a covenant frame in Exodus 24, the inclusion is made explicit. There is no explicit or implicit requirement in Genesis 2 for God’s “command” to be understood as covenantal. God can command without entering into a covenant can He not? It is therefore the duty of the person who claims a covenant to be able to prove a covenant. One cannot simply cite Genesis 2:16-17 and think that it is “all that is required for a covenant of works in the garden.”

Covenants Without Oaths?

Josh then tries to establish the existence of covenants in the Bible without oaths. I’m sorry to say that his reasoning here is not very impressive. While he is an intelligent man the system he is defending puts him up against the wall. The fact that in every place where a covenant is made in Scripture an oath is present isn’t enough for him. His position is that of asking “where does the Bible itself require this of every covenant?” He needs to study Paul Williamson’s Sealed with an Oath and rethink his position. Williamson states that the oath is the sine qua non of a biblical covenant.

Next Josh challenges my view that the active obedience of Christ is not atoning. I do not deny that Christ lived a sinless life and that the merits of that life are reckoned to me. But I do have a problem with that life being included with the death of Christ as an atonement for my sin. Again, Josh’s attempt to reason scripturally to his conclusion is pretty tortuous. But I will let the interested reader peruse his argument for himself.

Risking the Gospel Message

Finally, Josh quotes Romans 5:14 and reasons thus:

“But if Adam is an imperfect pattern of our Lord, then his responsibility before God anticipates the responsibility of Christ before God in the stead of Adam’s sinful posterity. And this just means that getting Adam wrong is to risk getting the gospel itself wrong…if Christ came as the antitypical fulfillment of the first Adam, as Romans 5:14 declares, a covenant of works appears necessary. Christ came to merit the life Adam himself failed to obtain for his posterity.”

What he’s getting at here is that our hope was predicated on Adam’s merit. Since Adam fell we fell with him. This is Federal Theology in which Adam is the federal head of the human race. This is related to the Transmission of the Soul (See here etc.) and the question of guilt, which I shall not get into here. Now just because a person does not agree that the active obedience of Christ is part of the atonement does not at all mean that the Gospel is at risk. The proclamation of the Gospel in Acts and the Epistles is absent any mention of this idea.

But it is clear that Josh is reading Federalism into his conclusion. Yet nowhere in Genesis 2 or 3 are we informed that Adam was tasked to obtain merit for us. Josh is deducing this from his Covenant Theology. From what I can see he has much work to do to establish the biblical credentials of the theological covenants that undergird the whole system. With due respect to him I have not seen any persuasive arguments for Covenant Theology in his efforts thus far.

Deciphering Covenant Theology (21)

Part Twenty

Looking Deeper into the Problems with Covenant Theology

7. 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 Covenant of Grace.

It has been common for both Covenant Theologians and Dispensationalists to categorize the former as a continuity system and the latter as a discontinuity system. And to some extent this is so. Dispensationalism can be seen as a discontinuity system in the sense that it claims that the Church of the NT is not Israel. CT teaches that the Church and Israel, at least believing Israel, are the same group under the umbrella of the covenant of grace. There is one people of God; ergo, there is continuity in the saints of the two Testaments.

But the objection to CT framed above accuses it as creating “massive discontinuities.” Those discontinuities are hermeneutical in nature before they are anything else. Hence, the much vaunted “continuity” of CT once more comes about as a result of deductions from its own premises. But it does not and cannot come about as a result of believing what the text of Scripture says, particularly in it’s own covenants. I locate the source of this hermeneutical discontinuity in the way CT deals with the NT. At the risk of coming across as dogmatic, I would insist that theological continuity take second place to hermeneutical continuity.

When one takes care to read the Infancy Narratives of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke it ought to be clear that there is a huge emphasis upon the prophetic expectation generated by the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants of the OT (cf. Matt. 1:17). This can easily be seen be a close reading of the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary (Lk. 1:32-33), and to Joseph (Matt. 1:20-23). Then there are the recorded speeches of Mary (Lk. 1:46-55), Zacharias (Lk. 1:67-79), Simeon (Lk. 2:25-35), and Anna (Lk. 2:36-38). Every one of these witnesses displays a covenantal continuity with the OT. Then we get to the Temptation story, and once again we see the covenants taken seriously (Lk. 4:5-7). I could go on to talk about Matthew 19:28/Lk. 22:30, or Mark 13/Matthew 24. In Acts 1:6 the disciples ask Jesus specifically about restoring the kingdom to Israel. They do this despite having been instructed by the risen Christ specifically about the kingdom (Acts 1:3)! Towards the close of the Book of Acts Paul is still concerned about the “promise [to] our twelve tribes,” which they “hope to attain,” and for which cause he is standing before Agrippa (Acts 26:7). In a word, what we see is interpretive continuity.

Forcing Theological Continuity on to NT Texts

CT, along with NCT cum Progressive Covenantalism and some other approaches, sees a continuum between OT Israel and the NT Church in that the saints in both are seen to be one people under the covenant of grace. Although perhaps overstating it somewhat Merkle observes that, “Covenant theology understands all the biblical covenants as different expressions of the one covenant of grace.” (Benjamin L. Merkle, Discontinuity to Continuity, 15). That being so, there is no room for covenant fulfillment that distinguishes Israel from the Church.

The way this appears in exegesis is that the Infancy Narratives are not taken to be setting up the trajectory of the NT, but at best to be a record of Jewish belief before Christ Himself reinterprets the expectations in His teachings. Taking another example, the statement in Luke 19:11 that the Parable of the Talents was for the explicit reason of disabusing the disciples “because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.” When one adds this teaching to the question about the kingdom being restored to Israel in Acts 1:6 and Jesus’ answer that it was not for the disciples to know the “when” of the kingdom (Acts 1:7), how can one state that,

“Acts 1:8 affirms what will be an ongoing and progressive fulfillment of the OT kingdom and Israel’s restoration, which had already begun establishment in Jesus’ earthly ministry. In this light, the apostles’ question in 1:6 may also reveal an incorrect eschatological presupposition.” – G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 139.

But the disciples had just been taught about the kingdom by the King Himself! Are we really to believe they entertained “an eschatological presupposition.”?

Should We Think About Israel and the Church in Terms of Discontinuity?

I also think it is wrong to talk about the discontinuity between Israel and the Church until we have appreciated the roles that both have within the wider covenantal program of God. Both “peoples” have a place within the Abrahamic covenant: Israel in terms of natural descendants and land, the Church in terms of the blessing upon the nations both through Abraham’s Seed Jesus Christ and our faith-participation in Him (Gal. 3:16-29). And if we are paying attention we can see that both the Church right now and the remnant of Israel in the future are parties to the New covenant in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:25; Rom. 11:25-29). Furthermore, we must not forget that both entities play an implicit and strategic part in the Creation Project itself as it unfurls in history. It is therefore a mistake to refer to the Church as a “parenthesis” because those leave the impression that a new thought has been interjected into a sentence which could stand alone without it. It is better to think of God’s Creation Project as containing several strands or programs which go into operation at different times in the history of the fallen world. The plan for Israel begins after the confusion of languages and separation of nations (Gen. 10 – 11). The plan for the Church begins after Israel’s rejection of Jesus’ ministry (Acts 2). Since God has unfinished business with Israel the plan to save the nation is taken up after the Church is complete (Rom. 11:25-29). I believe that it is better to think in terms of these programs within the one Project that God has for Creation. The Church is not in any sense “Plan B”, it is Plan 1b. There’s a big difference!

Part 22

Deciphering Covenant Theology (20)

Part Nineteen

6. 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]”.

The actual covenants of God which are recorded in the Old Testament dictate, or ought to dictate, the course of the prophetic narrative. This covenant story raises definite expectations which build to a crescendo by the close of the OT canon. The momentum that has been built up requires us to look very carefully at the NT for signs of continuation of covenant themes. This is something we get, especially in the Synoptic Gospels.

But Covenant Theology is one of those approaches to reading the Bible that effectively negates the covenant expectation that was accumulated in the OT. Instead, CT begins its understanding of Scripture in the NT. I have commented that the NT themes that are concentrated on by CT are the cross and resurrection. But I need to qualify that statement. CT emphasizes the cross and resurrection mainly as they are expounded in Paul. Paul’s theological explanation of these joint themes and their application to the Christian Church is the main thing. This in turn is done by use of the Adam or Christ dichotomy of e.g., Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. Either you are in Christ in the covenant of grace or in Adam and under the covenant of works; the cross and resurrection making the transition possible. From this starting point everything in the OT must be passed through this NT grid.

“Both Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians believe that the New Testament takes priority in how the Old Testament is fulfilled in it.” – Richard P. Belcher, Jr., The Fulfillment of the Promises of God, 208.

“[T]he one problem we have in the interpretation of the Bible is the failure to interpret the texts by the definitive event of the gospel.  This has its outworking in both directions.  What went before Christ in the Old Testament, as well as what comes after him, thus finding its meaning in him.  So the Old Testament must be understood in its relationship to the gospel event.  What that relationship is can only be determined from the witness of the New Testament itself.” – Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 50.

I must stress a most important matter here. The priority that is given to the NT is not what many interpreters would say is the correct interpretation of the NT. So what is happening is that a certain view of the NT is being foisted on the OT and the OT covenant expectation is not permitted to have a say in how the picture is to look. When that is done it becomes easy to say things such as this:

“[E]arlier expressions point to things beyond themselves that are greater than the meaning that would have been perceived by those receiving these earlier expressions.” – Ibid, 123.

If we return to the Belcher quotation above we can see how this plays out. Belcher says that “the New Testament takes priority in how the Old Testament is fulfilled in it.” But I want to straight away challenge that statement. For instance, what if the OT is not being fulfilled in the NT but is yet to be fulfilled? Well, if that “yet to be fulfilled” happens to cut across what CT will permit then it will usually be made to be “fulfilled” in the NT. So CT Kevin DeYoung asks, ““Without a systematic theology how can you begin to know what to do with the eschatology of Ezekiel…?” And I answer,

‘Your systematic theology, which includes your eschatology, must be constructed from reading Ezekiel, along with all the other books of the Bible to see what it says. The eschatology of Ezekiel cannot be ascertained from outside of Ezekiel, but one can compare what Ezekiel writes with what other Prophets write and you will see a covenantally patterned eschatology emerge. Moreover, that eschatology will be arrived at before the NT is consulted. Why? Because, quite simply, Ezekiel is found in the OT!’

The problem a “a canon within the canon” may arise in different settings. In Theology a canon within the canon refers to the prioritizing of certain books above other books for doctrinal or interpretive purposes. While all Scripture is equally inspired it is not all equally treated. CT’s insistence that the NT (well, especially the Pauline Writings) are necessary for understanding “how the Old Testament is fulfilled” creates a canon within the canon. And this in turn logically places the OT, which is three quarters of the Bible, at a lower level of authority than the NT. “Authority” is muted when the speaker’s words are not taken at face value but reinterpreted on the basis of another authority. Again, I must qualify that statement because whenever portions of the NT, like the Infancy Narratives or the Olivet Discourse or the Book of Revelation link up with the covenant expectations of the OT they too are reinterpreted to agree with what Paul (chiefly) is thought to be teaching, which is “Covenant Theology.”

It ought to dawn upon people that if the OT cannot be properly understood on its own terms that it must therefore be unclear in some important sense. Full clarity can be given to the OT only by the NT, it is not something that the OT itself possesses as an inherent property. Thus, the greater portion of the Holy Scriptures, especially the covenants and prophecies, do not possess the virtue of perspicuity. Not only that, but some large sections of the NT seemingly don’t possess it either! This is not to say that the NT does not clarify certain things written in the OT with further revelation. It is to say that any further revelation given by the NT will not force the OT to be reinterpreted so that the original words are given meanings that they just do not bear.

I could go on to speak about how the NT writers’ appealing to the OT for authority is thereby torpedoed but I will leave that for my reader to ponder.

Finally, it should not go unnoticed that the title of DeYoung’s article (cited above) is tellingly “Your Theological System Should Tell You How To Exegete.” That confirms my contention throughout these posts that CT is fundamentally a deductive way of interpreting Scripture. It is also why Dispensationalists should not adopt the position that they can simply worry about eschatology and ecclesiology and fetch their doctrines of God, man, and salvation from the Reformed CT camp. The methodology of CT does not comport with Dispensationalist hermeneutics. Hence, if Dispensationalists want to arrive where CT’s arrive on systematic theology they will have to get there by using a method which better comports with what they claim to be doing when interpreting the Bible, not using a method which deduces its interpretations from its theology.

Part 21

A Third Response to Josh Sommer

Part Two

In his third critique of my series on Deciphering Covenant Theology Josh seeks to redress some issues with my treatment of the covenant of redemption. Of my views on the covenant of redemption Josh has this to say:

“That the covenant of redemption depends upon assumptions is a conclusion that does not follow from the available premises throughout the article. He never actually defines what these assumptions are, much less does he show those assumptions to be false through rational demonstration. He just asserts their presence and opines their insufficiency.”

Josh thinks that I do not prove my assertion that the theological covenants are based upon assumptions. Well, if he or anyone else could simply show me where these covenants are to be found on the pages of Scripture I will be happy to take it back. I’m not going to hold my breath. So then, as they have shall we say “slight” exegetical claims these covenants: redemption, works, and grace must perforce be assumed from other premises. I gave those premises in Parts One & Two and here too. For example, in Part three I wrote,

“The reason that CT is so deductive is because of its method of reading Scripture. Briefly put its method is to formulate doctrine from – to put it in the language of the Westminster Confession 1.6 – “good and necessary consequences”, and then go in search of texts which appear to back up those consequences. This is then called ‘exegesis.'”

You will see Josh deducing these covenants from certain questions he asks and then seeking proof-texts for his own answers.

Josh also accuses me of citing “very little from his interlocutors.” Well, in Part Three I cite seven sources a total of ten times. In Part Two I cite one source three times, including nine lines of text. In Part One I cite two sources, including a block quotation of six lines of text. My concern is not to provide a compendium of CT quotations, but to accurately portray their views with the help of references and quotes from the literature.

One People of God?

Josh thinks that the NT s explicit that there is and can be only one people of God. He says it “stands to reason that every Christian should be willing to confess a single people of God.” Ephesians 4:4 is brought out to prove this. But Ephesians is written to the Church. The Church is created “one new man” according to Ephesians 2:15. The Church has to be new because it is connected to Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-11). We were baptized into the one Body (the Church) by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13). The Spirit was not given until after Christ was raised (Jn. 6:37; 16:7; Rom. 8:11). This means that Ephesians 4 has no relevance to OT saints, unless it can be shown that the Body of Christ existed in the OT or that the dead saints were added to the Church in heaven. Hebrews 11:39 does not say that OT saints are members of the Church. It says that OT saints did not obtain the promise. What promise? Heaven? Who would teach that OT saints aren’t in heaven? The completed Church then? Verse 40 states “that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” To what does that refer? Josh thinks it refers to all the saints from every age being one in the Church, but Hebrews does not say that. I do not want to get off on a tangent here but the “us” in Hebrews are Hebrews! Hebrew Christians you say. Well, Hebrews does not say that. Whatever “the promise” is in Hebrews 11 it is not the Church.

Josh commits what James Barr called “illegitimate totality transfer” when he says that “the Septuagint (LXX) translates the Hebrew references to Israel as an assembly to ἐκκλησίαν on several occasions.” The use of a term in one setting does not mean that it means the same as it does in another setting. Josh also fails to observe the context for Genesis 17:14 which is to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac not Ishmael (see Gen. 17:18-19). Ishmael’s seed could have been circumcised and it would have made no difference; they were outside the covenant. I will leave it there.

What About the Covenant of Redemption?

Josh thinks that in simply my pointing out that many covenant theologians question the covenant of redemption is somehow wrong. That it does not disprove whether there is one. Correct. and I never said it did. But it is worth noting that the covenant of redemption is queried even by CT’s. Then Josh says “Henebury doesn’t actually engage his interlocutors on their exegetical defense in favor of the covenant of redemption.”

As anyone who reads Part Three can see I do engage the texts which Guy Richards brings forth to prove the covenant of redemption. I shall, however, say more about his list of verses here.

Richard’s first proof-text for claiming “buying and selling” language that he will utilize to support the covenant of redemption is Acts 20:28 which refers to the Church bought by God’s (i.e. Christ’s) blood. Since that is New covenant blood according to Jesus Himself (Lk. 22:20) it has nothing to do with the covenant of redemption, works, or grace which are not spoken of in the Bible. Ditto 1 Corinthians 6:20; Ephesians 1:7, and 1 Peter 1:18. These verses which Richard tries to tie to the theological covenants are concerned with Jesus’ blood, which is New covenant blood. That is why I didn’t really interact with Richard’s “exegesis.” There isn’t any. Richard is taking a part of a New covenant doctrine and ripping it out of context to try to stick it onto the covenant of redemption. Added to this is him citing Patrick Gillespie that a covenant is essentially an agreement, which isn’t true! As I said, ” Covenant theologians tell stories.” These are assertions made without any contextual validation. Josh thinks that since I did not detain the reader with Gillespie’s misuse of Isaiah 28:15 I somehow wasn’t playing fair.

But as Josh himself shows, Richard uses Gillespie, not the Bible, as an authority for making “covenant” and “agreement” synonymous. They aren’t; especially not where it matters. “Agreement” is a necessary part of a conditional covenant such as the “covenant of death” which the leaders of Judah had made in Isaiah 28:15 (which would not be upheld – Isa. 28:.18). But “agreement” is not part of an unconditional covenant such as the New covenant or the Davidic covenant: not unless one thinks that “I agree that you pledged to do this” is what is meant by “agreement”! Gillespie is just wrong. Josh riffs off this like a point has been proven. Moreover, according to CT’s view of the theological covenants of redemption and grace, they are unconditional; which means that defining covenant as simply agreement doesn’t give the result that is needed.

Josh then takes aim at me for asking what John 6:37 has to do with a covenant. Here it is:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

He says I am guilty of the word/concept fallacy because I deny what David Dickson and Guy Richard wish to assert. But the burden of proof is not on me. I am not the one making the claim that John 6:37 is a proof for a pre-creational covenant in the Godhead! The Father gives people to the Son, and they therefore will come to the Son. Okay. Who needs a covenant? And why would the persons of the Trinity need to covenant with each other? Oh wait, a covenant is only an agreement! CT’s generally dilute the definition of covenant so that it can be used to support their covenants. I demur.

In trying to rebuff my position on Psalm 2:7 Josh resorts to typological hermeneutics. Now I agree that David is a type of Christ in some ways, but many of my readers know that I am a severe critic of typological hermeneutics because it is an the habit of choosing a typology that suits its conclusions and rejecting typologies which don’t. Josh joins Guy Richard in fishing around Psalm 2 i an attempt to link it to the covenant of redemption. He believes that Psalm 2:8 (“Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.) refers to Christ’s “sending and mission.” It doesn’t. It refers to His coming reign over the earth from Zion (Psa. 2:6, 9 cf. Rev. 19:15). He comments:

“It is this mission of Christ that warrants the language of “decretal agreement” or “covenant of redemption,” due to the sending and giving of the Son by the Father for that definitive work of salvation.”

So having concocted a pre-temporal salvation covenant out of nothing but a few verses out of context, none of which refer to a covenant, and diluting the definition of covenant down to the vapid idea of “agreement” we are now supposed to believe that the nations being given to Christ as His inheritance (see Rev. 11:15) is actually not His future earthly reign but His “mission” through the Church! And that warrants the language of the covenant of grace! Remember my quotation of myself above:

“Briefly put its method is to formulate doctrine from – to put it in the language of the Westminster Confession 1.6 – “good and necessary consequences”, and then go in search of texts which appear to back up those consequences.”

That is what Josh and his CT scholars do above. I see no exegesis in service of their theological covenants. Lastly, Josh thinks “Henebury has not allowed for an impartial presentation of covenant theology by its adherents.” Well, he is entitled to his opinion, but I do not see any proof for CT in his rebuttals. Rather, I see examples of the very deductive theologizing I warned readers of at the beginning of the series.

Deciphering Covenant Theology (19)

Part Eighteen

Looking Deeper into the Problems with Covenant Theology (4)

4. CT deals with everything it meets in the pages of Scripture using these false covenants.

From my point of view as a non-covenant theologian it is bad enough that the three theological covenants of Covenant Theology share scarcely a scrap of textual warrant between them. What is worse, though, is how much these made-up covenants dictate the rest of what the Bible can and cannot be allowed to teach, particularly when it comes to biblical prophecy. Here are the two main areas where I believe the impact of false covenants ) are most felt:

The Definition of “Covenant”

Perhaps it is well to start with the definition of “covenant” that CT’s slip into. Although decent definitions have been put forth by men like Vos, Horton, and Robertson, many CT’s relax their definitions to allow the theological covenants in. As I have shown, many CT’s reduce the meaning of covenant down to “agreement” and then they’re off to the races. Kevin DeYoung does this in the book Covenant Theology edited by Waters, Reid & Muether, 589. He continues with “A covenant is a commitment that establishes a relationship between two or more parties.” (His emphasis). The trouble here is that one can define a promise or indeed a plain old agreement the same way. The biblical covenants cannot be accurately defined this way because the central oath is so important to them.

A covenant is not just an agreement. As a matter of fact the idea of “agreement” is not a necessary ingredient of a covenant at all! Just think of the unilateral covenants like the Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, or New. These covenants are one-sided oaths taken by God to do good to specific parties. For example, Noah didn’t have to agree with God’s pledge never again to flood the earth. Therefore, “agreement” is not a necessary component of a unilateral covenant. In point of fact, “agreement” is not a component of the dubious covenant of grace either!

What a covenant is at least is a solemn, binding oath to do something of importance. It must be clearly stated so as not to cause confusion or misinterpretation – especially with the passage of time. The covenants of redemption, works and grace do not pass this first test. However, once accepted they become more authoritative than the divine covenants which can be identified exegetically. A major effect of this is that whatever those divine covenants promised is made subject to review under the theological covenants; the covenant of grace foremost.

The One People of God

Then there is the position which is demanded by the covenant of grace that there be only one homogenous people of God. This people is the one Church under the covenant. Even when Reformed Baptists differentiate between the OT people of God and the NT people of God they are speaking about the one Church, although its complexion changes from majority Jewish to majority Gentile. But what about these texts?

Thus says the LORD:

‘I will return to Zion,
And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,
The Mountain of the LORD of hosts,
The Holy Mountain. – Zechariah 8:3.

And it shall come to pass
That just as you were a curse among the nations,
O house of Judah and house of Israel,
So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing.
Do not fear,
Let your hands be strong. – Zechariah 8:13.

Since Jerusalem has never been called “the City of Truth” and the reunited nation of Israel has not been saved to bless the other nations what are we to do with this promise? If there’s one people of God and that people is the mostly Gentile Church under the covenant of grace then something will have to be altered. What will not be permitted is the eschatological manifestation of these prophecies in the future. Therefore, since the future is all the Church and hence there is no need for Jerusalem to be the City of Truth, or for Israel (composed of Israelites in a nation) to be saved and become a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:3?), one maneuver that can be done is to pass on the details and then not comment on the verses so that the chapter can be made to fit a one-people-of-God eschaton.

The same can be said about passages like Matthew 21:28 or Revelation 21:22-26. The Matthew passage predicts a time when Jesus’ disciples will judge “the twelve tribes of Israel.” This implies an ethnic and national dimension to “Israel” in the kingdom which would distinguish it from other nations. The covenant of grace cannot accommodate such a thing. The end of Revelation 21 very clearly speaks of “the glory and the honor of the nations” being brought into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:26). If their are distinguishable nations in the new heavens and new earth then there is no good reason to deny Israel’s covenant promises to it as a nation. But this is what CT does through its one-people-of-God doctrine.

The flip side of all this is Point #5:

5. CT is not open to follow the covenants of God where they lead.

Although I listed this as a separate problem for CT, it does not require much additional comment. The covenant that God made with Noah guarantees the uniformity of nature at least until Christ comes to beautify and reorder it. It also demonstrates the hermeneutical power of covenants. It does this because it is solely on the basis of this covenant that everyone believes that God will not flood the earth again. Unfortunately, CT does not make this covenant a hermeneutical touchstone. Instead, that honor is handed to the theological covenant of grace.

The Mosaic covenant provided clear cultic and moral laws and guidelines which were comprehended even when they weren’t followed. These laws preserved Israel as a people (a remnant) before God. Once Israel accepts the New covenant in Christ these laws will be adapted for the new conditions. The covenant with Phinehas and his descendants (Zadokites) insures that some form of Temple cultus will exist in the Kingdom. This will of necessity be under the New covenant once Israel is redeemed by that covenant. CT has no use for another literal Temple in Jerusalem because of it’s view that the Church is both the true Temple and the true Israel under the covenant of grace.

The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants guarantee land and a monarchy to the twelve tribes of Israel which have yet to be fully realized. The Abrahamic covenant also has a provision of blessing for the nations without that provision obstructing God’s provisions for His people Israel. CT’s often claim that these covenants have found their fulfillments in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the Church that is in Him. Therefore, whatever details in the Abrahamic or Davidic covenants fail to match this view are expanded and transformed so that the original promises are transcended and their typological counterparts are affirmed.

Part 20

Brief Review of ’40 Questions About Prayer’

A review of Joseph C. Harrod, 40 Questions About Prayer. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2022, 292 pages, pbk.

Over the many years that I have been a Christian I have read many books about prayer. I have also written about it on several occasions. Prayer is at one and the same time one of the easiest and one of the most difficult subjects in Christian Theology. Most of the books on prayer that I have read are either too simplistic, or else they veer too far from the Scriptures and the view of reality that it presents.

With that in mind I picked up Joseph Harrod’s book with some skepticism, although I was hopeful being that he had written his dissertation on Samuel Davies. Still, I play the cynic well. Was it going to be a wafer-thin book on how much God wants to answer every felt need? Was it going to be written like a long motivational speech, egging us on to pray because prayer is so great? Would the author keep his feet on the ground?

The first thing to do is to see how the author defines prayer. Straight away I was won over. Harrod went to John Bunyan. Since I think Bunyan’s definition (which I will not reproduce here) is one of the best breakdowns of the essence of prayer I was very pleased to find that Harrod agreed. (As an aside, Bunyan’s work on Prayer is available from Banner of Truth).

Harrod’s book is a very good exploration of what prayer is and why it should be prioritized. Harrod divides the subject under five headings: 1. General Questions, 2. Prayer and Theology, 3. Prayer in Scripture, 4. Prayer in Practice, and 5. Prayer in Historical Context. While the first four sections were to be expected I thought the fifth was an excellent choice. My only criticism is that it was not long enough. He covers the early and medieval Church and the Puritans. All good! But I do wish he would have gone into the 18th and 19th centuries at least. There are so many spiritual giants in those eras (e.g., Wesley, Whitefield, Payson, Simeon, Spurgeon, Ryle, etc.). My only other criticism of the book is that it does not tackle the matter of prayer for things that would seem to be God’s will that receive no clear answers. This aspect of prayer – it’s mystery – requires a careful modern treatment.

Nevertheless, the chapters on Theology and Scripture were solid and helpful. The chapters on the Practice of prayer even better. For instance, Question 26 on the Spiritual Disciplines was terrific. Harrod has thought much on this subject.

40 Questions About Prayer is a very good book and is well worth the money.

Deciphering Covenant Theology (18)

Part Seventeen

Looking Deeper into the Problems with Covenant Theology (3)

3. CT relies upon covenants found nowhere in Holy Writ.

If I were to challenge you to locate the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Phinehas, Moses, and David it would not take you very long. But what if I issued a challenge to find the covenants of redemption, works, or grace? And what if I told you that you could not run to any passage where the covenants to do with Noah, Abraham, Phinehas, Moses, and David were in view? How would you fair?

If you were a Covenant Theologian, one thing that you would have to do is to dilute the definition of “covenant” so that it simply meant something like “agreement.” You might begin by talking about “oaths and bonds” (Horton), but you would make sure to leave those open so that they could be filled with your preferred meanings further on down the line. Then you would have to talk about the “covenantal structure” of Genesis 1 – 3 and provide the kind of “oath” that is mysteriously missing in those chapters. After this you would run to passages such as John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3, and Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 to try to prove that God’s plan of salvation was an intra-trinitarian covenant (with covenant stripped down to read “agreement” or “decree”). After all this you would have to tell a story around your covenants of redemption, works, and grace, being careful to promote the covenant of grace to the position of arch-covenant, making sure that the Bible’s actual covenants you had easily identified in the initial challenge were subsumed beneath it.

I realize that putting things this way is a bit “cute,” but I think it makes my point. CT’s like to claim that they have exegetical warrant for their theological covenants, but where is it? I want to begin with a quotation from Herman Bavinck:

“The development of the doctrine of the pactum salutis [the intratrinitarian pact of salvation] among the Reformed was not free of scholastic subtlety. The classic text (Zech. 6:13) cited in support of this doctrine does not support prove anything and only states that the Messiah, who unites in his person both the kingship and the priesthood, will consider and promote the peace of his people (Keil).

From Job 17:3; Isaiah 38:14; and Psalm 119:122 (none of which refer to the Messiah), and from Hebrews 7:22 (where we are told only that Christ, because he lives forever, is the guarantee that the new covenant will continue forever), it was inferred that in the pact of salvation Christ had from all eternity become the guarantor, not of God to us…(for God, being trustworthy, needed no guarantor), but of us before God…” – Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume Three, Sin and Salvation in Christ, 213.

A close reading of this quote should demonstrate the strongly deductive nature of CT. Notice how states that the “pact of salvation” was “inferred.” Bavinck continues on the next page by claiming, with the linkage of many assorted passages, that “the pact of salvation” (by which he means the covenant of redemption) “is rooted in a scriptural idea.” But none of the passages he adduces refer to such a covenant. The “covenant” is just his (and CT’s) way of relating the texts. The trinitarian God is said to be covenantal in His being, but how and why this is so is not explained. As such, even a theological titan like Bavinck offers no exegetical defense of the covenant of redemption. It is clear when reading historical accounts of CT that the theological covenants were all arrived by this process of linking disparate passages into a theological narrative or story using “covenant” as the unifying concept.

As I said in Part Three of this series, Guy Richard asserts that the word “decree” can be basically synonymous with the word “covenant” (in Psalm 2:7). This despite my not being able to find any authority to back it up. And as I asked there, “Is the decree pretemporal? And is every decree covenantal?… Still, while the decree may plausibly be traced to the “eternal counsels” that does not make it covenantal.” With proofs like this there is a lot more work to be done if people like me are going to be persuaded of the scriptural credentials of these theological covenants. Remember, these covenants govern the whole Bible Story; they are it’s hermeneutic – especially the covenant of grace.

Speaking of the covenant of grace, John Currid writes of its commencement in Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Perspectives (edited by Waters, Reid, and Meuther), 102-109. There is some good exegesis in his chapter, but none of it goes to establishing the scriptural pedigree of the covenant of grace. Instead, Currid blankly states concerning Genesis 3:14-19 that “God makes a covenantal oath.” He then takes us to the Westminster Confession 7.3 (102-103). This is precisely what Kevin DeYoung does on pages 591-592 of the same volume. But where is any covenantal oath in Genesis 3?

Okay, so where do CT’s prove by exegesis the existence of these “covenants” outside of their own reasoning? You tell me. If it is in Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Perspectives I can’t find it. It is not enough to string together a group of texts. One must demonstrate that they have anything to do with the theological covenants of CT and not with the biblical covenants or with non-covenantal teachings.

Finally, if this cannot be done, what authorizes us to proceed to interpret the rest of the Bible; and in so doing eliminating the eschatological meaning of many prophecies tied to the Abrahamic, Davidic, or New covenants along the way? We need more than a cleverly contrived narrative and heaps of typology. We need proof.

Part 19