There has been an interesting discussion going on at my other blog over my last post. I decided to post some of the comments here for my readers of this blog. Feel free to jump in on the discussion!
I absolutely agree that there’s a tendency to artificially chop Scripture up. I can’t figure out where more than three of the dispensations come from…and I was raised dispensationalist! I also tend to agree with some aspects of both where it comes to history (for example, I haven’t given up on a literal restoration of Israel yet). Salvation, yeah…that’s not a timeline thing.
As for covenantalism…I’ve never even heard of it as a “timeline.” For us heretic Presbyterians, it’s very much about the unity of Scripture, the continuation of grace all the way through…and above all the importance of the PEOPLE and the GROUP as oppsed to the individual. I think that’s probably the view Laura has in mind when she says that she thinks covenant theology is more consistent with what the Bible actually says. Apparently there’s more than one formulation of covenant theology. Interesting!
We’ll have fun tormenting our pastor with this one at the next question and answer session! Thank you for your careful research and well-reasoned post.
Actually, I disagree on the group versus an individual. I think if you look at Scripture, and at Reformed theology, it makes just as much sense to emphasize God working in the lives of specific people (election, sanctification).
In response to my husband:
Unfortunatly I don’t have much time to respond right now, but maybe I will come back and elaborate.
Caleb, great post. I don’t know how many classes you had with Dr. Kelly, but he is definently a stickler for the simplest usually being the best, and I agree.
Far too often it seems Christians neglect the Hebrew Scriptures in an almost Gnostic way. Want to say more, but must run.
“I believe that when you look at Scriptures the overarching theme is the grace of God toward man. From the time of the fall to last pages of Revelation, the Bible is a story of how God continually offers grace to humanity. The stories of the Old Testament are full of times that God extended mercy to undeserving people. In the New Testament God became man and died in the ultimate act of grace; the ultimate extension of mercy. The remainder of the New Testament tells us how to live in light of Jesus’ life and sacrifice.”
In fact, if Covenant Theology were what that Wikipedia article makes it out to be, I too would steer far, far away from it. However, like I commented on Laura’s Xanga, I found that article to be very disingenuous. It looks very much as if the author(s) don’t have a clue what they are talking about, and instead came up with a rebranded and slightly tweaked form of Dispensationalism. In any case, their description bears no resemblance (IMHO) to classic, historical Covenantalism. If you want some solid resources to read (in addition to the truckload of NT passages I posted on Laura’s site ) the link below is a great place to start:
I put a whole lot more stock in something by Drs. J. Ligon Duncan & RC Sproul, for example, than an anonymously-written Wiki article.
Oh, and I go on record as backing Mary’s statement about the group vs. the individual. If Laura is interested in a detailed explanation of why, I will be happy to work one up…
One of my main reasons for this post was to show how frustrated I get with “theology.” I know I can be simplistic but if I had to choose a theology that best explains what we see in Scripture, it would be grace. The Bible is God’s revelation to man. The whole of the Bible is a story of grace. If there is a thread that binds the entire book together, it is the grace of God in his dealings with sinful humanity. I think both covenant theology and dispensational theology work. They both make sense and they both have strong Scripture to back them up. However, I think there is an underlying theme that we often miss when get caught up in theological debates and interpretation of Scripture through the lens of a particular theology.
When all theology (theology= the study of God; i.e. man trying to understand God) is put aside we are left with grace. When studying ancient biblical manuscripts, scholars will often prefer the less complex, less wordy manuscript to the more complex. Why? Because when humans get their hands on something they tend to add to it and make things more complex than they really are.
I don’t really have a specific Scripture reference for this, because I can see it throughout the entire Bible (i.e. not destroying humanity after sinning in the garden, saving a handful of people on the Ark when He could have just as easily started over, the promise of a Redeemer through the line of childless man, the Exodus, the Law, sparing the Hebrews despite all of their faults…). The purpose of theology is to help us understand God and His Word. I firmly believe that we will never be able to fully grasp it all, but everything seems to fall into place when seen through the lens of grace.