New Covenant Theology

From the Archives: What Is New Covenant Theology?

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Oct-Dec, 2010).

New Covenant Theology (NCT) is a rather new theological movement.1 Its proponents come from the local church rather than academia, and the majority of its adherents are found within the local church. Its proponents include Tom Wells, Fred Zaspel, John Reisinger, and Steve Lehrer.

Some people within the movement have reacted against Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology, and sometimes both. John Reisinger writes, “As New Covenant Theologians, we believe that historic Dispensationalism, as a system, is not biblical…. We are also convinced that Covenant Theology, as a system, is just as unscriptural.”2

Several of its proponents come out of a Reformed Baptist position, abandoning the tripartite division of the law (moral, civil, and ceremonial), infant baptism, and the historic covenants of works and grace. While they abandon these aspects of Reformed theology, most also reject dispensational distinctives, such as the distinction between Israel and the church and dispensational hermeneutics.

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Book Review - Perspectives on Israel and the Church

Perhaps there is no issue which more clearly divides conservative Evangelicals, than the question of the relationship between Israel and the Church. Subsumed beneath that overriding concern are the intramural debates over soteriology (Calvinism, Arminianism or “neither”), eschatology (premillennial or amillennial and pre-trib or post-trib), and ecclesiology (paedobaptism or credobaptism).

These questions are not minor. The baptism question divides the Protestant church into denominations. The millennial question bars the entry into parachurch organizations, mission boards and educational institutions. Yet most agree that people from all perspectives on this issue take the Bible seriously: this is a Christian debate, separating fellow believers.

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Book Review - Kingdom through Covenant

Peter Gentry & Stephen Wellum are seeking a middle way between covenant theology and dispensational theology. As a covenant theology loving Christian I found their critiques even-handed and thoughtful. Anyone interested in developing a theology that fits within the big picture narrative of Scripture would benefit from Kingdom through Covenant.

They first define biblical theology as:

…concerned with the overall message of the whole Bible. It seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole. As an exegetical method, it is sensitive to literary, historical, and theological dimensions of various corpora, as well as to the interrelationships between earlier and later texts in Scripture. Furthermore, biblical theology is interested not merely in words and word studies but also in concepts and themes as it traces out the Bible’s own story line, on the Bible’s own terms, as the plot line reaches its culmination in Christ. (p. 33)

After establishing the ground rules for their hermeneutical method, they offer a history of both dispensational theology and covenant theology. If you are interested in the history of these interpretations as well as the finer points these chapters are gold. It provides a concise survey and accurate comparison of both systems.

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What is New Covenant Theology?

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Oct-Dec, 2010).

New Covenant Theology (NCT) is a rather new theological movement.1 Its proponents come from the local church rather than academia, and the majority of its adherents are found within the local church. Its proponents include Tom Wells, Fred Zaspel, John Reisinger, and Steve Lehrer.

Some people within the movement have reacted against Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology, and sometimes both. John Reisinger writes, “As New Covenant Theologians, we believe that historic Dispensationalism, as a system, is not biblical…. We are also convinced that Covenant Theology, as a system, is just as unscriptural.”2

Several of its proponents come out of a Reformed Baptist position, abandoning the tripartite division of the law (moral, civil, and ceremonial), infant baptism, and the historic covenants of works and grace. While they abandon these aspects of Reformed theology, most also reject dispensational distinctives, such as the distinction between Israel and the church and dispensational hermeneutics.

One of the bulwarks of NCT is its hermeneutics. NCT has admonished theologians to look beyond their presuppositions, analyze the text exegetically, and craft their theology around their exegesis.3

What distinguishes New Covenant Theology from these other movements? A key component is its primary hermeneutical principle, which they call the “logical priority of the New Testament over the Old Testament.”4 If we understand this aspect of New Covenant Theology, we will have a good grasp of the movement and how it approaches the Bible (their hermeneutics).

In this article we will define progressive revelation, determine what NCT theologians mean by “the logical priority of the NT,” and look at the New Covenant (Jer. 31) as an illustration of their hermeneutics at work.

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