Covenant Theology

"Replacement Theology" - Is It Wrong to Use the Term? (Part 5)

Read the series so far.

Incipient Supercessionsm

So far I have tried to show that replacement theology exists and that it is a coinage of at least some covenant theologians, and also that it can take the shape either of direct replacementism (i.e. the church replaces Israel), or else conceptual replacementism (aspects of Israel’s promises are superseded by antitypes in the church). However, there is no shortage of men who vehemently deny that their theology is replacement theology. Sam Storms has stated,

Replacement theology would assert that God has uprooted and eternally cast aside the olive tree which is Israel and has planted, in its place, an entirely new one, the Church. All the promises given to the former have been transferred to the latter. But this is not what Paul says. He clearly states that there is but one olive tree, rooted in the promises given to the patriarchs. In this one tree (i.e., in this one people of God) there are both believing Jews (natural branches) and believing Gentiles (unnatural branches). Together they constitute the one people of God, the one “new man,” the true Israel in and for whom the promises will be fulfilled. This one people, of course, is the Church. (Sam Storms, Kingdom Come, 195; my emphasis)

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Dispensationalism 101: Part 2 - Covenental Thought

From Dispensational Publishing House; used with permission.

Last time, we began this series by considering the difference between dispensational and covenantal theology. We thought about some basic things that we must understand in order to deal properly with that issue. We begin this article with a brief review.

Covenantalism in a Nutshell

The terms covenantal and Reformed are often used interchangeably. There are dispensationalists who speak of being Reformed, yet the way they use the term Reformed is in respect to salvation, referring to the doctrines of grace. Another might refer to himself as a Calvinist-dispensationalist, but this is a rather awkward phrase, since Calvinism is typically used in the discipline of soteriology, not eschatology. This designation would be used to refer to men like John MacArthur and faculty from his school, The Master’s University,1 and others who have embraced the doctrines of grace and who apply a consistently literal hermeneutic, especially in the prophets, while not reading Jesus into every Old Testament verse or giving the New Testament priority.2 Read more about Dispensationalism 101: Part 2 - Covenental Thought

"Replacement Theology" - Is It Wrong to Use the Term? (Part 2)

Read the series so far.

It’s a Real Thing

That replacement theology actually exists should be beyond dispute. In a well known admission, the esteemed NT scholar C.E.B. Cranfield wrote,

the assumption that the Church has simply replaced Israel as the people of God is extremely common… . And I confess with shame to having also myself used in print on more than one occasion this language of the replacement of Israel by the Church. (C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2, 448.)

If such a prominent voice as Cranfield’s says that replacement theology is no fiction then clearly we have something to talk about. Read more about "Replacement Theology" - Is It Wrong to Use the Term? (Part 2)

Dispensationalism 101: Part 1 - The Difference Between Dispensational & Covenantal Theology

From Dispensational Publishing House; used with permission.

What is the difference between dispensational and covenantal theology? Furthermore, is the difference really that important? After all, there are believers on both sides of the discussion. Before entering into the conversation, there are a couple of understandings that need to be embraced.

Tension & Mystery

First and foremost, there is the need to recognize the tension—and mystery—which has characterized this and other theological discussions for centuries. There will probably never be a satisfactory answer or clarifying article that will settle the debate once and for all for both parties. There will be no end to the discussion until Jesus Christ returns (either in the rapture of His church or earthly millennial reign, in my estimation). Read more about Dispensationalism 101: Part 1 - The Difference Between Dispensational & Covenantal Theology

"Replacement Theology" - Is It Wrong to Use the Term? (Part 1)

Recently I have been reminded of the Reformed community’s aversion to the label of supercessionism, or worse, replacement theology. In the last decade or so particularly I have read repeated disavowals of this term from covenant theologians. Not wanting to misrepresent or smear brethren with whom I disagree, I have to say that I struggle a bit with these protests.

“We are not replacement theologians” we are told, “but rather we believe in transformation or expansion.” By some of the objectors we are told that the church does not replace Israel because it actually is Israel — well, “true Israel” — the two designations are really one. This move is legitimate, they say, because the “true Israel” or “new Israel” is in direct continuity with Israel in the Old Testament.

In this series of posts I want to investigate the question of whether it is right; if I am right, to brand this outlook as replacement theology and supercessionism. Read more about "Replacement Theology" - Is It Wrong to Use the Term? (Part 1)

The Covenant in Classical Covenant Theology (Part 2)

(Read Part 1.)

If we turn to Covenant theology’s own explanations of their system we find a curious dualism of frankness and subterfuge. I do not use “frankness” in the ethical sense, just in the sense that there is sometimes a willingness to face the text and deal with what it actually says.

Likewise, by “subterfuge” I am not saying there is an unethical motive in these men, but that they almost instinctively avoid the clear implications of passages which undermine their teaching. Robertson, for example, when dealing with the inauguration of the Abrahamic covenant, carefully picks his way through Genesis 15 (and 12:1) without mentioning God’s land-promise (The Christ of the Covenants, ch. 8). He first constructs his thesis with the help of certain NT texts, and then deals with the land issue once he has a typological framework to put it in. Read more about The Covenant in Classical Covenant Theology (Part 2)

The Covenant in Classical Covenant Theology (Part 1)

I think it is fair to say that the whole impetus for the covenants of redemption, works and grace in the Reformed Confessions stems from the assumption that the Old Testament must be read through the lens of the extra light of the New. If that assumption is flawed, as I believe it certainly is, then the whole project is in serious trouble.

The release of the Westminster Confession of 1647, although it was preceded by over a century of formative thinking about the covenant, stands out as the principal document of what is known as Covenant Theology.1 Covenant is employed as a fillip to understand and arrange the “doctrines of grace,” and is central to the Confession’s portrayal of redemption.2 This means that the concept takes on a deliberate soteriological hue. The WCF treats its concept of covenant as principally a gracious relationship; a condescension. And there is no doubt that in this it is correct. The Westminster Divines did not lay stress on a pre-creational ‘covenant of redemption’, although their anticipatory language of salvation for the elect in the ‘covenant of grace’ is in tune with it,3 and it is there in WCF 7:3. Read more about The Covenant in Classical Covenant Theology (Part 1)

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