Covenant Theology

Book Review - Perspectives on Israel and the Church

[amazon 0805445269 ]

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.

8008 reads

Promises to Israel: We Should Expect Literal Fulfillment

If Israel has been chosen to perform a special role in the divine plan, what promises have been given to Israel that will enable that ancient people to fulfill that role?

The Apostle Paul is clear on the great privileges that God has granted Israel. He wrote in Romans 9:4: “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.” Paul nowhere intimates that these great privileges have been annulled, forfeited, or cancelled. As a matter of fact the three chapters of which this verse is a part (Rom. 9-11) have as one of their purposes to emphasize that God has not cancelled His promises to Israel or transferred them to some other people! What says Paul in Romans 11:1?: “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.”

28599 reads

Fidelity-to-Jacob Theology

When it comes to interpreting Scripture, there are a number of common paradigms in use within the evangelical world. Traditional Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism, Olive Tree Theology, Covenant Theology, New Covenant Theology, Replacement Theology, and Supersessionism are among them.

Some of us fall in between the cracks. For example, I am somewhere between Traditional Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism, and Olive Tree Theology (developed by Messianic Jew David Stern in Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel).

I am suggesting we need a new, broader term to help make the major division between these viewpoints clear. So I am proposing that those of us who believe that God will fulfill the promises he made to ethnic Israel embrace the clear-cut label, “Fidelity-to-Jacob Theology.” This grouping should include many traditional and progressive dispensationalists, those who embrace olive tree theology, and some others.

This dividing line is an important one and significantly influences how we interpret Scripture. The points of this broad hermeneutic are:

1. The promises God made to Israel (Jacob) will stand.

Since replacement theologians and others sometimes refer to the church as “spiritual Israel” or “the new Israel,” I have chosen the term “Jacob” to emphasize the national and ethnic nature of these promises. God will faithfully keep the promises to the people with whom he made the promises—with the terms understood as they would have been understood at the time. There is no slight of hand, no change of definition, no alterations or added conditions, no “drop-in” coded replacement of words. Instead, God’s promises are completely transparent and God’s integrity certain. Because He is sovereign, even human unbelief cannot inhibit His determinations.

11476 reads

Rules of Affinity, Part 4: Negative Application Continued

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. Catch up on the series so far.

1. In this piece I shall match up more theological beliefs with these “Rules of Affinity” in order to show the negative use of those rules. I have tried to find respected sources to interact with so as not to be accused of soft-targeting. This is from G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 32:

Adam was to be God’s obedient servant in maintaining both the physical and spiritual welfare of the garden abode, which included dutifully keeping evil influences from invading the arboreal sanctuary…(my emphasis)

Beale gives Adam a responsibility to guard the original creation from “evil influences.” But there is nothing in Genesis 2 or 3 which encourages this (the verb shamar in 2:15 can mean “guard” or “protect” and could have the serpent in mind, but nothing is said about “influences” plural). Certainly, God allowed the serpent into the Garden, but the only warning given to the man is the prohibition in Gen. 2:16-17. The serpent tempts Eve and Eve tempts Adam. It is Adam’s capitulation to his wife which is given as the reason he disobeyed God’s command (see Gen. 3:17. cf. 1 Tim. 2:14). Could Adam have ejected Satan out of Eden? Where is that indicated? And what of this talk of a plurality of “evil influences”? One will look in vain for such things in the texts Beale employs. We thus give the statement above a C4 rating.

11071 reads

Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 23

LookItUpRepublished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the rest of the series.

Below are my final thoughts on the “95 Theses Against Dispensationalism.” I could wish that these criticisms of dispensationalism were less hapless. The system itself is open to more piercing critical analysis than has been demonstrated by the “Nicene Council.” I do not really care whether I am this or that kind of theologian; I do care about being biblical! So if I am “dispensational” in my outlook rather than leaning to Covenant Theology, so be it. As I have said before, I prefer to be viewed as a “biblical covenantalist” and have done with the dispensational moniker altogether. For continuity’s sake I have started numbering where I left off last time.

5. Underlying covenant theology

Although the “95 Theses” make no explicit mention of covenant theology (CT), it is always lurking in the background, shaping the thinking behind the formulations of the Nicene Council. Now it is certainly not a crime to be a covenant theologian. Christians generally have benefitted greatly from some of the work of the Puritans and the Dutch Nadere Reformatie. None can read the works of Boston, Edwards, the Hodges, Warfield, Cunningham, Candlish, Kuyper, Bavinck, Murray, Van Til, and a host of others without benefitting. But I make bold to suggest that none of the really beneficial materials produced by these men—that is to say, nothing that can be shown to come directly from the text of Scripture—is reliant upon covenant theology for its existence, other than the fact that CT has a conceptual, and thus instrumental, genius for promoting abstract thought (no small complement coming from a dispensationalist).

1074 reads

Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 21

LookItUpRepublished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 90

Despite the dispensationalists’ affirmation of the gospel as the means of salvation, their evangelistic method and their foundational theology, both, encourage a presumptive faith (which is no faith at all) that can lead people into a false assurance of salvation when they are not truly converted, not recognizing that Christ did not so quickly accept professions of faith (e.g., when even though “many believed in His name,” Jesus, on His part, “was not entrusting Himself to them.”—John 2:23b-24a).


It comes as news to many of us poor benighted dispensationalists that we have one “evangelistic method.” Reformed believers could be excused for giving someone a sideways look were they likewise accused. Similarly, it is a long stretch to throw “presumptive faith” at all of us because it is a symptom of our “foundational theology.” We believe our foundational theology is biblical (or should be). The Master’s Seminary faculty do not fit the description above. After being on a theological faculty at a dispensational seminary myself I can say truthfully that “easy-believism” was abhorred. Many dispensationalists hold the same position on faith as John Calvin; it is a receptacle put in the heart by God. As one African Christian memorably put it, “faith is the hand of the heart.” (in Godet’s Romans). Even those holding tenaciously to Covenant theology ought to take Paul’s advice in 2 Cor.13:5 now and again.

2028 reads

Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 20

LookItUpRepublished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 86

Despite the tendency of some dispensationalist scholars to interpret the Kingdom Parables negatively, so that they view the movement from hundredfold to sixty to thirty in Matt 13:8 as marking “the course of the age,” and in Matt 13:31-33 “the mustard seed refers to the perversion of God’s purpose in this age, while the leaven refers to the corruption of the divine agency” (J. D. Pentecost), Christ presents these parables as signifying “the kingdom of heaven” which He came to establish and which in other parables he presents as a treasure.


It has to said that the composers of these 95 Theses have not proven themselves shining examples in rightly representing the opinions of dispensationalists. A quick perusal of several authors (e.g. Pentecost, Things To Come and the commentaries on Matthew by Toussaint and by Glasscock) revealed they believed nothing of the sort about Matthew 13:8, unless, of course, it is the standard view that the four soils represent four kinds of receptors (hearts) and their attitudes to the Word. Those whose hearts receive the Word grow in understanding (Toussaint). Is this objectionable?

On the “Mustard Seed,” Ed Glasscock wisely states, “Trying to identify the birds is useless speculation, and to build doctrine from such obscure analogy is dangerous” (292). He may well be right. Pentecost’s negative view is based upon the way the Lord used “birds” in the previous parable (13:4, 19) so it cannot be brushed aside simply because it is “negative.” Perhaps Pentecost’s interpretation is wrong? Some dispensationalists disagree with it (e.g. Toussaint and Glasscock). Christian interpreters get it wrong sometimes. What one must ask is whether they provide any decent textual and theological arguments for their view. At any rate, one would not expect to be at the pointed end of a “thesis” just because certain brethren didn’t like your “negative” explanation.

1609 reads