Understanding the Debate & Differences in How We Put Our Bibles Together (Views on Covenantal & Dispensational Theologies with Brent Parker and Richard Lucas, Ep. 2)

In this episode, I continue my conversation with Brent E. Parker and Richard Lucas, editors of the forthcoming book, Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (IVP, February 2022). In this session, we talk about what different commitments or perspectives ultimately underlie the various views, why all of this matters, how it comes to bear in our theology and practice, and how we might construct a path forward in the doing of Biblical theology for the local church.
Their book is currently available for pre-order, releasing February 8, 2022.

Access the episode here. (Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and more.)

See all other content in this series.

A Survey of How Different Systems of Theology Put the Bible Together (Views on Covenantal & Dispensational Theologies with Brent Parker and Richard Lucas, Ep. 1)

How should we interpret the promises made to the people of Israel in the OT — are they being fulfilled in the church? Does God have a distinct plan for the nation of Israel separate from the church? How do Christians relate to the Mosaic Law? What does infant baptism have to do with our understanding of the Biblical Covenants? In short, these are all questions asking, How should we put our Bible’s together — and questions that both covenantal and dispensational theologies answer differently, with wide-ranging implications for how we read our Bibles, how we define the church, what we expect of the future, and how we live our Christian lives.

This episode serves as the first installment of a larger conversation on covenantal and dispensational theologies and their divergent ways of putting the Bible together. In today’s episode, Richard Lucas and Brent Parker lead us through a survey of the various view points that exist. In order of those that stress more continuity to those that stress more discontinuity, we look at:

  • Theonomy / Reconstructionism [3:50]
  • Traditional Covenant Theology [9:13]
  • 20th Century Reformed Baptist Theology [24:02]
  • 1689 Federalism [31:02]
  • Progressive Covenantalism [40:37]
  • New Covenant Theology [55:24]
  • Progressive Dispensationalism [1:04:7]
  • Traditional (or Revised) Dispensationalism [1:18:58]
  • Classic Dispensationalism [1:34:36]

Their book, Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (IVP, February 2022), is currently available for pre-order.

Access the episode here. (Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and more.)

See all other content in this series.

Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture | Book Review

Parker, Brent E., and Richard J. Lucas, eds. Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture. Spectrum Multiview Books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2022. (266 pp.)

The book is set to release February 8th. You can preorder it now.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the editors in request for a review. In addition, I’ll be publishing some podcast episodes with editors covering the topic of this book. So be on the look out for those as well.

The editors did a great job. Their introduction gives a solid primer of the views and helpfully situates the reader to the primary issues at stake in this debate.

They also picked a top roster to represent each view:

  • Covenant Theology – Michael Horton.
  • Progressive Covenantalism – Stephen Wellum.
  • Progressive Dispensationalism – Darrell Bock.
  • Traditional Dispensationalism – Mark Snoeberger.
Continue reading

RECOMMENDED: “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” by D.A. Carson

I just finished reading D.A. Carson’s chapter “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, volume 2 subtitled “The Paradoxes of Paul.” These two volumes, the first of which deals with the variegated nature of 1st century/Second Temple Judaism while the second addresses the interpretation of Paul himself, are a collection of essays which seek to respond to the claims made by what has been called the New Perspective on Paul (or better: New Perspectives [plural] on Paul).

The following is my attempt to summarize the main argument of the chapter:

Carson presents the “coherent tension” between mystery (which entails some degree of discontinuity) and fulfillment (which entails some element of preceding anticipation and thus continuity) in Paul’s thought and applies to a response to the proposals of the New Perspective.

He argues that the New Perspective on Paul, which in many ways views Paul as not diverting from Judaism but, rather, in essence advancing what could be understood as a sect of Judaism in continuity with Judaism and as fitting the criteria of “covenantal nomism,” fails to grapple with the way in which Paul’s thought, although containing a strong sense of continuity with the Old Testament and its religion, which is evidenced by Paul’s pervasive “fulfillment”-framework, nonetheless has strong currents of discontinuity, which are evidenced by his inclusion of mystery concepts alongside his “fulfillment”-framework.

In other words, he argues that the New Perspective on Paul, which stresses significant continuity between Paul and  Judaism and/or “covenantal nomism,” fails to handle with integrity the continuity and discontinuity framework in Paul, a framework evidenced by the existence of “mystery” and “fulfillment” concepts in Paul.

Although I have significant interest in the conversations and debates inspired by the proposals of New Perspective, I actually set out to read this chapter because of its interaction with matters pertaining to redemptive history, issues continuity and discontinuity, typology, the role of the law, the relationship between the Testaments, the concept of mystery in Paul and the NT, etc. Carson provides some helpful insights into these matters as he “utilizes” them in his interaction with the New Perspective.

In other words, if either the New Perspective or any of the other topics interests you, I’d add this essay to your reading list.

The Significance of 1 Peter 2:9’s Use of Exodus 19 Language Concerning the Relationship between the Church and Israel

The following was a short exegetical essay for Dr. Richard E. Averbeck’s Pentateuch and Historical Books course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter lathers Christian (Gentile) believers with descriptions once used exclusively of the nation of Israel (cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 43:20; Hos. 1:6, 9, 10; 2:23; Mal 3:17). Regarding Exodus 19 specifically, Peter quotes exactly from the LXX—βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον (“a royal priesthood, a holy nation”; Ex 19:6)—and alludes to וִהְיִ֨יתֶם לִ֤י סְגֻלָּה֙ (“and you will be to me a treasured possession”) with the words λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν (“a people for possession”; Ex 19:5). The application of such language to the Church has resulted in no little debate regarding the relationship between Israel and the Church. An investigation of Peter’s use of this language will help shed some light on this discussion.

Many scholars conclude that Peter’s application of Israel-designations to the Church indicates a level of continuity (often seen as typological and/or supersessionistic) between Israel and the Church. By using appellations of Israel in reference to the Church, Peter shows “how he understands the true line of continuity to run from the people of God under the old covenant to the people of God under the new covenant” (Carson, 1032; cf. Woudstra, 234; Grudem, 113). However, dispensationalists, whose theological presuppositions include the absolute separation of the Church and Israel (Ryrie, Kindle Locations 705-706), often understand Peter’s use as analogical. In other words, Peter is applying spiritual realities in Israel to similar spiritual realities present in the Church. Due to dispensationalists’ belief in a distinct future for national Israel apart from the Church, they are necessarily uncomfortable with applying “Israel” language to the Church or acknowledging a supersessionistic typological relationship between Israel and the Church. But as Progressive Dispensationalist, Robert Saucy, states, “The application to the church of these descriptions formerly used exclusively for Israel does not mean that the church now assumes that position exclusively for herself” (Continuity and Discontinuity, 241; emphasis mine). Elsewhere he argues that an initial typological fulfillment or application does not necessarily negate a future, ultimate fulfillment with national Israel (Progressive Dispensationalism, Kindle Locations 7035-7037). In other words, this relationship says something more than the OT texts, but not less (cf. complementary hermeneutics).

In conclusion, surely analogy is fundamental to Peter’s use of this OT language. But the lavishing of designations once used for Israel (Grudem, 113), as well as the specific type of designations, indicate something more. For example, what use is it to call the Church, a multi-ethnic community, a nation? Peter’s point is certainly not the Church’s national composition (hardly), but the realization of this special position once held by Israel. Or further, Peter does not merely apply one or two OT themes to the Church, but applies several designations for and descriptions of Israel to the Church in 2:9-10. And this Church, Peter has argued, is the people of God who has become the recipients of all the promises previously anticipated by the Old Testament people of God (1:3-12). In other words, Peter’s use of the language of Exodus 19 (as well as other OT texts) in application to the Church assumes an implied typological relationship between the Church and Israel. This doesn’t necessitate that the Church and Israel are indistinct and there’s no discontinuity between eschatological Israel (i.e., the Church; Gal 6:16) and Old Testament Israel; nor does it mean that the Church has “replaced” Israel (rather, believing Israelites are included) and ethnic Israel has no future in God’s redemptive purpose (cf. Rom 9-11). But this relationship does imply that all of God’s promises are realized in the Church, the eschatological people of God, of which all the true children of promise (Rom 9:8; Gal 4:28; cf. Rom 2:25-29; Gal 3:14, 29), Jew or Gentile, are a part.