Friday, August 31, 2007

The Central Over-Arching Themes of Scripture

There are three main over-arching themes stretching across Scripture’s story line.

1. God’s Sovereign Rule. God is the omnipotent creator, sustainer, director, and governor of all things in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. As King, God’s domain involves, but is in no way limited to, both the law (covenant of works) and the gospel (covenant of redemption/grace). His sovereign rule extends from eternity to eternity.

2. The Law. The law as a reflection of God’s own inflexible and perfect purity requires perfect obedience for life and promises death to any moral agent who sins against it. There is “grace” in the law inasmuch as God (1) created human image bearers in the first place, (2) established the law covenant in the garden, and (3) revealed its requirements to Adam. But, there is no redemptive grace because there is no provision or promise of redemption for sinners in the law covenant.

3. The Gospel. The good news of Scripture always involves redemption from sin and misery. Thus, there was no “gospel” to Adam before the fall. The gospel is that the Father sent Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to take on a human nature, to live, to die, and to rise again in order to redeem the elect and to restore creation to its pre-fall state such that it would become nothing but blessing to the elect once again. This gospel is not merely an announcement or revelation of such facts and unconditional promises, but it is also a conditional promise and command, declaring that whoever believes in Christ for redemption from sin and misery is by that faith alone joined to Christ and thereby justified (given the ownership/right to eternal life by faith alone) and sanctified (given the experience/enjoyment of eternal life through faithful good works) for the glory of God alone.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Classic Dispensationalism vs Covenant Theology

I used Walton’s Charts of Church History as a base material for this comparison.

DT = Dispensational Theology
CT = Covenant Theology

The Pattern of History:
DT – Divided into dispensations. Eg., Innocence, Conscience, human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, Kingdom. Not all dispesationalists affirm the same number of dispensations.
CT – Divided by covenants. Covenant of works; Covenant of redemption/grace; Biblical-historical covenants of promise.

View of the Biblical Covenants:
DT – They mark off periods of time during which God’s specific demands of human beings differ. The emphasis is more on the different specific demands than exact periods of time.
CT – They are substantively the same in their instructions and promises, though they differ in specific content because of the progress of redemptive history.

God’s Purpose in History (both affirm that the chief end is God’s glory):
DT – There are two distinct purposes: one earthly (Israel), one heavenly (church).
CT – There is one unified redemptive/saving purpose.

Relationship between Israel and the Church:
DT – Israel is the physical/earthly people of God. The church is the spiritual/heavenly people of God.
CT – There is only one people of God: The true Israel of the OT was the church, and the church of the NT is true Israel.

Relationship between the Old and New Testaments (OT/NT hermeneutic):
DT – OT commands and promises are not binding for the church unless repeated by the NT.
CT – OT commands and promises are binding for the church, unless abrogated by the NT, though all OT commands and promises are brought to redemptive historical maturity in Christ.

Old Testament Prophecy:
DT – Makes promises to ethnic Israel.
CT – Makes promises to spiritual Israel (which was and is the church).

The Post-Pentecost Period of History:
DT – Called the church age, which is a parenthesis or inter-calculation between past and future manifestations of the kingdom for God’s glory.
CT – Just another stage of the continuous unfolding of God’s one redemptive purpose for God’s glory.

Role of the Holy Spirit:
DT – The Holy Spirit only indwells God’s spiritual people (the church) from Pentecost to the Rapture. However, not all dispensationalist agree on this question.
CT – The Holy Spirit indwells God’s one people throughout history.

Eschatology:
DT – Premillennial, usually pretribulational.
CT – May be amillennial, postmillennial, or premillennial.