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.

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


  1. love that Tom. I really appreciate it! Praying all is well with you and your family.

    Ethan Beckler

  2. Hi Ethan!

    Thanks for the comment and for your prayers! I hope you're doing well in the Lord. May the grace of Jesus Christ give you strength and joy in in Him.