Truth Warrior

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Compositians of Covenant Theology (part 3)

In this post these abbreviations are used:
RT = Reformed Theologian or Theolgy
CT = Covenant Thelogian or Theology

An Overview
Thus far we have noted that there was an eternal decree. The Godhead made a plan that included the covenant of works. The first composition then, is the covenant of works, extended to Adam (the federal head), eternal life for complete obedience to the law, and death upon himself and all mankind for disobedience to the law, because all mankind were represented by Adam. Adam failed this test.

The second composition is the covenant of redemption. In eternity past the Godhead pledged (made a covenant) to save the elect through the vicarious death and victorious resurrection of the Son of God. Jesus Christ became the federal head and was given the same test as Adam and He would be rewarded eternal life for Himself and the elect for obedience to the law ... and death for disobedience. Christ did not fail.

The Parties
With this in mind the third composition in the general scheme of Covenant Theology for our consideration is the covenant of grace. This involves the application of the covenant of redemption to the elect. All CTs and RTs are generally agreed that God is the initiator and therefore the first party in the covenant of grace. There is some disparity, however, about the second party. Is it Abraham and his seed, or the elect? I think it is safe to say that most CTs and RTs take it to be with the elect or the elect sinner in Christ.

The Unchanging Nature
In his Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge uses the following heading in his discourse, "Identity of the Covenant under all Dispensations" 1 p. 366. This is crucial in CT: This is the mantra, the repeated theme, the ebb and flow, the warp and woof, the mast and sail, the canvas and the brush, of CT.

All of the covenants of the Bible are aspects of this one eternal covenant of grace.
Since the eternal covenant of Grace is soteriological in its very essence, the biblical covenants are soteriological also. Therefore, the Abrahamic covenant was not merely made with a national entity as it appears in the Bible, but with a continuing “covenant community” which was called Israel in the OT and the church in the NT. The covenants of the OT were not made with physical seed, but spiritual seed. Since this a “continued” covenant community it is therefore proper to speak of the church as Israel and vice versa.

The natural growth rising from the conception of this child is the aversion (and/or hatred) of CTs toward futuristic premillennial systems. There is simply no room under the covenant of grace for covenants with a literal, physical Israel as found in futuristic premillennialism. Can this be doubted? Read the words of Hodge…

The covenant of grace, or plan of salvation, being the same in all its elements from the beginning, it follows, first, in opposition to the Anabaptists, that the people of God before Christ constituted a Church, and that the Church has been one and the same under all dispensations. (Ibid, p. 373)*

This is at the heart of why, for the most part, futuristic premillennialism is rejected by CTs.

The Conditions of the Covenant
The word “condition” makes most RTs a little nervous, so allow me to restate the heading above:
“the means” by which (according to CT) one enters into the covenant relationship
Here it begins to emerge that there is a difference between adults and infants, “The condition of the covenant of grace, so far as adults are concerned, is faith in Christ.” (Ibid. p. 364). A voluntary, open confession of faith, therefore, is the means or requirement for adults to enter this covenant of grace. The issue of children is another matter. We will address children and infants in relationship to this covenant of grace on the next post.

* Hodge here is not speaking of dispensations in the same way dispensationalist do.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


“No one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11

Words: Sam­uel J. Stone, Lyra Fi­del­i­um; Twelve Hymns of the Twelve Ar­ti­cles of the Apos­tle’s Creed (Lon­don: Messrs. Park­er and Co., 1866).

Music: Aurelia, Sam­u­el S. Wes­ley, in a Se­lect­ion of Psalms and Hymns, by C. Kem­ble, 1864

The Tune: here

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Compositions of Covenant Theology (Part 2)

We have touched on the covenant of works and the federal headship of Adam in the last post. I have at least hinted to the import and impact this has on Covenant Theology. With the idea of the covenant of works (which some covenant theologians hold is still in force, while others argue that it is not) laid down we are now at a place were a brief explanation of the covenant of redemption is in order.

The Covenant of Redemption

The covenant of redemption is said to be an eternal covenant made between the Father and the Son. The Father sent the Son into the world to accomplish certain objectives. God the Son was to assume a human nature, live a sinless life, and bear the sins of the elect vicariously. God the Father was to prepare a body for Him, sustain Him in His earthly existence and ministry, raise Him from the dead, exalt Him, make Him head of the church, give Him all the elect and glorifying them for all eternity. These are the general stipulations of the covenant of redemption.

Jesus Christ guarantees the covenant and is the representative (the federal head) of the elect in it. He, as the last Adam, was under the original covenant of works just as the first Adam was. Jesus had to obtain eternal life by meeting the demands of the law on behalf of the people whom He represents in His covenant. Adam failed this test and lost eternal life for all. Jesus passed this test and gained eternal life for the elect. It is stressed that He had to do this by meeting the demands of the law.

It is here that that the distinction between the active, and passive obedience of Christ is important. The distinction is twofold. (1) Christ entered the federal relation in which Adam stood in order to gain eternal life for the elect; this is known as His active obedience. (2) Christ also entered the penal relation to the law, dying to pay the penalty in the place of the elect; this is called His passive obedience. Weather Christ actively obeyed the law on behalf of the elect is debated, but it is still a common idea among covenant theologians.

The covenant of redemption is the foundation for the covenant of grace. It would not be feasible to have a covenant of grace apart from a covenant of redemption. The Godhead must covenant to save before He could covenant with the elect to apply that salvation. This brings us to a point where we can now reveal the third composition, the covenant of grace.

The next post will cover the covenant of grace.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Compositions of Covenant Theology

The background and development of Covenant Theology (CT hereafter) is almost as old as pre-millennialism. Associated with it are some giants of the faith such as Louis Berkohf, Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, and O. T. Allis to name a few of my favorite Covenant Theologians (here after CTs). The Earnest Contender’s aim for this and subsequent posts is to give the reader a tour through the museum of CT and highlight the three basic compositions that make CT so attractive to many. CT is famous for these three compositions; the covenant of works; the covenant of redemption; and the covenant of grace. I will then turn the corner and explain that while I respect the masters and their work in these compositions in some (not all) of their conclusions, I do not agree with the path it follows to reach those ends, if there is an end. Before we get started allow me to brief you on some of the history of the museum of CT.

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter VII, Sections II and III sums up the ideas of those who have gone before each man building upon the other man’s work. It states,

II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

III. Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

The earliest theologians to begin to craft and espouse CT principles were; Hyperius of Marburg, Olivianus, and Eglinus, who were possibly the first to make the idea of the covenant a determinative principle. These men laid the ground work on which to raise a superstructure.

Then Cocceius, building on the foundation of a determinative covenant added the floorboards of a covenant of works between Adam and God. Putting the walls up and elaborating on the entire covenant theory was Francis Turretin who gave rise and growing support to this developing structure. The Westminster Assembly of 1646 roofed the covenant principle by including the concept in the Westminster Confession of Faith as seen above. However, Herman Witsius put on some finishing touches when he emphasized that the covenant began between the Father and the Son and was made in eternity past.

With the new museum of CT complete Reformed theologians (here after RTs) and CTs continue to engage in home improvements, developing additions and maintaining and clarifying the design of CT.

The General Scheme of Covenant Theology

The general scheme of this way of thinking follows something like this: God’s eternal decree is that which in eternity past God made a covenant of redemption, which bound Him to redeem the elect by providing the incarnation of the Son, including His vicarious death and His victorious resurrection. God obligated Himself to efficaciously draw the elect to Christ by regeneration so that the elect would appropriate by faith the salvation that God provided. All of the covenants of the Bible are aspects of this one covenant.

First of Three Compositions - The Covenant of Works

There is the covenant of works. This is the covenant God made with Adam, life for obedience; death for disobedience. God tested Adam as the representative head of the human race (this is known as federal headship, more on this later), and therefore passed judgment on all mankind because of Adams failure to obey. Therefore God’s purpose is essentially Soteriological. God is saving the elect. His dealings with man kind are to be viewed with this pervading purpose. That is why CTs must see Christ, salvation, or the church in every text of Scripture.

“According[ly] (1.) God entered into a covenant with Adam. (2.) The promise annexed to that covenant was life. (3.) The condition was perfect obedience. (4.) Its penalty was death.”1

Does anyone else find it odd that after developing this idea Charles Hodge admits, “This statement does not rest upon any express declaration of the Scriptures.”2

The covenant of works in CT is a deduction, it seems, based on elements which are thought to be present in the Genesis record rather than clear teaching of the Bible.

Here is where CT is tied to the “federal headship” of Adam. Foedus (Lat.) means a compact, league or treaty. Adam did not sin as an individual, but as the “federal head” of all mankind. In all fairness some CTs have recognized in some way both the natural and the federal headship of Adam, holding to both the federal view and the Augustinian view which, “…concludes that original sin is innate in human beings, even though the responsibility for that sin does, quite fairly, inhere in each individual. The paradox here is clear: original sin comes from Adam, but is the responsibility of each individual.” 3 (emphasis mine).

Thus far we have touched on some background and development of CT, giving special attention to the first of three compositions, the covenant of works including the federal headship theory.

Next we will move to the second tenet, the covenant of redemption.

Monday, September 11, 2006

No Time To Blog :~(

Sorry, I have no time to blog this week :~(

Please come back next week.


Sunday, September 10, 2006


“Thy Word have I hid in my heart.” Psalm 119:11

Words: John Burton, Sr., Youth’s Mon­i­tor in Verse, 1803.

Music: Alet­ta, Will­iam B. Brad­bu­ry, Ju­bi­lee (New York: 1858)

The tune: Click Here

Al­ter­nate tune: Horton, Xa­ver S. von War­ten­see (1786-1868) Click Here

Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to chide me when I rove;
Mine to show a Savior’s love;
Mine thou art to guide and guard;
Mine to punish or reward.

Mine to comfort in distress;
Suffering in this wilderness;
Mine to show, by living faith,
Man can triumph over death.

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom;
O thou holy Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.


Here are Burton’s original lyrics:

Holy Bible, book Divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to chide me when I rove;
Mine to shew a Saviour’s love;
Mine art thou to guide my feet;
Mine to judge, condemn, acquit.

Mine to comfort in distress;
If the Holy Spirit bless;
Mine to shew, by living faith,
Man can triumph over death.

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom;
Holy Bible, book Divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How Can I Understand the Bible? Installment 3

Distinctions between Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology

There are certain distinctions, contrasts, and disparagements between Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology. I am going to convey these differences as simply as I feel is necessary at this time and try to get back to this issue to offer a fuller treatment. After all there is a difference, we should not run from it but rather embrace it and find strength in our unity and diversity. Both have much in common both come to many of the same conclusions. Both have a love and passion for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Covenant Theology

The first distinction that may be observed is that Covenant Theology views the Church and Israel as the same in every age. Secondly this view is based on a faulty hermeneutical approach or method (i.e. allegorical or deeper or spiritual) which is based upon thirdly, the (eisegetical) notion that Christ or Salvation or the Church must somehow be seen in every text of the Bible.

Covenant Theology seeks to answer the question: “What does this passage have to do with God's salvation program?” Therefore, at times it must force an explanation into the text that is not consistent with normal rules of interpretation. This is the hallmark characteristic of Covenant Theology.

Dispensational Theology

Contrarily Dispensational Theology views the Church and Israel as separate and distinct. This is based on the plain and/or normal method of hermeneutics which even Charles Hodge assents to (this will come out in the next post if God permits) and it is based upon the perception that God's glory is seen in every text under consideration.

The question Dispensationalists seek to answer is, “What does this text have to do with God's glory?” Following the normal or plain method of interpretation the answer is lifted from any and every text of the Bible.

The Golden Rule of Interpretation

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise. (Dr. David L. Cooper founder of the Biblical Research Society)

This concludes our study of Bibliology: the Doctrine of the Bible the next study in our series of Systematic Theology will be on Theology Proper: the Doctine of God. In the mean time I will post on one or two random subjects, particularly if there are any questions on what we have covered so far if I am not able to treat it on a comment thread.

For further study on hermeneutics and related topics the following books are recommended.

Dispensationalism Today (Charles C. Ryrie)

Dispensationalism: Mining the Riches of God's Word (Ernest Pickering)

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (C. I. Scofield)

Basic Bible Interpretation (Roy B. Zuck)

Hermeneutics (Henry A. Virkler)

I also recommend reading Rules of Interpretation from the The Biblical Research Society.

I hope you will be looking forward to the next post, The Composition of Covenant Theology.

Monday, September 04, 2006

How Can I Understand the Bible? Installment 2

General Divisions of the Bible

The Bible is truly a library of Books. It is divided in two main covenants or testaments called the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). To answer the anticipated question, “What is a covenant or testament?” According to Merriam Webster it is “…a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action... a covenant between God and the human race… capitalized : either of two main divisions of the Bible” My definition is that a covenant is a promise or an oath to be kept. That is one reason I hold to the idea of a marriage covenant not a marriage contract (no extra charge for this tangent).

There are two main divisions of the Bible: the Old Covenant or Testament and the New Covenant or Testament, and each has their subdivisions.

Subdivisions of the Bible

The Old Testament is commonly broken down into three divisions:

1. Historical books- Genesis to Esther.

2. Poetical books- Job to Song of Solomon.

3. Prophetic books- Isaiah to Malachi.

In a similar fashion the NT is commonly broken down into four divisions:

1. Gospels- From Matthew to John.

2. History- Acts.

3. Epistles- From Romans to Jude.

4. Prophecy- Revelation.

The Covenants

There are two kinds of covenants revealed in the Bible: conditional and non-conditional. These can be determined by observing certain declarations of God. A covenant that involves some sort of condition, “If you will do this, then I will do that,” is a conditional covenant. An example of a conditional covenant can be found in Leviticus 26:2-4 “Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.”

There is no condition set for a non-conditional covenant. God simply says, in essence, “this is the way it is and there is nothing anyone can do about it” For an example of a non-conditional covenant here’s Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

There are eight major covenants in the Bible. I am not going to unpack them at this time they are listed because it is good to become familiar with them. If you have the time or when you get the time read them for yourself.

1. The Edenic Covenant (Gen. 2:16)

2. The Adamic Covenant (Gen. 3:15)

3. Noahic Covenant (Gen. 8:20-22).

4. Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3).

5. Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19:3-40:38).

6. Palestinian Covenant (Deut. 30).

7. Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:5-17).

8. New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 26:28).

The Dispensations

Some feel that in most recent times man, particularly J. N. Darby, C.I. Scofield and others, came up with a “new way” of approaching Scripture. This movement grew in the interest of many of the “unlearned”. Skilled and sensational preachers propagated this “new movement” that became known as Dispensationalism. How did Darby, Schofield, Chafer, Ironside, and Pentecost (to name a few) come up with such a fanciful invention? Did they cling to tradition? Perhaps they spiritualized Scriptures, or maybe it was a preconceived notion that they had, and so they huddled together and whispered, “Let’s force this view onto the text of the Bible and try to fool everyone.”

The “feeling” I have described above is a farce! It either lacks honest integrity or thoughtful scholarship or both. It is no fairer than for one to say that, “Covenant Theology was invented by Charles Hodge.” Most realize I hope, that there were rudiments of each “system” under consideration here that go way back in their respective development and there are able theologians who continue to develop these ideas today. Some who hold the Dispensational view feel their system is best because they have a hard time getting around certain "divisions" that they see clearly as they read the Scripture in a normal fashion.

It should be recognized that C. I. Scofield (a fine Presbyterian) was no trendy novelty writer, though he has tried to simplify the concept dispensationalism when he stated “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” (Scofield's Study Bible note on Genesis 1:28) Were this all Scofield taught about dispensationalism it would be less than satisfying. It has been further observed that a “…dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose. …and the overall combined purpose of the whole program is the Glory of God” (Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today pp.29, 3o)

Can you, dear reader, not see these “dispensations”?

1. Innocence or Freedom (Gen. 1:28- 3:6).

2. Conscience or Self-determination (Gen. 4:1- 8:14).

3. Civil Government (Gen. 8:15- 11:9).

4. Promise or Patriarchal Rule (Gen.11:10-Ex.18:27; cf. Heb.6:13-15; 11:9).

5. Mosaic Law (Ex. 19:1- Acts 1:26).

6. Grace (Acts 2:1- Rev. 19:21).

7. The Millennium and The Eternal Order (Rev. 20:7-9).

Disclaimer: I am not aware of any dispensational view that man was ever saved by any other means than by grace through faith.

Coming soon… The Distinctions between Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology

Sunday, September 03, 2006


“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

The Hymn

Words: Joshua F. Drake, 2004 (re­leased to the pub­lic dom­ain):

I wrote [this hymn] while in Glas­gow [Scot­land] under the min­is­try of C. Pe­ter White at San­dy­ford-Hen­der­son Church of Scot­land. Mr. White reg­u­la­rly de­fend­ed the au­thor­i­ty of script­ure…and I wrote it as an en­cour­age­ment to him.

Music: Lex Nos­ter, Joshua F. Drake, 2004 (re­leased to the pub­lic dom­ain)

The Tune

Alternate Tunes:

Doncaster, Sam­u­el Wes­ley, 1837 (MI­DI)

Festal Song, Will­iam H. Wal­ter, 1872 (MI­DI)

The Holy Word of God:
It is the Christian’s rule
To teach, correct, rebuke and train—
The Church’s priceless jewel.

Let others rule by whim
Their lives from day to day.
God’s children have his Holy Word,
Which gladly they obey.

God-breathed, yet penned by man,
Preserved by arms and art,
The Church has born it in her breast—
She dare not from it part!

Nor could she ever do,
Else truth she could not know,
But set adrift in lies and myth
On wayward paths to go.

Yet we’ve no cause to fear.
God’s promises are true.
The gates of hell will not prevail
O’er those His grace imbues.

So let God’s true Church sing:
Those who His word do love—
Whom, as is written, shall be saved
To join His courts above.


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