Monday, 21 September 2009

New Covenant Theology

Some of you may have noticed that yours truly has gone somewhat quiet over recent weeks (perhaps months). The last year and a half or so has seen something of a paradigm shift in my thinking as I have come to appreciate the Reformed understanding of justification sola fide. After I had a bad bout of depression, to discover that I'm justified simply by receiving and resting on Christ was like a cold drink of water on a hot day. I needed to discover more of this Reformed stuff and I noticed that the same gents who brought me into the light of full assurance through the gospel also confessed the substantial unity of the covenant of grace. I devoured Reformed literature in the aftermath of this.

Nevertheless, deep in my soul lurked some reservations about some aspects of Reformed theology. I could never completely call this blog "Restless and Reformed" because I had nagging doubts about the following:
  • The Reformed distinction of the law as comprising ceremonial, civil and moral aspects.
  • The Reformed emphasis on the Decalogue as the pinnacle of God's moral revelation.
These doubts were further compounded as I picked up a book by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel entitled New Covenant Theology. It is an absolute barn stormer of a book and has halted my march towards embracing a covenant theology as exemplified by the Westminster Standards.

Over the next day or two, I'll be blogging some thoughts on the book. Stay tuned.


JohnGreenview said...

Looking forward to your review.

Stephen said...

Neil, I will look forward to your review too. Meanwhile, you might want to listen to three presentations a couple of weeks ago at our EPCEW Elders' Conference. They may not answer the precise questions you may have, but they do address some fundamental concerns of the Reformed/Presbyterians.

Greg Gibson said...


Praise God for revealing to you justification by faith alone in Christ. "Since we have been just. by faith, we have peace with God."

Compared to just., issues like NCT vs. CT rank as far less important. Nevertheless, they do affect how we live. It's encouraging to see that you're searching the Scriptures on these issues.

the substantial unity of the covenant of grace.

NCT sees the unity of God's one eternal purpose revealed in distinct, multiple covenants. And, the 2 major covenants, the OC and NC, relate to one another as type vs. antitype.

The Reformed distinction of the law as comprising ceremonial, civil and moral aspects.

NCT sees the law of Moses as one indivisible whole (Gal. 3:10, 5:3; Jas. 2:10). Therefore when Christ fulfilled and cancelled the Law, that included the Decalogue too.

The Reformed emphasis on the Decalogue as the pinnacle of God's moral revelation.

NCT sees Jesus Christ Himself as the highest revelation of God. His Person, works, and words (including His new law) surpass Moses and the OC in glory and authority.

I believe that if you'll compare the 2 systems' foundational points, you'll find that CT has no explicit prooftexts, while NCT is built on explicit verses. I look forward to reading more about your journey.

P.S. Stephen, thanks for the link. I'll listen to that sermon on NCT.

Greg Gibson said...

P.P.S. Thought you might be interested to know that the 3-fold division of the Law was invented by the Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century:

Nick Mackison said...

Greg, I absolutely agree regarding type v antitype and the OT law being all of a piece.

Brandon said...

As you can see from all the comments I've made on your blog tonight, I'm interested in a lot of the same stuff.

I would encourage you to read Richard Barcellos' "In Defense of the Decalogue" and Sam Waldron's writings and sermons available on the net as you wrestle with the issue.

Also, if you're not happy with WCF's covenant theology (and you shouldn't be), then consider the covenant theology presented in the London Baptist Confession. It's different.