Home > Biblical Theology > Kingdom Through Covenant Interview with Steve Wellum

Kingdom Through Covenant Interview with Steve Wellum

The three most influential professors for me while I was at seminary were Steve Wellum, Peter Gentry, and Tom Schreiner.  Wellum and Gentry have a new book due out soon entitled, Kingdom Through Covenant.  They are coining their position: Progressive Covenantalism.  Matthew Claridge at Credo Magazine has an interview with Steve Wellum.  Read the whole thing here.  Below are a few excerpts that I found helpful.  Part two of the interview is with Peter Gentry tomorrow.

On the uniqueness and contribution of their book:

Let me suggest two ways KTC is distinct. First, it argues that central and foundational to reading the Bible on its own terms is getting right the unfolding nature of the biblical covenants and their interrelationship to each other as they culminate in the coming of Christ and the new covenant. In our view, biblical theology is not simply about unpacking biblical themes across the canon and doing it in a variety of ways. Rather, biblical theology is a hermeneutical discipline which seeks to understand God’s unfolding plan the way the Bible itself unfolds that plan. To be “biblical” in our interpretation and application of Scripture entails that we “put together” the pieces of Scripture the way the Bible does. It is our conviction that properly placing the biblical covenants in their own redemptive-historical context—seeing how they are interrelated and how they unfold the biblical story—is central to this task since it is central to how the Bible unpacks the whole counsel of God. Not all books on biblical or systematic theology do this.

Second, KTC is distinct from other works in that it offers in more detail than previous works, a true via media between dispensationalism and its varieties and covenant theology. Even though we are certainly not the first to articulate such a mediating position, KTC probably does it in the most comprehensive way to date, even though much more work has to be done in the future.

On the Abrahamic Covenant:

As we began to think through how dispensationalism and covenant theology “put together” the biblical covenants, it was fascinating to see that both appeal to the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant yet for different reasons. On the one hand, dispensational theology appeals to the “unconditional” promise of land given to Abraham, which they believe, is only fulfilled non-typologically to ethnic, national Israel in the future millennial age. Regardless of the lack of discussion in the NT on the land promise, they argue that given the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant, the land promise must still be fulfilled in the future precisely because it is an unconditional promise. When covenant theology disagrees with dispensationalism on this point by viewing the land as typological of the new creation and ultimately brought to fulfillment in Christ who ushers in the new creation, dispensational theology charges covenant theology with reading the NT back on the OT without sufficiently doing justice to the unconditional OT promise.

On the other hand, covenant theology appeals to the genealogical principle of the Abrahamic covenant—“to you and your children”—as unchanged throughout redemptive history, and it is on this basis that they make their covenantal argument for infant baptism. In a similar fashion to dispensationalism, regardless of the carry over between circumcision and baptism in the NT, and regardless of the fact that there is not one example of infant baptism practiced in the NT, covenant theology argues on the basis of the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant that one must not read the NT back on the OT at this point. Even though dispensationalism and covenant theology differ at certain points, they both appeal to the Abrahamic covenant to make their points and follow the same hermeneutic. For us, this not only illustrates how important it is to understand properly the biblical covenants, but it also reminds us that one must not treat the Abrahamic covenant in an isolated fashion from the entire canon and particularly its fulfillment in Christ and the new covenant.

On concerns with dispensationalism and covenant theology:

We believe the error is ultimately found in Christology. That may seem strange so let me explain. As one works through the biblical covenants, all of the covenants and their mediators find their fulfillment in Christ. In Christ he is the last Adam, Abraham’s true seed, the true Israel who obeys completely, and David’s greater Son who does what no Davidic king ever did. In this way, all the promises to “Israel” as the “son” of God and typological pattern of Christ are fulfilled. Israel, in her role, loses nothing but finds her fulfillment perfectly in Christ. Dispensational theology often fails to recognize this point and thus does not see how Israel as a nation is the type which points forward to Christ as the antitype, and that the church now in relationship to Christ receives all the promises of God in and through her covenant head. In this way, dispensational theology fragments Israel and church because she does not unite them properly in Christ.

Covenant theology, in our view, grasps the Israel to Christ relationship better, but then does not see properly how the genealogical principle is transformed as Christ, the new covenant head, brings all the previous covenant mediators to their end, and stands as the head of his believing people. She does not also see that the covenant communities are also different, due to the difference between the old and new covenants. In this way, covenant theology moves from Israel to the church too fast, without first seeing how the covenants find their consummation in Christ, the true Israel, and thus the newness and greatness of what Jesus has won as our new covenant head, including the difference in the nature and structure of the covenant communities. In the end, we believe that the root problem of both systems is that they do not sufficiently trace out how the biblical covenants unfold, how all the types and patterns of the OT are fulfilled in Christ, and thus the better nature of the covenant our Lord Jesus has inaugurated.

Categories: Biblical Theology
  1. May 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Hey Chad. This looks like a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing. Hope you all are doing well.

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