Monthly Archives: June 2015

New Covenant Nonsense: Covenant Theology

This is part of a series of posts on New Covenant Nonsense. Click here to see the entire series.

To describe the essentials of covenant theology I have selected two historic Reformed confessions. Those documents are the London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I have extracted the statements relevant to covenant theology from each of these confessions and they are quoted below:

The Westminster Confession of Faith says this about the doctrine of the covenant:

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life except by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, and this He has been pleased to express in the form of a covenant….Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant (‘That covenant’ is a reference to the ‘covenant of works’ which had been previously stated in this confession as a covenant God made with Adam prior to the fall. The Baptists rejected the notion of a ‘covenant of works’ and did not include it in their confession, ed.), the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the Covenant of Grace: whereby 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.

This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the scripture by the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belong to it, therein bequeathed. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel; under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.
Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 says this about the doctrine of the covenant:

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life except by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, and this He has been pleased to express in the form of a covenant. Moreover, as man had brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace. In this covenant He freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring from them faith in Him that they may be saved, and promising to give to all who are appointed to eternal life His Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe.

This covenant is revealed through the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by further steps until the full revelation of it became complete in the New Testament. The covenant of salvation rests upon an eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect. It is solely by the grace of this covenant that all the descendants of fallen Adam who have ever been saved have obtained life and blessed immortality, because man is now utterly incapable of gaining acceptance with God on the terms by which Adam stood in his state of innocence.

Although the Baptists and Presbyterians were united in their belief in regards to the “covenant of grace” in general, there are significant differences between the two confessions on the doctrine of the covenant of grace in particular. Both parties agreed that God saved His people by means of the covenant of grace. Both parties agreed that His people were saved by this covenant both under the Old and New testaments. Both parties agreed that membership in the covenant of grace was determined by the Triune God before the creation of the universe. As the London confession says, ” The covenant of salvation rests upon an eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect.” Both parties, however, did not agree on all elements of the covenant of grace.

The Westminster Confession goes into much greater detail about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and how both fit into the covenant of grace. The London Baptist Confession omits, or ignores, all of these items. Indeed, the entire Old Testament period is described as a period in which God simply took “further steps” in revealing His plan of salvation. Those further steps are not described or detailed in any way.

The Westminster Confession goes into great detail describing the relationship of the sacraments in the two testaments. The logically necessary connection between circumcision and baptism is made. The unity of the two testaments had been an essential part of Reformed theology from the time of Calvin. Indeed, Calvin devoted two entire chapters in his “Institutes” to the topic. The Baptists were aware of this fact but made the decision to ignore the doctrines that were, in the mind of the Presbyterians, logically necessary if the doctrine of the covenant of grace was true. This, of course, allowed the Baptists to preserve their doctrine of credo-baptism.

It is my assertion that the Baptists were able to maintain their doctrine of credo-baptism only because they made the conscious decision to not push the doctrine of the covenant of grace to it’s logical conclusion with respect to the sacraments. The Presbyterians had done so and integrated it into their confession. The Baptists did not. The end result was a factionalized church in which a great deal of energy was expended in throwing theological bombs and calling each other names. That, of course, has continued down to this day. The war between credo-baptists and paedo-baptists continues.

Despite all of the theological infighting over the doctrine of baptism, a truce of sorts managed to evolve. Each group realized it was not going to change the other and Baptists and Presbyterians were able to coexist. Presbyterians accused Baptists of not following through on their doctrine of the covenant of grace and Baptists accused Presbyterians of going too far with their doctrine of the covenant of grace. Then, the new covenant theologians came along. They changed all the rules.

New Covenant Nonsense: Introduction

This is the first of a series of posts on New Covenant Nonsense. Click here to see the entire series.

There is a theological movement afoot that has gained ground in Evangelicalism in recent years that is, I believe, very dangerous. The members of this theological movement call themselves “new covenant” theologians and they allege that they are bringing an entirely new theological perspective to the Christian Church. In this essay I will prove that they are, in fact, just another version of the ancient errors of antinomianism, Marcionism and mysticism. The historical background from which they come allows them to believe that they are unique, but they are not.

In this essay I will attempt to describe what new covenant theology is. This is a difficult task to accomplish because there is a great deal of theological variety within the camp of those who refer to themselves as new covenant theologians. It is also a difficult task to accomplish because new covenant theologians pride themselves in not presenting a comprehensive system of theological thought that can be systematically analyzed. Instead, they have a very limited set of doctrines on which they make positive assertions and everything else seems to be made up as they go along. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to present theological positions that are generally held by the majority of those who call themselves new covenant. I will make every effort to present their views accurately and not create a straw man based upon the aberrant views of some new covenant extremists. (A note about punctuation. Some might consider new covenant theology to be worthy of being a proper noun and, therefore, subject to capitalization. I do not. All references in this essay to new covenant theology are lower case.)

I will also show where new covenant theology really comes from. New covenant theology vainly attempts to reconcile logically contradictory theological traditions. Although new covenant theologians believe they have succeeded in their attempt, I will prove they have failed miserably. Not only have they failed, they have created dangerous theological positions that flirt with theological heresy. In many cases the logically necessary conclusions that must be drawn from new covenant theological positions are heretical. A good portion of this essay will consist of dealing with a hodge-podge of theological ideas that are generated by a small number of new covenant positions. In each of those cases I will attempt to show that new covenant theology falls apart because it is inherently contradictory. The contradictory nature of new covenant theology does not seem to bother it’s proponents. They blithely go on making their limited number of theological propositions all the while ignoring the necessary consequences of their assertions.

As is the case with all modern heresies, a distinction must be made between heresy and being a heretic. I believe new covenant theology is necessarily heretical. It does not follow that all who hold to the views of new covenant theology are heretics. Indeed, I suspect most of the preachers of the new covenant simply refuse to push their theological positions to their logical conclusions and, therefore, avoid heresy in that manner. I draw no conclusions about the state of the souls of those who believe in the new covenant. It is none of my business. I will draw many conclusions about the stream of theological nonsense that is coming out of this camp of professing believers.
New covenant theologians love to present themselves as operating without a theological system. In one sense this statement is correct. Their doctrines are very limited in scope and they by no means present a comprehensive theological system to the Church. They then profess to take the theological high ground over their opponents, whom they allege are hopelessly mired in theological error because of the theological system that they have adopted. In this sense, new covenant theologians love to describe themselves as “biblical theologians” rather than “systematic theologians”. They believe that they avoid all of the eisegetical doctrinal errors inherent in a theological system and they profess to operate under a pure exegesis that deals with the biblical text alone. This claim will be examined.

As far as professing to not operating under a theological system is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth. New covenant proponents have a well established system and they use it constantly. I will prove that below. There is a great air of arrogance surrounding most of the adherents to new covenant theology. Just as Dispensationalists love to assert that they are superior to all their opponents because they are the only group to use the “literal” method of biblical interpretation, so new covenant theologians claim to be the only group without a man made theological system impeding their interpretations of the Bible. I will prove that most of them suffer from a tremendous amount of spiritual pride. Whether their pride is the result or the cause of their position is open to debate. Nevertheless, they are generally a group of men who are quite arrogant and prideful. This will be seen in what follows. Before discussing what new covenant theologians believe it is worth taking a moment to review what covenant theologians believe. Then, a comparison can be made. We will get to that in a moment.

I must make a comment about the credo-baptist/paedo-baptist debate. I have no intention of entering into a
debate on baptism. I adopt the paedo-baptist position and assume it throughout this essay. I consider all Baptists to be weaker brothers on the doctrine of baptism. I recognize and accept their convictions with respect to the doctrine of baptism. I also assert that a doctrine will be known by it’s fruits. No biblical doctrine, when pressed to it’s logical conclusions, can bring about confusion, contradiction and heresy. If a doctrine does bear this negative fruit, it is not a biblical doctrine. This essay will show that new covenant theology bears a tremendous amount of rotten fruit.

I will conclude this essay with some tales of the pastoral fruit of new covenant theology. In a very short period of time I have witnessed a massive amount of spiritual carnage that was the direct result of applying new covenant doctrines to pastoral/counseling situations. These men need to be held accountable for the damage they are doing. These men need to repent of their erroneous views and stop persecuting God’s people. But first, what is covenant theology?

Poison of Pietism: Conclusion

This is the last of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

There is not one shred of Biblical evidence to support the almost universally-held doctrine that personal evangelism is to be the over-arching activity in every Christian’s life. Quite to the contrary, based on the complete lack of verses supporting the doctrine of personal evangelism, we have seen that Christ does not consider personal evangelism to be a requirement to fulfill the mission of His Church.

What, then, is the mission of the Church? The plethora of verses we looked at that contain exhortations and prayers for the churches show that the mission of the Church is to love and glorify God through the love for one another within the Church, to build up to maturity the Body of Christ through the teaching and preaching of the elders, to engage in the breaking of bread together, to fellowship in unity with one another, and to encourage, pray for, exhort, and serve one another.

For a church to focus on evangelism to the detriment of the true mission of the Church, building up the Body, will likely result in a church that is spiritually immature, that does not understand the true character of God, and that does not practice deep Biblical fellowship.

What would I hope the result of this paper be?

For those who have a passion for personal evangelism, they should continue to evangelize.

For those who do personal evangelism out of guilt, not wanting to, but because they think they should, they should continue to evangelize. They should not go against their conscience. If they believe that they are required to evangelize, it would be sin for them not to continue to do personal evangelism. (1 Corinthians 8)

For those who do not do personal evangelism but believe they are required to, they should begin evangelizing. (1 Corinthians 8)

For those who do personal evangelism out of guilt, although they do not believe that it is required of them, they should no longer feel compelled to evangelize.

For those who do not do personal evangelism and do not believe that it is required of them, they should be allowed to continue to not evangelize without being accused of being in sin.

Summer Seminar 2015: God Has Spoken

Why is I Corinthians in the Bible but I Clement is not? How did the Gospel of John make it into the Bible but the Gospel of Thomas did not? Who put together the books that make up our Bible and by what authority did they do so? Luther, Calvin and the other reformers taught that Scripture alone is the basis for all Christian life and doctrine. Is the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura that they taught still applicable to today or do we have other sources informing us of God’s will for our lives? One ancient figure by the name of Marcion was so disturbed by the apparent differences between the Old and New Testaments that he declared that the God who inspired the Old Testament was different than the God who inspired the New Testament. Vestiges of his beliefs still exist today. How do you resolve the differences between the Testaments? Indeed, are there any rules for interpreting the Bible at all? Theologians have labored for years to come up with principles that will allow us to interpret the Bible accurately. The art of biblical interpretation is called Hermenuetics and it is vitally important for all believers to understand how they interpret Scripture.

The Doctrine of Scripture is a historic Christian doctrine that answers those questions and gives us what we need to interpret the Bible correctly. Make plans now to attend “God Has Spoken: Understanding the Doctrine of Scripture” presented by the Session of Truth Reformed Bible Church of Golden, Colorado on Friday night, June 26th and all day Saturday, June 27th. The seminar will be held at Courtyard Denver West. There is no charge for a seat but advanced registration is required. Call 720- 248-8722 or click on “Summer Seminar 2015” to register for this valuable event.

Here are the details:

Seminar Name: God Has Spoken: Understanding the Doctrine of Scripture
Seminar Dates: Friday, June 26th through Saturday, June 27th
Seminar Location: Courtyard Denver West, 14700 West Sixth Avenue Frontage Road
Seminar Sponsor: The Session of Truth Reformed Bible Church, Golden, Colorado
Seminar Conditions: Free to all but advanced registration required.
Seminar Registration: 720-248-8722,, click on “Summer Seminar 2015”
Seminar Schedule:

  1. Friday night 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Introduction and Session 1
  2. Saturday morning 9:00 am to 10:30 am. Session 2
  3. Saturday morning 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. Session 3
    Catered Lunch: 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm. Free to attendees
  4. Saturday afternoon 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Session 4 and Conclusion/Q & A

Seminar Sessions:

  1. History of Scripture and Canonization – Maks Nelkin
  2. The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura – Jason Bolt
  3. The Relationship of the Old and New Testaments – Doug Brode
  4. Hermeneutics – Nick Sealy