These are my notes from Paul Gardner’s session yesterday afternoon on covenant theology. These notes were taken in the context of a lecture and are not a full transcript nor are they verbatim. Some ideas may be misrepresented by me.
Paul Gardner – session 1
Based in Atlanta since 2005 – 85% dechurched, unchurched
FoWS formed in 1979 to create a greater awareness of the warmth, depth and breadth of Reformed theology. At that time there was little or no Reformed, even biblical, theology in English seminaries, Packer had just left for Canada, Motyer was a biblical theologian.
Evangelicals were anti-academic and so anti-theological. There was little or no theology of covenant. Evangelicalism was almost wholly pietistic.
Dick Lucas established the Proclamation Trust (1986) which was and is a great movement which we must continue but it was regularly said at PT that preachers are “not to preach their theology but to preach the text.” This was near-sighted theologically as the text must be preached with an individual’s systematic theology (we all have one) and so we need to get the best system we can.
Biblical theology and systematic theology came through Philip Jensen in the mid-nineties, for those who had ears to hear.
Covenant theology is on the agenda because of:
2.New Persective on Paul (Tom Wright’s theology)
3.Graeme Goldsworthy – biblical theology and the kingdom of God
Why I love covenant theology.
1.Covenants are the clear expression of God’s grace (except the covenant of works [if we think there is such a thing])
2.God’s covenants explain better what God’s Lordship and universal Kingship are like
3.The whole of life is lived before the Lord
4.Covenants all point toward the New Covenant and to the covenant Lord, Jesus Christ, and explain his death
5.How the steadfast love of the Lord is delivered to his people
6.It is in the covenant promises that we discover the shalom of God and our inheritance, which is the earth and the rule of the earth (read Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright – outstanding exposition on inheritance)
7.It is in covenant theology that the fellowship of God’s people or, in other words, the church comes to light.
8.It is in covenant theology that our commitment to scripture finds its focus as the bible is God’s covenant document – he tells us who he is, who we are, what we are to do, how he will bless us or curse us, and how he will remain faithful even when we err and stray.
A lack of good covenant theology has led to:
2.A weak understanding of the law
3.A weak understanding of wisdom
4.A view of prophesy which fails to see what prophets do.
5.Lead to a lack of a theology of the church as God’s community
6.Who is “in” and who is “out”? To the saints in Corinth. If the covenant community only has the elect inside it then 1 Cor makes no sense as Paul clearly addresses more than the elect.
7.A confused at best understanding of the sacraments
8.Help lead to a failure to understand an imputed righteousness as the basis for justification.
What are covenants?
The Federal Vision speaks of covenants as covenants which form relationships. One might say “doh” but what kind of relationship.
FV says it is all about relationship. Marriage is the dominant relationship in scripture. Therefore, ANE background is argued to be irrelevant. God loves us and we love God. Mutual love. But relationships in the ANE did not give the woman a choice. The dad said “you will marry him.” The husband is then Lord. This is not to say that there is no love in the ANE marriage, but it is not a marriage based on equal grounds of choice as we experience today.
Deuteronomy a treaty-like document.
How the bible reveals God to us. God reveals himself as creator and then as King, the warrior Lord, who easily defeats his enemies and upholds the standard of his Kingdom. One picture of God as suzzeran. God is in some sort of covenant relationship with his creation.
Scripture describes covenants as those being made with those whom God is choosing, Abraham, David etc, are a model of the relationship between God and his whole creation. Not just God people, in God’s place under God’s rule, but God is Lord of all and the world is under the judgement of God as well as the blessing. We don’t need to pray charismatic prayers like “Lord, we claim this ground for you.” but rather “we pray for the people in this area who are under the judgement of God.” God is the King of his Kingdom in the sense that all of creation is his Kingdom. He is also king of his kingdom, which is the church, the elect, who will worship him eternally. The distinction is between two jurisdictions of God’s sovereign rule.