Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kingdom through Covenant

Both on his own blog as well as the aomin blog, Jamin Hubner has posted a typically wide-eyed, gushy, hyperbolic paean–in this case for the new monograph by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum entitled Kingdom through Covenant. Permit me a few brief observations.

i) The way the authors frame the issue is somewhat misleading. This isn’t so much as alternative to dispensationalism and covenant theology as it is an alternative to dispensationalism and Presbyterianism of the Westminster Confession variety (or its Dutch-Reformed counterparts).

ii) Although the work tries to stake out the middle ground between these two positions, it doesn’t really break any new ground. Instead, it’s an extended defense of Reformed Baptist/new covenant theology, a la Tom Schreiner & D. A. Carson.

Now that’s a very respectable position which merits a careful and respectful hearing. And Kingdom through Covenant is an able, up-to-date exposition and defense of that position. Well worth reading.

But it doesn’t change the state of the debate. It’s a lengthy restatement of a familiar position, with familiar arguments. There’s nothing revolutionary about the thesis or the supporting arguments. We’ve been around this track a few times before. It’s only a game-changer for the uninitiated, or for highly impressionable minds like Hubner, who believe the last thing they’ve read.

At best, it nibbles some of the edges off dispensationalism, but astute dispensationalists are already well-acquainted with the stock objections the authors use, and have well-rehearsed replies. So the work is rather naïve in that respect.

iii) In addition, there are some serious and striking omissions. There’s precious little discussion of Rom 11, even though that’s a central prooftext for “Zionism.” The authors need to present a sustained engagement of that text in relation to commentators and other scholars who think it has reference to the future restoration of ethnic Israel.

The authors also fail to interact with the restoration of Israel motif in Luke-Acts, which scholars like Bock and Bauckham have detailed.

iv) The monograph also has an excellent defense of limited atonement (670-83).

v) Since I’m noncommittal on “Zionism,” I don’t have a personal stake in this debate. That said, I think many (maybe most) anti-Zionists are ultimately motivated by envy and resentment. They feel that God is treating Gentiles as second-class citizens, and they rankle at the demotion. Their attitude  reminds me of Mt 20:21,24-25, which–not coincidentally–comes on the heels of 20:1-16.

But I don’t think Christians should be status conscious. Isn’t it more than enough to be saved? To have the hope of glory?

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