Friday, October 26, 2012

Kingdom Through Covenant, by Gentry and Wellum

Book Review by Chris Haven

There have already been a number of reviews of this ground-breaking book from readers of various theological persuasions. See Blake White's book review here that links to many of such responses. 

To my knowledge, this is the first book published from a mainstream Christian book publisher (Crossway) authored by men who self identify as being in the "New Covenant Theology" biblical-theological camp. Prior to this book's release, most of the books written from this perspective were published by New Covenant Media.

Rather than going into great detail, let me just give you a high level overview. The book has three main sections: (1) a section on describing the theological landscape of Dispensational Theology on the one side of a spectrum and Paedobaptistic Covenant Theology on the other side; (2) the exegetical part of the book that digs deep in the text of the Scripture in context of the Old Testament setting; and (3) a section devoted to some implications of the exegesis. 

The first section really gives the bottom line of the book. The authors are looking for a third way between Dispensational Theology and Paedobaptistic Covenant Theology. Dispensationalism, it is argued, utilizes a faulty hermeneutic in failing to see how the New Covenant in Christ fulfills the "land" promises to Israel, while Covenant Theology fails in its hermeneutic to appreciate how the so called "genealogical principle" is a point of discontinuity between the New Covenant and its predecessor covenants. In the view of the authors, both Dispensational and Covenant Theologians commit the same hermeneutical error with respect to two different concepts. I think they are correct at this point. The perspective they advocate is called "New Covenant Theology" or "Progressive Covenantalism." That is to say, in light of Christ's coming we are no longer under the law of Moses or the clannish structures of the prior covenants (in agreement with Dispensationalism), but the church does become, to some extent, the beneficiary of the promises to restored Israel (in agreement with Covenant Theology). 

The middle section is rich in exegetical insight, however sometimes seems to drift off path into issues not central to the thesis. There is also a fair amount of discussion of the Hebrew texts at certain points, so if you don't know Hebrew you'll need to skim over those parts.  

The last major section of the book gives some practical implications for the perspective shared by the authors, like the atonement and baptism. Even though the book was about 800 pages long, the topic of the book is so large that much more could be examined by way of implications. For instance, I think there is much to be worked through in the area of Christian ethics based upon the authors' perspective. 

In all, a very good and thought-provoking book. I commend it to anyone who would like to explore the Old Testament deeply and re-examine the Bible through a fresh perspective, one that does not read it through the lens of the two most common evangelical approaches to Biblical Theology.