Volume 18, Number 1 (Spring 2007)

[click here to view pdf]

  • by Robert L. Thomas

    Ernest R. Sandeen laid a foundation for a contemporary concept of truth that was unique among evangelicals with a high view of Scripture. He proposed that the concept of inerrancy based on a literal method of interpretation was late in coming during the Christian era, having its beginning among the Princeton theologians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He ruled out their doctrines related to inspiration because they were based on rational thinking which he taught was absent from earlier Christian thought. Subsequent evaluations of Sandeen's work have disproved his assumption that those doctrines were absent from Christianity prior to the Princeton era. Yet well-known Christian writers have since built on Sandeen's foundation that excludes rationality and precision from an interpretation of Scripture. The Sandeenists criticize the Princetonians for overreacting in their response to modernism, for their use of literal principles of interpretation, for defining propositional truth derived from the Bible, and for excluding the Holy Spirit's help in interpretation. All such criticisms have proven to be without foundation. The Princetonians were not without fault, but their utilization of common sense in biblical interpretation was their strong virtue. Unfortunately, even the Journal of the Inerrantist Evangelical Theological Society has promoted some of the same errors as Sandeen. The divine element in inspiration is a guarantee of the rationality and precision of Scripture, because God, the ultimate author of Scripture, is quite rational and precise, as proven by Scripture itself.

  • by Greg H. Harris

    The beast referred to in Rev 13:3-4 is an individual, is it God or Satan who raises the beast from the dead? Either answer raises issues to be settled. Some sources leave the issue unresolved, but biblical evidence indicates that God the Father has given His Son power to raise the dead. A third position seeks a compromise between the two positions. The text of Revelation does not resolve this issue directly, but whatever answer one gives has implications for the book's teaching about the beast in Revelation 13 and 17. When Christ returns to judge the lost, the only two humans who will be cast into the lake of fire while living are the two beasts. The two will be the first to inhabit the lake of fire, a punishment that will require special bodies to keep them from being annihilated while there. They will probably receive those supernatural bodies in connection with the resurrection of the first beast in Rev 13:3, but certainly no later than Rev 19:20. The beast's ascent from the abyss could not refer to a revival of the Roman Empire which would not attract worldwide amazement as this event does. If the beast can survive in the lake of fire, he surely can survive the abyss, so Rev 17:18 is probably another reference to his resurrection. The text has no reference to a resurrection of the beast from the earth, but his relegation to the lake of fire before the Great White Throne judgment implies that he too must die and be raised.

  • by Marshall Wicks

    The recent popularity of Open Theism in evangelical circles has raised questions regarding the traditional doctrine of divine eternality, timelessness, or atemporality. The questions necessitate a three-part investigation of the subject. Part one investigates the present status of temporality studies which define time as either tenseless or dynamic. Part two compares the temporal position with the atemporal. The classical position has been that God is timeless, but some recent evangelical scholars have come to view God as a temporal being, with some others theorizing that He is both temporal and atemporal. The temporal position criticizes atemporalism in three ways: (1) the Bible presents God as a temporal being; (2) the modern consensus is that God is temporal; (3) atemporality is a result of the influence of Greek philosophy on Christian doctrine; (4) the idea of a timeless God is incoherent. In each case, the criticisms prove to be invalid. Part three examines positions that attempt to maintain temporality and atemporality simultaneously, but the composite approach proves to be nothing but another way of stating the atemporal position. A successful defense of the atemporal position proves Open Theism to be an unorthodox version of theism that should be rejected.

  • by Terry Mortenson

    In disputes about the age of the earth, young-earth creationists contend for a literal six-day creation 6,000-10,000 years ago and a global flood, but old-earth creationists advocate theistic evolution or progressive creation over millions of years and, many times, a local flood. Jesus understood the OT to be historically accurate in its description of historical events, including His teaching on the age of the earth. Specifically, in three "Jesus AGE verses," He demonstrated His young earth viewpoint in Mark 10:6, Mark 13:19-20, and Luke 11:50-51. When analyzed carefully, "from the beginning of creation" in Mark 10:6 refers to the beginning of the whole creation, not just the creation of the first marriage on day 6 of Genesis 1:27-30. In Mark 13:19, "since the beginning of creation which God created" refers not to the beginning of the human race but to the beginning of the whole creation, starting in Gen 1:1. Luke 11:50-51 focuses on "since the foundation of the world" and refers to the whole creation week of Genesis 1, not just a portion of it. A number of young-earth creationists have referred to these verses to prove that Jesus was a young-earth advocate, but old-earth defenders have usually ignored them. A survey of commentaries on Genesis, systematic theology texts, popular-level books, and scholarly works demonstrates this trend. Nothing in the Gospels supports the idea that Jesus viewed man as being created long ages after the beginning of creation.

  • by Rodger C. Young

    Constructing an OT chronology for the four and one-half centuries from the beginning of David's reign to the release of Jehoiachin from prison is a formidable challenge. By following a deductive methodology of resolving the problem, nonevangelical critics of the Bible have proposed that the task is impossible because of errors in the OT text. By seeking a solution through starting with observations rather than presuppositions, an inductive approach is more complex, but obtains much more satisfactory results. Among evangelicals who have used an inductive method successfully are Edwin Thiele and Leslie McFall, whose works have achieved a long-sought-after rational explanation of the chronological data of the Hebrew monarchies, an achievement that demonstrates that the Scriptures were not written by late-date authors and editors who lived long after the events they described. The method of Decision Tables, described in the present article, adds to these solid accomplishments by producing a methodology by means of which all the possibilities that are inherent in the scriptural texts may be fully explored. Such an inductive methodology has made it possible to assemble 124 items of exact chronological data from Kings, Chronicles, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel into a consistent and harmonious chronology of a period of over 400 years. The methodology has been so successful that it has served as a corrective for some chronological problems in Assyrian and neo-Babylonian history.

Volume 18, Number 2 (Fall 2007)

[click here to view pdf]

An Issue Devoted to an Examination of New Covenant Theology

  • by Dennis M. Swanson

    New Covenant Theology (NCT) is a relatively new system which, though not yet well defined, attempts to combine strengths of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology and to eliminate the weak points of the two. Its founders have come from Reformed Baptist circles who reacted against key tenets of Covenant Theology in rejecting such doctrines as the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. The movement has a strong emphasis on study of the Scripture in attempting to derive a biblically based theology. For the most part, NCT's origins have been local churches rather than academic circles. Though its growth continues to be substantial, it has come about mostly through the channel of the internet rather than works published through major evangelical publishing houses. Leaders of NCT include John Zens, John G. Reisinger, Fred G. Zaspel, Tom Wells, and Steve Lehrer. Among various programs promoting NCT are Providence Theological Seminary, Sound of Grace Ministries, The John Bunyan Conference, and In-Depth Studies. The progress of NCT's growth is most obvious in the number of churches that have adopted the movement’s approach to Scripture, but the impact on mainstream evangelicalism has been minimal because of a lack of exposure through mainstream publishers, a lack of full endorsement by a noted evangelical scholar, its doctrinal differences from well-known historic documents of Covenant Theology, its newness historically, and its failure to produce a published systematic or biblical theology. NCT's most notable peculiarities include a rejection of Covenant Theology's superstructure, its granting of priority of the NT over the OT, its rejection of OT ethical standards for Christians, and its rejection of infant baptism and the distinction between the visible and invisible church.

  • by William D. Barrick

    Though New Covenant Theology (NCT) has positive aspects such as an insistence on a biblically based theology, several aspects of the system are not so positive. For example, in pursuing a middle course between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, its theologians rely on a strained view of Dispensationalism and adopt an interpretive methodology called supersessionism. A noteworthy omission in NCT's listing of covenants is the Davidic. To a degree, NCT agrees with Dispensationalism on the Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants, but the system fails to grasp the thematic continuity of the OT covenants. Instead, NCT stresses discontinuity as the defining characteristic of a covenant because of the biblical contrast of the Old and New Covenants, and follows a redemption, fulfillment, and kingdom hermeneutic rather that a literal, normal, or plain hermeneutic. NCT and Dispensationalism agree on the centrality of the Abrahamic Covenant in the theology of the OT, but NCT sees one kind of fulfillment of that covenant's land promises in the days of Joshua. It understands the spiritual aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant as ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah and the possession of the promised land as ultimately fulfilled in a spiritual rest. The system holds that the gospel was not clearly revealed before the coming of Christ. The system takes the Old Covenant as fulfilling the physical parts of the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as fulfilling the spiritual parts. NCT holds that the Israelites redeemed from Egypt were physically redeemed, but not spiritually redeemed because the MosaicCovenant was based on works. This leads to the strange position that OT saints were not saved until after the death and resurrection of Christ. NCT thinks that the Davidic Covenant was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ and fails to allow for the NT teaching of a future kingdom. With all its positive features, NCT misses vital points featured in the OT covenants.

  • by Larry D. Pettegrew

    On a spectrum of continuity and discontinuity, New Covenant Theology lies between Covenant Theology and Progressive Dispensationalism and shows a number of improvements over Covenant Theology in such matters as emphasizing exegetical and biblical theology as a basis for systematic theology. Jeremiah 31:31-34 and several other passages state provisions of the New Covenant in the OT. The NT mentions the New Covenant in Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, and 2 Cor 3:6, among other places, indicating that the death of Christ marked the inauguration of the New Covenant. Traditional Covenant Theology sees the New Covenant as merely an updating of the Old Covenant and sees it as fulfilled in the church. New Covenant Theology sees the New Covenant as something new and not just a redoing of the Mosaic Covenant, but still thinks the New Covenant is being fulfilled in the church. Though some Dispensationalists disagree, most Dispensationalists understand that the New Covenant was inaugurated with the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Dispensationalism sees the New Covenant as something new, but in agreement with early Christian tradition, furnishes a fuller explanation of the New Covenant in regard to Israel's future regathering and restoration. Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology agree that the OT is to be read through the lens of the NT, but Dispensationalism is alone in insisting that the OT should be given its full weight in light of historical-grammatical principles of hermeneutics.

  • by Michael J. Vlach

    New Covenant Theology has arisen as an alternative to Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. It differs from Covenant Theology in denying the covenants of works, grace, and redemption, and in asserting the temporary nature of the Mosaic Law. It differs from Dispensationalism and agrees with Covenant Theology in endorsing a hermeneutical approach to the OT and the NT that abandons the historical-grammatical understanding of certain OT passages. In agreement with Covenant Theology, it also adopts supersessionist views regarding Israel and the church. The eight specific differences between New Covenant Theology (NCT) and Covenant Theology (CT) include NCT’s denial of the Covenant of Redemption, its denial of the Covenant of Works, its denial of the Covenant of Grace, its affirmation of the unity of the Mosaic Law, its affirmation of the expiration of the Mosaic Law, its teaching that Christians are under only the Law of Christ, its rejection of infant baptism, and its affirmation that the church began at Pentecost. NCT agrees with CT hermeneutically in accepting the NT logical priority over the OT and a typological interpretation of the two testaments, in holding that the NT church is the only true people of God, and in exhibiting a vagueness about the nature of the future kingdom. NCT shows some improvement over CT, but still has its own shortcomings.

  • by Richard L. Mayhue

    New Covenant Theology (NCT) advocates have correctly abandoned the non-biblical covenants of Covenant Theology (CT). However, with few exceptions, they have inconsistently maintained CT's eschatologies, which usually reject a future premillennial kingdom on earth, ruled over by Christ for 1,000 years in fulfillment of OT unconditional promises made to Abraham and David. After surveying the current theological landscape among prominent NCT writers, seven compelling reasons for embracing Futuristic Premillennialism (FP) are discussed: (1) Hermeneutics Is a Presupposition, Not a Theology, (2) Careful Exegesis Is Required, Not a Presupposed Theology, (3) Unconfused and Separate Identities for Israel and the Church, (4) Preservation of the Jewish Race and Israel, (5) Unconditional Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, (6) Proper Order of Christ's Return and Christ’s Reign, and (7) Promises of an Irreversible Restoration for the Nation. Because of these seven determinative, biblical facts, the only eschatology which would be consistent with NCT's denial of the non-existent covenants espoused by CT would be FP.

  • by Dennis M. Swanson