The book argues for a via media between covenant theology and dispensationalism that the authors call progressive covenantalism (similar to new covenant theology).
Wellum and Gentry routinely distinguish their view from each of the two major systems in a distinctive way:
- Covenant theology holds the genealogical principle (“to you and your children”), which is a basis for infant baptism. Progressive covenantalism argues that the genealogical principle significantly changes across redemptive history.
- Dispensationalism understands the OT land promises grounded in the Abrahamic covenant to still be in force (God will fulfill those promises to ethnic Israelites in the millennium). Progressive covenantalism understands the land not as Canaan but as a type of the new creation.
The book has three parts: Steve Wellum wrote parts 1 and 3, and Peter Gentry wrote part 2. I very carefully read parts 1 and 3 (and re-read about 100 pages of it), and worked through part 2 more quickly.
(I added the red font in the TOC below.)
- 66-page PDF excerpt
- Credo interview: part 1 | part 2
- TGC interview
- Monergism Books won’t sell it. I don’t understand why they won’t sell this when they sell books by Don Carson and Doug Moo.
- Wellum wrote a superb essay in 2006 on baptism as a test case for how to put the Bible together. This book builds on that.
Wellum and Gentry impressively argue their case, which I won’t rehash or thoroughly evaluate here. (See the links above for the gist of their argument. I’m looking forward to reading reviews, particularly the three-part series TGC lined up with Darrell Bock, Doug Moo, Mike Horton with a response by Gentry and Wellum.)
I resonate with much of the book’s argument. But I’ll mention four questions it raises for me (the first two are major, the second two minor):
- Must the OT land promises be an either-or proposition (i.e., either literally Canaan or typologically the new creation)? Can they include both? ***See update at the bottom of this article.***
- How sure are we that the covenants all have both conditional and unconditional aspects and that it’s incorrect to label specific covenants as either one or the other? (I’m eager to see how OT scholars evaluate that argument. I already talked to one, Desi Alexander, who is unconvinced.)
- Must typology be only predictive and never retrospective? Wellum rejects the view that discovers typological patterns “based on analogies and a retrospective reading of later persons, events, and institutions on the Old Testament”; if it is not “predictive and prospective,” he argues, then “it is not exegetically grounded” (pp. 103–4n48). If Wellum is right on this point, then the thesis of my latest book is wrong (see From Typology to Doxology, especially pp. 126–28). (This is a relatively minor point re the book’s argument; progressive covenantalism doesn’t stand or fall on it.)
- Does Wellum rightly critique Don Carson for calling biblical theology a “bridge” discipline (p. 36n34)? This is a very minor point since the authors largely follow Carson’s theological method and theology, but I don’t follow this critique. (a) The point of Carson’s temporal/atemporal distinction is not to say everything about BT and ST, but to delineate at least one of the foundational differences between the two disciplines. Carson argues that in some ways BT is the bridge discipline between exegesis and ST, but not in every way. (b) Is it best to speak of doing ST in BT categories?
This stimulating book repays a crock-pot reading. (It’s still cooking in my crock-pot.)