Questions Regarding New Covenant Theology (Introduction)

During the period of 1977 to 1980, New Covenant Theology[1] (NCT) started to emerge as a developing theological system through the diligent labors of such men as Gary D. Long, S. Lewis Johnson, John Reisinger, and Tom Wells. For the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this eclectic theological system endeavors to break down the walls of doctrinal partition between the two theological paradigms that dominate evangelical Protestantism: Dispensational Theology[2] and Covenant Theology.[3] By consistently implementing the Protestant axiom of sola Scriptura,[4] Christotelic[5] (or Christocentric) hermeneutics[6] and a biblical theology,[7] proponents of New Covenant Theology seek to graciously challenge both of these theological systems in specific areas where each lacks Scriptural foundation for its position. In the spirit of Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26), advocates of New Covenant Theology strive to employ another Protestant maxim: Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (Latin: “The Church reformed & always reforming according to the Word of God”). By means of Holy Spirit illumination, New Covenant theologians zealously labor to contribute to the ongoing reformation of the Church’s collective understanding of Scripture, the Gospel, and orthodox Christian ­theology. Since its inception, New Covenant Theology has been misunderstood and mischaracterized by some of its theological critics. Such confusion has significantly muddied the ‘waters’ of NCT and has affected its development and dissemination. The purpose of this work is to concisely and fairly address the principal misconceptions (both popular and doctrinal) of New Covenant Theology.


Notes:

[1]New Covenant Theology is generally defined as follows: “a theological system which stresses that Jesus Christ is the nexus & climax of God’s plan in redemptive history, that the New Testament Scriptures have interpretive priority over the Old Testament Scriptures, and that the new covenant truly is a new arrangement between God and man; this system also strives to maintain the biblical tension of continuity and discontinuity found in Scripture..”

[2]Dispensational Theology is generally defined in the following manner: “a theological system that stresses the elements of discontinuity between the Old & New Testament Scriptures; this system divides redemptive history into a number of distinct time periods known as dispensations; among its other distinctives are its sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, a literal millennial kingdom, a pretribulation rapture, and a restoration of national Israel.”

[3]Covenant Theology is generally defined as follows: “a theological system stressing the elements of continuity between the Old & New Testament Scriptures; this system holds the concept of covenant to be the central, unifying theme of God’s Word – specifically its covenant of works / covenant of grace schema; among its other distinctives are God’s one redemptive plan, the Decalogue as God’s eternal, moral law, and Sunday as a Christian Sabbath; also known as Reformed Theology.”

[4]Sola Scriptura (Latin: “by the Scriptures alone) is the Protestant theological maxim encapsulating the truth that Scripture (which is the plenary inspired, wholly infallible, wholly inerrant, and wholly sufficient Word of God) is the sole authority of faith & practice for the believer.

[5]Peter Enns (formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia) is believed to have coined the term Christotelic. That being said, Enns’ view of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture is unorthodox and problematic. Although Providence Theological Seminary views Christotelic as a biblical term in light of Romans 10:4, it seeks to distance itself from Enns’ unorthodox view of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. Hence, the following sentence: “A Christotelic hermeneutic, as defined by Providence Theological Seminary, assumes outright that the Old and New Testaments comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer.”

[6]A Christotelic hermeneutic views the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal or end of God’s Word and seeks to consistently interpret all Scripture in view of this great truth. A Christotelic hermeneutic, as defined by Providence Theological Seminary, assumes outright that the Old and New Testaments together comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer.[6] Furthermore, this particular method of interpretation emphasizes five principles: (1) the Lord Jesus Christ is the nexus of God’s plan in redemptive history, (2) all Scripture either refers to Christ directly (e.g. the Gospel narratives, messianic prophecies), refers to Christ typologically, or prepares the way for Christ by unfolding redemptive history which ultimately points to His person and work (e.g. the Flood, the calling of Abram), (3) the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament (OT), (4) an accurate analysis of a passage’s context is key: local, literary, canonical, and historical, and (5) the principle of historical-grammatical interpretation (guided by the first four principles).

[7]Biblical Theology is generally defined in the following manner: “a theological approach that seeks to determine the theological teaching and distinctives of the individual biblical authors and understand them in light of the progressive revelation of God’s Word.”

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