For those who love Covenant Theology, and especially for Baptists who do so, I humbly offer these questions in the spirit of Jonathan Edwards: “Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can toward solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.” The first question sets forward the main theorem to be solved.
- Does the covenant of grace teach that essential unity exists throughout the history of redemption such that the Scriptures given to Israel as the Old Testament people of God should be used with and for the church as the New Testament people of God because these two peoples have so few distinctions that they must really be taken to be one people?
- Does the Scripture not explicitly call the Egyptians “my people”? (Isaiah 19:25)
- Does the Lord not combine Israel, Egypt, and Assyria as distinct peoples that God owns and blesses? (Isaiah 19:24-25)
- Does the doctrine of the covenant of grace encourage us to approve the language—the exact terms, names, and expressions—that God uses in the OT prophets and in the Revelation?
- Does the essential unity of the covenant of grace tend to flatten the language of prophetic Scriptures so that regardless of the words, they are always saying the same thing?
- If we tend to ignore differences and emphasize similarity does that not tend to reduce language down to the most common denominators?
- If we reduce language as a hermeneutical constant (eg. Israel means church. So does Judah, Jacob, My people, and the righteous. etc.), are we really being faithful to the doctrine of inspiration in light of the fact that God breathed out those individual names for a reason?
- Are there vital differences between the major covenants mentioned in the Bible: Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New Covenant, and the Covenant of Redemption?
- If there are differences, then should not those differences be expressed in our teaching when we reach those texts of Scripture?
- Since several millennial prophecies reference sin on earth during the blessed time (Isaiah 65:20; 66:17; Rev. 20:7-8), must we not conclude that the millennium will take place on earth?
- If the millennium must take place on earth, and if there is only one people of God, and if Judah means the church, then what prevents the 1,000 years of Rev. 20:1-8 as being a metaphor for a very long time where the church slowly triumphs—i.e. postmillennialism?
2 Corinthians 3
- Does 2 Corinthians 3:6-14 emphasize the differences between the covenants or the similarities?
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a “covenant of the letter that kills”? (3:6)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a “ministry of death”? (3:7)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a “ministry of condemnation”? (3:9)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as a temporary covenant? (3:11)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as less glorious than the New Testament? (3:11)
- Are these differences the reason that Paul contrasts “reading the old covenant” with Jesus Christ? (3:14)
- Is there any passage in the Bible that compares the covenants emphasizing their similarities to the same degree that 2 Corinthians 3 compares the covenants emphasizing their differences?
- Does Hebrews 8:6-13 emphasize the differences between the covenants or the similarities?
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as inferior to the New Testament? (8:6)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as having faults? (8:7)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the New Testament as “not according to” the Old Testament? (8:9)
- Is it common to hear Covenant Theologians speaking about the Old Testament as “obsolete, growing old, and ready to disappear”? (8:13)
- Is there any passage in the Bible that compares the covenants emphasizing their similarities to the same degree that Hebrews 8 compares the covenants emphasizing their differences?
- In what ways does the doctrine of essential unity brought about by the doctrine of the Covenant of Grace discourage the use of Biblical language when talking about the OT?
- Was Isaiah the prophet—or any OT believer, “in Christ” as Paul uses the expression throughout His epistles?
- If he was “in Christ” then were Adam, Eve, and Abel as well?
- If all these were in Christ, then did the church begin in the Garden of Eden?
- If all these were “in Christ” then what substantial benefit did the Holy Spirit bring at Pentecost?
- If all these were “in Christ” then is that not saying the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ were not necessary to unite a sinner to the Son of God?
- If the church began in the Garden of Eden, what similarities does it bear with the NT church when there was no indwelling Holy Spirit, no explicit faith in Jesus Christ’s cross work, no baptism, no Lord’s Table, no church discipline, no preaching of the Word, no apostolic doctrine, and no elders or deacons?
- Would the Reformers or Puritans have counted that as a church which lacked any of these elements let alone all of them?
- If Isaiah was not “in Christ” then did the church begin at Pentecost?
- If the church began at Pentecost, then is that not the introduction of a major difference in the history of redemption?
- If Pentecost introduces a major difference in redemptive history, then should we not speak and preach as NT ministers using the language of discontinuity?
- If there is essential unity in the one people of God throughout all redemptive history, then why can’t members of the new covenant join as babies just as members of the essentially same old covenant did?
- If the new covenant makes certain changes in who can be a member (such as only adults, not infants) then does that not mean there is a change in the group itself?
- If there exists a change between two groups of people, is it not a fair use of language to call those groups two different groups of people, or two peoples?
- Does the covenant of grace emphasize the similarities between the Old and New Testaments?
- If we emphasize the similarities, then must we not also honor the laws of the Old Testament?
- If we honor the laws of the Old Testament, what hermeneutical barrier keeps us from promoting the laws of the Old Testament as laws for modern nations?
- If the laws of the OT are the laws for modern nations, then must we not agree with and support the death penalty for nearly all sexual sins (Lev. 18:29) as well as all false teachers (Deut. 13:5)?
- If these and other sinners should be justly put to death, then when is the church released from the obligation to evangelize sinners and bound by the law to take their lives?
- Does church history not give many examples of professing Christians who put others to death because of their religious beliefs?
- Were not many early Baptists put to death on the basis that their religious beliefs were capital crimes?
- If the church began in the OT, then why should we not use the OT “church’s” laws as the basis for the NT church?
- If we should use the OT “church’s” laws for the NT church, then in what consistent way may we defend freedom of religion or conscience?
- Do not the NT doctrines of salvation and evangelism require freedom of religion?
- How can freedom of religion be defended from the Pentateuch?
- If the covenant of grace logically binds us to obey the laws of the OT church in the NT church seeing that they are the same people, then must we not also obey those same laws in the government?
- If we must obey those laws in the government, then must we not also obey the laws regarding banning and even killing false teachers, false religions, and heretics?
- If false religion must be met with the power of the sword as Augustine and the magisterial Reformers practiced, then is that not a state church?
- If there was a government sponsored religion under the old covenant, then why would we not look for a government sponsored religion under the current administration seeing as there is essential unity?
- If there is essential unity, and thus members may be added as infants based on their eternal election to that covenant, then may we not presume that our children are regenerate until they prove that they are not—as Abraham Kuyper taught?
- If there is essential unity, and thus members may be added as infants based on their eternal election to that covenant, then may we not see them as justified before they have believed in order to avoid any element of works salvation—as Abraham Kuyper taught?
- If we presume that our children are regenerate and eternally justified because they are members of the covenant and sanctified by their parents, then will that tend to motivate us to evangelize our children?
- Have we not seen some or all of these doctrines logically built one upon the other at different times in history such as during the Reformation in Europe?
- What other hermeneutic can explain Calvin’s recommendation that Servetus be beheaded (or hanged), Augustine’s interpretation that “compel them to come in” meant that the military should force the Donatists to convert, and Luther’s criminalizing of Judaism?
- Where did the Protestant persecution of Baptist’s come from if not from the fruits of the theological presupposition that there is a single, overarching covenant of grace that binds all revelation to the one people of God?