Tuesday, November 05, 2013
A Response to Richard Lucas' comments on my Reformed vs. Calvinist "Vision" article
Note: A reader named Richard Lucas took exception to my brief assessment of the book Kingdom through Covenant in last week's Vision article. I tried to add the following response to the comments, but it exceeded the allotted word count, so I am posting it as an article instead. To read the original article and the Lucas' comments, go here.
Thanks for your comment and sorry to be so long in responding to it. This article was the pastoral column that I wrote for last week's edition of my church's e-newsletter, The Vision. I typically post my pastoral article to my blog each Thursday. It so happened that one of my friends at the Confessing Baptist website then posted a link to the article on their site and the views went up into the hundreds.
From your comments it seems I hit a nerve with my brief and less than enthusiastic assessment of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012), especially my description of it as an attempt "to meld dispensationalism with Calvinism [let me clarify that by Calvinism I meant a full blown Calvinistic and, thereby, convenantal theology]."
Let me assure you that I do, in fact, own a copy of Kingdom through Covenant (and the picture above proves it [!]; believe it or not, I found it among the used books at the local Salvation Army--so I bought it for about a dollar, great deal!).
Let me also add that I have published over 25 book reviews in peer-reviewed academic journals (like Interpretation, Perspectives in Religious Studies, Puritan Reformed Journal, Faith & Mission, and American Theological Inquiry), not to mention at least as many reviews in Reformed Baptist Trumpet, the e-journal of the RBF-VA, which I edit. In formal published reviews I have closely read each book, often more than once. I have not (as yet) written a thorough review of Kingdom Through Covenant and may or may not ever get around to it, particularly since several folk have already ably done so, and I do not see the need for another.
I don't know if you're familiar with Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren's classic work How to Read a Book (Touchstone, 1940), but I would commend it. Within that book, the authors describe three levels of reading: (1) elementary; (2) inspectional; and (3) analytical. All the books for which I have published a review have been read at the third and deepest level. I admit that my reading of KTC was more on the second level, but then again my purpose was not to offer an in-depth review. Adler & Van Doren describe inspectional reading as "the art of getting the most out of a book in a limited time" (p. 38). When it comes to reading speed, they add: "One point is really very simple. Many books are hardly worth even skimming; some should be read quickly; and few should be read at a rate, usually quite slow, that allows for complete comprehension" (p. 39).
My brief reference to KTC in the article was not, of course, meant to serve as an exhaustive review. I do not believe, however, that my brief assessment of the book was inaccurate and find it curious that this brief reference hit such a nerve with you. As Max pointed out in the comments, my assessment was essentially the same as that of Thomas Schreiner's (i.e., "Gentry and Wellum offer a third way, a via media, between covenant theology and dispensationalism...") which the publishers chose to print on the introductory page of the book.
Beyond this, I do not understand how one might have read the book's concluding chapter 17 "Some Theological Implications" (pp. 653-716) and not conclude that the authors hoped to bridge dispensational and covenant theology by making use of aspects of each. Let me offer just one brief excerpt from the discussion of the KTC view of ecclesiology:
"Given that we are presenting our view of the covenants as a via media, it is not surprising that we agree and disagree with both views [dispensationalism and covenant theology] at various points. For example, in agreement with progressive dispensationalism and covenant theology we believe there is only one people of God (the elect) through the ages and one plan of redemption centred (sic) in Christ. However, in contrast to covenant theology, we believe that the church is different from Israel in at least two ways...." (p. 684).
You state that you don't like my use of the verb "meld" to describe this, but when I consulted an online dictionary it gave the following definition of "meld": blend, merge, combine, fuse, mesh, alloy. Isn't "meld" an appropriate description of the KTC method?
Let me also offer a little more background. I have been following the "New Covenant theology" movement over the last few years including closely reading Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel's New Covenant Theology and Richard Barcellos' response In Defense of the Decalogue. Even an inspectional reading of KTC convinced me that it was related to New Covenant Theology, as did endorsements by other NCT theologians and past Bunyan Conference speakers like T. Schreiner and M. Haykin.
So, all that said, thanks again for your comments and suggestions to improve my article in reference to KTC, but I stand by it and do not feel any need to alter it.