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What is Covenant Theology?

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Covenant Theology is the historic theology of the Church. Certain basic tenets of it can be seen in the Church Fathers; however, it is difficult to recognize it as a crystallized body of teaching until Augustine at the earliest, and without doubt it was an important feature of the theology of the Protestant Reformers, especially Calvin.

 

It is an over-arching view of the Bible, providing a unifying thread and a consistent message throughout the entire Bible, from front to back. This unifying thread is, as its name implies, the several covenants found throughout scripture.

 

A covenant is, in simple terms, an agreement between parties. It can be either a mutual agreement or an imposed agreement. It is modeled after the suzerainty covenants of the ancient Middle East in which a stronger nation, perhaps a conquering nation, enters into agreement or covenant with a weaker nation to provide protection and certain other benefits in exchange for vassal loyalty and whatever benefits of economic goods and services may be provided. Failure to meet the condition(s) of the covenants guarantees certain negative consequences. So we see the end of all the covenants as either blessing or cursings.

 

It is important to keep in mind that in Covenant Theology, all the covenants are seen as conditional covenants (Hafemann, God of Promise, 2001, 58-60). There are systems of theology among the evangelical family that espouse the existence of unconditional covenants, but these donot represent the Reformed Protestant tradition. There are even variations on this issue even within the Reformed Protestant family, and so we will speak charitably as possible.

 

We can see a biblical proof of the conditionality of the covenants by a short study on John 3:18-21:

 

He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (19) And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (20) For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (21) But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

 

Dispensationalists are quick to note that condemnation comes through the Law, but salvation come by grace, so they might be apt to jump right to verse 20 to emphasize John’s use of “deeds” to place condemnation squarely in the covenant of Law. However, this conclusion requires a leap-frog over the foremost cause of condemnation highlight by the passage – “because he has not believed”. Now one should ask, by what covenant is a man condemned through unbelief? Please note that the scripture says that the condemnation was in place, “already”. How can a man be condemned already due to unbelief in a savior in whom he has not even heard, and in particular a pre-cross and a pre-resurrection Christ, by which all men would be drawn? This passage makes sense only if Covenant Theology is applied – if we understand that from the very onset of grace in the protoevangelium the condition of its blessings was faith in a coming Savior, now on earth and proclaimed as Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Those not meeting the faith-condition of the Covenant of Grace in fact fail of the grace of God, and are condemned.

 

Before I go on to list and describe the various covenants, I should point out that Covenant Theologians do not deny the existence of dispensations, and likewise, dispensationalists do not deny the existence of covenants. As far as the Protestant Church’s historic position on dispensations, it has historically viewed time as being divided into two dispensations, obviously parallel to the Bible testaments, designated the Old Testament and the New Testament. In addition to recognizing the existence of these two dispensations, it is also recognized that a difference exists between the dispensations in the “economies”, or ways in which God relates to the world and mankind. However, in the Covenantal scheme, the differences between the dispensations are in degree, not substance.

 

Another preface I should make to my presentation of the covenants is to reveal where my preferred version of the covenants stands among the theological world. It seems that most Reformed theologians equate the Covenant of Redemption with the Covenant of Grace. In a slightly different vain, my own view is somewhat similar to those of John Owen (Covenant of Redemption, apuritansmins.com, 2009), combined with those of R.B.C Howell (The Covenants, founders.org, 2009). Owen separates the Covenant of Redemption from the Covenant of Grace and sets it first in logical order, as I do; and Howell views the Covenant of Redemption as an agreement involving all three members of the Trinity, as I do.

 

The covenants in order are: 1) The Covenant of Redemption; 2) The Covenant of Works; 3) The Covenant of Grace; 4) The Noahic Covenant; 5) the Abrahamic Covenant; 6) the Mosaic Covenant; 7) The Davidic Covenant, 8 ) The New Covenant.

 

The Covenant of Redemption

 

The Covenant of Redemption is the covenant made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, made in eternity, in which the Father elected to save a portion of mankind, the Son would meet the conditions, and the Spirit would apply them to the elect (see 1 Peter 1:2). This covenant answers to the overall purpose of creation – the glorification of God through the redemption of a grateful race (see Ephesians, Chapters 1 and 2).

 

The Covenant of Works

 

The Covenant of Works was made after the creation of man, between Adam and God, in which Adam would have everlasting life dependent upon the condition of Adam’s obedience to God’s command to abstain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was the single prohibition in the Garden of Eden, and yet Adam chose to disobey it (Genesis Chapter 2 and 3). This one condition was Adam’s “work” that was required for the covenant blessings, hence the name “Covenant of Works”. As mankind’s natural father and representative, Adam’s failure was also our failure. Reaping the cursing of the covenant failure, it condemned the whole human race, identifying it as a disobedient body (see 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Romans 5:14).

 

The Covenant of Grace

 

The Covenant of Grace is the covenant that is initiated in Genesis 3:15:

 

And I will put enmity between thee [satan] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

 

This is known by theologians as the “protoevangelium, the first promise of the Gospel” (Postmillenialsim, 2009). The agreement is between “her seed” (Christ) and God. Christ accomplishes the crushing of Satan (the serpent), and those “in Christ” share in the covenant blessings, while those that remain“in Adam” through disobedience and unfaithfullness continue in Adam’s failure and covenant cursings. While all the persons and conditions of this covenant are not spelled out specifically in the protoevangelium, we find them progressively revealed in subsequent scripture. As the Westminster Confession puts it:

 

Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, [Galatians 3:21; Romans 8:3; Romans 3:20-21; Isaiah 42:6] commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, [Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16; Mark 16:15; Romans 10:6; Romans 10:9; Galatians 3:11] and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.[Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 6:44-45] (Westminster Confession 2003, Ch VII, Para 2, pg. 42)

 

So the condition of this covenant is the defeat of Satan, which was accomplished by Christ, and by extension those who have faith in Jesus Christ reap the blessings of the covenant: eternal life and those things that accompany God’s approval. Those that reject Christ reap the cursing of the covenant: eternal death and those things that accompany God’s wrath. All other covenants mentioned from this point forward are out-workings of this central covenant, being expressions in one form or another of the gracious purposes of God in saving His elect for His eternal purposes, and man’s blessing or cursing in relation to these covenants is conditioned on faith in Christ. However, there are specific conditions given in each covenant which serves as signs of the covenant, which are incidental to the salvific condition of faith; for example, Abraham’s requirement to be circumcised, which adds nothing to his salvation, but stands as a test of obedience and a sign of the covenant, and is a specific condition of the covenant.

 

It is crucial to understanding Covenant Theology and to the Christian Faith itself that the single condition that man must meet to be in proper relationship with God is faith in Christ, and all other righteousness-based and ceremonial conditions are satisfied by Christ himself. We, as his elect sheep and brethren, regenerated believers and followers of Christ, reap the blessing of the covenants through faith in Him alone. This is the very heart of the Christian faith and the Gospel.

 

The Noahic Covenant

 

Now moving on to the other covenants, the Noahic Covenant is the covenant made between God and Noah in which God promises to refrain from ever destroying the earth with water. This covenant is built on the covenant of grace, as we see in Genesis 6:8 that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. The specific condition of this covenant is that Noah and his descendants must “replenish” the earth and not take the life of others, with the blessings being the continuation of seed and harvest time, and the cursing being capital justice for murder (see Genesis chapters 6-9).

 

The Abrahamic Covenant

 

The Abrahamic Covenant is the covenant made between God and Abraham in which God promises to make Abraham “the father of many nations”, and to give the land of the Canaanites to his “seed” forever (Genesis 12:7). The word “seed” in this place is very important, and sadly many translations of the Bible uses the word “posterity”, which may seem synonymous at first, but not when it is seen the light of Paul’s discourse on the word “seed” in Galatians 3:16, as the word seed can carry both a singular and plural meaning, and theologically it’s understood that Abraham’s seed was his human posterity, which in turn was typical or representative of the seed, which was Christ himself. The issue of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, and the land in particular, will be dealt with at length later in this treatise. One specific condition of this covenant was circumcision, which was the sign of the covenant to be passed on to Abraham’s descendants, and was the key issue with which Paul was tasked to deal with in the churches of Galatia. Paul’s instructions make it clear that in the New Covenant, circumcision is still a condition, but it is circumcision of the heart that is the key condition, not circumcision of the flesh (Romans 2:28-29).

 

The Mosaic Covenant

 

The Mosaic Covenant is that covenant given by God to the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of commandments or laws in which God’s standards of moral behavior are set forth as well as ceremonial requirements and laws concerning civil order. These laws are known collectively as The Law of Moses. The Ten Commandments are a summary of the moral law, describing how man is to behave toward God, toward his fellow man, and toward himself. While man is cannot be saved from God’s wrath by keeping the law (because he cannot keep it in perfection, which is God’s standard), nevertheless the moral law remains a behavioral/ethical standard by which man is to live. The ceremonial laws were fulfilled in finality by Christ and are therefore done away with in the New Covenant. The civil laws may serve as points of reference for a Godly society, but the great majority of Bible scholars agree that the civil laws were tied to the nation of Israel and we have no direct application of them into the New Covenant.

 

The specific condition of the Mosaic Covenant is obedience, with the specific blessing being “life”, and the cursing being “death”. This seems to contradict what I’ve said about the Mosaic Covenant being an outworking of the Covenant of Grace. This can be very confusing, but I will attempt to clarify it in the simplest terms I can.

 

Even Israel under the Law of Moses was required to have faith to reap the blessing of the covenant, as we can quickly see from Hebrews 3:19, which speaking of Israel’s failure to enter the Promised Land says, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief”. Despite the popular notion that the Law stands in opposition to grace, the fact that the Law was given “to bring us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24) shows that the Law ultimately has a graceful salvific purpose.

 

I believe we can understand this better when we keep in mind that before Israel was ever given the Law of Moses, they had already been God’s chosen people, their fathers being called out from among the heathen peoples and given a destiny of blessings. God, having elected a people for His name’s sake, now regulates their earthly life, instructing them as to how they may please Him.

 

This pattern is no different than the New Covenant pattern, for those that have received the blessing of the New Birth through the Gospel are not left without instructions from God as to how to please him in our earthly lives. In fact, the New Testament is FULL OF COMMANDMENTS! We are not saved by works, but unto works. Paul’s message to the Ephesians might have just as easily been God’s preamble to the Law:

 

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

They were chosen and called by grace, but instructed in law, both them and us.

 

So how do we please God? Let us look at some Bible verses: It is evident that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8); “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you… Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9); “you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more…For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus…For this is the will of God, your Sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3).

 

So the formula is simple: to please God, we must be 1) saved (i.e., in the Spirit); and 2) obedient. Those who are called into God’s family by His grace have the privilege of pleasing Him through obedience to His commands. Those who have not entered into a relationship with God through grace can only be condemned by the law’s requirements since they cannot meet its standards.

 

 

 

The Davidic Covenant

 

The next covenant to be discussed is the Davidic Covenant, which is the one in which David and his seed are promised monarchial establishment forever and a throne to all generations. The fulfillment of this promise was in the person of Christ, the son of David, and King of Israel forever. The conditional nature of this covenant is readily seen in that there was no legitimate King is Israel after Jechoniah due to King Manasseh’s sins, leading to the Babylonian captivity and the dissolution of the Kingdom. Jesus reclaimed the throne through His obedience, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Those today who meet the covenant condition of faith in Christ claim Him as their King as well as Savior, and are citizens of His everlasting Kingdom.

 

The New Covenant

 

The last of the covenants is the New Covenant. It is that covenant in which God promises to give His people a new heart and to gather them together into one body. It is found in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

 

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

 

The writer of Hebrews explains the meaning of this covenant to us in Hebrews chapters 8 and 9. After giving us a verbatim quote of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in chapter eight, he goes on to tell us in chapter 9 verse 1, “Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.” This shows us that the focus of this covenant is on the “ordinances” of the old covenant, and how they are replaced in the new. Hence, the difference between the old and new covenant is not in substance, but in administration. In other words, the sacrifices of the old covenant are not replaced with non-sacrifice in the new, but rather the temporal animal sacrifices of the old are replaced with the eternal messianic sacrifice of the new. Essentially, in the old covenant God’s wrath was temporarily mollified by the blood of bulls and goats, but in the new covenant God’s wrath is forever satisfied by the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 9:12). Hence, God will “remember their sins no more”.

 

The Holy Spirit applies the benefits of the new Covenant by writing the law in the hearts, and teaching each person affected to “know the Lord”. This phenomenon is called “the new birth”, or being “born again”.

 

This covenant was made “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”, but in God’s mercy, the “door of faith” was opened to the Gentile peoples, and they were grafted in and became God’s people along with the believing Jews. This new body, initially purely Jewish, then a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, and now is still mixed but includes very few believing Jews, is God’s Israel of the New Covenant, the Church. It is not an annihilation of Israel, but a redefinition, an expansion, a reorganization, if you will.

 

The Covenantal View of the Bible

 

Like dispensationalists, most covenant theologians accept the Bible as the Word of God – infallible, and literally true. However, they are more likely to allow the context and genre of a biblical passage determine how it should be interpreted, as opposed to the flat literalism of a typical dispensationalist.

 

Dispensational polemists often accuse the covenantalist of “allegorizing” or “spiritualizing” scripture, implying that the covenantalist is only one step from being a “liberal”, denying the literal truth of the whole of scripture.

 

But nothing could be a greater misrepresentation. The covenantal view IS the view of the Church Fathers, through Augustine, and seeing its crystallization in the Reformers and the Reformed confessions. And it does see the Bible as literally true, and allegorizes nothing that is not allegorical. However, it does take in to account that some scripture is poetic, or apocalyptic, or visionary, or some other symbolic genre that is not to be taken literally, which is basic to any proper hermeneutic applied to any form of literature.

 

The key feature of Covenant Theology’s view of scripture is its over-arching theme of redemption and grace which unifies its message and provides a near-seamless flow from beginning to end.

 

Whereas a dispensationalist might ask, “Does the Old Testament apply to us today?”; the covenantalist would ask, “How does the Old Testament apply to us today?” In Covenant Theology, there is no scripture that is irrelevant to Jews or Gentiles or Church people. It is God’s revelation of Himself to man, to all of mankind, with a single epical message, that message being that a redeeming and rescuing savior is given to a weak and failing people, who through faith may be saved from their failings – who may have eternal life with God through his gracious provision in Christ.

 

Also important in the covenantal system is the application of two crucial rules of interpretation: 1) The New Testament interprets the Old Testament, and 2) Christ is the ultimate subject of all scriptures. The New Testament repeatedly quotes Old Testament scriptures and then applies them to Christ or the New Covenant administration. This is so common in the New Testament that providing an example would be pointless, but for those that need a proof text, I would just recommend that in opening to the first page of the New Testament, one would not read five minutes before finding Matthews favorite phrase, “as it is written”, followed by his application of the prophecy to Christ and His works.

 

The Covenantal View of the Church

 

Covenant theologians are careful to define the Church in its two aspects: the invisible, and the visible. Again, we’ll turn to the Westminster Confession:

 

I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all.

 

II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (emphasis mine) (Westminster Confession 2003, Ch XXV, 106-107)

 

Baptists are careful to make a further distinction as to the visible church, that it consists of particular bodies, as stated in the 1689 Baptist Confession:

 

In the exercise of the authority which has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus calls to Himself from out of the world, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those who are given to Him by His Father, so that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience which He prescribes to them in His Word. Those who are thus called, He commands to walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification, and for the due performance of that public worship, which He requires of them in the world. (1689 Baptist Confession, reformed.org, n.d.)

 

So we see that in the covenantal view, the invisible Church began with Adam, and most covenant theologians agree that the calling of Abraham was the beginning of the visible Church. Note that in Genesis 12:1, Abraham was commanded to “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:”, which is in keeping with the New Testament Greek word for “church”, ἐκκλησία (ekklesia), which is defined as “a called out assembly” (see Thayer’s definition available at blueletterbible.com). Abraham was called out from among his own people, and he and his descendants were gathered into a covenanted body.

 

Dispensationalists deny the existence of an invisible church whatsoever. To the dispensationalists, only the local church, a particular gathering of people in the name of Christ, and only those gatherings taking place during the Age of Grace, is in fact that body called “church”. They make no distinction between the church and a church. Many insist that anywhere “church” is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to a local gathering of believers only, even if the modifier “the” is used to describe the church. (What, No Church?, BaptistBoard.com, 2009).

 

Acts 7:38 is problematic for dispensationalists in that it speaks of the Israelites in the exodus as “the church in the wilderness”. Of course, the dispensationalist simply waives this off by taking the generic definition of “ekklesia” in this verse, the definition might indicate that they were simply gathered together, as any other rabble might be gathered. But the context clearly shows that Israel, wondering in the wilderness, fits every New Testament definition of “church”, especially in light of the fact that they were gathered in name of Christ. The dispensationalist will protest that the name of Christ does not appear in the Genesis text, but the book of Hebrews points out that Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God…Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt”, showing a parallel between “the people of God” and “Christ”.

 

This exposes a crucial error in the dispensational scheme. In their efforts to over-differentiate the Old Testament from the New Testament, they leave Christ out of the Old Testament by leaving the Church out of it. It is the New Testament itself that shows us that Christ can be seen throughout the Old Testament, and Old Testament saints trusted in Christ, who had yet to come.

 

Only the covenantal definition of the Church offers a complete, rational, logical, and cohesive ecclesiology. It is both visible and invisible, beginning with Adam, and never ending, with Christ as its Head, with members that are elect of God, washed by the blood of Christ, and unified in the Spirit.

 

The Covenantal View of Israel

 

One way of understanding the covenantal view of Israel, especially as it relates to the Church, can be expressed in this succinct saying (author unknown):

 

Israel is the Church of the Old Testament, and the Church is the Israel of the New Testament.

 

The fact that the Church existed in the form of Israel was dealt with in the discourse on Moses and the people in the wilderness in the previous section.

 

However, Covenant Theology recognized many of the differences between the old and new dispensations, and between the Jewish and Gentile believers where difference exist. There is a particular people, blood-relation of Abraham, dwelling in a particular land (Palestine), stewards of God’s revelation, the earthly family of Christ, with a special place in God’s historical play. How that history plays out is a matter over which covenantal theologians are not fully agreed upon.

 

One view is that the geographic, Abrahamic, covenant nation of God, commonly referred to as Israel, has been altogether rejected by God and will never return to a place of blessedness with God, being eternally cast off due to their rejection of Christ. In this system, believing Jews represent a small remnant that, like Gentile believers, reap the blessings of Christ as individual believers. But Israel as a nation has utterly fallen into perdition, never to be recovered.

 

The other view is that geographic, Abrahamic, covenant nation of God, commonly referred to as Israel, will in some future time experience a sweeping nation-wide revival in which they will turn to Christ wholesale. Different eschatologies see this happening in different ways. But the important difference between the dispensational and covenantal views of this expected phenomenon is that the dispensationalists sees the Jews returning to an Old Covenant, Mosaic system of worship, to include a rebuilt temple with animal sacrifices. In contrast, the covenantal view of this event sees Israel in-mass receiving Christ in the evangelical sense, under the Gospel, taking the sign of Baptism and eating the Lord’s Supper in communion with the Gentile saints as members of the New Testament Church.

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      in Covenant/Household Baptism

    • You Can Teach Theology with Picture Books

      As parents, we are our children’s first theology teachers. Like the women at the tomb on Easter morning, we run fearfully and joyfully to tell the people we love, “The tomb is empty! Christ has risen.” With hope-filled hearts, we teach our children about the living Lord. God has ordained a means for teaching our children how to love him—and not primarily by sending them to AWANA, or buying another picture Bible, or using the right curriculum. Learning about God begins with wonder, and worship is our great goal. Teaching our children theology is as simple as having conversations with God and conversations about God “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). We have conversations with God by reading his Word, giving thanks and praise, and praying to him. In our family, we have conversations about God as we go about our daily routine—sharing meals, walking outside, and perhaps most delightfully, reading books. Book Adventures Every new book is a new place, a new journey into new worlds. My husband is our courageous captain. He navigates our ship through the shining seas of Bunyan, Lewis, and Tolkien. These days, we are on an excursion in a dragon’s lair. Theology, like food, tastes better when one is hungry. Young sailors are often hungry for definitions and explanations, while being full of questions and interruptions. When our captain recently explained various heretical views of the Trinity, our living room roared with laughter. I didn’t know that was possible. Before the current days of chapter books, however, there were years of shorter adventures in picture books. These too held truths and metaphors helpful for understanding the things of God. Illustrate and Illuminate The following picture books aren’t theology books. They should be enjoyed for their clever plots and likeable characters. But they can also illustrate biblical concepts. Through conversations, these picture books may illuminate truths about God in unexpected ways. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown Mother bunny gives us a great picture of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The Lord never leaves us or forsakes us. He is faithful to pursue us when we run away. He is the fisherman who fishes for us and the “tree we come home to.” His sovereignty is like the wind that blows us where he wants us to go. The little bunny is a lot like Jonah, the runaway prophet. But unlike Jonah, we see the bunny repent. What Do You Love? by Jonathan London The question “What do you love?” echoes Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections. Parents can help our children to see that the child in the story loves his mommy not for “park slides and piggyback rides.” Rather, he enjoys these good things because he is with his mommy. The nature of true religion is to find our greatest happiness in Christ, not merely his gifts. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Sam Barnett This book hilariously illustrates double-mindedness. As Sam and Dave dig down, down into the ground they miss enormous chunks of diamonds because they keep changing their minds about which direction to dig. Let us pursue the Lord single-mindedly! The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy,” or where a big hungry bear might break in and steal. Our hearts are bound up with our red ripe strawberries. I asked my children: What are your red ripe strawberries? How may we store up treasures in heaven instead? Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Willems This book helps us think about why we need patience and serves as a lesson in eschatology for toddlers. How do we answer the question, “Mommy, when is Jesus coming again?” This humorous book gives us five surprisingly profound answers: One, a surprise is a surprise. Two, waiting is not easy. Three, it will get darker before the surprise arrives. Four, sometimes waiting feels like a waste of time. Five, it will all be worth it. Wonder at the Light Like John the Baptist, parents who have seen the light are called to be witnesses to the light. Reading with our children will not save them. But we can be the voices crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD” (Isa. 40:3). We can look for clues to Christ and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Learning theology begins with a sense of wonder at our risen Lord. May the families of the world fall down and worship. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • Need help with an apologetics question re: Old Covenant

      I was talking with a somewhat liberal Catholic who has also attended the Eastern Orthodox for a period of time.  He said that he didn't believe in the Catholic notion that if you commit one mortal sin you go to hell, but that there was certainly greater and lesser sins.  I said that I believed all sins were mortal in a sense, in that we all deserve hell for our sins. He said that if that were the case, then Christians would be worse off then under the Old Covenant where you could sacrifice animals to atone for sin and Gentile God-fearers could be saved.  I asked what was the point of Jesus coming and dying if some of us could be a sinner that was "not really that bad", but beyond that I blanked out on how to answer his point.   Any input would be greatly appreciated if only so I can answer myself in my own mind. 🙂

      in Apologetics and Theology

    • How Much Theology Should Couples Agree on Before They Get Married?

      Derek Rishmawy   I'll admit, this isn't a typical question most Christian singles, or even couples, are asking. Most are still stuck on, "Wait, I'm supposed to date Christians?" That said, once you've established the importance of marrying someone who will be your partner in the faith and has the mutual goal of encouraging you in your relationship with Christ, you may start to wonder, "Well, does it really matter what kind of Christian they are? How will our theology affect the way we point each other to Christ? I mean, does it affect things if I'm a Protestant and he's a Catholic? Or what if we have different views on the end times? What about speaking in tongues? Can I date someone who 'quenches the Spirit' and thinks I worship with 'strange fire'?"   As I've thought about the issue while talking with friends, considering my own marriage, and searching through the Scriptures, I've concluded there isn't any quick, easy answer. Instead, I want to simply put forward three questions, and a couple of caveats, to help singles and couples navigate the dating and marriage decision.   Do You Agree on the Core?   This question can simply be another way of asking, "Is this person a Christian?" That said, you should definitely have some bottom-line requirements like, say, agreeing to the content of Apostle's Creed, Nicaea, Chalcedon, and so forth. Of course, the person doesn't have to be a theology expert such that he or she knows the names of these councils. But you should agree that God is triune and Christ is the God-man, that he lived, died, and rose again in history for the salvation of mankind. Also, you should make sure you both hold a fundamental commitment to the Scriptures as the final authority in these issues; that way, there's common ground for discussion and dialogue on other issues.   Beyond that, I don't think couples have to agree on every point of theology to have a solid marriage. A Calvinist and a Wesleyan (preferably of the Fred Sanders sort) could do well enough together, unless they're both super crusty about things. People with conflicting eschatologies could probably love and care for each other without an unnatural amount of friction (that is, until one of you reads the paper and decides its time to go down to the bomb shelter).   Can You Go to Church Together?   A further question to ask after the core questions is, "Can we go to church together?" Note, I don't simply mean, "Can you put up with his church?" or "Can you suck it up at hers and then podcast later?" There are going to be seasons where one of you likes your church more than the other, but the point is that worshiping and growing together in your marriage needs to happen in the church context. Going to different churches for a while during the dating process is fine, but eventually you're going to need to knit your life together in the broader church community. If you're theologically so far apart that one of you is thriving and the other is dying, that's not going to make for a healthy spiritual life and will likely lead to strife in the marriage.   Can You Raise Children Together?   The third question is one my pastor asks of couples seeking premarital counseling. Practically speaking, theology is going to play a role in the way you parent and disciple your children. For instance, right off the bat, if one of you is a credobaptist and the other is a paedobaptist, that's going to be a tough conversation when you have your first kid. My wife and I are going to have that conversation in time, because I've shifted in that area since we started dating and got married (moving from credo to paedo), but it's important for this act to not be taken unilaterally.   Theology Changes   The other thing you need to remember is that theology changes. You need to be ready. I just mentioned I've been shifting from credo- to paedobaptist over the past couple of years. That's just one of the many changes my wife and I have been navigating. The person you're dating now might have different beliefs by the time you get married. They could have shifts in theology after you're married, too. So will you. And in a lot of cases, given you're not an inspired apostle, that's a good thing. Actually, I'm convinced one of the reasons God gives you your spouse is to sharpen you, challenge you, and correct your understanding of God in light of the Word. I know I've learned from my wife and she's learned from me over the years as we've sought to submit to God's Word together.   Word to Reformed Guys   On that note, I have a special word to Reformed men—or rather, guys. A while back I wrote a joke blog on how to meet Reformed men. In the comments one fellow said he didn't mind dating a non-Reformed girl since he'd take it as a point of pride to "conquer" her theologically. Let me just say this loud and clear: This is arrogant, foolish, and must not be your attitude. Your future bride is not a notch to add on your theological belt but your sister in Christ with a mind of her own, given by her heavenly Father to be used properly, just like yours. In fact, hers might be sharper than yours. You may be a Reformed complementarian, but the command in Ephesians 5:21 says to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, and that command isn't revoked by the next few verses, however much you think they nuance it. Yes, you are called to "wash her with the word," as Christ does the church, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean with a firehose of theological argument designed to cow her into mental acquiescence. Basically, treat her like a person.   If you keep these points in mind, prayerfully listen to input from trusted, believing brothers and sisters, and keep God as God in your heart (i.e., avoid the temptation to compromise because you're desperate), you should be fine.

      in Singles

    • Ken Ham Opens Ark Of The Covenant Encounter, Thousands Dead

      WILLIAMSTOWN, KY—Answers in Genesis' famed Ark Encounter has taken the evangelical world by storm, allowing believers from all over the world to tour what Noah's Ark might have looked like. The post Ken Ham Opens Ark Of The Covenant Encounter, Thousands Dead appeared first on The Babylon Bee. View the original full article

      in Christian Satire

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