I have attempted to make some general observations, as well as offer some commentary on Barcellos’ critique of New Covenant Theology entitled In Defense of the Decalogue. In continuing our review/summary, the Introduction offers some general characteristic of NCT. Contextually, NCT is a “movement within conservative, Evangelical, and Calvinistic Baptist circles (11).” With the rise of Calvinistic thought in the SBC, it is probable that NCT might become a haven for SBC refugees. D.A. Carson and many others find NCT intriguing, if not compelling.
NCT avoids traditional CT emphasis on continuity and Dispensational emphasis on discontinuity. Focusing on passages like Jeremiah 31:31-34, NCT advocates conclude that in the New Covenant there is a new law, “which is higher and more spiritual than the Law of Moses” (11). This seems to be a perplexing conclusion. Is the main difference between the Old and New Testaments that the New is more spiritual than the Old, thus making the OT insignificant when it speaks of ethics?
NCT speaks of the new law as the Law of Christ ( following I Cor. 9:21 and Galatians 6:2). Thus, the Law of Christ of Christ replaces the Mosaic Law. Jesus incorporates selective passages from the law of Moses, but not its whole. In my mind, not even the strictest theonomist would have a problem with this statement. Bahnsen, for instance, spends a considerable amount of time in his Theonomy in Christian Ethics detailing the discontinuities between the law of Moses and the law in the New Covenant. For Bahnsen, if the New Testament does not rescind an Old Testament law, then the Mosaic Law continues in the New Covenant. NCT advocates would dispute this claim by stating that Jeremiah 31 abrogates the OT law with a new law that indeed (and this is important) incorporates some Mosaic laws, but dispenses or abrogates others. Still, theonomists or other CT advocates see no problem with the abrogation of some of the Mosaic Laws, in particular what CT theologians call Ceremonial Laws (see Ken Gentry’s Covenantal Theonomy).
NCT interpreters see Matthew 5:17-20 as a crucial passage in understanding what occurs in the ethics of the New Covenant. They argue that the OT law “undergoes a redemptive-historical shift in application (12).” Again, Amen! Bahnsen, Jordan, and many others would echo this view. Klineism would welcome it with greater intensity than most Covenant theologians. In fact, I wonder how much commonality there is between the NCT and Klinean CT (sacraments aside, there is lots of similarities in their view of ethics).
Finally, Barcellos concludes with words of praise for the NCT effort to pursue a rigorous exegetically-driven theology, but yet his concerns remain. The following chapters will seek to offer a response to NCT, while defending the “perpetuity of the Decalogue” (13).