Editor’s Note: Thanks to Greg Gibson for some helpful insights and quotes.
Covenant and Dispensational theologians have long debated the issue of continuity and discontinuity. Barcellos notes that New Covenant theology is ” a recent entrant into the debate.” (7) NCT seeks to find a middle ground “between stress on continuity in traditional Reformed theology and the radical discontinuity of some older forms of Dispensationalism.” (7) But as Barcellos contends, NCT does not reflect the teaching of Scriptures. This new theology produces ” a reductionistic, myopic and truncated view of Christian ethics.” (7)
Barcellos admits that critiquing NCT is a difficult task for the following reasons:
First, NCT is not monolithic. Advocates of this position have different nuances. Second, it is a relatively new school of thought, hence there is no definitive work on NCT. Third, Barcellos mentions that a major proponent of NCT has altered his view of the Old Covenant.
Barcellos summarizes his own view of the law thusly:
The whole Law of Moses, as it functioned under the Old Covenant, has been abolished, including the Ten Commandments…the New Testament teaches both the abrogation of the law of the Old Covenant and its abiding moral validity under the New Covenant. (p. 61)
Whether he succeeds in proving his theses and offering a response to NCT, we shall see.
Commentary: Covenant theologians also differ immensely with one another. Even the Westminster Confession of Faith was written as a consensus document. There were debates over the idea of a “Covenant of Works,” “active and passive obedience,” etc. Every system will inevitably–in light of continual research–lead to questioning certain details. Even if a document such as the WCF is produced with a clearly laid-out view on all systematic issues, there will still be those who will take exception to it (the Sabbath as a major exception in virtually every PCA examination). Confessions are not Scriptures, so they must be continually examined in light of Scriptures.
The addition of NCT is a helpful attempt to examine the role of the Mosaic Law in the New Covenant. I welcome this attempt to distance itself from Dispensationalism with its fundamentally flawed separation of Israel and Church. As a Covenant Theology advocate I too find places in which traditional CT expressions need to be improved upon. For instance, the idea of a “Covenant of Works” seems largely foreign to a grace-saturated revelation. This over emphasis in a works-based Edenic administration has led to the abomination of Klinean covenantalism.
New systems need to be welcomed and examined. Barcellos has done the extraordinary task of examining the claims of NCT and offering a response.
In the next post, I will focus on the Introduction to the book.