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Introducing Covenant Theology Paperback – April 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap


Covenant theology 101

"It's not just that we were created and then given a covenant," writes author Michael Horton. "We were created as covenant creatures-partners not in deity but in the drama about to unfold throughout history."

While some Bible readers quake at the mention of "covenant" or "doctrine," it is vitally important to recognize and understand the significance of covenant and its role in bridging the gap between sinner and salvation. Why? Because to understand covenant theology is to understand how it unifies the diverse teachings of Scripture, binds the Old and New Testaments as one narrative, and enriches the meaning in your relationship with the Triune God.

Whether new to Reformed theology or not, every believer needs to understand the importance of covenants. God of Promise unpacks covenant theology so you can explore the core of Christianity: knowing-and honoring-the promises of our Creator.


Michael Horton (Ph.D., University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is professor of apologetics and theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is also the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine, the co-host of The White Horse Inn radio program, and the author of several books, including A Better Way and Putting Amazing Back into Grace. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

cov•e•nant (n): A binding agreement; a compact; a promise

Since biblical times covenants have been a part of everyday life. Simply put, they are promises, agreements, or contracts. But how do they translate into faith and the reading of Scripture? Are covenants merely elements of a narrative? Or do they represent something more? And what are the eternal implications of "cutting" a covenant with God?

In Introducing Covenant Theology, author Michael Horton unwinds the intricacies of crucial covenant concepts, showing how they provide a significant organizational structure for all of Scripture. They give us a context in which to understand the voices and message of the biblical narrative. They provide life with a goal and history with a meaning.

Whether you're a pastor, ministry leader, or layperson, Introducing Covenant Theology will give you a new understanding of covenants and covenant theology, providing a framework for an important theological concept.

"A masterful survey of the covenantal frame of God's self-disclosure in Scripture. For serious students it is a winner."--J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College

"A rigorous and articulate defense of a traditional view of covenant theology. Horton's federalist emphasis gleans from well-established Reformed writers while adding his own highly readable and insightful commentary."--Bryan Chapell, president, Covenant Theological Seminary

"Horton has brought covenant theology to life in a way which engages modern thought and appeals to contemporary students and pastors alike. His book is a clear guide to an essential topic."--Gerald Bray, research professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080107195X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801071959
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shane Lems VINE VOICE on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Horton has done the Reformed church another favor. Amidst the current assaults on the orthodox doctrines of justification by faith alone (because of Christ's imputed righteousness), the importance of the covenant of works, and the clear law/gospel distinction, this book will keep the Christian balanced and on the firm ground of classic, historical, Reformed orthodoxy.

Rather than over-emphasize one central dogma of the Reformed faith, Horton nicely describes the covenant as a sort of glue, or "web," that intimately connects the whole of theology. Describing the three covenants (Redemption, Works/creation, and Grace) from Scripture, Horton magnifies the person and work of Christ as the true King [David] and the true Servant [Israel].

If you've wondered about the relationship between the Adamic, Noahic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants, or if you've wondered about the relationship between the old and new covenants, this book is a must read. Horton neither wastes ink nor smears it on those he disagrees with; he is clearly a humble servant of Christ who seeks to make His riches known. And the way of covenant is an excellent and necessary way to do so.

I hope pastors read and study this book, I hope students devour it, and I hope lay-people take up the challenge to learn these doctrines. We need books like this to help guide us on our pilgrim way.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the resurgence of Reformed thought and the renovation of the support for covenantal ideas in the scholarship of the Ancient Near Eastern literature now is a perfect time to present classic covenant theology to a new generation. In a book subtitled "An introduction to Covenant Theology" this is exactly what I was hoping Horton would do.

Unfortunately, in my opinion he misses an opportunity here a bit. This is not because I found any specific doctrinal disagreement with Horton, but because of where he chose to spend his energy.

The first part of the book is spent rolling out the widely discussed Suzerain-Vassal treaties. While this is nice corroboration for classic covenant ideals, it's kind of a "paste on" to the core of the theology. So I moved quickly through this section to get to chapter 5, which is where he really discusses the structure of covenant theology itself (perhaps a bit late).

On the good side, in this chapter Horton makes some very strong but subtle points which affect our reading of the Scripture and draws out a few quotes from classics like Geehardus Vos, Perkins, and a few other Puritans. On the bad side, he spends a lot of correcting O. Palmer Robertson's view, and then striking out against the New Perspective on Paul with out naming it by name. It might be good content for a scholarly article, but it was not good content for an introduction to covenant theology. I left more clear on how he differed from Robertson than the actual import of covenant theology. It is only chapter 5 which deals directly with covenant theology itself and it's implication on our view of the Bible... the preceding chapters are preamble, and the following chapters are outworkings of the implications of covenant theology in various spheres.
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Format: Hardcover
The Bible is replete with references to covenants, but how are we to understand them? What does it mean for created man to be in a covenant relationship with the Almighty God? How can understanding the biblical covenants impact our understanding of Scripture? Dr. Michael Horton seeks to answer these questions and more in his new book, God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology.

Dr. Horton begins in the first chapter by looking at the big picture of covenant thinking and why it matters. According to him, our understanding is important because "God's very existence is covenantal" and "we were not just created and then given a covenant; we were created as covenant creatures." (10) Chapter two looks more directly at Scripture by comparing Old Testament covenants with some secular covenants contemporary to them (known as suzerain treaties). From the Old Testament, Dr. Horton draws out two types of covenants and explores them in his third chapter: covenants of works and covenants of grace.

Following the examination of covenants in the Old Testament, Dr. Horton looks to the New Covenant noting that it is entirely distinct from the previous Sinai covenant. After the foundation work in the Bible is done, chapter five moves the discussion to systematic theology by considering the larger categories of the covenants of redemption, creation, and grace. In the sixth chapter, Dr. Horton explores themes of common grace from free will to how Christians are to view their place on Earth.

Finally in chapter seven, covenant theology is compared against its main theological competitor (dispensational theology) and looks at the relationship between Israel and the Church. The eighth chapter explores baptism and the Lord's Supper as signs and seals of the New Covenant.
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Overall, I am in some ways sympathetic to the project Michael Horton is attempting in Introducing Covenant Theology. I would say I like the idea of it all, but he leaves many questions unanswered. I would consider myself Reformed in my theological leanings, or you could use the word Calvinist(ic) if you wanted to. However, I am not entirely convinced the case Horton makes here holds exegetical water. The book does follow a fairly logical flow, but that might not be enough in the end to overcome the exegetical errors.

Horton starts with the big idea of covenant theology, then in the next chapter moves to the ancient Near East background of the concept of covenant. In chapter 3 he starts dealing with the biblical data on the matter using the lens of Paul's allegory in Galatians 4 of the two mothers. His conclusion is that there are essentially two types of covenants, unconditional and conditional, which roughly correspond to promise and law respectively. In chapter 4, Horton elaborates on the new covenant and explains where there is continuity and discontinuity between it and the old covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures.

At that point, the discussion in the book then shifts to unpacking the basics of covenant theology as a system of interpretation in chapter 5. It is here that Horton addresses the traditional Reformed covenants of redemption (intra-Trinitarian), works (between God and humanity), and grace (between God and the elect). Chapters 6-9 then unpack the implications of this understanding starting with how to live the world in light of common grace (chapter 6); how the covenant people are constituted (chapter 7); the signs and seals of this covenant of grace (chapter 8); and how we are to live in light of it all (chapter 9).
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