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New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered Paperback – July 7, 2006
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Paperback, July 7, 2006
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About the Author
Steve Lehrer (M.A., Theology, Westminster Seminary California) is a teacher and biblical counselor for Growing in Grace Ministries. Growing in Grace Ministries exists to see, savor, and share the glory of God through Christ above all things, for the joy of all peoples, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Steve is a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sussex, Wisconsin.
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Top customer reviews
In a very engaging and thought provoking format Steve will challenge your presuppositions on more than a few Scriptures, whether you agree with him or not, as he shows how the Scripture provides hermeneutical keys to a clearer understanding of God's historical-redemptive purpose as it culminates in Christ our New Covenant.
Where Wells and Zaspel and John Reisinger have written on various parts of NCT, Steve has provided a more comprehensive overview of NCT. Some who hold to NCT in some form or another may say that all of what Steve has written may not represent what they believe to be NCT, but then there are also disagreements among Covenant and Dispensational Theologians. Semper Reformanda!
There is no other work that has considered what has been written in articles, books and taught at conferences that has attempted to bring this view all together in one volume. It is a good and solid beginning.
I only gave it four stars because the book wants to say more and hopefully it will in a 2nd revised and or updated edition someday in the future as more and more dialogue,debate and writing is being provided concerning NCT.
Lehrer's approach is to interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New. The aphorisms
The New is in the Old contained
The Old is in the New explained
The New is in the Old concealed
The Old is in the New revealed
are not quoted in the book, but they are good summaries of the way that the author makes sense of the Scriptures.
Lehrer's way of looking at the bible is in harmony with much of Reformed theology and the Amillennial understanding of how we are to interpret the Old Testament prophecies. This understanding takes seriously the way the New Testament authors have interpreted the Old Testament. Where the NT authors say that a certain prophecy has been fulfilled [such as in the way Peter's sermon in Acts 2 cites the prophecy in Joel chapter 2], Lehrer does not look for another fulfilment.
He goes to considerable trouble to show the distinctive way Israel is viewed in NCT. While Covenant Theologians think of Israel as the Church in the Old Testament, and Dispensationalists think of that nation as a people of God, separate from the Church, Lehrer points out that the Scriptures present Israel as the unbelieving physical symbol of the Church. The counterpart to the church in the Old Testament is the remnant, which is uniformly presented as a small group within Israel, who believe and obey from the heart.
Consistent with this view, is Lehrer's explanation of the meaning of the passage in Romans 11 which speaks of all Israel being saved. He shows convincingly, that the New Testament does not present a future mass salvation of Israel, but tells us that the true Israelite is the one who is a Jew inwardly, as well as physically and ethnically. Thus the passage "and so all Israel will be saved" speaks of all elect Israelites certainly coming to salvation through faith in Christ, and not automatically because they are Jews.
He patiently explains that we cannot divide the Old Testament law neatly into Moral, Civil and Ceremonial divisions, and takes seriously the New Testament's words that the law of Moses has been abolished through the death of Christ, the new divine lawgiver, who has modified and amplified this law and has made it possible for us to obey it, through the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us.
He shows that living by the law of Christ is in no sense antinomian, and shows that this is not a wishy-washy anything-goes way of living, but is rigorous and is guided by the many commands Jesus gives to us both in his own words and in the words of his apostles and writers of the New Testament.
Lehrer does not say much about the fact that most of the Old Covenant's ten commandments are reflected in this new law, but he does clearly show us that Christian living involves much more than "loving God and doing what you will," to quote Augustine.
Lehrer has clearly shown that the Old Testament is intended to give us physical, earthy pictures of what God was going to fulfil spiritually in Jesus and the Church.
While there is a lot of thought-provoking material in this book, I would have liked more development of the place of the Old Testament for the Christian today, but maybe this is the subject for another book.
I heartily recommend reading Lehrer's short account of this satisfying way of synthesising and integrating the bible's message, and hope that the few NCT writings so far written [such as Wells and Zaspel's New Covenant Theology, also available from Amazon] will soon be supplemented by whole systematic theologies and commentaries.
"Dispensationalism cannot get Israel and the church together in any sense whatsoever, and Covenant Theology cannot get them apart." ('Abraham's Four Seeds', 19). This is a grotesque over-simplification of the two positions, every scholar of either position would clearly agree. Are there theologians on either side which this statement (by Reisinger) is true? Of course. But to say all representatives from both sides fit so neatly into an either/or approach is ridiculous. I hate to say it, but books that claim any sort of 'middle ground', while over-simplifying the issues (maybe through the writer's ignorance, or perhaps the book's intended audience) seems to just want to sell books.
The issue, folks, is not that its either/or and finally after all this time we have our awaited answer - the middle ground of NC Theology. No, clearly it is not that simple nor an easy answer. The differences at a foundational level between the two systems of theology (Covenant/Disp.) are very deep and complex. A simple 'middle ground' does not magically fix issues that are very complex. These foundational issues are as follows: 1) How is the progress of revelation/human history to be seen? Do we take an OT or NT hermeneutical priority in this sense? 2) How do we reconcile the use of the OT in the NT (This is an extremely hot topic in scholarship today)? 3) How are the OT biblical covenants (Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, Mosaic, New) understood? Are they conditional or unconditional and how do these interrelate with each other and even the so-called 'eternal/theological covenant(s)' (of Covenant Theology)? And 4) How do we understand typology and the use of key terms such as Jew/Seed of Abraham/Nation, etc. These are key issues which are central to the debate between these two evangelical positions.
Finally, I will return to my first point that this theology is really not new. I'm really not saying its wrong, I'm just saying there are people in the other essential positions who would express much of what 'New Covenant' Theology claims they are 'newly' moving towards. It essentially is a system which contains more discontinuity than Covenant theology because of its position of how the Mosaic Law has been superceeded in all aspects (Civil, Ceremonial, Moral) by the Law of Christ for the NT Christian. This position is only a minor variation on a Reformed/Covenant view (which holds to the moral law [which includes the Sabbath] from the Mosaic Cov. as binding on the NT Christian today) and is more true to the original teaching of Luther and his followers on the separation of the law/grace economies in the Bible. The Dispensational view on the Mosaic Law (that it has been superceeded in all aspects) essentially says the same thing as that of 'New Covenant' Theology.
Though the book is not written poorly (nor are others from the NC position), it really is just older Baptist theology which never fully accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith in certain areas. This is seen clearly by the Second London Baptist Confession in 1689. Its practically a virtual restatement of the WCOF but varies from it on (of course) the mode/method of baptism, and its position on the Mosaic Law (including the Sabbath). They were essentially not in agreement with the ecclesiology of the Reformed Confession but agreed on much of the Covenant Theology and soteriology of the confession.
In the end, there are much better books that explain all the different variations between (and within) the two major positions of systematic understanding. A very well-written, scholarly example is 'Continuity and Discontinuity' edited by John S. Feinberg. This book will be an extremely helpful work for every believer trying to understand these complex and difficult issues. Its not easy reading, but extremely worth the careful study and will bring clarity in understanding to how these positions try to explain and work out these difficult matters. It is certainly not an either/or approach and gives no overly simplistic answer.
Both sides are listening to each other in the many areas of disagreement. Both seek continually to rethink their positions in light of scripture and with helpful dialogue; this is clear from the past 60 years within both traditions. This work, though a bit dated and written before the neo-dispensationalism movement came in full swing (1988), is an essential read for students of the Bible and careful exegetes concerning the systematic views on the scriptures.