What Are Some of the Problems with Covenant Theology?

Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

Covenant Theology grew out of the Reformation and views the history of God’s dealings with mankind under the framework of three overarching theological covenants, not specifically mentioned in Scripture. They are the covenant of redemption, works and grace. In contrast, dispensationalists view God’s dealing with mankind in terms of several clearly distinguishable economies or dispensations. The term dispensation is used repeatedly in Scripture. Covenant theologians espouse many important biblical themes, such as the sovereignty of God, but their profuse publications, especially in the area of prophecy, challenge the literal, dispensational understanding of end-time events.

  1. Covenant Theology (CT), tries to rob believers of the foremost hope Christ left to the Church (Tit. 2:13), the any-moment return for His Bride, to deliver believers from the wrath to come (Rom 5:9; 1. Thess. 1:10; 5:9).
  1. CT is influenced by ecclesiastical tradition rather than being based on sound biblical exegesis. CT with its Reformation roots follows St. Augustine (d. 430) who denied a literal Millennium, therefore any Scriptures relating to the earthly rule of Christ are summarily rejected by CT.
  1. CT substitutes a theological system for a biblical theology. The opinions of Augustine and the Reformers, who failed to separate from the Roman Catholic amillennial position, count more than the declaration of the Apostles. What Calvin (1509-1564), the Swiss Reformer, and Cocceius (1603-1669), founder of CT, espoused is heeded more than what Christ taught.
  1. CT engages in a system of interpretation that began in pagan Greece, where the philosophers allegorized Greek immoral religious tales to make them acceptable to the cultural mind. The Greek gods, by blatant spiritualizing, suddenly became symbols of vices and virtues.
  1. CT introduces an illegitimate set of interpretive principles that distorts the plain sense of Scripture. With their “dual hermeneutic” their theologians interpret fulfilled prophecy literally but spiritualize unfulfilled prophecy. CT would defend the literal fulfillment of Zech. 9:9 that Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey but completely spiritualize the prediction of Zech. 14:4 that He would return physically to the Mount of Olives.
  1. CT elevates human reason above divine revelation in that it refuses to see any fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (e.g. Gen. 15:18) in a future nation of Israel. The Reformed Knox Theological Seminary in Florida, published “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties:  The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel” in which the authors assert that “the entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to . . . the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel . . . were fulfilled under Joshua” (IX). Sadly, to date, over 300 theologians and pastors added the signature to this denial of God’s future program for His people.
  1. CT has fostered a movement that is inimical to biblical truth and polemical in its publications. The biblical dispensational position, clearly espoused in our “Thief in the Night” series, is constantly under attack by such books as Gary DeMar’s Last Day Madness and End-Time Delusions.  It is virtually impossible to find a similar no-holds-barred dispensational attack on the CT position. Theologian R. C. Sproul, in his foreword to the latter volume, says that “in my years of study and ministry I have yet to discover a single text of sacred Scripture that teaches a pretribulation Rapture.” The notion is “pure fiction” (ix). One wonders whether his version of the N.T. contains verses such as 1 Thess. 4:17 and Rev. 3:10!
  1. CT denies a literal rule of Christ on the throne of David, contradicting the angelic promise to Mary (Luke 1:32-33) and detracting from the future exaltation of Christ. That someday the Savior will graciously rule the world from Jerusalem - a frequent prophetic prediction (Is. 2:1-4; Mic. 4:1-3) - is vehemently denied by CT.
  1. CT undermines any hope for a world yearning for righteousness and peace. For them human history ends in tragedy and ruin rather than triumph and redemption (Is. 2:4; Hab. 2:14).
  1. CT leaves the saving work of Christ incomplete as it fails to see the redemption of nature from the curse of sin (Is. 11:6-8; Rom. 8:21-23). All of creation groans for deliverance and that will surely come. A denial of clear literal prophecies will not deter their ultimate fulfillment.
  1. CT distorts and denies not simply isolated passages but major portions of the prophetic Word, such as Revelation 4-22. Many in the CT camp insist that the predictions of this passage were fulfilled by A.D. 70! If this were so, we would be in the Millennium now!
  1. CT expands its energy and finances against fellow-Christians rather than rightly dividing the Word of truth (2. Tim. 2:15). Failure to do that, says the Apostle Paul, brings shame to those who fail to make biblical distinctions. Israel is not the Church. Law is not Grace. The throne of David will never be found in heaven.
  1. CT makes the Holy Spirit a liar who expressly revealed 6 times in Revelation 20 that Christ’s reign would last 1000 years. With exegetical sleight of hand, CT tries to explain the number away. The earthly kingdom so clearly revealed and promised to believers (Lk. 12:32; 1. Cor. 6:2; Rev. 3:21) is cavalierly dismissed.
  1. Theologians in the CT camp are unable to agree among themselves on a clear outline of future events. They are agreed on what they do not believe, but are unable to come to an agreement on what they do hold about the future. Departure from literal interpretation is detrimental to an understanding of the divine design for the future.

© Manfred E Kober

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