Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Covenant Theology–A Baptist Distinctive

Covenant Theology - A Baptist Distinctive: Edited by Earl M. Blackburn with contributions by Walter J. Chantry, Ken Fryer, Fred A. Malone, Kenneth Puls, and Justin Taylor (Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham, Alabama 2012) 164 pages.

Simply put, Covenant Theology – A Baptist Distinctive, is a rich, thoughtful, well disciplined, and Christ-centered work that is worthy of commendation. Earl Blackburn and all of the contributors of this title have supplied Christ’s body with a valuable tool for comprehending the scriptural distinctions between brethren of the Reformed Baptist, Reformed Paedobaptist, and Dispensational communities. Though the book primarily focuses on a scriptural defense of Reformed Baptist theology, it also manages to issue correctives of other viewpoints, but with a deeply irenic tone. As to this latter point, Covenant Theology – A Baptist Distinctive supplies an excellent example of what is sorely needed in the present day, especially in view of those who seek to vilify and marginalize any form of Covenant Theology without exception. Additionally, I am glad to say that this book manages to keep the Lord as the central focus in everything, as is evident from the very beginning:

“It [Covenant Theology] is the exciting truth of the Eternal Father giving to His Beloved Son a fallen people for His own to redeem by His incarnate blood and righteous life; it is the humbling truth that One so divine would gladly agree to His own suffering for such sinners; and it is the miraculous truth that the Holy Spirit would invade the rebels hearts’ to free them from their enemy’s grip and to resurrect their dead souls to embrace by faith alone the covenant Mediator of their covenant Father. Truly, the Covenant Theology of the Bible is a wonder of God’s infinite grace which brings Him eternal glory from the lips of those covenant sons and daughters who eternally give thanks to His glorious name.” (CT, p. 10).

The heart of this work consists of five chapters, followed by three appendices:

Chapter 1 – Covenant Theology Simplified (Blackburn) – Supplies an excellent introduction for the subject at hand, giving the reader a simplified foundation for all that follows.

Chapter 2 – Biblical Hermeneutics & Covenant Theology (Malone) – Enters into the needful mechanics of scriptural interpretation.

Chapter 3 – The Covenants: Of Works & Grace (Chantry) – Unpacks the relationship between the Law and the Gospel.

Chapter 4 – The Imputation of Righteousness & Covenant Theology (Chantry) – Reveals the importance of the Federal Headship of Adam and Christ in Romans 5.

Chapter 5 – Baptism & Covenant Theology (Chantry) – Issues a needful comparison between credobaptism and paedobaptism.

Appendices I-III: I – Was There a Covenant of Works? (Taylor); II - Covenant Theology in Baptist Life (Fryer); III – A Comparison Between the Old and New Covenants (Puls).

All of these sections come together very well, giving the reader a careful consideration of the various elements of continuity and discontinuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. From an editorial standpoint, the book’s multiple layers harmonize very well. Especially strong are Malone’s presentation of hermeneutics (Chapter 2) which supplies a very persuasive foundation for the entire book, and Chantry’s emphasis on the centrality of imputation (Chapter 4) is both clear and cogent, stressing the gravity of this important doctrine.
Throughout the book, priority is given to the principle of Sola Scriptura, however, significant elements from church history are interwoven throughout, including important portions of the LBC/1689 in addition to mentions of the strengths and weaknesses of various theologians, both past and present.

All in all, this is a much needed work in a very needy time.

Review on amazon.com here.