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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Advent of Jesus Christ | Main | Studies in John (Lesson 3: The In-Breaking of the Kingdom) »

    Book Review: God of Promise, by Michael Horton

    Synopsis: God of Promise, by Michael Horton, is a lucid summary and defense of that traditional understanding of Covenant Theology which has its roots in the first Federal Theologians of the Reformation; and which has been defended and developed, more recently, by such scholars as Louis Berkhof and Meredith Kline. Both as a condensation of a vast body of Reformed writings, and a modern defense of the same, it is perhaps unequalled among one-volume introductions to that vital skeletal framework of all biblical revelation, Covenant Theology.

    While it might be a bit of an over-simplification, it may be helpful to distinguish two basic threads in the historical development of Covenant Theology: the one emphasizes the continuity of the Abrahamic and Sinaitic Covenants, and assumes a basic sameness in the “covenant” idea displayed in each. The other emphasizes the discontinuity and essential differentness of the Abrahamic and Sinaitic Covenants; and the temporary and typical nature of the covenant cut on Sinai with theocratic Israel, in the context of an eternal covenant of grace that ran along side-by-side with it.

    The modern outstanding one-volume introduction and defense of the former variety is O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants; and Horton’s God of Promise certainly occupies the same place with regard to the latter. Horton’s interaction with Robertson, throughout the scope of his latest work, is very helpful. Although in a commendably irenic manner, he engages Robertson on several key points, and gives a compelling and scriptural defense of his own alternate understanding. Adherents to Robertson’s basic understanding of Covenant Theology would certainly be benefited and stimulated by this thoughtful defense of another option.

    Of particular value in this work are Horton’s analysis of Near Eastern treaty writings, and subsequent discussion of the covenant idea as developed in the scriptures; his treatment of Augustine’s “two kingdom” idea, and its relationship to federal theology; the nature and significance of the covenantal sacraments; and the role of the law in the New Covenant context.

    In conclusion, this book strikes a very admirable balance: informed, but not pedantic; historically-grounded, but up-to-date; simple, but substantive; polemical (at times), but not hostile. And it has managed to lay out a very weighty defense of a particular strain of Covenant Theology, while adequately noting different approaches. For anyone seeking a well-informed understanding of the covenant idea in scriptures and the centrality of such an idea to the basic fabric of redemptive-historical revelation, this is the first book I would recommend.

    Posted by Nathan on December 16, 2006 12:43 PM

    Comments

    Thanks for your very good review Nathan. I too found the book very helpful and would recommend it highly.

    Thanks for your this post. I recently came to covenant theology (been a Calvinist for 5 years), and was wondering if these differences (between Horton and Robertson) would be noticed in going to the average Pres/Reformed church?

    Hi DJ,

    No, I really doubt the different nuances in CT will be very visible in your average Reformed or Presbyterian church. While some of the subtle distinctions have some degree of importance, I don't want to minimize the substantial agreement, either. I wouldn't put the Robertson/Horton perspective on CT anywhere near the top of your list of factors in choosing a church. Either way, you'll be worlds ahead of a Dispensational approach, and, in my opinion, quite substantially ahead of New Covenant Theology or any of a few various other approaches.

    Nathan

    You guys have a wonderful website intending the following, KIU!

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