Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

Theological Seminary

Program

Religion, MA

First Advisor

Martin Hanna

Second Advisor

Darius Jankiewicz

Abstract

Problem

This thesis evaluates the offer by New Covenant Theology of an interpretation of salvation history that stands in criticism of interpretations offered by Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. Does New Covenant Theology demonstrate a distinctive view of the law-grace relationship that brings new perspectives on important theological and hermeneutical issues such as the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, and the Sabbath. Are New Covenant theologians correct in their claim that their system presents the best interpretation of salvation history, and of the law-grace relationship?

Purpose

The purpose of this investigation is to evaluate New Covenant Theology’s hermeneutics by analyzing the neocovenantal interpretation of the law-grace relationship in comparison to the presentations of Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology.

Justification

New Covenant theologians are gaining new ground among theologians and lay people due to the availability of their publications online. Although several informal articles, one book and a doctoral dissertation have been written to evaluate New Covenant Theology, not formal study has been made to analyze its hermeneutics from the perspective of the law-grace relationship. This study is an incipient attempt at exploring the challenge that New Covenant Theology brings to contemporary hermeneutics and theology, and especially to Seventh-day Adventist theology.

Delimitations

Due to the proliferations in the current generation of New Covenant theologians, and also, in recognition of the original hermeneutical developments that have shaped New Covenant Theology into its present form, I will be primarily focusing on first generation New Covenant theologians.

Conclusions

New Covenant Theology appears as an alternative hermeneutical/theological system that attempts to mediate between the covenantal and dispensational proposals. It offers a development of the law-grace relationship that reflects an emphasis on a soteriological distinction (i.e., works-vs.-grace, à la Luther) in the context of covenantal progressiveness.

New Covenant Theology’s Christological and Christotelic emphasis springs from a particular understanding of the law-grace relationship, where law refers to the Mosaic covenant that is soteriologically understood as a legal covenant. This interpretation of the Mosaic covenant serves as a presupposition that informs the interpretation of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. As such, the interpretation of the law-grace relationship in New Covenant Theology demonstrates the basic tenets of the theological/hermeneutical system: 1) the legal-istic nature of the Mosaic Covenant, 2) the newness of the new covenant and 3) the progressiveness of God’s plan centered in Christ.

New Covenant theology shares similarities with Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. All three systems demonstrate a certain level of commitment to Luther’s law-grace soteriological interpretation that results in an understanding of law (either historical or theological) as a works principle. Also, the covenant concept (rather than the word covenant) plays a significant structural role in the development of their respective interpretations of redemptive history. On the other hand, New Covenant Theology rejects both the dispensational literalism and the hermeneutical implications of Covenant Theology’s covenant of grace as well as its existence.

New Covenant Theology’s interpretation of the Mosaic covenant as a legal covenant (and its implications for the interpretation of the law-grace relationship) does not do justice to the totality of Pauline writing on the subject or to the Old Testament’s self-understanding of the Mosaic covenant. It does not give proper attention to the nature of the sacrificial system and the intricacies of the Hebrew cultus. Furthermore, it has not yet demonstrated sufficient concern for a full biblical perspective on critical terms such as νόμος.

New Covenant Theology’s Christocentric emphasis, although commendable, has not yet been explored in its proper cosmic conflict background. This results in an application of the hermeneutical priority principle that could distort the intended meaning of salvation history, especially the New Testament data.

In maximizing New Covenant Theology’s contribution to the contemporary theological discussion, it is necessary to affirm the following duality of God’s historical purpose in Christ. As a foundational source of theological data, Genesis 3:15 presents the major theme of a Kingdom in conflict actively involved in 1) the salvation of humans and 2) in the eternal resolution of the moral dissension in the universe, all through the exaltation of the coming “Seed” (i.e. Christ) in salvation history.

Subject Area

Jewish law, Grace (Theology), Covenant theology

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