Dear Brother Randy,

     It was good of you to reply so quickly. As many NCT people, you are moving on to new discoveries and I trust I shall not lag behind in learning and growing in grace. These are not the tenets I meant but they will do as I need something concrete to go on. I notice that you cannot speak on behalf of the NCT people as a solid movement, which would have helped but I see that you have moved further than many of them. I am still criticised for not formulating NCT principles correctly but when I formulate those of one adherent, the others protest that they believe nothing of the kind. I suppose this goes for most of your friends who hold to various reformed paths who protest when you lump them all together. In future I shall stick to one NCT man and his views and not generalise from them. I have not found one NCT brother who has described my views correctly. Perhaps I should forget the NCT label and merely take note of what each says personally.

     I note what you say about your distancing yourself from some NCT people on two factors. Both appear speculative and legalistic to me so I can only congratulate you on dispensing with them. I dislike references to Christ’s active and passive parts as He was action itself in all its attributes. The only passive thing in Christ is His patience with us sinners. How He must love us! I think the NCT speaks too much of ‘standards’, ‘ethics’, ‘rules of conduct’, ‘morals’ etc. as if their beliefs were merely legalistic. I will have to split up my answer to most parts as they deal with different topics within the one statement.

1. Given that, biblically speaking, a covenant is a unilateral decree and not an agreement between two or more persons, we have no problem with the idea that there was a “pre-fall covenant of works” with Adam. Its terms were these–you will die as soon as you disobey.

A: We have no quarrel here unless it might be over the word ‘unilateral’. For me the Covenant of Grace was between the Father and the Son on behalf of man. Where Adam failed, Christ showed the right way. I do not like the term ‘covenant of works’ because it was a coinage of the Presbyterians who set all this covenant-splitting off. God’s dealings with Adam were of grace which Adam rejected.

R: What we have difficulty with is the idea that God promised Adam and all his posterity eternal life based on his perfect obedience during a probationary period. What he was promised was that he would certainly die if he disobeyed God’s one prohibition. He would continue to live as long as he obeyed, but there is no evidence he would ever have been confirmed in righteousness at any point.

A: Who said Adam’s life was probationary? It was conditional on his obedience but this is another thing. He messed up a relationship which could have been forever, as far as we know. But it was very short lived. I do not think this is a point of controversy between us.

2. We have no difficulty with the idea that every sinner who has ever been justified before God, was justified through faith alone, based on the redemptive work of Christ alone.

A: I am in full agreement.

R: This does not mean God established an over-arching “Covenant of grace” in Genesis 3:15, and that every subsequent covenant is part of that covenant.

A: Section b. does not follow from section a. It is a different matter. I see no connection here with justification.

The New Covenant and the Old Covenant are distinct covenants, not different administrations of the same covenant. Besides, are not all God’s covenant dealings acts of grace? Where would you say they were not? Are you thinking of condemnation?

4. The Law, the covenant by which God constituted Israel a nation before him, was a homogeneous whole. There were certain elements of it that pertained to the civil state; others that pertained to the ceremonial system; still others were “moral” in nature. Biblical writers never speak of these aspects of the law as though they are separable. If Jesus has fulfilled the “Law.” it is not merely one or two aspects of the law he has fulfilled, but the entire covenant.

A: I do not believe that Israel became a nation through God’s giving them the law. Christ had fulfilled the entire Covenant of Grace as Author and Keeper of the Covenant. Christ was at all times reconciling the world to Himself.

5. Israel was a typical representation of the church. As such, it was neither “the church” in the Old Testament nor were it and the church separate and eternally distinct peoples of God.

A: Since when was Israel a ‘typical representative of the Church’? The entire OT points to the opposite. The Church (God’s People, Christ’s Bride) has always been the body of believers as the OT emphasizes a thousand times over.

R: Nothing that is predicated of natural and national Israel has the same meaning as the same terms used to describe the New Covenant people of God.

A: I would not be so radical as this. We must start long before Israel. There was no national Israel for hundreds of years after God had started covenanting with Christ on behalf of man. When Israel came into being it was given the same covenantal terms that Abraham, Job and Moses knew. Often those who were not of the twelve tribes understood these things better than those peoples from whom the Jews developed. There was sadly no permanent ‘nation’ for these people as Israel split up as a nation after only a few decades. Israel was never the People of God but there were many of that status within them. When the ‘New’ (refreshed’ Covenant was preached to the Old Testament peoples, it was emphasized that the just should life through faith and that God would remove their stony hearts. The New Testament writers built on these truths.

R: The Hebrews can be both Abraham’s seed and not Abraham’s seed at the same time. The continuous relationship between the Old and New Covenants is that of type to antitype and promise to fulfillment.

A: On reading the OT, we find that more than what you call ‘The Hebrews’ – who were they anyway? – were both Abraham’s seed and not of his seed. Remember Abraham was the father of ‘nations’ not only one temporary nation. Abraham’s descendants and those who allied with them spread throughout Europe and the East in OT times and prior to the Exodus. ‘Hebrew’ did not even become a binding language when the multiple nations settled down under the Kingship. It rose with the Scriptures but these were anciently Also recorded in other Semitic dialects like Aramaic and Egyptian. Indeed, many who wandered with the ‘Children of Israel’ spoke Indo-Germanic languages.

I cannot accept your view of type and antitype as I believe you confuse them on the one hand and separate what belongs together on the other.

6. We believe there is a continuity in God’s righteous standard between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. God requires no less under the New Covenant than under the Old Covenant. In fact, we believe Christ’s law presents an even higher standard than did the Law of Moses. Often mercy is more difficult to display than justice.

A: Again, much agreement on basics but disagreements on terms. I believe your view of the Covenant is wrong and you split up the Covenant by arguing that unbelievers broke it. But, as you say, God never founded a bilateral covenant between Himself and man but God always kept the one Covenant in Christ the Covenant-Keeper throughout all ages. Man broke the Covenant, not God as we see from Jer 31 and passim.

To maintain that Christ’s Covenant is a higher standard that Moses makes both Moses work and Christ’s work merely legalistic. Neither was because it was all one and Christ both authored it and kept it! God in Christ authorized the Covenant and Moses did what he was told and thus was called by the OT ‘God’s friend’. The NCT often make him God’s enemy. No character in the OT, not even Adam, suffers as much under NCT criticism as this friend of God. Those who criticize Moses, criticize God in Christ and their work in all ages.

7. We believe the focus of the gospel is on what God has done in Christ rather than on what he is doing in us. We stand as righteous in God’s presence not only because we have been pardoned from our past sins but because we have the positive righteousness and active obedience of Christ imputed to us. His faithfulness and obedience up to and including his substitutionary death on the cross [in itself an act of submission and active obedience to his Father] form the righteous basis of our justification before God. Justification is more than pardon. It is a declaration of a positive righteousness that we possess because we are in union with Jesus Christ the righteous one. We do not deny the necessity or importance or regeneration, but insist that we are what we are only “in Christ.” For this reason, New Covenant Theology is God-centered and Christ-centered rather than man-centered.

A: On the surface we agree but again I feel your analytical terms need qualifying as they complicate a most simple matter. I would challenge your view of imputation which appears merely legal. Since when was justification a mere ‘declaration’? This smacks of BOT-ism and David Gay-ism where Christ is depicted as giving us a merely legal righteousness which is no righteousness at all. Justification is the complete transforming of the sinner into a child of God because Christ has given him His faith and we have become new creatures in Him. My complaint against the NCT is that they have substituted the Gospel with a ‘New Law’.

I would also like to know what you mean by ‘regeneration’.

8. The redemptive-historical approach stresses that this is the final age of human history. These are the last days. This is the time of fulfillment. We are those on whom “the fulfillment of the ages has come.” This does not mean God’s people have already fully and personally experienced everything that God has promised. Paul tells us in Romans 8:23 that we believers have the first-fruits, the pledge, of our inheritance, namely, the Holy Spirit. Yet, we, along with the rest of creation, go on groaning as we wait for the full enjoyment of all Jesus won for us at Calvary. The realm in which we are saved is the realm of confident expectation, not full fruition.

A: I agree. Often, however, I find the NCT looking for further revelation in another ‘New Covenant’ to come. First they tell us that we are in realised eschatology and then tell us we are not. Our eschatology started in Genesis and continues throughout Kingdom Come. It is difficult trying to express eternity in time so I have given up this rational task. The main thing is that when the Lord comes, we ought to be ready.

9. The redemptive-historical approach does not minimize the reality that believers personally and individually enjoy the blessings that accrue from the redemptive work of Christ. Yet, the focus of this approach is not the individual’s experience, but God’s accomplishment of redemption in Christ. In Paul’s Epistles it is clear that, in his theological thought, all of redemptive history consists of God’s dealings with two representative men. All others are what they are in God’s sight by virtue of their relationship to one of these two men. A person is either in Adam or in Christ, whom Paul designated as the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). Accordingly, every person belongs to one of two spheres or realms. They belong either to the old creation (this world, this present age) in Adam or the new creation in Christ. When Paul writes about the “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15), he is not talking about something that God does in the believer, but about the realm into which the believer has been transferred in Christ. Similarly, when he talks about “the flesh,” he is not making reference to the “sinful nature.” He refers instead to the environment into which sinners are born in Adam. This is that which characterizes the realm or age to which man, in Adam, belongs.

New Covenant Theology teaches the gospel is more about what God has accomplished in Christ than it is about what he is doing in us. This does not mean we deny the work of God’s Spirit in us or depreciate its importance. It is simply that we believe his principal work is the application or the redemptive accomplishments of Christ.

A: Much agreement here but I cannot follow you on your ‘under two heads’ look at life in Adam and Christ. But I am open to clear suggestions. You seem to suggest a compromise between the two views expressed concerning Rom 7-8. I would be interested to learn from you here.

10. God assures us that the full inheritance is ours, but the best (the experiential enjoyment of it) is yet to come.

I quite agree with you. This is what keeps us going now and in eternity – the best is always just round the corner. May we trust that it will not jump on us unawares!

R: The idea of present eschatological fulfillment creates an “already/not yet” tension between that which is true of the believer because of His redemptive-historical union with Christ and that which is not yet true in his experience. “If any man is in Christ, there is to him a new creation, old (that which belongs to a former time) has passed away, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

A: Those who have come over from the BOT, Founders Journal etc. to the NCT are always speaking about ‘tensions’. I note what they say but find no ‘tension or contradiction there.

Where did you find your strange translation of 2 Cor 5:17’ It is not in my Novum. This is a ‘therefore’ clause in the Greek. It is not theory but fact. The following ‘if’ is also not speculative but factual as it refers to the one side in Christ as opposed to those outside of Christ. Also, where did you get your ‘there is to him’? There is nothing like it in the text. Why do you alter the word ktisis from creature to creation? The word is also used in the NT for a spiritual creature. So it fits here. Why have you translated ta archaia, a plural noun with the article, by merely ‘old’? The AV has ‘old things’ because with a generalized plural one does not need the article. But you have used the singular for a specific thing (thus altering the text) which would take the article. So, too, ‘that which belongs to a former time’ is not in the text and is a mistaken interpretation. Why too, have you left out that important word idou which means take a good look at what is being said. You have not followed this advice and erased the most necessary word. Dear brother, I have compared many of your ‘translations’ with the Greek and found them more than wanting, indeed preaching another gospel. I put this down to lack of familiarity with the language rather than intention but you must have someone at your side who knows Greek before embarking on redefining the Word of God.

11. New Covenant Theology teaches that the Holy Spirit enables believers to do what the Law could only demand. This does not mean New Covenant believers are without imperatives to be obeyed. It simply means we will not be frustrated in our efforts to obey those imperatives. Sin shall not have dominion over us since we are no longer under Law, but under grace. Obeying rules out of gratitude is not legalism. Legalism is the sense that I must obey rules to obtain or maintain God’s approval.

I think you are trying to keep your cake and eat it here. You also separate law from grace which the OT never did. I would say we were in Grace rather than ‘under’ which would make people believe that grace were a law. The NCT teaching of a ‘New Law’ always seems to me more legalistic than the Law of Moses which was embedded in the Covenant of Grace. In doing away with the Covenant of Grace, the NCT is now burdened with a New Covenant with a New Law which the Bible had already rejected. Worse still, the NCT uses ‘New Covenant’ as a synonym for their ‘New Law, quite contrary to Jeremiah’s teaching and the entire body of OT and NT writers.

12. New Covenant Theology does not teach that anyone has ever been without God’s Law in an absolute sense. What we argue is that the Law in the sense of a covenant God made with Israel entered at Mt. Sinai and came to fulfillment at Mt. Calvary.

A: Then why does the NT continue with the OT covenant teaching that the law is good in the hands of believers but deadly in the hands of unbeliever’s? Have you heard David Gay on this issue in his American talks? He says that Paul put himself under the law for the sake of the argument and under pagan law for the sake of the argument, too. He calls this becoming all things to all men. But if Paul had used such deceitful methods he would never have been the means of saving souls.

13. Just as we are to interpret obscure passages in the light of clearer passages, so New Covenant Theology believes we are to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures in the light of New Testament revelation, not visa-versa.

A: This was a device Andrew Fuller used with his ruling of what was obscure and what was clear so that he could explain away passages which thwarted him such as God justifying the ungodly. Actually, I find the so-called ‘obscure’ passages which the NCT cites as only being obscure to the NCT. We take all the information the Scriptures give us as equally important without claiming preference on sectarian grounds. So, too, the multiple times the NT writers take up the OT gospel, they obviously use the OT to clarify the issue. Nearly all that the NCT claims for their New Law-Covenant, they have taken from the Old Testament. God’s Word in toto is our Light.

14. New Covenant Theology teaches that all the Law of God depends on two commandments–supreme love for God and appropriate love for one’s neighbor. Obedience to these two commandments is demonstrated in differing ways under different covenants.

A: These commandments were common knowledge and matters of faith in the Old Testament, from where Christ took them. Which ‘different ways’ are you referring to and to which ‘covenants’?

15. New Covenant Theology is in full agreement with neither the assertions of Covenant Theology nor those of Dispensationalism. Still, we readily acknowledge the correctness of their assertions when we find them to be consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures.

A: It appears to me that the NCT has not broken with what they call wrongly Covenant Theology and not broken with Dispensationalism but are striving to throw out their positive teaching and emphasise their negative points. True Biblical Covenant Theology does not split up the Covenant of Grace as do the NCT but the NCT merely exchange the Dispensationists’ idea of dispensation for ‘covenants’. In their attitude to the Jews they seem to be much under Dispensationist control. I would say that the NCT is more Dispensationist than Biblically and evangelically Reformed. I note, however, that you leave the salvation of the Jews eschatologically as an open factor. I believe in the restitution of all things. This used to be called the Puritan Hope but those moderns who proclaimed this do not believe in it any more though they once wrote books affirming it.

However, we have much here to agree on and as none of use feels he has said the last word by any means, we ought to remain in brotherly dialogue searching the Scriptures together.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

George

PS: As I have no blog site as you have, I shall place this on my website with your suggestions which will certainly be of interest to our readers.