Covenantal Response -- By: K. Scott Oliphint

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 11:2 (Fall 2013)
Article: Covenantal Response
Author: K. Scott Oliphint


Covenantal Response

K. Scott Oliphint

Let me first begin by affirming my agreement with Dr. Richard Howe. As it turns out, this is the most important area of the entire discussion. At the end of his essay, Howe says, “Despite our deeply held differences, I know we can celebrate each other as part of a larger Christian family that recognizes the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (31). This, of course, is central to our discussion and needs to be highlighted as such. The debate that we are having is within the family, around the table (as it were), recognizing that we all are, by God’s grace, repentant sinners who know that unless we feed on Christ, we will never truly be fed. We recognize, together, that there are only two kinds of people—sheep and goats—and that our responsibility as sheep is to follow our Great Shepherd and happily to do what he asks of us. So, though the matters under discussion are important, especially important for our sanctification and obedience to the One who has called us from darkness into light, they are not matters which, ultimately and eternally, divide us.

As we debate and discuss our differences around the Lord’s table, then, there are two (or so) primary matters that deserve more clarification. The first one focuses on Howe ‘s proper introductory question,

The issue of apologetic methodology has to do with this question: what is the proper way for Christians to defend the truth of the Christian faith? (6) Howe then goes on to note that there are two options available to any Christian: the Classical approach and the Presuppositional (what I will call “Covenantal”) approach. For the sake of brevity, we can accept this taxonomy (though three of the “Five Views” folk might want to quibble with it!). There are two points I would like to emphasize and highlight in response to Howe’s good question.

First, in order to answer the “proper way” question, it is incumbent on us as Christians to see if the Bible provides any help to us in this regard. First and foremost, we should recognize that there is embedded in Holy Scripture a command for Christians to defend the faith. This point is exegetically certain.

The first epistle of Peter is written to a group of suffering Christians. These are Christians who have been “grieved by various trials” (1:6), they are in exile (1:17) and thus living in places that are foreign to them; they are encouraged not to be surprised when fiery trials come upon them (4:12) — note: not if fiery trials come, but when they do. This is not surprising; there...

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