The Nature Of Covenant Theology -- By: Ernest Pickering
CenQ 3:4 (Winter 1960) p. 1
The Nature Of Covenant Theology
Professor of Systematic Theology
Central Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary
Covenant theology is a theological system of thought which affirms that God’s redemptive dealings with men are governed by certain covenants between (l) the persons of the Godhead, and (2) the Godhead and men. The chief exponents of this system of theology have been found in the Reformed tradition. Names like Shedd, Hodge, Kuyper, and Vos are connected with covenant theology. With such noble and able exponents its impact has been tremendous. A survey of its historical roots will serve as a background to its tenets.
A Brief Review Of The Historical Rise Of Covenant Theology
One of the earliest theologians to espouse some covenant principles was Hyperius of Marburg who about 1561 published his work called Topica Theologica. In 1570 Olivianus, a professor at Heidelberg published The Covenant of Grace, and was perhaps the first to make the idea of the covenant the determinative principle in the whole theological system. Eglinus, professor at Marburg, produced a treatise on the covenant (1600). These all laid a groundwork on which others raised a structure.
Many regard the major definitive work in this area to be that of Cocceius, a Dutch theologian and professor at Leyden who produced his tremendous work on Summa Doctrina de Foedere et Testamenti Dei in 1648. Building upon the idea of a determinitive covenant, he also added the idea of a covenant of works between Adam and God. Francis Turretin, a contemporary of Cocceius, elaborated upon the entire covenant theory and gave it increasing favor.
The momentous Westminster Assembly (1646) included the concept of the covenant principle in The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter VII, sections II and III) which reads as follows: “II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in Mm to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they might be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained
CenQ 3:4 (Winter 1960) p. 2
unto life, His Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe,” Witsius (1685) emphasized the fact that the covenant began in eternity past and was made between the Father and the Son Later Reformed theologians have accepted covenant theology, enlarging, developing...
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