Introduction To New Covenant Theology -- By: Dennis M. Swanson

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 18:2 (Fall 2007)
Article: Introduction To New Covenant Theology
Author: Dennis M. Swanson

Introduction To New Covenant Theology

Dennis M. Swanson

Director of the Seminary Library and Director of Israel Studies

New Covenant Theology (NCT) is a relatively new system which, though not yet well defined, attempts to combine strengths of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology and to eliminate the weak points of the two. Its founders have come from Reformed Baptist circles who reacted against key tenets of Covenant Theology in rejecting such doctrines as the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. The movement has a strong emphasis on study of the Scripture in attempting to derive a biblically based theology. For the most part, NCT’s origins have been local churches rather than academic circles. Though its growth continues to be substantial, it has come about mostly through the channel of the Internet rather than works published through major evangelical publising houses. Leaders of NCT include John Zens, John G. Reisinger, Fred G. Zaspel, Tom Wells, and Steve Lehrer. Among various programs promoting NCT are Providence Theological Seminary, Sound of Grace Ministries, The John Bunyan Conference, and In-Depth Studies. The progress of NCT’s grow is most obvious in the number of churches that have adopted the movement’s approach to Scripture, but the impact on mainstream evangelicalism has been minimal because of a lack of exposure through mainstream publishers, a lack of full endorsement by a noted evangelical scholar, its doctrinal differences from well-known historic documents of Covenant Theology, its newness historically, and its failure to produce a published systematic or biblical theology. NCT’s most notable peculiarities include a rejection of Covenant Theology’s superstructure, its granting of priority of the NT over the OT, its rejection of OT ethical standards for Christians, and its rejection of infant baptism and the distinction between the visible and invisible church.

* * * * *

The Hall of Fame Baseball player and “noted philosopher,” Yogi Berra,

once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”1 In a nutshell this perhaps summarizes the developing theological system known as New Covenant Theology (hereafter NCT). While relatively anonymous within the larger sphere of evangelicalism,2 NCT has nonetheless been experiencing slow but steady growth both in numbers and influence since its inception in the late 1970s.3

NCT is described by most of the leaders within the movement as an attempt to “find...

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