Books on covenant theology - please recommend.

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MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
As I am currently studying the doctrine of paedobaptism I have come to realize I do not know enough about covenant theology. I have read an intro systematic text from a Presbyterian background, and Vos' Biblical Theology. I currently have Michael Horton's Introducing Covenant Theology as a recommended resource on the monergism bookstore. However, having bantered back and forth here a bit with some of my more learned brothers (in particular, thanks Bruce) I am realizing that not everyone in the reformed camp agrees about the covenant(s). Could anyone recommend some other, modern and excellent introductions to covenant theology from a mainline confessional (Westminster or Three Forms) perspective?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
John Brown of Haddington, while not quite modern, is very stimulating on covenant theology in both his "Questions and Answers on the Shorter Catechism" (originally "An Easy, Plain, Practical", etc., etc.) and his "Systematic Theology" (originally "A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion", etc., etc).
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Christ of the Covenants, by O. Palmer Robertson and the trilogy by Dr. Gerard Van Groningen: 1. Biblical Theology; 2. Messianic Revelation in the O.T.; 3. From Christ to Consummation. Then The Economy of the Covenants, by Hermann Witsius.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
As I am currently studying the doctrine of paedobaptism I have come to realize I do not know enough about covenant theology. I have read an intro systematic text from a Presbyterian background, and Vos' Biblical Theology. I currently have Michael Horton's Introducing Covenant Theology as a recommended resource on the monergism bookstore. However, having bantered back and forth here a bit with some of my more learned brothers (in particular, thanks Bruce) I am realizing that not everyone in the reformed camp agrees about the covenant(s). Could anyone recommend some other, modern and excellent introductions to covenant theology from a mainline confessional (Westminster or Three Forms) perspective?

Mike, I went through a study of Covenant theology not too long ago myself. The "standard" recommendation for a study of CT seems to be Palmer's book, Christ of the Covenants, and while certainly not a bad book, I found Horton's to be more helpful. Obviously this is just my opinion, but since I read both of them within a few weeks of each other back in January, I thought I would share.

Something else I found really helpful is Richard Phillip's MP3 series on CT. Phillips is an excellent speaker and explains many of the doctrines/ideas of CT beautifully and easy to understand. The series can be found here towards the bottom of the page.
 

Irish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition by Peter Golding.

I loved Horton's book and second Andres recommendation of Rick Phillip's Mp3 series.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition by Peter Golding.

I loved Horton's book and second Andres recommendation of Rick Phillip's Mp3 series.

Most people don't know about the Peter Golding book on CT. His book is more of a historical defense of it. What are you looking for precisely? This is a life long study that will take a few years to digest from any angle. So don't think you are going to get a book that will bring you to a precise point of understanding in one read. Are you looking for an intro or a indepth look at the subject? Herman Witsius' Economy of the Covenants is a must have.

If you want to know stuff topically you can look at a few blogs on the Puritanboard. I have a few on this discussion of baptism and Covenant. But if you want to be specific on an area you will have to ask me which one applies.

http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/puritancovenanter/
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The problem with Horton's book is that it introduces the intermural debate between Covenant Theologians about whether or not the Mosaic Covenant is a republication of the Covenant of Works. Horton believes that it is, and introduces that added complexity to his Intro to Covenant Theology.

I'm still not sure if ''Republicationists'' have clearly explained what they mean by the Covenant of Works being republished '' in some sense'' at Sinai. I don't think Horton clearly explains how the Sinai Covenant - as Republicationists like to call it - can be a republication of the Covenant of Works - when there are so many material and substantial and essential differences between the Covenant made with Adam and that made with Israel.

It's an additional and rather opaque debate being brought into the explanation of Covenant Theology for some who are reading Horton's book as coming to Covenant Theology for the first time. Some of the beauty and simplicity of Covenant Theology is obscured by the Republicationist approach.

The concerns of Republicationists could be covered more simply by saying that the Mosaic/Sinaitic Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Grace but had legal and typological conditions which were a graciously given teaching aid, subservient to the Covenant of Grace and thus essentially graciously given teaching aids, to the under age Church, and which somewhat echoed the Edenic administration while also pointing forward to the eschatalogical realities of the New Covenant and the Heavenly Kingdom.

I.e. in Israel it was possible to lose your place in the Land - but not in Heaven if you had true faith - by being executed for grossly, wilfully and presumptiously breaking the 10C. Also the nation as a whole could lose their place in the Land - although true believers, e.g. Daniel, ejected from the Land would still go to Heaven - if the nation did not live up to God's commandments. But since all the Israeltes were sinners to start off with - unlike Adam - all these conditions would have to be met by grace, common and saving grace, if the individual was to avoid execution or the nation was to avoid expulsion - which things typologically expressed '' the curse of the Law''.

Theonomists need to take these matters into account when trying to derive/apply the general equity of the Mosaic criminal/penal law to modern states.
 
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MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition by Peter Golding.

I loved Horton's book and second Andres recommendation of Rick Phillip's Mp3 series.

Most people don't know about the Peter Golding book on CT. His book is more of a historical defense of it. What are you looking for precisely? This is a life long study that will take a few years to digest from any angle. So don't think you are going to get a book that will bring you to a precise point of understanding in one read. Are you looking for an intro or a indepth look at the subject? Herman Witsius' Economy of the Covenants is a must have.

If you want to know stuff topically you can look at a few blogs on the Puritanboard. I have a few on this discussion of baptism and Covenant. But if you want to be specific on an area you will have to ask me which one applies.

http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/puritancovenanter/

Thanks for the info. I was just looking for somewhere to start, as I appreciate the large scope of this issue. Baptism was the issue I realized I could not solve properly without a study of covenant theology, so I am starting. I feel like I have a pretty good list of resources to start with, I am particularily interested in gaining a full-orbed understanding of the P&R perspective on covenant theology as it pertains to paedobaptism, as opposed to the reformed Baptist take on credobaptism.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I also think that Horton is not the place to start for someone just learning covenant theology. It not only gets into muddy waters about the Mosaic Covenant, but it also is distinctly Klinean (following Meredith Kline) which cannot be called simple (or "mere" or standard) covenant theology. It has major distinctives, some of which are very much not standard to covenant theology.

I would start with O Palmer Robertson's book, which is far more standard. Another good choice (though a bit harder since it is written in a dialog format) is the Marrow of Modern Divinity. Another good option is to simply take standard Systematic Theologies (Hodge, Berkhof, Dabney, etc.) and read their respective sections on covenant theology.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I quite agree with Rev Greco re the Marrow. Everyone should read it and the new edition from Christian Focus is very well done.

As one who has been studying the history of covenant theology since 1993 (see the links above), Mike Horton's presentation is quite mainstream. Mike went out of his way not to make it distinctly Klinean. He did not insist on the doctrine of republication, even though it was widely taught in the 17th century (and in the late 16th century as I've shown here and on the HB several times). His account of two parallel covenants in throughout redemptive history, a covenant of works and a covenant of grace is right down the middle of the mainstream.

From a historical perspective Palmer Robertson's presentation is more idiosyncratic than Horton's.

Horton's volume is a sometimes difficult read but it is worth the effort as is Witsius.
 

MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
I make a third and very strong motion for the Marrow of Modern Divinity.

Thanks guys, I am going to get Marrow ordered.

---------- Post added at 03:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:23 PM ----------

Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, trans. William Crookshank, 2 vols. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1990).

Any idea where I might be able to purchase a copy of this?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I would highly NOT recommend the book by Michael Williams, which confuses law and gospel and denies the covenant of works. Witsius is hard to beat. If you were to read the relevant sections of Witsius, Turretin, and a'Brakel, you would be fairly well-grounded in the doctrine of the covenant. The Marrow is also excellent, and in a brand new beautiful edition from Christian Focus.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I seem to remember it was right at the beginning, in the first chapter or introduction where he sets out what he intends to discuss; but as I misremembered something else from when I read it 9 years ago, I don't know how good that recollection will be!
 

MRC

Puritan Board Freshman
I would highly NOT recommend the book by Michael Williams, which confuses law and gospel and denies the covenant of works. Witsius is hard to beat. If you were to read the relevant sections of Witsius, Turretin, and a'Brakel, you would be fairly well-grounded in the doctrine of the covenant. The Marrow is also excellent, and in a brand new beautiful edition from Christian Focus.

What about Bavinck, does he deal with the doctrine of covenant? I have started investing in his Reformed Dogmatics due to some excellent reviews I heard on one or two of the podcasts put out by the Reformed Forum. I am definitely thinking about investing in Turretin, and will if I can find a copy of Witsius to buy.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The problem with recommendations is that they often reflect where people are now rather than where they were when they began studying the subject. From the perspective of a pastor hoping to impress a general sense and appreciation of the subject upon a reader, I would suggest the best place to begin is the Westminster Confession, chapter 7, and Robert Shaw's Exposition. As questions emerge from that reading more specific treatments might then be consulted with a sense of their bearing on the overall subject.
 
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