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The first three blogs in this series have focused on defining Covenantal Theology, its hermeneutics, how it reached formulated. Now the series will focus on criticisms and problems with Covenant Theology.

Kline claims that there is old and new orders revealed in the Old and New Testaments and that, “According to the divine design the old is provisional and preparatory for the new, and by divine predisclosure the new is prophetically anticipated in the old.”[1] He then explains how this was done, “External event and institution in the old order were divinely fashioned to form a systematic representation of the realities of the coming new order, so producing a type-antitype correlativity between the two covenants in which their unity is instructively articulated.”[2] LaRondelle’s hermeneutical method (which is also decidedly typological), though he is a Seventh Day Adventist, has received a warm welcome in CT circles.[3] LaRondelle takes matters a step further than Kline. He makes the bold claim that, “Valid hermeneutical rules of Scripture must be ‘inspired principles’ which are legitimately and systematically derived from the Scriptures themselves.”[4] This is an astounding claim, and actually rather self-serving. How does one get at the inspired principles in the first place? What hermeneutic based on uninspired principles must be employed to draw out of the text the inspired principles in order to then build one’s (presumably) inspired hermeneutic? This is a vicious circle. One will find the inspired principles one is looking for and then be in possession of nothing more than one’s presuppositions dressed as inspired principles.

Regardless of how the validity of the typological hermeneutic is argued for, the net yield for the proponent of it is usually the narrative that, “The nation was the people of God in the old covenant. Now in the new covenant the believing church is the people of God…We Christians are the Israel of God, Abraham’s seed, and heirs of the promises, only because by faith we are united to him who is alone the true Israel, Abraham’s one seed.”[5] By use of a typological hermeneutic, nothing in the Old Testament is what it seems. The type-antitype relationship between the testaments that has been supposedly divinely revealed turns out to mean that the Old Testament is ultimately not just interpreted by the New Testament writers, but often reinterpreted to mean something other than what it ostensibly meant in its original context. The obvious objection to such an approach is that “NT antitypes neither explicitly nor implicitly cancel the meaning of OT types. Thinking they do so misunderstands typology.”[6] There is also the ever present danger mentioned earlier that, “Types come to be created rather than discovered, and the drift into allegorism comes all too easily. In fact, it is often difficult to distinguish typology from allegory.”[7]

Another objection may be lodged against CT’s hermeneutic. The presupposition that the New Testament authoritatively interprets the Old Testament with a typological hermeneutic, such that it results in the historical-grammatical hermeneutic being invalid for the Old Testament passage in question, is highly suspect. If the only authoritative interpretation of Scripture that exists (i.e., the New interpreting the Old) employs a non-historical-grammatical hermeneutic, then what justification does the Bible interpreter have for employing a historical-grammatical hermeneutic when interpreting the New Testament to begin with? Is it a valid way of proceeding to argue that the interpretation of one portion of Scripture, using the historical-grammatical hermeneutic, invalidates the use of that same hermeneutic in another portion of Scripture? The net result would ostensibly be the invalidation of the historical-grammatical hermeneutic for all of Scripture, since the application of it in one portion of Scripture would destroy its credentials for applying it to another.

Given the above presupposition of CT, the analogy of Scripture becomes nothing more than a principle that undermines the credibility of the very hermeneutic that gives rise to that principle in the first place. I would suggest that a better presupposition is that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament using the same historical-grammatical hermeneutic that should be employed when interpreting the New Testament. The net result here would be the same for any portion of Scripture; there is one correct interpretation and many possible applications. If the historical-grammatical hermeneutic is valid for any portion of Scripture, then understanding how the New Testament uses the Old Testament is simply a matter of using that hermeneutic on the New Testament passage in question to discover the application of the Old Testament passage that the New Testament writer is making of the one correct interpretation of that Old Testament passage; which is discoverable by using the same hermeneutic on the Old Testament passage. Interestingly enough, all attempts to object to such a presupposition would have to be made while employing a similar presupposition in another sphere; otherwise, how would anyone be able to understand the objection being lodged against it?

Continue reading the the critique of Covenantal logic vs revelation.

[1] Meredith G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 98.

[2] Ibid.

[3] This is even more surprising since LaRondelle ascribes to the “Calvin vs the Calvinists” theory that was popularized by Rolston. See, Hans K. LaRondelle, Our Creator Redeemer: An Introduction to Biblical Covenant Theology (Berrien Springs, MO: Andrews University Press, 2005), xi.

[4] Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy: Principles of Prophetic Interpretation (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1983), 7.

[5] Robert B. Strimple, “Amillennialism,” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 89

[6] John S. Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity,” in Continuity Discontinuity: Perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 79.

[7] Gundry, “Typology as a Means of Interpretation,” 235.