Since biblical times, history is replete with promises made and promises broken Pastors and teachers know the power of the covenant, and they know that understanding the concept of covenant is crucial to understanding Scripture They also know that covenant theology provides the foundation for core Christian beliefs and that covenants in their historical context hold significance even today But to laypeople and new Christians, the eternal implications of cutting a covenant with God can be complicated Now available in trade paper, Introducing Covenant Theology unwinds the intricacies of covenant theology, making the complex surprisingly simple and accessible to every reader With keen understanding, careful scholarship, and insight, Michael Horton leads all believers toward a deeper understanding of crucial covenant concepts


10 thoughts on “Introducing Covenant Theology

  1. Jacob Aitken Jacob Aitken says:

    Michael Horton in this book gives the church and updated primer on covenant theology, drawing upon and routinely surpassing the works of Meredith Kline and O Palmer Robertson It is superior to these two works both in style and choice of content Few can match Horton s clear, lucid writing With regard to choice of content, Horton covers the same ground that most systematics cover, but he does so without being repetitious As a whole, the book is outstanding, but I can only recommend it with a Michael Horton in this book gives the church and updated primer on covenant theology, drawing upon and routinely surpassing the works of Meredith Kline and O Palmer Robertson It is superior to these two works both in style and choice of content Few can match Horton s clear, lucid writing With regard to choice of content, Horton covers the same ground that most systematics cover, but he does so without being repetitious As a whole, the book is outstanding, but I can only recommend it with a few qualificationsbelow Given the controversial nature of some things in this book, the reviewer must remind the reader that the first half of the book will only explicate some of Horton s conclusions The immediate absence of criticism in no way implies agreement with Horton, except as noted.Controversially, Horton frames his covenant theology around the idea that there were two covenant principles in the Old Testament the principle of promise given to Abraham and later repeated in the Davidic covenant, and the principle of works found in the Sinaitic covenant Horton argues persuasively that Yahweh s unilateral, unconditional promises to his people are always made in terms of the Abrahamic covenant and never the Sinaitic covenant though he affirms elements of promise in the latter While I do not care for the language of republication of the Covenant of Works and Horton distances himself from that language , it does appear to be the case that there are two principles present which Paul himself repeats in Galatians 3 4.This view is particularly strengthened when Horton deals with the question of conditions in the covenant 176 Horton grounds his covenant theology within the Trinity, within the Pactum Salutis The Covenant of Grace is merely imaging in history the eternal covenant In neither covenant are their conditions or the possibility that God will fail to bring his people to fruition There are conditions, however, in the Sinaitic covenant Further, there are conditions in the administration of the covenants.Horton s most controversial chapter is Providence and Covenant Horton notes that God has made a nonredemptive covenant with creation, the Noahic Covenant 113 Here he gives his common grace to all of creation Much of the chapter is standard Reformed teaching on common grace Horton notes that religious fundamentalism sees all of culture as evil while theological liberalism sees all of culture as already saved He rightly rejects both approaches.He then examines various millennial views as they relate to culture 119 Horton grudgingly acknowledges that even amillennialism has its dark moments Christendom, Holy Roman Empire, Calvin and Servetus, and Augustine s recommending the sword against Donatists 120 Horton charges that these guys, while rightly holding the Two Kingdoms view, did not practice iton that later.Horton s chapter on the Sacraments is the best in the book He grounds his understanding of sacrament in the nature of how a covenant is made cutting and oath 144 The circumcision passages in Genesis have Yahweh giving a self maledictory oath Of importance is the language of cutting off, which in the Old Testament represents rejection by God The most dramatic moment of cutting off is Christ s crucifixion, and in baptism we are united to Christ s circumcision death 148 cf Romans 6 1 In short, circumcision baptism is judgment and alludes to judgment moments in Israel s history 1 Cor 10 2 1 Peter 3 21 Matt 3 11ff.Therefore, we see Horton placing baptism out of the arena of metaphysics and into the realm of covenant and eschatology In Christian baptism the Covenant Lord brings his servants to an eschatological account, and those who are united to him by faith have life 152 153 Anticipating his section on the Lord s Supper, Horton shows us why a covenantal and therefore Reformed understanding of the sacraments is superior the reality seated in the heavenly places with Christ is not only signified but is actually communicated A truly covenantal understanding of the sacraments does not have to worry about collapsing sign into the thing signified, or vice versa If one doesn t hold a covenantal ontology, then one is forever in dialectic and tension on whether the sacraments do anything, with any answer to that specific question necessarily being a wrong answer.iExcursus What is a Covenantal OntologyHorton correctly notes The covenantal background of the sacraments discloses a worldview far removed from the Greek one we have inherited at this point In the former, sacraments inhabit the world of oaths and bonds, not substances and accidents 153 The basics of a covenantal ontology include the name calling on the name, being given the name , word, proclamation, promise, presence, the divine witnessing involved in God s countenance, and so on, and are part of the vocabulary of covenant rather than metaphysics 144.A moment s reflection will reveal how appropriate this covenental ontology way of reading the sacraments really is He completely exposes how false both Romanism and Zwinglianism are On Horton s view it is impossible either to divorce or confuse the sign and thing signified Evenimportant, when one reads the Scriptures, one sees little of substance, accidents, and primary substances One does read about blood, cutting, oaths, and presence.Interesting insightsOf particular importance is the way Horton and Kline root God s word the Canon in the covenant A lot of Orthodox and Romanists will challenge Protestants with, What came first, Scripture or the Church The answer is, Neither The covenant came first Canon is the binding word of the covenant Lord Canon is rooted, not in the Church primarily, but in the covenant Lord Said even stronger, The existence of the covenant Lord principium essendi automatically entails canon word of the covenant Lord externum principium cognescendi.Critique and Concluding RemarksA few things keep this book from being recommended uncritically While the Klinean model of the contrast between principle of works principle of law safeguards the covenant of grace and clarifies many passages in Hebrews, one wonders how easily it can be squared with the Westminster Confession s teaching that there are not two parallel covenants.Most unfortunate, though, is Horton s insistence that modern day rulers are to govern by the nonredemptive Noachic covenant and the principle of common grace I agree with Horton s unspoken criticism that modern evangelicalism s foray into American politics has been a disaster Further, it is true that Calvin did praise the pagans at points Evennoted, a commonwealth does not necessarily have to rule by the Law of God in order to be a stable commonwealth.With all of that said, however, a number of difficulties arise which Klineans cannot answer If we are to rule by the common grace ethic, then we must know what the content of that ethic is Presumably, appealing to the Bible is out which makes the appeal to the Noahic covenant somewhat strained which unbeliever, using his natural reason, would ever agree to be ruled by one of God s covenants, including one mandating the death penalty Can we appeal to natural law That still raises the question what is the specific content of that ethic Horton says a two kingdoms approach prevents the church from blurring into the state He is correct However, he criticizes Calvin and the Reformers for upholding Two Kingdoms in theory while rejecting it in practice Presumably he has in mind the ubiquitous position among the Reformers that the civil magistrate enforce the true religion Here Horton runs into two problems 1 as noted above, what is the content of the civil ethic in Two Kingdoms theory If you cannot define that content then how can Calvin be guilty of violating two kingdoms I realize some would respond, The Law of Nations Fair enough On the principle of the Law of Nations, Calvin approved the death penalty for blasphemy, and his critics in Rome agreed with his reasoning Today s Law of Nations theory, however, is most likely encoded in the United Nations charters, to which all good Christians must resist to the death.Horton s second problem with Two Kingdoms is that he is defining it to the degree he actually defined it differently than the Reformers Two Kingdoms means the kingdom of the Church is not the Kingdom of the state interesting sidenote perhaps two kingdoms in fact means two kingdoms Monarchy, anyone The Reformers separated the kingdoms with regard to function, not morality.Aside from the several major problems mentioned above The book has much to recommend it It is superior to Robertson s take on covenant theology both in style and content The section on the sacraments is worth the price of the book several times over Unfortunately, for all of Horton s irenecism, he presents his arguments somewhat along partisan lines at least in terms of conclusions that will drive many away to dangerous theological positions which could have been avoided His take on the sacraments is what many American Presbyterians need to hear both the gnostics in the southern United States and the high church men who are tempted to wilder extremes.iI remember in seminary my professors struggling to understand what Herman Ridderbos meant on baptism It seemed like he was ascribing a lot of power to baptism, which would threaten justification by faith The problem was that they were stuck in Greek ontology and Ridderbos moved in covenantal language


  2. Laurent Dv Laurent Dv says:

    A modern book on covenant theologyaccessible than Kline Still it can sometimes be hard Horton hold the same view than Kline on the mosaic covenant, he sees works principles at the typological level life in Canaan He suggests an interpretation of Kline or whatever his opinion by considering in the God Israel relation grace as the abrahamic covenant and works as the mosaic covenant.In the book, there are presentation of the biblical covenants mosaic covenant or old covenant, new cove A modern book on covenant theologyaccessible than Kline Still it can sometimes be hard Horton hold the same view than Kline on the mosaic covenant, he sees works principles at the typological level life in Canaan He suggests an interpretation of Kline or whatever his opinion by considering in the God Israel relation grace as the abrahamic covenant and works as the mosaic covenant.In the book, there are presentation of the biblical covenants mosaic covenant or old covenant, new covenant, abrahamic covenant, and some notes on the noahic covenant, presentation of the theological covenants covenant of redemption, covenant of works and covenant of grace , the reformed view of the sacraments baptism and lord s supper, although there isn t focus on infant baptism , the pratical implications and utility of covenant theology, the suzerain treaty and royal grants at biblical time.As many have said, I think it s not so much an introduction to covenant theology as I think it could be written simplier But the idea is here


  3. Stephen Stephen says:

    This book is an excellent introduction to Horton s covenant theology, but not the best introduction to covenant theology Those with little knowledge of covenant theology and Reformed theology in general may find it difficult to understand at times.Still, it s an excellent read at times and I recommend it to those who want an introduction to a growing perspective Klinian on covenant theology.


  4. Amy Kannel Amy Kannel says:

    This was BRUTALLY unreadable It s packaged as a layperson s introduction, but written like a stiff, dry, overly formal and complex academic textbook I mean, I m not a stupid girl, but I found it difficult to press through and comprehend Still, it had good information, and the second half especially provided some fresh perspectives and food for thought, especially pertaining to communion and baptism I m at least intrigued to learnabout covenant theology.


  5. Daniel Daniel says:

    There is a lot of good material on this book, particularly on the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, natural law, the law gospel distinction, and the sacraments The major downside is the underlying Klinean assumptions about the supposed similarities biblical covenants and ancient near eastern suzerain treaties While I hold that there was a republication of the covenant of works under Moses, I am not sure that Michael Horton does justice to the Mosaic economy as the legal administra There is a lot of good material on this book, particularly on the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, natural law, the law gospel distinction, and the sacraments The major downside is the underlying Klinean assumptions about the supposed similarities biblical covenants and ancient near eastern suzerain treaties While I hold that there was a republication of the covenant of works under Moses, I am not sure that Michael Horton does justice to the Mosaic economy as the legal administration of the covenant of grace Still, the book s strengths outweigh its weaknesses and it is a good antidote to moralism and legalism


  6. Kelly Kelly says:

    This book calls itself an introduction to Covenant Theology but without a foundation in theological concepts and terms which Horton does not usually provide , this book will be difficult for the layperson Even with a basic foundation, I was boxing above my weight with this book The book readslike a defense of covenant theology than an introduction after reading, I feel I have at least been exposed to the major points of covenant theology and arguments for and counter arguments against This book calls itself an introduction to Covenant Theology but without a foundation in theological concepts and terms which Horton does not usually provide , this book will be difficult for the layperson Even with a basic foundation, I was boxing above my weight with this book The book readslike a defense of covenant theology than an introduction after reading, I feel I have at least been exposed to the major points of covenant theology and arguments for and counter arguments against this position even if my comprehension and retention may not be what I wish they were A great potential re read for me in the future


  7. Jean-Mikhaël Jean-Mikhaël says:

    A good introduction despite the density of some parts Now Kline.


  8. John Gardner John Gardner says:

    This review is somewhat difficult for me to write As someone with a passing familiarity with covenant theology a system of biblical interpretation which sees the various covenants between God and Man as an organizational structure for all of Scripture who hoped for a good primer in order to better understand the system on its own terms, I was glad to find a book by Michael Horton that appeared to be what I was seeking I have enjoyed other books by Horton, as well as his blog and radio show, This review is somewhat difficult for me to write As someone with a passing familiarity with covenant theology a system of biblical interpretation which sees the various covenants between God and Man as an organizational structure for all of Scripture who hoped for a good primer in order to better understand the system on its own terms, I was glad to find a book by Michael Horton that appeared to be what I was seeking I have enjoyed other books by Horton, as well as his blog and radio show, and know that he is a very well respected theologian within Reformed circles and in Horton s words, Covenant theology IS Reformed theology.Unfortunately, this book is not as introductory as I had hoped Horton draws extensively from the writings of several other authors, and his writing seems to assume that readers will have a littleprior knowledge of covenant theology than I possess I suppose I may have been looking forof an overview for the uninitiated, and this is not that book Also, I honestly don t know whether or not Horton s position represents the majority report among covenant theologians, or whether his views are unique.That being said, this was a very helpful book, even if it was a littleacademic than expected I feel like I at least have a firmer grasp of the basics of covenant theology, though I was hoping for greater clarity on a few points particularly the covenantal view of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord s Supper.The greatest strength of this book was Horton s clear separation between Law and Promise I was also fascinated by some of the history of covenant terminology used in the suzerain vassal treaties of the ancient Near East, and their similarities with the language of the covenants used in the Bible.I ll have to doreading to verse myselfthoroughly in covenant theology though I m quite happy to do so All in all this was useful in my quest for information, but it certainly does not stand on its own as a study tool for laypersons interested in learning a new system of theology Less determined readers will likely not want to wade through all the rigorous academic writing though there are some truly great words in here for language lovers such as myself


  9. Paul Paul says:

    I actually thought this was a pretty good introduction to covenant theology Horton makes use of much of Meredith Kline s work in covenant theology But, as Horton argues, much of his and Kline s views have a solid reformed heritage behind it At this point I m not sure where I stand on this issue modern debates between Klineans and Murrayites, for example , but Horton s little book did much to dissuade my Klinean prejudices which, I m sorry to admit, were mainly do to personal loyalties and I actually thought this was a pretty good introduction to covenant theology Horton makes use of much of Meredith Kline s work in covenant theology But, as Horton argues, much of his and Kline s views have a solid reformed heritage behind it At this point I m not sure where I stand on this issue modern debates between Klineans and Murrayites, for example , but Horton s little book did much to dissuade my Klinean prejudices which, I m sorry to admit, were mainly do to personal loyalties and not so much intellectual honesty with the arguments There is a lot packed into this book, and it being only 192 pages is sure to leave many questions for the reader But then again, the book is billed as an introduction to covenant theology


  10. Andy Smith Andy Smith says:

    Good overall Really just a rehashing of Vos and Kline I see what Horton was trying to do take the writings of these scholars and filter them to the layman Unfortunely, Horton can t get away from his covenental language enough to truly help beginners understand Great content, but I wouldn t recomend it to someone just investigating covenant theology.The chapter on Covenant People and Covenant Obedience were excellent, and Horton still had alot of great points The last three paragraphs of th Good overall Really just a rehashing of Vos and Kline I see what Horton was trying to do take the writings of these scholars and filter them to the layman Unfortunely, Horton can t get away from his covenental language enough to truly help beginners understand Great content, but I wouldn t recomend it to someone just investigating covenant theology.The chapter on Covenant People and Covenant Obedience were excellent, and Horton still had alot of great points The last three paragraphs of the last chapter deserve to be read in a sermon.Overall good, but not great