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God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology

von Michael Horton

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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 complicating. God of Promise 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.… (mehr)
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(1) Distinguishing features of suzerainty treaties (25-28)
(2) The nature of the Abrahamic Covenant (41-42)
(3) Is there an eternal covenant within the Godhead? (79-82)
(4) Was is the Law? (84)
(5) Prayer is the chief part of gratitude (162)
(6) New Testament believers understanding of the Law (174-181) ( )
  jamesrrouse | Aug 3, 2019 |
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 complicating.

God of Promise 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.
  tony_sturges | Jun 28, 2017 |
Doctrinal Theology
  CPI | Aug 1, 2016 |
Michael Horton's book, God of Promise:Introducing Covenant Theology, is a wonderful primer for anyone interested in understanding the basics of the Reformed hermeneutic. As Horton says explicitly, it is not that covenant is viewed as the central dogma of Scripture, but rather that covenant is the framework of Scripture. In fact, “God's very existence is covenantal: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in unceasing devotion to each other; reaching outward beyond the Godhead to create a community of creatures serving as a giant analogy of the Godhead's relationship.” God's revelation to us is framed in that of a covenant, that of a relationship, because He Himself exists in covenant, in relationship.

Beyond that, our very existence is covenantal also. “We were not just created and then given a covenant; we were created as covenant creatures—partners not in deity, to be sure, but in the drama that was about to unfold in history. As covenant creatures by nature, every person has a relationship with God.” Horton highlights the fact that God is covenantal, relational, and deals with us as covenantal beings. We are created for a relationship. Even as fallen and unredeemed, we are in a relationship with God.


One of the main aspects of covenant theology, as outlined by Horton, is the emphasis on continuity. As someone who has just relatively recently embraced the fact that the Old Testament exists for a greater reason that tormenting me in my Read-the-Bible-in-a-year efforts, this is a great encouragement. “Covenant theology begins with continuity rather than discontinuity, not because of any a priori bias, but because Scripture itself moves from promise to fulfillment, not from one distinct program to another and then back again.” Reading the Scriptures through the lens of the mega-narrative of promise-fulfillment has allowed me to understand greatly the purpose and point of the Scriptures, and has allowed me to see more greatly the presence of Christ from Genesis 1:1 and on. It has also helped in keeping me from inserting my self and my felt needs into the Old Testament narrative, moralizing and stripping the Scriptures of their intention, to reveal Christ from cover to cover.

What is a covenant? “Covenant...is a broad term encompassing a variety of arrangements—most notably, conditional covenants of law and unconditional covenants of promise.” Horton spends plenty of time unpacking the “variety of arrangements”, but this definition will suffice at the most basic level. At an even more basic level, a covenant is a relationship between two entities. Horton spends time fleshing out what a covenant is, looking at ancient near eastern treaties/covenants and how they mirror the covenant framework of the Scriptures. Horton gives a clear and succinct(for him) exposition of Suzerain-vassal treaties and how they relate to the covenants of Scriptures, and to the layout of the entirety of Scripture. He then devotes some chapters to outlining the differences between covenants of promise(unilateral) and covenants of law(bilateral). After this, Horton spends a chapter going over the different covenants in Scripture and how they relate to each other, what they do and do not accomplish/promise, and how they relate to us today.

The chapter I had the hardest time with is also the chapter I enjoyed the most. Horton's chapter on covenant signs and seals was brilliant, too brilliant for me at points. More than a few times, I was completely lost in this chapter. Sometimes this happens when I am reading Michael Horton. It almost feels as if he slips into Professor Horton lecturing to third year M-Div students...and that is not me. And that is probably not best for a book entitled “Introducing” anything. Complaints on that issue aside, I will revisit that chapter a few more times and look at the referenced material because how he connects Communion and Baptism to the covenants, and how that relates to the Christian life is fascinating and seemingly Scriptural, if a bit below the surface for many of us raised dispensational, or at least ignorant of any possible covenant framework of Scripture.

The final chapter on covenant obedience is worth the price of the book and the read up to it alone. Horton explains clearly the motivation and necessity of obedience in the life of a Christian, while also dispelling the false motivations and false necessity of obedience with which most of us continually struggle. As a whole, while at times deeper than probably necessary for an introductory text, God of Promise is a great primer on covenant theology and just a fun read. ( )
  joshrskinner | Jul 30, 2014 |
BOOK REVIEW

Thesis of the Book
If the Reformed faith was a gallery, Michael Horton would do a good job as its curator. In his book Introducing Covenant Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), he carefully explains the structure of covenant theology from the architektonic of covenants and develops this through federal theology up to its expressions in spirituality. The book is, in the words of J.I. Packer, “A masterful survey of the covenantal frame of God’s self-disclosure in Scripture.” That “survey” and how it strengthens the practices of those within the Reformed churches serves as the thesis of this book.

Scope
The book has 9 chapters within 204 pages (including end notes).
In chapter 1 “The Big Idea?” introduces an organizing principle (i.e., “covenantal motif”) that puts covenants as the “architektonic” both of biblical and Reformed theology. It puts his motif in high regard mentioning numerous advantages that extends even to its existential value.

In chapter 2 “God and Foreign Relations” explains that the Ancient Near East treaties became a template of God’s relationship with His creatures. This chapter also gave brief but general discussion of the nature of the covenants in the Bible (i.e., suzerain-vassal treaty and the royal grant)

Horton introduces chapter 3 “A Tale of Two Mothers” two antithetical principles: law and promise. Here he discusses the genetics of federal theology by distinguishing between two definitive types of covenants: suzerain-vassal treaty and the royal grant. In the suzerain-vassal treaty Horton expounds the nature of the Sinaitic covenant as bilateral agreement between the suzerain and his vassal where the former imposes rigid rules for the latter to fullfill. In the royal grant, he spells out the unilateral nature of this covenant (i.e., Abrahamic) where the suzerain ruler leaves an unconditional promise to his vassal.

In chapter 4 “A New Covenant” Horton extends the discussion of the contrast between the concepts of suzerain treaty and royal grant from the writings of the Prophets to the New Testament. He also discusses the NT theology of covenant and/versus testament – their relationship and distinction.

Chapter 5 “From Scripture to System: The Heart of Covenant Theology” distinguishes between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace while explaining other distinctions germane to the issue like law & gospel, conditionality & undonditionality, inheritance by personal performance of stipulations versus inheritance by another’s performance received through faith and promise.

[to view full review please go to http://theovaness.blogspot.com/2011/04/book-review-introducing-covenant.html
  JohnPesebre | Apr 24, 2011 |
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To my teachers, colleagues, and students at Westminster Seminary California, for exhibiting for me the richness of covenant theology for faith and life.
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We live in a world of broken promises.
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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 complicating. God of Promise 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.

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