In One Greater Than Moses: A History of New Covenant Theology, Heather Kendall examines the early events that led to the rising of what is now called, “New Covenant Theology.” For those unaware of what New Covenant Theology (NCT) is; this book will provide some much needed information. While both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism are very popular theological systems among Christians in the church, seminaries, and laity; New Covenant Theology has only recently begun gaining ground. NCT is a theological system that seeks to make the text of Scripture the basis for how we understand Old and New Testament continuity and discontinuity. John Reisinger, one of the early leaders of NCT has stated that “Dispensationalism can't seem to get Israel and the Church together, and Covenant Theology can't seem to get Israel and the Church apart.” NCT seeks both, by recognizing the distinction between Old Covenant Israel as a typological picture of the church, and the New Testament church as the fulfillment of Old Covenant Israel, made up of both Jews and Gentiles. NCT also, as opposed to Covenant Theology, seeks to recognize the clear distinction made between the Old and New Covenants and the subsequent “Law” that was in effect under each covenant. NCT would find no scriptural basis for infant-baptism, given there is no Biblical warrant for the practice. Therefore, NCT is distinct from both Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology in it's foundational beliefs and it's resulting practices. In NCT, the Old Testament is valued as the true “word of God” but it is rightly understood through the hermeneutical lens of the New Testament scriptures. Likewise, the Law of Moses has been fulfilled and replaced by the “Law of Christ.” Therefore, believers are to look to Jesus and His Apostles' teachings in the New Testament scriptures as the ethical standard by which they live. This clashes with the Covenant Theology idea of the “Ten Commandmants” of Moses as the unchanging “moral law” that binds all believers in all time frames. NCT rejects this, since it divides the Law of Moses into sections, in a way that Scripture never does. As for the history of NCT....
Kendall does an excellent job of reporting about how a handful of “Reformed” Baptists began questioning some of the theological positions so prevalent at the time. Men such as Jon Zens (who wrote the forward), Ron McKinney (who wrote one of the recommendations), Gary D. Long; and perhaps most prominently John Reisinger wanted to reason with their Calvinistic brethren about the fulfillment of the Law of Moses and what it meant for a New Covenant believer. Yet many times, this desire for debate was squelched by silence and the frequent accusations of “Antinomianism” (against Law) that would be levied at these men. Some opponents of NCT have declared that since it is “New” it must be wrong. But Kendall does a good job of showing the historical trace of what we today might call NCT, in some of the early church fathers. And even more importantly, we see the teaching clearly evident in the New Testament itself.
This is one of the strongest aspects of the book, for Kendall devotes two full chapters, plus an appendix to showing that NCT-type beliefs have existed from the beginning of the New Testament church. She uses ample quotations from primary sources, as well as pertinent commentary on these sources to paint the historically accurate picture of NCT-like beliefs always existing, though at times as a mere remnant among the more prevalent systems.
Kendall then goes on to trace NCT's trajectory in the 20th century and up to the present day. Some of the early articles by Jon Zens, began to “rock the boat” of how the Old Covenant Law was to be applied ( or not applied) in the New Covenant era. In the early 1980's Ron McKinney, who was then editor of the "The Sword & Trowel” magazine, along with Reisinger and others, decided to host a “Council on Biblcal Theology” in Dallas, TX. A total of three conferences were held in 1981-1983 to address issues pertaining to NCT. What this did was strengthen the resolve of some who held to NCT, while also strengthening the opposition to many who did not. Eventually The Sword & Trowel suffered a major withdrawal of subscribers. But, in spite of this, the NCT movement continued.
Another major spoke in the NCT wheel was Gary D. Long, who devoted a great amount of study time to examining the 1646 and 1689 London Baptist Confessions. While the 1689 is much more popular, having a Covenant Theology thrust to it, the 1646 is actually much more “Baptistic” and Biblical in nature when examined as a whole. The 1646 document makes many NCT-type statements in such a way, that it is clearly preferable as a doctrinal statement to the 1689. At least for those who hold to NCT. Long republished the 1646 confessional and has done a stellar job of promoting it's use and existence among like-minded brethren.
Kendall then expounds on NCT's influence in greater North America, by many adherents in Canada; as well as the world over. She also cites modern examples of growth within the movement, as young, seminary trained preachers continue to come out of the seminaries with either a NCT perspective, or at the least, views which are NCT-leaning or at least open to NCT. While in the past some church leaders have violently opposed it by declaring “we have the confessions.” Today's seminary graduate is perhaps more likely to say in response, “What saith the Scriptures?” And this has been NCT's goal all along. Not to create a “movement” but to drive Christians back to the text of Scripture as the basis for their beliefs.
Of course, NCT had it's opponents in the past and still does today. But it has gained steam as a modern theological movement. What's more, it is a movement grounded in the Scriptures, rightly divided, as opposed to being grounded in the powerful personalities that sometimes overshadow theological movements. Today, men such as Blake White, Doug Goodin, Geoff Volker, Zach Maxcey, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, and numerous others continue to write books and articles from an NCT perspective. Likewise, the seminaries have a certain amount of academic influence from NCT-leaning scholars like Tom Schreiner, D. A. Carson, Stephen Wellum, and Peter Gentry. Wellum and Gentry's recent book Kingdom Through Covenant was an excellent accomplishment as it gave NCT a legitimate voice in the academic community. Other books, such as Jason D. Meyer's The End of the Law, have followed suit. In addition to this, David Sitton's “To Every Tribe” ministry has been used of God to promote NCT in the missions world as well.
In conclusion, Heather Kendall has written an excellent “first history” of the NCT movement; and she does a fantastic job of tracing the history of the theology itself back to Scripture; as well as the modern movement and the men who shaped it. Today, NCT is not a completely united movement. There is a variety of streams and differences on some doctrinal issues. But the major core beliefs remain intact. The goal of the movement has always been to drive all Christians back to the Bible itself and allow all “systems” to be subservient to the Word. While much remains to be seen about the future of NCT, Kendall has given us a much better understanding and picture of it's past.