I’ve been slowly reading through God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton for several months now, and I finally completed it this weekend. Earlier this year I read Charles Ryrie’s book Dispensationalism, which is basically the opposite end of spectrum theologically from this book by Horton. Dispensationalism and covenant theology are two competing systems that try to explain the way in which we should understand the overarching theme and history of the Bible. Dispensationalism argues that all of history can be divided into different dispensations (economies of time) and that in each dispensation the way in which man relates to God varies. Conversely, covenant theology argues that all of the Bible, and history, can be understood through examining the different covenants that God has made between Himself and others. (These are both extremely simplistic definitions, and could easily be expanded and explained better, but that’s the gist of it.) The truth about the whole dispensationalist versus covenant thing is that both sides have simultaneously made some good points and probably oversimplified some points as well. If I had to claim a specific leaning, then I am definitely more on the covenant side of things, and I question a lot of the interpretative decisions that classic dispensationalists make.
Ok back to the book…where as Ryrie’s book was a defense of his position over and against other positions, Horton’s is not. He’s simply trying to teach readers how to properly understand the covenants that we find in Scripture. This entire book is helpful in that regard, and honestly I feel as if my understanding of the Old Testament is better after having read this book. I would go so far as to say that my entire framework for understanding the Old Testament Law has been transformed. Horton explains that within the ancient world several types of covenant arrangements were commonly used, and God intentionally paralleled many features of these secular covenants as He entered into covenants with his people. He did this so that they would more fully understand both His grace and His holiness. Against this background, the Old Testament Law and the new covenant that Jesus instituted by his life, death, and resurrection come alive. In some ways It’s as if I never truly understood the Old and New Testaments until I read this book. There are also several ideas about baptism & communion that I’m chewing on as a result of Horton’s writing.
I wholeheartedly recommend God of Promise: An Introduction to Covenant Theology. If you have a desire to better understand covenant theology and the Old Testament in general, then this is a good read. If I have any one complaint, I’ll say that the book gets a little long in the middle if you’re not careful. It’s better to read a whole chapter in this book at one time rather than stop in the middle of a chapter and pick it back up later. If you do so, you may find it hard to plug back in to Horton’s thoughts. But otherwise, this is an amazing read.