In the final episode of this season of Mind + Heart, Phillip Holmes interviews Dr. J. Ligon Duncan. Dr. Duncan is the Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. Holmes and Dr. Duncan discuss the definition of covenant theology, as well as misconceptions about it, and its practical value in life and ministry.
Holmes asks Dr. Duncan about his testimony and background. Dr. Duncan describes growing up in a Christian home with godly parents, his profession of faith at ten, and his call to the ministry at fourteen. He also explains how he came to RTS and how he met and married his wife, Anne.
After replaying Dr. Duncan’s previous Wisdom Wednesday episode, “What are some misconceptions about covenant theology?”, Holmes asks Dr. Duncan for a definition of covenant theology. Dr. Duncan points out a paucity of literature defining covenant theology, and offers his own definition as “an approach to biblical interpretation that appreciates the importance of the covenants.”
Holmes asks Dr. Duncan for examples of covenants in Scripture. Dr. Duncan describes the Abrahamic covenant from Genesis 12, then gives several examples of biblical covenants from the Old and New Testaments. Dr. Duncan explains how the Bible often identifies covenants after they are made, and demonstrates how the New Testament puts Jesus forward as the fulfillment of these covenants.
Holmes asks Dr. Duncan why some perceive covenant theology to be a non-literal reading of Scripture. Dr. Duncan explains the history of and effects of dispensational theology in the popular evangelical mind and describes a dispensational reading of covenant fulfillment in Scripture, as well as the dispensational accusation that covenant theology “spiritualizes” the text. Dr. Duncan also points out that the early church interpreted covenant fulfillment in ways that align to covenant theology.
Holmes references Dr. Donald Barnhouse’s dispensational convictions and asks Dr. Duncan how dispensationalism aligns with Presbyterianism. Dr. Duncan explains dispensationalism’s significant cultural hold over evangelicalism in the middle of the 20th century, and its effect on the education of Presbyterian ministers.
Holmes asks Dr. Duncan to explain how covenant theology helps in the reading of Scripture, and what benefits it conveys to the believer. Dr. Duncan describes how covenant theology unifies the Christian’s reading of Scripture and lends clarity to our understanding of God’s work in redemptive history. He also explains how it deepens a believer’s understanding of the crucifixion, the Lord’s Supper, and assurance of salvation.
Finally, Holmes asks Dr. Duncan for his final thoughts and recommendations on resources. Dr. Duncan gives a list of RTS resources that are available on the subject, as well as Palmer Robertson’s book, Covenants: God’s Way with His People.
Mind + Heart Season 2 Episode 9: Misconceptions
Phillip Holmes: Welcome to the Mind + Heart Podcast, which features interviews and more from the faculty and friends of Reformed Theological Seminary. We created this podcast to assist you in your daily quest to love God and love your neighbor. I’m your host, Phillip Holmes, and this week I’m joined by my guest and the Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, Dr. Ligon Duncan. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is the Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. He served as senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi for 17 years. He is a co-founder of Together for the Gospel and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004 to 2012. Ligon and his wife, Anne, have two children, and they reside in Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Duncan, Ligon, welcome to the show, sir.
Dr. Ligon Duncan: Phillip, it’s great to be with you today. Thank you for doing these. I’ve been a beneficiary of the interviews that you’ve done, have heard so many other folks comment on how it’s been edifying to them, something they can listen to when they’re driving, something that they can do to sort of stimulate themselves in learning in some areas that they might not have access to normally. So I’m delighted to be able to be a part of Mind + Heart.
Holmes: Awesome. Thank you. And thank you for the encouragement. I’m glad to hear that people are benefiting from the episodes that we’re doing. That’s encouraging. So before we dive [into] this week’s episode, we try not to assume that our audience is familiar with all of our guests. So we’re going to ask you, just like we ask all the other faculty, tell us a little bit about your background. What’s your origin story?
Dr. Duncan: Yeah, I grew up in South Carolina. I was born in 1960, Phillip, and went to public schools. The schools were integrated in Greenville County by the time I started first grade, and went to public school and had a great experience, really wonderful teachers all through my young years. My mom was sort of the theologian of my life. My dad was a godly man, but my mom was a university professor, and she had gone to theological seminary and she had worked in church music most of her life. And she really was a reader. She was the first person I think I ever saw reading a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. So that’s kind of — when I talked theology, I talked to mom.
And so when I was, you know, probably six or seven years old, I was asking mom, you know, “What does it mean to have faith in Christ? What does it mean to repent? How do I know if I really believe?” She was the one I was having those conversations with. And when I got to be just about 10 years old, I felt I was ready to make a profession of faith. And so I made a profession of faith, and at the same time, my youngest brother was being brought to be baptized as an infant.
I kind of thought that if I really believed sincerely, and if I really repented right, then God would give me grace and change me. And I heard a preacher preaching on Ephesians 1, and I suddenly realized that before I ever reached out to God in faith, he had reached out in grace to me. And the only reason I ever would have believed is because his Holy Spirit had done a work of grace in my heartBy the time I was 14 years old, Phillip, I felt like I had a call to the ministry. I went to a youth conference and I’d really been struggling with assurance. And my assurance struggles, frankly, had to do with the fact that I realized I was still sinning. You know, I professed to be a Christian, but I realized there was still sin in my life, and I was confused. [I] really didn’t, at least experientially, understand how faith and repentance and God’s grace all went together. And I think that I kind of thought that if I really believed sincerely, and if I really repented right, then God would give me grace and change me. And I heard a preacher preaching on Ephesians 1, and I suddenly realized that before I ever reached out to God in faith, he had reached out in grace to me. And the only reason I ever would have believed is because his Holy Spirit had done a work of grace in my heart. And so it straightened out some things that were confusing to me, and it really — it was almost like a second conversion. I felt an assurance that I had never experienced before, and I really think from that time on, I just wanted to help people understand that truth.
So from that time on, I was really kind of headed into ministry. I went to college and studied humanities just so that it would be a good background for seminary. I did a couple of degrees in seminary, and then went to the University of Edinburgh and did my Ph.D. work. And then Luder Whitlock, who was the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, asked me if I would come interview for a job. And I did that in November of 1989, and I was hired by the faculty to come back to Jackson and teach systematic theology. I’d never been to Mississippi in my life until I flew in from Edinburgh, Scotland, to do that interview. And I’ve been here ever since.
I’ve lived over half my life now in Mississippi, and it’s always been attached to RTS. I met Anne, my wife, at RTS. She was doing the marriage and family therapy program here. She had already worked in the church for 10 years. She went to Gordon-Conwell Seminary and then she worked in two large Presbyterian churches on staff for about 10 years, but really felt — it felt like she needed the training that they gave in the marriage and family therapy program because of the kinds of problems she was seeing in people and families in the church. So this is where we met, and I had to get permission from the dean to ask her out because she was a student and I was a professor. And so we dated and got married about a year later, and have just been here that whole time. That’s how I — that’s where I was born and how I came to faith in Christ and how I got to RTS.
Holmes: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. I may vaguely remember that, but I’m not sure if I knew that’s how you and Anne met. That’s really cool. So recently, Dr. Duncan, you asked the question for us, via Wisdom Wednesday, which is our weekly video series, “What are some misconceptions about covenant theology?” So before we go any further, let’s take a moment and listen to your response to the question, “What are some misconceptions about covenant theology?”
Dr. Duncan: Sometimes I hear people say that covenant theology imposes a framework on the text of scripture that’s not there. Sometimes I hear people say that covenant theology doesn’t interpret the Bible literally, and sometimes I hear people say that covenant theology is replacement theology. Let me talk about each of those things just a little bit.
First of all, when people say covenant theology imposes a framework on the Scripture, they’re very often not talking about the biblical covenants. They’ll acknowledge that the Bible talks about a covenant with Noah, and a covenant with Abraham, and a covenant with Moses, and a covenant with David, and a new covenant that’s established with Jesus Christ. But when you read about a covenant of works and a covenant of grace and a pre-temporal covenant of redemption, they become uncomfortable with that because they believe that that’s imposing a framework on the Scripture. And here’s the thing: historic covenant theology is simply trying to do justice to the fact that there is a singular plan of God that is revealed from Genesis to Revelation in Scripture, that it is made very clear, especially in the New Testament and especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul, that that plan actually was planned from before the foundation of the world. That’s what Ephesians 1 is about: the plan of God in creation and redemption is not something that he came up with on the fly. It’s something that he planned from before the time there was a world. And thirdly, covenant theologians want you to understand that the Bible makes a big distinction between man’s relationship to God before the fall of Adam and Eve, and after the fall of Adam and Eve. And the idea of the covenant of redemption from before time, the covenant of works with Adam in the Garden, and the covenant of grace from Genesis 3:15 to the end of the Book of Revelation, all comes out of those biblical ideas. In other words, the framework comes from the theology of the Bible itself and helps us to read the Bible better.
What about [the assertion that] covenant theology doesn’t read the Bible literally? Well, oftentimes, what people mean by that is, if the prophecies of the Old Testament that say that Israel is going to be restored as a nation are not fulfilled in Israel being restored as a nation, then you’re not reading those prophecies literally. But what covenant theologians will point out is simply this: you have to look at how the New Testament interprets those prophecies. Amos 9 is a passage that C. I. Scofield said is the most important passage in the whole of Scripture for the dispensational system. And it’s about the restoration of the fallen temple, the fallen “booth of David.” Acts 15 says that that passage is fulfilled in the bringing of the Gentiles into the church — not the rebuilding of the temple, but the bringing of the Gentiles into the church. And so covenant theologians say you just have to interpret Old Testament prophecy via the New Testament’s exposition of how it’s fulfilled.
I think most Christians know that the Bible tells a unified story that starts with creation, and then the fall, and then God’s work of redemption, and then the final consummation . . . . Covenant theology reads the Bible with the realization that the Bible uses the covenants, both to explain our relationship to God, and God’s plan in creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.And of course, the same comes with the issue of replacement theology. Oftentimes, you’ll hear people say covenant theology is replacement theology because it says that Israel was replaced by the church. Well, that’s not an accurate depiction of covenant theology. Covenant theology isn’t replacement theology, it’s fulfillment theology. There’s promise and fulfillment, and the promises of God to Israel are fulfilled in both the Jews and the Gentiles being part of the one people of God in the purposes of God’s redemption. Think how often the Psalms talk about all the peoples coming to Mount Zion to worship God, talk about all the nations worshiping the one true God. The people of God in the Old Testament long for the day when all the nations would come to worship God and would be part of the people of God. That’s written in the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12:3. Well, covenant theology believes that — not that Israel is replaced, but that there is this fulfillment where the Gentiles are grafted into the ancient people of God, and God’s one people reaches an international, worldwide flourishing beyond anything experienced in the Old Testament. It’s not a replacement, it’s a fulfillment.
Holmes: So Dr. Duncan, first, tell us how would you define covenant theology?
Dr. Duncan: There are a lot of good ways that you could do that. There’s not just one right way of giving a definition. And it’s interesting, Phillip. When I started trying to ask that question to myself about 30 years ago, every Bible dictionary that I went to or every theological dictionary that I went to, or every encyclopedia of history and theology that I went to, would give a description of covenant theology, but it wouldn’t actually give a definition of covenant theology. So I’ve actually thought a long time about how to answer that question.
Of course, descriptions are good. They’re helpful. You can talk about what covenant theology does, and you can talk about what covenant theology is, and then you can describe what covenant theology looks like. So all of those three things are helpful. But what I like to say in terms of a definition of covenant theology, is that covenant theology is a way of reading our Bibles that is derived from the Bible’s presentation of redemptive history.
The New Testament sees Jesus as the fulfillment of all these previous covenant initiatives, and it uses the word covenant over 30 times in the New Testament, talking about how Jesus fulfilled these various covenants.In other words, I think most Christians know that the Bible tells a unified story that starts with creation, and then the fall, and then God’s work of redemption, and then the final consummation, when God brings all things together in the new heavens and the new Earth. And covenant theology reads the Bible with the realization that the Bible uses the covenants, both to explain our relationship to God, and God’s plan in creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. And so you could say that covenant theology is an approach to biblical interpretation that appreciates the importance of the covenants, or understanding the divine-human relationship and the unfolding redemptive history of scripture. So that’s one way. I mean, you could say it other ways, but that’s one way that I kind of like to start that conversation.
Holmes: That’s helpful. So can you give examples of the covenants revealed in Scripture?
Dr. Duncan: Yeah, there are some covenants that are explicitly revealed, and then there are other covenants for which there is implicit evidence. But let’s take an explicit one first because it’s really, really important. And that’s the covenant of God with Abraham. In Genesis 12, God reaches out to a man who actually is from a pagan family and a pagan culture. In fact, his family were moon-worshipers from a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. He reaches out to a man whose name then was Abram — later, his name will be changed to Abraham — and he makes a promise to him. And the promise that he makes to him is actually written in the form of a covenant in Genesis 12:1-3. And then later, in Genesis 15, he confirms that same promise. God confirms that same promise that he made to Abram in Genesis 12. He confirms it in Genesis 15, but there, he explicitly calls it a covenant. And by the way, that lets us know that a covenant is a way that God confirms a promise.
Covenant is a means or an instrument whereby God secures or confirms a promise that he has made. So the Abrahamic covenant is appealed to constantly in the New Testament to explain the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is called a son of Abraham. Luke makes it explicit that Jesus coming into the world in Luke 1 is in fulfillment of the covenant of Abraham. When Peter is preaching in Acts 2 about what Jesus has done in his life and death and burial and resurrection, he says that it’s the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham.
So the New Testament makes a big deal about that covenant with Abraham. But it’s not the first covenant revealed in the Bible. The covenant of God with Noah is revealed in Genesis 6-9, and of course, God’s covenant with Adam is talked about in great detail in Genesis 2. It’s just not called the covenant with Adam. You have to go to Hosea 6:7 to see that covenant called a covenant with Adam. So you have to kind of go outside the passage to see the covenant called a covenant there in Genesis 2.
Covenant is a means or an instrument whereby God secures or confirms a promise that he has made.And interestingly, that’s actually the way it happens in at least three of the major covenants of the Old Testament. When they are first made, they’re not identified as a covenant. So Genesis 2, the covenant with Adam, isn’t called a covenant until later. Genesis 12, the covenant with Abraham, isn’t called a covenant until Genesis 15. And then 2 Samuel 7 is the covenant with David, and it isn’t called a covenant until later. You have to go to passages like Psalm 89 to see it called a covenant.
So very often, you find in the Bible that there are things that are covenants that are not initially called covenants, and they’ll be called covenants later. So I like to just outline real quickly with students: there is a covenant with Adam in Genesis 2. There’s the covenant with Noah in Genesis 6-9. There’s the covenant with Abraham, especially Genesis 12, 15, and 17. There’s the covenant that God makes with Israel in the days of Moses. And you see that especially in Exodus 19-24. There’s the covenant that God makes with David in 2 Samuel 7. There’s the promise of the new covenant that is made through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31. And then the New Testament sees Jesus as the fulfillment of all these previous covenant initiatives, and it uses the word covenant over 30 times in the New Testament, talking about how Jesus fulfilled these various covenants. So that’s how I sort of sketch out the biblical covenants in the Bible when I’m just first introducing people to covenant theology.
Holmes: So why is it, do you think, that many assume that covenant theology does not read the Scriptures literally?
Dr. Duncan: Yeah, that’s great. You know, I think in our culture, Phillip — and I bet you had the same experience that I did — when I was a young man, the popular literature that I read was often written by dispensationalists.
Holmes: Yep. Same here.
Dr. Duncan: And they were really good popularizers and Bible teachers. And so, in the evangelical world in the 20th century, very often people kind of got their biblical theology from dispensationalists. And one of the big emphases of dispensationalists is that the promises of God to Israel in the Old Testament need to be taken literally. So, if God is promising to give the kingdom to David again in Israel and set up his throne in Jerusalem, that means that the fulfillment of that promise is going to be David reigning on the throne in Israel. And you know, there’s going to be a thousand-year millennium where there is the reign of God through his servant David in Jerusalem. And so, that’s one of the big emphases of all dispensational teaching, up until you start getting things like modified or revised or progressive dispensationalism that teach that slightly differently.
But original dispensationalism, which still is kind of the main thing in the popular literature that’s produced, was very committed to what they called literal interpretation of Scripture. And so if you’re a covenant theologian and you say, well, actually the promise to David that his son would always sit on the throne of Jerusalem, is not ultimately a promise for the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem. It’s a promise of the eternal reign of Jesus Christ, and Jesus is, in fact, right now, reigning at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and he will come again in the new heavens and the new Earth to reign over the entire cosmos. Certainly, old-style dispensationalists would have said to you, “Oh, you’re spiritualizing. You’re not interpreting that literal prophecy, literally. You’re spiritualizing that literal prophecy and you’re turning it into something else.”
Our dispensational friends, especially in the classical form, were really, really good teachers and popularizers. And most of us that were exposed to that got the idea that the only way to interpret the Bible rightly was to take those Old Testament prophecies about Israel, quote-unquote, “literally.”But covenant theologians would say — and we know now more about this than we ever had before, because people have really worked, especially Protestants, have really worked in the last 50 years to study early Christianity, and we know that early Christians viewed Jesus as the fulfillment of those Old Testament prophecies and promises. And it’s not — you’re not spiritualizing away the literal. “Literal” can be a good word. It’s just an elastic word, right? I mean, do you want to interpret poetry literally? Well, I mean, depends on what you mean by that. So I think that’s the big reason, Phillip. I think that our dispensational friends, especially in the classical form, were really, really good teachers and popularizers. And most of us that were exposed to that, got the idea that the only way to interpret the Bible rightly was to take those Old Testament prophecies about Israel, quote-unquote, “literally.”
Holmes: That’s helpful. There have been some Presbyterians who are dispensationalists. I had a conversation with our media guy last night, and he was telling me, I have a set of [Donald] Barnhouse commentaries. Barnhouse — I think he was at Tenth [Presbyterian] for the time being, but he was a dispensationalist. Like, how does that work?
Dr. Duncan: Well, interestingly, Phillip, Mr. Henry Benchoff died. He was the presbytery evangelist for [unclear] Presbytery in the old Southern Presbyterian Church in upstate South Carolina. When he died, his widow, Rubye Benchoff, gave me his preaching robe. I was about to be ordained, and that was her gift to me. And I wore that preaching robe until it just wore threadbare early in my ministry.
And Henry was just like you were just describing. Henry was a dispensationalist. In fact, when liberals would come into the presbytery and say liberal things, he would turn to my daddy and he’d say, I’m just going to get my Scofield Reference Bible and go to the mission field. You know, because that was his way of protesting liberals in the presbytery. And for him, the Scofield Reference Bible was just the ultimate, you know, it was the ultimate plumb-line of orthodoxy, you know?
And I think part of that happened because most of the Presbyterian denominational seminaries in the 20th century did not have any faculty members that believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. And a lot of Presbyterians went to schools like Dallas, and other dispensational institutions where they believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, and where they believed in all the doctrines of the Apostles’ Creed and then in just sort of basic evangelical Christianity. And I think a lot of those folks brought back dispensationalism, not even realizing that they were bringing back something that was different from the Westminster Confession of Faith, because they might not have ever been taught the Westminster Confession of Faith in the context of their Presbyterian denominational setting.
I consistently hear students come out of that class saying, “Wow, covenant theology helped me see how the whole Bible fits together.”And so, yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, Dr. Boyce was influenced by that at Tenth [Presbyterian] as well. Now, he gradually became more and more, sort of, confessionally Reformed over the course of his life as he studied. In fact, the book that he was preaching on when he died was the book of Revelation. And if he had preached that when he was thirty-five years old, it would have been a very dispensationally influenced exposition of the book of Revelation. But even as he was preaching through the book of Revelation at the age of about 60, his views were being influenced more and more by Reformed teaching. So you’re certainly right that even in Presbyterianism, dispensationalism was very, very influential.
Holmes: Wow. So how does a proper understanding of covenant theology help Christians read the Scriptures better? What are some of the benefits of covenant theology?
Dr. Duncan: That’s so good. Well, the main thing that I see with my students — and you know, Phillip, you’ve studied in seminary and you’re here helping — seminarians come here and they care about the Bible. And most of these folks have been studying the Bible hard before they come here. But consistently, I hear students, when they come out of the covenant theology class — and by the way, not just the ones that I teach, but the ones that, you know, Blair Smith and Nick Reid, and, you know, we could go down the list, Scott Swain, and other guys all around the RTS system teach this course in covenant theology on the various campuses — I consistently hear students come out of that class saying, “Wow, covenant theology helped me see how the whole Bible fits together.”
When you study the covenants, you really see how closely connected the whole Bible is and how there is a single story. I mean, it’s not just sort of a library of books that have been jumbled together, but it actually fits.And I think that’s the thing that I hear people get most excited about. Because we all know, “Wow, this is a big book.” You know, it was written over a 1500-year period in three languages — with a little bit of a fourth language — by 40-plus authors in different places and cultures, and yet we sense that it all ties together. But boy, when you study the covenants, you really see how closely connected the whole Bible is and how there is a single story. I mean, it’s not just sort of a library of books that have been jumbled together, but it actually fits.
I also emphasize to people, you really can’t understand the meaning and significance of the death of Christ if you don’t understand covenant theology. Because the major teaching on the covenants that Jesus did, come in the context of him explaining the meaning and significance of his death in the Last Supper, and in the Passover and Lord’s Supper meals that are recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and then also in 1 Corinthians. And he says, “Understand that what I’m doing is the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy in Jeremiah 31, and it’s a fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 24.” And when you see that, it really dramatically sharpens your appreciation for what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
Covenant theology is also — I tell people, it’s all about assurance. And that goes all the way back to the covenant with Abraham. It’s very clear, especially in Genesis 15 and especially in Genesis 17, that God’s covenant is meant to assure Abraham that his promises will come to pass. All of us have to go through stuff in the Christian life, Phillip, where we go, “What are you doing?” You know, “This is not how I thought my life was going to go. I’m trying to be faithful to you. Why is this happening to me?” And we’re tempted to lose hope, and we can be really confused by our circumstances, and we all need assurance and hope. Well, covenant theology was invented for that. I mean, that’s exactly what God is doing in the Bible with the covenant is to say, “Hey, no matter what’s happening to you at any given time in your life, I want you to know this. I have sworn by my own life that I will keep my promises to you.”
You really can’t understand the meaning and significance of the death of Christ if you don’t understand covenant theology. Because the major teaching on the covenants that Jesus did, come in the context of him explaining the meaning and significance of his death in the Last Supper, and in the Passover and Lord’s Supper meals that are recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and then also in 1 Corinthians.And that’s a big deal for living the Christian life, just being able to believe that. So those are some of the things that I like to remind people, is that this isn’t just an egghead-y, Ph.D. kind of truth. It’s really practical. It helps you read your Bible better, helps you understand the meaning and significance of Christ’s death, it helps you get assurance in the Christian life. Those are just some of the ways that covenant theology helps.
Holmes: I think that’s excellent. I think that’s actually an excellent place to land the plane on. Dr. Duncan, before we exit. Do you have any other final thoughts related to covenant theology? As you have talked to people and engaged people, what are some of the concerns or questions that they’ve brought to you that you think might be really helpful for our audience?
Dr. Duncan: Well, I will say this: RTS has produced a plethora of resources that relate to covenant theology that are there for you. So, for instance, you can go right on the — you can download the RTS mobile app in any form. And not only can you listen to all of our courses, but you can listen to the covenant theology course for free, and it’s got lots of resources there.
You’ve already done interviews on Mind + Heart, Phillip, that would really help people in this area. You’ve recently done an interview with John Fesko, and John is a — that guy is a world-class student of covenant theology. And John has written — he’s got a recent book on Adam and the Covenant of Works. He’s got a book on [the] covenant of redemption and the doctrine of the Trinity. RTS produced a large volume that’s just called Covenant Theology that Crossway Books published, and it’s a big, honkin’, massive tome, but you could read it a chapter at a time, a week at a time, and learn a ton about covenant theology.
So we’ve deliberately tried to produce a lot of resources that would help people in the area of covenant theology. And so, I would just say if there’s somebody on the call, or listening to the podcast, who has never read much in covenant theology before, what you might want to do is, there’s a little book that Palmer Robertson wrote called Covenants: God’s Way with His People. And it was published by Great Commission Publications, which is the joint publishing house of the PCA and the OPC. And that little book — it’s short, it’s less than a hundred pages, it’s really easy to read — that will get you excited about the biblical doctrine of the covenants.
All of us have to go through stuff in the Christian life . . . where we go, “What are you doing?” You know, “This is not how I thought my life was going to go. I’m trying to be faithful to you. Why is this happening to me?” And we’re tempted to lose hope, and we can be really confused by our circumstances, and we all need assurance and hope. Well, covenant theology was invented for that.And then, once you’ve read that, you may want to get into some of these other books by — you know, Dick Belcher, our dean in Charlotte, wrote a book on covenant theology recently. John Fesko has written a book on covenant theology. Guy Waters has written on covenant theology. And just listen to those RTS lectures, and they’ll lead you to other resources. And look, I think if you’re a Sunday school teacher, it’ll help you teach Sunday school. If you’re a pastor, it’ll help you do a sermon series or a lesson series on covenant theology. If you’re a campus minister and you’re wanting to do a series on the biblical covenants, it’s good resources for you. For that, I love to get good resources in the hands of people.
Holmes: That’s good. That’s good. Dr. Duncan, thank you so much for joining us. It’s always a pleasure having you on.
Dr. Duncan: It was great to be with you, Phillip.
Holmes: Absolutely. And thank you for tuning in, and we hope you enjoyed this week’s episode featuring Dr. Ligon Duncan. I would also like to thank the RTS family, church partners, students, alumni, and donors for the many ways you made the work of Reformed Theological Seminary possible. The clip we listened to earlier is from our weekly video series, Wisdom Wednesday, where relevant matters of the Christian faith are addressed by RTS faculty and friends with truth, candor, and grace. Access our entire archive, or submit a question at rts.edu/wisdom-wednesday. Mind + Heart is powered by Reformed Theological Seminary, where we desire to raise up pastors and other church leaders with a mind for truth, and a heart for God.