Continuity and DiscontinuityThis is an ongoing review of Continuity and Discontinuity, edited by John S. Feinberg. Read the previous posts: Introduction, Systems, or Hermeneutics.

These chapters (6 and 7) are on The Biblical Method of Salvation from continuity and discontinuity standpoints. How was one saved in the Old Testament? Has this changed in the New Testament, and if so, how? Are there two ways of salvation? Does our experience  of salvation differ compared to Old Testament believers?

Continuity and Discontinuity
Chapter 6: Salvation – A Case for Continuity

Fred H. Klooster is given the task of explaining his view of overall continuity in the biblical method of salvation in the Old and New Testament.

He helpfully begins with the issue of whether dispensationalism teaches or ever taught multiple ways of salvation, and after looking at quotes from dispensationalists (including the old Scofield Bible) thankfully concludes that, “the old charge should be dropped (p133). This is fair and careful scholarship, as that mischaracterization is popular and even more popular to attack.

So with that stereotype out of the way, where does the issue lie? Klooster surveys quotes from Ryrie and Feinberg and suggests that Covenant Theologians’ disagreements with dispensationalists should not lie in the basis, requirement, or content of salvation over the two testaments. He does have some reservations about Feinberg’s statements that the “revealed content of salvation to be accepted” and “believer’s expression of his salvation” (p136) do change between the testaments, but even there he doesn’t pinpoint major differences.

With specific differences being difficult to pinpoint, Klooster decides to spend the rest of his chapter summarizing the major periods of salvation history from his Covenant Theology perspective so that differences can be revealed in the specifics

My thoughts

Klooster’s chapter was a very clear and concise summary of salvation history, but oddly enough I found so little that a dispensationalist would disagree with apart from a little re-wording here or there. The major differences were in issues not central to the topic, but still related, such as Klooster blurring the dispensational distinction between Israel and the church, and his statement that, “the ‘new’ and ‘better’ covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant now fulfilled in Jesus Christ…In the New Covenant God embraces believers and their children” (p158, emphasis mine). The idea of the New Covenant actually being the Abrahamic covenant renewed is of course a contentious issue and important to Covenant Theology, so I wish it were given more attention.

I was surprised that Klooster didn’t speak more on the specific promises of the New Covenant itself, and other issues such as infant baptism, unbelievers being members of the covenant, and the experience of the Holy Spirit, since these are crucial distinctions in Covenant Theology. I came to realize that neither of these chapters addressed the experience of salvation in the testaments, but more on this in a minute.

Chapter 7: Salvation – A Case for Discontinuity

Funnily enough, Allen P. Ross surveys much of the same introductory territory as Klooster, even going so far as quoting the Scofield Bible and the exact same sections from Ryrie and Feinberg!

Like Klooster, Ross also affirms “the continuity of the method of salvation between the Testaments…” (p164). The rest of Ross’ chapter is similar to Klooster, but from a topical approach. Ross establishes salvation by grace and through faith as being present in the OT, but finds a level of discontinuity in the amount of revelation until the coming of Christ, how one’s faith is expressed (ie. sacrifices, etc), and the work of the Holy Spirit.

My thoughts

Ross makes an odd statement that, “the OT does not speak so specifically about being saved, about conversion, or about regeneration” (p177). On one level, I think I know what he’s saying. However, I wish he had expanded a little, since the question of regeneration in the OT is an important one. Not only that, but the related issue of heart-circumcision is prominent in the OT.

Apart from Klooster’s Covenant Theology flavour, the majority of the conclusions here are virtually the same, so again we ask, where does the issue lie?

Conclusion

These chapters not only debunked the misunderstanding that dispensationalists believe in two ways of salvation but also made it abundantly clear that Dispensationalists and Covenant Theologians see eye-to-eye on the issue of how one is saved in the OT and NT. The level of agreement was encouraging but it made the chapters a little tedious due to the similarity. It was clear within the first few pages of both chapters that the authors agreed, so the remainder of their chapters felt slightly redundant.

However, there no doubt are differences in the systems. A broader topic than just the¬†method of salvation would have allowed for these differences to come the surface. If the topic included one’s experience of salvation in the Testaments, rather than only how one was saved in the Testaments, there would have been more of a discussion. For example, were OT saints indwelt by the Spirit? Did OT saints enter heaven upon death or an intermediate place (Abraham’s bosom)? Is the New Covenant community made up of regenerated believers and unbelievers, or only regenerated believers? Were OT sacrifices efficacious? What is the relationship between the New Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant, and are believers’ children included in the New Covenant, as in the Abrahamic Covenant? There are many related questions that touch on the continuity-discontinuity issue, but I think these chapters were too narrowly focused to see these differences.

Comments are encouraged! I’d love to hear any feedback or thoughts.

Next up The Law and the Testaments