Review: Christ and Covenant Theology

35847115Cornelis P. Venema is President and Professor of Doctrinal Studies at Mid-American Reformed Seminary. Venema has a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary and is the author of several books, such as The Promise of the Future (Banner of Truth, 2000) and Getting the Gospel Right: An Assessment of the Reformation and ‘New Perspectives’ on Paul (Banner of Truth, 2006). He is also a co-editor and frequent contributor to The Outlook and the Mid-American Journal of Theology. Most recent, Venema has assembled together a number of useful essays summarizing and defending various aspects of Covenant Theology.

Christ and Covenant Theology: Essays on Election, Republication, and the Covenants is divided into three parts: (1) the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, (2) covenant and election, and (3) covenant theology in recent discussions. Part one offers an introduction to the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, as Venema argues alongside Westminster Confession of Faith and distinguishes between a pre-fall and post-fall covenant. For Venema, the distinction between these two covenants is vital to understanding God’s redemptive purpose in the person and work of Christ. Part two focuses more narrowly on the topic of election within the realm of covenant. More specifically, as election and covenant relate to the children of believers. Part three seeks to address the contemporary discussions concerning justification and election more broadly within the arena of covenant. Most of Venema’s interaction is with the “Federal Vision” folks, although he does provide a fascinating essay examining N. T. Wright’s interpretation of Romans 5:12-21 as it relates to covenant and justification.

Christ and Covenant Theology is a classic treasure trove of Reformed riches. Those familiar with Venema will appreciate his keen ability to evaluate and examine contemporary issues in view of the confessional Reformed tradition. Venema is both judicious and accessible, though a working understanding of the Reformed confessional tradition is assumed. Still, while readers will likely gravitate towards one of the three parts, it’s interesting to see how Venema naturally allows the whole to hang together. This demonstrates the functional consistency of Venema’s theological conviction and displays his deep familiarity with the Reformed tradition. There will be inevitable disagreement that arises for those in opposition to Reformed theology as articulated by the Westminster Confession of Faith. Nonetheless, most readers approaching this book should have a firm understanding of such differences prior to opening the initial pages. Additionally, it should be noted that most will agree that Venema provides some of the best, most reflective and persuasive material on the various topics intersecting with Covenant Theology.

Thus, agree with him or not, Christ and Covenant Theology: Essays on Election, Republication, and the Covenants by Cornelis P. Venema is nothing short of a must-read resource! It is a collection of essays that cannot be ignored.

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