What is Covenant Theology?

What is Covenant Theology?

What is Covenant Theology?

Most of the content on this topic will be coming from J. Ligon Duncan’s Covenant Theology lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary. They are completely free on iTunesU and also on RTS’ website and will be linked. A lot of what Dr. Duncan covered in his lectures comes from O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants, which I will also link below. These works are very thorough and are excellent assets for if you want to learn more, you can just consider this a primer on covenant theology. I will warn that Robertson’s book is very intellectual and I am not sure that I would recommend it to someone who is newer to reformed theology because it might be too much in the beginning while you’re trying to learn other stuff. That said, preparing for these posts has given me the opportunity to listen to Dr. Duncan’s lectures for the second time and I think that if you are newer to reformed theology, I would probably stick to the first section for the beginning and then move on to the more advanced content when you feel more comfortable.

Links: https://amzn.to/2GFSJV5, https://bit.ly/3hz5ON7, https://bit.ly/33HvAL8 

This will be covered from a paedobaptist perspective. This means that we (and most of historic reformed Christianity) practice infant baptism. We will cover the differences between credobaptist covenant theology and paedobaptist covenant theology. If you are in a reformed church and have questions, remember that you can and should also ask your pastor for their thoughts, as well. Theology Gals can be great for online fellowship and learning, but it’s no replacement for the church and you should always read things you see online alongside scripture so you can discern the truth.

What is it?

Dr. Ligon Duncan defined covenant theology as the gospel set in the context of God’s eternal plan of communion with his people and an outworking in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It is both a hermeneutic and a blending of biblical theology and systematic theology. It is also the Bible’s way of explaining several important themes:

  1. The atonement
  2. Assurance
  3. The sacraments
  4. The way of setting forth and explaining the continuity of redemptive history
  5. The dynamic of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility in living the Christian life (law and gospel)

Covenant theology is an important paradigm to use as we read scripture because it helps us see the Old Testament as a Christian book. Dr. JI Packer said in the intro to The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (written by Herman Witsius in 1990), “the gospel of God is not properly understood until it is viewed within a covenantal frame.” 

Link: https://bit.ly/2SyR0na 

Biblical Theology & Systematic Theology

Biblical theology reads forward through scripture and understands how God operates chronologically across time. Systematic theology looks at the entire Bible to see what it says about a given topic. Systematic theology also takes what the Bible says on one topic and relates it to other topics.

The way this works together is covenant theology involves:

  • Exegesis
  • Taking a biblical theological survey over how a topic is treated throughout the entire Bible
  • Taking a look at historical theology and how the church has historically treated the text
  • Summarizing a topic
  • Relating it to other scripture
  • And bringing it all together

History and Definition of Covenants:

Many people think that covenant theology developed as a response to dispensationalism, but it actually predates dispensationalism by almost 300 years. While it was codified by Ulrich Zwingli during the reformation, Irenaeus outlined covenant theology in a very similar way to the way Robertson does and used the concept of the covenant to argue against Gnosticism in book 4 of Against Heresies. O. Palmer Robertson’s definition of a covenant is almost identical to how Irenaeus describes it, “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.”

Link: https://bit.ly/3iMVt06

Monergism’s website explains covenant theology as:

“Covenant Theology organizes biblical revelation around three unified but distinct covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, between the persons of the Trinity in eternity past, in which the Father promises to give a people to the Son as his inheritance, and the Son undertakes to redeem them; the Covenant of Works, which God enjoined upon Adam in the Garden, solemnly promising him eternal life if he passed the probationary test in the Garden of Eden (also, many covenant theologians see the covenant given on Mount Sinai as being in some sense a republication of the Covenant of Works); and finally, the Covenant of Grace, which God first entered into with Adam immediately after the Fall, when he promised to send a Seed of the woman, who would defeat the tempting serpent (Gen. 3:15). In the Covenant of Grace, God promises a champion to fulfill the broken Covenant of Works as a federal representative of his people, and so to earn its blessings on their behalf. All the later covenants of the bible, such as those which God confirmed to Noah, Abraham, David, and the New Covenant which promises to fulfill these prior covenants in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are all organically connected, essentially being different administrations of the one eternal Covenant of Grace, which build upon each other and are all brought to completion in the New Covenant which Christ inaugurated with his shed blood.”

Link: https://bit.ly/34JKVdk

This is also a very helpful series in understanding covenant theology and baptism. 

Heidelcast Series: I Will Be A God To You And To Your Children

Theology Gals Episodes on Covenant Theology:

Covenant Theology with R. Scott Clark

Covenant Theology and the Church with R. Scott Clark

Evaluation of the Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology with Rob McKenzie

By: Theology Gals Contributor

The Chalcedonian Creed 

The Chalcedonian Creed 

The Chalcedonian Creed 

This creed is really important to help with understanding the error of Eternal Subordination of the Son. It is pronounced Cal-seh-don, not Chal-seh-don. 

History of the Creed:

The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted at the council of Chalcedon, which met to fight against Monophysitism (the belief that Jesus only had one nature)  in 451. Monophysitism became a theological issue because Eutyches, a presbyter/Bishop that was present at the council of Ephesus and who fought against Nestorianism (the belief that Jesus had two distinct natures that were joined by one will). Unfortunately, his passion against Nestorianism went so far that he went to the other extreme and taught that Jesus had one will and one divine nature.

There’s a few subsets within Monophysitism that have different nuances within the beliefs that I won’t be able to fully break down here, but I may try to revisit them later. There is a Trinitarian Glossary (http://bit.ly/tgtrinitygloss) with a brief overview of most of them. I do want to point out a couple of phrases in the Chalcedonian Creed that address specific heresies:

  • “Co-essential” is directed at Arianism
  • “Co-essential with us” is directed at Apollinarianism
  • “Two natures” refutes Eutychianism
  • “Without division, without separation” refutes Nestorianism

That said, it is important to recognize that Jesus had both a divine nature and a human nature and that each nature had its own will. I will also be discussing this a bit more in tomorrow’s post on the Athanasian Creed, but the CARM link below thoroughly outlines where we can support Jesus having both a human and divine nature through scripture.

Controversies Regarding the Creed:

The Chalcedonian Creed was not as readily accepted as the other creeds I’ve talked about. The Coptic Church dissented on the decision because they held more closely to a oneness view. The Oriental Orthodox Church also did not agree because they didn’t see the creed as being against Nestorianism enough. Churches that rejected the Chalcedonian creed formally separated from the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well. This schism resulted in a mass persecution of Coptic Christians by Eastern Orthodox Christians. This was sadly the first time in Christian history where Christians persecuted other Christians. 

Reformed Liturgical Use and Confessional References:l

The creed is affirmed currently by Anglican churches and Dutch Reformed churches, but not as widely proliferated as other creeds. I think it’s largely put on the back burner in favor of the Athanasian Creed, which we will be discussing tomorrow.

Resources to Learn More:


Nicene Creed

Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed

Creed comes from a Latin word, credo, which means “I believe,” so creeds are a statement of belief, particularly about Christianity. These are things that the church has historically taught through the entirety of its existence to distinguish what makes Christianity different from other religions.

History of the Creed:

The Nicene Creed is the most thoroughly documented creed that I am addressing. It was originally adopted by the Council of Nicea (the first ecumenical council) in 325 AD to resolve the Arian controversy, which denied the divinity of Jesus. I’ll be addressing Arianism and other trinitarian heresies in December.

The creed was modified at the second ecumenical council (the council of Constantinople) in 381 to include the section on the Holy Spirit and affirm his divinity, in addition to Jesus’. The third ecumenical council (the council of Ephesus) affirmed the 325 version of the creed as a defense against Nestorianism in 431. The earliest written copy we have is from the council of Chalcedon in 451.

It is currently the only authoritative ecumenical statement accepted by Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Persian church, and most of Protestantism, including the Anglican communion. 

Controversies Regarding the Creed:

The third ecumenical council affirmed the 325 version of the creed and explicitly banned the creation of any other creed or changing the Nicene creed. This ended up setting the stage for the Filioque controversy. Filioque is a Latin word meaning “from the Son.” That phrase was not originally in the 325 creed and was added in the 6th century by some Latin speaking churches in Spain. 

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not say that clause because they argue that it violates Canon VII from the council of Ephesus banning changing the creed. The Filioque was formally adopted by Roman Catholicism in 1014, but this caused such a great conflict within Eastern Orthodoxy that the churches severed ties in 1054, known as the Great Schism. While there were other factors contributing to the Great Schism, it seems that the filioque is such a big component that it still proves as an obstacle to reunification efforts. 

Reformed Liturgical Use and Confessional References:

The creed is mostly said before the Lord’s Supper and is also said as a confession of faith on major Sundays in the church calendar.

Resources to Learn More:


Apostles’ Creed

Apostles’ Creed

by a Theology Gals contributor 

Most of the information on the creeds is coming from the fourth edition of A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker and edited by Richard Norris, David Lotz, and Robert Handy. You can get it on Amazon (http://bit.ly/willistonhistory). It is fantastic for lay people in the church and written very clearly. It also starts with a little bit of pre Christian history to set the scene for how Greco Roman philosophy influenced Christian heresies, which I really appreciate. 

Every use of the word catholic for this series will mean “universal,” unless specified as Roman Catholic. 

History of the Creed:

The Apostles’ Creed was among the earliest formal confessional statements that the church universally held (although it wasn’t completely universally used, as I’ll explain in a bit). The affirmations it outlined are what we consider core doctrines of the church.

The earliest known mention of the expression “Apostles’ Creed” is in a letter from a Synod of Milan in 390. According to Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, the twelve apostles got together and each contributed to one article of the creed. This was widely circulated in the Latin speaking parts of the church, but we have no evidence as to whether or not that’s actually true, I just think it’s an interesting idea. (http://bit.ly/rogerscreeds

A simpler form of the creed (known as the Roman Symbol) did exist in 180 AD and many similar statements can be found in the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Novatian, Ambrose, Augustine, Nicetas, and Jerome (some of the early church fathers, 3 on this list we will cover this month). The earliest fully written copy came from De Singulis Libris Canonicis Scarapus (“Excerpt From Individual Canonical Books” in Latin) by St. Pirminius and the creed likely came out of France or Spain and then shared throughout Rome some time after 450 AD. The creed as we know it was most likely completed some time between 710 and 714. 

Controversies Regarding the Creed:

The biggest controversies were debates over the trinity (which I will also cover more over the next 3 days), over the apostolic authorship, and on the line “descended into hell.” I personally don’t believe there is enough evidence to the apostolic authorship beyond a second or third generation Christian quoting scripture. According to A. A. Hodges, the reformers had their doubts on this too:

“This Creed was appended to the Shorter Catechism, together with the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments, in the first edition published by order of Parliament, “not as though it were composed by the apostles, or ought to be esteemed canonical Scripture, . . . but because it is a brief sum of Christian faith, agreeable to the Word of God, and anciently received in the churches of Christ.” It was retained by the framers of our Constitution as part of the Catechism.”

Link: http://bit.ly/hodgesapostles 

The phrase “descended into hell” (or “to the dead”) was present in one of the versions in 390, but did not appear in any other version until 650 AD. Because of that, some churches today still don’t say it. That said, the text seems to be quoting Ephesians 4:9-10:

“(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth*? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

* [an alternate translation for that phrase is “the lower regions of the earth”]

Reformed Liturgical Use and Confessional References:

The creed is affirmed by parents when an infant is baptized at Presbyterian, continental reformed, Anglican/Episcopal, and Lutheran churches. It is also affirmed at many reformed churches across denominations when congregants take their membership vows as new members. Some churches recite it before communion, as well. It is also part of the daily readings in the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican) for both the morning and the evening.

The Heidelberg Catechism exegetes the creed from questions 23 to 65. Calvin’s Institutes was also formatted to match the Apostles Creed, with Book I being on God the Creator (Father), Book II on God the Redeemer (Christ), Book III on the mode of obtaining grace (through the Holy Spirit), and Book IV on the means of grace (through the holy catholic church). The Belgic, Westminster, Savoy Declaration, and 1689 London Baptist Confession all follow a similar formatting. Along with, the Second Helvetic Confession, which also notably affirms the Apostles Creed in Ch 3 saying that it “delivers us true faith.”

Resources to Learn More:


Parenting Teenagers

Parenting Teenagers

On this week’s episode we talk about parenting teenagers. This episode is not just for parents of teenagers, it’s for all parents. 

Episode Resourses:

Children are People Too by Rachel Miller

Understanding the Teen Brain

Brain Development: Teenagers 

Raising Covenant Children Without Presumption or Skepticism by Rachel Miller

One Reason Teens Respond Differently to the World: Immature Brain Circuitry by Sarah Spinks

Theology Gals Books-Catechism, Sermon Notebooks, Bible Reading Journals

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Theology Gals Books-Catechism, Sermon Notebooks, Bible Reading Journals


Sermon Notes Notebooks 

Sermon Notes This 52-week Sermon Notebook provides you with two pages for note taking each week: a weekly sermon outline page with sections to record the sermon passage, speaker, date, keywords, and prayer requests and lined notepaper for additional notes.

Sermon Notes for Children The Older Children’s Sermon Notebook for Kids has fun and engaging journal pages designed to help your children focus and remember key details. Also included are pages for addtional note taking. Perfect for older children as they learn to take notes.

Sermon Notes for Young Children The Younger Children’s Sermon Notebook for Kids has fun and engaging journal pages designed to help your children focus and remember key details. Also included are pages for coloring or drawing. Perfect for children as they learn to read and write.

Memory Work Journals (also available in Kindle) 

Memory Work Journal Volume 1 The Memory Work Journal Volume 3 includes the Heidelberg Catechism, the Nicene Creed, and a selection of Bible verses and passages.

Memory Work Journal Volume 2 The Memory Work Journal Volume 2 includes the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, and a selection of Bible verses and passages.

Memory Work Journal Volume 3 The Memory Work Journal Volume 3 includes the Heidelberg Catechism, the Nicene Creed, and a selection of Bible verses and passages.

Bible Reading and Prayer Journals 

Bible Study Journal This BIble reading plan alternates between Old Testament and New Testament books completing one book at a time. On the weekends, you’ll read from the Psalms on Saturdays and a chapter from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or Song of Songs on Sundays. This plan allows you to get the feel for the flow of each book while also providing time to focus on smaller portions of the Wisdom Literature. The Bible in a Year journal alternates weekly Bible reading assignments with journal pages. The journal pages can be used to copy down verses or passages to refer back to or to take notes about what you’ve read.

Bible Study and Prayer Journal Bible reading and prayer are two of the ordinary means of grace that God uses to build us up in Christ. A Bible Study and Prayer Journal gives you a place to record your weekly prayers and Bible reading. Journal pages are provided for you to take notes, to write out memory verses, or to keep track of questions for further study. Prayer list pages alternate with the journal pages.