Covenants Made Simple - Buy it

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My good friend and colleague  Jonty Rhodes has just been published in the US 'Covenants made simple - Understanding God's unfolding promises to his people'. It's an excellent introduction to Covenant Theology, readable, brief. I've given loads of copies away and wish the book was better known in the UK. It was published by IVP last year as 'Raiding the Lost Ark' and the cover was designed by an 8 year old and so it's not particularly appealing  (Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast have it heavily discounted £6.50 free postage in the UK). However P&R have snapped it up and so Jonty is hitting the American market.

I'd thought I'd ask Jonty some questions about the book.

1. Why write a book on Covenant Theology and where did the idea for writing it come about?

I  taught a course on covenant at church a few years ago, and struggled to find something to give to people as a 'read along'.  In particular I wanted something simple enough for a newcomer, but that moved from biblical theology to systematic.  I think  conservative evangelicals (in the UK at least) can often give a reasonable overview of the Bible's story, and have a decent grip of key doctrines: justification, penal substitution, and so on.  But the latter are largely based on isolated proof texts, with no real idea how they grow out of the story. The book is really an attempt to re-introduce people to classic Reformed covenant theology which does just that, largely due to it's focus on Christ and our union with him.  In his introduction to Witsius,  J.I. Packer says that the gospel, the Bible and the 'reality of God' aren't properly understood until they're viewed in a covenantal frame. That's provocative, but helpful I think.

2. People in the UK are somewhat ludicrously afraid of Covenant Theology why do you think that is? and how does your book aim to help them? 

Interesting question, you'd probably have to ask a historian why Covenant Theology disappeared from so much of evangelicalism in the UK when it's such huge part of our heritage. In England  (I wouldn't dare speak for the rest of the UK) very few men in ministry will have been taught classic Reformed theology at bible college - even the conservative evangelicals. So it's never going to make it into churches when the ministers largely haven't heard of it.

Growing out of that, I suspect some of the more recent fears are driven by the belief that anyone talking about covenant must be an undercover agent for the wacko end of the Federal Vision 'movement'.  We might not know exactly what FV is, but we know it's bad and definitely uses the word 'covenant', so play safe and never mind that the baby is disappearing out the window still splashing in his bathwater. One of the aims of the book is to present mainstream, vanilla historic covenant theology: I'm a presbyterian so subscribe to the WCF, but acknowledge along the way where a Reformed Baptist, for example, might want to tweak things. 

3. In writing it who did you find the most helpful on Covenant?

I definitely need to acknowledge a debt to Garry Williams at the John Owen Centre - I'm basically looking to cash in on his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Reformed tradition and remarkable reluctance to exploit it for his own financial gain. In terms of writers, I guess most Ref21 readers will know where to go: the classics are classics for a reason.  If you're looking for a short intro to the Puritans on various covenant related issues, then the chapters in Beeke and Jones 'A Puritan Theology' are excellent.  That will point you on to plenty of further material.   And certainly in terms of more modern writers then you'd want to get up to speed with Horton and Palmer Robertson.  One good little intro that I suspect is lesser known in the States is 'The Book of the Covenant' by Nick Howard.

4. Is it true that you're hoping to write a whole load of books called made simple?

Absolutely.  'Infralapsarianism Made Simple',  'Welsh Calvinistic Methodism Made Simple' and  'Post-Trueman 80,000 Word Ref21 Blog Posts Made Simple' will all be out in the new year. 

5. Do you feel coming through the Iwerne camps system has led to massive insecurities for you in loads of areas of life?


6. Obviously you're trying to break the American market and get on the scene what would you say your chances of getting a seminar slot at T4G are looking like?

Yeah, this is the big one, and the reason many of us got into ministry in the first place.  I've got the classic English accent, a boarding school education and a great anecdote about teaching Latin to a couple of minor Royals.  If that's not enough I don't know what is.  Though in all honesty, I do fear Simon Gathercole's cornered the market.

Posted December 11, 2014 @ 7:38 AM by Paul Levy

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