One Greater Than Moses
One Greater Than Moses
author Heather A. Kendall
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- A history of New Covenant Theology (NCT)
- Explains how the Old and New Testaments fit together with Christ at the center of the Biblical storyline
Paperback – 196 pages (July 15, 2016) 5.5” x 8.5”
Quoir; ISBN: 978-1938480164
Many believers consider New Covenant Theology (NCT) a new phenomenon or even a passing fancy. Because so many do not know the modern development of this movement, I want to leave a written record for posterity. All humans, including believers, tend to cling to the familiar. In addition, we tend toward ignorance of our own history and the history of our beliefs.
Therefore I admire those men in the mid to late 1900s who, in an effort to remain faithful to the Scriptures, questioned the belief in an overarching covenant of grace as expressed by covenant theologians. The significance of these men breaking with tradition should not escape our notice as it involved a slow step by step process. Breaking with tradition was not instantaneous.
New Covenant Theology explains how the Old and New Testaments fit together—the big picture in the Bible. New covenant theologians believe in a Christ-centered storyline and the unity of the Scriptures. They believe the Bible to be one long upward progressive storyline from the fall of man to the consummation in the new heavens and new earth. Thus the Old Testament points to the Lord Jesus through preparation for his birth, direct prophecy, pictures or types, and anticipation. In the New Testament, God the Father declares, “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9:35).
Today believers live in the day of grace, not under the legalism of Judaism. While Old Testament prophets waited expectantly for Christ, non-believing Jews persecuted them. Once Jesus died and rose again, Judaism became obsolete. The book of Hebrews teaches that the temporary old covenant has been replaced by the everlasting new covenant founded on the blood of Jesus, the sinless Son of God. This means that Christ has more authority than Moses. In the course of my research, I found nuggets of this truth throughout church history. This book is an account of what I have found.
- F. Zaspel
- S. Kastler
- D. White
- P. Kaiser
- B. Kurvits
Book Reviews for One Greater Than Moses
Someone had to do it. Some record of the rise of “New Covenant Theology” in the last generation needed to be written, and now Heather Kendall has done it for us. An interesting account of the origins, the leading issues, the major players, and the progress of relationships and discussion that brought about this important perspective on the Scriptures, by whatever name it may be called.
It’s not a new version of covenant theology, as some have mistaken the label, but a perspective on redemptive history in which the new covenant is given a more dominant role. The new formulation of this thinking sparked no small stir among Reformed Baptists in the later 20th century, and there are now varieties of “NCT” to be heard. But the splash that was made had what can now safely be described as a lasting impact, and we’re glad that Heather Kendall has caught so much of this history for us.
There is no other book – that I am aware of, at least – that attempts to do what Kendall has done for us here. If you want to know the history of NCT, this book is “must read.”
Fred G. Zaspel, Executive Editor, Books At a Glance
5.0 out of 5 stars: Excellent History of NCT; Informative & Well Written
In One Greater Than Moses: A History of New Covenant Theology, Heather Kendall examines the early events that led to the rising of what is now called, “New Covenant Theology.” For those unaware of what New Covenant Theology (NCT) is; this book will provide some much needed information. While both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism are very popular theological systems among Christians in the church, seminaries, and laity; New Covenant Theology has only recently begun gaining ground. NCT is a theological system that seeks to make the text of Scripture the basis for how we understand Old and New Testament continuity and discontinuity. John Reisinger, one of the early leaders of NCT has stated that “Dispensationalism can't seem to get Israel and the Church together, and Covenant Theology can't seem to get Israel and the Church apart.” NCT seeks both, by recognizing the distinction between Old Covenant Israel as a typological picture of the church, and the New Testament church as the fulfillment of Old Covenant Israel, made up of both Jews and Gentiles. NCT also, as opposed to Covenant Theology, seeks to recognize the clear distinction made between the Old and New Covenants and the subsequent “Law” that was in effect under each covenant. NCT would find no scriptural basis for infant-baptism, given there is no Biblical warrant for the practice. Therefore, NCT is distinct from both Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology in it's foundational beliefs and it's resulting practices. In NCT, the Old Testament is valued as the true “word of God” but it is rightly understood through the hermeneutical lens of the New Testament scriptures. Likewise, the Law of Moses has been fulfilled and replaced by the “Law of Christ.” Therefore, believers are to look to Jesus and His Apostles' teachings in the New Testament scriptures as the ethical standard by which they live. This clashes with the Covenant Theology idea of the “Ten Commandmants” of Moses as the unchanging “moral law” that binds all believers in all time frames. NCT rejects this, since it divides the Law of Moses into sections, in a way that Scripture never does. As for the history of NCT....
Kendall does an excellent job of reporting about how a handful of “Reformed” Baptists began questioning some of the theological positions so prevalent at the time. Men such as Jon Zens (who wrote the forward), Ron McKinney (who wrote one of the recommendations), Gary D. Long; and perhaps most prominently John Reisinger wanted to reason with their Calvinistic brethren about the fulfillment of the Law of Moses and what it meant for a New Covenant believer. Yet many times, this desire for debate was squelched by silence and the frequent accusations of “Antinomianism” (against Law) that would be levied at these men. Some opponents of NCT have declared that since it is “New” it must be wrong. But Kendall does a good job of showing the historical trace of what we today might call NCT, in some of the early church fathers. And even more importantly, we see the teaching clearly evident in the New Testament itself.
This is one of the strongest aspects so the book, for Kendall devotes two full chapters, plus an appendix to showing that NCT-type beliefs have existed from the beginning of the New Testament church. She uses ample quotations from primary sources, as well as pertinent commentary on these sources to paint the historically accurate picture of NCT-like beliefs always existing, though at times as a mere remnant among the more prevalent systems.
Kendall then goes on to trace NCT's trajectory in the 20th century and up to the present day. Some of the early articles by Jon Zens, began to “rock the boat” of how the Old Covenant Law was to be applied ( or not applied) in the New Covenant era. In the early 1980's Ron McKinney, who was then editor of the "The Sword & Trowel” magazine, along with Reisinger and others, decided to host a “Council on Biblcal Theology” in Dallas, TX. A total of three conferences were held in 1981-1983 to address issues pertaining to NCT. What this did was strengthen the resolve of some who held to NCT, while also strengthening the opposition to many who did not. Eventually The Sword & Trowel suffered a major withdrawal of subscribers. But, in spite of this, the NCT movement continued.
Another major spoke in the NCT wheel was Gary D. Long, who devoted a great amount of study time to examining the 1646 and 1689 London Baptist Confessions. While the 1689 is much more popular, having a Covenant Theology thrust to it, the 1646 is actually much more “Baptistic” and Biblical in nature when examined as a whole. The 1646 document makes many NCT-type statements in such a way, that it is clearly preferable as a doctrinal statement to the 1689. At least for those who hold to NCT. Long republished the 1646 confessional and has done a stellar job of promoting it's use and existence among like-minded brethren.
Kendall then expounds on NCT's influence in greater North America, by many adherents in Canada; as well as the world over. She also cites modern examples of growth within the movement, as young, seminary trained preachers continue to come out of the seminaries with either a NCT perspective, or at the least, views which are NCT-leaning or at least open to NCT. While in the past some church leaders have violently opposed it by declaring “we have the confessions.” Today's seminary graduate is perhaps more likely to say in response, “What saith the Scriptures?” And this has been NCT's goal all along. Not to create a “movement” but to drive Christians back to the text of Scripture as the basis for their beliefs.
Of course, NCT had it's opponents in the past and still does today. But it has gained steam as a modern theological movement. What's more, it is a movement grounded in the Scriptures, rightly divided, as opposed to being grounded in the powerful personalities that sometimes overshadow theological movements. Today, men such as Blake White, Doug Goodin, Geoff Volker, Zach Maxcey, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, and numerous others continue to write books and articles from an NCT perspective. Likewise, the seminaries have a certain amount of academic influence from NCT-leaning scholars like Tom Schreiner, D. A. Carson, Stephen Wellum, and Peter Gentry. Wellum and Gentry's recent book Kingdom Through Covenant was an excellent accomplishment as it gave NCT a legitimate voice in the academic community. Other books, such as Jason D. Meyer's The End of the Law, have followed suit. In addition to this, David Sitton's “To Every Tribe” ministry has been used of God to promote NCT in the missions world as well.
In conclusion, Heather Kendall has written an excellent “first history” of the NCT movement; and she does a fantastic job of tracing the history of the theology itself back to Scripture; as well as the modern movement and the men who shaped it. Today, NCT is not a completely united movement. There is a variety of streams and differences on some doctrinal issues. But the major core beliefs remain intact. The goal of the movement has always been to drive all Christians back to the Bible itself and allow all “systems” to be subservient to the Word. While much remains to be seen about the future of NCT, Kendall has given us a much better understanding and picture of it's past.
Shane Kastler, Amazon.com Paperback Verified Purchase
4.0 out of 5 stars: Heather has done excellent work here and is to be commended ...
Unfortunately, there is a glaring error, which the author needs to address. In the section on Facebook, the account of, and the reasons given for, the departure of some from the New Covenant Grace Facebook group are not as she presents. It is to be regretted that Heather did not research this well and seems to have listened to the biased view of those who left. Sadly, she did not see fit to ask any of the Administrators of the New Covenant Grace group for their story. In truth, the group very solidly espouses the doctrine of Scripture as a vital and necessary focus of faith, and comments from members deviating from this are corrected. It is untrue that we believe that the law is 'written on the heart without Scripture' - this calumny has been perpetuated, despite protestation, denial and positive stayement issued many times, by those who seemed determined to misrepresent. The point of division was over what was to be understood by Paul's one-off use of the phrase 'the law of Christ' in Galatians 6 vs 2 - an exegetical difference which the leavers felt they could not tolerate.
However, Heather has done excellent work here and is to be commended for producing a valuable aid to the proper understanding of the Biblical truths championed by new covenant theology.
David White, Administrator for New Covenant Grace Facebook group, Amazon.com Kindle Edition
Reply to Administrators of New Covenant Grace (long post):
The administrators of the New Covenant Grace (NCG) wish me to retract my statements on page 170 of my book, One Greater Than Moses. They claim that I have been misleading and inaccurate with respect to this group.
In 2009 some NCT pastors began to contemplate the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a NT believer. They wanted to understand the prophecy in Jeremiah 31 that God would write his law in the heart of believers. In January 2012 the Earth Stove Society published a book online, The 4th Stream: Introducing the 4th Stream within New Covenant Theology: A Minority Opinion by Chad Bresson, Edwin W. Trefzger III and a special word from Murray McLellan. I detail what they teach in the sections “Picture-Fulfillment New Covenant Theology” and “The Modern Grace Movement.”
In your Facebook post to me on September 19 you list five points. Number four reads: “We did not agree with their insistence that it [the law of Christ] be seen as a codified set of commands or instructions within Scripture, or that the New Testament teaches anywhere that believers are “under law”. Rather, we are “under grace”, so that the nature of the life of faith is by walking in the Spirit rather than obedience to commandments even though the walk does lead to heart-lived obedience.”
The Holy Spirit’s job is to point sinners to Christ. Does he not do this through the Words of Scripture? As soon as we become God’s children, does the Holy Spirit not use the Words of Scripture to teach us how to be more like Jesus? Does he not use the very Words and actions of King Jesus to tell us how to behave? Jesus’ commandments are very real and authoritative, for example in the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus gives us specific instructions to guide us. Thus the Holy Spirit teaches believers through the Word. The result is that God’s Words become internalized in a believer’s heart.
You objected to a paragraph on page 170 of my book. Please note that I never wrote why Discover New Covenant Theology was founded. I only wrote that some people left NCG to join that other Facebook Group. I explained that they left because many of the posts stated that the Holy Spirit writes the law of Christ directly on the heart without using Scripture. If I had written that the purpose of NCG was to teach the “picture-fulfillment” view of the law of Christ, I should have warned the moderators and acknowledged their opinions. But I did not. I said that many members are teaching those views. I finished the paragraph with my own opinion. I reached that conclusion from reading those posts in NCG and from the original teaching of the picture-fulfillment pastors. The logical conclusion of picture-fulfillment teaching is that "the Holy Spirit reveals truth for believers internally, not externally through the Bible.” I see no reason to retract what I have written in One Greater Than Moses.
5.0 out of 5 stars: A MUST READ for all New Covenant Theologians!
A wonderful read for those of us who "weren't there when it happened". The Author has left no stone left unturned except for mention of the "New Kid on the Block" David H.J. Gay.
This book fills in the "gaps" so to speak. Giving a good treatment on how NCT came to the table among the Theological Systems.
There are few books that I have read in the course of 72 hours but this has made the list!
I would encourage any and all to read, both those for and against NCT.
One of the highlights was the small history of the development of what is known as "Picture-Fulfillment/4th Stream" and it's errors.
The additional highlight was being vindicated and proud to call myself a "New Covenant Sovereign Grace Particular Baptist"...
Christ is ALL!!!
P. Kaiser, Amazon.com Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many books have been written in recent years on New Covenant Theology (NCT). The movement seeks a better way which is neither Covenant Theology nor Dispensationalism. It has been a controversial development, so Kendall’s book serves us well in recording NCT’s sometimes emotionally-painful progress.
Kendall not only reveals the American roots of NCT but also its development and impact in Canada. But she begins by taking us back to before and after the great Reformation to show how the teaching about the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ and the new covenant prevailed on earlier Christian thinkers as well.
I felt as though I were reading the history of a modern reformation. I believe the church’s theological yardsticks have been advanced through NCT. Kendall has captured well its history, including its birth pangs in its modern form.
Benno Kurvits, Barnabas, Winter/Spring 2017
Endorsements for One Greater Than Moses
I’ll never forget my meeting with three brothers in Little Rock, Arkansas, on a Monday in February, 1977. I had spoken in an assembly over the weekend, and they wanted to have a time with me before I drove back to Nashville, Tennessee. They had specific things they wanted to go over with me, and one of them came in the form of a question: “Have you read The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin?” I told them Walt Hibbard pushed that volume on me when his book venture was operating out of his garage in Maryland, but I had not read it yet. They strongly encouraged me to read it.
In June, 1977, I finally read Reformers and it changed my world forever. It put the disconnected pieces of information in my head together in a way that was unbelievably liberating, and my focus on Christ was clarified and accelerated.
It was just months later that I felt compelled to write about the issues raised in Reformers, and other related concerns. As a result, “Is There A ‘Covenant of Grace’?” appeared in the Autumn, 1977, issue of Baptist Reformation Review.
This article caused quite a stir, and John Reisinger called it “the first shot fired in twenty years” at a gathering in Dalton, Georgia. Thus began a journey of many to develop, discuss, and unpack the implications of the centrality of Christ in the New Covenant.
Heather Kendall has accomplished a great service to the body of Christ by compiling her historical study of the blossoming of “New Covenant Theology” at the end of the 20th Century. She has painstakingly researched the subject and pieced together a fair, balanced and engaging presentation of an important segment of history.
I know you will be uplifted and challenged by Heather’s contemporary history of how Christ’s pre-eminence came to the fore once again, and her drawing together of quotations from the past showing that the finality of the New Covenant was recognized by many others. One Greater than Moses is an important contribution to the ongoing work of Christ on earth.
Jon Zens, author of “‘This Is My Beloved Son, Hear Him’: The Foundation for New Covenant Ethics and Ecclesiology,” and editor of Searching Together since 1978.
Heather Kendall has meticulously researched the inner workings and writings of those who have labored over the past four decades to help provide a more accurate way to interpret the Holy Scriptures. This well documented, readable primer provides a wealth of background information for all those who are coming to understand that New Covenant Theology is all about God’s beloved Son. Its clarion message is as old as the sacred New Testament Scriptures. The one greater than Moses is here: His name is Jesus. “Listen to Him!”
Gary D. Long, Th.D. Faculty President, Providence Theological Seminary, Franklin, Tennessee
With these words: "Many believers consider New Covenant Theology (NCT) a new phenomenon or even a passing fancy. Because so many do not know the modern development of this movement, I want to leave a written record for posterity. All humans, including believers, tend to cling to the familiar. In addition, we tend toward ignorance of our own history and the history of our beliefs."
Writing as an author, Heather Kendall, offers a fundamental background of the early stages of the New Covenant Theology movement in the mid-1900's. She has traced the emphasis on the New Covenant as far back as the early Church Fathers. But her primary work has been on the modern roots and development of the New Covenant Theology in the United States. Kendall's research is remarkable in setting forth the early participants and why they were motivated to challenge traditions in light of 'Sola Scriptura.'
I wrote in 1980 concerning the reason for meeting at the Council on Baptist Theology: "It is convened because we cannot ignore certain urgent issues raised concerning the law and covenants, the relationship between the two testaments, and the standard of ethics. The present crisis calls for immediate action." Kendall has given a concise, balanced and candid history of the history of New Covenant Theology. May you find this work encouraging and engaging to the point of focusing on "Christ," the mediator of the New Covenant.
Ronald W. McKinney, Pastor, Kinsey Drive Baptist Church, Dalton, Georgia
As a Christian historian who is also committed to what has been termed Evangelical Calvinism, I have been fascinated by the clear revival of these biblical truths in the West in the past fifty years or so. This revival, like all such times of renewal, has taken different patterns and shapes. In this extremely helpful narrative, Heather Kendall has recounted the story of one of these patterns, that which has come to be known as New Covenant Theology. The time for recounting this story is surely now, when nearly all of the pioneers of this perspective on the doctrines of grace are still living—though "pioneers" may not be the best word as this theological position has especially tapped into the canonical riches found in the book of Hebrews. Kendall is to be heartily commended for the challenge of writing current history (always difficult as any historian knows) and providing future generations with a clear account of the genesis of this theological pattern. Anyone seriously interested in Reformed theology will be fascinated by this theological story, in which, amazingly Canadians play a leading role!
Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of church history and biblical spirituality, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
Heather Kendall has produced a work that is long overdue and longed for by many that have concerns about the veracity and historicity of NCT. Her careful combing through Church history by interring remnant gems lodged in the writings of many of the early Fathers and Protestant Reformers has lent credence to the more recent exegesis by Christotelic thinkers who birthed this finer hermeneutical approach. Her research has demonstrated to the skeptics of NCT that its teachings are not as novel as they surmised, not as errant as theologians have supposed and not as antinomian as critics have assumed.
Gary George, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Chapel, Southbridge, Massachusetts
I found my mind being stretched and my heart stirred as I read Heather Kendall’s One Greater Than Moses: A History of New Covenant Theology. Her explanations of a Christ-centered approach to the Bible’s storyline helps clarify many issues arising in the thinking of any serious Bible reader. And, her well-documented recounting of God’s providence in raising up the New Covenant Theology movement draws in the reader with engaging stories of real people as they wrestled with their own understanding and sometimes with one another in an attempt to be faithful to God’s precious Word.
Dr. Larry E. McCall, Pastor, Christ’s Covenant Church, Winona Lake, Indiana, Director of Walking Like Jesus Ministries
Who could have foreseen the influence New Covenant Theology (by whatever name) would come to have in this last generation? It's a story that needed to be told, and all sides of the discussion are indebted to Heather Kendall for telling it for us.
Fred G. Zaspel, Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church, Franconia, Pennsylvania, Executive Editor, Books At a Glance, Adjunct Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Thanks so much again for the great work you have done to write this history of New Covenant Theology, One Greater Than Moses. It fills in so many “blanks” for me in this movement, which I have been observing and been a very small part of since the early 1980’s, when I was under Joe Kelley’s preaching at Killeen Bible Church (1980-85) in Killeen, TX, while on active duty there.
Brian L Thom, Elder, Killeen Bible Church, Texas
I have just finished your book One Greater than Moses. I really enjoyed it. You have obviously researched things very well and I commend you for it. Hopefully it will inform and influence many who are still hooked on Covenant Theology. Thank you for your efforts.
Roger Fellows, co-ordinator, Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Read your book and really enjoyed the historical overview. I have known and been involved with Geoff Volker' s ministries for over twenty years now and I appreciate your perspective in setting the record straight on how and what is New Covenant Theology.
Paul Honeycutt, elder, New Covenant Bible Fellowship, Tempe, Arizona; works with Geoff Volker at In-Depth Studies.
I just wanted to thank you for your book, "One Greater Than Moses." I consider myself a proponent of NCT, even though I'm in an uber-reformed LBC 1689 church (that I love dearly.) It is great to come across [a] well-written exposition on NCT.
David P. Heddle, Ph.D. Professor of Physics, Graduate Program Coordinator, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia