I’ve gotten several questions in my email box and phone line about some terminology that has been bandied about as of late resulting in some serious confusion. It’s not the fault of the person listening to the terminology either since, I think, the terminology has been employed in such a way that it sneaks extra information into the discussion without proper cause.
If there is a category 1 offender, it is this one. When people hear the term, in-and-outside Dispensational circles, they hear “This is a New Form of Dispensationalism that has progressed in a lot of its understanding”. In fact, some Covenantal Theologians on the popular level have made a point of hanging on to the terminology in their effort to prove Traditional Dispensationalism wrong.
But Progressive Dispensationalism is still very much Dispensationalist—the reason they use the term “Progressive” is to speak about how their view of the dispensations (most count four) progress instead of having the crisp ending that some dispensationalists would underscore on their charts. The reason? The Covenants have some underlying connection that find their root in the promises to Abraham.
What’s funny about this is that most Dispensationalists say the same thing but have balked at some of the conclusions the PD’s have been making.
Indeed, academia was so upset with the terminology from Blaising and Bock that they started using Normative Dispensationalism and Traditional Dispensationalsm while fudging the detail that they were already a revised version of Scoffieldien Dispensationalism and that Darby Dispensationalism.
New Covenant Theology
Folk hear this and they tend to assume that this is a new version of Covenant Theology. Quickly, when Cocceius drew his conclusions defining Covenant Theology, he did not say that the Covenants in Scripture are the way history is divided (I say this because some have mistakningly thought that because Covenant Theology uses the word “covenant” that therefore Dispensationalists don’t use that term.): instead he saw a Covenant of Works (in the Garden) which resulted in the fall and a Covenant of Grace exemplified in each Covenant—including the Mosaic Covenant—for redemptive.
New Covenant Theology, noting the redemptive language of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 33) draws a distinction in regards to the Mosaic Law. That, they might say, is part of the Covenant of Works—it is not redemptive; the New Covenant is. Sure, their underlying structure looks more like Covenant Theology but it’s not a new version of CT.
This is used mostly on the popular level and honestly, I don’t know why. They’re just as Calvinistic as any Puritan, they emphasize the sovereignty of God just like any of them, they’re strict five-to-seven pointers with the best of them and yet, they try to differentiate themselves by wearing jeans, talking about how they interact with society and some of them using foul language. I guess Marc Driscoll tried to make some big difference but the stuff he’s talking about doesn’t affect the central tenants of Calvinism…so why use the label “New” at all? At least the labels up top made sense in their usage and wound up not being about advancing the system—but this one just ignores the system altogether and says something about the adherents.