Monergism, Kingdom Through Covenant, and Consistency

I have been a fan of Monergism.com since it first appeared on the internet, and have found it to be a tremendous resource for Reformed theology. I am extremely thankful for the work that John Hendryx has done for Christ’s kingdom through this website, and I am sure that many, many Reformed Christians are too.

That said, I am perplexed by an email that a friend sent to me this morning that he received from Monergism Books, where it was explained that their book distribution wing will not be selling the recent publication Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical Theological Understanding of the Covenants by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum. The reason for this is that the book espouses “New Covenant Theology,” is in “serious theological error,” and is not Reformed.

Gentry and Wellum, both Calvinistic Baptists, teach at Southern Seminary. They are also Canadians from the Toronto area and teach at my alma mater, Toronto Baptist Seminary. I have had both as professors and can personally attest to the quality of their scholarship, their excellent teaching methods, their godliness–and indeed, their Reformed theology. But this is not the point of this blog post.

Rather, I would like to call John Hendryx and Monergism to consistency. Of course, they are free to distribute whatever literature they choose, and if they believe that Kingdom Through Covenant is not up to their standards of orthodoxy, so be it. But to boycott this book yet leave other like books and links on their site is an error that needs to be remedied. If NCT is indeed “significantly erroneous,” (the email never explains why) then it would behoove Hendryx and Monergism to remove any semblance of this error from their distribution.

They may want to start with Don Carson’s work (books, links). For those who know anything of the debate over NCT, Carson is a key exegetical course for this position. Especially his view of the law understood in Matthew that is expressed in a number of his books. After they remove Carson’s work from their distribution and website, Monergism needs to then turn to John Piper, who also holds to a view akin to NCT. His books and links are everywhere on Monergism’s sites. The list of such theologians tainted with NCT—who must be erroneous according to Monergism’s standards—is long and includes John MacArthur (a dispensationalist); Fred Zaspel; the New Studies in Biblical Studies series edited by Carson that includes Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster, whose ideas form a large part of the Gentry/Wellum argument; Tom Schreiner (books), who holds a similar view to Gentry/Wellum, especially his Pauline theology and NT theology and commentaries; Douglas Moo (books) who, along with Carson, is another key source for NCT; and ironically works by Stephen Wellum (links) and Peter Gentry (links) themselves.

It may be argued that while Monergism carries these authors, they do not carry books directly dealing with the subject of NCT—which, if you check the links above, you’ll see isn’t the case—this argument isn’t helpful. The folk at Monergism would surely believe that theology is interconnected, and that anyone who advocates NCT (or some form relating to it) will have their overall theology impacted by it. A NCT ethic colours their understanding of the kingdom—and Monergism has links to Wellum on the kingdom and even one by Gentry called “Kingdom Through Covenant“! Wouldn’t Schreiner’s commentary on Romans or Galatians have anything to say about the law? Thus, any article they link to or book they sell by someone like Carson will necessarily be tainted by some reading of NCT–thus, Monergism is by implication disseminating erroneous, “unbiblical” theology.

I write this from a Reformed Baptist perspective; meaning I hold to the ongoing validity of the moral law and the Sabbath. I also use traditional covenant theology, albeit from a Baptist perspective (expressed by the 1689 Confession), in my understanding of redemptive history; the one caveat is that I prefer John Murray’s “Adamic administration” instead of covenant of works. I also write as one who serves in a church with a pastor who is openly NCT, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. John is one of my best friends, and we’ll debate long into the night over the Sabbath, or covenant of grace, but I gladly sit under his preaching and teaching. I definitely do not consider him dangerous! I should also add that Peter Gentry’s course on the Old Testament at TBS actually served to confirm for me a number of points about covenant theology, in particular the covenant with Adam.

So, if Monergism is to be consistent, which they must be to be faithful to their aims of adhering to some narrow brand of Reformed theology, then they must deplete a significant part of their inventory. As we should all be aware, boycotts serve two purposes: They put those performing the boycott in a bad light; and they inevitably make the boycotted book or film more popular. While I do not wish the former on Monergism; I most definitely wish the latter on Kingdom Through Covenant.

***UPDATE*** You can read the email sent out by Monergism here.