Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

24 May 2013

A Road Vlach on Wellum & Gentry’s Via Media?

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In the latest ed. of the Master’s Seminary Journal (avail. free online), Michael Vlach of The Master’s Seminary reviews Wellum & Gentry’s biblical theology Kingdom through Covenant (KtC). It’s one of the more thorough reviews of the book I’ve seen lately (see also, e.g., here). After nicely summarizing the book’s argument and then stating a handful of specific points of appreciation (e.g., the covenants do form the framework for the Bible’s storyline), Vlach levies three broad critiques. I’d like to briefly sketch them here, largely without comment. If you’re interested in more, you’ll have to read the entire piece—preferably after working through KtC on your own. If you’d like to push back here or there, please do so in the comments.

(1) Structural Issue: Where is the New Testament?

For starters, Vlach complains that a book offering a whole-Bible theology really ought to deal more thoroughly with the entire Bible. (What’s a few hundred more pp., right?) Here he echoes a similar point made by other reviewers (see, e.g., Darrell Bock and Doug Moo’s reviews here and here). It’s true, Gentry does offer one chapter on Eph 4; however, Vlach rightly concludes that a bit more was needed and, moreover, that this particular chapter does surprisingly little to advance KtC’s argument.

(2) Theological Issues

Vlach offers the heart of his critique here, along four, closely-related lines, all of which, I think, nicely get to the nub of Wellum & Gentry’s fresh proposal. He takes issue (a) with KtC’s denial of future significance for Israel and her land, claiming, instead, that both the OT and, esp., the NT continue to talk as if Israel—as a nation and, thus, from a specific place—has a role to play in the Bible’s unfolding story (see, e.g., Rom 11:11–12 and Matt 24:15ff.); (b) with KtC’s claim that Jesus replaces Israel (i.e., Jesus, the antitype, fulfills and, thus, negates Israel, the type), insisting, rather, that Jesus represents (corporate solidarity) and restores Israel for the good of the world (see, e.g., Isa 49:3–6); (c) with KtC’s claim that the nations join and, thus, redefine Israel, when, rather, the nations join the people of God, along with Israel, and, therefore, both Israel and the nations retain their national identities; (d) with KtC’s insistence that the NT transforms OT eschatology, when, rather, it often explicitly reaffirms it. (This last critique leads Vlach to conclude that KtC “see[s] too much discontinuity between Old Testament expectation and the New Testament fulfillment.”)

(3) Other Issues

Vlach concludes with three additional critiques. He thinks, rightly, that KtC places too much emphasis on the importance of land for Dispensationalism, when instead they’d have been better off focusing on the role of Israel and the nations in the eschaton. Land, Vlach notes, is simply the “platform” for Israel’s role of mediating blessing to the nations. He also thinks KtC should have focused a bit more thoroughly on the “Kingdom”-part of their title, specifically how their view of kingdom relates to the three major millennial views. Vlach then ends with a note about Gentry’s exegesis of Dan 9:24–27, concluding that the context of Daniel and the entire canon indicates that “Messiah the Prince” and “the prince to come” refer to separate individuals, namely Jesus and the future anti-Christ.

For another review from a similar perspective, see my post here and talk (w/ transcript) here and here. Also, see Mark Snoeberger’s review art. in the latest DBSJ here.

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