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Horton’s “Covenant and Eschatology” Revisited

12 August, 2008

One of the best things Westminster Seminary California has given me was a lens through which to read my Bible. In other words, I had been devouring Scripture for many years since becoming a Christian but still much of it floated about in my mind in disconnected pieces. One of the classes, along with Bryan Estelle’s Pentateuch class, that served as a sort of prolegomenon (“first things said”) to my four year theological journey was Christian Mind with Dr. Michael Scott Horton. My class mates and I were very excited to start our seminary education with him. His class was the beginning of learning to read our Bibles as a whole and in the way that the Bible itself instructs us to read it.

So now that the seminary journey has ended, one of the many things that I’ve been looking forward to after graduating is taking the plunge back into Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama. It is his first of four volumes (last time I checked) which are together an “attempt to integrate biblical theology and systematic theology on the basis of scripture’s own intrasytematic categories of covenant and eschatology.” C&E is a deliberate break in style and method from prolegomenons as they have been traditionally put forth. Horton explains that C&E “represents an exercise in theology in which theological method is determined by the content of the system instead of being regarded as predogmatic reflection.” In other words, his purpose is “to develop a theological paradigm and method dependent on the content they are intended to illumine.”

Also noteworthy, especially in light of the silly ‘Calvin vs. the Calvinists’ notions that have been thrown in our faces these days by poorly informed knuckleheads, Horton encourages us to include the Post-Reformation Scholastics in conversation with more recent thinkers who are shaping the theological landscape of our day. He writes:

Our goal in this work is not to repristinate the achievements of these classic systems of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but to harvest some of these basic insights in an effort to engage with these contemporary conversations.

In addition, before Horton launches into his program he states at the outset:

Our goal all along will be to defend the definition of theology as the church’s reflection on God’s performative action in word and deed and its own participation in the drama of redemption

In pages 4-19 Horton then lays out the lines he will develop to accomplish his goals for

C&E. For method he suggests the Redemptive Historical/Eschatological, for mode— the Analogical, for model—the Dramatic. For context—Covenant (of course!). I have to admit that I did my best to memorize these pages during his Christian Mind course in the Fall of 2004 and would like to again. If the reader doesn’t have any prior knowledge of the Scholastics (Ursinus, Turretin etc.) or of the philosophers (Kant, Derrida etc.), then there will be some blanks to fill in. You might feel like you’ve come to the table uninvited. However, Horton’s style is inviting and even conversational. And you will find that a little brushing up on philosophy and 16th and 17th century scholasticism will seat you comfortably in the discussion. Thankfully, since that first semester I have learned more about the conversation partners (old and new) and what it is they have to contribute to the ongoing discussion. And what a discussion it is! Along with Meredith Kline’s Kingdom Prologue, Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology opened my eyes, no gave me eyes, and a whole new world to discover as I break open God’s word everyday to my family and Sunday after Sunday to the congregation.

Two thumbs up all the way! Next I’ll be reading vol. 2 Lord and Servant vol. 3 Covenant and Salvation…hopefully finishing in time to devour vol. 4.


  1. 13 August, 2008 9:25 am

    Good call, bro. What a solid series! Sometime ahead (unfortunately for me, way ahead) I’d like to methodically go through all four volumes too. Mike’s definition of theology which you quote is excellent, and a helpful extension of that which I picked up from Vanhoozer concerning the role of systematic theology is “to doctrinally minister to Christian understanding.” I’d like to recommend a book pair to complement Horton’s: (1a) Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament:A Book-by-Book Survey, and (1b) Theological Interpretation of the New Testament:A Book-by-Book Survey. Vanhoozer is the general editor of both, and the array of essay contributors is excellent.


  2. 13 August, 2008 10:22 am

    Good to hear from you bro. We’re proud of you over here at the Sipe home. Keep up the good work.
    Good recommendations. Will have to get on Amazon. There have been a lot of good book recommendations form various friends.
    When do you you start your Mystery class with DA Carson? How bout those Calvin notes? 🙂

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