On Wednesday we had Garry Williams, Director of the John Owen Centre come along to our Bradford on Avon Ministers' Fraternal. He led a seminar on The Bible as God’s Covenant Treaty. Basically it was an elegant, erudite and engaging plea for 'theological theology'.
Theology cannot exist on another than theological basis. And the theological basis for theology is the self-revelation of God in Holy Scripture. The Bible is best regarded not as a doctrinal textbook, or 'A Bumper Magic Book of Promises', but as the triune God's covenant treaty with the church.
Attention was drawn to the Bible's own witness to its covenantal character. The insights of Meredith Kline are helpful on this point, setting Old Testament Scripture against the background of ANE suzeran-vassal treaties. Deuteronomy is structured in the form of a classic treaty/covenant document: Preamble (1:1-5), Historical prologue (1:6-4:49). Stipulations (5-26), Curses and blessings (27-30), Succession arrangements (31-34). In one way or another, all the books of the Bible, with their differing genres fit into this covenant framework.
In making his case Garry interacted the writings of some of my favourite authors; Herman Bavinck, Timothy Ward, John Webster, Kevin Vanhoozer, etc. He offered a well thought through defence of biblical inerrancy.
Thinking of Scripture as a covenant treaty reminds us of the role of the Bible in the drama of redemption. The church is called not simply to study Scripture as an ancient text, but to respond in faith and obedience to the communicative action of the triune God who addresses us through his covenant Word.
It was a proper seminar, with opportunities to interrupt Garry and discuss what he said as he made his way through the paper. In all, it was a most helpful and stimulating day.
Contact Garry Williams through the JOC website if you might be interested in hosting a seminar at your fraternal.