August Intermission: From the Beginning of Genesis to Progressive Covenantalism

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In Genesis 11, the descendants of Noah gathered their children to build a tower into the heavens. Rather than filling the earth with their offspring (Gen. 9:1), men like Nimrod (Gen. 10:8­–9) settled in Shinar to “make a name for [them]selves, lest [they] be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). Indeed, the Tower of Babel is a crucial story in the book of Genesis, as well as a foundational story for all of redemptive history.

In the Bible, Babel becomes a symbol of men glorifying themselves by reaching for the heavens. Resting on their own merits—if not attempting to make themselves kings by their own efforts—the men of Shinar built a city and a tower that would glorify themselves. As many commentators have noted, their tower to heaven was more than just prehistoric skyscraper. It was a vehicle by which the kings of the earth would approach the sovereign of heaven.

Yet, such hubris only resulted in God “coming down” from heaven (Gen. 11:7), overturning everything these sons of Adam sought, and confusing the world with numberless languages. This is the story of Babel and it is a story that explains much of our world. Today, the rulers of the age still build their temples and put their ‘X’ on conquered territory. Technocratic governors cross international boundaries to establish global economic syndicates to assert their power. And “useless humans” are treated like robots and slowly euthanized by today’s bread and circuses—namely, “drugs and video games.”

This is our world. And this Fall, we will be spending a great deal of time thinking about political theology, the relationship of church and state, and what Christians should think, say, and do in the face of the growing threat of ‘statism.’

Indeed, statism is not new. It goes back to Babel and has found expression throughout the centuries. Only now, with global banking, woke capitalism, and world economic forums uniting big government, big tech, and big pharma—to name only a few—we must think carefully about how to be Christian in a world that looks like the plains of Shinar.

Going Back to the Beginning

For this reason, we have set out to develop a series of months to help Christians think carefully about the world in which we live. This series includes issues of creation, redemptive history, and political theology. Looking back to August, we began this mini-series by looking at Genesis 1–11. Over the course of the month, we recalled the goodness of God’s creation, the devastation of the fall, and the promise of a messiah. Along the way, we focused on a number apologetic questions related to the age of the earth, the philosophical source of its age, the genre of Genesis 1–11, and the best reasons for reading Genesis 1 literally.

Additionally, we considered the theological importance of Genesis 1–11 with Peter Gentry and the nature of the Noah Covenant with Michael Carlino. Indeed, we gleaned from a veteran scholar with decades of experience and a younger scholar who is still developing his research. Beyond these two longforms, we also benefitted from the reflections on humanity in Genesis, why the arguments for an old earth run into numerous biblical challenges, and how Genesis 1–11 can serve a springboard for evangelism .

In all, the articles from August provided a rich biblical, theological, and even geological foundation for understanding the world that God has made. Yet, these essays did more that scratch the apologetic itch for defending a young earth. They served as the first step in building a Christian worldview that moves from the Garden of Eden to every courtyard in every kingdom on every continent.

If you missed any of those articles, you can find them all in one place below, with the longforms in red:

Our Young Earth: Arguments for Thousands of Years By Jason DeRouchie

When considering how old creation is, who better to ask than the Creator? Here are six arguments from Scripture for a young earth view. READ ARTICLE

The Creation Account: A Positive Case for Literal Days (Part 1) By Kenneth Gentry

Why should we read the creation account as a literal six days? Here are ten arguments. READ ARTICLE

The Creation Account: Addressing Objections to Literal Days (Part 2) By Kenneth Gentry

Part 1 of this piece contained several arguments for reading the creation account as a literal six days. Here, Part 2 responds to some common objections to this reading of Genesis 1. READ ARTICLE

The Account of Creation and Its Relation to the Biblical Storyline By Peter Gentry

Are the opening chapters of Genesis simply a bland recitation of ancient history? Far from it! These chapters set the stage on which the grand drama of redemptive history will play itself out. READ ESSAY

2.35 Peter Gentry • Reading • “The Account of Creation and Its Relation to the Biblical Storyline” By Peter Gentry

Are the opening chapters of Genesis simply a bland recitation of ancient history? Far from it! These chapters set the stage on which the grand drama of redemptive history will play itself out. LISTEN TO PODCAST

The Fall in Genesis 3: A Prepositional Approach By Mitch Chase

What is our plight and what is our hope? In order to answer these questions, we turn to Genesis 1–3. READ ARTICLE

The Creator’s Authorized Realistic Account of Creation: Interpretation of Genesis 1–3 Is Neither Literal Nor Figurative By Ardel Caneday

Instead of arguing whether to read Genesis 1–3 as “literal” or “figurative,” we ought read it as historically factual, as the Bible itself presents it. READ ARTICLE

2.36 Peter Gentry • Interview • “The Account of Creation and Its Relation to the Biblical Storyline” By Peter Gentry, David Schrock, Stephen Wellum

Are the opening chapters of Genesis simply a bland recitation of ancient history? Far from it! These chapters set the stage on which the grand drama of redemptive history will play itself out. LISTEN TO PODCAST

Genesis 3:15 and the Bible’s Big Story By Jim Hamilton

The Bible is not a haphazard hodgepodge of stories, but a sweeping narrative proclaiming God’s glory in salvation. To understand this story rightly, we must start at the beginning. READ ARTICLE

The Significance and Expansiveness of the Flood By T. J. Betts

What does the flood teach us about God and about humanity? And was the flood global or merely local? READ ARTICLE

The Noahic Covenant Reaffirms God’s Universal Demand on His Creation: A Progressive Covenantalist Response to David VanDrunen By Michael Carlino

Ideas have consequences, and, as we’ll see, how we read Genesis 1–11 impacts such fundamental questions as Who is man? and What is his mission? READ ESSAY

2.37 Michael Carlino • Reading • “The Noahic Covenant Reaffirms God’s Universal Demand on His Creation: A Progressive Covenantalist Response to David VanDrunen” By Michael Carlino

Ideas have consequences, and, as we’ll see, how we read Genesis 1–11 impacts such fundamental questions as Who is man? And what is his mission? LISTEN TO PODCAST

Theistic Evolution Is Not the Real Problem! By Terry Mortenson

Even beyond the massive problems of theistic evolution, an old-earth view rejects, undermines, or minimizes Scripture’s clear teaching about when and how God created, the effects of God’s curse at the Fall, the teachings of Jesus related to the age of the creation, and the global flood. READ ARTICLE

Where Did the Idea of “Millions of Years” Come From? By Terry Mortenson

Today, the idea that the earth is billions of years old is often accepted wholesale and without challenge. But what is the origin of this widespread belief and just how convincing is it? READ ARTICLE

The Hermeneutical Problem of Genesis 1–11 By Noel Weeks

In order to rightly understand the Bible, we must read it on its own terms. Failure to do so yields only unfaithful interpretation. READ ARTICLE

Generations of Blessing: How the Historicity of Genesis 1–11 Hits Home By Kenneth Mathews

Critical scholars want to split up Genesis 1–11 as myth and Genesis 12–50 as history. But there’s one major problem: the toledoth formula that supports and structures the book. READ ARTICLE

2.38 Michael Carlino, David Schrock, Stephen Wellum • Interview • “The Noahic Covenant Reaffirms God’s Universal Demand on His Creation: A Progressive Covenantlist Response to David VanDrunen” By Michael Carlino, David Schrock, Stephen Wellum • Podcast Interview •

Are the opening chapters of Genesis simply a bland recitation of ancient history? Far from it! These chapters set the stage on which the grand drama of redemptive history will play itself out. LISTEN TO PODCAST

We Are Earth-Bounded Humans in Every Way By Ardel Caneday

Does the current scientific consensus about the earth’s origin disprove the opening chapters of Genesis? A study in chronological snobbery and divine condescension. READ ARTICLE

How Genesis Helps Us Probe Life’s Big Questions By David Helm and John Dennis

In the chorus of worldview voices that demand attention, one speaks a more powerful word, “In the Beginning, God…” See an example of how to engage non-believers through these first chapters of Genesis. READ ARTICLE

The Early Chapters of Genesis Are a Powerful Evangelistic Tool By Greg Demme

Just as God’s word brought forth all creation in the beginning, so now his word brings about new creation in Christ Jesus. Indeed, the fields are ripe for harvest and the Lord’s word does not return void, so here a few ways to evangelize using the opening chapters of Genesis. READ ARTICLE

Building A Christian Worldview Requires a Good Biblical Theology

We believe that getting Genesis 1–11 is necessary not only for getting creation and redemption right, but also for getting political theology right too. And this fall, we will consider more fully some of the ways that Genesis 1–11 has been rightly or wrongly applied to issues of church and state. But such direct engagement with Christian Nationalism is still a month away in October.

For now, we are spending September outlining the basic tenets of Progressive Covenantalism.

For those reading this, I suspect you may be familiar with Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry’s two books, Kingdom through Covenant and God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants. These books served as the foundations of a way of reading Scripture called “Progressive Covenantalism.”

Since the release of Kingdom through Covenant (2012, 2018), and second edition (2018), many scholars, pastors, and authors have become advocates of this approach to Scripture. Some of these scholars wrote chapters in the book Progressive Covenantalism, edited by Stephen Wellum and Brent Parker. Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum put together a popular level treatment in Christ from the Beginning to End. Still others have depended upon the biblical theology of Wellum and Gentry to establish other biblical and systematic doctrines. Personally, my book on the priesthood is heavily dependent on their approach to the Bible, as are many other books that could be listed.

For Christ Over All itself, we are a ministry that, among other things, seeks to take a progressive covenantal approach to Scripture, theology, church, and culture. And this month, we are laying out the foundations of this view in a series of articles from a number of different angles and authors. Stephen Wellum will provide the cornerstone of the month, as he writes one longform in two parts. His longforms will be complemented by an article on each of the major covenants, plus a number of other articles on biblical interpretation, typology, and theological engagement with systems like 1689 Federalism—to name only a few.

Long story short, this month will not rehash all the work that previous books have done. But it will serve as a primer to progressive covenantalism. In this way, our month aims to dispel any confusion and give ample clarity to our view of the Bible, which pays careful attention to reading the covenants on their own terms.

In my estimation, this is the greatest merit of Progressive Covenantalism. It is not a novel system that is attempting to do something new. Nor is it a via media that seeks to find a compromise between systems, (even if it sits between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology). Rather, with careful attention to reading the Bible on its own terms, those who affirm progressive covenantalism seek to follow the storyline of Scripture as God himself presents it. And hopefully, for those familiar with Progressive Covenantalism and for those to whom Progressive Covenantalism is new (or confusing), this month will add further clarity and conviction.

Indeed, spiritual clarity is our prayer. And that is why the Tower of Babel, ironically, shows up on this month’s cover—as it does on Kingdom through Covenant. We do not believe that progressive covenantalism adds confusion to the debates about biblical covenants. We believe it clarifies many points of interpretation and doctrine, and thus it is part of the Holy Spirit’s rebuilding project. Or at least, that is our earnest prayer and desire—a prayer and desire we invite you to join in this month.

Seeking the Spirit

That’s our plan for September.

So friends, please pray for God to confirm the work of our hands and that this essays will get into the hands of those who need them. Pray, that he would give us wisdom to understand his word and joy to embrace all he has revealed in it. For truly, sinners do cannot build a tower into the heavens to bring God down. We must depend upon our triune God to come down to us.

Wonderfully, in Jesus Christ God has become Immanuel—God with us. And by means of the Holy Spirit, who came at Pentecost to bring the good news to all languages, we have access to God. This is his grace. And it our delight to study these things all month. That being the case, please pray for illumination.

At the same time, pray for provision. We are looking to offer more resources, especially podcasts, as 2023 wraps up, and we cannot make that happen without your help and assistance. If the Lord stirs your heart to give to this work, please donate here. Each gift helps us fulfill our mission of bringing evergreen resources to you and others for free. Likewise, if you know of others who would benefit from this ministry or who would be interested in supporting this work, please share these resources.

In the end, let us strive to understand how all Scripture fits together to bring us to Christ. And let us, by God’s grace, see and adore Christ as the exalted Lord. For truly, all things have been put under his feet and so in all things let us exalt Christ.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author

  • David Schrock

    David Schrock is the pastor for preaching and theology at Occoquan Bible Church in Woodbridge, Virginia. David is a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a founding faculty member and professor of theology at Indianapolis Theology Seminary. And he is the author of Royal Priesthood and Glory of God along with many journal articles and online essays.

David Schrock

David Schrock

David Schrock is the pastor for preaching and theology at Occoquan Bible Church in Woodbridge, Virginia. David is a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a founding faculty member and professor of theology at Indianapolis Theology Seminary. And he is the author of Royal Priesthood and Glory of God along with many journal articles and online essays.