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Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama Paperback – 1 Dec 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 1 edition (1 Dec. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664225012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664225018
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,497,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Michael S. Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. He is the author of a number of books, including Covenant and Eschatology, Lord and Servant, and Covenant and Salvation, all published by WJK.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul's Two Ages, not Plato's Two Worlds 27 July 2014
By Jacob - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Instead of giving us Plato's Two Worlds, Horton shows us Paul's Two Ages. It is this which structure the rest of theological prolegomena. Horton is not giving us a systematic theology, but showing what theology would look like using the Covenant.

Eschatology after Nietszsche

Horton does not shrink from the challenges offered by Feuerbach, Nietzsche, and Derrida. In fact, he mostly agrees with them! If we see Christian theology--particularly Christian eschatology--as dualistic, then it is hard to jump over Lessing's Ditch. Pace Derrida, the theology of the cross demands "deferral" against all theologies of glory, of any subsuming the many/now into the One/not yet (24).

It is with the Apostle Paul and the Two Ages that we are able to overcome these dualities without reducing identity and difference into one another. Horton points out that "above and below" are analogical terms, not ontological ones (and while he doesn't make this conclusion, this allows Christianity to avoid the magical connotations of the Satanic "as above so below" formula; covenant is always a war to the death with magic religions).

The Platonic Vision

Further developed in this contrast between is the difference (!) between covenantal hearing and Platonic (Greek) vision.

A theology of glory corresponds to vision (the direct sight of the One into one's nous) rather than hearing (God's mighty acts mediated in historical and material ways...Both crass identification of God with a human artifact (idolatry) and the craving for a direct sight of God in majesty spring from the same source: the desire to see--without mediation--and not to hear; to possess everything now and avoid the cross" (35).
A Pauline Eschatology is able embrace both arrival and differance: the age to come arrives in the first fruits in Christ's resurrection, yet it is deferred until the consummation of the ages. Horton further notes,

The Platonic paradigm of vision is based on the notion that this realm of appearance is a mirror or copy of the realm of eternal ideas...The Platonizing tendency also created a dichotomy between theoria and praxis, the former linked to the contemplation of the eternal forms, the latter to action in the real world (252, 253).
In the covenantal approach, what dominates is the ear, not the eye; God's addressing us, not our vision of God (134)


Drawing upon Vanhoozer, Ricoeur, and Wolterstorff, Horton outlines the basics of Speech-Act theory. He proposes (correctly, I think) this model as fitting with the covenantal drama he outline earlier. He hints at how speech-act is able to overcome challenges from postmodernism: "But unlike deconstruction, speech-act theory locates the activity in actors (sayers) and not in signs (the said) (126).

Horton ends with suggesting how a covenantal, speech-act hermeneutics would be lived out within the church. This book truly was a bombshell. If Horton's arguments stand, the biblical covenantal religion is the only option for man. Conversely, those traditions built upon Platonic and Hellenic frameworks must fall.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental Work on Theological Formulation 19 April 2005
By theologicalresearcher - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those who want an intermediate-advanced level book on theological formulation should start here. Horton, who also wrote and edited more "easier" books like "Putting Amazing Back to Grace", "The Agony of Deceit", and "Christ the Lord" writes a book that is possibly the most important work on theological-method written in the last decade from a conservative Reformed perspective. Horton examines the problems with modernists and postmodernists interpretations of the Bible and the type of world-view they extract and put onto it. I agree with his assessment of 20th century theological developments and how the Bible and theology are being used to satisfy secular and "individualistic" interests. As a result, theology is being accommodated to the surrounding culture and world-view rather than being formulated and expressed with faithfulness to the Word of God. Horton suggests that a "covenantal hermeneutic" will cure this problem that has infected not only liberal/mainline churches but conservative evangelical churches as well. The covenant hermeneutic will make believers see the future eschatological reign already present and "individualistic tendencies" replaced with the corporate nature of God's gracious covenant with believers. This book is a good corrective to the many hokey and unbiblical views regarding redemption, ethics, and worship that has sprung up in the last century within so many churches. Horton has done a service for the Body of Christ by writing this book. It is a difficult read and will take some effort, but it is worth it.
20 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Thesis; Horrible Prose 9 Jun. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Horton's written several excellent books. C&E is not one of them. The argument is profound (covenant as a hermeneutic), but the prose is convoluted and laborous.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The content of theology should define its methodology 28 Aug. 2010
By Justin Holcomb - Published on
Format: Paperback
Theology is increasingly absent from the discipline of theology. According to Michael S. Horton, what is needed is a theological method that is conceived, shaped, and determined by the content of its confession. In other words, the concern of theology should shape and determine the method for doing theology. The purpose of this book is to develop a theological paradigm and method dependent on the content they are intended to illumine.

To accomplish this goal, Horton focuses on the themes of covenant and eschatology as starting points. The main goal is to tackle acute challenges to the claim that God speaks and acts. For Horton, covenant and eschatology are fecund features in explaining divine speech and action.

Horton argues that the content for theology provides the source for its method. His definition of theology gives insight into the methodology he develops-- theology is the church's reflection on its own witness to revelation in history, God's performative action in words and deeds, and its own participation in the drama of redemption. Methodologically, covenant and eschatology should be the lens through which to view theology and not merely loci of theology.

In the introduction, Horton argues that a biblical-theological understanding of covenant ties things together in systematic theology whose relations are often strained: ecclesiology (the context of the covenant), theology proper (the covenant maker), anthropology (the covenant partner), Christology (the covenant mediator), soteriology (the covenant blessings), eschatology (the covenant's consummation). Rather than forced relations between the loci of theology, these are natural in view of the way the biblical drama unfolds and meets the various loci.

Horton also claims that Pauline eschatology not only avoids Nietzsche and Derrida's critiques of dualism, but also gives theology a way of talking about eschatology after Nietzsche and Derrida. This is so because in the Pauline view reality is not viewed as contrasting and sharp ontological or epistemological dualisms. Biblical eschatology, Horton argues, replaces the ontological and epistemological dualisms with different kinds: ethical (righteousness/unrighteousness) and historical ("this present age" and "the age to come"). This view locates the meaning of history in God's purpose for creation and locates the problem of alienation on personal actions concentrated in the drive for autonomy. Covenant and eschatology unite in the redemptive-historical unfolding of the divine plan as covenant partners actively participate in it.

After the introduction the book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on special divine action. Horton explains the problems associated with divine action, interacts with possible solutions, proposes a model of divine action by drawing on speech-act theory, and draws out the hermeneutical implications for theology. Divine speech is the topic of part two. Horton provides an account for the claim that God speaks, the context in which God speaks, the means employed in divine discourse, and the hermeneutical implications of this account. Divine speech and action are best understood as actions and words within a divine drama. Not only is God the central character in this divine drama but God's role includes significant speaking parts.

Horton's book deserves praise for the clarity of its text, the definition of its terms, and the scope of its argument. It is written for pastors, educated lay readers, and the scholarly community, and they will find it accessible. Horton provides a valuable service in presenting a thoughtful defense of God's acts and words and the implications for the church's identity as a covenant community and the church's covenant activities of preaching of the Word and administering sacraments.

One of the strengths of this book is its creativity and its use of traditional resources and their benefits. Horton engages 16th and 17th century post-reformation protestant scholastic theologians as conversation partners. In doing so, he is not trying to not to repristinate the achievements of classic systems, but to harvest some of their basic insights in an effort to engage with contemporary theological, hermeneutical, and philosophical scholarship.

At no point is Covenant and Eschatology verbose or inconsistent, but on one issue it is limited. One may wish that Horton spends more time on divine action and speech with respect to process theology--both its challenges to his proposal and its view on transcendence and immanence.

Horton achieves his goal of explaining why the content of theology needs to define its methodology. Theological method is not something that someone does independent of theology, a salute to whatever contemporary intellectual trends are currently reigning. Rather, the methodological framework of theology grows out of the Scriptures and the structure of the covenantal relationship and its eschatological dimensions.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Death of False Dichotomies 16 Jun. 2005
By James J. Cassidy - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is Horton's Ph.D dissertation finally come to light. It is a thick and enlightening piece of scholarship.

Horton brings in the greats of the Christian Faith in support of his thesis that theology need not be torn assunder by so many false dichotomies. We have the answers to some of theology's most difficult "tensions" right at our finger tips in the writings of the Scholastic Post-Reformation theologians of the 16 and 17th century as well as in the 20th century's Reformed biblical-theological tradition in the writings of Gerhardus Vos, Herman Riddrbos, and Richard B. Gaffin; especially as they set forth the biblical view of covenant.

For this reason this book is a breath of fresh air. Too often modern scholarship neglects, in her ever present desire for the new and the modern, what has already been written. Horton draws from the greats of the past while interacting with (and exposing the weaknesses of) contemporary scholarship (in the evangelical, liberal, and postmodern contexts).

This book needs to be broadly read. And today's scholars would do well to follow its example of consulting sympathetically with the theologians of the past, upon whose shoulders we must stand.
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