Introductory


Well, I don’t know if anyone stops by here anymore. But in case you do, here’s a brief update. I’m tired again. The fatigue started coming back over a year ago. I thought it would go away after a month or two, as it has in the past. It didn’t.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to be an interim pastor at the church where we were members. And I candidated to be the new pastor. That didn’t work out. And the way it didn’t work out made it impossible for us to stay at that church.

We looked around at other churches in the area. But they are all so … suburban. I’m tired of the suburban church. If I could find a church in the suburbs that was interested in shedding its suburban character, I might be interested. But for the most part they’re not only in the suburbs, they’re of the suburbs. (The one exception was Pathway CRC in Olathe, KS. There at least they’re struggling against their suburban identity a bit. That’s not the church we’ve ended up at, but we respect what they’re doing.)

I doubt any church sets out to be an upper middle class white church. But that’s where most Reformed churches end up. We all make choices.

So as I say, I’m looking to make a break from the suburban church. And it has become apparent that the suburban church does not have a great deal of zeal to use my ministerial gifts.

Putting all that together, it seems to add up to this. The Reformed and Presbyterian churches do not, for the most part, have a place where they feel they can use my gifts. We may be coming to a parting of the ways. I have other thoughts and concerns that may be tending to the same conclusion. I’ll talk about those if I have time and energy, and if there’s anyone out there still interested and listening.

Meanwhile, as I regroup and rethink, the time has come to pay for another year for my web site http://bettercovenant.org/. I have decided not to spend the money. If you want any of that material, grab it before March 5, 2008. If you didn’t read this in time, I apologize.

That’s all for now.

So why did I choose the name bettercovenant for this blog? There’s a simple if unsatisfying answer. I have a web site with the name bettercovenant.org. I wanted my blog to have the same name as my web site. But that just pushes the question back a step. Why did I choose the name bettercovenant for my web site?

I’ll offer another simple answer. I chose the name bettercovenant because all the other names I wanted were taken. That’s an important thing to understand. You look at the name of a blog or web site and you expect it to reflect something basic, something that points to a central purpose or an organizing theme. Bettercovenant does that just fine. But there are other names I could have used if someone else hadn’t gotten there first.

Of all the names I considered, I loved outsidethecamp most. But it was taken. At least outsidethecamp.org and outsidethecamp.com were taken. I could have gone with outsidethecamp.info, I suppose. I might even have found some happy irony in having a site with such a name relegated to a lesser domain. But I decided it would be easier for people to remember if the site had a .org or a .com at the end.

Nevertheless, outsidethecamp hits the sweet spot of all the themes I want to discuss here. It comes from this passage in Hebrews:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Hebrews 13:10-14 (ESV)

That quote’s got it all. The cross, suffering, and the cost of discipleship. The inferiority and insufficiency of the Law of Moses. Identifying with Christ in his suffering and rejection while waiting for the coming kingdom and identifying with his glory. Walking by faith, not sight. Our identity as pilgrims in this world while waiting for the world to come.

It’s the book of Hebrews in a nutshell, the whole Gospel in miniature. And that’s what this site is about. It’s an exploration of those themes I listed and a consideration of contrary theologies that are proposed in the Church.

With outsidethecamp not available, I considered other possibilities. I thought about bearinghisreproach, but that seemed too in your face. I also checked out crossofchrist, pilgrim, and sojourner as possible names. All were taken. Sojournercitizen was available but seemed a mouthful (though bettercovenant is scarcely shorter). I don’t recall what other names I checked on or what else was available.

But one way or another, I settled on bettercovenant. So let’s talk about that.

Years ago, reading Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics, I found a recurring phrase that irritated me. He would constantly refer to the “Older Testament”. Once or twice wouldn’t have been so bad, but he did this constantly. The effect was cumulative. It was like your kid brother flicking you in the back of the head every time Mom looked the other way.

Now, there’s no denyingthat the Old Testament is older than the New Testament. But the phrase “Older Testament” implies far more. It implies that the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant in Christ’s blood are essentially the same. They differ in chronology, but not in substance. That’s hogwash.

This blog exists to combat that hogwash because such nonsense isn’t confined to Bahnsen or to Theonomy. You’ll find it in every arm of the Christian Church today. And if you trace it back through previous eras, you’ll find an unbroken line, all the way back to the Judaizers and the Pharisees.

The new covenant isn’t just an updated version of what God said to Israel. It isn’t Moses 2.0. It’s new. Utterly new. And it’s infinitely superior.

The old covenant was a ministry of death and condemnation. The new covenant is a ministry of justification and eternal life (2 Cor 3:7-9) . The Law brought wrath; the new covenant brought peace with God (Rom 4:15, 5:1). The Law does not rest on faith but on the principle “The one who does these things shall live” (i.e. the principle of works). But our righteousness comes through faith in Christ (Gal 3:11,12). The Law cannot give us the heavenly inheritance; but Christ has become the mediator of a new covenant by which that eternal inheritance is received (Gal 3:18, Heb 9:15).

There is more to say on this subject. And this blog is here to say as much as possible. For now, let’s sum it up with the passage from Hebrews that inspired the name bettercovenant:

Jesus has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 8:6,7

But how can we discern the superiority of this new covenant? Can humans eyes see the things of which we speak? Who looks more gloriousSolomon in royal robes, exalted over all of Israel, or Jesus in a crown of thorns, rejected by Israel, lifted up on a cross? What seems like a better deallong life and material prosperity in the promised land or suffering, persecution, ridicule, and sorrow?

Our faith grasps what human eyes are blind to and what human reason cannot discern. Christ on the cross is more glorious than Solomon. And our life as suffering pilgrims, in conformity to Christ, is more wonderful than any material blessing. It is a life of triumph and we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:35-39).

And now, Jesus is more glorious even than when he was on the cross. He is ascended into heaven and seated at the right hand of God. All things are in subjection to him (1 Cor 15:27). But we do not now see all things in subjection to him (Heb 2:8). The superiority of this “better covenant” is something we know by faith alone. Thus we wait patiently for the day when our faith will be vindicated, our tears wiped away, and our glorious salvation revealed.

That’s what I want to talk about.