Reformed Theology, Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism
Reformed theology, is associated with the Institutes of John Calvin and the definition and even redefinition of Calvin’s ideas by his later followers led by Theodore Beza at The Remonstrance of Dort in Holland. It is a theology of the 16th century reformers who recognized the evils of Rome and attempted to remove the unbiblical rituals and traditions from Christianity. They adopted the state church system, including infant baptism, thus replacing a Roman Catholic state church with a Protestant one. As with Roman Catholicism, Calvin followed the Latin Vulgate more than the original Greek and Hebrew and like the papacy he subscribed to patristic as well as apostolic authority. He saw the church fathers, especially Augustine, as a source of doctrinal authority in addition to the New Testament. Philosophically, Reformed theology has more in common with Islam than with Judeo-Christian thought because of its European version of the Muslim belief “Inja allah” – everything that happens is the perfect will of the creator. Thus in Calvinism, as opposed to scriptural Christianity, God creates certain people to go to hell to be eternally tortured and thus God, not Satan, becomes the author of death and evil.
Calvin was a humanist and arrived at these views not shared by 16thy century Evangelicals (a term at that time simply meaning Lutheran, though not any longer) and by Anabaptist groups who held to believers’ baptism. Calvin’s beliefs were at odds with the New Testament teaching that Jesus is the Savior of the world (1 Timothy 2:3-4) and that hell was created, not for people whom God created to torture eternally, but for Satan and his fallen angels. Reformed theology was modified further in the English speaking world first by the Puritans and later by certain Baptists who mixed the T-U-L-I-P ideas of Dort with ana-baptism accepting Beza’s re-interpretation of Calvinism but not accepting Covenant theology. It is best to consider ‘Reformed Theology is actually Deformed”.
Given his policy of murdering people who disagreed with him in the Islamic Taliban style police state he set up in Geneva (that was imitated by John Knox ‚ and the Presbyterians in Scotland and by the Puritans in England – who ironically slaughtered each other in the name of Christ in a Calvinistic jihad, just as the Muslims do), some people question if John Calvin was ever born again. Unlike other Reformers, he never once writes or testifies of a personal regeneration or testimony.
Covenant theology is the theology whereby the Old Testament principles and promises are transferred directly to the church. This position rejects the special status of Israel and God’s future plans for it, sees the church as Israel and baptism as the equivalent of circumcision. Covenant theology was the actual basis of Calvin’s Covenant theology. Although Calvinists have no scriptural grounds for their covenant beliefs, they claim that God only made two covenants which are not the Old Covenant with Israel and the New Covenant with Israel which gave rise to the church, but rather one covenant with Adam and one with Abraham. On this basis, the church becomes Israel and has a mandate to set up a theocratic government using scripture (often the Old Testament) as its body of law and legislation. This is called ‘theonomy’ and they believe they have a mandate from God as Old Testament Israel did for the church to take control of the engines of government, economy, and culture – establishing the kingdom of God on earth instead of this taking place during the Millennial reign of Christ which they either ignore or spiritualize into the present age of the church.
Beginning in Calvin’s Geneva and being imported to England and Scotland, this spread like a cancer resulting in Protestant jihads, Taliban style police states, witch hunts, religious murders of innocent people and systems of slavery and social injustice such as the reign of terror in colonial Massachusetts in Salem, the apartheid of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, the slavery of the American South by Southern Baptists and Southern Methodists, and the genocidal plantation period in Ireland by Oliver Cromwell. All of these evils were called ‘Christian’ by the Calvinists who followed Covenant theology. By sprinkling babies in infant baptism they told people their babies were now Christian which complicated their need for personal salvation. Covenant theology imitates Roman Catholicism and Islam in many respects and has now scriptural passage supporting it but an ugly history indicts it as Satanic. It only replaced one evil with another that in many respects was not that different from what it replaced because like Roman Catholicism its preconceptions come from Augustine and Constantine not the Word of God.
Calvin was not even part of the Reformation. When Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral door, Calvin was a little boy who would later become a Roman Catholic priest before joining Protestantism in France. He was a baby when Erasmus published his Greek New Testament used by Luther and Tyndale which Calvin ignored in favor of the Latin Vulgate. He was not yet born when Zwingli began his reforms in Zurich even before Luther.
Calvin tried to redefine Protestantism long after the Reformation already took place. Beza then redefined Calvinism at Dort with the T-U-L-I-P and the Puritans and Presbyterians redefined it again. ‚ The whole Reformed Calvinist Covenant thing is a mutated evolved and re-evolved joke.
The early Reformation began good with Erasmus, early Luther, and William Tyndale but it went wrong. Calvinism never went wrong because it was always wrong to begin with.
The view that in history there were various eras or dispensations, in which God deals with man in a particular way. Dispensationalism accommodates no overlapping of ages. Dispensational sees a distinction between Israel and the church and is not replacementist. Although much closer to the truth than Covenant theology, dispensationalism is a truth taken too far beyond the parameters of what scripture actually states by figures such as John Nelson Darby and C.I. Schofield. The New Testament teaches two Dispensations, the Old and New covenants, not the seven or more taught by most Dispensationalists whose mistake is equating “covenant” with “dispensation,” a term actually meaning ‘economy of grace.’ Many modern Dispensationalists combine beliefs in Calvin’s T-U-L-I-P (or four points of it) with Dispensationalism, but reject Calvin’s Covenant theology.
Both Covenant theology and Dispensationalism are called ‘Systematic Theologies’ that would not have been recognized by the Apostles or the early church. They were attempts after the Protestant Reformation to define and explain doctrinal Evangelicalism in a structured point by point linear presentation. Both are spiritually and doctrinally unnecessary (although a very basic dispensationalism is at least scriptural) and we only study them to understand the folly of mainstream Protestantism and its failed history.
As Jesus told the Church in Sardis: “You have a name of being alive, but you are dead.”
Protestantism is mostly now the domain of liberal higher criticism, social gospels, same sex marriage and homosexual ordination, anti-Zionism, dead ritualism, or as Paul warned, “holding a form of religion but denying the power therein.” ‚ Let us also recall however that Jesus said He had a few names in Sardis! There is a minority of individuals within mainstream Protestantism who personally are truly saved Christians who love Jesus and believe His Word, trusting in Him alone for salvation. In general, Protestantism however is a corpse and a joke.