An exploration of the concept of covenantal life in biblical times and the modern era.
United Methodist minister James tackles the theological concept of covenant in an attempt to better understand Christianity’s relationship to the Hebrew Scriptures and to elucidate modern-day issues of the church and society. James urges his readers to consider the Abrahamic covenant with God as a fundamental turning point in humanity’s relationship with the divine, a relationship that has proven to be dynamic rather than static. “The covenant with Abraham was not a legalistic covenant… It was a gift to mankind.” He differentiates between the covenant and God’s Law by stating that the Law was meant to be a protection against self-destruction and was for Israel alone, whereas the covenant was a means of salvation and was meant for all people. Eventually, James writes, the new covenant arrived in the person of Jesus Christ, who acted as a fulfillment and extension of the existing covenant with Abraham. James goes on to point out that although Christianity has often emphasized the personal conversion experience and the personal relationship with Jesus, corporately the church is still a people of covenant, bound together: “Above all else we need each other.” It is the true role of the Christian to step aside from the personal aspect of faith and embrace the corporate aspect. “We lose ourselves as individuals that we might find ourselves…from our cooperation with the whole.” This worldview has deep implications for how the church interacts with society, and informs the author’s ethics as an African-American whose life spanned much of the Civil Rights movement. James brings up a number of intriguing ideas and his life experience is rich and informative. However, poor writing—or, more properly, poor editing—leaves the reader at a loss to easily access the arguments presented. Each paragraph brings a struggle which could have been easily avoided.
An intriguing look at the concept of God’s covenant that needs to be much more clearly stated.