Dispensationalism & Covenant Theology

Within protestantism there is two streams(perhaps there are others) of theology as indicated in the title. As far as I know Covenant Theology is primarily held by the Reformed/Presbyterian folks and Dispensationalism everybody else. I know this perhaps is a simplistic division and I’m leaving out some nuance…but generally speaking. My question is which system is closer to the Catholic Church’s perspective? Does the Church have an official system in this respect? These two views impact our relationship to Israel and the Jewish People which I know the CC has evolved over time to a more warm and ecuminical understanding. Any thoughts on this?

I’m not sure if this is the right forum for this topic so if the mods determine its not please move to appropriate forum.

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From my understanding Covenant theology is authentically Catholic. In fact Dr. Scott Hahn has written extensively on this subject and has contributed a lot of insight and understanding to what the covenants mean and how they relate to the Church and salvation history.

Everything is centered on the covenants and they all come to fruition with the New and Everlasting covenant, instituted by Jesus Christ. You can read older works by certain Church fathers and theologians and see why the Church, for centuries, held such an unyielding position with regards to salvation being found nowhere outside of the Catholic Church.

This doesn’t negatively impact our relationship with the Jewish faithful, because the Church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Or in a more clear understanding, there is no more distinction between Jew and Gentile, because in the Church, under the new covenant, we are all one under Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, there have been misunderstandings with regards to the old covenant and how it relates to Judaism and salvation today.


Covenant theology as far as I know is Catholic, and was adopted to some degree by all the first mainstream Protestant churches - Calvinist, Anglican, and Lutheran. These churches are regarded as being fairly close to Catholicism. Ever since I was a child I’ve been being taught by various Catholic sources about God’s covenant with Abraham, with the Jewish people, and then the new covenant of Jesus. Sometimes the word Promise is used instead of Covenant but it’s the same thing.

Dispensationalism to me is some strange thing that came along later (according to Wiki it was invented in the 1800s) and that I’ve never heard discussed in the Catholic Church.


Yeah; it does seem rather simplistic, and I’m not sure I’d agree with the “everybody else” part, but I get what you’re saying.

It all depends on what you mean by ‘covenant theology’, I guess. There are nuances to it that the Catholic Church doesn’t profess, but which some Reformation communities do.

With respect to dispensationalism, that’s something that the Church definitely doesn’t teach.


Thanks, Yeah I know Protestantism is a large and disorganized to some extent tent so Reformed/Presbyterian and everybody else is sort just for discussions sake, I’m sure there are Protestants in the “everybody else” camp that adhere to some form of Covenant Theology. I just didn’t know which system was closer to small “o” orthodox doctrine then the other. From the few replies so far it appears the CT as taught by mainstream Protestantism is much closer to the teachings of the CC the Dispensationalism.

Thanks, I’ll have to check out the writings of Scott Hahn on the subject. i think what probably prompted me to ask is that it is a strongly held position held with the Calvinistic folks with whom I share some significant differences re their TULIP dogma so I thought if they are wrong on free will, predestination etc then maybe they are wrong on this.

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Not exactly. While Lutherans generally hold to covenant theology, we have a focus on Law/Gospel. We are certainly not dispensationalist.

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Well, dispensationalism is a non-starter from the word ‘go’. CT – while sharing the same name – can mean different things to different people. I would imagine that many Reformation communities think CT means that only the baptized can share in Christ’s New Covenant, and therefore, only they can go to heaven. That diverges from the theology of the Catholic Church, which asserts that God’s mercy isn’t limited only to those within the bounds of the visible Church.

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That’s understandable. As others have said, there are certainly nuances between the different Protestant denominations when it comes to covenant theology and not all of them completely fall in line with the Catholic understanding of it.

If you’re looking for some good books on the subject you should definitely check out the following.

A Father Who Keeps His Promise - Scott Hahn

Kinship By Covenant - Scott Hahn

Walking With God - Tim Gray - Jeff Cavins

Bible Basics For Catholics - John Bergsma.

With the exception of Kinship by Covenant, the other books are all introductions to covenant theology. They give a very good summary and walk you through the covenants of Salvation history. Walking with God is probably my favorite of the group and it ties in very well with the Great Adventure Study Bible.

However, if you want to get deep into covenant theology, then Kinship by Covenant is what you need. It’s a much more scholarly written book and at 600 pages Dr. Hahn covers a lot of info.

Thanks…I know I oversimplified the distinction of who is in the Covenant Theology camp…can you expand on what you mean by focusing on Law/Gospel versus say a Reformed perspective?

It’s hard to find a good distinctive writing that doesn’t go well over my head.
If I jump, I can catch some of this.

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From my perspective, of spending years in British evangelicalism, dispensationalism is a bit of a fringe point of view. It appears to be only the various branches of Bretherenism that hold to it. Most protestants have never even heard of it.

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