Here is an excellent analysis of Covenant Theology, New Covenant Theology, and Modified Covenant Theology reposted here with permission:
I am using a comparison from the www by self-confessed hyperCalvinist Brandon Kraft. If some of his characterizations are inaccurately portraying a particular view, I can’t say. But, I will make my agreement or not (on each point) based on his outline as written (not necessarily as proponant textbooks may convey).
He has formulated his own alternative, which he calls “Modified Covenant Theology (MCT)”, therefore it might be more rightly called BKCT, since there may be other folks who might appropriate the prosaic: “Modified Covenant Theology (MCT)” nomenclature.
Dispensational theology (DT) is not listed in this comparison (though it is in other comparisons on the WWW).
CT vs. NCT vs. MCT – a short comparison
CT = Covenant Theology
NCT = New Covenant Theology
MCT = Modified Covenant Theology
CT: Adam was perfectly righteous before he fell.
NCT: Same as CT.
MCT: Adam was righteous according to the laws given to him but still needed the righteousness of Christ.
PRO: I agree with CT, NCT (and probably DT).
Adam’s legal arrangement and the fall
CT: If Adam had kept the law he would have merited eternal life. This is known as the “covenant of works”. Adam broke the covenant of works and merited eternal death.
NCT: There is no “covenant of works”. If Adam had obeyed the laws given to him, he could stay in the garden but that wouldn’t merit eternal life. He broke the law and merited eternal death.
MCT: There is a covenant of works. If Adam had obeyed the laws given to him, he would have stayed in the garden, but not merit eternal life. However the point of giving this covenant of works was to cause the fall to demonstrate Adam’s need for an alien righteousness and point him to Christ. The Old Covenant is another form of this covenant of works.
PRO: This comparison misses some points. Since death came by sin, if Adam had not sinned then “eternal life” as apposed to “not dying” would be a fact of the creation order. Presumably, in theory, the garden condition would’ve continued in perpetuity.
Further, the question below the surface of this argument-point is the Supra v. Infra debate. That is, was the garden scenario merely incidental means to get to the real plan: the redemptive death of Christ. Thus, the fall was decreed in order to set in motion the work of Christ. And so, there is no “what if Adam had not sinned” contingency to contemplate.
CT: The “moral law” is fully expressed in the Decalogue.
NCT: There is no “moral law”.
MCT: All men are cursed by some form of law, not necessarily the same laws found in the original covenant of works or the Law at Sinai. There is a “moral law” that is revealed in nature which all men are obligated to obey. The OC Decalogue shines further light on this law.
PRO: I favor the MCT articulation, but haven’t fully considerded the matter.
Covenant of Redemption
CT: The three persons of the Trinity covenanted with each other for the purpose of salvation of the elect. NCT: There is no covenant of redemption. There was just an eternal decree. MCT: Same as CT.
PRO: I’m not sure what is at issue here. Obviously the Trinity is “in agreement.” Beyond that, any inner-trinitarian counsel is beyond our ability to know without specific revelation.
Covenant of Grace
CT: God made a covenant of grace with Christ and His people. Christ’s people are found in all ages of history including Adam. The OC is a form of the covenant of grace.
NCT: There is no covenant of grace. God redeems His elect from every age; but the OC was a law covenant; therefore the term “covenant of grace” must not be used to describe these various covenants.
MCT: There is a covenant of grace which is best understood as the new covenant instituted in eternity and constituted on the cross. All the elect of all ages are partakers of the covenant of grace. However, unlike CT, the OC at Sinai is not an administration of the covenant of Grace; but is a law covenant meant to bring condemnation.
PRO: I think I agree with MCT in this point, but, I feel I could be argued out of that agreement if someone provided a compelling reason(s).
Christ’s Imputed Righteousness
CT: Christ kept the law for His people in the Covenant of Grace thus fulfilling the Covenant of Works which merited for them eternal salvation.
NCT: Christ kept the law for His people to become the perfect sacrifice, but the righteousness wrought through this obedience is not imputed to the elect. Only Christ’s righteousness through “passive obedience / death” is imputed to the elect. (not all NCT people deny vicarious law keeping.)
MCT: Same as CT. However, Christ’s active obedience involves far more than legal obedience; it was obedience apart from the law – obedience to the Father’s will in everything thus fulfilling the covenant of redemption. Christ’s righteousness is a divine righteousness which was imputed to all of His elect on the cross.
PRO: I think I agree with them all to a certain extent, which tells me they need further elaboration and sharper distinctions as to why the other views are inadequate, or simply wrong.
View of the different Covenants
CT: The covenant of grace can be found in all the covenants (excluding the covenant of works) because they are derived from the covenant of redemption.
NCT: Since there is no covenant of redemption, all covenants are related and culminate in the new covenant.
MCT: The covenant of grace is best understood as the new covenant which is an overarching covenant and represented in all other covenants excluding administrations of the covenant of works (eg. Sinai).
PRO: I think I agree with NCT.
CT: The main heir to Abraham was Israel, the “church” of the OC. (Some would affirm agreement with NCT).
NCT: The main heir to Abraham is Christ and His Sheep (spiritual Israel).
MCT: Same as NCT
PRO: I agree with NCT and MCT.
The Holy Spirit
CT: The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in and indwelt in believers of all ages.
NCT: The Holy Spirit didn’t indwell believers until after the cross. (Some would affirm agreement with CT).
MCT: Same as CT
PRO: I agree with NCT (and DT, for that matter).
The law as a rule of living
CT: The OC law is a rule for living, but only the “moral law”. The ceremonial and civil laws were abolished.
NCT: All of the OC law was abolished and only the laws of the NT apply to the believer.
MCT: The OC was a covenant of works. The believer’s rule of living has always been Christ regardless of what age in which they lived. The OC law was given to drive the elect to Christ and cause them to rest in His vicarious obedience to the Father, including the fulfillment of the revealed law because this truly defines righteousness in terms of His life. Commandments involving timeless principles (from all covenants) are good as a rule of conduct, but the law of God is written on the heart of every believer and thus every believer is motivated to obey the law to Christ out of love and gratitude instead of obligation.
PRO: I think I agree with MCT.
Sign of the New Covenant
CT: The sign of the new covenant is baptism just like circumcision was in the OC. Many believe babies ought to be baptized just like babies were circumcised in the OC.
NCT: The sign of the new covenant is baptism and only believers ought to be baptized.
MCT: The sign of the covenant of grace is the circumcision of the heart which is the inner testimony and assurance of the Holy Spirit in the gift of saving faith. Water baptism is an outward testimony commanded by Christ to celebrate the reality of participation in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection through Holy Spirit regeneration unto belief in the gospel.
PRO: I agree with NCT (and parts of MCT). To me it is a categorical confusion between: the sign and the thing signified, to call “the circumcision of the heart” the sign of the New Covenant, as MCT does.