Mike Bull has recently sent me his new book, The Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key (Westbow Press, 2011). Like his Bible Matrix, this one is full of “patterns”. Did you ever think that Esther, probably one of the most neglected books in the Bible, was covenantal in structure and outline? That it speaks directly to us? Get ahold of Bull’s “key” and you will.
Bull takes the most basic and fundamental structure from one Ray Sutton. You may have heard me from time to time mention Sutton, Jordan, Chilton, Gentry, DeMar and Grant – the Tyler, Texas gang funded by Gary North back in the late eighties and early ninties. I cut my teeth on these men. Sutton is currently Bishop of the Church of Holy Communion in the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC). As an aside, my family has recently joined an Anglican Province of America (APA) body which has established “intercommunion” with REC. Our Bishop knows Sutton. Weird how God brings things around like that. Sutton is no longer a “theonomist” in the strict sense of the word. Nonetheless, his “covenant outline” has survived.
If you don’t remember it, it is:
Or, to put it into everyday speak:
1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To Whom do I report?
3. What are my orders?
4. What do I get if I obey or disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?
Now, this structure, if you will, further came from M. Kline’s work on the ancient near eastern covenant pattern, and is clearly seen in the covenantal structures of the Bible. The Bible is covenantal. The Reformed faith has picked this up more than any other religious sect within Christendom. The Reconstructionists picked up on it with greater clarity, carrying it into every book of the Bible. It sort of became the “glasses” of the believer. After awhile, you start “seeing it” everywhere.
Well, that’s what Bull does. I mean he sees it everywhere. But, he does not simply reuse Sutton’s five points. He develops a seven-fold pattern:
This “overlay” (p. 12) onto Sutton’s work forms the Bible matrix. Previous details in the OT particular suddenly make sense. Why did God have them wash the legs of the sacrifices? Why did he command this act, and not that act. Why are there genealogies? Two themes dominate here: dominion and progression. Dominion is progress. God moves. History moves until it will finally come to rest (glorification). It’s the way God works, as revealed in Gn 1. God is a God of order, not chaos. He takes chaos and orders it. Straightens it out. Systematizes it. And, here’s the kicker: if you are in a blood covenant with this God, then he demands that you imitate him. Put order in your life. Remove the chaos. Ultimately, he will give you rest. But, not so much individually. In a sense, we “rest from our works” when we die (Rev 14.13). However, on earth, the Church is still working the ground as priests. Ultimately, the whole Body will come to rest. This is what Bull calls, “the bigger picture.”
There is no single “prooftext.” The whole Bible is the prooftext. God has demonstrated this patterning over and over again in the Bible; in the stories, the covenants, the books, the laws, down to the details of the Tabernacle and its movements to its rest in Jerusalem. Creation is the focus for it belongs to the LORD. And, he will give it “rest” as well. That’s our mission. As long as Canaanites pollute the Land and cause the “Land to sin” (Lev 18.24-ff), creation is not at rest. This is the language of covenant. It ain’t your grandma’s “spiritual” Christianity. The New Covenant is not a “spiritualizing” of the older ones. It is the covenant through which the older ones can now be entirely realized. The whole point of Conquest (Joshua-Judges) was to bring “safety, peace and rest” in the Land (Deut 28.10; 12.10 et al). The Land is now the Earth. How the Christian Church has, in some quarters, spiritualized away the “physical” promises and the principles behind them for art, covenant, education, science and politic is the great sin of Gnosticism. It amounts to saying that the Israelites got real peace and safety under Solomon, but we only get “spiritual peace and rest” in the New Covenant, with no promise of every bringing peace on earth, literally.
Bull’s book is imaginative, of course. He takes liberties here and there. But, you can’t really find fault there. If biblical patternings like the ones he points out are there, then they are there. We tend to think only in terms of straight-jacketed exegesis. “What’s the original audience relevance?” “What’s the date of the composition”? All good questions to be sure. But, the Bible also teaches us to use our imaginations in the things of God, so that an ordinary matter, like going to the grocery store to buy food, involves covenant. How? Well, “food.” “Buy”. “Going to.” Mobility. Sustenance. Longetivity and health. Food is in the Bible, is it not? And, where did that money come from (Deut 8.18). Think about what you are doing. Open your eyes to the hand of God. There is no doubt why the word “matrix” is chosen. Like the movie, what you see is just “stuff” – illusion. What’s behind the stuff is what Transcendence is all about. But, biblical covenants never transcends the stuff so that that is all that one thinks on (heavenly minded, spiritual). You transcend the stuff so that you can now think correctly about the stuff (Creation, matter, substance, stuff). You order what is daily around you in terms of covenant. Even when I see a star athlete cross himself, or take a bow, or say, “I want to first thank my Lord and God” I see Deut 8.18. God is at work. Everywhere. What, you don’t take omnipresence seriously? Bull does.
One of things for us Preterists to answer concerning the future. How do we know when the Bible appears to say so little about the end of time and history? That the Bible appears to speak more of the “time of the end” (AD 70), than the “end of time.” Well, the end of time is there because it has always been in the covenant structures themselves. God has a goal (end) in each covenant. The patterns of the Bible have instructed the “man of God”. How much more does the Bible need to spell this out? What, does it need to give the Church a detailed blueprint for what is supposed to happen in the future? You can’t develop one from the previous upteen patterns and repeat story motifs? You don’t get it by now? That’s why any biblical idea that comes down the pike that has no “future” in terms of the dominion mandate is false. How can you tell it’s false? It does not fit the covenant pattern. It does not take into consideration the whole stuff, heaven and earth, spirit and body, soul and dirt. It usually, radically separates these things and becomes materialistic (science, which sprang from the Church), or Gnostic (spiritualism, which sprang from the Church). Covenantalism unites heaven and earth. Before you know it, we will start “spiritualizing” the opening chapters of Genesis! Oh, wait, that’s already being done. Jesus, however, shatters this notion. He was raised dust. His earthy body was transformed. It Ascended. The dirt of creation from which it originated (Luke 3.38) arose to Heaven, restored. Jesus is Covenant in Action from First to Last. Jesus is the all things of Covenant. He is the Model. He is the Future (Omega). He is what Covenant will look like for all of God’s people, and for Creation itself, as God makes all our enemies under our feet, because they are already under His. He set the Covenant Standard. He is the Goal – the telos of Covenant Law.
Anyhow, get this book. Read it. Study it. Give it to a neighbor, or your Pastor or Bishop. You won’t regret it.