About a year ago I finished reading Russell Moore's The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective. This book isn't primarily about the controversies that provoked the division between the Fundamentalist and (New) Evangelical movements. Rather, it's an examination of the theological arguments advanced by the New Evangelicalism that are too easily lost in the shadows of the controversy that arose when so many of the New Evangelicals went off the theological rails.
Moore takes us back to those discussions of kingdom eschatology, ecclesiology, and soteriology and shows how New Evangelicals proposed a theological system that was on many points distinct from both traditional Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. My sense is that eschatology is the cornerstone issue, though not as much the eschatology of Daniel and Revelation as the eschatology of the Gospels and the Epistles. In other words, in what sense are we living in the last days? How, if at all, have the Kingdom promises of the Old Testament been fulfilled through Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension? What is the relationship between the Abrahamic Covenant and the establishment of the Church? What effect should the answers to those questions have on our understanding of the mission of the Church?
If these are questions you'd like to understand better, this will be a helpful book even if you don't fully agree with Moore. His documentation is voluminous, and the footnotes are well worth reading even though they'll probably triple the amount of time it takes to read the book. More importantly, he offers a wide perspective on the Dispensationalism-Covenant Theology debate that's unlike anything else I've encountered. The icing on the cake of this book is that it connects the dots [mixed metaphor, yeah I know] for those who, like me, have wondered why Fundamentalist Dispensationalists are so quick to divide over eschatology and to be so harshly critical of Progressive Dispensationalism. Moore paints the historical picture of how revisions to traditional Dispensationalism and its eschatology in particular are so closely associated with a movement that deliberately repudiated and distanced itself from the Fundamentalist movement. It's not hard to see why people who saw the New Evangelicalism devolve would react strongly against anything that carries a whiff of the old, familiar scent of gospel compromise.
An analytical approach that was useful to me as I read was to weigh whether the New Evangelical perspective was really driven by exegesis, or whether it was a civic conscience in search of a theology to justify itself. Though I'm far closer to a conclusion now than I was before I started reading, I'm not sufficiently convinced to shoot my mouth off, at least not on that point. At least not yet. In any case, in our current theopolitical climate, this is a matter in which we need careful thinking from believers much more than we need emotional manipulation from vapid mush-head young evangelicals.
What prompts this conversation now is that Moore recently posted a tight little article on his blog, "Is There a Future for Israel?" If you've never thought much about the issues, or you've only heard one side of the Dispensationalism-Covenant Theology conversation, this would be an accessible and thought-provoking piece to read. If it piques your interest, it might be worth giving his full volume a shot.