Fidelity-to-Jacob Theology

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Ed Vasicek's picture
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Fidelity-to-Jacob Theology

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When it comes to interpreting Scripture, there are a number of common paradigms in use within the evangelical world. Traditional Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism, Olive Tree Theology, Covenant Theology, New Covenant Theology, Replacement Theology, and Supersessionism are among them.

Some of us fall in between the cracks. For example, I am somewhere between Traditional Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism, and Olive Tree Theology (developed by Messianic Jew David Stern in Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel).

I am suggesting we need a new, broader term to help make the major division between these viewpoints clear. So I am proposing that those of us who believe that God will fulfill the promises he made to ethnic Israel embrace the clear-cut label, “Fidelity-to-Jacob Theology.” This grouping should include many traditional and progressive dispensationalists, those who embrace olive tree theology, and some others.

This dividing line is an important one and significantly influences how we interpret Scripture. The points of this broad hermeneutic are:

1. The promises God made to Israel (Jacob) will stand.

Since replacement theologians and others sometimes refer to the church as “spiritual Israel” or “the new Israel,” I have chosen the term “Jacob” to emphasize the national and ethnic nature of these promises. God will faithfully keep the promises to the people with whom he made the promises—with the terms understood as they would have been understood at the time. There is no slight of hand, no change of definition, no alterations or added conditions, no “drop-in” coded replacement of words. Instead, God’s promises are completely transparent and God’s integrity certain. Because He is sovereign, even human unbelief cannot inhibit His determinations.

2. The church is viewed within the context of God’s dealings with Israel.

God has been dealing with Israel since the time of Jacob and preparing the way for Israel since the time of Abraham. God has always had His remnant of believers, even within the nation of Israel. There have always been non-Jewish believers in Yahweh. In the church—which was yet future as of Matthew 16:18—Jewish and non-Jewish believers have equal status and privileges before God. Jews are still Jews (Acts 10:28, Acts 21:29, Gal. 2:13), however, and Gentiles are still Gentiles, even though believing Gentiles receive the spiritual benefits of being part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12). Messianic Jewish believers—who are not “Judaizers”—are “The Israel of God” indeed (Gal. 6:16). Indeed, those who do not see the Jews as a special people with a special destiny cannot really appreciate the contrast in Galatians between the two types of professing Jewish believers.

3. In Old Testament times, it was a remnant of Jews whose hearts were circumcised and thus right with God (Deut. 30:6).

God has always had a people right with Him (the elect) and also people who populated His nation, many of whom were not elect. This same pattern holds true today. In Pre-Pentecost times, some (at times many) Gentiles turned from their sins and trusted the God of Israel. Some became full Jewish converts, many others partial converts and thus not equally privileged. With the initiation of Jesus’ church, the New Covenant was initiated. Under the New Covenant, believing Jews and believing Gentiles are to be collected together as one new man. Whereas unbelieving Israel still has national purposes in the plan of God, they should not be confused with the elect. This has always been true; it is not a New Testament phenomenon. What is distinct, however, is the equal status before God of believing Jews and believing Gentiles. This status is equality before God, not “sameness” in other regards. Just as there is neither male nor female in our relationship to God (Gal. 3:28), there is a distinction within the church and family (1 Tim. 2:9-15).

4. God will restore the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6) in His time.

Right now, Jewish believers and Gentile believers are integrated into one body, the current form of the Kingdom. At the end of the Tribulation period, all Israel will come to believe (Zech. 12:10-13:9) and all will enter the New Covenant.

5. During that 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom, Ezekiel’s temple will be rebuilt, Christ will reign from Jerusalem, and the Jewish people will be exalted

(cf. Zech. 12-14, Ezek. 40ff).

Whether we divide spiritual history into dispensations or label eras as covenants, whether we agree as to when the rapture occurs in relationship to the tribulation, or whether we embrace the idea that a mystery means something not mentioned at all in the Old Testament or mentioned but not clearly—these are not nearly as important to our approach to interpreting Scripture. What is important from an interpretational and theological perspective is that we recognize that God is no swindler, no double-talker. He will keep His fidelity to Jacob.

Jeremiah 31:37 states it clearly: “Thus says the Lord: ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.’”

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Temple?

Hi Ed:

Thank you for your article. Just a few thoughts. In my thinking, your point #5 is one of the most problematic. I think I understand the problem many have with so-called replacement theology. Yet, the positing of a rebuilt temple seems to be reversion theology, reverting to shadows. God can do what he wants, and we will all be surprised with the unveiling of God’s future plans, but I fail to see how a rebuilt temple squares with the teaching of the book of Hebrews and the obsoletion of the old covenant.

I disagree with several of your statements including this one: “God will faithfully keep the promises to the people with whom he made the promises—with the terms understood as they would have been understood at the time.”  Of course God will faithfully keep his promises. However the other part does not follow. The “people” to whom God gave the promises were not recipients of the promises since they died, mostly in unbelief, unless you take them as representative of ethnic Israel. If by “people” you mean a future, ethnic Israel, then it doesn’t really matter how the original hearers of the promises understood them and no guarantee that there would not be further light and clarification received, as we have in the New Testament. I have no problem with the possibiity of an ingathering of ethnic Jews, whether now during the church age or at the coming of Christ. But our understanding of future events is not limited to how anyone in the past would’ve understood them but informed by further revelation.

You didn’t mention the restoration of animal sacrifices so I’m not sure if that’s part of your millennial scenario. It was when I was in seminary – blood sacrifices as a memorial along with priesthood and even a resurrected David co-regent with Christ. I fail to see how that plays out in light of Hebrews and Christ the final sacrifice.

As I understand Scripture many of the prophecies assigned to the millennium might be better understood as referring to the new heavens and the new earth and the eternal reign of Christ. I realize that no system can account for everything, so I remain agnostic as to how much of it will come about. Although we might disagree on some details, I’m sure we can agree that regardless of how the millennium pans out that Jesus will reign forever in the new heavens and the new earth.

You're right, God is no swindler, no double-talker, but it's not like other interpretations, for example, those that see Jesus as the Temple and the perfect Israelite, in whom all the promises are fulfilled, and the church as the people of God in which Jews and Gentiles are one, are guilty of making God's promises untrue. The problem is never with God but with us in our limitations and seeing the future with still veiled eyes.  

Steve Davis

 

iKuyper's picture
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There are many

There are many Fundamentalists leaders who think that young Fundamentalists are leaving the "movement" because of disagreement on Separation.  I would argue that dispensationalism (or fidelity-to-Jacob theology) is the tipping point for many of us young baptist fundamentalists. Because dispensationalism is so wedded to the IFB movement, many who think in terms of "fulfillment" cannot stand to be in close fellowship  with "land" obsessed pastors/amateur theologians anymore. There are just way too many inconsistencies and failed recognition of fulfilled prophecies in Christ.

So now we've come in full circle--young fundamentalists DO practice separation. The irony...

 

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Full Circle

As an "old fundamentalist" who moved away from Dispensationalism many years ago, I can say that I have no problem being around Dispensationalist Fundamentalists.  Many of them are fervent and godly servants of Christ, and I am almost always refreshed by their fellowship.

The problem is that some of them act like they don't want to have anyone around who does not share their Dispensational views.  They don't make me uncomfortable, but sometimes I seem to make them uncomfortable.  They seem to want to retreat unto the comfort of a circle of fellowship where everybody believes exactly the same thing.

Until one is able to discuss and defend his position calmly, he probably doesn't understand it very well.  In my early pastoral years, I taught Dispensationalism because that's what I had been taught, and nearly everyone I knew believed it.  It always bothered me, because I knew I couldn't defend it very well from Scripture.  However, I assumed that I would understand it better by and by.   I was convinced it must be true.  I  couldn't see it for myself--yet, but I was sure I would see it eventually.  But a strange thing happened on the way to the Bible.  The more I examined the texts, the more uncertain I became.  It seemed to be based upon presuppositions and questionable exegesis.  I concluded that the "literal whenever possible" hermaneutic was a blinder that rendered many New Testament texts void.  It didn't seem to matter how NT writers, including Jesus, interpreted the Old Testament.  If they didn't echo a literal understanding, they could not be believed.  That is a problem for me. 

However, I am happy to fellowship with Dispensationalists.  They really are some of the finest Christians I know!

G. N. Barkman

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Non-dispensationalists love Scripture too..

Thanks for your thoughts, Mr. Barkman.

I must admit that my words were hyperbolic. I do enjoy fellowship with many Godly dispensationalists. In fact, I learned under great, God-honoring men who loved Scripture. The dispensationalists I separate from are those who think that any other position is a result of shoddy exegesis and loose hermeneutics--"those who see the land promises fulfilled are of the devil" types. Really, they separate from me. So my reaction is more of a counter-reaction.

I am witnessing a trend.. This is purely anecdotal, but I see many Bible majors in Fundamentalist Baptist institutions leaving Fundamentalism and Dispensationalism while others who are not as theological trained (for example, music and education majors) stay within the movement. Anyone else notice this?

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

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Ed, sadly your proposed name

Ed, sadly your proposed name is too small in scope.  It isn't about Fidelity to Jacob.  It is about fidelity to God.  God swore by His own name because there was nothing greater to swear by.  God must fulfill his promises because that is who God is.  His nature demands he keep his word.

Is 49:6

He says," It is not enough for you to be My Servant raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the protected ones of Israel. I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth."

The Servant would restore Jacob and bring salvation to the nations.

What was decayed or torn down from Jacob?  What was Jacob exactly that needed restoration?  Anything shy of a belief that God will restore Jacob back to what it was prior to this promise is a failure to understand the plan of God. Sadly, too many promise restoration to the gentiles as fulfillment of this text.  The gentiles aren't being restored.  They are being saved.  It is Israel that will be restored.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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God is No Used Car Salesman

I have some general comments to make, hopefully specific enough to at least touch on some of the discussion.

The promises made to Jacob were made to Jacob and his descendents.  His descendents were not understood to be Jacob's immediate children (for they lived in Egypt), but for future generations of his physical descendants.  Throughout the OT, these are reiterated.  They even survive in the NT. For example, Zechariah's prophecy in Luke 1:68-74 reflects an understanding that the Messiah came to fulflill the promises made to Abraham 2,000 years earlier.  Simeons prophecy in Luke 2:29-31 also suggest the Messiah was comng to exalt Israel.  THEY understood that the promised made to the physcial descendants of Jacob were still valid.

In Acts 3:19-25 (ESV), Peter makes it clear to an unbelieving audience  of Jews (some of whome would come to believe, others not), that the promises God made through the propehts were made to THEM:

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

Who were the sons of the covenant God made to Abraham?  The Jews.

 

As far as a temple goes and the sacrifices, we know there will no longer be a scarifice for sin, but to assert more is to go beyond the text.  A shadow finds a fulfillment, and a fulfillment can find a shadow.  There is a mirror image: the literal furniture of the Tabernacle foreshadows the spiritua (the Messiah ,etc.),, and the church (the spiritual) is post-shadowed by the Millennium. 

That Temple worship and grace can co-exist was demonstrated by the the Aposltes themselves.  Involved in a Nazarite vow was a sacrifice.  Here is Acts 21:19-26

19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.

The difference between the old and new covenant is mainly that of relationship and who is in it, not so much rules.  Israel,  under the New Covenant can still worship at a Temple. The New Covenant includes only the regenerate, the Old included the entire nation of Israel, regenerate or unregenerate.  This is a majoy subject in itself.  David Stern, in "Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel," addresses some of these issues (although I disagree with him on a few point)  and is a quick, short read for those interested.

 

God is so sovereign and his grace so stubborn that, if he determines to regnerate a people, he will do it and nothing can stand in his way, not even human rejection and unbelief.

 

Isaiah 43:23-25 suggests that God is greatly offended at the contempt in which many of the Jewish people held him, yet he was determined to forgive them anyway. This did not occur to the generation about to go into captivity, but to a future one.

God keeps his Word to those to which he gave it as understood at the time.  Nothing -- not even human unbelief -- can thwart him.

If by Israel God no longer means the physical descendants of Jacob, he may have changed his mind about what heaven is like too.  Or what it means to believe.  Words lose their meaning when they are later altered to mean something else.

To add to what is promised is one thing, to take away ... that's a different story.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Hello There

 

iKuyper wrote:

There are many Fundamentalists leaders who think that young Fundamentalists are leaving the "movement" because of disagreement on Separation.  I would argue that dispensationalism (or fidelity-to-Jacob theology) is the tipping point for many of us young baptist fundamentalists. Because dispensationalism is so wedded to the IFB movement, many who think in terms of "fulfillment" cannot stand to be in close fellowship  with "land" obsessed pastors/amateur theologians anymore. There are just way too many inconsistencies and failed recognition of fulfilled prophecies in Christ.

So now we've come in full circle--young fundamentalists DO practice separation. The irony...

 

Some truth in this, however, we need to go deeper.

Some IFB were in churches contolled through legalism, guilt, and Baptist traditons.  They have left for other churches controlled by detailed (perhaps even intllectual) system ()including organization) and other traditions.  The point, however, is that they gone from one soure of control to another.  

A few of us, however, do not have as much of the "contol baggage."  I have a little, but was raised Catholic, and, although I went legalistic for a few years, not to the degree that was prevalent in many IFB churches in my area.  I have found understanding Christianity as Trans-cultural Messianic Judaism to help me understand the Word so much better.  Others, have mis-used this concept to try to force believers under the Law.  What's the difference?  CONTROL.

It is abundantly clear to me that much of Scripture is, in fact, a stroyline of God's faithfulness to Israel.  Looking at the Word from a sheer quantity approach should argue the case.  I would even argue that there are more Scriptures related to God's faithfulness and dealings with Israel than there is the Messiah or the "scarlet thread of redemption," as crucial as this is.  HELLO.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Literal ethnic Jews?Romans

Who were the sons of the covenant God made to Abraham?  The Jews.

Literal ethnic Jews?

Romans 2:28-29, "For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God."

Galatians 3:29, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

Why do dispensationalists insist upon reading "Jew" or "descendent" or "Israel" as literal  all the time when the NT writers don't? Why do dispensationalists insist on reading Scripture with a hermeneutic different than Paul's or the others?

Jews will definitely be saved, but they're no more important then the Pols, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Haitians, Arabs, etc under the New Covenant... And if they are "in Christ" they're the real "Jews" anyways..well, at least to Apostle Paul.. Why aren't we taking on the "plain reading" of the text..

I feel as though dispensationalists are doing the same thing as the disbelieving Jews when Jesus came on the scene--"Oh, he's not the Messiah. He doesn't look like a King. God doesn't lie, he's true to His promises and He'll bring us a King!" 

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Agree

Thanks Ed.  +1 from me.  No argument here.

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iKuyper wrote:Who were the

iKuyper wrote:

Who were the sons of the covenant God made to Abraham?  The Jews.

Literal ethnic Jews?

Romans 2:28-29, "For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God."

Galatians 3:29, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

Why do dispensationalists insist upon reading "Jew" or "descendent" or "Israel" as literal  all the time when the NT writers don't? Why do dispensationalists insist on reading Scripture with a hermeneutic different than Paul's or the others?

Jews will definitely be saved, but they're no more important then the Pols, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Haitians, Arabs, etc under the New Covenant... And if they are "in Christ" they're the real "Jews" anyways..well, at least to Apostle Paul.. Why aren't we taking on the "plain reading" of the text..

I feel as though dispensationalists are doing the same thing as the disbelieving Jews when Jesus came on the scene--"Oh, he's not the Messiah. He doesn't look like a King. God doesn't lie, he's true to His promises and He'll bring us a King!" 

 

This is a great example of reading assumptions into a text. Context is king.  Paul is addressing (in no uncertain terms) those who call themselves "Jews" in Romans 2:17; he is doing this in full view of all his readers, however. He affirms what the rabbis taught, that being a Jew was not merely an OUTWARD thing but ALSO an inward thing.   Paul is NOT saying that gentiles are Jews (for they are not), but that believing Jews are Jews indeed. Paul obviously understood the Jewish mind, and, as a Jeiwsh teacher, heard and taught this same idea before his conversion. There is absolutely nothing uniquely "Christian" in this idea; Paul is using ammunition from Judaism itself.

In Galatians, we are said to be Abraham's offspring.  That is not the same as being a Jew.  Jacob, not Abraham, is the father of the Jews (Israel).  Abraham had a number of children that were gentiles, and Esau, Isaac's son, was not a Jew either.  Abraham's seed (both the Messiah, as taught in Galatians, and the Jews, as suggested elsewhere) were said to bless all nations.  Thus Abraham is not only the genetic father of Isaac and thus grandfather of Jacob, but he is the prototype for all believers.  It is in this sense that he is the "father of all who believe."  Gentile believers have ALWAYS been the sons of Abraham, even before Jesus' birth.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed Vasicek wrote: As far as

Ed Vasicek wrote:

 As far as a temple goes and the sacrifices, we know there will no longer be a scarifice for sin, but to assert more is to go beyond the text.  A shadow finds a fulfillment, and a fulfillment can find a shadow.  There is a mirror image: the literal furniture of the Tabernacle foreshadows the spiritua (the Messiah ,etc.),, and the church (the spiritual) is post-shadowed by the Millennium. 

That Temple worship and grace can co-exist was demonstrated by the the Aposltes themselves.  Involved in a Nazarite vow was a sacrifice.  Here is Acts 21:19-26

19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.

 

Ed:

You're right. God is no used car salesman but with arguments like this you begin to sound like one :-). Seriously, it's arguments like this that do not help the dispensationalists' case when any other view than theirs discredits God. You need to take that off the table to be taken seriously.

As for your temple argument it does not follow in any way that since the Apostles were still part of temple worship in the church age that that will be the case in the future. Why not synagogues as well since they worshiped in them? The temple had not been destroyed yet as part of those things that were passing away according to Hebrews. All I have time for now.

Steve

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those who think that any

those who think that any other position is a result of shoddy exegesis and loose hermeneutics--"those who see the land promises fulfilled are of the devil" types.

It should perhaps be pointed out that these are two different groups of people. It is possible to see another position as the result of shoddy exegesis and/or loose hermeneutics without attributing the people to the devil.

And don't forget that many on the other side treat dispensationalists in a similar manner, such as someone who says,

Why do dispensationalists insist upon reading "Jew" or "descendent" or "Israel" as literal  all the time when the NT writers don't? Why do dispensationalists insist on reading Scripture with a hermeneutic different than Paul's or the others?

Notice how this author (and perhaps you recognize the words) accuse the other side of both shoddy exegesis and loose hermeneutics.

But hey, at least you didn't say they were of the devil.

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Steve Davis wrote:Ed:You're

Steve Davis wrote:

Ed:

You're right. God is no used car salesman but with arguments like this you begin to sound like one :-). Seriously, it's arguments like this that do not help the dispensationalists' case when any other view than theirs discredits God. You need to take that off the table to be taken seriously.

As for your temple argument it does not follow in any way that since the Apostles were still part of temple worship in the church age that that will be the case in the future. Why not synagogues as well since they worshiped in them? The temple had not been destroyed yet as part of those things that were passing away according to Hebrews. All I have time for now.

Steve

 

My temple argument is very solid to make this point:  it is COMPATIBLE for Jewish Christians, saved by grace, to  participate in temple life.  I agree that this argument does not PROVE the temple will be rebuilt.  Ezekiel and others do that.  :)   (I would add a real smiley if I knew how!)

 

As far as the used car salesman argument, you may have a point.  I should say that TO ME he would be like a used car salesman.  God writes over and over again about his future intentions for Israel (in the end), his power to do so despite human resistance, and then repeats it over and over.  If that isn't clear, what is?

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Still not clear

I realize that back and forth discussions like this don’t accomplish much. Some find certain arguments persuasive that others find lacking. Ezekiel's temple is one of them. Until I was exposed to other views I was a diehard dispensationalist. I do not consider myself anti-dispensational. I could even teach dispensationalism (although I’m not expecting any invitations). If I did, I would teach it as a view that enjoys great favor in certain circles (mostly in North America), has endured under great criticism, and has competent defenders who love the Word. But I would also teach that it does not have a long history, goes beyond Scripture in some points than what Scripture clearly teaches (as do other views), has competent detractors who also love God’s Word. As a side note, I spent over a decade overseas and rarely if ever met a dispensationlist who was not American or influenced by American missionaries. That’s not to say it’s right or wrong. It does say that the view has limited global impact.

Our church does not take a millennium position although we will not be disappointed if there is a 1000-year period that precedes the eternal reign. We gladly fellowship with both dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists. It is a non-issue. I do not think that the millennium will include a rebuilt temple, animal sacrifices, or the exaltation of an ethnic people. I remain open to be convinced otherwise either now or more likely in the fulfillment. I do not think in any way that other views take away from what God promised the Jewish people. What Jews and Gentiles have in Christ now and forever far surpasses any earthly inheritance.

The discussions are interesting but ultimately have little impact on daily life, the mission of the church, and how we live as disciples as Jesus. The average church member is content to know that Jesus is coming again and will reign forever. Of that we can be sure. On the details we can continue to disagree.

Steve

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Read Other POV's . . .

I have always found it very helpful to actually READ the other side's POV, instead of relying on characterizations of their views from the commentators in your own camp. I have been going through Daniel with four dispensational commentaries over the past two months.

I've intentionally ordered two more, one from Edward Young, a great amillennialist conservative, and another from John Goldingay, a liberal who assigns a very late to Daniel and doesn't see it as predictive prophesy. I'll be looking at their arguments and deciding for myself how well dispensationalism holds up to Scripture in the face of some of the best the "other side" has to offer.

Any thinking Christian needs to be ready to challenge his own presuppositions and really decide whether he is just following the crowd or he really believes his position is best.

 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Ed Vasicek wrote: This is a

Ed Vasicek wrote:

This is a great example of reading assumptions into a text. Context is king.  Paul is addressing (in no uncertain terms) those who call themselves "Jews" in Romans 2:17; he is doing this in full view of all his readers, however. He affirms what the rabbis taught, that being a Jew was not merely an OUTWARD thing but ALSO an inward thing.   Paul is NOT saying that gentiles are Jews (for they are not), but that believing Jews are Jews indeed. Paul obviously understood the Jewish mind, and, as a Jeiwsh teacher, heard and taught this same idea before his conversion. There is absolutely nothing uniquely "Christian" in this idea; Paul is using ammunition from Judaism itself.

In Galatians, we are said to be Abraham's offspring.  That is not the same as being a Jew.  Jacob, not Abraham, is the father of the Jews (Israel).  Abraham had a number of children that were gentiles, and Esau, Isaac's son, was not a Jew either.  Abraham's seed (both the Messiah, as taught in Galatians, and the Jews, as suggested elsewhere) were said to bless all nations.  Thus Abraham is not only the genetic father of Isaac and thus grandfather of Jacob, but he is the prototype for all believers.  It is in this sense that he is the "father of all who believe."  Gentile believers have ALWAYS been the sons of Abraham, even before Jesus' birth.

It's not that I'm forsaking context. In fact, I'll submit the entire books of Romans and Galatians as "context." I guess we're always going to disagree with the scope and application of certain texts. I agree with 90 percent of what you're saying here. But I'm still convinced that the texts are articulating that "true Jewishness" points beyond ethnicity.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

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Another Approach?

After a lot of study, with a lot more to go, I have been leaning towards structuring the whole Bible according to covenants. Instead of relying on a dispensational framework, why can't we use the same literal hermeneutic and form a "covenental" framework? When I think of how God deals with His people in various dispensations, I immediately think of what covenant they are under - not what dispensation.

This seems to be a fruitful area for further exploration. Everything that happens to Israel is a result of a violation of a covenant, isn't it? Isn't the concept of covenant pretty significant? I haven't done any real study on this framework, but it certainly seems like it might have something to it. Just a random thought . . .!

 

 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Larry wrote: those who think

Larry wrote:

those who think that any other position is a result of shoddy exegesis and loose hermeneutics--"those who see the land promises fulfilled are of the devil" types.

It should perhaps be pointed out that these are two different groups of people. It is possible to see another position as the result of shoddy exegesis and/or loose hermeneutics without attributing the people to the devil.

You're probably right. But my experience has been that these are one and the same group.

Larry wrote:

And don't forget that many on the other side treat dispensationalists in a similar manner, such as someone who says,

Why do dispensationalists insist upon reading "Jew" or "descendent" or "Israel" as literal  all the time when the NT writers don't? Why do dispensationalists insist on reading Scripture with a hermeneutic different than Paul's or the others?

Notice how this author (and perhaps you recognize the words) accuse the other side of both shoddy exegesis and loose hermeneutics.

But hey, at least you didn't say they were of the devil.

Touché.

 

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

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Really now

A couple of interesting quotations to demonstrate that many of Paul's teachings were common fare Judaism.  The Jews, for example, made (and still make) a distinction between Jew and gentile, yet note the following from the Talmud:

 

"Whoever is not merciful to his fellow creature is certainly not of the descendants of our father Abraham."  (Beizah 32b)

 

"Whoever repudiates idolatry is called a Jew" (Megillah 13a).

 

I am preaching through Isaiah right now, and Young's commentary is great.  Oswalt's is even better. But Constable is the better interpreter, IMO.   It is not that I have not read or been exposed to the other viewpoints.

I would suggest this simple scenario.  The early church turned anti-semitic in the second century (easy enough to document).  This grew worse in the Middle Ages.  The Reformers came out of this background and embrace similar anti-semitic assumptions.  Dispensationalists  were willing to accept the idea that God had not forsaken Israel and reclaimed some of the Jewish Roots, but muddied matters in a framework filled with divisions and eras.  What we need to do is go back to the Jewish Roots, to a Christianity that is pre-antisemitic.

 

The idea that only the unstudied or unintelligent are dispensationalists is not only untrue and unfair, but such mockery demonstrates the arrogance of some of those on the other side. What some Christians did to the Jews, what some whites did to the blacks, some covenant theologians are doing to the dispensationalists.  Although I am not a traditional dispensationalist or a covenant theologian or liberal or Arminian or Catholic or Jewish, I confess that there are people of greater intelligence than I  and with a broader knowledge base than I who disagree with me. 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Covenants Must Mean What They Say

For me the issue really comes down to two questions:

 

1.  Why does God make covenants?

 

2. Can a covenant mean something other than the words it employs?

 

The answer to the first question is that God made covenants for US - so that we'd pay attention and know He means to do what He has obligated Himself to do.

The answer to the second question is a resounding "No!"  Covenants cannot be made to mean anything other than what they meant when they were made.  This is because of the nature of covenants as establishing relational bonds.

Now, a bi-lateral covenant (e.g. Mosaic) can be annulled through the failure of one of the parties to fulfill their obligations.  But when God enters into such an obligation on His own initiative without requiring others to acquiesce - as in e.g. Royal Grants the situation is different.  E.g. the Noahic - Gen. 9; the Abrahamic - Gen.15, 22, etc.,; Priestly - Num 25; Psa. 106:30; Davidic - 1 Chron. 17; Psa. 89; 105; and New - Jer. 31:31-37 covevants are of this kind.  God must and will do what He has covenanted to do.  This is where Jeremiah 33:14-26 is so crucial.  there four covenants are mentioned in context with the reign of the Branch on earth: one being the Priestly covenant.

In the very next chapter God goes after Zedekiah and the Elders for not performing "the words of the covenant" which they made before Him (esp. Jer. 34:18).  Next God highlights the fidelity of the Rechabites to a human ancestors' commandment and contrasts that literal obedience to the Jews' disobedience; the moral clearly being that God expects us to do what we SAY we will do.  He will not do any less!

 

Whether or not we can understand all the whys and wherefors about the restoration of national Israel after Christ's return, these covenants mean that God will restore them.  There's plenty of things in Scripture which I don't fully fathom, like eternal Hell and the hypostatic union.  Our first job is to believe, not to stand aloof until we can agree with what God has said He will do.

 

Just my tuppence worth.

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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Paul Henebury wrote: For me

Paul Henebury wrote:

For me the issue really comes down to two questions:

 

1.  Why does God make covenants?

 

2. Can a covenant mean something other than the words it employs?

 

The answer to the first question is that God made covenants for US - so that we'd pay attention and know He means to do what He has obligated Himself to do.

The answer to the second question is a resounding "No!"  Covenants cannot be made to mean anything other than what they meant when they were made.  This is because of the nature of covenants as establishing relational bonds.

Now, a bi-lateral covenant (e.g. Mosaic) can be annulled through the failure of one of the parties to fulfill their obligations.  But when God enters into such an obligation on His own initiative without requiring others to acquiesce - as in e.g. Royal Grants the situation is different.  E.g. the Noahic - Gen. 9; the Abrahamic - Gen.15, 22, etc.,; Priestly - Num 25; Psa. 106:30; Davidic - 1 Chron. 17; Psa. 89; 105; and New - Jer. 31:31-37 covevants are of this kind.  God must and will do what He has covenanted to do.  This is where Jeremiah 33:14-26 is so crucial.  there four covenants are mentioned in context with the reign of the Branch on earth: one being the Priestly covenant.

In the very next chapter God goes after Zedekiah and the Elders for not performing "the words of the covenant" which they made before Him (esp. Jer. 34:18).  Next God highlights the fidelity of the Rechabites to a human ancestors' commandment and contrasts that literal obedience to the Jews' disobedience; the moral clearly being that God expects us to do what we SAY we will do.  He will not do any less!

 

Whether or not we can understand all the whys and wherefors about the restoration of national Israel after Christ's return, these covenants mean that God will restore them.  There's plenty of things in Scripture which I don't fully fathom, like eternal Hell and the hypostatic union.  Our first job is to believe, not to stand aloof until we can agree with what God has said He will do.

Just my tuppence worth.

 

This is part of the problem. Covenants mean what God intended them to mean whether the original recipients understood them or not. If there was no New Testament and the Old Testament stood alone there would be a better chance of being so sure of ethnic Israel's restoration in the way understood by Dispensationalists. Please don't make it a matter of just believing what God said. Non-dispensationalists just as assuredly believe what God said. To say otherwise is a vain attempt to grab the high ground.  We agree that God will do what he has said he will do. We disagree on what he will do. Our disagreements are with one another and our lack of agreement should cause us to proceed cautiously with claims of agreeing with God on future events.

Steve

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Steve, The OT contains

Steve,

The OT contains promises for both Israel's restoration and salvation for Gentiles.  If you restore something, it implies it has decayed or fallen into ruin.  The Gentiles were not the natural descendants of Jacob, so promises to restore them would have been illogical.  What exactly was Israel in the OT?  Were they a national/political entity or simply a nomadic group without definite territorial claims?  Anyone familiar with the OT would know the importance of the land in connection with Israel.

At the same time and even in the same verse, like Is 49:6, salvation is promised to the gentiles.  This is confirmed throughout the NT even that the gentiles were on the outside without God.  Those of your position would need a NT text that equated Israel's restoration with gentile salvation.  No such text exists.  Texts about gentiles salvation are in both the OT and NT, so that doesn't prove your case.  Passages that show similarity simply establish the common salvation we all share.

There is nothing in the NT to eradicate the OT expectation of Israel's restoration.  Since God cannot lie, that is what must still happen.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Come on Steve!

Steve,

 

I am not attempting to take the high ground.  I am just setting out a clear position based on the nature of covenants and what God obligates Himself to do in them.  I made a scriptural argument.  Let me to decipher what you have said:

Quote:
This is part of the problem. Covenants mean what God intended them to mean whether the original recipients understood them or not.

This misunderstands the nature of covenants, which are relationships entered into in time with those to whom they are addressed.  What in these covenants is to misunderstand?  Further, I set out biblical precedent for this theology in the way God dealt with men who swore an oath and didn't perform "the words of the covenant."

Quote:
If there was no New Testament and the Old Testament stood alone there would be a better chance of being so sure of ethnic Israel's restoration in the way understood by Dispensationalists.

Then you believe the OT would be more clear on its own terms if the NT didn't alter the meaning of the OT, yes?  This implies that the apostolic age believers HAD the NT to begin with (the "Scriptures" the Apostles refer to for verification is our OT as you know).  It further implies that the OT is not perspicuous nor sufficient on its own (contra 2 Tim. 3:16).  

Quote:
Non-dispensationalists just as assuredly believe what God said.

Fine with me.  What did God SAY in Jer.33:14-26?

Quote:
We agree that God will do what he has said he will do.

God has said "'Thus says the LORD:`If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season,
21 `then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers.
22 `As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.' - Jer. 33:20-22

Do you believe this?  What do you think God means here?

Quote:
We disagree on what he will do.

This is a little confusing.  Only if one of us thinks God will NOT do precisely what He promises in the above verses.  A corollary to this is the implication that this seemingly crystal clear pronouncement of God to fulfill four covenants (quoted in the context) is not clear at all.  Once you give me your interpretation of this passage perhaps this threat of ambiguity can be diverted.  We don't think God made ambiguous covenants!

Quote:
Our disagreements are with one another and our lack of agreement should cause us to proceed cautiously with claims of agreeing with God on future events.

These are prophecies are they not?  How does one know whether a prophecy has come true?  Moreover, how is one told to test a true prophet?  Deut. 18:22:

'When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.'

This test would be rendered obsolete if there was not a clear correspondence between what the words in context appeared to mean and the way they would be fulfilled in the future.  Anyone could claim a prophecy was fulfilled if it wasn't clear what God would do.

Dear brother, you are free to come to your own conclusions, but you must explain your position in clear terms.  Then we can see where any lack of clarity lies.

 

God bless,

 

Paul

 

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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TylerR wrote:After a lot of

TylerR wrote:

After a lot of study, with a lot more to go, I have been leaning towards structuring the whole Bible according to covenants. Instead of relying on a dispensational framework, why can't we use the same literal hermeneutic and form a "covenental" framework? When I think of how God deals with His people in various dispensations, I immediately think of what covenant they are under - not what dispensation.

This seems to be a fruitful area for further exploration. Everything that happens to Israel is a result of a violation of a covenant, isn't it? Isn't the concept of covenant pretty significant? I haven't done any real study on this framework, but it certainly seems like it might have something to it. Just a random thought . . .!

Tyler, you should read the new book Kingdom through Covenant. It is exactly about that. Here's my brief summary of it:

*************************

Many contemporary theologians draw a clear contrast between biblical theology and systematic theology. This volume attempts to address issues in systematic theology by first establishing a foundation in biblical theology (36).

Among evangelical Protestants, two dominant theological systems (besides Lutheranism) are dispensationalism and covenant theology. Theologians in these two camps are often sharply critical of one another. The authors of this new book, both professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, seek a “middle way” between dispensationalism and covenant theology (23, cf. 36, 127). They see themselves as standing under the umbrella of “new covenant theology,” or, to coin a better term, “progressive covenantalism” (24). They believe the differences between dispensationalism and covenant theology stem primarily from each system’s interpretation of the covenants and their relationship of those covenants to one another (39, 80, 82, 119).

In the first section, the authors compare and contrast dispensationalism and covenant theology. They believe the key issues separating dispensationalism and covenant theology are the priority of the New Testament over the Old Testament, the nature of biblical covenants, and the use of typology (109ff).

In this first section they also reveal their interpretive framework and basic hermeneutical approach. When interpreting the Bible, there are three horizons or contexts that must be considered: the textual horizon (the immediate context)—examining the text using the grammatical-historical method of interpretation (93); the epochal horizon—examining the text in light of redemptive history and progressive revelation (94); and the canonical horizon—examining the text in relation to entire canon (99).

Throughout this book, Gentry and Wellum emphasize two crucial biblical concepts. The first concept is that of “covenant,” which they believe is “central…to the narrative plot structure of the Bible” (21). So central, that “a number of crucial theological differences within Christian theology, and the resolution of those differences, are directly  tied to one’s understanding of how the biblical covenants unfold and relate to each other” (21). According to Gentry and Wellum, covenants form the backbone of Scripture (138, 604, 655) and are the key to the structure of the Bible’s plot (13, 14, 101, 139, 656). And the key to understanding the covenants is a stronger emphasis on their ultimate fulfillment in Christ (120). The authors spend the main section of this book first defining and describing the nature of the biblical covenants, and then examining each of the covenants found in Scripture.

The other important biblical concept the authors emphasize is that of “kingdom,” God’s rule over His creation and His people. The kingdom concept in Scripture focuses on the relationship between God and His people (595).

What do “covenant” and “kingdom” have to do with one another? “As the Old Testament unfolds, God’s kingdom is revealed and comes most clearly through the biblical covenants…It is primarily through the biblical covenants viewed diachronically that we learn how the saving rule of God comes to this world” (596, 603). The New Covenant fulfills and supersedes all previous covenants (606, 646, 661). Other covenants must be viewed, interpreted, and applied in light of Christ and the New Covenant (607, 652). “In contrast to other theological views, our proposal of ‘kingdom through covenant’ wants to consistently view and apply the previous covenants through the lens of Jesus’ person and work and the arrival of the new covenant age” (607-608). In the end, it is by understanding and reflecting on the biblical covenants that we can come to know and understand God more fully (657-658).

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Religion
Liberty University Online

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Biblical Covenantalism

I have been working on just such a project, which I call 'Biblical Covenantalism.'  Here's a link to how Christ features in this scheme:

http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/christ-at-the-center-the-ful...

I know Greg Long recommends Kingdom through Covenant and his synopsis is terrific, but I have to respectfully say they find fulfillment of many of the covenants at the Cross without thinking carefully enough about (what we now know is) the Second Advent thrust of most of the covenant specifications.  In fact neither man really seems to question their assumption of first advent fulfillment (though Wellum is especially guilty!). 

Your brother,

 

Paul H. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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I think an even more helpful

I think an even more helpful book to this whole discussion is

http://books.google.com/books/about/The_dispensational_covenantal_rift.html?id=grlVAAAAYAAJ

When you study this, you will find that covenantalist/dispensationalists used to be on the same side.  I forget the man's name, but the Presbo who embraced CT, who "tried" Chafer without Chafer being there, was instrumental in wedging the systems apart.  Oddly enough, so was a fellow by the name of Charles Caldwell Ryrie.  If you actually examine Ryrie's 3 points to dispensationalism, you would see that none of them separate DT from CT.  I am amazed that anyone still gives him credibility.  Each side spent the next several decades posturing against each other.  Both of them miss the point about the nature of covenants and the kingdom.  Thankfully, the rise of NCT and PD have helped to calm the crazy each of the others caused.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Appreciate it

I am glad to see I'm not out on a limb on this one! I appreciate the reading suggestions. Perhaps one day, when I finish Seminary, I can actually take a breath and do some in-depth study of these issues at my own pace!

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Who's "we"

Paul Henebury wrote:

I have been working on just such a project, which I call 'Biblical Covenantalism.'  Here's a link to how Christ features in this scheme:

http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/christ-at-the-center-the-ful...

I know Greg Long recommends Kingdom through Covenant and his synopsis is terrific, but I have to respectfully say they find fulfillment of many of the covenants at the Cross without thinking carefully enough about (what we now know is) the Second Advent thrust of most of the covenant specifications.  In fact neither man really seems to question their assumption of first advent fulfillment (though Wellum is especially guilty!). 

Your brother,

Paul H. 

I'm not sure who the "we' refers to who now know what the authors seem to have missed. Maybe they thought carefully about the thrust  possibility and disagree. 

As for your previous post: I think we both know that it would be rather fruitless to hammer out point by point what’s been done over and over. This format rarely lends itself to meaningful discussion. I prefer face-to-face so look me up the next time you are in Philly.

Also I remember reading your extensive, well written response series to another position some time ago (not that I agreed :-).  My point is more attitudinal. It’s the language of certainty that does not bring more credibility to even a “clear position” like yours which is not so clear to others. You need to hear yourself when you say in reference to our disagreement on what God will do “Only if one of us thinks God will NOT do precisely what He promises in the above verses.” Your error is not that you think you know with precision but that your certainty is in interpretation not in Scripture itself. God will do precisely what He promises. That does not mean it will be precisely done in the way you or I think it will. 

Steve

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Steve, I shall have to skip

Steve,

 

I shall have to skip the "we" discussion as this is not the place.  I intend to review the book once I am through it.

 

As for my degree of certainty i hope you understand that there is a difference between confidence on a particular position one holds and believing that THAT is God's position.  The questions you were asked and the argument you didn't join were meant to get to the issues without talking round them.  I have no problem with someone coming clean and saying the NT reinterprets the OT or that they "spiritualize" many OT prophecies, but so many people today try to skirt around these matters and insist they are believing what God promises while not believing say, Jer. 33:14-26 or Zech 14 or Ezek. 40-48 in its covenantal context, while also refusing to actually deal with the passage. 

 

To me if someone has a theology which refuses to face the large issues created by it they ought to be asked to address them.  Sorry if this comes across as too certain.  But you are not dealing with a person who has not long considered other views.  This does not mean I am right!  But we get nowhere if we won't discuss the important questions.

 

It is no virtue not to have a well thought out position, as I'm sure you agree.  But avoiding discussion because one party appears to be dogmatic (and you will find I am not if given a sound counter-argument), is surely a form of ad hominem.

 

God bless you and your ministry,

 

Paul

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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Some good thoughts, guys

James K writes

Thankfully, the rise of NCT and PD have helped to calm the crazy each of the others caused.

I agree that either/or is sometimes made out of both/and.  I am closest to PD myself, and I appreciate the Robert Saucy perspective of a mirror image:  the literal (tabernacle, etc.), followed by the spiritual (Messiah/church).   the spiritual (church as the kingdom), followed by the literal kingdom (millennium).  The spiritual in no way denies the literal.

I believe we are often give to either/or and do not properly weight the both/and approach.

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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By the Way

Fidelity to Jacob Theology is about a common base, the least common denominator being God will fulfill the promises he made to the descendants of Jacob.  It does not address whether these promises have bearing on the church.

A traditional dispensationalist would tend to say, "these promises have no direct bearing on the church, but there may be applications."

A progressive dispensationalist or olive tree theology person (or me, in between these two) would say, "The literal fulfillment to Israel will occur, but there may ALSO be spiritual fulfillments in the church."  It is possible (although I am not of this persuasion) to understand the church as "spiritual Israel" and also acknowledge God will keep his promises literally to the Jewish people.

But whichever of these three approaches one takes, Fidelity to Jacob is the common point.  It is not about what one does not believe, but attempts to define part of what one may believe.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Paul Henebury wrote: I have

Paul Henebury wrote:

I have been working on just such a project, which I call 'Biblical Covenantalism.'  Here's a link to how Christ features in this scheme:

http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/christ-at-the-center-the-ful...

I know Greg Long recommends Kingdom through Covenant and his synopsis is terrific, but I have to respectfully say they find fulfillment of many of the covenants at the Cross without thinking carefully enough about (what we now know is) the Second Advent thrust of most of the covenant specifications.  In fact neither man really seems to question their assumption of first advent fulfillment (though Wellum is especially guilty!). 

Your brother,

 

Paul H. 

Dr. Henebury, I should qualify my post by saying I recommend that Tyler read Kingdom through Covenant, but I do not give an unqualified recommendation of the book. My summary was compiled through a quick reading of Parts One and Three while completely skipping most of Part Two. This is why I did not provide an evaluation of the book's merits. I would look forward to reading such an evaluation from you. Thank you for your consistent and cogent defense of dispensationalism.

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Religion
Liberty University Online

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Greg

Sorry Greg, I am happy to be corrected.  I too think the book worth reading.

 

God bless,

 

Paul

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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Has The Church Replaced Israel?

Ed,
Good article.

Some might be interested in the books:

“Has The Church Replaced Israel?” By Michael J. Vlach; endorsed by Paige Patterson and others. 

“Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged” by B. E. Horner.

David R. Brumbelow

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