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Israel and the Church, Part 3: Progressive Dispensationalism

April 8, 2015 1 comment

Continuing in “Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views,” Robert Saucy’s essay provides a good description of Progressive Dispensationalism as it relates to hermeneutics, partial fulfillments and “already/not yet,” and PD’s ideas concerning Israel and the Church.

Part of the essay addresses the question of Israel’s future restoration and the millennial age, and here I observe that the PD view, on this point, is similar to classic historic / covenantal premillennialism. Addressing Romans 11, Saucy also includes quotes from non-dispensationalist, CT author John Murray, that affirm Israel’s future, as with Murray’s commentary on Romans 11:12, “Gospel blessing [for Gentiles] far surpassing anything experienced during the period of Israel’s apostasy… occasioned by the conversion of Israel on a scale commensurate with that of their earlier disobedience.”

Saucy emphasizes on the one hand, unity and “one people of God,” while on the other hand stressing that the church is not Israel, with discussion of the NT texts which indeed never describe the church as “Israel” or “New Israel,” as he further notes that this idea only began with Justin Martyr in the 2nd century.  As with other non-CT views, PD thinks of the church as beginning in Acts: the standard discontinuity view rooted in the notion that Old Testament saints did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. In this essay at least, Saucy denies to the OT saints anything of regeneration, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or descriptions such as “born again” or “a new creation” to believers prior to Pentecost. My study on this issue agrees with the historic Reformed view, as noted in this previous post and well expressed in John Gill’s commentary on John 7:39: the apostles, and others, that had believed in Christ, and had received the Spirit, as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification; as a spirit of illumination and conversion; as a spirit of faith and adoption; but on the day of Pentecost they were to receive a larger, even an extraordinary measure of his gifts and grace, to qualify them for greater work and service. 

One serious blunder Saucy commits, is his incorrect assumption that CT only exists in paedo-baptist form, such that he asserts that the distinction between Israel as a nation and the church leads to a clear distinction with regard to entrance into the covenantal communities. The obvious problem here is that the 17th century Covenantal Baptists figured this out (who should and should not be baptized), long before dispensationalism arrived on the scene–and they didn’t need any special understanding about Israel and the Church to do so.

Responses:

Robert Reymond’s CT response is again, predictably, a disappointment: not interacting with the specifics of Saucy’s essay, but repeating his denial of premillennialism, only showing his own ignorance by his claims that only one text (Revelation 20) teaches premillennialism (even referencing premillennialists who agree with that idea, a limited group). His response sets forth the standard scripture interpretations for amillennialism including amillennial ideas regarding the “first resurrection.”  Again, though, the essay Reymond is responding to treats issues far more specific than the basics of premillennialism.  Seriously, this book should have had a better representative for CT, at least someone at the level of the many confessional CT believers (found in online Reformed groups) who recognize that the covenantal approach allows for three millennial views, one of which is (historic) premillennialism. Given the abilities of the other three writers, this is a serious drawback to this book. A solid CT writer could have interacted with the other positions and given good response concerning, for instance, the dispensational idea about OT saints not having the Holy Spirit.  Instead, such answers must come from other sources, and I continue to find these out in the reading of covenantal premillennialists.

The other two responses are adequate enough, from the viewpoint of each of their views and addressing areas of difference: for Thomas (traditional dispensationalist) the hermeneutical inconsistencies of PD; for Brand/Pratt, the presuppositions of PD they disagree with, in their idea that focuses on Christ as the fulfillment of Israel.

Next: the last essay, for the Progressive Covenantalism view.

 

 

Thoughts on Dispensationalism, the Rapture, and the One People of God

October 16, 2013 5 comments

S. Lewis Johnson often spoke of how we are always learning new things from the study of God’s word, and that even he (in later years of life) was still discovering and gaining new insights from the Bible.  How true this is, and the exhortation (1 Cor. 10:12) “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” and the importance of making our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:5-10), which includes continual study in God’s word.  Lately, new study material for me has included the rapture timing and specifics in the book of Revelation (going through B.W. Newton’s commentary), and the following observations regarding variations of premillennialism and definitions of terms.

Classic dispensationalism made a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, a difference not only in ethnic identities but one related to their past, present and future (see this message from S. Lewis Johnson): two New Covenants, as well as a division of the different New Testament books, that some were only for the Church and some only for Israel.  As Dr. Johnson observed in this message:

When we think of dispensationalism we should think of not simply a sharp distinction between Israel and the church but also a distinction between these two bodies so far as the past, present, and future is concerned.

Today’s moderate and Progressive Dispensationalism removes the great differences, correctly recognizing one New Covenant for both Jews and Gentiles, and the New Testament books written for all believers, agreeing with the “One People of God” idea.

In his review of Progressive Dispensationalist books, this writer noted (“Why I Can’t Call Myself A Dispensationalist”) that PD has improved on some ideas, but still keeps the pre-trib rapture: downplayed as not essential to the system, yet not really addressing it either.  However, and this is something that only recently occurred to me, the very nature of the pre-trib rapture at least implies some form of “two peoples of God,” with different futures within the plan of God.  One group, the church saints, get resurrected and raptured seven years before Christ’s return and spends those seven years in heaven.  The second group, Israel (of those living at the time of the Second Coming) remains to experience the 70th week of Daniel and the Great Tribulation; the Old Testament saints (non-Church) must also wait another seven years before their resurrection — resulting in two “first resurrections.”

S. Lewis Johnson further observed the difference between dispensationalism and the historic view, also in reference to the rapture timing:

Now the issue (the pre-trib rapture) is regarded as rather minor except by dispensationalists, who think that it is fundamental to their doctrine that our Lord be recognized as having two elect people, Israel and the church, and two different programs with two sets of promises, promises for Israel and for the church and two separate destinies historically.  So, there are some differences of opinion of course, but this is the historic view point: the ethnic future of Israel is a doctrine that is held by both pre-tribulationalists and post-tribulationalists.  That is, that Israel as a nation has a future.

Dr. Johnson’s comments were before the development of progressive dispensationalism, and what he refers to here is primarily Classic Dispensationalism.  Yet the point remains.  As noted above, Progressive Dispensationalism de-emphasizes but still keeps the pre-trib rapture, which in itself creates a distinction between the two groups regarding their futures (even though a lesser difference than in classic dispensationalism).  The historic view of premillennialism, that which is held by all premillennialists (regardless of rapture timing views), includes the ethnic future of Israel as a nation, and includes “futurist premillennialism” as evidenced by the writings of several authors (as for instance B.W. Newton, S. P. Tregelles, Nathaniel West).  Thus, the term “dispensational post-trib” is rather an oxymoron.

It should also be noted that when someone uses the term “historic premillennialist,” that simply means an identification with the classic premillennialists and the classic premillennial position: an ethnic future for Israel as a nation, including restoration to their land, and recognition of the unconditional biblical covenants of scripture.  Those who call themselves “historic premillennial” may or may not adhere to Covenant Theology (some such as Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle did), but the term is broad enough to include variations of other unrelated views held by individual premillennialists.

 

Bible Teachers and Their Use of Typology

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve recently added daily reading of a few devotional books:  Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening, ICR’s “Days of Praise,” and John MacArthur’s “Life of Christ, vol. 2.”  MacArthur’s devotional book, in particular, includes some specific points of his teaching, and so I’ve become aware of slight differences between otherwise like-minded teachers.  For example, in a recent devotional (Jan. 18), MacArthur referred to the account of Jesus coming out of Egypt in Matthew 2:13-15 as fulfillment of Hosea 11:1.  He went on to say:

This is a type, a nonverbal prediction from the Old Testament that illustrates something about Christ without specifically describing it.  However, we can’t credibly label a person or event a genuine Old Testament type except as Scripture itself informs us of it.

Here he differs from S. Lewis Johnson, who frequently employed “types” or illustrations using a specific definition and pattern for valid types — and not restricted to only those types mentioned in the NT.  Consider the following, from a previous blog here:

Typology is really just another word for “illustration” or “example,” and has specific characteristics, including historicity and pattern, with correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events.  The type is found in the Old Testament, a historical reality, as distinguished from allegory, of which John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progess” is a classic example.  According to S. Lewis Johnson, types are not restricted to only those which are explicitly pointed out in the New Testament (I have heard that claim before), but still must follow the pattern established by the definition.

As I considered these different ideas, an “a-ha” moment came as I recalled a connection between S. Lewis Johnson and J.C. Ryle.  At about the same time I had learned, from both S. Lewis Johnson and J.C. Ryle, of the “type” comparison between 1 Samuel David — after his anointing by Samuel, before becoming King — and our Lord Jesus in this present age.   Then I also remembered J.C. Ryle’s Holiness chapter 20, in which he mentioned several more of these “types” from the Old Testament that relate to Christ either in His First or Second Coming.

Obviously, MacArthur’s restricted definition, relying (only) on the explicit NT teaching, would fail to see these types or illustrations.  Gotquestions.org also takes this more limited definition, one that sees “types” as something different from “illustrations.”

We should point out the difference between an illustration and a type. A type is always identified as such in the New Testament. A Bible student finding correlations between an Old Testament story and the life of Christ is simply finding illustrations, not types. In other words, typology is determined by Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired the use of types; illustrations and analogies are the result of man’s study. For example, many people see parallels between Joseph (Genesis 37-45) and Jesus. The humiliation and subsequent glorification of Joseph seem to correspond to the death and resurrection of Christ. However, the New Testament never uses Joseph as a model of Christ; therefore, Joseph’s story is properly called an illustration, but not a type, of Christ.

Based on what I’ve studied thus far, though, I would agree with SLJ’s point that types really are illustrations — and that people often tend to get terms confused, as in the above from Gotquestions, and try to make “types” something different or more complicated.

The following website, Victorian Web, has good information concerning typology as practiced by 19th century Anglican preachers including J.C. Ryle — and thus the Biblical tradition that S. Lewis Johnson continued into the late 20th century.  A few excerpts:

Unlike allegory, which interprets one thing as in reality signifying another, typology traces the connections and similarities between two unique events, each of which is equally real.  . . .
Typical interpretations of Scripture differ from allegorical ones of the first or fabulous kind, in that they indispensably require the reality of the facts or circumstances stated in the original narrative. And they differ also from the other, in requiring, beside this, that the same truth or principle be embodied alike in the type and the antitype. The typical is not properly a different or higher sense, but a different or higher application of the same sense.

I’ve only begun to look at this, and the Victorian Web articles contain much more information (much of it rather technical).  Yet now I observe an overall difference that correlates with different notions of typology: one’s general interest in the Old Testament versus the New.  It appears that those who make a distinction — that “types” are of a “higher level” than standard “illustrations” – do not spend as much time teaching directly from the Old Testament passages and do not point out the interesting parallels in the “non-type illustrations.”  My sample is admittedly small: John MacArthur’s view of “types” separate from illustrations, versus S. Lewis Johnson, Spurgeon and Ryle — all of whom, as far as I can tell, made no such distinctions between “true types” and “only illustrations.”

At any rate, I have greatly appreciated the Old Testament teaching from the latter group, who (unhindered by a rule that types are only those things mentioned in the NT) often pointed out some very interesting parallels, types (illustrations) of NT truths in the many events that are not specifically referred to as official types by the NT writers.

MacArthur has primarily taught only from the NT (true, much of that was because of his book contract to produce a complete set of NT commentaries), and for Bible reading recommends multiple repeated reading through the NT books yet only one reading per year through the Old Testament. By contrast, S. Lewis Johnson and the other teachers at Believer’s Chapel have taught many expository series through OT books. J.C. Ryle wrote of the importance of the Old Testament, that we should beware of undervaluing the Old Testament, which is just as valuable as the new.  Spurgeon, another who frequently related the events of the Old Testament as types of NT truth, gave generally equal treatment to passages from both the Old and New Testament — as seen in his sermons as well as his devotionals and his writings on the Psalms.