Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dissing Dispensationalism 8: The Final Post

Ok, this will be the final response in regards to Dan’s post on dispensationalism.

21. "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him" (2 Corinthians 1:20a). As if there's a dispensationalist that disbelieves this verse. I'd suggest that it's the decoder-ring set that disbelieves it. Dispensationalists believe that Christ will make good on all the Trinity's promises, as He carries out all the will of the Father, and is King of the mediatorial Kingdom. It's the CT's who would turn this verse to "For all the promises of God find their 'Ha-ha, fooled you!' in him," or "For some of the promises of God find their No in him."

Ok, this is a cheap shot. If you are going to slander CTs by saying “ha-ha fooled you”, then please provide the evidence and then respond to the material and the interpretation laid out from that. But don’t put words in their mouth. CTs do not say that God has fooled anyone, nor do they say that some of the promises of God are no in Him. Let’s actually hear a quote from a reputable CT theologian (tick, tock, tick, tock).
What is with the decoder ring thing? What Phillips fails to deal with is the fact that the New Testament, because it is progressive in nature as to its revelation, gives us the proper understanding of such things as Jew, Israel, the elect and the realities promises in types. From the dispensationalist point of view, they would rather hold on to the shadows and picture books, as it were, and not move on to the reality and true grammar and language. Thus, this becomes a problem when they attempt to understand the two covenants. Many, but certainly not all will actually state that Old Covenant believers actually merited God’s favor to some point through their obedience! They fail to see the continuity throughout all of Scripture which sees anyone who is saved is saved in the covenant of grace. With that said, I don’t think Dan falls into this category. He is Calvinistic for goodness sakes.
Finally, the fact that Dan tries to make Christ have two different kinds of kingdoms is simply a stretch here. I never read in Scripture where Christ spoke of two kingdoms that He was to rule over. If you ask me, this is where the decoder ring is needed, because you don’t find it in the Bible. Jesus simply spoke of the kingdom that was His and that it was given to Him by the Father and that it was from above.

22. Dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation. Sigh. Maybe if this is answered for the 950,000th time, it will go away? This old corker has been responded to and documented more times than a department-store "Santa" has said "Ho ho ho."
So what, exactly, are we talking about? Oh, you mean like this? "Grace offers escape from the law only as a condition of salvation -- as it is in the covenant of works --, from the curse of the law, and from the law as an extraneous power." Oh yeah, that's bad. What rotten dispensationalist wrote that? That "rotten dispensationalist" Louis Berkhof (ST, p. 291). Allis and others have made similar statements that, isolated, sure sound like offers of two methods of salvation. Statements capable of misunderstand and misrepresentation are not the sole provenance of dispensationalists. Golly, it'd be nice to wake up tomorrow to a world in which I can focus on the text, and not constantly see the discussion derailed by red herrings like this one. Could there be a reason why anti-dispies don't want to do that?

Actually, that’s not the point Dan. Neither would the quote you cited bear that either from Berkhof. Classic Dispensationalists do hold to two means of salvation. For instance, though many people nowadays count Dave Hunt as completely out to lunch, he would readily point to the fact that there is merit in law keeping or obedience in the Old Testament. Those of the Darby kind readily point to such things as well. As with any view, there are those who are conservative and those who are very liberal, so while there are those like Dan who would fight that tooth and nail, there are those who would easily embrace that.
Second, there are many both dispensational and not who would see two means of salvation and this comes out clearly in discussions that surround the death of infants, mentally incapacitated and also those who have never heard the gospel. Somehow, there are those, and the only ones I’ve talked to are dispensationalists, who would hold that all in the first two categories will be saved (SEE Safe in the Arms of Jesus by MacArthur (a dispensationalist). Clearly this is not the difference of Israel as nation under the Old Covenant and Israel as the Church in the New covenant, but the point ends up being the same: there is not the comprehensive understanding that throughout Scripture there is One overarching covenant and that is the covenant of grace. This covenant was not instituted in the Garden, nor at Sinai, nor specifically at the cross, but in eternity between the Father and the Son. This covenant was ultimately shown to men in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the elect in the past, present and future are in this covenant, whether Jew or Gentile.
So, to this argument, Dan may disagree, but if he is honest, then he must concede that there are many dispensationalists who do hold that God has a different covenant TODAY with national Israel (whatever that actually is and in dispensationalism, it is actually the nation we call Israel) than he does with the True Israel, the church.
23. "Hey, I'm a CT/amill/postmill/preterist whatever, and I use grammatico-historical exegesis on everything!" Suuuuure you do, Bunky. And I'm a muscular, slim 25-year old published author with multiple doctorates who pastors a successful church and teaches in seminary -- plus I have a full head of hair! It's really more than just a river in Egypt for you, isn't it, brother? When you tell me that Israel is the church, that only the prophetic curses have realtime fulfillment, but that the prophesied blessings are all spiritualized, you and G-H exegesis have long since gone the way of the Beatles. CT is your Yoko.

So, Dan, I wanna hold your hand as we look at this claim you are making as we take a ride in our yellow submarine. Now while I might let you Drive My Car, I can’t stand by and let you broad brush the entire CT community with such language. For instance, I will readily admit that there are some who do take the view that you present. However, I find them to be in the minority, especially among conservative CTs.
There is no question that God poured out the exact curses He said He would in the Law upon Israel when they departed from Him. This was proven many times in the Old Testament, such as in the prophecies that Jeremiah revealed, Ezekiel spoke of and Daniel actually saw, not to mention the fact that ultimately God brought His judgment down upon Israel in 70 AD in finality concluding and bringing to an end the specific promises of that nation’s apostasy. With a Little Help from My Friends I’m sure we could pile up enough evidence to make this quite clear.
When Jesus comes in Matthew 5 and lays out the heart of the Law again, (NOTE: Jesus did not bring a different Law. He brought the same Law. While Moses delivered the Law to the people, it was God who gave the Law. Therefore, if we say that Jesus brought a different Law, wouldn’t that imply that there is some disunity in the Godhead?) then weren’t the blessings clearly outlined?
The problem is this crazy idea of “literal interpretation”. Literal by what standard? Maybe The Two of Us could Come Together and hash this out a bit. This is the biggest hurdle that people have, in my opinion. Let me give an example of the literal interpretation. Anyone reading in the Old Testament who came upon the words, “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness” would have simply took this to mean that God was speaking of the nations that sprang from Jacob and Esau and that would be correct. However, the inspired apostle uses the CT method of interpretation and quotes the passage in favor of individuals. Now Dan is a Calvinist and readily agrees with the apostle Paul. However, is he being literal? I’ll leave that to be decided by the reader.
24. Dispensationalism divides the people of God. Wait -- isn't it complementarianism that does that? The Bible says, "there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28) , but complementarians teach that men and women are still distinct, even though they're in Christ, and have distinct roles. Calvinists/Reformeds tend to be complementarians, yet they affirm that men and women are distinct in Christ in one way, yet they affirm that they are one in Christ, in another way. Isn't that a contradiction? "But-but-but," sputters a Reformed complementarian, "that's stupid! You can be distinct, and yet one! Look at the Trinity! The Persons are distinct, yet they are one God! They have different functions, and there is an economy of relations, yet they are one! That's an inane criticism!"
Oh, I totally agree. It's inane. It's stupid. It's lame. So... why do you go for the same inane, stupid, lame line of reasoning when it comes to Israel?
I just keep wondering why the same people who have no trouble understanding why men and women can be distinct and yet one, fall all apart into hysterics and start doing horrible things to the Bible when it comes to Israel. Why can't Israel have a certain and sure ethnic future (as God promised, in the starkest and most undeniable terms, about a gazillion times), and yet be part of one people of God? Why do we have to turn God into a liar and a promise-breaker (see Jeremiah 31:35-37), in order to salvage some preconceived construct we made up?
Having said all that, I don't think it's fundamental to dispensationalism to make divisions as stark as some pioneers did, as if Israel's eternity is 'way over there, and the Church's is right over here, and never the twain shall mix. I don't tend to think that way, myself.

I think this is where Dan cannot see who Israel actually is. Paul spells it out plainly in Romans 9 that all who are of Israel are not Israel. The true Israel is the elect people of God. Those who were of national Israel but rejected God and were not Israel, but rather members of Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, Babylon. They were apostates, and from the beginning when they left Egypt the unbelievers were cut off from their people, not a part of them. My question to Dan would simply be this, “What is the purpose of these promises to a geo-political entity today that calls itself Israel, but is completely apostate in biblical terms to the true God?”
Again, Dan simply misses the point of Jeremiah 31. Besides, did God make that covenant there with every single individual of the house of Judah, or was He referring to the house of Judah in the light of election? Interestingly enough, Gentiles are included in that covenant in the New Testament. I wonder if Dan thinks that Gentiles become ethnic Israel and are also recipients of that little sliver of land in the Middle East. I like to think of the words of Christ, that not a sliver of land is our inheritance, but the earth is.
As for his final comment, I don’t know what to say. It sure sounds like he makes a pretty big and stark division. He may see some mixing, but it is extremely small from what I hear.
25. Dispensationalism fails to see Christ in every verse of the Bible. Again with the being-more-spiritual-than-God sin. This is maybe one of the most damaging Reformed traditions (in the worst sense of the word): the insistence by some of putting perfectly innocent texts on the rack, and torturing them until they scream "Jesus!" This turns God into a Clintonesque, smooth-talking trickster. He fools His audience into thinking He's talking about Israel, but He's really talking about something they couldn't have conceived of. He offers them an egg and some bread, and then gives them a stone and a serpent. "I promise to bless you, I swear it. {Later} Oops, presto! Not really you at all! Someone else! But I do have a dandy curse just for you -- and this time, I really do mean you!"
Christ is indeed all over the Bible, directly or indirectly (Luke 24:27, 44, etc.). But to insist that a text is unworthy of God if it really talking about what it seems to be talking about is (A) to adopt a suicidal hermeneutic, (B) to make God into the worst unethical bait-and-switch salesman, and (C) to pour shame on the very hermeneutic of Christ and the apostles. If we abandon Scripture to adopt this hermeneutic, we invalidate Jesus' constant refrain to His enemies:
"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:45-47)
If this decoder-ring hermeneutic were true, his enemies could justly and correctly have replied, "There is no way we could be judged by Moses' writings, or the prophets. God said 'Israel' and meant 'not ethnic Israel at all, but the Christian church.' He named cities, but didn't mean them. He promised full national restoration in the most specific terms, again and again, but never meant it. All His threats He meant exactly as He said them, and all His promises meant something totally unrelated. So no, Jesus, Your teaching turns revelation into obscurement, and gives us a perfect, bona-fide excuse for rejecting You. God didn't give us the right decoder-ring when He put out the garbled, encrypted code. It's not our fault."
Of course this is nonsense. Christ and the apostles treated the OT with full respect. Bethlehem meant Bethlehem, a donkey meant a donkey, Jerusalem meant Jerusalem, Israel meant Israel. It was because the OT was to be read as outlined in point #10, above, that Jews (and everyone) could then (and now) be held guilty before God: because they rejected the plain and clear sense of the text. What was bad for them is bad for us.
God forbid we "honor Christ" in theory by dishonoring Christ in practice.
This is the hermeneutic God saved me from in saving me from the cult of Religious Science, decades ago. We did the same thing, always finding "deeper meaning" that was in fact opposite meaning to texts we simply didn't like, because they didn't fit into our system. By the grace of God, the folks I'm criticizing don't do it to Christological, soteriological, or other passages. Only to prophetic passages. If they did the same across the board, they'd not be Christian.
It is not dishonoring to Christ to believe that He said what He meant, and meant what He said. The reverse is what dishonors Him, no matter how honorable the intent.

You know what Dan, there are some who do just that, but I don’t hear from them that often. Most will simply allow the New Testament apostles to interpret the Old. I wonder why the apostle Paul, an ethnic Jew, didn’t put hope in a future national geo-political revival. I wonder why the apostle Peter, an ethnic Jew, didn’t put hope in future land promises. I wonder why those of the early church who owned lands that were rightly theirs didn’t hold onto it because it was theirs by divine promise. I wonder………hmmmm. I really do think it’s because those things are yes in Christ and I as a Gentile believer have a yes in Christ and it is not to a piece of land, but to an inheritance that is incorruptible, kept in heaven for me by Christ Jesus. The New Testament apostles do not go the way of dispensationalists. If they were dispensationalists then they would hold up your mantra, but they don’t.

I welcome any additions. I hurriedly put this together to get it off my plate and move on to some other things.


Gordan said...

Nice post, Tim, as have been the rest in this little series. Your answers have struck me (albeit as a guy who is on your side)as very balanced and far from strident.

On the other hand, there are some writers who strike me as very quick to use clever rhetoric and spicy humor to mask a lack of substance in their arguments. Okay, okay, I resemble that remark, but I am trying to do better, and I hate to see it in others, as well. I wish Dan would take the time to read your responses.

Tim said...

Thanks Gordan! I appreciate that. I just wish the rhetoric was a little less boastful on the other side and would actually interact with specifics. Sadly, if you read near the bottom, Dan evidently didn't want to deal wholeheartedly with specific Old Testament questions, specifically posted by Nathan.

BTW, I hope to be ordering a copy of Prowl from you soon. I'm setting up the new store as soon as the tax check gets in. I am also changing the name a bit. I never really cared for So I'm posing Yeah I have a thing for the puck:)

Anthony said...

I think Dan just needs a hug. That's where I thought you were going with the Beatles references, anyway. ;-)

Tim said...

Maybe he does Anthony, maybe he does:)

Gordan said...

How'd a Southern boy get into hockey?

Tim said...

Don't you know that in my second home of Raleigh, NC we have the Stanley Cup champs? Honestly, it came from days before my conversion when I use to play loud rock and roll and turn on satellite (that's real 10 ft dish satellite) and just watch the game with no commentary. You definitely have to have stamina in that game:)