Reformed critics of Dispensationalism

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by thomas15, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. thomas15

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    One of the clever and highly effective arguements reformed covenant believers often use to in their work to discredit the dispies is to attempt to make a case that dispensationalism is an ever-evolving theology while refomed covenant theology has it's roots firmly cemented in the teaching of the 15/16th century creeds and confessions and the writings of the reformers.

    If however covenant theology is as settled as those who hang on to it's every word claim, why would there be a need for the constant stream of new literature supporting the view appearing almost monthly on Amazon? Good question, thank you for asking Thomas!

    In his book The Covenants of Promise ... by Thomas E. McComiskey (Baker 1985) one of many books I have by covenant writers that I use to understand that of which I don't subscribe to (yes, I'm teachable) states it this way: Because it is of such great importance, the theological expression of the covenant of grace warrants continued examination and refinement, for it's theological expression must be in exact accord with the scriptual data if the terms of the promised inheritance are to be fully understood with precision and the sovereign grace that motivated it fully appreciated. (pg 179). McComiskey goes on on pg 180 to quote John Murray who goes on to make the case in essence that the reformers and those who followed them are good but we (covenant theologians) need to keep a "recasting" to keep up with (I assume) new developments in Biblical understanding.

    Of course we all know that there is disagreement within the reformed covenant camp. But the question begs to be asked, why is it acceptable for covenant theologians to have different views on some details but that courtesy is not extended to dispensationalists? When we talk about the differences within dispensationalists on this forum, the discussion is an inch deep, a mile wide. No honest thinking person could accept the simple response that the dispies bring this all on themselves because they insist on a literal reading of the Biblical text. Riddlebarger, no friend of dispensationalist insists that covenant Amills also hold to a literal rendering of the Word of God.

    So, is McComiskey all wet or the dispies simply just blind guides and hypocrites?
     
  2. J.D.

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    I agree with Riddlebarger - covenantalists ARE literalists. They attempt to interpret texts in their literary setting and genre. Dispensationalists tend to be hyper-literal in their interpretations.
     
  3. TCGreek

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    Well put. :thumbsup:
     
  4. thomas15

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    So then you are a friend of God if you apply what could be considered a double standard of allowing that for yourselves what you will not allow the dispies?

    By the way, would you be interested in knowing what Riddlebarger has to say about preterism in general? Or what he has to say about Hank Hannegraff in particular? Hint: the answer is no.
     
  5. thomas15

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    You are of course correct TCGreek when you insist that the main issue is not covenant vs. dispy theology but rather "have you confessed that you are a sinner and are you trusting in the shed blood of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" for your salvation. The best doctrine in the world will not save you, only the Savior will. That is the main thing. And I appreciate your firm stand on the inerrant Scriptures. You remind me of N.T. Wright, except your much more conservative.
     
    #5 thomas15, Jul 26, 2011
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  6. J.D.

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    I am well aware of Riddlebarger's views concerning preterism and Hannegraff. I was a Riddle-ite for a time. I'm still not sure that idealism isn't the best view of Revelation.
     
  7. Iconoclast

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    http://freebooks.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/html/gbhd/gbhd.html

    Some fuel for the fire
     
  8. Iconoclast

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  9. Iconoclast

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    or this;........

    Table of Contents | Next Chapter 12
    HEBREWS 12:22-24
    Previously I argued that the Book of Hebrews is the single most important text to consider in a discussion of dispensationalism. More than any other part of the Bible, it reflects explicitly and at length on the crucial question of the relation of the OT to the NT. Moreover, it contains the most explicit discussion of the views on typology that I have developed in the previous chapter.

    Unfortunately, to discuss the Book of Hebrews as a whole would take too long. I would therefore like to concentrate on a single passage, Heb 12:22-24. This passage has not received much attention in dispensationalist debates. By itself, I do not suppose that it is capable of settling the debates. But it is of considerable value because of the way in which it speaks of Christian participation in the heritage of "Mt. Zion" and "Jerusalem." Hence I think it may help dispensationalists to loosen up the rigidity which has sometimes characterized the affirmations concerning separate parallel destinies from church and Israel, and concerning the nonfulfillment of prophecy in the church. Perhaps, precisely because it has not received much attention yet, it will be a fruitful starting point for some fresh developments.

    39. Fulfillment of Mount Zion and Jerusalem
    Our central concern is the significance of the mention of Mt. Zion and heavenly Jerusalem in Heb 12:22. What motivates the author of Hebrews to speak in this way concerning Christian privileges? In particular, does Hebrews mean to imply that we can speak of Christians coming to Mt. Zion as "fulfillment" of OT prophetic passages like Mic 4:1-2 and Isa 60:14?

    Well, Mt. Zion and Jerusalem have religious significance in the OT primarily because they are the place where the temple of God was built, by God's own direction. Because of their close relation to the temple, they are share in the typology that we associate with the temple.

    In the Book of Hebrews, quite a bit is made out of the fact that the tabernacle (or temple) on earth is a copy and shadow of God's heavenly dwelling. When Christ came, he introduced a "better sacrifice" which brought cleansing to the heavenly original (Heb 9:23,13-14). Christ gives us access into the presence of God in heaven (Heb 10:19-20). Mt. Zion and heavenly Jerusalem in Heb 12:22 must likewise be the heavenly originals, of which the Mt. Zion and Jerusalem in the OT were "copies and shadows."

    Many dispensationalists (classic dispensationalists as well as modified dispensationalists) would agree with me up to this point. In the past, dispensationalists have had no trouble seeing typological significance in OT historical passages about Mt. Zion and Jerusalem.

    But dispensationalists may have hesitancy about further steps that I suggest. To begin with, the appearance of the antitype of a type is very like the fulfillment of a prophecy. For example, Christ's sacrifice, according to the whole of the Book of Hebrews, is the antitype of OT animal sacrifices, which were types pointing forward to it. Christ's sacrifice is the endpoint, the finished product, to which OT historical sacrifices pointed. Christ's sacrifice is also the fulfillment of prophecies of a perfect sacrifice: not only Isaiah 53, but the phrase of Dan 9:24, "atone for iniquity."

    Now, can we draw an analogy between the situation concerning sacrifices and the situation concerning Jerusalem? The heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews 12 is what is by virtue of the presence of Christ as high priest with his sprinkled blood (Heb 12:24). Hence, it would appear, it is the antitype to which the OT historical holy city Jerusalem pointed as a type. Therefore, we may also expect that it is simultaneously the fulfillment of prophecies about a perfect restored Jerusalem (Mic 4:1-2, Isa 60:14). According to my arguments in the previous chapter, this is by no means a violation of grammatical-historical interpretation. Grammatical-historical interpretation, having discerned some of the symbolic significance of sacrifice, temple, and city in the OT, would also see symbolic (typological) significance in prophetic material concerning Jerusalem.

    40. Abraham's hope
    We can arrive at a similar result by a route more acceptable to dispensationalists. Let us lay aside for the moment the question of whether we want to speak of anything within the NT era as "fulfillment." There are nevertheless OT prophecies concerning a heightened glory, wealth, and purity to Mt. Zion, to Jerusalem, and indeed to Palestine as a whole. These prophecies fill out and deepen the foundational promises made to Abraham concerning his inheritance of the land.

    What then did Abraham hope for on the basis of God's promises? Hebrews asserts that Abraham was "looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10). A few verses later Hebrews explains further. Abraham was a sojourner who did not inherit the promised country in his own lifetime. "They [Abraham and his descendents] were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Heb 11:16). Abraham himself, therefore, understood the promise as involving entering into possession of a heavenly country. This heavenly country centers in the "city," the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Heb 12:22. Moreover, Abraham even now belongs to the city, since he is included among the "spirits of righteous men made perfect" mentioned in Heb 12:23.

    Hence Hebrews 12 shows that there is, within this age, a fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. It is not the final endpoint or most extensive realization of fulfillment: that will be later. But it is nevertheless fulfillment. The fulfillment has come to Abraham and the patriarchs themselves. But now what about Jewish Christians? Do they presently share in Abraham's inheritance? Well, they "have come to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22). That is, they have come to live in the very city that Abraham was looking for in fulfillment of promise. Jewish Christians have not become less Abraham's children by believing in Christ. They have not somehow been disinherited precisely because they have imitated Abraham's faith! Hence their presence is also an aspect of fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.

    Next, what about Gentile Christians? Are they able to come to Mt. Zion? Surely they are, because under the gospel they have equal access to the Father with Jewish Christians (Eph 2:18-19). They share in the blessing to Abraham. This is exactly in accord with the promise to Abraham, "in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen 12:3). The Apostle Paul develops this very argument in Gal 3:7-9, 3:26-4:7. Thus the coming of Gentile Christians to Mt. Zion in Heb 12:22 is a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.

    Some dispensationalists might say, "This is a beautiful application, but not actually a fulfillment." As we have seen, that reply is always available within the dispensationalist system. But if this blessing mentioned in Hebrews is not a fulfillment, I do not know what is. Hebrews says that Abraham was expecting this city, and the promise to Abraham says that Gentiles are to be included in the blessing. Abraham himself would have seen it as fulfillment, and who are we to say otherwise?

    Dispensationalists nevertheless have an important point to make. This fulfillment in Heb 12:22 is "a" fulfillment, but not the greatest, broadest, most climactic realization of the promises to Abraham. That is still future. We err if we minimize this. On the other hand, some (fortunately not all) dispensationalists have erred in the reverse direction by a point-blank denial of fulfillment in Gentile Christians.
     
  10. Iconoclast

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    41. The new Jerusalem in Revelation
    All premillennialists believe that the promises to Abraham will find fulfillment in a more complete way in the millennial period, following the return of Christ. Let us assume for the sake of the argument that they are right. Yet even that is not the whole story. The promises are still to be fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth of Rev 21:1-22:5. This final fulfillment is important because of its links with Hebrews 12:22.

    Already there is a difficulty here. Dispensationalists disagree among themselves concerning the nature of the material in Rev 21:1-22:5. Almost everyone agrees that Rev 21:1-7 describes the "eternal state." But Rev 21:9-22:5 is variously interpreted (Pentecost 1958, 563-83). Some dispensationalists think that it also describes the eternal state. Others think it describes the millennium. J. Dwight Pentecost prefers to see it as a combination: the heavenly Jerusalem of Rev 21:9-22:5 will be the eternal abode of all saints, but it is described as it exists during the millennial period.

    Now everyone agrees that there is a close relation between Rev 21:9-22:5 and Rev 21:1-7. Therefore, unless there are factors pointing the other way, grammatical-historical interpretation would conclude that both describe the same situation. If we keep firmly in mind that the eternal state includes a new earth, the apparently "earthy" character of some aspects of 21:9-22:5 is quite in harmony with the eternal state. Even the mention of the healing of the nations in Rev 22:2 goes little beyond the mention in Rev 21:4 of wiping all tears away. Both are a counterpoint to the suffering and imperfections in the main part of the Book of Revelation. In fact, there are no arguments at all against Rev 21:9-22:5 being the eternal state, unless one begins with dogmatic assumptions that the eternal state must have few features is common with the millennium.

    But it is not even necessary to establish that Rev 21:9-22:5 describes the eternal state, provided we at least admit that the Jerusalem in Rev 21:9-22:5 is an earlier stage of the Jerusalem coming down from heaven in the eternal state (Rev 21:1-7). All must admit this, because the heavenly Jerusalem is indestructible (Heb 12:28; see Pentecost 1958, 580). Whichever option we use in interpreting Rev 21:9-22:5, the new Jerusalem described in both 21:1-7 and 21:9-22:5 is in fundamental continuity with the heavenly Jerusalem of Hebrews.

    Of course, the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 describes the situation at a later point in time than does Hebrews. Between now (Hebrews) and then (Revelation) we know that there is an advance in revelation and in the working out of God's purposes. But nevertheless, there is a continuity between the two. In favor of this note the following: (a) the designation as "Jerusalem" shows a close connection. (b) The new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 "comes down from heaven," the location of the Jerusalem of Heb 12:22. (c) The Jerusalem of Heb 12:22 is an aspect of what is described as an "unshakeable kingdom" (Heb 12:28), which will not pass away even with the shaking of heaven and earth. (d) Hebrews tells us that Abraham was looking for the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 11:10,16). Within Revelation, Abraham's destiny must be in the new Jerusalem. Hence the two are the same. (e) Dispensationalist commentators themselves find no trouble in identifying the two (Kent 1972, 272; Newell 1947, 426; Pentecost 1958, 579; Walvoord 1959, 326).

    If all this is true, Christians share in Abraham's inheritance of the heavenly city now. Hence they will share in it in the future also. It is legitimate to distinguish Jew and Gentile as peoples with two separate origins. But their destiny (if they come to trust in God's promises) is the same: they share in the inheritance of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven. Hence the idea of two parallel destinies, heavenly and earthly, falls away.

    42. The new earth
    Some dispensationalists might object that our argument does not pay attention to the proper distinction between heaven and earth. Christians participate in the heavenly Jerusalem. But Israel must yet have an earthly fulfillment in an earthly Jerusalem in the millennium.

    But in Revelation 21 the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth. The earthly fulfillment of OT prophecy finds its climax in Revelation 21-22. Abraham certainly participates in this earthly fulfillment. Other Jews will participate. Jewish Christians are not disinherited from their Jewish heritage just because they imitate Abraham's faith. Hence they participate. But then Gentile Christians must also participate, because they are coheirs by virtue of union with Christ the Jew (Eph 3:6). In Revelation 21-22, therefore, a strict isolation between heavenly and earthly "destinies" is not possible. In the new earth Christians are related to the earthly realization of the Abrahamic promises. Now, since they enjoy membership in the heavenly Jerusalem, they are experiencing the first installment in the Abrahamic promises.

    If some of us reject the idea of Christian participation in fulfillment, it is not because we insist on "literal" fulfillment. The Jerusalem in Rev 21:1-22:5 can be interpreted as literally as one wishes, and it says nothing against Christian participation. If we deny Christian participation, it is rather because of wanting to maintain a strict separation of heavenly and earthly destinies. The claim of separate destinies says something more and different from the (correct) claim that the peoples have separate origins. The idea of separate destinies in fact has come into systematized theories without having any textual support at all.

    Some dispensationalists are now admitting that the idea of strict compartmentalization of heaven and earth is a mistake. Kenneth Barker says (1982, 12) says:

    Strictly speaking it is also incorrect to call Israel God's earthly people and the Church God's heavenly people, since in the eternal state we will all live together sharing in the blessings of the New Jerusalem and the new earth ....

    So, then, there is a greater unity or integration in God's grand design and in his overall purpose and comprehensive program for this earth and its people than many dispensationalists have been willing to acknowledge. In the past some of us have not been able to see the forest for the trees. We have compartmentalized too much.

    43. The importance of Hebrews 11:16 and 12:22
    In summary, then, the passage in Revelation 21-22 is valuable to our discussion because its emphasis on the new earth shows that the final destiny of Christians and of Israel is similar. This is already a challenge to the most rigid forms of dispensationalism, which emphasize the idea of two distinct destinies, as different as heaven and earth. Hebrews 12 is valuable because it shows that Christians already experience a foretaste of the fulfillment of Revelation 21-22, and hence they are related to OT "Jewish" promises.

    Finally, Hebrews 12 is also valuable because of the way that it relates heaven and earth. Classic dispensationalism construed heaven and earth simply as two separate spheres in which the two separate destinies of the church and Israel were realized. But Hebrews 12 sees the two as related to one another in terms of shadow and reality, historical anticipation and fulfillment. It therefore presses dispensationalists away from a vertical alignment of church and Israel running on parallel tracks, and towards a historical, typological alignment of church and Israel as belonging to successive historical stages.

    One should note, however, that these arguments based on Heb 12:22-24 have the most weight against more rigid forms of dispensationalism which deny absolutely that any OT prophecies are fulfilled in Christians and in the church. Eric Sauer and others do acknowledge fulfillment in the church, though they see the most literal fulfillment in the millennium. Such positions have already digested some of the primary implications of Heb 12:22-23. Further reflection about the unified nature of fulfillment for Abraham and for Christians in the millennium might lead to an even greater move toward seeing a fundamental unity in destiny and inheritance of the people of God in all ages.

    Table of Contents | Next Chapter

    These last two posts came from here





    Understanding Dispensationalists
    by Vern S. Poythress


    Table of Contents
    Chapter 1: Getting Dispensationalists and Nondispensationalists to Listen to Each Another
    Chapter 2: Characteristics of Scofield Dispensationalism
    Chapter 3: Variations of Dispensationalism
    Chapter 4: Developments in Covenant Theology
    Chapter 5: The Near Impossibility of Simple Refutations
    Chapter 6: Strategy for Dialogue With Dispensationalists
    Chapter 7: The Last Trumpet
    Chapter 8: What is Literal Interpretation?
    Chapter 9: Dispensational Expositions of Literalness
    Chapter 10: Interpretive Viewpoint in Old Testament Israel
    Chapter 11: The Challenge of Typology
    Chapter 12: Hebrews 12:22-24
    Chapter 13: The Fulfillment of Israel in Christ
    Chapter 14: Other Areas for Potential Exploration
    Postscript
    Bibliography
     
  11. thomas15

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    So you might on a good day advise caution when reading Riddlebarger? The reason I ask is that he comes highly regarded by the reformed on the PB board. What then are his (Riddlebargers views) on preterism? Favorable or unfavorable?

    My theory is and maybe you can shed some insights on this is that a dispy who is looking to expand his/her horizons into a more intellectually stimulating doctrine, one that eventually leads to preterism, will have to make at least a short stop at the covenant amil depot. The reason I ask is I'm trying to envision in my mind exactly how a well versed dispy would make all of the required theological course corrections that going from dispie to the far side of covenant in one giant step would involve.

    Can all of this, the reprograming of an individuals theological core be accomplished by a careful reading of the Scriptures or is it advisable to bring in the learned authority of academia?
     
  12. sag38

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    Judging from the responses so far the answer is "no." The same courtesy will not be afforded. Have a good day.
     
  13. JesusFan

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    Would you say the the big dividing issue between we Dispy and those holding to Covenant theology is that we will see the Gospel and the Church as being "unknown " in OT, and that when messiah came and fulfilled the OT prophecies, indeed, a BRAND NEW" work , Church, was instituted in Plans of God?

    While they tend to see is as being basically a continuation, adding on, to all of the prior covenants between God and man?
     
  14. thomas15

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    Allow me to answer your sidetracking question with few questions. Before the first advent, were the Jews saved by keeping the law or by grace? Was Abraham saved by the law or grace? Was Moses saved before he received the law? If yes, was he saved by the law that he didn't have or by grace given to him by faith? After the law was given, were any non-Jews saved? Does the Bible teach that anyone was ever saved by keeping the law? The saved people that Jonah preached to, did they keep the law? What exactly is the relationship between the Law of Moses and the Biblical doctrine of Salvation by faith through grace?

    Another question, which comes first in the life of the believer, the mercy of God or God's peace?
     
  15. JesusFan

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    ANY who have ever been saved by God were by Hos grace alone, and became effectually applied once person placed faith in the Lord and/or His promises made...

    just saying that Dispensations/covenants between God and man were ALL wrapped up in/superceded/replaced out by New Covenant, right?

    As Covt see NC basically a continuation of prior covenants, while dispy see NC as brand new thing?

    other answer... Mercy
     
  16. thomas15

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    Your answer to the first question is confusing, refer to your second paragraph, can you re-word this? What are you trying to say?

    Third paragraph, where you answer with a question, I don't think dispies consider the NT as something "new" as we generally in 21st century North America define "new". At a higher level of discussion, dispensationalism teaches discontinuity and covenant teaches continunity between the OT/NT but that discussion is for another day.

    As for as your final statement the mercy of God comes before the peace of God, I quite agree with you. It however is a little diffucult to the covenant position to accept this in relation to one of their favorite verses, Gal. 6:16 if Paul is speaking about only one group of people. In other words, if Paul has one group in mind, he has the wording backwards. However, if he is speaking about two different groups, it makes sense.
     
  17. JesusFan

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    God HAS to apply to us His grace before we can have His peace!
     

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