Category Archives: Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology

The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and Dispensationalism’s continued impact on theology and politics

Previously, in “Continuity and discontinuity in the covenants”, I quoted Pascal Denault on the hermeneutical implications of covenant theology versus that of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism fails to properly and consistently distinguish between the old and new covenants thereby maintaining a special status for unbelieving ethnic Jews and the modern state of Israel as “the apple of God’s eye” even though the old covenant has been abrogated. These descendants of Abraham could become children of Abraham were they to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby be grafted into the new covenant (Rom. 11:23). Apart from this covenantal relationship, however, neither Jew nor Gentile is entitled to the designation “child of God”. As recorded in the Gospel of John, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Lacking justification before God through belief in the gospel, ethnic Jews—just like unbelieving Gentiles—are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Christ is the Mediator of a new and better covenant by which the remnant is saved.

To quote Denault again:

“The dispensationalists, for their part, accentuated the discontinuity between the testaments to the point of separating Israel and the church while giving a status as people of God to Israel while abolishing the old covenant (Israel’s covenant). They then find themselves in a theological impasse: on one hand, they affirm the cessation of the Old Testament system during the era of the church; on the other, they must maintain the permanent validity of this system in order to justify the continuity of the existence of Israel as God’s people. This contradiction is the main ambiguity of dispensationalism: the end of the Old Testament at the same time as the maintaining of it. Their solution consists in separating Israel from the church and temporarily putting the former aside during the time of the church while preserving its initial status. This seems to us to be an artificial construction that does not take into account the definitive abolition of the old covenant without the abolition of its promises. These promises were accomplished, unbeknownst to the majority of the Jewish people, in Jesus Christ in the new covenant and, while they first referred to Israel, they do not exclusively concern it, but extend themselves to all nations.” [original post here]

Following logically from what Denault has exposed as the “main ambiguity” of the Dispensational hermeneutic, we are forced to conclude that the evangelical obsession with “all things Israel” popularized by twentieth-century evangelicalism is without theological justification. It is at this point that my Dispensational brethren will often engage in the typical logical fallacy known as abusive ad hominem, denouncing such a proposition and its proponents as “anti-Semitic”. But such is not at all the case since the issue at hand is simply a matter of regarding the superiority of the new covenant over and against the old, as well as the abolition of the latter. Continue reading…

Continuity and discontinuity in the covenants

In one of the best books I’ve ever read, Pascal Denault compares paedobaptist covenant theology with that of the seventeenth-century Baptists. Certainly, not all twenty-first century reformed Baptists hold to the view put forth by the early Particular Baptists (although the endorsements of prominent Baptist theologians are noteworthy), but my motives for reprinting Denault at this point are primarily to show how (1) dispensationalism is an inadequate hermeneutic to compete with covenant theology, and how (2) dispensationalists have often misunderstood (or misconstrued) reformed teaching concerning Israel and the church.

In the discussion, some additional points are made which speak to dispensationalism’s failure to consistently distinguish between the old and new covenants, as well as the superiority of 1689 federalism (compared to paedobaptist federalism) in handling the objections of dispensationalists and the frequently erected strawman of “replacement theology”. Most of the following text was relegated to just a footnote, and yet these points are so vitally important not only to Baptist vs. paedobaptist discussions but to any interaction with dispensationalism as well:

Continue reading…