Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Further Thoughts on 'Future Israel' IV

In conclusion, while we appreciated Dr. Horner's concern for the Jewish people, and that Christians have all too often projected an attitude that seemed anti-Jewish, we found his insistence on a pre-millennial eschatology as the only way in which this attitude can be corrected narrow and historically inaccurate. His failure to deal with the question before the Reformation would have been less obvious had he not devoted about a page to it, a page that did not prove that anyone in that period held anything like his view, but only his ipse dixit that such a position existed (it seems to us that he was projecting a post-Reformation view back before the Reformation).

We find it rather ironic that Dr. Horner and his ilk believe that the best spur to Jewish evangelism is a theology that despairs of winning large numbers of Jewish people for Christ, and that the Second Advent of Christ will be a glorious evangelistic visit, not a coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. Our theology, on the other hand, is that the present means, given by God, are sufficient for the work that He has given, to disciple all nations (including the Jews). No doubt our Dispensationalist brethren will be outraged at this, for their theology is one of failure (though maybe there are some now who cling to the name but have abandoned even the dictum that 'all dispensations end in failure), and the few remaining Bullingerites (for hyper-dispensationalist E.W. Bullinger, not the Reformer of the same name) will gravely tell us that this Great Commission is not for the Church, but for the future Jewish remnant (we shall tell them exactly what we think of their muddle-headed theology). We prefer to think that the Holy Spirit is in fact stronger than Satan, and is able to accomplish His purposes in the earth.
As we have said, we are not liberal post-millennialists, we do not expect the power and wisdom of man to establish the Millennium (indeed, we expect the wisdom of man to lead to the great rebellion at the end of the MIllennium), and we do not expect this old world to be perfected before the coming of Our Lord. But we do expect that He will build His Church, and will engraft the Jews in His own time.

We look for the Millennium to be a period of great Gospel-prosperity upon the earth, and a time when the nations shall be disciples of Christ. Not that all will be Christians indeed, for there will remain some of the leaven of hypocrisy, but still, we expect greater things than we see now. We are persuaded that the present time is not the 'life from the dead' which shall follow the restoration of Israel.

This is our 'Millennial Manifesto'. It will no doubt shock all those trained in the hermeneutic of failure, but we are persuaded that the Bible holds forth a great outpouring of the Spirit of God that is yet to come. At the same time we are persuaded from the plain Scripture that the Second Advent will not usher in a new day of grace, but the final state. That state will not be a platonic disembodied existence, but an embodied existence in a new universe that shall, in some sense, be much like this one, only fully purified and freed from the bondage of sin. This old earth will be renewed, re-forged in fire, and will be the dwelling-pace of God and man for ever. So we believe, and so we preach.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen

Monday, April 21, 2008

Further Thoughts on 'Future Israel' III

Let us repeat, we are at one with DR. Horner regarding a future restoration of the Jews to the Land of Israel, and to faith in Messiah. Wherein we differ is that we see no reason to postpone this conversion to the time of Our Lord's Second Advent, thus divorcing their conversion from the preaching of the Gospel, and we see no reason to believe that a rebuilt temple will ever stand in Jerusalem.
Why do we speak of a future restoration of Israel to the Land? Are they not already there? Certainly the Jews are in Israel, and they possess Jerusalem. But they can scarcely be said to possess it in peace, and we see no reason to believe they shall ever possess it in peace so long as they refuse to recognise the Prince of Peace as their Messiah. As for the Temple, if the Book of Hebrews means anything, it means that the types and shadows of the ceremonial law have passed away for ever in the one sacrifice of Christ, once offered. A new temple and new sacrifices would be utterly alien to the book of Hebrews, unless the dualistic dispensationalists are right in saying that the book of Hebrews was for the Church Age only.
We know that Dr. Horner and others contend that the temple of Ezekiel must be a literal, physical edifice, and that terrible earthquakes will prepare the way for its construction (our readers must know that the Ezekiel Temple is far too large to fit onto the Temple Mount. We think this a good reason to doubt that it is a literal temple at all). Yet Horner has also said (on Iron Sharpens Iron) that the sacrifices of Ezekiel's Temple will be commemorative. This is no-where in the text, and if the temple is literal, so the sacrifices must be. We would rather forgo the physical Temple completely than start on the road that leads to Gordon's contention that the blood of bulls and of goats was able to put away sin.
This contention for a restored temple, and dualistic dispensationalism, are, in our opinion, responsible for the eclipse of the hope of the restoration of Israel among the Reformed in the present day (we contend that many Reformed Christians still think that the Scofield-Darby brand is the only form of dispensationalism). They believe that the restoration of Israel is bound up with a theology that separates the Church and Israel for ever (for it only affirms a new earth for Israel, and a new heavens for the Church), and that rob them of the New Testament. This is an unfortunate mistake, and one Barry Horner, thankfully, does not make.

We know that there are many Reformed and other exegetes who are willing to consider a restoration of Israel to faith without a restoration to the Land. Unlike Dr. Horner, we are unable to find it in our hearts to call such 'Anti-Jewish', but we think them highly inconsistent. The Land and the People cannot be separated in the Abrahamic covenant. Admit a continuing prophetic purpose for one, and it follows that such a purpose continues for the other. Abraham was promised a posterity who would possess the Land, and 'the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." Which gifts and calling? While it is quite correct for a preacher to use these words to refer to the perseverance of God's elect, that is in realty an accommodation, not the intent of the Apostle. No, he speaks of the gifts and calling of Abraham, the choice of the people and the gift of the Land. The curse is that they be separated from the land, the blessing of the covenant is that they be restored to it, and we believe that just as the Jews have known for centuries the curses of the covenant, so the day is coming when they shall be fully restored to the blessings.
Let us ask this: How would The world know that Israel, as a nation, had been restored to the favour of Jehovah, unless by the restoration of the Land, not in the present precarious state, but fully?
In order to avoid confusion, let us say that we believe the present nation of Israel has a right to exist, and ought to be protected against her enemies. But the present state of Israel is, in our opinion, merely a foreshadowing of the restoration that is to come.

For those interested in the topic, our first choice would be Steve Schlissel's 1990 edition of David Brown's classic work on the Restoration of the Jews, re-titled Hal Lindsey and the Restoration of the Jews, available from Eden. Errol Hulse's excellent more modern work on the subject (Third edition, Worthing, Walter, 1982), is sadly out of print, but you may be able to find second-hand copies on the internet.

God willing, next time we shall conclude.

[Illustrated: The old Borough Synagogue, London, originally built for James Wells as the Surrey Tabernacle Baptist chapel]

Friday, April 18, 2008

Further Thoughts on 'Future Israel'. II

We are one with Dr. Horner on the fact of the restoration of the Jews, but differ quite widely from him on the details. Most notably on his view that the Jews will not be restored to faith except by the Second Coming (P. 229). This is based on a misunderstanding of certain texts in the Bible that have been read according to a woodenly literal, not a truly literal, hermeneutic. There is no reason, for example, why 'Life from the dead' in Romans 11 should be understood in context as the resurrection of the dead. Rather Paul is saying that the turning of Israel to their Messiah will be such an astounding thing that it will be like a resurrection (so Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones represents the same event under the same figure). That the Jews will 'look upon Him whom they pierced' can only mean, properly understood, that they will look to Him for salvation, for no-where where the Second Advent is explicitly mentioned is it described as a gracious coming for salvation, and it is everywhere declared to be a coming in judgement.

We take the label 'postmillennial', but we know others whose view coincide exactly with ours who call themselves amillennial. Frankly, the two positions are quite similar in that both hold that there is only one more Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he will come to usher in the Final State, not a temporary one.

At this point we found Dr. Horner perplexing. He seems to refer every prophecy of the 'restoration of all things' and the 'New heavens and the new earth' to the Millennium (See e.g. Pp. 208, 214, 222, where Horner speaks of "that glorious consummation", 250). Indeed, at several points we were left unable to tell whether or not Horner was speaking of the final state or the millennium. It seemed to us that Dr. Horner expects this old earth to be re-forged in fire BEFORE the millennium. We are going to contact him to ask for clarifiecation on the following matters:
1. Will this old world be 'burned up' and re-forged into the new heavens and the New earth before or after the Millennium?
2. Will there be sinners on earth in the Millennium?
3. What is the distinction between the Millennium and the Final State?
4. Will the Millennium end in a rebellion against Christ's rule?
We await answers eagerly!

Having received his answer, which was in effect, 'read Bonar's 'Prophetical Landmarks', we looked at that work, and are still at a loss to understand how this renewed earth that Horner believes will come at the Second Advent could ever be the home of sinners as such. We do not say the home of sinners saved by grace, for all the inhabitants will be that, but we say sinners as such, those who actually sin. Christ is everywhere depicted as coming back to judge, and the new heaves and the new earth said to be the dwelling-place of righteousness. Now, Bonar remains obscure on whether or not there shall be sinners on the earth during the Millennium. We say this: If there will be, after the earth has been renewed, then how can that Millennium be the 'blessed hope', and how is it that we are to look for that? If not, then why not re-christen yourselves, for your 'Millennium' is nothing other than the final state, unless you somehow believe that God will bring to an end the new heavens and the new earth?
We confess to finding all this more than a little confusing.

[A brief excursus. Dr. Horner represents the 'Blood Libel' as originating in our hometown of Norwich. We link to a brief history of the Jews in Norwich. The local newspaper admits that it is first recorded there), the anti-semitic crimes recorded in this article are enough to make one feel ill. Recently we found that the Synagogue Street plaque shown here had been defaced with swastikas, which led us to complain as soon as possible to the council. The graffiti has now been painted out, but the building on which the plaque is will be coming down soon]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Barry Horner offers a Clarification

We noted in a previous post that Dr. Barry Horner seemed to assume the existence of Judeo-centric premillennialism in before the Reformation. in the following quotation from Future Israel:
"as will be demonstrated, chiliasm and subsequent premillennialism have continued to uphold a closer identity with the perpetuation of the Jewish people as a nation with a distinct eschatalogical hope" (P. 150).
We contacted Dr. Horner and asked him if he was aware of any such groups. His clear answer was:
"Let me put it this way. To my knowledge, prior to the Reformation, there was no overt Judeo-centric premillennialism. This neither surprises nor troubles me. Doubtless there was a remnant in this regard, even as there were rebellious Christian groups throughout that period, like the Lollards, Jansenists, etc., a remnant according to the election of grace. This matter invites deeper study. At the same sime there was a reigning, totalitarian Augustinian amillennialism that would never brook loving regard for the Jew as "God's beloved enemy" (Romans 11:28)."

In other words, no, Dr. Horner is not aware of any groups teaching a Judeo-centric premillennialism before the Reformation. He assumes the existence of such. We are not so sanguine. All the evidence indicates that no-one in the early centuries of the Church correctly understood the future of the Jews according to Scripture, and light only dawned in the seventeenth century. The restoration of the Jews is not a salvific doctrine. It is a true doctrine, and one as explicitly taught in Scripture as justification by faith alone, but it does not have to be taught for salvation. It is like believer's Baptism in this regard. Where it is denied there may still be a true Church, but that Church is not teaching the full counsel of God. We know this statement will shock those for whom Herman Bavinck is the benchmark of orthodoxy, but that is our conviction.

God willing, next time we will continue with the series on 'Future Israel'.

[Note. As we have explained to Dr. Horner, we use 'Restoration' to speak of the Biblical doctrine that the Jewish people will be restored both to the Land and to faith in God. If we speak of someone (such as John Owen) holding the future 'conversion' of the Jews, we mean that they affirmed that the Jews would return to God as a body, but denied that they would be restored to the Land of Canaan. This position is inconsistent, for land and people are explicitly linked in the Abrahamic covenant.]

Further Thoughts on 'Future Israel' I

We have demonstrated that Dr. Horner has simply failed to show that premillennialism is naturally Judeo-centric (his phrase). Instead he has opted for the easier route of begging the question. George Eldon Ladd, we are told (p. 180), is not a true historic premillennialist. Why not? Because Dr. Horner disagrees with him? But Ladd agrees with the Premillennialists among the Church Fathers (who are uniformly mistaken on this point). By the same logic I might say that such-and-such was not a true historic Postmillennialist. Let us instead affirm that this is a matter of disagreement within the three main millennial streams. True, Dispensationalists have never denied the Restoration of the Jews, but then it is an explicit part of their system, and as Micael Williams has shown in his excellent historical study This World is Not my Home (Fearn, Ross-shire, Mentor, 2003), early Dispensationalism, with its two entirely separate peoples of God, was every bit as dualistic and influenced by Greek Philosophy as other sectors of the Church have been. Consider this extended quotation from C.I. Scofield' s 'The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God':
"Whoever reads the Bible with any attention cannot fail to perceive that more than half of its contents relate to one nation: the Israelites. He perceives, too, that they have a distinct place in the dealings and counsels of God. Separated from the mass of mankind, they are taken into covenant with Jehovah, who gives them specific promises not given to any other nation. Their history alone is told in Old Testament narrative and prophecy; other nations are mentioned only as they touch the Jew. It appears, also, that all the communications of Jehovah to Israel as a nation relate to the Earth. If faithful and obedient, the nation is promised earthly greatness, riches, and power; if unfaithful and disobedient, it is to be scattered "among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other" (Deut. 28:64). Even the promise of the Messiah is of blessing to "all the families of the Earth."

Continuing his research, the student finds mention in Scripture of another distinct body, which is called the church. This body also has a peculiar relation to God and, like Israel, has received from Him specific promises. But similarity ends there, and the most striking contrast begins. Instead of being formed of the natural descendants of Abraham alone, it is a body in which the distinction of Jew and Gentile is lost. Instead of the relation being one of mere covenant, it is one of birth. Instead of obedience bringing the reward of earthly greatness and wealth, the church is taught to be content with food and raiment, and to expect persecution and hatred; it is perceived that just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things.

Further, Scripture shows the student that neither Israel nor the church always existed; each had a recorded beginning. The beginning of Israel he finds in the call of Abram. Looking then for the birth of the church he finds (contrary, perhaps, to his expectations, for he has probably been taught that Adam and the patriarchs are in the church) that it certainly did not exist before, nor during, the earth life of Christ, for he finds Him speaking of His church as yet future when He says (Matt. 16:18), "Upon this rock I will build my church." Not, have built, nor am building, but will build.

He finds, too, from Ephesians 3:5-10, that the church is not once mentioned in Old Testament prophecy, but was, in those ages, a mystery "hid in God." Scripturally, he finds the birth of the church in Acts 2, and the termination of its career on the earth in I Thessalonians 4.

The student also finds, in the scriptural division of the race, another class, rarely mentioned, and distinguished in every respect from either Israel or the church: the Gentiles. The comparative position of the Jew, the Gentile, and the church may be briefly seen in the following Scriptures: the Jew (Rom. 9:4-5; John 4:22; Rom. 3:1-2); the Gentile (Eph. 2:11-12; Eph. 4:17-18; Mark 7:27-28); the Church (Eph. 1:22-23; Eph. 5:29-33; 1 Pet. 2:9).
Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny that all is contrast."

Note that, "all is contrast." The modern dispensationalist will instantly say "I do not belive that!" No, sir, we know you don't. That is our point, you do not belive it, but Scofield did. Now there is only one way that this dualistic dispensationalism (to clarify, we are not saying that all dispensationalism is dualistic, but that this two-peoples brand, with its heavenly and earthly peoples, is) can be called 'Judeo-centric', and that is to ignore half of it, and only to focus on the things said about Israel. This brand of dispensationalism has led authors to state that the Old Testament sacrifices were actually propitiatory (S.D. Gordon), and has given rise to the accusation that it seems to teach that people were saved differently in the Old Testament (and S.D. Gordon, in 'Quiet Talks about Jesus' seems to give some semblance of truth to the accusation). It tends to take the Old Testament, and much of the New, from the Church, and the remainder of the New Testament from the Jews. It at least appears to be antinomian, and tells Jews that, if they convert in the present age, they will be simply 'the poor of the flock'. It is surely significant that Horner quotes not one author from this tradition, and that on Iron Sharpens Iron he refused to answer questions relating to early dispensationalists.
I hope that Dr. Horner will pardon me for saying that this dualism is simply unbiblical, and therefore cannot be said to be pro-Israel.

To be fair to Dr, Horner, he does not only quote premillennialists who agree with him and amillennialists who don't. He also quotes some postmillennialists (and here we would say that we are in that number) who agree with him, such as a Brakel and Jonathan Edwards. Of course, Horner says, were they living today they would not be as optimistic.
Sir? Is it foolish optimism to hold that the Gospel is capable of transforming the nations? For we are not carnal liberals looking to the power of man to do these things, but our sufficiency is of God.
Horner cites Spurgeon's 1864 sermon on 'the Restoration and Conversion of the Jews' (no. 582, found in MTP Vol. 10) as part of his case. It is an excellent sermon, with which we completely agree, but here is an interesting point. For Spurgeon does not agree with Dr. Horner on the means of the Jews' conversion in this sermon. Spurgeon is emphatic that this mass-conversion will be by the ordinary means that God has appointed, namely prayer and preaching. But Dr, Horner maintains, with many other premillennialists, that these will not be the means that God uses at all! No, according to Dr. Horner the missionary to the Jews may only hope for the conversion of a few individuals out of Israel, but 'all Israel' cannot be turned to God by those means. They will only be converted by the parousia, the Second Advent.
So Spurgeon's 1864 sermon is more compatible with our Postmillennialism than with Dr. Horner's Premillennialism!

There is an excellent essay on Spurgeon's theology in relation to Israel here at the Spurgeon Archive.
Readers may be surprised at our frequent references to David Brown. They ought not to be. We have long regarded Brown as the master on this subject. The ISBN of the reprint of his book is: ISBN/Ref 9780921148111 / 0921148119. We found it vastly superior to Horner. Eden.co.uk advertise it for sale here.

God willing, we shall continue with these thoughts next time.

[Illustration: The Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, the oldest functioning London Synagogue]

Monday, April 14, 2008

A note on 'Future Israel'

We have come across the following item in the internet: Here is the context. You will note that Vanderwaal is an orthodox Preterist, looking forward to the New heavens and the new earth, the New Jerusalem without denying the earthly city. Vanderwaal corrects:
1. The Platonic idea of the Final State that far too many modern Christians have (all credit to Barry Horner for saying the same thing).
2.The hyper-preterist who practically adopts an eternal dualism, with this world remaining full of sin for ever.
3. The dualistic dispensationalist, who says that Israel is God's earthly people, and the Church God's heavenly (Note: We are NOT calling all Dispensationalists dualists, only those who speak of two peoples of God, not one, and who make an eternal separation between Israel and the Church).

Says van der Waal: "The translations have the writer saying in Hebrews 11:13 that the patriarchs 'confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.' Now it is very questionable to me whether this translation 'on the earth' is justified. Instead of 'on the earth,' we would like to plead for the translation, 'in the land.' Compare the Hebrew word 'erets -- meaning 'land' or 'earth' or 'country.'

"So here, we should be thinking of the promised land. Then the meaning would be: 'Abraham confessed that he a stranger and a pilgrim in the land.' In verse 8, we read of a place which Abraham received as an inheritance. Canaan was no halfway-house. No! It was his inheritance, his place. Hebrews 11:9 speaks of this place -- as the land of promise!

"Woe unto Abraham -- if he thought that this 'land' was still not actually the true and the real thing! There would be no 'Platonic' land in the sweet by-and-by more real, which he would only one day inherit. It is true on account of Abraham's situation, that he lived in that land as a sojourning stranger. Yet he was still the legal heir of that land.

"Of course, Abraham also expected the city which has foundations. Here, however, we should think of both Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem. For both are lineal fulfilments of the promise. Hebrews 11:14 says that the patriarchs sought a city. Hebrews 11:16 declares they were not thinking of the fatherland which they had left. But now, they were longing for a better country, i.e. a heavenly one.

"Here, we do not read that they longed for heaven as a fatherland. Instead, we read that they longed for a heavenly fatherland -- namely a fatherland determined by, and given from, heaven: an earthly fatherland given from heaven; an earthly fatherland of heavenly character!

"In addition, the contrast is not between Ur the deserted fatherland plus Canaan as the lesser promised land -- versus heaven as a better fatherland. No! The contrast is rather between leaving Ur as a lesser fatherland deserving to be deserted, versus the promised land of Canaan here on earth. That latter in turn was of course a picture of the new heaven and the new earth of the then-messianic future -- the fulfilment of Canaan, when heaven comes down to earth and when the earthly Canaan and the heavenly Canaan will be one!

"Now we are only threatened by a horizontalisation of Canaan -- if it is described as a fatherland better than the one to come after death, or if one stops only at the earthly Canaan. Then, of course, there will [quite rightly] be an immediate reaction -- to refer to heaven as being a still better fatherland than the earthly Canaan.

"But we are also threatened by a pietistic distortion of the Gospel -- which practically denies God as Creator, and denies the goodness of the earthly Canaan. As a result of this kind of distorted pietistic spiritualisation -- which ignores the history of salvation -- the Old Testament is obscured. People then know no better than to use terms like 'external' and 'earthly' and 'national' to characterise the underestimated gift of the earthly Canaan.

We only say that we basically agree with Vanderwaal here.

Yet more thoughts on 'Future Israel'

We have now finished reading Dr. Barry Horner's book Future Israel. Now, we are agreed with Dr. Horner on the following points:
1. God has not finished with national Israel.
2. The Jews are to be restored not only to faith, but also to the Land.

We are disagreed with Dr. Horner on these other points:
1. Only a premillennial eschatology can properly reflect this.
2. There will be a restored Temple in Jerusalem.
3. All our efforts to reach Israel as a nation with the Gospel will ultimately be unsuccessful. Israel as a nation will only be converted by the Second Advent of Our Lord.

The thesis of Dr. Horner's book seems to us to be that Christians have historically failed to live up to our responsibility towards the Jews (with which we agree), and that only a Judeo-centric premillennialism (as opposed to an Augustinian amillennialism) can correct this imbalance (with which we disagree).
The trouble is, Dr. Horner seems to cherry-pick history to prove his second point. So, on pages 150 to 151 we have effectively one page dealing with 'Israel and Judeo-centric Premillennialism up to the Reformation'. In it Horner makes the bald assertion that patristic premillennialism was Judeo-centric,
"as will be demonstrated, chiliasm and subsequent premillennialism have continued to uphold a closer identity with the perpetuation of the Jewish people as a nation with a distinct eschatalogical hope" (P. 150).
Yet there is not one quotation from the pre-Reformation period to back up this statement, not one name cited. Contrast this with David Brown in his 1861 volume The Restoration of the Jews (reprinted with a lengthy foreword by Steve Schlissel as Hal Lindsay and the Restoration of the Jews [Edmonton, Still Waters Revival Books, 1990] It is this edition that we quote from), where Brown takes up an entire chapter of 12 pages dealing with the same period. In this chapter he states:
"Although the primitive Church is known to have been divided from the very first on the question of the Premillennial Advent and the Personal Reign of Christ on the earth, it is a curious fact, and one that will probably startle my readers, that the national and territorial restoration of the Jews not only never entered into the controversy at all, but seems not to have been believed in by either of the parties" (P. 71).
Brown then proceeds, through quotations from the Fathers, to prove his case. Since Dr. Horner offers nothing but an unproven assertion, we will stick with Brown until shown that he was wrong.
What about Dr. Horner's "as will be demonstrated"? The trouble is, what he demonstrates is not really relevant to the question in hand, but is something that no-one denies, namely that post-Reformation Premillennialism has often held to the future restoration of the Jewish people. But to read this back into pre-Reformation Premillennialism without a single quotation or even reference to an author to back it up is simply bad scholarship.

We have already referred to Justin Martyr, and we have done this with good reason. Justin was not only probably the first anti-semitic writer in the Church (as Carsten Theide says), he was also explicitly postmillennial. Yet in Justin's theology the Church (viewed as a Gentile, or predominantly Gentile body) is explicitly said to have replaced Israel. What is more, Justin is not unusual, but entirely representative. David Brown cites from Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian and Lactantius to prove his point.
"Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament “raises up from the stones children unto Abraham,” Matt. iii. 9. is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers.”"
Irenaeus wrote when he applied the prophecies that speak of the restoration of the Jews to the state of the Church in the Millennium (Quoted Brown, P. 76. See Adv. Haer. Bk. V, Chapters xxxii, xxxiv). Unless Dr. Horner or anyone else can prove that we are wrong by one unambiguous citation from the Fathers or another non-heretical pre-Reformation source, we will continue to believe that there was no such thing as Judeo-centric premillennialism before the Reformation. As it is, it seems to us that Dr. Horner has read post-Reformation premillennialism back into the period before the Reformation. That is, he has begged the question of whether or not premillennialism is naturally Judeo-centric.

Next time, God willing, we shall continue with these thoughts.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More thoughts on 'Future Israel'

We must say that, broadly speaking, we are in agreement with Dr. Horner concerning the future restoration of the Jews to faith in Messiah, and to the Land promised to Abraham. It is for this reason that our disagreements are so important.
Our first major disagreement is concerning the historical pedigree of a theology that denies one or both of these points. Horner traces it it Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), yet it is much more sensible to trace it to Justin Martyr (c.100 - 165 AD). Heavily influenced by Greek philosophy (Justin had in fact been a philosopher before his conversion), Justin called himself a Samaritan, having been born, though to Greek parents, in Samaria. Like the people among whom he was brought up, Justin seems to have been less than fond of the Jews, and in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin gives what is probably the first formal expression of a 'replacement theology'.
Justin's importance is further confirmed by the fact that Easter Orthodox theologians and priests have historically held to Replacement theology, when we know from experience that they tend to have a fairly low view of Augustine as a Latin Father. Justin, however, was from the East and wrote in Greek, both things that would recommend him to the Eastern Orthodox. His early date, having died nearly 200 years before the birth of Augustine, and before the split between East and West began to develop. It is therefore most likely that Augustine picked up his views from Justin.
As David Brown noted in his excellent The Restoration of the Jews (a work that we prefer to Dr. Horner's), Justin was a pre-millennialist as well, while Augustine was Amillennial in his teaching. But the question of the future of the Jews was thought by all in the Patristic period to have been settled by Justin. In all of the debates about the Millennium, it was assumed by both sides that the Jews were eternally rejected as a nation.
We do not excuse Augustine. If Justin Martyr, as James White has said, knew Greek philosophy better than he knew the Bible, Augustine read his Bible. Unfortunately he read it under the guidance of Ambrose of Milan, who was quite anti-semitic. Nevertheless, to trace what was already in Augustine's time the accepted view to the bishop of Hippo is simply bad historical theology.

Secondly, and probably our greatest disagreement with Horner, Horner connects the conversion of the Jews, the restoration to the Land, and the restoration of the Temple and its attendant system of worship. With the first two we concur, from the last we strongly dissent.
It is our belief that it is the linking of these three positions as if they were an unbreakable chain that has done most to discredit the doctrine of the restoration of the Jews to the land in the eyes of most of the Church. That the sin-offerings and burnt offerings shall be offered again, that the priesthood of Levi shall be instituted once more, at these things the mind of the Christian who has read the Epistle to the Hebrews instinctively revolts.
Now this was quite acceptable to the dualism of the Darby-Scofield brand of Dispensationalism, which could say:
"Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny that all is contrast." (C.I. Scofield: 'The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God')
Scofield could have the Jews sacrificing in their Temple, while the Church was in heaven with Christ:
"Just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things." (Ibid.)
And this carnal dispensationalism, in which Israel and the Church were portrayed as different in every single way, has also disgusted the Christian who refuses to admit its dualistic overtones. In fact the condemnation of this form of dispensationalism is writ in the fact that most modern dispensational scholars, such as John MacArthur, have rejected it for a position closer to the Premillennialism of Bonar and the later Spurgeon.
But neither this dualism nor the restoration of the types and shadows of the ceremonial law are necessarily connected with the restoration of the Jews to the Land. It is entirely conceivable that the temple of Ezekiel's vision is entirely spiritual and typological, whilst the restoration of Israel to the Land is physical and literal. Thomas Goodwin, following John Brightman, the first writer in the post-Reformation age to notice that the Bible expressly foretells the restoration of Israel to the Land as well as to God, saw the Second Coming as following the Millennium (at least in his exposition of Revelation). But neither man saw the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem as a necessary part of this restoration - and neither do we.

More thoughts, God willing, next time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

'Future Israel' By Barry Horner - first thoughts

Having recently received our copy of Future Israel by Barry Horner (Broadman and Holman, 2007), we have begun to read it. The book is a handsomely-bound hardcover volume with three indices, one of authors, one of subjects, and the other of Scripture references. For an academic book, especially one dealing with such a subject, good indices are essential, and we really dislike important scholarly books that don't have them. We rejoiced to find that this book had indices (about 16 pages of them as well).

Unfortunately, on further examination we found the indices in Future Israel somewhat flawed. For one thing, the arrangement of the Author and Subject Indices is a little odd. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which index an author is cited in. For example O.T. Allis, though not quoted and only referred to in passing in a footnote, merits a mention in the author index, whilst Justin Martyr, surely an important person on the grounds of his anti-semitism and replacement theology in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, is only to be found in the Subject index, and then inexplicably split into two entirely separate entries, one as 'Martyr, Justin' (refers to P. 189) and a second as 'Justin Martyr' (refers to Pp. 210, 215 and 264). Augustine, whom Horner notes is very important, again, is in the subject index, not the author index, yet he is quoted several times in the text (for example on Pp 3-4). Surely a quoted author belongs in the author index! It is as if the author index is an afterthought, hastily cobbled together by the publisher. Since some writers (Allis, for example) are cited only in one index and not the other, this arbitrary division makes it very difficult to tell, at a glance, which authors Horner has referred to. These are little errors, no doubt due to Dr. Horner having not prepared the index himself, and no doubt will be ironed out in the second edition, should the sales of this book warrant one.
We would say to Broadman and Holman, if you intend to put an author index in a book, put a proper one in. As it is, the vagaries of the indexing system are incredibly irritating.

Those expecting a comprehensive study of Christian attitudes towards Israel will be disappointed in this book, but then the title ought to have alerted them that it is a narrowly-focused polemical treatment of the subject of Christian anti-Judaism (a word that Horner prefers to anti-semitism). The world still awaits a comprehensive study of the subject. Having only just started the book, we have only a few 'first impressions'. One concerns the names present in and absent from the index, and what is said about those names.
First of all, we looked in vain for the name of David Brown, a post-millennial writer who argued strongly for the restoration of the Jews. Since David Brown is the Brown of Jamieson, Faussett and Brown, a standard commentary on the whole Bible, this omission is surprising. Oswald T. Allis is referred to only once, and then in passing in a footnote. While Justin Martyr is referred to, it is only in passing again, and usually lumped together with a number of other theologians of the early church. Yet we are of the opinion that Justin deserved more space. His anti-Judaism and replacement theology make him a far more important writer in this respect than Augustine, who simply adopted Justin's position on Israel. Could it be that Horner finds Justin awkward, since he was premillennial? We hope not!
We agree with Horner that too often the debate on the future of Israel is framed by the present situation in the Land (as we frequently call it), and welcome any book that puts the newspaper aside for the Bible, which must be our guide in this question. We are glad that he has recognised the differences that exist between the Reformed on questions of eschatology.
So far we are only at page 18 (there are about 10 pages of text before page 1, however), so we are still in the setting of the scene. When we have finished, we will review the work properly.

[We apologise for the lengthy paragraph about the index, but it reflects how annoying we found the thing. In fact, we have written to the publishers to complain about it.]

Is Traditional Reformed Theology Anti-Jewish? III.

Iain H. Murray in his book The Puritan Hope (Banner, 1973), has noted that Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor at Geneva, developed the hints that are found in Calvin's Commentary on Romans into a theology of the restoration of Israel. Thus we may say that Calvin paved the way, and Beza followed him. Among the earlier Reformers Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr also held out a future hope for Israel.
One of Peter Martyr's students at Cambridge was Hugh Broughton (1549-1612). Broughton was consumed with a love for the Jews and desired to go to the Middle East to evangelise (there being very few, if any, Jews in England at that time). Unfortunately the government prevented his leaving, so he stayed, proposing a translation of the New Testament into Hebrew, the first Englishman to do such a thing.
Broughton's influence spread, and as Ian Murray notes:
"From the first quarter of the 17th century, belief in a future conversion of the Jews became commonplace among the English Puritans" (P. 47).

The list of Puritans Murray gives, which is by no means complete, contains such men as John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, William Gouge, William Perkins, Richard Sibbes, William Bridge and George Hutcheson. Indeed, as we have noted, the Westminster Assembly went so far as to enjoin all ministers in the national churches of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
"To pray for the propagation of the Gospel and Kingdom of Christ to all nations; for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles, the fall of antichrist, and the hastening of the Second Coming of Our Lord."

Under the second petition 'Thy Kingdom Come', in the Larger Catechism, they note also that part of the coming of this Kingdom will be "the Jews called" (Q. 191).
Following the Puritans a great company of Postmillennialists and Amillennialists looked forward to the restoration of the Jews: John Brown of Haddington, James Denney, Thomas Chalmers, Charles Hodge, John Bengel, Joseph Kinghorn, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Andrew Fuller, Henry Martyn, and so on. It just will not do to represent them as anomalies in the Protestant Churches.
Now the Dispensationalist will say "but that is just desiring that the Jews will be swalled up in the Church." No, rather we (and by 'we', we refer to those such as David Brown and ourselves) desire that the Gentiles be swallowed up in Israel, into which we have, by faith, been engrafted. The present 'Gentile' character of the Church is temporary. The Church's final character will be as the Israel of God, with all that means. Of course it is a 'Jewishness' the character of which is determined by the Bible, not Rabbinical Judaism today, which is unbelieving, and is in conscious rejection of Messiah.
Thus it is quite meaningless to speak of Israel as being swallowed up in the Church, for that is to say that Israel will be swallowed up in Israel. Of course so long as this world stands there will be national distinctions, and the Israeli will no more cease being an Israeli with all that means when he and his countrymen are converted than the Welshman ceases to be Welsh. We shall remain ourselves to all eternity also, though we Gentiles shall be in a 'second place' because it is not our Olive Tree.

We have now received our copy of Dr. Horner's book, and will give our first impressions on it next time.

God willing, next time we shall begin to deal with Dr. Horner's appearance on 'Iron Sharpens Iron'

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

John Calvin and John Wesley

It may surprise some of our readers to find these two men linked in a title, but to us there is nothing odd. We have been reading Wesley nearly as long as we have been reading Calvin, and indeed our first volumes of Calvin, the two volumes of his Commentary on Genesis in the Calvin Translation Society edition of 1850, came from the library of the Wesleyan theological Institution (latterly Richmond College), Richmond, Surrey (bookplate illustrated). So the two men are quite linked in our mind.
We are not of the sort of men who can make a sermon out of the commentaries of others, yet the commentaries we have most often consulted are those of Calvin and the Notes on the New Testament of John Wesley.

Theologically, of course, we are closer to John Calvin than to Wesley, but we would maintain that we are second to no Wesleyan in our admiration for Mr. John Wesley as a man and a preacher. We are not Romanist, but we maintain that there are few more hallowed places in England than a certain place on the City Road in London, where Wesley's chapel faces Bunhill Fields across the road. If there is a place of Protestant pilgrimage in London, it is that place. We have often visited that place, and knelt in silent prayer in the little courtyard under which lie the mortal remains of John Wesley, 'in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of life.'
We have preached in a Wesleyan chapel and a presbyterian church. Calvin and Wesley are a part of our life and our Christian heritage.

Why Wesley and Calvin? We feel that both men have been largely treated in the same way, either whitewashed or vilified in general. They are great men, but neither saints nor monsters. As with all great men their faults were great as well as their virtues, and so their admirers have commonly seen only their virtues, whilst their detractors have only seen their faults. Both men await standard biographies that will portray them as they were, as men.

Wesley and Calvin were very different men in many ways, not simply doctrinally. Calvin was a reticent, quiet man who rarely talked about himself, and whose life is therefore often quite difficult to chronicle, he suffered from ill-health, and was happily married, though for too short a time. He died at a relatively early age. Wesley, on the other hand, recorded his life in great detail and enjoyed amazingly good health until his last years. Wesley's marriage was a complete disaster, and he died at a ripe old age. Calvin's work was done while based in one place, while Wesley travelled throughout the British Isles. And Wesley, of course, was an Arminian of a type (there are different kinds of Arminian).

We hold, having read all the writings of John Wesley and most of those of Calvin, that both men were true Christians. But Wesley's mind had been poisoned against Calvinism, which he seems never to have understood correctly. He thought that Calvinists believed that "the elect shall be saved do what they may, the reprobate shall be damned, do what they will." No Calvinist has ever held this. We hold that the elect are called to good works, to sanctification, and that the reprobate are damned for their own sins.
John Wesley's theology, as found in his collected works, is simply not integrated. In the face of those who said that Divine providence was simply general, he taught that God's providence was particular, and asked sagely "what is a general without particulars?" Well, is not Wesley right? So what is a 'general' election of a class without particular election of the members of that class? What is a general redemption unless it is the redemption of particulars? Wesley's logic demolishes his Arminianism. We have often quoted him in preaching as our Arminian interlocutor, in order to avoid the objection that we shoot at a straw man in our responding to free-will teaching.
In Calvin's case, we agree with the marrow of his doctrine whilst condemning some of the things he did, most notably in the Servetus case. In Wesley's we agree with much of what he did whilst dissenting from his Arminianism and perfectionism. No-one is perfect, and Wesley's theology is a muddle, not a system.

Calvinism has been charged with encouraging a morbid introspection, but Wesley could be as morbidly introspective as any Puritan. His doctrine of 'Christian perfection' (which is a perfect mess and quite unintelligible, even after multiple readings) led him to condemn himself in the most amazing terms:
In one of my last [letters] I was saying that I do not feel the wrath of God abiding on me; nor can I believe it does. And yet (this is the mystery), I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen

Wesley was faced by men who had never known the sinfulness of their own hearts, saying that THEY were sinless. And his guileless soul believed them, which plunged him into this deep depression.
It is this very experimental knowledge of the sinfulness of sin that convinces us that Wesley was a true Christian. He speaks not as the hypocrite, but as Paul does when he cries out "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Had Wesley ever claimed to be perfect, then we would have doubted his salvation indeed!

We have the portraits of Calvin and Wesley on our wall. There we shall keep them, as we keep their writings. And from the lives of both we shall continue to draw encouragement and challenge.