Thursday, April 17, 2008

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. 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]

No comments: