We are working through B&H’s Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. See my introduction and other posts in this series. This post summarizes the responds to the Progressive Covenantalist viewpoint of Tom Pratt and Chad Brand.
Overall, there is not much disagreement. Primarily, Raymond upholds infant baptism. He responds that “because the sacramental continuity of the two Testaments is so strong, not to baptize infants of believers in this church age, just as God commanded Israel to circumcise its eight-day-old male children, would require an explicit word of repeal” (p281). Since the authors reject infant baptism, they “cease to be covenantal and become themselves dispensationalists” (p281), a conclusion that to my mind does not logically follow.
Thomas rightly critiques the authors characterization of dispensationalism as presenting multiple ways of salvation. He also takes issue with the authors’ hermeneutics, concluding that “they eschew traditional principles of the grammatical-historical approach” (p287). A case in point: they see Christ as head of the body (Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18) as oddly fulfilling Deut 28:13. Thomas also takes issue with the authors’ identification of the “Israel of God” as the church (Gal 6:16) and “all Israel” in Romans 11:26 as elect Jews and Gentiles.
Thomas is concerned with the authors’ use of New Perspective authors, which “raises questions about their dating of synoptic Gospel origins”, since “New-perspective authors date the [synoptics] later in the first century AD and assign their authorship not to the traditional authors but to redactors who lived in significantly alter periods” (p290). I’m not sure that the New Perspective requires any dating of the Gospels. What’s more, this seems impossible to prove, as the existence of one New Perspective scholar who holds to early dating of the Gospels invalidates Thomas’ claim. What’s more, the usage of New Perspective scholarship in one area doesn’t mean acceptance of their views in another.
First, Saucy denies that dispensationalism holds multiple ways of salvation but that one’s expression of faith will differ in different stages of redemptive history. For example, “for the Jew living under the Mosaic covenant [a proper expression of faith] was obedience to the laws of sacrifice whenever that was possible” (p293).
Saucy then responds to each of the five points in Brand and Pratt’s chapter:
- Yes God is one, so His people are one. But God is a Trinity, so His people can have unity and diversity. Therefore, this does not exclude the identity and future of national Israel.
- Yes God’s people are such by election and spiritual birth and await the eternal city. However, “I fail to see how this eternal hope negates a future earthly restoration of Jerusalem” (p295).
- Romans 11 teaches that Gentiles are grafted into the root of the Abrahamic promises, not Israel herself; therefore, “Abraham’s seed includes believing Gentiles without their becoming ‘Jewish’” (p296)
- God’s people are marked by the presence of the Spirit, but this does not answer the disciples’ question about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6-8)
- Yes God’s people are the body of Christ, but this can become messy when the church is considered the new Israel.
Saucy’s response is interesting in that he agrees with the broad unity between Israel and the church found in Progressive Covenantalism, except when that unity undermines specific national promises to Israel.
Phew! This has turned into a mammoth series, so I will not offer a concluding post. I will simply state that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt that overall the chapters were solid. I highly recommend it as the most thorough, recent, and well articulated representation of these viewpoints for anyone interested in the topic. I hope that the conversation continues.
Many thanks to B&H for a review copy.