Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dispensationalists should "Re-interpret"

Addendum: See this dovetailing post I just read by Matthew Malcolm: Fundamentalist Hermeneutics Serves a Secularistic, Atheistic Agenda . Matthew's title is quite provocative, especially if you're still working from a dispensational hermeneutic; how would you counter Matthew's (and my) claim contra dispensational hermeneutics in particular? Matthew doesn't use the language of dispensational, but this is what he's referring to in the post (and then he broadens this out, as I have, to the issue that this revolves around; hermeneutical structure).

Rubin, Jerusalem circa. 1926
Must I? I guess I must. I must inform any of my newer readers that I grew up classic dispensational, moved to progressive dispensationalism (about 14 years ago), and finally (after much angst and study and deliberation ... seriously!) have arrived at all truth; viz. I am amillennial (so called). This is my little caveat prior to getting into the rest of this post. With that ground cleared before us, I simply wanted to highlight something that kept hitting me in the face as I was reading through Deuteronomy tonight. That is, that my dispensational brethren severely misread scripture (this is a strong statement ... who can hear it?) when they supposedly follow their literalist hermeneutic of interpretation instead of re-interpreting Scripture (like the New Testament authors did, as well as the early Church) in light of the Old Testament fulfillment, in Christ. Jesus was under no delusion that, indeed, Scripture was all about him; notice what he said to the religious leadership of his day (I think he would reiterate the same thing to Dispensationalists today):

39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, ... John 5:39

Jesus understood the Old Testament Scriptures, and the promises therein, as finding their reality and fulfillment and purpose in him. He believed that the Scriptures, and the Old Testament promises to his covenant people were all about him; and that they were personally fulfilled in him. For example, as I was reading through Deuteronomy this evening, the concept of "land" and blessing and "Yahweh's people" kept popping up. Like the Jewish zealots of Jesus' day, dispensationalists collapse this promise of blessing in the land for Yahweh's people into a geo-political and "literal" promise that is yet (and is currently) to be fulfilled by the Jewish people in present day Israel (a sign of this fulfillment, for dispensationalists, is the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948). But if we re-interpret these promises as if their fulfillment has come to reality in Jesus Christ, then the promise of blessing in the land for Yahweh's covenant people will be understood to have fulfillment in and through the obedient humanity of Christ as the new man; the new and obedient Israel (Eph. 2:11ff); and in the New Heavens and New Earth, the Heavenly Jerusalem, as described in Revelation 21--22. So there is a literal fulfillment after all, but it has already been fulfilled (the now and not yet aspect of the kingdom ... or the in-between time we inhabit currently) penultimately in Christ's first advent, and yet ultimately in Christ's second advent and the consummation of all things.

One of the problems for dispensationalists is that they understand "literal" through a neo-Platonic lens; so that there is a hard distinction between the spiritual heavenly realm and the physical earthly realm. What the dispensationalist fails to appreciate, properly, is that if we interpret all of reality and the purpose of creation through the analogy of the incarnation and the hypostatic union between the divine and human; that the hard distinction between heaven and earth is not a viable option. If you will, the dividing wall has been broken, and all things have become One in Christ. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest ...


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