Archive for the ‘Amillennialism’ Category

Francis Schaeffer’s paedobaptist covenant premillennialism appears to be rarely held today, although apparently it was commonly held among the Bible Presbyterians and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), both of which he ministered in during his career.

The following is Schaeffer’s view in a nutshell and basically explains why he takes prophecy “literally” but why he wasn’t a dispensationalist even though he was a pre-tribulationist. It is from the second half of the message on the Covenant of Grace in the Westminster Confession of Faith series that was taught at L’Abri in the early 1960s. (This series includes the sermon from which his little book on Baptism was drawn.)

This is basically an introduction to a series of messages on the Abrahamic Covenant in which he emphasizes what he terms the unity and diversity of the covenant. This transcription is very lightly edited to remove repetition, etc. My apologies for any grammatical errors.

We have here two halves in the first three verses of the Abrahamic Covenant. [He then quotes Gen 12:1-3.]

Here we have two halves and we must not get the two halves confused. There is a national, natural promise here to the natural seed of Abraham who are the Jews. But there is also the spiritual portion. The Covenant of Grace is operating here. The Covenant to Noah is under the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant to Abraham is under the Covenant of Grace. It is not aside from the Covenant of Grace. It is a part and a portion of the Covenant of Grace.

What you have is the two halves given. There is the half that deals with the Jews as the Jews, a nation. And I would say that Romans makes very plain that God is not done with the Jews. This portion of the covenant still stands. As a matter of fact, I would say immediately that if it doesn’t stand, then we cannot trust God, because he says in reference to his covenant to the Jews, as Paul is speaking to the Jews concerning national, natural Israel, his brethren according to the flesh, he says “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He’s talking about the national, natural portion of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Jews as Jews. But we mustn’t forget that that isn’t all there is to it. There is a spiritual portion, a spiritual and personal element that is shown here: Looking forward to the coming of Messiah and an individual’s partaking in personally in it.

Those who tend to take the amillennial position tend to lose the diversity of this and confuse the national, natural portion with the spiritual portion. But there are many many people today who make the opposite mistake. And that is that they lose the unity, the failure to understand the total unity of the Covenant of Grace from the promise of Gen 3:15 onward, including the fact that there is a unity to those of us who are born again, now on this side of the cross, a unity with these promises, the spiritual side of the promises made to Abraham. Let us not lose the diversity. There is a difference between the promise made to the nation of the Jews as Jews and the spiritual portion, but let us equally beware of losing the unity, There is a unity to the Covenant of Grace. To say in passing, this is the reason I am not a dispensationalist. There is a unity.


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One reason why I don’t blog more regularly is that I haven’t committed to doing so on a regular schedule. In addition, as I’m sure many bloggers have found, coming up with original posts of substance on a regular basis is also rather time consuming.  (While he is certainly much better read and educated than I am, I still don’t know how Dan Phillips does it!)

Although I’ve been tempted to do so recently, I’ve also hesitated to simply turn the blog into an index of quotations of various worthies on one particular subject, as is the habit of some. But I find sharing quotations from time to time can be helpful, especially if the quote is from a somewhat different perspective than is common today.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading of historic premillennial literature recently. In most cases, this has been older covenant premillennial writing (i.e. Reformed) of the type that was widespread in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Perhaps the best known representatives of this school would be C.H. Spurgeon, Horatius Bonar and J.C. Ryle, among many others that could be named. As will be seen in the following quote, which I think would be generally representative of their approach, their hermeneutics differed from that of George Ladd, who is generally considered to be the standard bearer for historic premillennialism (i.e. post-trib) from the mid 20th Century to the present day.

I recently came across this gem from Norman F. Douty (1899-1993) that I thought I’d share. Mr. Douty is today best known as the author of Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? However he wrote a good many other books on various subjects, including a couple devoted to eschatology.

Some of the allusions in the following may be somewhat foreign to those who aren’t used to reading theologians wrangle over eschatology. But I think the general thrust of it will be clear enough to those who have read a little in this area of study.  The reference to “spiritualizers” is directed toward amillenarians, although it has some application to more recent historic premillenarians of the Ladd school as well.

Mr. Douty writes

The “spiritualizers” base their system upon the use made of Old Testament predictions in the New, which they consider gives the “key” to understanding the unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament. It is undoubtedly true that the later revelations of the New Testament are to regulate us in our understanding of the earlier ones of the Old Testament, for there is such a thing as progress in doctrine from Genesis to Revelation. But when interpreters of the New Testament construe its inspired writers as violating the basic hermeneutical principle described above,* we demur. We do so because we cannot believe that inspiration–however greatly above reason–ever is against it.  Since the historico-grammatical principle is the only rational one for the interpretation of all literature, that construction of New Testament portions which opposes them against the obvious, natural teaching of the Old Testament, cannot be correct. We are compelled to challenge such construction rather than shut our eyes to the unmistakable declarations of the Hebrew Scriptures.

It has been customary for Protestants to deny the need for any special key to the understanding of the Scriptures. The Romanist, the Mormon, the Seventh-day Adventist, the Christian Scientist, the Russellite–each has his key, without which one is supposed to flounder hopelessly in the interpretation of Scripture. The amillenarian, it must be said, has his key too. Without it, we are told, one can never understand unfulfilled prophecy. This claim, in itself renders the system suspect. People generally do not become amillennialists by simply studying the Bible, but by using special keys.**  

The “spiritualizing” interpreters also argue that under the Gospel, national distinctions have ceased. But the same distinction between Israel and the Gentiles which is found in the Old Testament is continued in the New.  [Mr. Douty then goes on to list a number of NT passages, which I omit for the sake of brevity–CP]  It is quite true that there is no difference between these two divisions of the race in regard to things eternal and heavenly, but there is in regard to things temporal and earthly. The plea based on Galatians 3:28 (that in Christ Jesus there can be neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female) and Colossians 3:11 (that in him there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian and Scythian, bondman and freeman) is invalid, because these verses are not contemplating men as men, but only as Christians. So far as this life goes, the distinctions still hold. The truth is that, in the New Testament, even unsaved Jews are termed Israelites, and saved members of other nations are still called Gentiles. Moreover, the former are considered as having certain advantages over unsaved Gentiles (Rom. 3:1,2). Even their unbelief does not deprive them, as a nation, of the things God once promised (3:3, 4a). In Romans 9:4, 5 the ancient covenants and promises are viewed as yet belonging to the nation, for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (cf. Rom. 11:29). Hence Israel is still spoken of as God’s people (Rom. 11:1, 2).

Holding, then, to one consistent mode of explaining Holy Writ, we believe that the Old Testament predictions of a glorious future for a chastened and converted nation Israel are to be literally fulfilled. We do not subscribe to the Pharisees’ carnal conception of the Kingdom, nor do we think that believing Gentiles are to be regarded as spiritually inferior to believing Jews. But in the natural–not spiritual–sphere, Israel will be the “head of the nations.”  Is it not true, even in this age, that some Christians are elevated politically above others? However, our spiritualizing brethren fail to apprehend this distinction, and charge us (falsely, as will appear) with being Judaizers of a sort, and rebuilders of the middle wall of partition which was broken down at the cross of Calvary.

Douty, The Abrahamic Covenant: Its Relation to Israel and the Church (self published, 1984) pp. 10-12.

*One  description of this hermeneutical principle is “Literal when possible” as described by Horatius Bonar. Many others have set forth the same principle using different words.
**Mr. Douty is not here relegating amils to cultic status but is illustrating their inconsistent hermeneutic. He elsewhere states that, if forced to choose, he prefers the “spiritualizers” approach of mining spiritual truths from the prophets to that of certain premils whose approach to OT interpretation was overly Israelitish in his view. But as one would expect based on the quote above, he denied that those were the only two choices.

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