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Archive for the ‘Historic Premillennialism’ 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.
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Schaeffer:

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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The following is taken from the preface to Ryle’s Coming Events and Present Duties, most recently republished by Christian Focus as Are You Ready for the End of Time?

One thing only I wish to premise, before making my statement. The reader must distinctly understand that I do not put forth my prophetical views as articles of faith — but only as my private opinions. I do not say that nobody can be saved, who does not agree with me about prophecy. I am not infallible. I am very sensible that holier and better men than myself, do not see these subjects with my eyes, and think me utterly mistaken. I condemn nobody. I judge nobody. I only ask liberty to hold and state distinctly my own views. The day will decide who is right. It is the new heart, and faith in Christ’s blood — which are absolutely necessary to salvation. The man who knows these two things experimentally, may be wrong about prophecy — but he will not miss Heaven.

The following, then, are the chief articles of my prophetic creed:

1. I believe that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity by any existing agency, before the end comes. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, churches, schools, and missions — the wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest; and when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state that it was when the flood came in the days of Noah. (Matthew 13:24-30; 24:37-39.)

2. I believe that the wide-spread unbelief, indifference, formalism, and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom — are only what we are taught to expect in God’s Word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold — are things distinctly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it — I would think the Bible was not true. (Matthew 24:12; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1, 4, 13.)

3. I believe that the grand purpose of the present dispensation is to gather out of the world an elect people — and not to convert all mankind. It does not surprise me at all to hear that the heathen are not all converted when missionaries preach, and that believers are but a little flock in any congregation in my own land. It is precisely the state of things which I expect to find. The Gospel is to be preached “as a witness,” and then shall the end come. This is the dispensation of election, and not of universal conversion. (Acts 15:14; Matthew 24. 14.)

4. I believe that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is the great event which will wind up the present dispensation, and for which we ought daily to long and pray. “May Your kingdom come!” “Come, Lord Jesus!” should be our daily prayer. We look backward, if we have faith, to Christ dying on the cross; and we ought to look forward no less, if we have hope, to Christ coming again. (John 14:3; 2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Peter 3:12.)

5. I believe that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a real, literal, personal, bodily coming; and that as He went away in the clouds of Heaven with His body, before the eyes of men — so in like manner He will return. (Acts 1:11.)

6. I believe that after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, nor millennium, and that not until after He comes, shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. (Acts 3:21; Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; Revelation 20:1, etc.)

7. I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ, after going through great tribulation. (Jeremiah 30:10, 11; 31:10; Romans 11:25, 26; Daniel 12:1; Zech. 13. 8, 9.)

8. I believe that the literal sense of Old Testament prophecies has been far too much neglected by the Churches, and is far too much neglected at the present day, and that under the mistaken system of spiritualizing and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often completely missed its meaning. (Luke 24:25, 26.)

9. I do not believe that the preterist scheme of interpreting the Apocalypse, which regards the book as almost entirely fulfilled; or the futurist scheme, which regards it as almost entirely unfulfilled — are either of them to be implicitly followed. The truth, I expect, will be found to lie between the two.

10. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the great predicted apostasy from the faith, and is Babylon and Antichrist; although I think it highly probable that a more complete development of Antichrist will yet be exhibited to the world. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-11; 1 Timothy4:1-3.)

11. Finally, I believe that it is for the safety, happiness, and comfort of all true Christians, to expect as little as possible from Churches or Governments under the present dispensation — to hold themselves ready for tremendous convulsions and changes of all things established — and to expect their good things only from Christ’s second advent.

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With regard to prophetic sensationalism among premillennialists, Dr. Robert Duncan Culver (not strictly a dispensationalist, but an ardent premillennialist nonetheless) relates the following:

Unfortunately, the most grievous wounds to millennial faith have been inflicted by overzealous and sensationalist advocates among writers and preachers. As the good prophet in Zechariah 13 explains, his trauma is from “wounds . . . with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” This has been going on as long as I have been alive [1916-  ed. note] and continues unabated. These well meaning, and I think incautious people, make the millennium vehicle for far more doctrinal freight than the biblical undercarriage was engineered to carry. Some recent “evangelical” fiction has carried this to grievous extremes in my opinion. These self-inflicted wounds by premillenarians may explain, in part at least, why presently literal interpretation of biblical predictions of a future reign of Christ on earth has been under severe attack from many quarters. As a matter of personal observation these excesses have certainly caused some to renounce chiliastic teachings and prevented others from accepting them.

Robert Duncan Culver, The Earthly Reign of Our Lord With His People, p. 7 (Third revised edition of Daniel and the Latter Days.)

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A few months ago, I reported that the Theologue site, one of my favorite theology websites, had been shut down. The notice that was posted at the time had a note of finality about it or else I wouldn’t have posted anything here.  However I am happy to report that Ed Sanders, the site owner, providentially came across this blog several weeks ago.  He advised me that the site will be reactivated in the near future.

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I was disappointed today to see that the Theologue site has been shut down by its owner. This was a website dedicated to Reformed and Calvinistic theology, broadly speaking. The owner, Ed Sanders, no doubt has his reasons for discontinuing the site. We are grateful for his work on it and are thankful that it was a very helpful resource for so many years.

My main interest in the site was that it was perhaps the largest collection of Historic Premillennial resources on the web with which I am familiar, with the exception of something like Google Books.   (It appeared to me to be the largest with regard to the sheer number of links, to be specific, if not the actual volume of material.)  There were several entire books posted as well.   Much of this material was from older writers (1950’s and earlier, largely) who were critical of dispensationalism while nevertheless having a larger place for Israel in their theology than most “Historic Premils” do today. Many Historic Premils today (or perhaps non-dispensationalist premils in general) seem to differ little from amillennialism except when it comes to Revelation Chapter 20.   I suspect that many would be surprised to learn that many of these older writers, including such worthies as Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle and Horatius Bonar, believed that Israel as a nation would be converted and restored (as a nation) to the Promised Land.  Today this view is largely equated with dispensationalism.

In his announcement, the site owner writes “Most, if not all, of the materials I have posted are on other websites and can be found using a search engine.”  In general, that’s true.  But I think a good many of the eschatology articles aren’t available elsewhere that I know of. That likely includes some articles written by the site owner himself.  And it is somewhat difficult to find material if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for!  But there is a good deal of overlap between Theologue.org and Providence Baptist Ministries on the subject of eschatology, although the latter appears to have less material that is critical of dispensationalism.   Rediscovering the Bible has several online books in that vein posted as well, many of which are not available elsewhere.

Since the Theologue site had been online for so long, it is available on the Web Archive.  So, all is not lost although eventually this material won’t come up in search engine results any longer.

Time permitting, I may start another blog and begin posting some of these historic premil resources. It’s a topic of personal interest and I’ve found that the views of older writers (especially) in the historic/covenant premil camp aren’t widely understood.

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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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