Sunday, January 28, 2007

EFCA Midwinter Theological Discussion Review

The event was Wednesday January 24-Friday 26. Here's my day by day review. I'm simply going to just throw up on paper so read with caution.

Wednesday (24th) - On this day they gave each of the 4 presenters 1 hour to present the theology and hermeneutics of their position on the millennium.

Dr. Johnson from Dallas Theological Seminary presented a concise presentation of the dispensational position. One of the strongest themes of dispensationalism is the faithfulness of God to ethnic Israel. Since dispensationalists rely strongly on the "plain sense reading" of biblical texts, they believe all the Old Testament prophecies of land, blessing, and reign for Isreal MUST be fulfilled literally in the plain sense of the Old Testament context. God will fulfill these promises not b/c of Israel's obedience, but to demonstrate God's continued covenant faithfulness to His chosen people. Therefore, the 1,000 year reign of Christ at His Second Coming is the most logical place for these OT promises to be fulfilled. The other scholars got 5 minutes each to respond to Johnson's presentation. Bock concurred mostly, but also believe God can commit more than His promises, but never less. Therefore, the blessings to Israel can go beyond Israel. Moo reminded us that the New Testament never altars Scripture, but only interprets the OT. Beal argued against a millennium in the future, believing instead that the millennium has already been inaugurated and that the OT promises such as land, blessing, etc., will find their ulitmately fulfillmnet in the New Heavens and Earth and thus a future 1,000 earthly reign of Christ is unnecessary.

Bock's presentation informed us that progressive dispensationalism is not a term to slight classic dispensationalism. Progressive dispensationalism is a "continuity and progress in the movement of dispensations from one to the next" as revealed through progressive revelation. Bock and Johnson were very close to one another in their hermeneutic and theology. Moo and Beal were also walk similar theological lines. Bock stressed that the NT complements and completes the OT, but we never lose the the OT. Bock believes the OT's consistency in its promises to Israel fuel a need for their fulfillment in the future. Revelation 20 gives God 1,000 years for Christ to reign and bring blessing to ethnic Israel and the rest of the world. Beal's comments were the most poignant. He basically wanted to make it clear that someone who believes in Premillennialism should be called a 2-stepper, whereas an amillennial adherent is a 1-stepper in regards to the return of Christ and full redemption of the earth.

Doug Moo presented the historical premillennial position. (FYI - in the ordination paper for the Evangelical Free Church of America, I took this position. My view is different than Moo's, but similar) Moo opened with talking about 2 key ways of addressing hermeneutics. The first being the "natural" sense. This is the typical way of studying a passage seeking the authors' (human and divine) intent in its historical context. The other is called the "canonical" sense. In this sense we study texts in Scripture recognizing the Bible hinges together and only makes sense in its entirety. From this hermeneutic, Moo stressed that the New Testament deepens, extends, and transforms OT texts. Unlike Dr. Johnson, Moo believes OT promises make sense only in light of NT revelation. Thus, the "plain sense" may not be so easy to find in light of the NT fulfillment. He gave multiple examples in Scripture where the NT brought fuller meaning to OT ideas. One key OT idea is the people of God. In the NT, Moo stressed that the people of God were not longer only Israel. But rather, all those in Christ become true Israel (ethnic Jews and gentiles.) This does not neglect the OT promises to Israel, but reveals that in Christ these promises are given a deeper, fuller meaning to include all who believe in Christ. (See Romans 11:17-24 to see the olive tree illustration the Apostle Paul gives to understand the fuller senses of the people of God.)

The highlight of the week was our chance to listen to Dr. Greg Beal of Wheaton. Highlight b/c he was the only speaker who would not be currently allowed to be ordained in the EFCA because of his theological positions. Beal calls himself an inaugurated millennilist. He does not like to be called an amillennialist. He believes the resurrection of Jesus Christ inaugurated the "last days", bound Satan, and now Christ reigns on the throne. He made a big push to read the entire book of Revelation symbolically according to his interpretation of Revelation 1:1. He also believes that Jesus Christ represents Israel in his life, death and resurrection. Thus, those in Christ have all the (OT) promises that related to Israel. Beal denies that a future 1,000 reign of Christ on earth is to come. He believes Christ next stop on earth will be to end the war of all wars, usher in the new heavens/earth, and bring time as we know it to the end. One of the biggest differences I found in Beal is his choice of hermeneutical keys. Where dispensationalists use ethnic Israel and the plain sense promies of the OT as their key, Beal uses Christ as Israel as his key. This resembles replacement theology, but Beal said it did not. Much of Beal's theology reminded me of NT Wright's book, "The Climax of the Covenant."

Thursday (25) - On Thursday E-Free pastors had a chance to do some Q&A with the presenters. From some antagonistic comments it seemed apparent that most were not persuaded by Dr. Beal. Yet, I personally heard from a handful of people that lean toward Dr. Beal's position. We also heard from Mike Andrus. He basically shared this article he wrote (pg 5-6).

Friday (26) - ON Friday morning pastors were able to ask questions to president Bill Hamel and the spiritual heritage committee.

Good times :)

1 comment:

Brent said...

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to summarize the presentations. An interesting dialog. I wish I could have attended!