Riddlebarger was recently interviewed on Christ the Center. Talking about dispensationalism, he made the following statement that stood out to me:
…the problem with that is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 12 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the land promise in Genesis 12 – and it’s repeated throughout 15, 18, 22, on and on and on – when that land promise is repeated, dispenationalists say “See, that must mean Israel means Israel and that God is going to save Israel again to fulfill the land promise at the end of the age.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the land promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate.
In reading reformed amillenial critiques of dispensationalism, I can’t help but notice that their best arguments against dispensationalism are two-edged swords that cut equally against their own paedobaptist hermeneutic. For example, in a recent post I quoted Poythress at length in his discussion of the typology of Israel:
Since the existence of Israel itself has symbolic and heavenly overtones from the beginning, the fulfillment of prophecy encompasses these same overtones. The eschatological time is the time when the symbolic overtones in the very nature of Israel itself are transformed into reality… Eschatological prophecy may indeed have the same two dimensions: the dimension of the symbol in itself, and the dimension of what the symbol symbolizes. But the time of fulfillment of the eschatological prophecy is the time of climactic revelation. Hence, it may well be that, at that future time, the symbol is superseded by the reality, and no longer needs a separate historical realization along side the reality.
In my opinion, that is an excellent way of explaining how the nation of Israel was a shadow of the kingdom of God, a nation that is not of this world – as well as how Abraham’s physical offspring, in the way they benefited from God’s promise to Abraham (Ex 6:5; 32:13, etc), were a shadow of Abraham’s spiritual offspring – a distinction that was not clearly made until the New Covenant age of fulfillment. And so Poythress’ extended argument that the symbolic overtones in the very nature of Israel itself are transformed at the coming of Christ cuts against dispensationalism, but also against his paedobaptism – leaving him without a defense against the baptist argument that the nation of Israel was only a shadow of the church, not the church itself.
The same is true of Riddlebarger’s statement. It too is a double-edged sword. Allow me to simply re-state his argument:
…the problem with paedobaptism is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 17 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the offspring promise in Genesis 17 – and it’s repeated throughout 12, 15, 22, on and on and on – when that offspring promise is repeated, paedobaptists say “See, that must mean offspring means offspring and that God included physical offspring in the church and never took them out.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the offspring promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate.
30 thoughts on “Riddlebarger interviewed on Amillenialism”
Great comment Brandon. Very well said. Of course the first thing we would expect is a quick “woe woe woe, that is completely different”, or something silly like “what about household baptism. The head of the household believed, and his household was baptized. These houses very likely could have included infants, children, and the like” I would love to see a response to something like this.
Just as an aside, you should read Poythresses ‘Understanding dispensationalism’ if you want a fair assessment of dispensationalism. As someone raised in dispensationalism he has it pretty well right- more than can be said for others I have read.
I wouldn’t agree with Israel being the shadow of the church since the church existed in the Old Testament as well as the New (we are grafted into the one Olive Tree). For then the shadow would be done away with, and Abraham is included in that so called shadow. And if he is part of the shadow, then the use of Abraham being the father of us all (because of his example of faith) fails.
Thanks for the comment Joshua. I have to say though, I really don’t see how your objection is an objection.
Yes, the church existed in the OT, but that doesn’t mean the church was the nation of Israel. Yes, we are grafted into the Olive Tree, and yes, if the nation of Israel was a shadow it would be done away with. But that is exactly what we find in Romans 11. The nation, the natural branches, is done away with and all that remains is the church, the remnant by faith, the spiritual nation. The two existed in a “mixed way” as Owen puts it because the full mystery of the church had not yet been revealed.
The use of Abraham as the father of us all because of his faith in no way fails. We simply recognize that Abraham was a father of the Jews, the physical nation of Israel, and more profoundly a father of all who believe, spiritual Israel. Abraham is not the father of us all because of our physical lineage from him, so physical lineage from Abraham, the physical nation of Israel, being done away with in no way touches on Abraham as father of those who believe.
Again, I just don’t see any real objection in what you have said.
I was only stating that it could cause problems if one views Israel as a shadow or type. Types give way to the antitype. There is biblical backing for viewing prophets, priests, kings, Canaan, the temple and so forth as types giving way to the things to come. The type and the antitype do not exist in the same Testament. Types are in the Old and the antitype is in the New. Therefore, if the church existed in the Old, then Israel cannot be a type of the church. The Israel of God was never about ethnicity or physical lineage as you mentioned.
Thanks for clarifying Joshua. Your objection makes more sense now.
However, the church existed in the OT in the same way that Christ’s sacrifice was effectual for David in the OT, even though David continued to offer animal sacrifices, which Hebrews says were a shadow of Christ’s sacrifice. If you deny that both the shadow and reality existed (in some sense) in the same testament, then you deny David was saved (or must insist he was saved by animal sacrifices).
Yes, but the nation of Israel was about ethnicity and physical lineage.
“However, the church existed in the OT in the same way that Christ’s sacrifice was effectual for David in the OT, even though David continued to offer animal sacrifices, which Hebrews says were a shadow of Christ’s sacrifice.”
I agree . . . the shadow is just as good as the reality.
“If you deny that both the shadow and reality existed (in some sense) in the same testament…”
You have biblical evidence that proves otherwise? Christ was not crucified in the Old Testament.
“then you deny David was saved (or must insist he was saved by animal sacrifices).”
I think you missed my point Joshua, and hopefully you don’t honestly believe that “the shadow is just as good as the reality.”.
Here is a quote from Jonathan Edwards:
What biblical basis is there to view Israel as a type of the church when the church existed in the Old Testament? I can’t take Jonathan Edwards’s words over the biblical evidence that shows otherwise. One can take typology too far.
Why don’t you read Edward’s essay to find out? He used his bible too (insert rolling eyes)
I will simply rephrase what I mean to hopefully avoid your objection:
The nation of Israel was a type of the body of Christ.
I have not given too much thought to this issue however a couple of matters come to mind that may be relevant
a) circumcision exists in the OT both as a type and a reality. Physical circumcision should have pictured circumcision of the heart.
b) type is hard to tie down precisely. Land in the OT broadens out in the NC to the eschatological Kingdom (our experience now in the heavenlies in Christ and the final reality of a new heavens and new earth). Thus land is a first edition of the future. Likewise Israel in the OT is the People of God but in this first edition sense. There is not a straight continuity betwenn even the spiritual Israel and the NT church. Istrael in the OT is infancy while the church in the NT is maturity; Israel is imperfection while the church is perfection; Israel is Kingdom people in promise while the Church is Kingdom people in fulfilment.
I like Brandon’s basic thesis which is that OT categories often morph in NT fulfilment. Any modern church practice based solely on an OT convention must surely be suspect and weak.
The issue for me re paedobaptism is ultimately a simple one, the Abrahamic covenant assumed a physical and spiritual people but the New Covenant assumes only a spiritual seed.
“a) circumcision exists in the OT both as a type and a reality. Physical circumcision should have pictured circumcision of the heart.”
This is exactly what I mean about taking typology too far.
1. Where is the scriptural backing for looking at circumcision as a type?
2. How can circumcision be a type, when the reality of it existed before? For Abraham was regenerated before he was circumcised.
“There is not a straight continuity betwenn even the spiritual Israel and the NT church.”
How can that be since Paul’s whole argumentation is based around Abraham, the father of many nations? Abraham is our main example of justification by faith. If your above statement is true, then Abraham cannot be an example unto us.
“the Abrahamic covenant assumed a physical and spiritual people but the New Covenant assumes only a spiritual seed”
One would need to prove biblically that the New Covenant has no connection with the Abrahamic covenant.
Regarding ‘type’ I am happy to use it in the sense of a parallel/model/symbol.
1Cor 10:1-4 (ESV)
For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
OT events/things that teach/model and are intended to teach/model a spiritual truth.
Sure Abraham had a circumcised heart, his physical circumcision was intended to illustrate this spiritual reality. However, not all of his physically circumcised descendants had circumcised hearts, tragically most did not… only a remnant.
Your following points, I confess I do not follow. Why must the spiritual seed of Abraham in the OT be (during their lives) positionally the same as his NT seed post-pentecost? There is no intrinsic need for this. In fact as I tried to point out by reference to Scripture they self-evidently did not. In the final escaton OT and NT believers (the seed of Abraham) will have exactly the same position and status… but not in the course of history. The cross made a divide. OT believers looked for the Kingdom; NT believers were in the Kingdom. Among those born of woman none was greater than John the Baptist yet he that is least in the kingdom is greater than he (Matt 11). John symbolised the Law and the prophets, the people of God before the Kingdom. There they stopped. The followers of Jesus were part of the realized Kingdom. In this they were superior.
That people of all times (before Abraham and beyond) are justified by faith alone is certain. However, what that justification realiized temporarally is different before and afetr the cross. Surely few disagree with this.
That the Abrahamic Covenant has both a physical and spiritual seed is again self evident. Roms 9 could hardly be clearer.
That the New Covenant means only circumcised hearts I am amazed should perplex any. To be a member of the new covenant is to be born of the Spirit. (Jn 3 Hebs 10).
Perhaps I am misunderstanding something here or missing something here Joshua.
Apologies! I was in a bit of a rush when I wrote my last comment. Re 1 Cor 10 I missed out the final and all-important verse (v6).
1Cor 10:1-6 (ESV)
For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples (type) for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
ESV ‘examples’ is same word as ‘type’ in Roms 5:14… Adam a type of him to come.
Please excuse previous typos too.
“Why don’t you read Edward’s essay to find out? He used his bible too (insert rolling eyes)”
@Brandon, it seems as though I’ve offended you in some way. So, that there remains peace between us, I apologize for doing so, and bid you peace. Thanks @Brandon and @John for the fruitful discussion.
I appreciate the apology. It is unhelpful to suggest that you are just reading your Bible without interpretation while others like Edwards are just opining without considering Scripture.
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I don’t know what you’re apologizing for Joshua? I think your comments were Scriptural, defensible (you did a very nice job and weren’t mean at all) and to the point. The Baptist argument “that the nation of Israel was only a shadow of the church, not the church itself” is untenable and they push the typology too far. In my view they have to do this as there is no other way, at least that I can’t think of any, in order to justify their belief in the exclusivity of credobaptism.
Sean, Edwards was not a baptist. Neither was Meredith Kline. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/objection-to-israel-as-a-type-of-the-church/
I find it hard to believe that credobaptists are the ones who must prove their position. Surely the burden of proof lies with the paedobaptist. May I add that we must ask too why, if there is a straight line to the Abrahamic covenant, we do not circumcise our males. This is what the covenant demands and is not open to revision. Paul’s argument is that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised and thus uncircumcised gentiles are children of Abraham because they share personally Abraham’s faith. Gentiles, as gentiles, had no claim on the covenants of promise; no covenant was made with them. Circumcision of Jews has nothing to do with gentile salvation or church practice.
@ John. You’re mistaken. The onus of proof is on the credobaptists since “believers” baptism is an historic novelty in the history of the church. While the administration and outworking of the CoG changed, yes there is a straight line to the Abrahamic covenant which extends to every nation on earth. Read Gen 17. Further, circumcision is a sign of the same spiritual reality as is baptism; regeneration and not faith.
@ Brandon. No one is denying that there are typological aspects to the “socio-geo-political sector of the Israelite kingdom,” but whether or not OT Israel is also “the church,” Did Kline deny that? You might say the true church and bride of Christ will not be revealed until the eschaton, in the meantime it’s a mixed body containing both wheat and chaff even in those bastions of imagined elect only purity; the Baptist church.
Kline acknowledges the already-not-yet and says that the antitype of OT Israel is a present reality now.
I fail to see how you can simply remove the “socio-geo-political” aspect of the Israelite kingdom and have anything left to call OT Israel. OT Israel was a nation. I will have to read more of Kline to see how he would answer your question. Thanks
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How much of a novelty in the historical church credobaptism was is open to some debate but the answer is beside the point. The issue is not what the ecclesiology of the historical church was – we would be in a bad way if we based our theology on that – but what the NT teaches. Our authority is Scripture and in the case of church baptism – the NT.
Re the Abrahamic covenant, of course I accept it has implications for the church and that the salvation of the nations is included in the promise. I am simply making the point that there are (to say the least) problems in how this fulfilment is understood and realized. I make the point again; the Abrahamic covenant demanded circumcision yet we do not circumcise, nor should we. Nor are we ever told baptism replaces circumcision (one cannot change a covenant anyway). Had this been the case the dynamics of Paul’s debate with the judaizers would have been quite different.
‘Further, circumcision is a sign of the same spiritual reality as is baptism; regeneration and not faith. ‘. I should have thought you would view faith as a product of regeneration. However, it is immaterial, Roms 4 is plain:
Rom 4:11-12 (ESV)
He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Circumcision is a seal of the righteousness he had by faith.
Sean, of course there will never be a pure church this side of the eschaton but that is not to say we should not strive for one. It is quite clear we should. That is why excommunication was practised. Wheat and chaff are to exist together in the world not the church. To change the image – the old leaven is to be purged out.