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Amillennialism’s Two-Edged Sword

Amillennialism’s typology of Israel is a sharp, two-edged sword. Paedobaptists use it to cut down Dispensationalism’s claims about the land of Canaan, but the same sword equally cuts down their claims about offspring.

This post provides a helpful summary of Kline’s arguments against Dispensationalism (see this PDF for more context). 1689 Federalism agrees with all of them but swings the sword back around.

Dispensationalism is condemned by the inconsistency of its hermeneutics. The people and the land aspects of the kingdom are in fact correlative and not to be wrenched apart. Together they represent the twin cultural task of filling the earth with people and subduing the kingdom realm as that creational program gets taken up into redemptive history. Land and people promises must therefore be kept together within each level, whether in the typological embodiment of the cultural program in the old covenant kingdom or in its new covenant version. A hybrid combination of old cove nant land and new covenant people violates the conceptual unity of these two cultural components of the kingdom, while at the same time ignoring the discreteness of the typical and antitypical kingdoms. In addition to the hermeneutical inconsistency of this form of Dispens ationalism there is also the problem that it too contradicts the Bible’ s insistence that in Christ the distinction between Jew and Gentile ceas es with respect to kingdom inheritance.

To which we respond:

Amillennial paedobaptism is condemned by the inconsistency of its hermeneutics. The people and the land aspects of the kingdom are in fact correlative and not to be wrenched apart. Together they represent the twin cultural task of filling the earth with people and subduing the kingdom realm as that creational program gets taken up into redemptive history. Land and people promises must therefore be kept together within each level, whether in the typological embodiment of the cultural program in the old covenant kingdom or in its new covenant version. A hybrid combination of old covenant people and new covenant land violates the conceptual unity of these two cultural components of the kingdom, while at the same time ignoring the discreteness of the typical and antitypical kingdoms. In addition to the hermeneutical inconsistency of this form of paedobaptism there is also the problem that it too contradicts the Bible’s insistence that in Christ the privilege of offspring according to the flesh ceases with respect to kingdom inheritance.

And when Kline says

Covenantal hermeneutics properly perceives the prototypal, provisional, passing nature of the first level kingdom and the antitypal, perfective, permanent nature of the second level kingdom. Dispensationalists, failing to see that the first level kingdom becomes obsolete and gets replaced by the antitype in the messianic age, continue the obsolete order on indefinitely into the new age… Dispensationalism radically misconstrues the typological structure of the old and new covenants… obscuring the historical promise- fulfillment relationship of these two covenants.

Dispensationalism’s virtual rejection of the typological identity of the first level kingdom finds expression in their literalistic misinterpretation of prophecies that depict the second level kingdom in the typological idiom of the first level model.

We say

Covenantal hermeneutics properly perceives the prototypal, provisional, passing nature of the first level kingdom and the antitypal, perfective, permanent nature of the second level kingdom. Paedobaptists, failing to see that the first level kingdom becomes obsolete and gets replaced by the antitype in the messianic age, continue the obsolete order on into the new age… Paedobaptism radically misconstrues the typological structure of the old and new covenants… obscuring the historical promise- fulfillment relationship of these two covenants.

Paedobaptism’s virtual rejection of the typological identity of the first level kingdom finds expression in their literalistic misinterpretation of prophecies that depict the second level kingdom in the typological idiom of the first level model.

Likewise, when Kim Riddlebarger says

[T]he 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.

We respond:

[T]he 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.

And when R. Scott Clark argues

My baptist friends are convinced that the inclusion of children into the visible covenant community by a sacrament was typological and therefore not part of the New Covenant. We can test that theory, however, in Scripture. Ask yourself this question: The prophets told us that the sacrifices and circumcision were typological and temporary, but where do they tell us that the inclusion of children into the visible covenant community is also temporary and typological like circumcision, like the sacrifices. We can’t just assume that is the case. We have to actually show that is the case. What does Scripture actually say about children, particularly from the point of view of typologies looking forward?… Isaiah ‘I will bring your seed from the east and from the west. I will gather you.’… Is. 44:3 he restates the promise. ‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground.’ What does he mean? Well, he explains in the next clause. ‘I will pour my Spirit upon’ whom? ‘your children. And my blessing upon your descendants.’ This is the same sort of imagery that you see in the prophet Joel’s restatement. But you have to see how fundamentally Abrahamic that language is. (Heidelcast 113, 3:55)

We let Lee Irons and Kline respond:

Covenantal hermeneutics properly perceives the prototypal, provisional, passing nature of the first level kingdom and the antitypal, perfective, permanent nature of the second level kingdom. Dispensationalists, failing to see that the first level kingdom becomes obsolete and gets replaced by the antitype in the messianic age, continue the obsolete order on indefinitely into the new age… Dispensationalism’s virtual rejection of the typological identity of the first level kingdom finds expression in their literalistic misinterpretation of prophecies that depict the second level kingdom in the typological idiom of the first level model.

Notice Kline’s reference to what he calls “typological idiom.” Typological idiom occurs when the prophets depict the second-level kingdom using language taken from the first-level kingdom. One of the major errors of dispensationalism [and Clark] is that it fails to grasp the type-antitype relationship between the two levels, and thus it interprets the language of the prophetic literature literally. Covenant theology, by contrast, recognizes that the first-level language is prophetic or typological idiom, so that when we come to the second-level fulfillment in Christ, we are not surprised to find first-level language fulfilled in surprising ways.

See also

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  1. Hardy Smith
    May 31, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Well said, Brandon. I used a similar argument just a few weeks ago as I was teaching a class at church about Daniel 9:24-27. Your previous posts, and especially your endorsement of Pascal Denault’s “The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology”, have helped me enormously in trying to understand the covenants. After I finished teaching, several people said that they now understood this stuff much better. Again, thank you (Phil 4:17).

    Like

  1. May 31, 2017 at 9:06 am
  2. December 31, 2017 at 9:47 am
  3. February 14, 2018 at 9:09 pm

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