Kingdom through Covenant & Rom 9–11: A Problem and a Proposal
One of the lingering questions I have about Wellum & Gentry’s (W&G) remarkable book Kingdom through Covenant has to do with their view of Rom 9–11. They argue that Rom 9–11 promises the future salvation of a lot of ethnic Jews (see 501; also their response to Darrell Bock here). On this point, among many others, I entirely agree. What I’m not quite sure about, however, is why W&G think Paul holds out this promise for his kinsmen according to the flesh. After all, in W&G’s metanarrative Israel (comprised of ethnic Jews) is simply a type which Jesus fulfills, just like David, Abraham, Noah and Adam were. Why then does Paul show so much interest in Rom 9–11 in the future of an already-fulfilled type? It would be like Paul maintaining a place for Levitical sacrifices after Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice. (Let this one slide TD brothers!) I’ve tried to probe around for an answer—even chasing down a few progressive-covenantal friends at ETS a few weeks back—and, as yet, I’ve not found an answer. I think one is possible, but, before I propose it, let me offer one that is not.
A Wrong Turn. Perhaps W&G would argue that Paul holds out hope for ethnic Jews based on the fact that their typological role plays such a fundamental part in the Bible’s story. Israel was, after all, the family through whom the antitype’s lineage was traced (Rom 9:4–5). What this explanation fails to take on board, however, is the “mustness” of Jewish salvation in Rom 9–11. It’s not simply that God has decided to be merciful to ethnic Jews, even though their typological role has expired. Rather, Paul seems to suggest that if God didn’t save Jews—a lot of them—then his word, his promise, would fail. There is for Paul, in other words, a Scriptural obligation that requires Jewish inclusion in God’s new covenant people. What else are we to make of Rom 9:6, 11:28–29 and, especially, of Paul’s citation of Isaiah (Isa 59:20–21; 27:9) and Jeremiah (Jer 31:33) in Rom 11:26? In this case, the future salvation of a large number of Jews—which W&G acknowledge—is said to be according to Scripture. “All Israel will be saved,” Paul says, “just as it is written.” If all God’s promises are “yes” in Christ in the way W&G could be read to suggest (see, e.g., 690), then Paul has misread his Bible and is wasting his energy.
A Way Forward? A more plausible solution would be to say that Israel’s mediatorial role—her role as God’s son (Exod 4:22–23) and priest (Exod 19:5–6)—was typological and, therefore, fulfilled by Jesus, but that her promised experience of restoration—her experience of salvation—was not. And, it is these promises that underlie Paul’s argument in Rom 9–11. (For possible hints in this direction, see, e.g., 604 and 707). Perhaps W&G could even appeal to Isa 49:1–6 where the Servant takes on/over Israel’s mediatorial role and mediates blessing to the world, while also bringing Israel back from exile. I think this may be their most plausible option. But, we’ll have to wait and see to know for sure.
“What I’m not quite sure about, however, is why W&G think Paul holds out this promise for his kinsmen according to the flesh. After all, in W&G’s metanarrative Israel (comprised of ethnic Jews) is simply a type which Jesus fulfills….”
Could it be that not all types are necessarily supersessionistic but that some are complementary and inclusive? Christ then would be the true Israel in whom the hope of ethnic Israelites is realized. The church would be the antitype of Israel, eschatological Israel, not to the exclusion of Jews but the inclusion of Jew and Gentile. – ?
Jared, thank you for the thoughtful response. However, a future conversion of Israel in Rom 9-11 does not necessitate the view that Israel receives restoration promises as a nationalistic entity in the future. Paul foresees Jews coming to faith in Christ and addressing why so few have responded positively in his own day. The typological role of Israel is more complex than sacrifices and the temple because Israel is also a people group, and so not just the usual person, event, and institution which are the norm of typological patterns in the Bible. Jesus fulfills Israel’s calling, vocation, and restoration passages of Israel are applied to him (see Beale’s recent article on Hosea 11 in Matthew 2:15 for example; Jesus being raised on the 3rd day according to Scriptures is most likely a reference back to Hos 6, which is another restoration passage for Israel that I believe is fulfilled in Christ, the True Israel). Israel is typological in terms of being the son of God, carrying on the role of Adam, etc. In these ways Jesus is the antitypical fulfillment of Israel just as he brings to end the sacrificial system and the temple. Jesus brings to an end the exile and ushers in the new exodus. But Israel is also a people group and a significant question remains as to why so few are coming to faith. Israel obviously is not typological in consideration of their identity as a people group. I have to agree on this front with Ben Merkle who cites Bavinck that “even if Paul expected a national conversion of Israel at the end, he does not say a word about the return of Jews to Palestine, about a rebuilding of the city and a temple, about a visible rule of Christ: in his picture of the future there is simply no room for all this.” So the argument I believe in my discussions with Wellum is that the role, vocation, identity of Israel, mediation (being a light, etc) are all typological and fulfilled in Christ. But we also know that Israel is an ethnic people and while their is one people of God (one olive tree!!) God in his sovereign plan and through the mystery decides to provoke Israel through jealously by bringing in the Gentiles. When Jews come to faith in the future, they are incorporated into the Church and will not have a distinct existence outside of the new covenant community. I do not have time to address, but the new covenant passages of Jer 31 and Isa 59 are all referring to Christ’s first coming. I hope we can dialogue more on this.
As a point of clarification, in your last paragraph you seem to equate Israel’s experience of restoration with salvation. What do you mean here by restoration? Are you limiting restoration to only a soteric sense, i.e. the forgiveness of sins? Or do you intend something more by that wording?
Brent first: Thanks for taking the time to reflect on what I said (and to repost your FB comments here on the blog for a wider readership). From what I can gather from your response, it seems to me that you’re suggesting that (1) Israel is a fulfilled-type and (2) that Paul, in Rom 9–11, says that God, nevertheless, will bring Jews to faith in the future. In other words, you’ve nicely summarized W&G’s position. That was where my post started. What I tried to do after that, however, was to understand, from W&G’s perspective, why they think Paul says God is going to act this way in the future. From what you’ve said, it seems to me that you may attribute this interest in Israel’s (or, if you like, “people with Jewish ethnicity”) future simply to God’s sovereign, mysterious plan, not to any outstanding OT promise. Is that about right? If so, that would be roughly equivalent to the solution I discussed first (under the heading “Wrong Turn”). From that discussion you’ll see that I think Paul goes a little beyond simply promising that Jews in the future would experience salvation to saying that if this didn’t happen, God’s word would somehow have failed. It was at this point, you’ll remember, that I referred to Rom 9:6, 11:26, and 11:28–29. To say it again, it seems to me that you’re suggesting W&G would disagree with this latter point. They don’t think God “owes” Jewish people anything (salvation) based on unfulfilled OT promises. Rather, according to W&G, God has simply decided to save a bunch of Jews because he’s an extraordinarily merciful and gracious God. Does that accurately capture what you think W&G would say?
Richard: Restoration = salvation. That’s right. (E.g., the “re-grafting” in 11:24 = σωθήσεται in 11:26.) Thus, to say it once again, W&G might think Jesus, the antitype, fulfills everything promised to Israel, the type, in the OT, except for the promise that Israel—or people with Jewish ethnicity—would one day be saved and experience the new creation. If W&G read Paul this way, then the Jewish salvation they see in Rom 9–11 wouldn’t simply be, as Brent argues, an extraordinary act of God’s mercy; rather, it would be a demonstration of God’s faithfulness, since without a future salvation of many ethnic Jews these promises would go unfulfilled. As I say, I think this would be the more plausible solution to the problem I raise with W&G’s position in my post (summarized:  Israel = fulfilled type and Paul promises future salvation of many Jews  why?).
Kirk: That’s possible, but that’s not the way W&G argue. And, for the purposes of this post, I’m trying to explain something they’ve said based on their own presuppositions.
Finally (to all): I wasn’t arguing that Rom 9–11 proves the future salvation of many Jews. That point, of course, is debatable (see my FB page!), but it’s also one W&G assume. The point of the post, then, was to ask why, on W&G’s reading of the Bible, Paul holds out this promise for Jews. It could be, as Brent, e.g., argues, that even though Israel’s role is finished, God nevertheless decided, in his inscrutable wisdom, to shower many ethnic Jews with mercy. Or, as I say under the heading “A Way Forward?”, it could be that Israel’s mediatorial role was typological and, thus, fulfilled in Jesus but that the OT promises about her experience of new creation—salvation—remain to be fulfilled. And, it is these promises that underlie Paul’s vision of Israel’s future salvation in Rom 9–11. Again, I’m not sure how W&G would explain their view. Either solution could work, though I think the latter is a much more compelling reading or Rom 9–11. Moreover, neither is any less progressive-covenantal than the other, so my suggested way forward is not a subtle argument for my own reading of the Bible’s story. All of this was simply a thought experiment trying to fill in a gap in W&G’s book.
Jared said, “Rather, according to W&G, God has simply decided to save a bunch of Jews because he’s an extraordinarily merciful and gracious God. Does that accurately capture what you think W&G would say?”
I don’t think this is exactly how they would put it (I have spoken briefly to Wellum about this, but I’m not necessarily speaking for him–I’m sure he is glad for that). First, to the point of 9:6, I think Paul’s answer fits nicely into their argumentation. Has the word of God failed? No. Because true Israel is not defined merely upon ethnic terms. The answer is reminiscent of what Paul says in 2:28-29: “A person is not a Jew who is one outwardly. . . a person is a Jew who is one inwardly. . .” Second, I’m not sure how they would discuss Romans 11:1, but, again, the “must-needs-be” component is answered in the example of Paul himself. So, the “wrong turn” occurs only if they agree that the “must-needs-be” component is found in 11:26–since Paul’s answer about “necessary fulfillment” seems to be different each time (9:6: 11:1; 11:26). The “must-needs-be” component in 11:26 (for Jared, correct me if I’m wrong) comes from the following quotation from Isa 59:20-21. The question then becomes how are they using that text? How is Paul understanding fulfillment in that passage (Since it seems to be quite different in 9:6;11:1)? I think these are preliminary questions that need to be answered before we affirm that GW are making a “wrong turn.”
Having said that, could you say, for Paul, it is inconceivable that God will save his New Covenant people to the exclusion of ethnic Jews? Therefore, because of God’s electing love and mercy, he “must” bring in many ethnic Jews during this age (i.e. Paul; 9:6) and in the future (11:26; although I’m not convinced that is what Paul is saying there). Their salvation (= eschatological restoration) is a new covenant restoration and thus they, in one sense, join the church, yet those promises were directed at ethnic Jews (to them belongs the covenants, the giving of the law, the promises) and so those covenant promises still apply to them in as much as they enter into a new covenant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through faith. The “must-needs-be” component, then, is still tied to his new covenant promise that in Christ all who believe will be saved, and if that is true for the Gentile, how much more for the Jew. I think this reading provides a “must-needs-be” component with a current and future salvation of many Jews without having to either (1) structurally divide the eschatological restoration community or (2) look for fulfillment of covenantal promises outside of Christ’s person and work.
You might have mentioned this over on your Facebook post as an option, but could a possible justification for W&G’s position be that a type is not necessarily done away with after the anti-type has come. I know that arrangement does not seem to be the norm. But I wonder if it has to be that way? I asked this question of Snoeberger back when he wrote his posts about analogy vs type.
I know the question is posed to Jared, but I’ll chime in if that is ok.
Troy, this is the line of argumentation that John Feinberg uses (See “Systems of Discontinuity” 77-78). In that chapter, Feinberg is following the David Baker’s work on ‘typology.’ However, David Baker’s view is based upon historical-critical presuppositions that is tied to a certain view of salvation history and (lack of) Scriptural inspiration. Of course, Feinberg doesn’t share that view of history or inspiration, but he picks up on his correspondence-analogical view of typology. Thus, for Baker/Feinberg, typology is not, strictly speaking, an “exegetical category” because a biblical text has “one meaning, its literal meaning” and typology cannot prefigure something–it is only retrospective. This view of typology allows Feinberg to maintain the necessary (literal) fulfillment of an original type even when an antitype comes.
I don’t find this convincing for a number of reasons. But quickly, (1) it is based upon a view of typology which is grounded in historical-critical assumptions (Divinely authored history, Verbal inspiration–for more on this see Richard Davidson, “Typology in Scripture” pp 42-93). (2) The above paradigm is not how we see biblical typology work. Certainly, Feinberg wouldn’t advocate that Israel’s cultic elements have not come to their terminus in Christ (sacrificial system, temple, priests, as well as prophet, king).
More needs to be written on this, but I think that Feinberg’s direction is problematic.
Troy, that’s a possible solution, but it requires a premise W&G don’t share, namely that types are NOT cancelled out by their antitypes (see, e.g., 122-23). Again, what you’ve suggested may be a better way forward, but I was looking for a way forward that would cohere with W&G’s argument as it presently stands.
Jared, as you point out, there are other readings of Rom 11 that would easily relieve the tension you are highlighting for W&G. One could adopt N.T. Wright’s reading of Rom 11 for instance and still be in the progressive-covenantal fold. I suspect that PC will not enshrine one interpretation of Rom 11 (as dispensationalists seem to [have to?] do).
But you are right to note that this is not the specific direction that W&G go in either of their very brief comments on the passage in either KTC or their TGC response. I think this is a tribute to a dedication to follow the text wherever it leads and not to merely adopt the most convenient interpretation for one’s prior theological commitments.
Perhaps your suggestion is the best way to resolve the tension (I’m not sure yet…still thinking it through). Brent is more qualified than I am to answer the issue of typology, since that’s the focus of his academic work. But I do have another question.
Going back to your first post on KTC (11.21.12), you summarize by writing, “Christ, therefore, is the antitype of David and of Israel in slightly different ways. He replaces David but represents Israel.” For the sake of the argument, lets assume you are correct with this statement (and in the general thrust of the statements you make in that post), how does that prove the distinctive teachings of dispensationalism? What is distinctively dispensational about your critique (borrowing wording from your post’s title)?
I think someone *could* say the same thing, and not affirm a distinct role for Israel outside/alongside the church. Bock, in his review on TGC (which you linked to), highlighted this as the main point of his dispensational critique of KTC. As I’m sure you are aware, many non-dispensationalists affirm the continuing validity of a salvation for many ethnic Jews in the future, which is manifested by coming to faith in Christ and being incorporated into the church (the precise position articulated by W&G).
The reason I asked you earlier to clarify how you were using the term ‘restoration’ in relation to ‘salvation’ is because Michael Vlach (whose review of KTC you also highlighted previously on 5.24.13) makes a technical distinction in those terms in his reading of Rom. 11:26-27 (he draws this out in more detail in his book Has the Church Replaced Israel?). In his understanding of Rom. 11, he points out that what makes his reading distinctively dispensational is not just a future salvation for Israel, but a restoration for Israel…by which he means a restoration of Israel as a nation, which I assume is a distinct existence outside of the church, in this age and probably the next as well.
Is that also what you affirm? I’m trying to understand what is distinctive about the dispensational understanding of Israel’s future in relation to the church.
I appreciate you drawing attention to this important work and probing for further clarity.
Thank you and I admit I misunderstood some things in your original post, not least of all your usage of the term “restoration.” Your answer to Richard Lucas helped clarify and my initial response was more general. I see now that you are asking a very specific question: “What I tried to do after that, however, was to understand, from W&G’s perspective, why they think Paul says God is going to act this way in the future. From what you’ve said, it seems to me that you may attribute this interest in Israel’s (or, if you like, “people with Jewish ethnicity”) future simply to God’s sovereign, mysterious plan, not to any outstanding OT promise. Is that about right?”
To be honest, I am not sure how Wellum and Gentry would respond. They just have not fleshed out Rom 9-11 to that degree of specificity. I agree with all the remarks by Luke above, it seems to come down to Rom 11:26.
Without knowing how Wellum & Gentry would go specifically on this question, I do want to come back to this question you pose to me: “From what you’ve said, it seems to me that you may attribute this interest in Israel’s (or, if you like, “people with Jewish ethnicity”) future simply to God’s sovereign, mysterious plan, not to any outstanding OT promise.” Like Luke, I believe they would not put it that way. There is not just God’s electing purposes, nor is it just that Jewish salvation is merely an “extraordinary act of God’s mercy” (your comments to Richard Lucas), but I think Wellum would agree that there is an aspect of OT promise/prophecy regarding Jewish salvation (but not restoration as Vlach sees it). If we assume the future en masse conversion of ethnic Israel in the future (though personally, I’m with Luke, for I’m not fully certain that is what is going in Rom 11:26), the mystery element would be significant. The mystery would be that the OT prophets project the restoration of Israel with the nations gathering to a reconstituted Israel, but Paul seems to indicate the exact opposite is having: Jews are provoked to jealousy by Gentiles being incorporated into Jesus, the one who has already brought in the new covenant and the one has typologically fulfilled Israel’s vocation, role, etc. In this way, you may be correct in offering the way forward that you do. We will just have to have Dr. Wellum jump onto this forum. But again, to go back to my original comment/post, as an ethnic people experiencing salvation, Israel is not typological. There is more complexity and you seemed to indicate in your original post that if Israel is a type, they are done away with, but then why does Paul still mention them and why does W&G hold to a future for ethnic Israel? I was trying to point out why I disagree with these statements: “Why then does Paul show so much interest in Rom 9–11 in the future of an already-fulfilled type? It would be like Paul maintaining a place for Levitical sacrifices after Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice.” That is an apple to oranges comparison. Most types are fulfilled and completely done away with when the antitype (Jesus) comes, but the nation of Israel is typological in some ways (role, sonship, offices [prophet, priest, king], institutions, identity markers [circumcision]) but not in other ways (as an ethnic group). We have to allow the biblical texts to unpack the typological patterns. David is a type of Christ, but not in every detail or aspect of his life!
I hope this clarifies. To get at your main question, I don’t know the answer, perhaps God’s electing purposes, mercy, but also OT promise/prophecy of Israel’s salvation all come into play as a way to treat the “mustness” of Israel’s salvation in Romans 11. Thank you for the good feedback and I am sorry for originally misunderstanding what you were arguing in the initial post.
Luke: Let me leave Rom 9:6 to the side for the moment and, for that matter, Rom 11:26–27 and vv. 28–29 too. Let me simply raise a question about what you’ve said about Rom 11:1. Does Paul bring up his own salvation/the salvation of a present remnant of Jewish Christians to prove God’s faithfulness and, if so, his faithfulness to what?
Moreover, the proposal in your second paragraph seems to roughly correspond to the proposal I outlined above under the heading “A Way Forward?” If W&G think many Jews will be saved in the future because the “covenant promises still apply to them,” then this would, it seems to me, make the best sense of what Paul is doing in Rom 9–11. I like the way I nuanced this proposal above a bit more than the way you have, but what did you expect!!
Richard: I agree. W&G are to be commended for their rigorous attention to the text. The “problem” I raise is simply a result of this, isn’t it? Let’s face it; the Bible’s story is hard to piece together. I look forward to watching them work through this in the future.
Good questions. First, my lawyers would want me to say that I don’t represent dispensationalism. I’ll let Vlach or Bock play that role. Second, I read KtC asking a similar question: What makes this proposal distinct from dispensationalism? Third, it seems to me that even more fundamental than the issue of whether God preserves a future role for Israel (so, e.g., Bock) is the issue of whether or not God still “owes” Jewish people something—salvation or, perhaps, something more—based on promises made to Israel in the OT. From my reading, this commitment doesn’t seem to characterize any other group besides dispensationalists. Am I wrong? Thus, if W&G take the second solution I’ve offered above, then we might need to start talking about the precise nature of Israel’s future salvation if we must differentiate between the theological camps.
Jared, I appreciate the spirit of your honest exchanges. The Bible’s story is hard to piece together. Anyone who thinks otherwise might be a little overly confident in his theological-system. And I’m glad you also acknowledge that KTC was but the first step in their proposal of Progressive Covenantalism, and much more work needs to be done (which is stated in KTC). I suspect in time more of these questions will be answered.
I wasn’t trying to pin you down as a spokesperson for dispensationalism, but you did (in parentheses) label your initial review a distinctively *dispensational* review of KTC, and this is also not a personal blog, but the seminary’s blog. I assumed you were a dispensationalist because you were a professor at a seminary which clearly indicates on their website that they teach a dispensational approach to the Bible.
You wrote that the issue is “whether or not God still ‘owes’ Jewish people something—salvation or, perhaps, something more—based on promises made to Israel in the OT. From my reading, this commitment doesn’t seem to characterize any other group besides dispensationalists.” But isn’t that exactly what non-dispensationalists argue who believe in a future mass conversion of Israel from Rom. 11:26-27? True, it doesn’t characterize any other position, but I could easily list quotes from amillennialists, postmillennialists, and also historic premillennialists who all believe that Rom. 11:26-27 teaches that God has promised Israel a future salvation based on the OT. All of these particular scholars think the phrase “all Israel will be saved” means future salvation, and they think the subsequent OT quotation buttresses that idea for Paul.
To be distinctively dispensational, you must say more, much more than that. You wrote “perhaps, something more” above, but I don’t think there can be any ambiguity as to the nature of that promise for dispensationalism. Vlach’s little book “Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths” is one of the best short treatments giving a positive presentation of dispensationalism I’ve ever read (he writes almost the same thing in the book, “Christ’s Prophetic Plans”). He really does put the best foot forward for that theological system IMHO. If I was a dispensationalist, I would want Vlach to be one of my spokespersons.
I could quote a larger chunk from Vlach’s discussion, but this gets at the gist, “What distinguishes all dispensationalists, however, is that they believe not only in a ‘salvation’ of Israel, they also believe in a ‘restoration’ of Israel. The concept of restoration certainly includes the idea of salvation, but it goes beyond that. ‘Restoration’ involves the idea of Israel being reinstalled as a nation, in her land, with a specific identity and role of service to the nations. In other words, in a literal, earthly kingdom – a millennium the nation Israel will serve a functional role of service to the nations. This point is something all dispensationalists affirm, while all nondispensationalists deny.”
I’m not asking you to explain or speak for Vlach, but if he is correct and this is an essential component to legitimately be considered a dispensationalist, then I think this does bring us back to the issue of an existence of Israel outside of the church.
I believe that God has promised a future salvation to many Jewish people, and that will be realized by their belief in the Messiah, and the removal of their sins and their entrance into the church, the only redeemed (new covenant) people of God today. Their entrance into the church is on the same basis as the Gentiles. I might summarize it by saying that ethnic Israel will become part of true Israel by believing in the true Israelite, Christ Jesus. *Maybe* a dispensationalist could affirm that, but they would ALSO HAVE TO affirm more than that.
You concluded your last response writing, “we might need to start talking about the precise nature of Israel’s future salvation if we must differentiate between the theological camps.” Yes, I agree, we do need to differentiate between Progressive Covenantalism and all forms of dispensationalism by talking about the precise nature of Israel’s future salvation. I think Vlach very helpfully did that in the quote I reproduced above. I agree with him entirely.
Am I missing something? I recognize that this has moved slightly beyond the narrowness of your original question, but I do think this is helping to clarify the question for us. Again, I appreciate the dialogue.
(1) Thanks Jared for starting this discussion. I think it is really helpful and I am really enjoying it.
(2) Jared, as far as your question posed to me about Romans 11:1, I haven’t done any precise exegetical analysis of this passage but from simply reading it, this is what seems to be happening: Paul asks if God has utterly rejected his people? Paul says no. Then he introduces the next phrase with an explanatory conjunction and gives himself as an example of a Jewish person who has not been rejected–presumably this is based upon his conversion to Christianity. But he serves as an example like Elijah who was one of many more Jewish who were covenantally faithful to God. The implication is that Paul is not alone. God has chosen a remnant of Jews who have entered into new covenant relationship with the risen Christ. I am sure I am missing something, but is this about right?
(3) To clarify my first post, I think what I am suggesting as a way forward is slightly different but very close to what you are saying. It somewhat depends on where the “mustness” lies. I think you are suggesting that the “must-needs-be” component lies in the OC promises themselves. But it seems to me that Paul would not even make a distinction between NC salvation and OC promises since OC promises are typologically fulfilled in the NC. Therefore, when Paul reflects upon his own ethnic people, he doesn’t think that God ‘owes’ them these promises merely because they are Jewish. But there is somewhat of an added dimension for Jewish people (in all the NC promises, there is sort of a direct and indirect fulfillment). Those OC promises are directly promised (true) for covenantally faithful Jews, and “indirectly” true because they are typologically included in true Israel through union with Christ. Whereas new covenant Gentiles, cannot claim a direct relationship to those OC promises outside of their union with Christ. I’m not saying that Jewish people did not need Christ to receive OC promises, the only way those promises can ultimately be applied to an ethnic Jew is through Christ (i.e. through the New Covenant) but there is an added dimension for them in that they are directly related to those OC promises in a way believing Gentiles could not claim. Thus, “how much more” should Paul’s kinsmen be saved (in a new covenant fashion). Jared, what I’m not sure about is whether this sufficiently accounts for Paul’s “must-needs-be” component?
Lucas and Parker, is my above explanation about how NC Jews and NC Gentiles relate to the promises in a direct/indirect fashion seem to be viable? As I was stating it, I felt that I couldn’t come up with appropriate words to make my point.
Lastly, since I am coming from the Progressive Covenantal view, I want to see how N.T. Wright and others analyze Rom 11:26ff. Wright’s reading would be a convenient solution and I don’t think it is out of the picture. But, to Jared’s original question, it doesn’t really move the discussion forward.
Richard: Thanks, once again, for the insightful push back. I’ve been helped. Let me offer a few more lines of response. First, if, as Brent suggests in his latest comment, W&G may “agree that there is an aspect of OT promise/prophecy regarding Jewish salvation (but not restoration as Vlach sees it),” then this would satisfy the question I raised in my post. Second, and now slightly unrelated to my original intention, it seems to me that this sort of commitment—a belief in a future for ethnic Jews based on OT promises—does not characterize any other theological system in the way that it characterizes dispensationalism. You’re right. One can find non-dispensationalists who agree with the dispensational reading of Rom 11:26–27, but their conclusion is, I think, something of an anomaly in their system in a way that it isn’t for dispensationalists. Perhaps W&G’s via media will change all this. Third, to push all this even further, I’m not sure I’m satisfied with Vlach’s summary of the essential difference between dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists. I wonder about the absoluteness of the distinction. It seems a bit too tidy. What are we to do, e.g., with G. E. Ladd’s note that Israel’s role as “God’s chosen instrument to bring salvation to the world” has not yet ended. “She . . . will yet be the instrument of salvation,” bringing to the world “a state of blessedness that Paul describes by the phrase ‘life from the dead.’” Ladd, in fact, seems willing to call converted Israel a converted nation (Theology of NT, pp. 606–8). Granted, it’s not exactly what Vlach says, but it leaves me wondering whether dispensationalists are the only ones willing to talk about future Israel’s “specific identity” and “role.” Again, I don’t want to suggest I’m speaking for all dispensationalists—which is what I meant by my earlier remark—but I think it’s rather hard to make these sorts of hard distinctions, especially in light of recent developments within dispensationalism (PD) and non-dispensationalism (W&G). To put this another way, what would Ladd have said had he heard Blaising and Bock insist that “Ephesians 2 is clear that the barrier between Jew and Gentile is removed for all time” and that “Millennial saints will be Christians, and their identity in Christ will transcend their racial distinctions” (see Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 387). I suspect he’d have preferred their company to Walvoord’s.
Brent: Thanks to you too for the interaction. I now see a bit more clearly what you were saying in your initial comment and simply have one question. Where in KtC would I find the sort of nuanced understanding of Israel’s typological significance? I like it, but it doesn’t seem to reflect what they’ve said, e.g., on pp. 122–23. Acc. to W&G, types are canceled out by their antitypes (122–23) and Jesus was Israel’s antitype (e.g., 105–6, et al.). Help?
Luke: Thanks for your probing questions as well. I still think you’ll want to read the question in 11:1 in the light provided by 9:6 (and, thus, 9:1–5), 11:11, and, esp., 11:28–29. That is, the whole passage seems to explain how God can be faithful to his commitments to Israel, while so many are presently cut off. Wright—does that guy know anything about Paul?—says, e.g., that “the argument of ch. 11 remains focussed [sic] not merely on the future of the Jews but on the character of God, as 11.22, 29 and 32 bear witness, and as is celebrated in 11.33–6,” specifically on “God’s faithfulness to his covenant” (see Climax, p. 235). Granted, his reading ends up looking different than mine, but it suggests why I think behind the question in 11:1 is the implication that if there was no remnant—if God had rejected his people—then God’s commitment to Israel would have failed and, consequently, God’s faithfulness would be open to question. Moreover, I wonder if you could restate your suggested way forward for me. I think I follow it, but I want to make sure I do before I say mine is better . . . .
All: I had italics in this–when I typed it up in Word–but they’ve been removed. So, if something’s a bit off, this could be the reason.
Jared: I too have found this interchange helpful. As I’m sure you are aware, the influence of Ladd on the development of PD is well noted and openly acknowledged. That quote from Bock and Blaising is quite interesting. No wonder many TD’s think that PD is an abandonment of dispensationalism. However, despite the wording in this statement, that doesn’t negate for them a distinctive role for national Israel after/alongside/apart from(?) the church. I think Wellum is correct in writing, “it seems safe to say that the sine qua non of [dispensationalism] (in all its varieties) is the Israel-church distinction” (KTC, 56).
You said before that you would let Vlach and Bock play the role of spokesmen for dispensationalism. Bock says almost the same thing as Vlach when he writes, “So progressives speak openly, as other dispensationalists do, of a future for national Israel among the nations in the Millennium. It is this detail that makes a premillennial view dispensational” (Summary Essay in the 3 Views on the Millennium, 292). And as far as Ladd is concerned, in that same discussion in his NT Theology he makes it quite explicit that the salvation that Israel is promised and will experience is a salvation of coming INTO THE CHURCH. That is the same basic idea that W&G affirm. I doubt any dispensationalist would MERELY affirm that as the nature of Israel’s future salvation. Am I wrong?
I know you don’t want to claim to speak for all dispensationalists, and I do think you are right to probe for a sort of least common denominator of what the nature of Israel’s mediatorial role must look like to classify as distinctively dispensational, but it is honestly unclear to me precisely what you believe about these matters. Each of the points that I’ve read you make so far to single out dispensationalism aren’t unique to that system. Perhaps you would just assert that your system best *characterizes* the sorts of concerns you want to maintain. Ok, maybe that is true. But what exactly is the mediatorial role that Israel is serving in your conception of minimalistic dispensationalism? You mention “specific identity” and “role”…can you tease that out for me, please?
I’m honestly just trying to understand what you are and are not saying. I’m pretty sure I understand Vlach and Bock (at least for the most part). But what is the scriptural concern you have that you think is currently insufficiently accommodated in Progressive Covenantalism (and cannot be incorporated into the view) that leaves you to remain a dispensationalist? I’m trying to dig down to discover where the fault lines between our views actually lie. I’m not even asking you to necessarily defend your view, just state where it explicitly differs. Thanks!
Richard: Someone had to say it first: I think this is going to be my last word on this for the time being. Please feel free to respond, but, if you do, recognize that you’ll likely have the last word—unless something you say really ticks me off! So, let me offer a handful of responses to your last comment. Once again, I’m grateful for your probing questions. First, if progressive covenantalism (PC) agrees with Ladd and sees a future role for Israel within the church, then this, you’ve got to admit, is but a whisker different than what Bock and Blaising imply in their comment on Eph 2 (again “Millennial saints will be Christians, and their identity in Christ will transcend their racial distinctions”). Second, if PC, moreover, is willing, like Ladd appeared to be, to refer to converted Israel as a converted nation, then, again, I’m not sure the two views are that far apart (cf. Bock’s “a future for national Israel among the nations in the Millennium”). Third, for the purpose of my original blog, I think the questions you’ve raised in your third paragraph are the sorts of questions PC needs to answer, considering they’ve offered their reading as a middle way between dispensationalism and covenant theology. I would like to hear a positive statement from this new position on the nature of Israel’s future, mediatorial role. Tell them to feel free to state it without over-worrying about whether or not someone might think they sound dispensational. (There are one or two worse things, after all, aren’t there?) Fourth, I find it a bit difficult to state where the specific fault lines lie between PC and dispensationalism since I’m working with an admittedly-provisional (-if-still-848-page-long) sketch (see, e.g., KtC, 716). For example, Brent has indicated that PC might indeed be operating with a more nuanced view of Israel’s typological significance than what is stated in the book (see Brent’s latest comments in light of, e.g., KtC 122–23 [types are canceled out by their antitypes] and 105–6 [Jesus = Israel’s antitype]). That’s an important nuance, I think, that prevents me—and, I suspect, others—from knowing just how different PC is from dispensationalism. Moreover, if Israel is and is not typological, based, e.g., on what PC finds in Rom 11, are there any other texts that suggest something similar. Moreover, I’d like to see more clearly how this nuance is integrated into W&G’s metanarrative. How, e.g., does one decide when Israel is functioning typologically and when she is not. Related, how does one know when a promise is made to Israel-functioning-typologically or to non-typological Israel? There are more, of course, but this response has already run on long enough. Blessings. I think we can officially become FB friends after this. Look me up.
Richard, are you still living in Lousville, Ky?
(Sorry to use this board for a personal question)
This is my last time to post here. I am doing so for a couple of reasons. First, Wellum, through personal correspondence to me provides his answer for a why a future salvation of Jews. Second, I want to circle back to your response to me above concerning typology in King through Cov and lastly, I wanted to respond to some things in your very last comment to Richard.
First, Wellum’s response to me (with some slight changing in the wording): “Why hold out hope for the Jew in the future? My answer: FIrst, election and God’s sovereign choice. Furthermore, as God has chosen to work through the people of Israel, why is it strange to think that God still has many elect to save from the Jewish nation? The mystery that Paul gives is simply the unveiling of God’s eternal plan. In God’s eternal plan he has chosen an elect people. He has chosen them from every tribe, nation, and tongue and all of this is grace. He has also chosen to work through real historical peoples, including the Jews by his sovereign grace as well. What Paul is saying is that even though many Jews did not believe in their Messiah, in the future, they will. But none of this entails that there are: 1. separate promises to Israel outside the church and Gentile believers, 2. that the land promise functions in the way dispensationalists think; 3. that their entire way of putting the Bible together is what they say.”
Based on this, perhaps my original comment above concerning God’s mercy and electing purposes was more in line with where Professor Wellum is at.
2. Circling back to your comments: “Where in KtC would I find the sort of nuanced understanding of Israel’s typological significance? I like it, but it doesn’t seem to reflect what they’ve said, e.g., on pp. 122–23. Acc. to W&G, types are canceled out by their antitypes (122–23) and Jesus was Israel’s antitype (e.g., 105–6, et al.). Help?” Jared, in short the nuance that you are looking for is not KtC, but neither is it denied. On page 106 Wellum highlights the ways in which Israel is typological: being another Adam, sonship, servant, vine; on page 105 as far as I see he is picking up Israel’s role as another Adam. Based on this, Israel’s role and status as son, servant is what is picked up as typological, Wellum never says that Israel is typological in every way, that is why we still have to consider Israel as an ethnic people. On pp 122-23 more focus is on the issue of land and the faulty understanding of Feinberg’s view of typology. Antitypes do cancel the types, but what Wellum is after on p.122-23 is the common dispensational view that neither sees the land or Israel functioning typologically in any manner whatsoever. The point then is that Wellum is not unpacking completely in what ways Israel is a type (throughout the book the focus is on Israel’s role as another Adam; see p. 226-28, 636-37), hence why I’m writing a dissertation on this subject. I think you are trying to press the details too much in your reading of KtC. You also write: “How, e.g., does one decide when Israel is functioning typologically and when she is not. Related, how does one know when a promise is made to Israel-functioning-typologically or to non-typological Israel?” Based on lectures I have heard from Wellum, we look for textual indicators in the OT – textual warrant – as well as how a person, institution, event unfolds along the covenants. That Israel functions typologically is also evident in how NT authors highlight this (Matt 2:15; Matt 4; John 15; etc). Promises to Israel and how they are brought over is the primary subject of the NT use of the OT and all I can say is that we follow the hermeneutic of the apostles while recognizing much more needs to be said on this topic.
Third and lastly, I was frankly surprised by the thought that our view was potentially just a “whisker” short of Bock’s and Blaising’s and further, I was really surprised by your comments regarding where the specific fault lines are between dispensationalism and PC. So to be clear, here are the fault lines: PC would reject a pretrib rapture (in our view Moo wins the day in the most recent 3 views on the rapture), as for a mediatorial role of Israel in the future, this is completely rejected by PC. There may be a future salvation of a large group of Jews coming into the church in the end, but as Wellum emphatically highlighted in his email to me, Christ is the mediator and has fulfilled Israel’s role of mediation with the entailment that Gentiles and Jews are on equal footing now as the one new man in Christ. And finally, a huge point is how we put the covenants together. W&G make the case that all the covenants find their fulfillment and terminus in Christ as he now brings forth the new covenant; he is the fulfillment of all the covenant mediators. Progressives and traditional dispensationalists do not put the covenants together this way and that is a significant difference. I think kingdom promises and restoration is still a big difference, PC advocates reject D. Bock’s take on Acts 1:6-8 for example. PC advocates are either going to be amill or historic premil but not dispensational premillennial. And Romans 9-11 is not the crux for PC adherents, some like W&G and Schreiner view a future salvation for ethnic Jews in the future, but other PC advocates like Ardel Caneday believe that “all Israel will be saved” throughout history as they are provoked to jealousy by the Gentiles and so deny a future en masse conversion of ethnic Jews. Both views can be acceptable in PC bc again, Israel does not have a nationalistic role or function in a meditorial capacity in the future.
Anyway, in some way I am seeking to lay out the gauntlet because PC is not progressive dispensationalism. Therefore, those in the dispensational camps will need to counter progressive covenantalism by showing how:
1. Christ is not the fulfillment of all the covenant mediators as we lay out.
2. Christ is not the fulfillment of Israel and thus the true Israel, and the last Adam which all the covenant promises find their fulfillment.
3. That land is not looking back to Eden and in the OT covenants it does not function typologically to point forward to the new creation which Christ himself has ushered in and will consummate in the end.
4. That the church is not really the new man/new creation and that there is not really equal footing between Jews and Gentiles.
These are my final thoughts and we look forward to airing some of these things out in print in the year ahead.
Blessings to you and in your ministry and labors for the glory of God.
[note: I actually typed these comments before reading Brent’s last reply…some of it now sounds a little redundant]
Luke: No, I don’t, my contact info is current in the SBTS campus directory. If you are student there, feel free to look me up.
Jared: Just a few thoughts…hopefully nothing that will tick you off 😉 I do want to clarify that it isn’t quite accurate to say that ‘progressive covenantalism’ as a view sees a future role for Israel, but rather that ‘some proponents’ within PC hold to this position. I recognize that it might be a little unfair to state that seeing how only W&G have officially claimed the label in print so far with KTC and also with their internet interviews and responses, but I suspect that will change soon enough. But, as I stated earlier, the point is that there is not one interpretation of Rom 11 (by all accounts a very difficult passage) that all adherents to PC MUST hold to in order to be consistent with the view (unlike what I suspect is the case with dispensationalism).
Truthfully, I’m not completely sure what Bock and Blaising mean by that statement, or better said, I’m not sure of all the entailments that go along with that statement (or at least that you think it has). But I don’t think it can be taken to undercut what they have written elsewhere (I won’t bother to list quotes here). The reality is that the theological and hermeneutical commitments held to by all dispensationalists (including PD) necessarily lead them to embrace premillennialism. This specific eschatology is required in their view, primarily because of how they see unfulfilled promises to Israel extending beyond the church age. So, again, it goes back to the Israel-church distinction that Wellum highlighted in the quote I shared above from KTC. When I read Ladd on his version of premillennialism, he makes it clear that his hermeneutic and theology don’t require premillennialism, it is really just the exegesis of a few texts that lead him in that direction, namely Rev. 20 (otherwise he admits he sounds like an amill).
Progressive Covenantalism has no specific or required millennial eschatology. They can be (and are) either (historic) premill or amill. As I noted above, there are some prominent amills who who hold that Rom 11:26 teaches a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel (Riddlebarger, Horton, Venema, Vos, etc.). You are right to not focus on a specific eschatology or even the land promise (per se) as the major source of our differences, but on the unique future role of Israel in God’s plan. But these millennial views showcase the outworkings of our different hermeneutical approaches. Even if you think it might be a little fuzzy (at least right now) as to the origin of how we differ on the future significance of Israel in regards to the typological connection to Jesus, it becomes clear that the differences are not inconsequential. To borrow a Vossian analogy, the seed of our differences on Israel, grow into the full tree of the required differences in our millennial schemes. Dispensationalism NEEDS a millennial period to realize unfulfilled promises to Israel, PC doesn’t.
Lastly, I wonder if the original question you pose doesn’t also apply to some proponents of (a more classic) Covenant Theology? Riddlebarger for instance in his book on Amillennialism clearly speaks of Christ as the fulfillment of OT prophecy, and yet he too believes that there is an outstanding promise of future salvation for the majority of ethnic Israel (though I’m not sure how he works out all the typological connections). Perhaps he might have the same challenge to answer that PC does, yet I doubt anyone is suspecting he might be close to dispensationalism.
The gap between the various theological systems is certainly narrowing, and I think that is healthy and good. But differences do still exist, and you are right that it is incumbent on PC (as the new kid on the block) to delineate where it differs from the more established explanations if it wants to maintain its claim to be a true via media. Having said that, I do want to emphasize that PC is not claiming to be wholly novel. Much that is in KTC finds expression with other authors, while at the same time not being a mere conglomeration or mixing of CT and dispensationalism. But it is easier to state our differences with dispensationalism if most dispensationalists generally agreed with each other. As per your earlier comment, I’ll continue to look to Vlach and Bock (among others) as reliable spokesmen for the view until you further define for me how your version of dispensationalism differs.
I appreciate your even-handed handling of questions about PC, and also your recognition that it is still provisional in nature. You have certainly demonstrated patience in waiting for responses to your questions, and not just gone on the attack. If you want to remain in the dispensational fold looking on PC from the outside, at least you can do it in a friendly manner. When (and if) I join FB someday, I will be sure to ‘friend’ you there! I too will have to end the discussion here for now. Feel free to reignite the dialogue with me directly anytime you desire.