Of covenants and dispensations

I’ve been listening to a lot of interplay between covenant theologians and dispensationalists lately.   I think most covenant theologians, especially younger students, think all dispensationalists hold to the two-plans theory, works-salvation in the OT, and nuke ’em all for Israel.  Older dispensationalists probably did hold to some form of that.  But I am not seeing that emphasis as much in modern dispensational writers.  Below is a tentative pro-con survey of both positions:

  1. With dispensationalists and against covenant theologians, I hold that God has a future plan for Israel.  Of course, a number of postmillennialists have believed this and even Kim Riddlebarger conceded the point.
  2. With covenant theologians and against dispensationalists, I acknowledge that the NT does echo language of OT Israel towards the church.   Granted, this doesn’t actually imply “replacement,” but I don’t think dispensationalists fully own up to the point.
  3. With dispensationalists I reject covenant theologians’ neo-platonic hermeneutics.  This is a necessary inference for covenant theology (at least in its amillennial variety).   On a CT reading all of the land promises in the OT are “spiritualized.”  They have to be.  If they weren’t, then something like a millennial reign is inevitable as a hermeneutical move.   At least Augustine is explicit on this point:  he rejected premillennialism in City of God because he thought that matter in the eternal state was unworthy.
  4. With covenant theologians I affirm something like a Covenant of Works/Covenant of grace scheme.   Granted, it’s not as explicit as I would like it to be in the text, but I see it too firmly anchored to Christology and soteriology to immediately jettison.
  5. With dispensationalists I advance the charge that amillennialists cannot coherently and consistently speak about 95% of OT promises because of their spiritual hermeneutic.   Take Isaiah 19 for example on an amillennial hermeneutic:  exactly what does it mean if it is not literal?  How do you even know?
  6. With Covenant theologians I am not convinced of the dispensational reading of the Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 40-48.

2 comments on “Of covenants and dispensations

  1. Andrew says:

    Does it follow that amillennialists have a negative view of matter from ‘spiritualising’ the land promises? Or even that this is neo-platonic?

    • To the degree that they follow Augustine’s line of thought, yes. Especially if you read Bk 20 of City of God in light of Bk 8 where Augustine specifically admits to adopting the Platonist line.

      This line of thought was particularly painful in mid-20th century Dutch-American thought. However, Hoekema’s work represents an infinite improvement. My beef with Hoekema is over specific exegesis, but I appreciate his much healthier creational eschatology.

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