"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dispensationalism Part 2

Dispensationalism Part 2: One People of God  

            In the first blog I discussed the relationship of the two brides/peoples of God to the Oneness of God. While I did not discuss it extensively, I think that made the point clearly that two brides/peoples of God theology is incompatible with the Oneness of God. In this blog I will argue that not only is it incompatible with the Oneness of God, but it is also incompatible with a systematic theology of the people of God. I shall contend that God has always and will always have one covenant people of faith. So the question is, “Who are the one people of God?”

One Covenant People
            The Oneness of God (my first passion) informs my eschatology (my second passion). As noted in the first blog of this series, the two peoples of God theory of Dispensationalism is incompatible with an Oneness theology. So in this blog I will provide an introduction to how I see the one people of God. It is my contention that the people of God have always been covenant people consisting of both Jew and Gentile. Furthermore, God has never been interested in a bloodline, but rather faithline.

Abraham Was a Gentile
            The terms circumcision and uncircumcision mean Jew and Gentile respectively. Paul’s defense of Gentile justification apart from circumcision was that Abraham was justified while uncircumcised—i.e. Gentile (Romans 3:27; 4:25). The argument is this, if the Jews denied the justification of the Gentiles because they were uncircumcised, then they would have to deny the Justification of father Abraham.
            The Gentile calling of Abraham is exhibit one in the case that God has always had one covenant people. I can’t make a full argument here about Gentile participation in the Old Testament Israel. But I will make a couple of surface, but significant points. Firstly, in the Old Testament many Gentiles came to participate fully in Israel, so much so as to be bloodline members of Messiah—Rahab and others. The New Testament, among many metaphors, makes Gentiles members of the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Jew and Gentile are one body (Ephesians 4:4), one new man (Ephesians 2:15), one tree (Romans 11), with one hope (Ephesians 4:4).  The covenant people of God have always been about faith and not race.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dispensationalism 1b: Replacement Theology

Dispensationalism 1b: Replacement Theology
            I want to write this blog as transition between the first blog on this topic and the next blog on this topic—hence Dispensationalism 1b. Dispensationalists often accuse non-Dispensationalists (like myself), specifically those who do not hold to a two brides/peoples of God theology, of teaching “replacement theology.” There are those who teach replacement theology, but I am not one of them.
            I am going to state what I believe in this blog. However, I am not going to present arguments in defense of what I believe at the present time. I will make the argument for my eschatology incrementally in subsequent writings.
            So what do I believe? I believe that God has always had one covenant people that consisted of Jew and Gentile. God has never been interested in an ethnic people, but rather a faithful people. I believe that the New Testament Church is a renewal and continuation of the Old Testament church in which Gentiles have full covenant access to God in Christ by the Spirit. The church and Israel are not two peoples, with two plans and two destinies. God has only ever had and will only ever have one Covenant people who consists of both Jew and Gentiles. The church does not replace Israel; the church is the Israel of God consisting of both Jew and Gentile in one body.

            I will make my argument for this position in future blogs. As always, all feedback is welcome. Please comment on the blog. All comments will be posted—especially the ones who disagree with my conclusion. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dispensationalism Part 1: Dispensationalism and Oneness Theology

Dispensationalism Part 1: Why Dispensationalism is Incompatible with Oneness Theology

            Eschatology used to be that subject that I resisted thinking about. I didn’t understand it. I feared it. I thought that it was too esoteric to be worth my effort to understand it. I have come to realize that nothing could be further from the truth. There is a blessing in reading and understanding the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:3). Once one accepts the blessing of the book of the apocalypse, it will connect other theologies in a way that nothing else can.
            I am writing this blog series to put in my own words what I believe about this topic. I have been misquoted so many times on this issue that I have decided to go on record. If anyone in the future should decide to speak for me about what I believe, then it can be compared to what I actually believe. Most of the cases where someone has said what I believe, that person has never spoken to me. By writing this blog series I will clarify publically my eschatological position. Obviously, I will not be able to clarify it all in this first installment of this series. It will take the subsequent contributions to paint the full picture of my position.

            Before I proceed to the purpose of this blog, I want to make a clarification. Please read the following carefully. There are those who self-identify as dispensationalists who are NOT the target of this dispensational series. For example: Dr. Nathaniel Wilson has done an excellent job of apostolicizing dispensationalism. I take credit for coining the phrase, “Wilsonian dispensationalism.” I wrote about it in a finals paper for a Wilson University class. I hope to do a blog that specifically contrasts Wilsonian dispensationalism with classic dispensationalism. Dr. Wilson has written his reformed dispensational view in his book Rightly Dividing the Word. At this point I will allow Dr. Wilson to speak for himself. Just wanted to clarify that Wilsonian dispensationalism is not the object of my scorn. Although I don’t fully agree with his view, his view is compatible with core Apostolic theology
Dispensationalism and Theology Proper
            Finally we are at the point of the post. The point is how classic dispensationalism relates to theology proper and specifically how the two peoples/brides component of the dispensational model conflicts with an Oneness views of God. The two peoples/brides concept is central to classic dispensationalism. It is not incidental, but fundamental to making dispensationalism work. It’s like love and marriage, horse and carriage; you can’t have one without the other. Donaldson (2011) correctly argued that dispensationalism doesn’t work without the distinction of Israel and the church as separate peoples (Donaldson, The Last Days of Dispensationalism).
            Classic dispensationalism  not only sees two brides, but does so in a way that is not palatable to Oneness theology. Notice the following quote from Larkin (1920):

We must not forget that there are “Two Brides” mentioned in the Scriptures. One in the Old Testament, and the other in the New Testament. The one in the Old Testament is Israel, the Bride of Jehovah; the one in the New Testament is the Church, the Bride of Christ. (The Greatest Book on “Dispensational Truth” in the World)

            In Larkian dispensationalism, which no one can logically claim is not dispensational orthodoxy, you not only have “two brides,” but you also have two husbands—the Father and the Son. So you have two peoples, two plans, two destinies, and two divine persons. Classic dispensationalism is fundamentally trinitarian per the dispensational fathers.
            My further point is that I am not sure that the two brides/peoples of God  of dispensationalism can be transformed to be compatible with Apostolic theology. Let’s see what the covenantal distinction between Israel and the Church looks like with the Oneness of God. You have the one person of God married to Israel, then divorcing her, marrying a Gentile bride, rapturing her out on their honeymoon, and then marrying the Jewish bride again while keeping his Gentile bride. The two peoples of God theology ultimately has Jesus married to two brides at once. There are multiple levels on which this is wrong. But allow me to list one. A bishop must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2). However, the two peoples of God theory has Jesus, the bishop of our souls (1 Peter 2:25), as a polygamist.

  Click here to listen to a recent lesson I taught on this topic. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: May Both Parties in a Divorce Remarry?

My answer to this question is going to cause some people to jump off my bandwagon. Many Apostolics believe that the "innocent party" may remarry, but the "guilty party" may not remarry. In most cases, terms like "innocent" and "guilty" are are misleading. The Bible does not discuss the MDR question in terms of guilt or innocence. Rather, it discusses MDR in terms of covenant. The concept of covenant brings me to my first question. 

Whom Does A Broken Covenant Release?

For those who do not believe both parties are freed to remarry in divorce I have a question:

  • Is a broken covenant still in force? The answer to this question is, "No, it's broken." If it is broken enough for the party who did not break the covenant to remarry without committing adultery, then it must no longer be binding. If the covenant is no longer binding, then what covenant is being violated if either party remarries? The covenant can't be binding for just one party; it's either binding for both or neither. The only biblical answer is that once the covenant has been broken legitimately then both parties are free to remarry. 
In Deuteronomy 24.1-3 the woman in whom the uncleanness was found was free to go be another man's wife after she was put away with a bill of divorce.  She could not be another man's wife just being put away, because there was a covenant still in place. But if she was given a bill of divorce—even though the uncleanness was in her—she was free to remarry. There was no way to release just one party from the covenant. Again: it's both or neither. So the answer to the question about the so-called guilty party remarrying is, "Yes, they can!"

Friday, October 13, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: What is the Purpose of Divorce?

When discussing MDR the conversation usually surrounds whether remarriage is ever permitted. And if it is, when is it permitted? The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate that inherent to a biblical divorce is the right to remarry—it's assumed. There is no other biblical purpose for divorce other than to free the parties to remarry. If divorce does not include the right to remarry, then it would differ nothing from separation.

The text that provides the basis for this idea is Deuteronomy 24:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. (Deuteronomy 24:1-2 KJV)

Moses commanded to give a bill of divorce in addition to putting away one's spouse (Matthew 19:7). Why would he do that? If neither putting away (separation), nor a bill of divorce (divorce) freed the parties to remarry then why not just "put away" one's spouse? Because if they were just put away without a bill of divorce, then the marriage covenant is still binding. Therefore, if the "put away" wife were to remarry, then she and the person she married would be committing adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9 YLT). 

Putting away a wife without a bill of divorce put her in a bad situation. Another man could not marry and provide for her, and she couldn't provide for herself well. So to put away a wife without a bill of divorce was to deal "treacherously" with them (Malachi 2:14). It is putting away, and not divorce that God hates (See here). Therefore, to prevent men from putting their wives in this position, Moses commanded that if they were going to put away their wives that they would also give them a bill of divorcement.

There is a simple reason for commanding to give a bill of divorcement when you put away a wife: And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife (Deuteronomy 24:2). It was so that she could go marry another man! To remarry was the only purpose of the bill of divorcement. The theological conclusion then is this: if the divorce is valid then remarriage is necessarily permitted, In Jewish and biblical thought, the debate is never about  whether remarriage is permitted, but whether they were given a bill of divorce when they were put away. There are the additional concerns about valid causes for divorce. But biblically, if the divorce is valid; the remarriage must also be valid. Remarriage is the purpose of divorce!

As always, all comments will be published. ESPECIALLY the opposing comments made with the reader's name. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: What are the Permissible Causes?

There are a lot of different views in the Apostolic movement on MDR. Even among those who teach that some divorce and remarriage is permissible, there is no consensus as to what the parameters are. Some think that only infidelity is a valid cause for divorce and remarriage, and then only for the innocent party. I hold a much more broad view of valid causes. In this blog I am going to tell you what those causes are, and then I will defend them in later posts. 

  1. INFIDELITY: This is the one with which most agree. The scripture is clear that adultery is a justifiable cause for divorce. God, the ultimate standard for righteousness, put away his wife and gave her a bill of divorce because she committed adultery (Jeremiah 3:8). 
  2. DESERTION BY AN UNBELIEVER: Paul taught the Corinthians that if an unbeliever was not please to dwell with a believer and departed that the believer was not "under bondage in such cases" (I Corinthians 7:15). What is the bondage of this context? The only logical referent is the bondage to "remain unmarried" (1 Corinthians 7:11). Therefore, if an unbeliever deserts his/her believing spouse, then the believing spouse is free to marry any Christian they chose. I like to use this phrase: God always sides with the church!
  3. REFUSING MATERIAL PROVISION: A husband is obligated to provide for his wife food, clothing and the duty of marriage (Exodus 21:10-11). If he does not, then she can go out free. This means that she is free to be married to another man. If a man does not provide for his wife he also falls under the above category of an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8). 
  4. REFUSING SEXUAL INTIMACY: This point is drawn from the text for the above section. A husband must give to his wife the "duty of marriage" (Exodus 21:10-11). Paul alluded to this concept with the phrases "defraud not" and "due benevolence" (I Corinthians 7:3-5). Paul also made "due benevolence" the responsibility of both the husband and the wife. If either spouse willingly persists in refusing to perform these duties, then they are breaking covenant. 
  5. PHYSICAL ABUSE: If a spouse is being abusive to their spouse or children then they are obviously not "pleased to dwell" (I Corinthians 7:12-13). And even if the abusive spouse claims to be a Christian, if they do not repent then they are to be declared an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17). 
These are the reasons that I believe justify both divorce and remarriage. As stated earlier, I will provide a fuller defense of them at a later time. 

As always, feel free to comment!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: Does God Hate Divorce?

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16 KJV)

Anyone that has engaged the topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage (MDR) has either heard or used this verse. In most cases, from my perspective, it is misused. Many anti MDR advocates will throw out the phrase "God hates divorce" to prove that divorce and remarriage is a sin. As will be demonstrated in this blog, that is misleading at best. 

Does Malachi 2:16 teach that God hates divorce? Furthermore, does it teach that divorce is a sin? Ultimately does it teach that all remarriage is sinful? I am going to argue in this blog post that the answer to each of the above questions is no. 

God Hates Divorce

I will be refuting that "God hates divorce" is either a biblical phrase or means that divorce is sinful. Firstly I am going to deal with the idea that it means that divorce is sinful. Secondly I will deal with whether or not it is a biblical statement. 

Is Divorce Sinful?

Does the phrase "God hates divorce" based on Malachi 2:16 teach that divorce is sinful? The answer is, no! Then what could it possibly mean? Am I saying that God actually likes divorce? The phrase neither means that God likes divorce nor that divorce is sinful. Like many issues, its not as simple as an either-or. Many times there is a third, or even fourth option. Such is the case here.

"God hates divorce" cannot mean that all divorce is sinful. How can I say that with such confidence? Because God himself divorced his wife Israel (Jeremiah 3:8). If all divorce is sinful, then it was a sin for God to initiate his divorce. This would add a whole new layer to the Could Jesus Sin? debate. No one will claim that God sinned. Therefore, whatever Malachi 2:16 means it cannot mean that all divorce is sinful. 

So what could the phrase possibly mean? For anyone to say that they hate something does not mean that they think the thing they hate is immoral. The following is an extreme example: I hate anchovies. This by no means suggests that I think eating anchovies are immoral. It just means that I don't like them. Obviously God's hatred for divorce is much more significant than my hatred for a tiny fish. But the point is that we often hate things at are morally neutral. We even hate things that are morally good. Does anyone besides me hate to pay bills? Does anyone besides me hate to correct your kids? While we hate to do them, they are necessary actions. If Malachi 2:16 teaches that God hates divorce, then I would argue that while he hated it, it was a necessary and moral response an unrepentant adulterous wife. As a divorced man, I can say truthfully that I hate divorce. I can say confidently that I—and others who have suffered divorce—hate divorce more than those who have never been divorced. 

What Malachi 2:16 Actually Says

Malachi 2:16 does not say as is often quoted that "God hates divorce." It says God hates "putting away." There is a difference between "divorce" and "putting away". I am going to introduce a concept here that I will flesh out in more detail in later blogs. I realize that this concept will be strange and difficult for many of my readers to wrap their heads around. But I ask that you open your mind and consider what I am about to say.

The argument for the distinction between "divorced" and "put away" is found in Deuteronomy 24:1:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (Deuteronomy 24:1 KJV)

Notice carefully the progression in this text: write her a bill of divorcement, and give it into her hand, and send her out of his house. The bill of divorcement is separate and distinct from sending out (putting away). It is possible to put away one's spouse without divorcing them. And men in Israel were doing just that. When they put away their wives without a bill divorcement, they were putting them in a position that they could not remarry. And if they did remarry they would be guilty of adultery. So Moses commanded them to not just put them away but to also give them a bill of divorcement (Matthew 19:7). If she received a bill of divorcement when she was put away then she was free to remarry (Deuteronomy 24:2). 

Can you see the injustice of putting away a woman and not giving her a bill of divorcement? Yes? So did God. When the men of Israel put away their wives with out divorcing them God said they were dealing "treacherously" with their wives (Malachi 2:14). God hated putting away without a bill of divorcement—not divorce. Now you know why I stated earlier that it is misleading to say that "God hates divorce." So, does God hate divorce? I am sure he does in the sense that it broke his heart that Israel was unfaithful. But that was not the issue that Malachi 2:16 was addressing. So the answer is, the Bible never states that God hates divorce!