Thursday, February 25, 2016

Simplistic Dispensational Hermeneutics?

In a previous post I talked about Gordon Isaac's book Left Behind or Left Befuddled. At the end I cited a few verses concerning Israel in preparation for this post.

First up I'm aware that many dispies are cautious about modern Israel and whether it has biblical significance. They are rightly concerned about sensationalism. Despite this, I think modern Israel is significant and this is becoming more apparent as time passes. But whether it's modern Israel or some other future Israel, Isaac rejects any future for Israel in God's plan or any premillennial eschatological scenarios.

In chapter 4 Israel: God's People or God's Time Clock? (p 93) Isaac writes:
The third social factor has to do with the apparent lack of reflection on the matter of hermeneutics - the science of interpretation - which leads dispensationalists to read the Bible as though there are no social factors involved in reading the text.
He cites a paragraph from Vern Poythress' Understanding Dispensationalists:
When we advise the average readers of the Bible that the meaning is "plain," what will they conclude? They will tend not to read it in its historical context but in the context of the twentieth century, their own subcultural context. The Bible is thus regarded as a book written directly to modern people, not mainly to the original readers. Who, then, are the modern people whom the Bible addresses? Most immediately they are the circle of Christians within which a dispensationalist moves. To lay dispensationalists "plain" meaning is meaning that they automatically see in a text when they read it against the background of the teaching and examples that they have seen and heard from fellow Christians, most of whom are themselves dispensationalists. "Plain meaning" can all too easily become, in practice, the meaning of a text when seen through the framework of the dispensational system - or any other system for the matter. (Emphases mine)
Poythress has low expectations of the popular dispensational understanding of the nuances of interpretation. Do dispensationalists really unquestioningly read prophetic verses via their modern expectations? How would some verses, as understood by a particular OT audience, affect the modern reader? How were Jeremiah 31:31-37; Ezekiel 36:35-36 and Amos 9:14-15 (among many other passages) understood by their audiences in context and how should we understand them now?

There's a finality and eternalness to the promises in these verses. They reach into modern times and extend beyond. Yet supersessionists trot out NT verses which they argue redefines them. Aren't they doing the very thing they claim dispensationalists do - reading these verses in light of their modern understanding of the NT? Isn't this "redefinition" a distortion of God's word to Israel? Can we ultimately trust God's word on this basis?

Is there another way of understanding these alleged supersessionist NT passages in such a way which does not compromise God's word or the original intention and context of the OT? Of course there is.

See Michael Vlach's responses to supersessionism.

Read Robert Saucy's response to Poythress' Understanding Dispensationalists HERE

Thomas Ice responds to some of Poythress' claims in Dispensational Hermeneutics

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