Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Clark-Van Til Controversy: Traversing the Impasse

Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is of paramount importance in the study of prolegomena in Systematic Theology. Before we seek to understand and know God, we must ascertain what we can actually know. We would need to understand and define the term “knowledge,” for it would be absolutely meaningless if we claim to have knowledge, but couldn’t state what knowledge is. I would proceed to illustrate the importance of understanding epistemology and knowledge in the study of theology with the well-known debate concerning the ontology of Man’s knowledge of God in the Clark-Van Til conflict.

Gilbert B. Weaver, in his essay Man: Analogue of God, furnishes us with a brief introduction to the controversy:

“When Cornelius Van Til describes man’s knowledge as being in an analogical relationship to the knowledge of God, Gordon Clark charges him with skepticism. In a 1957 Bibliotheca Sacra article Clark aired his side of an ecclesiastical controversy with Van Til and others. … Noting that Van Til signed a statement that man’s knowledge must be “analogical” to the knowledge God possesses, Clark states, “If God has the truth and if man has only an analogy, it follows that he does not have the truth. An analogy of the truth is not the truth; and even if man’s knowledge is not called an analogy of the truth but an analogical truth, the situation is no better. An analogical truth, except it contain a univocal point of coincident meaning, simply is not the truth at all.”[1]

John Frame, Van Til’s disciple, understand Van Tillian analogical reasoning as “Thinking in subjection to God’s revelation and therefore thinking God’s thoughts after him.”[2] So, for Van Til, God is the original Knower; He is the embodiment of true knowledge. Man can have knowledge because God condescended and revealed Himself in the Scriptures (special revelation). According to Van Til, the Scripture is the starting point for Man’s knowledge, and it is from them and from them alone that any true knowledge on any subject (direct or implied) can be gained. This is Van Til’s understanding of “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”

Van Til understood God’s knowledge of Himself as being uncommunicable to His creatures. It is different from Man’s knowledge of God both qualitatively and quantitatively. In other words, the self-knowledge God has - being an infinite, necessary being – is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the knowledge of God finite, contingent beings have. Man, created in the image of God, is only able to think analogically God’s thoughts after him. Therefore, for Van Til, there is no univocal point between Man’s knowledge of God, and God’s self-knowledge of Himself.

Van Til writes, “For man any new revelational proposition will enrich in meaning any previous given revelational proposition. But even this enrichment does not imply that there is any coincidence, that is, identity of content between what God has in his mind and what man has in his mind….There could and would be an identity of content only if the mind of man were identical with the mind of God.”[3]
He continues, “Christians believe in two levels of existence, the level of God’s existence as self-contained and the level of man’s existence as derived from the level of God’s existence. For this reason, Christians must also believe in two levels of knowledge, the level of God’s knowledge which is absolutely comprehensive and self-contained, and the level of man’s knowledge which is not comprehensive but is derivative and re-interpretative. Hence we say that as Christians we believe that man’s knowledge is analogical of God’s knowledge.”[4]

Van Til places special emphasis upon the Creator-creature ontological distinction, and it is this distinction that permeates his theory of knowledge. It is hereby interesting to note that this Creator-creature distinction is not new in historical Reformed scholasticism. Franciscus Junius (1545-1602) is often credited for his exposition on the archetypal/ectypal distinction in the ontology of knowledge. A likely antecedent is the Scotist distinction between theologia in se (God’s self-knowledge) and theologia nostra (our finite knowledge of God).[5] According to Junius, there are two kinds of knowledge of God. Archetypal knowledge is God’s perfect knowledge of Himself. This knowledge is eternal, uncommunicable and uncreated. It is not comprehensible for His creatures.

Ectypal knowledge, however, is the knowledge of God as conceived by other contingent beings, for example, human beings. Junius further differentiates ectypal knowledge into theologia ectypa simpliciter dicta and theologia ectypa secundum quid. The first refers to the entire, perfect body of knowledge of God which is communicable to created beings. This knowledge resides in God’s Mind in order to be revealed to us, and it is knowledge accommodated to our capacity to understand. The later refers to the relational form of knowledge graciously revealed to Man by God in the form of union, vision or revelation according to Junius.

Junius makes “a distinction between (1) the internal concept of ectypal theology in the mind of God and (2) the external form in which God communicates this concept to human beings. The internal concept in the mind of God is his divine will and grace; the external form is the body of knowledge that God decided to reveal to mankind. … Furthermore, the concept of ectypal knowledge existing in the mind of God must be distinguished from archetypal theology. Junius calls the former theologia simpliciter dicta which differs from archetypal theology in that the latter is incommunicable, while the former is communicable. When communication of ectypal knowledge takes place then theologia simpliciter dicta becomes theologia secundum quid, i.e., relational theology, for it depends upon God’s accommodation of himself to a form which finite beings are capable of grasping.”[6]

It is important for us to realize that both archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge (theologia simpliciter dicta) resides in the Mind of God. This becomes relevant when we discuss further the definition of knowledge as understood by philosophers, and how propositional truth relates to knowledge.

We now recall Gilbert Weaver’s description of the Clark-Van Til controversy in the beginning paragraphs of this article. Weaver, a Van Tillian, have the following to say concerning Clark’s criticism of Van Til, “Clark converts the term “knowledge” of Van Til’s statement into “truth” in his criticism of Van Til. Clark takes for granted a virtual identification of knowledge with true propositions, because he denies the possibility of any knowledge in the realm of sense experience.” This statement is remarkable for it reveals a lack of understanding of how philosophers conceive knowledge, and what knowledge actually entails. When God communicates His knowledge to Man by special revelation (theologia revelationis), He communicates through the Scriptures via propositional truths. Hence, a “virtual identification of knowledge with true propositions” is justified, especially when we are referring to Man’s knowledge of God. The existence (or non-existence) of knowledge beside propositional truths is not relevant to our discussion here, because Scripture is propositional, and the truths Scripture conveys are propositional. The senses are only the means whereby the mind of Man can have any contact with the propositional truths expressed in Scripture, for example, by using the eyes to read the language used to convey truths.

Knowledge Defined

It now becomes pertinent for us to understand what constitutes knowledge. In the perennial debate amongst epistemologists concerning justification and warrant in the definition of knowledge, one salient point stands out. Whether a philosopher defines knowledge as “justified true belief” or “warranted true belief,” knowledge must relate to true propositions. For Man to claim knowledge, his belief must be truthful. Take for example the following simplistic definition of knowledge:
“S knows that p if and only if (i) S accepts that p, (ii) it is true that p, (iii) S is justified in accepting that p, and (iv) S is justified in accepting that p in a way that is not defeated by any false statement (that does not depend on any false statement).”[7]

Lehrer explains, “The first condition of knowledge is that of truth.”[8] Therefore, any definition of knowledge would include the following: If S knows that p, then it is true that p (where p refers to a proposition or propositional truth). Gordon Clark was correct to use the term “truth,” as truth is always referred to when we consider knowledge.

We recall that for Van Til, “God is “infinite,” “eternal,” and “unchangeable” in his being. Because God’s being is such, and because man’s being is finite, temporal, and changeable, in short, because there is the ontological distinction, man can have no univocal knowledge of such a being as God. Nor can man, because of the ontological distinction, know what God knows in the same way as God knows it, whether that knowledge pertains to God Himself or to some created thing.”[9]

But Gordon Clark was adamant that Man’s knowledge must have a univocal point of reference to God’s knowledge of Himself. There were attempts at resolving or reconciling the differences between Van Til’s and Clark’s understanding of epistemology in this aspect. For example, one can say that Man’s knowledge of God (theologia ectypa secundum quid) is analogical to God’s self-knowledge (theologia archetypa), but univocal to the theologia ectypa simpliciter dicta. This proposed solution would not fulfill its intended purpose. Firstly, Van Til does not make a distinction between theologia ectypa simpliciter dicta and theologia ectypa secundum quid. This is because according to Van Til, all that God knows of Himself (i.e. all the true propositions that exist in God’s Mind) can have no univocal point of contact with Man’s knowledge of Him. Both the theologia archetypa and the theologia ectypa simpliciter dicta reside in God’s Mind. And as such, Van Til would consider that all the true propositions which reside in God’s Mind can never be univocal to Man’s knowledge of these propositions. Secondly, ectypal knowledge, by definition, is knowledge of God as conceived by contingent beings. As such, it is qualitatively and quantitatively different from God’s perfect self-knowledge (archetypal knowledge). Therefore, ectypal knowledge can only be analogical to archetypal knowledge. It is philosophically and theologically meaningless to say that theologia ectypa secundum quid is univocal to theologia ectypa simpliciter dicta, as both are by definition ectypal knowledge and analogical to archetypal knowledge. Therefore, if God knows a proposition that P (archetypal), an alleged corresponding proposition P1 (ectypal) cannot be the same as P (archetypal). P and P1 are only analogical or similar, but they are not the same or univocal. Van Til would not accept that Man knows P.

A Proposal for Resolution

So how do we preserve the Creator-creature distinction while allowing Man to have knowledge of God? According to Junius, the theologia ectypa is communicated “by union (unione) to Christ, by vision (visione) to the beatified, and by revelation (revelatione) to the pilgrim or viator. In descending order ectypal theology can be communicated to Jesus Christ, to the spirits in heaven, and to men on earth.”[10] For our purpose, we shall focus on revelatione, specifically, special revelation as this is the source of our knowledge in God on earth.

God reveals Himself in Scripture via the medium of human language. In the philosophy of language, there is a distinction between sentences and propositions. A proposition is the meaning of a sentence.  So, the distinction between a proposition and a sentence is really the distinction between the sentence and its meaning. For example, three different sentences in three different languages can have the same meaning. Alternatively, a simple sentence can have several different meanings depending upon context. We must be careful not to confound sentences in a certain language medium with actual propositions.

With regard to special revelation, God through the Spirit of Truth has communicated to Man with the medium of human languages in Scripture. The sentences of the language used are obviously analogical to the actual propositions in God’s Mind. Language is the medium whereby God reveals Himself to Man via the Scriptures. This language medium convey propositional truths that are univocal to the propositional truths found in God’s Mind. If God’s Mind consists of only all true propositions (as He is omniscient), it follows that no untrue proposition exists inside the Mind of God. And if, according to Van Til, Man’s knowledge of God through the Scriptures is only analogical to God’s knowledge of Himself, and if the propositions in God’s special revelation are only analogical and not identical to the true propositions that exist in God’s Mind, then the propositions conveyed to Man cannot be true. Knowledge for Man is then impossible.

We have discussed that all true propositions and only true propositions exist in the Mind of God since God is omniscient and knows all Truth. We also recall that both archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge (theologia ectypa simpliciter dicta) reside in the Mind of God, and these knowledge would consists of true propositions known by God. Since all that God knows is Truth, and there is no falsehood in Him, it follows that both archetypal and ectypal knowledge (which exists in the Mind of God) consists of only truths or true propositions. Man’s knowledge of God (ectypal knowledge) is analogical to God’s self-knowledge in the sense that there is a qualitative difference between God’s archetypal knowledge of Himself and Man’s knowledge of God through the medium of language. The sentences of Scripture, written and transmitted with human language, expresses the true knowledge (true propositions) concerning God for Man, but is qualitatively different in an ontological sense with respect to God’s archetypal knowledge. Scripture exists in a finite world, while God’s Mind is transcendental.

However, if Man is to have knowledge concerning God, there must be an univocal point of reference between the true propositions in Scripture, and the true propositions in God’s Mind. In the ontological sense, Man’s ectypal knowledge is therefore analogical in the sense that Scripture uses language which is finite and non-transcendental, and at the same time, univocal to the true propositions found in God’s Mind. We can know true propositions about God, not because we are like gods, but because we are made in the image of God (Imago Dei). We are created with cognitive faculties capable of understanding God’s special revelation to Man. And special revelation in itself is already a miracle of God!

What Alvin Plantinga commented concerning another form of theological agnosticism applies to our current discussion concerning the analogical knowledge of Man. Such theological pursuits concerning the ontology of knowledge, “begins in a pious and commendable concern for God’s greatness and majesty and augustness, but it ends in agnosticism and incoherence. For if none of our concepts apply to God [or if none of our inferences extend to God], then there is nothing we can know or truly believe of him – not even what is affirmed in the creeds or revealed in the Scriptures. And if there is nothing we can know or truly believe of him, then, of course, we cannot know or truly believe that none of our concepts apply to him. The view … is fatally ensnarled in self-referential absurdity.”[11]

Therefore, it is self-defeating to propose that “Man cannot know true propositions concerning God.” In order to know the proposition “Man cannot know true propositions concerning God,” Man must at least know this proposition concerning God – that “Man cannot know true propositions concerning God!” This is what Plantinga describes as “self-referential absurdity.”


[1] See Geehan, E. R. ed., Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Nutley, NJ., 1971.

[2] In order to discuss further, we must elucidate upon the meaning of these terms: analogical, univocal, and equivocal. See for an accessible explanation of these terms, but keeping in mind that Van Til’s understanding of analogy is distinct from Thomas Aquinas.
[3] Van Til, Cornelius, An Introduction to Systematic Theology. In Defense of the Faith, Vol. V (Nutley [N.J.]; Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974), p. 165.

[4] Ibid, p. 12.
[5] See Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Prolegomena to Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), pp. 227-228.

[6] Van Asselt, W. J., The Fundamental Meaning of Theology: Archetypal and Ectypal Theology in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Thought, Westminster Theological Journal (2002), 64(2), p. 329.
[7] Keith Lehrer, Theory of Knowledge (Colorado: Westview Press, 2000), pp. 169-170.

[8] Ibid, p. 11
[9] Jim Halsey, “A Preliminary Critique of Van Til: The Theologian A Review Article,” Westminster Theological Journal, 39(1), p. 122.

[10] Van Asselt, The Fundamental Meaning of Theology, p. 330
[11] Alvin Plantinga, Does God Have A Nature? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980), p. 26.



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Reformed Hermeneutics and the Analogy of Faith in Prophecy

The interpretation of Old Testament prophetic passages with New Testament revelation is a biblically based method of hermeneutics. Consistent with the principle of the progressive revelation of Scripture,[1] this is also known as the Analogia Fidei.[2] The analogy of faith is the Reformed principle of interpreting Scripture with Scripture. In other words, special attention must be given to clear, didactic passages of New Testament Scripture, so as to harmonize Old Testament Scripture with New Testament revelation. Contrariwise, we must not explain away plain New Testament Scripture with Old Testament types and shadows.

Terry elaborates that the analogy of faith “assumes that the Bible is a self-interpreting book, and what is obscure in one passage may be illuminated by another. No single statement or obscure passage of one book can be allowed to set aside a doctrine which is clearly established by many passages. The obscure texts must be interpreted in the light of those which are plain and positive.”[3]

The analogy of faith is an indispensable, fundamental principle of Reformed hermeneutics. It is also a principle which recognizes God as the divine Author of the Bible, and ipso facto, Christians must interpret Scripture as an organic unity. As Bavinck has aptly commented:

“The New Testament is the truth, the essence, the core, and the actual content of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is revealed in the New, while the New Testament is concealed in the Old (Vetus Testamentum in Novo patet, Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet).”[4]

In the area of prophetic interpretation, dispensational theologians might argue that the New Testament writers were inspired, and therefore, they can apply Old Testament prophecies - originally addressed to ethnic Israel - to the church via divine inspiration. Reformed theologians would reply that, following the hermeneutics of Jesus and the Apostles, we must understand Old Testament prophecies in the light of New Testament revelation.

Surely Dispensationalists are not insinuating that the meaning of a specific Old Testament prophecy is confined to what the original writer or recipient would have understood. To understand kingdom prophecies in the Old Testament using Judaistic glasses, without the light given in the New, would be to limit the meaning of the prophetic text. In the absence of access to future revelation, the original recipients may have understood the prophetic passages in terms of antecedent revelation.[5] But for the Church today to insist on understanding these prophetic passages in terms of Old Testament shadowy forms is to ignore subsequent revelation in the New Testament. As Ramm has emphasized, “The New Testament is the capstone of revelation, and God’s word through the supreme instrument of revelation, His Son (Hebrews 1:2). Because it is the final, full, and clear revelation of God, it would be foolhardy to make the New revolve around the Old.”[6]

The determination of the fuller meaning of a prophetic passage requires the understanding of the figurative and symbolical style of prophecy, as well as an analysis and comparison of other similar prophecies in Scripture.[7] Ultimately, it is inevitable for an exegete to apply a theological grid derived from the entire Bible as an organic whole in his interpretation of Scripture.[8] This is because the Old and New Testament are related to each other as type and antitype, prophecy and fulfilment. Whatever theological seed planted in the Old Testament finds its complete fruition and development in the New. Terry writes:

“It is of the first importance to observe that, from a Christian point of view, the Old Testament cannot be fully apprehended without the help of the New. The mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known unto men, was revealed unto the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (Eph. iii, 5), and that revelation sheds a flood of light upon numerous portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. On the other hand, it is equally true that a scientific interpretation of the New Testament is impossible without a thorough knowledge of the older Scriptures. . . . In short, the whole Bible is a divinely constructed unity, and there is danger that, in studying one part to the comparative neglect of the other, we may fall into one-sided and erroneous methods of exposition.”[9]

The exegete must not ignore the typological-symbolical elements present in certain Old Testament prophecies.[10] Fairbairn goes even further, stating that type and prophecy are often interrelated to each other. “Not only do they [type and prophecy] agree in having both a prospective reference to the future, but they are often also combined into one prospective exhibition of the future.”[11] The fuller meaning of a prophecy, in particular, a prophetical type, may not be apparent until the time of fulfillment.[12] Poythress explains:

“The significance of a type is not fully discernible until the time of fulfillment. . . . One can anticipate in a vague, general way how fulfillment might come, but the details remain in obscurity. When the fulfillment does come, it throws additional light on the significance of the original symbolism. In other words, one must compare later Scripture to earlier Scripture to understand everything. Such comparison, though it should not undermine or contradict grammatical-historical interpretation, goes beyond its bounds. It takes account of information not available in the original historical and cultural context. Hence grammatical-historical interpretation is not enough. It is not all there is to interpretation.”[13]

The biblically sanctioned method of interpretation of Old Testament prophecies is to apply the hermeneutics of the New Testament writers, as well as the ideas communicated by them.[14] In fact, New Testament scholar Earle Ellis emphasizes that,

“It very probably underlies the conviction of the early Christians that those who belong to Christ, Israel’s messianic king, constitute the true Israel. Consequently, it explains the Christian application to unbelieving Jews of Scriptures originally directed to Gentiles and, on the other hand, the application to the church of Scriptures originally directed to the Jewish nation.”[15]

For example, the church is referred to as “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:15-16.[16] Also, the “sure blessings of David” is applied to the church in Acts 13:32-34, 38-39. The expressions “my chosen” (Isa. 43:20) and “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (Exod. 19:6),” used in the Old Testament to refer to Israel, are applied to the New Testament church in 1 Peter 2:9. Furthermore, Old Testament terms such as “Mount Zion” and “heavenly Jerusalem” are used in Hebrews 12:22-24 to address the Church. Last but not least, it is significant that the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-34, which was addressed to national Israel, is applied to the church in Hebrews 8:6-13.[17]

The prophets often used Old Testament language and terminology, which are understood by and familiar to the original recipients, to describe New Testament realities. To understand such terms and language in the Old Testament literally is to force a regression of New Testament realities back into the shadowy forms of ancient Judaism.

Dispensationalists, likewise, interpret portions of kingdom prophecies in the Old Testament literally, while furnishing a figurative understanding for other portions which may otherwise engender internal contradictions within the dispensational, prophetic framework. An example is found in Isaiah 2:3-5:

“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.”

According to Dispensationalists, the context of this passage is the millennial reign of Christ, with Jerusalem as the center of the theocracy. John Martin, the former Dean of Faculty and Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, comments on Isaiah 2:4, “Universal peace, with no military conflict or training, will prevail because the implements of warfare (swords and spears) will be turned into implements of agriculture (plowshares and hooks; cf. Joel 3:10).”[18]

Apparently, the reader will find it difficult to reconcile the literal or prosaic meaning of Isaiah 2:4 with the Dispensational understanding of Revelation 20:8-9. According to dispensational premillennialism, there will be a great, worldwide rebellion of Gog and Magog towards the end of the earthly, Davidic reign, led by the Devil himself. This uprising will be quickly quenched, when “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them (Rev. 20:9b).” Erickson elaborates,

“Christ’s second coming will bring Satan and his helpers under control, binding them for one thousand years. . . . Near the end of the millennium, however, Satan will be unbound briefly and will launch one desperate, final struggle. Then he and his demons will be utterly vanquished, cast into the lake of fire prepared for them.”[19]

But in keeping with a consistently literal understanding of Isaiah 2:4, “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”[20] That is, there will not be war any longer under the theocratic reign of Christ, and even after the Millennium. If this phrase “no more” is understood plainly, or at face value, it would mean “no longer,” or “not ever again.” There ought to be no longer any war during, or after, the Millennium. The Dispensationalist is therefore forced to interpret either Isaiah 2:4 or Revelation 20:8-9 literally, while rendering the other verses figuratively. Both cannot be taken literally in a consistent manner. It also seems that the dispensational prophetic schema is the final arbiter as to which verse is to be taken literally or figuratively.[21]

In his magnum opus Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge elaborates upon the proper understanding of prophetic language in the Old Testament:

“It is undeniable that the ancient prophets in predicting the events of the Messianic period and the future of Christ’s kingdom, borrowed their language and imagery from the Old Testament institutions and usages. The Messiah is often called David; his church is called Jerusalem, and Zion; his people are called Israel; Canaan was the land of their inheritance; the loss of God’s favour was expressed by saying that they forfeited that inheritance, and restoration of his favour was denoted by a return to the promised land. This usage is so pervading that the conviction produced by it on the minds of Christians is indelible. To them, Zion and Jerusalem are the Church and not the city made with hands. To interpret all that the ancient prophets say of Jerusalem of an earthly city, and all that is said of Israel of the Jewish nation, would be to bring down heaven to earth, and to transmute Christianity into the corrupt Judaism of the apostolic age.”[22]

It must be emphasized that Reformed theologians are neither advocating an allegorical method of interpretation, nor are they encouraging a typological or symbolical interpretation for just any Scripture text. Rather, they recognize the presence of typological-symbolical elements inherent within prophetic passages. At the same time, they understand that Old Testament prophecies must be interpreted with the light given in the New.

Bavinck comments:

The New Testament views itself - and there can certainly be no doubt about this - as the spiritual and therefore complete and authentic fulfillment of the Old Testament. The spiritualization of the Old Testament, rightly understood, is not an invention of Christian theology but has its beginning in the New Testament itself. The Old Testament in spiritualized form, that is, the Old Testament stripped of its temporal and sensuous form, is the New Testament.”[23]

Sizer also reminds us that Reformed hermeneutics must be distinguished from the allegorical hermeneutics of pre-Reformation Catholicism. He writes:

“Because of their commitment to literalism, for example, [Hal] Lindsey and other dispensationalists do not distinguish between the figurative or typological approaches used by the Reformers and the allegorical methods of interpretation found typically in pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism. The distinction between these two methods of interpretation is significant since the former places particular emphasis on the historical context of passages as well as upon the way Scripture interprets Scripture, whereas an allegorical approach finds eternal truths without reference to any historical setting. A typological approach also highlights the way New Testament writers see Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of most Old Testament images and types.”[24]

In setting out the “definitive marks of typological interpretation” described by Leonard Goppelt, Ellis further elaborates, “Unlike allegory, typological exegesis regards the words of Scripture not as metaphors hiding a deeper meaning (ὑπόνοια) but as the record of historical events out of whose literal sense the meaning of the text arises.”[25] In other words, typological exegesis is not a subjective means of interpreting Scripture, but is shaped by how the New Testament interprets the Old. It does not seek to find any esoteric, hidden meaning behind the words of Scripture. At the same time, typological exegesis affirms the perspicuity of Scripture, in that Old Testament typological-prophetic elements are clearly interpreted by the Holy Spirit with further revelation in the New. The exegete is not required to search for some subjective, deeper meaning in types and shadowy forms, because the New Testament unveils their antitypes and fulfillment.

Therefore, any attempt at making “guilt by association” ad hominem attacks by accusing amillennial or postmillennial exegetes of spiritualizing or allegorizing Scripture like Catholic exegesis is unhelpful in the current dispensational-covenantal dialogue.[26]

Reformed theologians adamantly reject the dispensational hermeneutics which forces New Testament revelation to conform to Old Testament shadowy forms. Besides historical, grammatical and contextual considerations, good hermeneutics must take into account the literary form of a particular passage of Scripture, as well as the Reformed principle of the analogy of faith. The interpretation of a particular prophetic text must harmonize with the rest of Scripture, and with the systematic theology derived from a thorough understanding of Scripture as a canonical whole. The actual and fuller meaning of a passage should be determined using the “historical-grammatical-literary-theological” hermeneutics. Undoubtedly, a wooden literalism is not biblically warranted in the interpretation of prophecy.


[1] “By progressive revelation we mean that the Bible sets forth a movement of God, with the initiative coming from God and not man, in which God brings man up through the theological infancy of the Old Testament to the maturity of the New Testament. This does not mean that there are no mature ideas in the Old Testament nor simple elements in the New Testament. Progressive revelation is the general pattern of revelation.” See Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3d rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1970), 102.
[2] This is also known as the analogy of faith. See the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, paragraph 9.
[3] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments (Hunt and Eason, 1890; reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999), 449. Also see pp. 449-451.
[4] Herman Bavinck, The Last Things: Hope for This World and the Next, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1996), 96-97.
[5] This writer disagrees with Walter C. Kaiser who claims that meaning can be ascertained only from the amount of prior information available to the text under consideration. See Walter C. Kaiser, “Analogy of Antecedent Scripture,” in Towards an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1981), 90, 134-137, 145.
[6] Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 167.
[7] For a detailed discussion of the hermeneutics involved in interpreting prophecy, see Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 313-389.
[8] An example of this exegetical application of a theological grid is given when we study the temple visions of Ezekiel later in this book, which relate to the doctrine of the atonement of Christ.
[9] Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 18
[10] “Typological interpretation is specifically the interpretation of the Old Testament based on the fundamental theological unity of the two Testaments whereby something in the Old shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the New. Hence what is interpreted in the Old is not foreign or peculiar or hidden, but rises naturally out of the text due to the relationship of the two Testaments. To find Christ or the atonement in the sacrificial system, or to find Christian salvation or experience in the Tabernacle follows from the character of the divine revelation.” See Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 223. Milton S. Terry provides an excellent treatise on the method of interpreting types in Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 244-256. On the typological usage of the Old Testament by the New, see E. Earle Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1993), 165-169.
[11] Patrick Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1989), 106. Concerning how types and prophecies may relate to each other, Fairbairn explains, “From the general resemblance between type and prophecy, we are prepared to expect that they may sometimes run into each other; and especially, that the typical in action may in various ways form the groundwork and the materials by means of which the prophetic in word gave forth its intimations of the coming future. And this, it is quite conceivable, may have been done under any of the following modifications. 1. A typical action might, in some portion of the prophetic word, be historically mentioned; and hence the mention being that of a prophetical circumstance or event, would come to possess a prophetical character. 2. Or something typical in the past or the present might be represented in a distinct prophetical announcement, as going to appear again in the future; thus combining together the typical in act and the prophetical in word. 3. Or the typical, not expressly and formally, but in its essential relations and principles, might be embodied in an accompanying prediction, which foretold things corresponding in nature, but far higher and greater in importance. 4. Or, finally, the typical might itself be still future, and in a prophetic word might be partly described, partly presupposed, as a vantage-ground for the delineation of other things still more distant, to which, when it occurred, it was to stand in the relation of type and antitype.” See Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture, 107. Also see especially pp. 106-130 for a discussion of the relations between types and prophecies.
[12] Prophecies of Scripture do not contain an occult or double sense. Each prophecy has only one fulfillment. There may be manifold applications of certain prophecies, but not multiple fulfillments. The doctrine of typology and the doctrine of double sense must not be confounded. Terry writes, “Some writers have confused this subject [i.e. the doctrine of double sense] by connecting it with the doctrine of type and antitype. As many persons and events of the Old Testament were types of greater ones to come, so the language respecting them is supposed to be capable of a double sense. . . . But it should be seen that in the case of types the language of the Scripture has no double sense. The types themselves are such because they prefigure things to come, and this fact must be kept distinct from the question of the sense of language used in any particular passage. We reject as unsound and misleading the theory that such Messianic psalms as the second, forty-fifth and seventy-second have a double sense, and refer first to David, Solomon, or some other ruler, and secondly to Christ. If an historical reference to some great typical character can be shown, the whole case may be relegated to biblical typology, the language naturally explained of the person celebrated in the psalm, and then the person himself may be shown to be a type and illustration of a greater one to come.” See Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 384.
[13] Vern S. Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalists, 2d. ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1987), 115-116.
[14] For a technical discussion on how the early New Testament church interprets the Old Testament, see E. Earle Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1991), 77-121.
[15] Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, 171.
[16] Galatians 6:15-16 is discussed in Chapter 3.
[17] This passage in Jeremiah will be discussed later in future blogs. A few other noteworthy cases of Old Testament prophecy directly applied to the Church are as follows: Acts 2:15-21, Acts 10:43, Acts 15:14-18, Romans 1:1,2, Romans 4:13-17, 23, 24, Romans 9:32, 33, Romans 15:4, 8-10, 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1.
[18] John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1038.
[19] Millard J. Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology: Making Sense of the Millennium (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1998), 92-93.
[20] I have consulted more than 12 different translations of this verse, and they all generally agree with the King James translation of Isaiah 2:4b. Even the 1890 Darby Bible renders Isaiah 2:4 as, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall reprove many peoples; and they shall forge their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-knives: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
[21] Poythress expresses his criticism concerning how a Dispensationalist might interpret figures in prophecy, “How do we tell the difference between a figurative and a nonfigurative expression? Is this always perfectly plain to everyone? Dispensationalists have in fact left themselves some convenient maneuvering room. It is possible that sometimes they have decided what is figurative and what is nonfigurative after the fact. That is, they may have conveniently arranged their decisions about what is figurative after their basic system is in place telling them what can and what cannot be fitted into the system. The decisions as to what is figurative and what way it is figurative may be a product of the system as a whole rather than the inductive basis of it. Or rather we may have a circular process. The needs of consistency with the system help the proponents to decide what is figurative; and making those decisions helps them to produce interpretations of particular texts that support the consistency of the system.” See Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalists, 53.
[22] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1989; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), 809.
[23] Bavinck, The Last Things, 96.
[24] Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 123. I am aware that, “in the history of interpretation the question has been occasionally asked whether allegorical and typological interpretation are one method of interpretation mistakenly called by two different names, or actually two different methods of interpretation.” See Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 221-222. Also refer to Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 221-227 for a summary of the ongoing controversy between scholars with regard to the distinction between the allegorical and typological methods of interpretation.
[25] Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, 168-169.
[26] Reformed exegetes are aware that the allegorical meaning is neither argumentative nor conclusive, i.e. sensus allegoricus non est argumentativus.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Ecclesiology or the Doctrine of the Church in the Westminster Standards

The Visible Church

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV Paragraph 2, “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

The Westminster Larger Catechism is even more concise:

Question 62: What is the visible church?

Answer: The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.

The visible church is so called because we can actually see how many members there are in a particular church. But we cannot know how many of these members are born again, or genuinely saved. “There is only one [visible church]. But it includes many branches (often called denominations) and is made up of a very large number of particular congregations.”[1] Therefore, according to the Westminster Standards, the visible church includes the various Christian denominations in the world, and consists of an immense number of local congregations. Nevertheless, there is only one visible Church.

With respect to time, the visible Church “includes believers of all ages of the world’s history, from the time of Adam and Eve to the end of the world. All people of every age who professed faith in the true religion are included in the visible church.”[2]

Included within the visible Church is the Old Testament church - national Israel - and the New Testament church. It even includes believers living before the time of Abraham, such as Abel and Noah. The visible Church is in no way limited to the nation of Israel, or to any gentile nation on the planet. “It includes people in all places of the world, wherever the light of the gospel has penetrated the world’s darkness and some people have professed the true religion.”[3]

Hodge summarizes the doctrine of the visible Church laid out in the Westminster Standards, “These sections [of the Confession of Faith] teach that there is . . . a catholic or universal visible Church, consisting of those of every nation who profess the true religion, together with their children.”[4]

As indicated by the Reformed definition of the visible Church, there is obviously no distinction whatsoever between the nation of Israel and the Church. The visible Church includes believers from the nation of Israel and the gentile nations, from the time of Adam to the end of the age.

The Invisible Church

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV Paragraph 1 also states, “The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”

The invisible Church is essentially the entire body of the elect. This is clearly defined by the Larger Catechism:

Question 64: What is the invisible church?

Answer: The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

The Larger Catechism teaches that all the elect of all ages are included in the invisible church. The invisible church is so called simply because we cannot see exactly who belongs to this church. Neither do we know the exact number of elect whom the Father has given to the Son. Vos writes:

“Are Old Testament saints who died in faith, from Abel to the time of Christ, members of the invisible church? Yes. Christ has only one spiritual body, and the redeemed of all ages - both Jews and Gentiles - are members of it.”[5]

The invisible Church is a collective body embracing all the elect, from both the Old Covenant dispensation and the New Covenant administration. Once again, there is no distinction between the elect of national, ethnic Israel, and those from the New Testament church. The hermeneutical distinction between Israel and the Church is a sine qua non of Dispensationalism, not Reformed theology.

The Westminster Standards teach “that there is a collective body, comprising all the elect of God of all nations and generations, called the Church invisible. The fact that there is such a body must be believed by every person who believes that all men, of every age and nation since Adam, who received Christ and experienced the power of his redemption, are to be saved, and that all who reject him will be lost.”[6]

Reformed Ecclesiology

Reformed theologians see the Church as having its beginning in the Old Testament. The Church has existed since the time of Adam, and her existence extends through the patriarchal period, to the Mosaic Period, and into the current New Testament church age.[7] “In the Patriarchial Period the families of believers constituted the religious congregations; the Church was best represented in the pious households, where the fathers served as priest.”[8]

But during the Mosaic Period, “the whole nation [of Israel] constituted the Church; and the Church was limited to the one nation of Israel, though foreigners could enter it by being incorporated into the nation.”[9] In the New Testament period, God expanded the promises of the gospel to all the nations, which include Jews and Gentiles. Under the New Covenant administration, the national boundaries of Israel were dissolved to include the whole world. Wild olive branches are being grafted onto the original olive tree (Rom. 11).

Hoeksema explains, “[The Church] is not limited to any particular nation, tongue, or tribe, but embraces all the nations of the world and transcends all human relationships. The church is neither Jew nor Greek, neither German nor American, neither British nor Russian. It swallows up all natural distinctions into one, holy, catholic fellowship. Such is the meaning of the confession [in the Apostles’ Creed], “I believe a holy, catholic church.’”[10]

The Reformed creeds are unanimous on this understanding of the Church. According to the Reformed teachings on ecclesiology, “the New Testament Church is essentially one with the Church of the old dispensation. As far as their essential nature is concerned, they both consist of true believers, and of true believers only. And in their external organization both represent a mixture of good and evil.”[11]

However, the Reformers do recognize certain changes between the Old and the New Covenant administrations. Worship in the New Testament is no longer localized in Jerusalem. Animal sacrifices are abolished, and replaced with spiritual sacrifices. By virtue of the accomplished, redemptive work of Jesus Christ, “the Church was divorced from the national life of Israel and obtained an independent organization. In connection with this the national boundaries of the Church were swept away. What had up to this time been a national Church now assumed a universal character. And in order to realize the ideal of world-wide extension, it had to become a missionary Church, carrying the gospel of salvation to all the nations of the world. Moreover, the ritual worship of the past made place for a more spiritual worship in harmony with the greater privileges of the New Testament.”[12]

This Reformed understanding of the Church is succinctly described in the Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 27:

“We believe and profess one catholic or universal church, which is a holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Ghost. . . . This church hath been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this, that Christ is an eternal King, which without subjects He cannot be. . . . Furthermore, this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same Spirit.”

According to Reformed ecclesiology, the dispensational, hermeneutical distinction between Israel and the Church is unwarranted.[13] It must be emphasized that the Reformed understanding of the term “Israel” has no association with anti-Semitic sentiments or “liberal” protestant hermeneutics.[14]

There are Reformed theologians who believe in a future conversion of a large number of Jews to Christianity. But even to concur with a future, mass salvation of elect Jews (Rom. 9-11), or the reception of a Jewish remnant into true, spiritual Israel does not necessitate an a priori or an a posteriori acceptance of the Christian Zionistic expectation – a belief in the re-establishment of a Jewish, Davidic Kingdom on Earth.[15] The concept of an earthly, Jewish kingdom cannot be found in the soteriological polemic of Paul in Romans 9-11.[16]

Reformed theologians do not believe that the Church has replaced Israel. The Church is, in fact, Israel (1 Pet. 2:9, Gal. 6:16, Rom. 2:28-29). She is the mature, adult, spiritual Israel of God. According to Romans chapter 11, Israel and the Church both belong to the same olive tree, i.e. there is only one people of God, and God deals with both Israel and the Church as one people (Eph. 2:11-22).[17] After all, there is only one olive tree, not two.[18]

Charles Alexander reminds us that national Israel has not been completely forsaken; a remnant remains according to God’s election of grace:

“All of earthly Israel were not cast away – only the unbeliever. “Some of the branches”. What could be plainer than this, that the apostle is speaking of individual believers throughout this great chapter? “Some of the branches” my brethren; not all of them were broken off. The holy stock was not uprooted, just “some of the branches”. Even though history has proved that the old stock was well nigh stripped of its natural branches, there still remained a remnant according to the election of grace.”[19]

If the Church has truly replaced Israel spiritually, Paul would have described the cutting down of the original olive tree in Romans chapter 11,[20] and the planting of a wild olive tree. Natural olive branches can subsequently be grafted onto the wild olive tree. On the other hand, if Israel and the Church are distinct (as Dispensationalists claim), Paul would have described two olive trees i.e. the planting of a wild olive tree beside the natural one, and not the grafting of wild olive branches onto the original olive tree.

Frame aptly writes,

“The church, composed of Jews and Gentiles (with, of course, their families as equal members of one body), was the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). The olive tree of Abraham continued, but with some old (Jewish) branches broken off and some new (Gentile) branches grafted in (Rom 11:11–24). The church received the titles of Israel: “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Pet 2:9f.; cf. Exod 19:6; Tit 2:14).”[21]

Professor David Engelsma points out that,

“As the true Israel of God, the church is God’s one and only wife. Jehovah God does not have two wives, as premillennial dispensationalism, both traditional and progressive, necessarily teaches. Since the Old Testament teaches that Israel was the wife of God and since the New Testament teaches that the church is the wife of God in Jesus Christ and since dispensationalism teaches that Israel and the church are two different peoples, dispensationalism holds that God has two wives. For dispensationalism, God is the original bigamist.”[22]

God, indeed, has only one people. Jesus Christ has only one bride - the Church. Our God is not a bigamist, and it is a serious error to insinuate that He is.

According to Reformed ecclesiology, elect Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. The Church, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, is the true spiritual Israel in the New Covenant administration.[23]

Who, then, is a true Israelite? The rightful child of Abraham is no longer identified via ethnicity or genealogical descent (Gal. 3:7), but by faith in the Messiah. “Not ancestry but faith, not human achievement but God’s gift, calling, and election, acknowledged in Jesus, son of Abraham, son of David, Son of God.”[24]

Concerning the identity of Israel, David Holwerda writes:

“Who then is Israel? The answer is never simply a matter of ancestry. Consequently, the central issue in the New Testament is not really Jew versus Gentile. Instead, Israel is the people chosen by God and called to respond in faith and obedience. Israel is the people on whom the Lord sets his love (Deuteronomy 7:7). Such also is Matthew’s teaching. Jesus, a literal descendant of Abraham, himself a Jew, is the Israel who is the object of God’s love. He is chosen by God and responds in perfect obedience, fulfilling the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17) and all righteousness (3:15). Since Jesus is the corporate representative of Israel, God now recognizes as Israel all who respond in faith and obedience to the presence and will of God revealed in Jesus. Of course, the first to so respond are in fact Jews.”[25]

Contrary to dispensational preconceptions and notions, the New Testament Church is not a Gentile organization. The NT Church is, in fact, a very Jewish organization. Its Messiah is Jewish, and it is founded entirely by Jews. The first converts of the Christian Church were all Jews. Even the apostles were Jews, and most, perhaps all, of the New Testament writers were also Jews. The grafting of wild olive branches onto the original olive tree does not turn it into a wild olive tree. The truth is: there is only one olive tree. The dispensational distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church is clearly not founded upon Scripture.


[1] Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, ed. G. I. Williamson (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 2002), 136.
[2] Ibid., 137.
[3] Ibid.
[4] A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1869), 312.
[5] Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, 142.
[6] Hodge, The Confession of Faith, 311. For a more extensive treatment of the doctrine of the Church in the Reformed creeds, see Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, 2d ed., vol. 2 (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2005), 186-192.
[7] For more information on Reformed ecclesiology, study the systematic theology of Reformed theologians. For example, see Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1941), 553-658; Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, 179-421; and Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2d ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 805-976.
[8] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 570.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, 193.
[11] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 571.
[12] Ibid.
[13] See Mathison’s book Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? for an introduction to the issue of “distinction between Israel and the Church.” I strongly recommend this easily accessible book.
[14] There are some who accuse non-dispensationalists of being “anti-Semitic.” They usually mean “theological anti-Semitism” rather than racial “anti-Semitism”. True anti-Semitism is defined as prejudice against Semitic people simply because they are Semites. Occasionally, this allegation is part of their defamatory tactics and ad hominem attacks. Old Testament prophecies related to national Israel have been fulfilled in (1) the return of the Jews after their exile into Assyria and Babylon, (2) the first-century establishment of the Jewish church, and (3) the First Advent of Jesus Christ. See William Hendriksen, Israel and Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1968), 16–31. The first century church was made up almost exclusively of Jews. Later, Gentile believers were grafted into an already existing Jewish Church (Rom. 11:19). These believers, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, are the true “Jews” (Rom. 2:28–29), the true “circumcision” (Phil. 3:3), the true “seed of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7, 29), the “children of promise” (Gal. 4:28), the “commonwealth of Israel” (Eph. 2:12, 19). There are also those who refer to amillennialists as being “anti-Israel,” while they reserve the term “pro-Israel” for themselves. Such terms are not helpful in the current theological dialogue between Dispensationalists and Reformed theologians. Terms such as “pro-Church” and “anti-Church” can likewise be coined to refer to Reformed and Dispensational theologians respectively. Just as amillennialists are not “anti-Israel,” Bible Presbyterians would admit that they are not “anti-Church.”
[15] See David A. Rausch, “Christian Zionism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1984), 1201-1202, for more information on Christian Zionism. For a thorough assessment of the theological emphases of Christian Zionism, see Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 106-205. For an accessible critique of the Christian Zionistic expectation of an earthly Jewish Kingdom in the Millennium, see Stephen Sizer, “An Alternative Theology of the Holy Land: A Critique of Christian Zionism,” The Churchman 113, no. 2 (1999); available from; Internet; accessed 10 October 2005.
[16] An excellent discussion of Romans chapter 11 is found in O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 2000), 167-192. Also see Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1979; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co and Cumbria, UK: The Paternoster Press, 1994), 196-201.
[17] See David Holwerda, Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1995), 1-112. It gives an in-depth analysis of the Reformed position on Israel and the church.
[18] To understand what Reformed theologians really taught about ethnic Israel, see Fred Klett, Calvin, Hodge, Murray, Vos, Edwards, Henry: What Do They Say about the Jewish People? [article on-line]; available from; Internet; accessed 10 October 2005. Do not accept the dispensationalist’s “straw man” (e.g. “Replacement” Theology, anti-Semitism) as the genuine Reformed position on Israel.
[19] Charles D. Alexander, “Romans Eleven and the Two Israels: An Exposition of Romans 9-11” (Unpublished lecture notes, n.d.), 15.
[20] For a good primer to the meaning of “all Israel” in Romans 11:26, see Herman Bavinck, The Last Things: Hope for This World and the Next, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1996), 104-107.
[21] John M. Frame, “Toward a Theology of the State,” Westminster Theological Journal 51, no. 2 (1989): 220.
[22] David J. Engelsma, “A Brief Study of Jeremiah 3 on Divorce,” Protestant Reformed Theological Journal 39, no.2 (2006): 15.
[23] True spiritual Israel now consists of both elect Jews and Gentiles. For an excellent book collating all Old Testament passages which were addressed to ethnic Israel, and subsequently quoted in the New Testament to refer to the Church, see Charles D. Provan, The Church Is Israel Now (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1987), 49-64.
[24] Holwerda, Jesus and Israel, 57.
[25] Ibid., 56-57.