The American Vision recently published an article that is consistent with their known anti-dispensationalism agenda: mis-characterizing dispensationalism and constructing straw man arguments to marginalize their opponents. With the abundance of scholarship from notable Calvinists who ascribe to futuristic premillennialism (dispensationalism), it is difficult to comprehend how a PhD such as Joel McDurmon could pen such an ignorantly-written hit piece against dispensationalists. Either he has not done his research, or he considers dual-covenant theology, Word of Faith teacher John Hagee as his dispensationalism poster boy.
On January 2, 2014, Dr. Joel McDurmon published Israel goes full Moloch: state-funded abortions opened up. Dr. McDurmon would have done well to stick to commenting on the facts about the recent display of wickedness by the Israeli government to fund abortions. However, Dr. McDurmon quoted the following from Haaretz, with his own preemptive spin on how dispensationalists would react to the news:
What will the dispensational, pro-Israel-no-matter-what Christian-Right say now? According to Israeli mainstream news, Haaretz, God’s allegedly chosen-forever-people have just returned wholly unto passing their children through the fires of Moloch’and state-funded at that:
Israel will pay for abortions for women aged 20 to 33 regardless of circumstance starting next year, health officials said Monday, adding that they hope to make eligibility for state funding universal in the future.
Until now, subsidized abortions for women of all ages were available in medical emergencies or in case of rape and sexual abuse. Women under the age of 20 or over 40 were also eligible for abortion funding even when the reason was personal.
Instead of justly commenting on the evil sanctioned by the Israeli government, Dr. McDurmon seized the opportunity to push The American Vision’s fallacious agenda to undermine dispensationalism. The focus of the article was not on the depravity of the nation of Israel, but on dispensationalists who McDurmon believes blindly support the Israeli nation.
I wonder who exactly McDurmon is referring to by “dispensational, pro-Israel-no-matter-what Christian right”? If he indeed has in mind the likes of John Hagee, this speaks volumes to the lack of depth of McDurmon’s understanding of dispensationalism. John Hagee may be “Pro-Israel-no-matter-what”; he may be a part of the “Christian right”; but John Hagee is no credible representative of dispensationalism. Hagee’s heretical belief that God’s covenant with Jews is different than God’s covenant with the Gentiles disqualifies him from being a dispensationalist. Salvation has always come by God’s grace alone through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ alone. The means through which God saves under the New Covenant is the preaching of the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, then the Gentile (Romans 1:16). So, salvation does not come apart from the preaching of the Gospel and responding to the commands of Jesus Christ to repent and believe on Him. Any teaching to the contrary not only does not characterize dispensationalism, but is blatant heresy.
Even if McDurmon doesn’t lump all dispensationalists with the “support-Israel-no-matter-what Christian Right”, his rhetoric “their beloved chosen-forever people are over in the land of promise” emphasizes his disdain for dispensationalism, the theology that God has one people in Himself with distinctive purposes for Israel and the Church, including a future plan of restoration for national Israel. Arguing for dispensationalism is beyond the scope of this article; however, it will be stated in no uncertain terms that dispensationalism does not in any way turn a blind eye to the evils of any secular nation, including and especially Israel. Yet, McDurmon pontificates:
So while support-Israel-no-matter-what Christian Right types are at home decrying abortion and ObamaCare, their beloved chosen-forever people are over in the land of promise practicing and state-funding that very same thing to a degree far worse, far more liberal, far-more defiant of God, far more deserving of national judgment, far, by degree, more deserving of hellfire.
Any credible dispensationalist recognizes that Israel is a pagan nation. In fact, the depravity taking place in Israel, whether it’s manifested by abortion or homosexuality, is consistent with the reality that God has hardened their hearts (Roman 11:7) and given them up to a debased mind (Romans 1:28). Israel is under the judgment of God as they have been for the last 2,000 years. Every tribulation the Jews have suffered as a people has been the consequence of their rebellion against Yahweh and rejection of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. They are under God’s curse just as He promised (Deut 11:26-28). So whether it has been by holocaust, enslavement, or by its manifestation of practicing evil, the Jewish nation is suffering the wrath of God. The judgment will continue as God cuts off two-thirds of the nation to refine them and turns their hearts to Messiah during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Zechariah 13:8-9).
Not only is God faithful to keep His promises to curse Israel, but He is faithful to keep His promise to restore the nation (Deut 30:1-10; Psalm 89:28-37; Jeremiah 31:31-40 ; Ezekiel 36:16-38 ; Romans 11:25-36, etc. etc. etc.). It is therefore absurd to ridicule dispensationalists who reject any thought that due to Israel’s present wicked condition, God will not restore the nation according to His Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenant promises – as if Israel’s rebellion and hardening is proof that God is forever finished with the nation (remember Romans 11:25, etc.).
McDurmon’s final straw man comes when he says:
And what shall they say? Shall they dare criticize Israel? Shall they dare address her murders and blasphemies? In doing so, would they have to admit they need to preach to Gospel to them, too? After all, we are told that we need to bless Israel. And how is the best way to bless a blaspheming, murdering nation? Correct them? Convert them? Or to let them continue in soul-damning sin?
The absurdity here is palpable. Of course the Gospel must be preached. Does McDurmon really think that Dr. John MacArthur or Dr. Steve Lawson, for example, would teach otherwise? As for myself, I have clearly stated in this article that Israel is both a wicked nation, and they need the Gospel. After all, Romans 10:14-15 has the immediate context of preaching the Good News of Messiah to whom? Jews! Yet, how the nations of the world treat Israel does have consequences of blessings or curses (Genesis 12:1-3). During the Millennial Kingdom, we see that Christ will rule the nations with a rod of iron, smashing those rebelling against King Jesus who will be reigning on His promised Davidic throne (Psalm 2:7-9). He will also destroy the nations who do not serve Israel during the Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 60:12).
In closing, my response to Dr. McDurmon has not been to prove him wrong regarding his view of dispensationalism. Such a task would require much more effort in dealing with the root of our disagreement – our differences in Bible interpretation. My intent in writing this response to McDurmon has primarily been to expose the logical fallacies in his argumentation, in hopes he might be more careful (and less caustic) in how he addresses dispensationalism. I am not asking Dr. McDurmon to agree with dispensationalism, but I am asking him to consider his lack of charity and lack of respect for those who do adhere to dispensationalism in its purest form (distinction between the Church and Israel with a future restoration for the nation of Israel).
I also ask those who are quick to jump on the bash-dispensationalism bandwagon anytime The American Vision publishes a hit piece against the doctrine to carefully consider how much you know about what we believe. I know its fun to knock on dispensationalists thinking we base our theology on the Left Behind series, but that too is a straw man and only reveals and propagates ignorance. If you seek to understand what we believe from primary sources, two good places to start are:
But don’t let the title of the latter book throw you off. Dr. Michael Vlach uses the term in his title as it is an historically accepted term among those who teach the church has replaced, fulfilled, or superseded Israel as the benefactors of God’s covenant promises. Dr. Vlach objectively examines the history of supersessionism, the hermeneutical differences between dispensationalism and supersessionism, and addresses key Scriptures used in the debate. It’s definitely a book of critical importance for both the dispensationalist and covenantalist.
Finally, if nothing else, I encourage you to read Dr. Vlach’s brief article How Two Covenant Theologians View Dispensationalism. Dr. Vlach closes with the following:
Hopefully, this [article] can also serve as a motivation for those on both sides to engage the Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology debate with maturity and giving attention to the main issues like hermeneutics, people of God, kingdom, etc. May language such as “goofy” “heresy,” “serious distortion” and similar language be dropped from the discussion along with misrepresentations and straw man arguments. If you are a Dispensationalist, the way to deal with the tactics of those like Sproul is not by responding in kind with emotional rhetoric and straw man arguments but by discussing the real issues with those we openly embrace as true brothers and sisters in the cause of Christ.
As I alluded in this article, let’s welcome healthy debate and discussion on the doctrines with which we disagree, but please, by all means, check the straw man and abrasive language at the door. We would all be the better for it, and more importantly, Christ will be glorified in our charitable disagreements.
Please aim to keep discussion in the Gospel Spam combox below, for other readers to take note.