Monday, February 19, 2007


Last night while discussing theology with my wife, I inadvertently stumbled across an idea. I'm probably not the first to think of this--at least I hope I'm not--but the idea was basically this:

If God has two distinct peoples with two distinct plans as classic and revised dispensationalists maintain, then does that make Jesus a polygamist. Does Jesus have two brides? I posted a blog that explains the context of our conversation and further explains my thoughts on this issue over at SOLUS CHRISTUS.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and receive any correction I need.

Thanks guys,



GUNNY said...

Israel is depicted as the wife of Yahweh in the OT and, of course, Jesus is the husband who lays down His life as an act of love for His bride, the church.

I think you have touched on what I would think would be problematic.

In my mind, the elect of all ages is the spouse of the triune God, but then again I see continuity between spiritual/true Israel and the church, as the wild branch is grafted into the one tree, namely Christ.

Would the dispensational response be that God doesn't have two wives ... at the same time?

Would they say God divorced Israel, His earthly spouse, and is betrothed to the New Covenant community (i.e., the church) at this time?

What about upon the 2nd coming? In eternity, wouldn't there be an earthly and a heavenly spouse ... at the same time?

On another note, if Jesus died for the church (Eph 5:25), what about the elect prior to the cross? Didn't He also die for them, else they have another means of salvation?

This contributes to my conceptualization of Christ dying on behalf of the elect, past, present, and future. In the New Covenant, His ekklesia is composed of Jews and Gentiles, not just Gentiles to the exclusion of Israelites.

Just some cogitations ...

GUNNY said...

Oh ... to answer your question, the answer is "NO!" ... at least in the little world according to Gun.

Chris Freeland said...

Or, the dispensationalist might say that God is not Israel or the Church's actual wife and eliminate the problem altogether.

Is this going to be a blog where dts grads regularly take pot shots at those who went before us? If so, I wish to be removed from being a part of the posting team.

M. Jay Bennett said...


I apologize if my question came across as a pot-shot. That's not what I intended. It was a genuine question of mine that I don't recall was ever addressed at the school.

While I have theological differences with the institution, I love all my teachers and fellow students deeply. So much so that I feel I am "part of the family," and therefore able to ask questions such as this in-house.

I might regard my question as a pot-shot had I asked it from the pulpit at a conference where no one from the dispensational perspective was allowed to respond. I wouldn't ever consider doing such a thing. But as an in-house blog, I figured some good discussion might be generated by it. I was also hoping for a good answer.

I'm not so sure I see how viewing the marriage analogy as not actual solves the problem. Surely the analogy is meant to communicate something true? Perhaps it is meant to communicate the covenant faithfullness of God? But the idea that such faithfulness is meant to be between one husband and one wife, the one for one equation, seems in my eyes to be a defining characteristic of it. We read throughout the Bible that God is for his people and against his enemies. We never read that he has more than one covenant people.

Again I apologize if my question was offensive to you. That wasn't my intention. I ask your forgiveness.


GUNNY said...

Well, I don't think anyone is intentionally bashing or taking pot shots at any theologians or teachers.

I do, however, think as DTSers we're probably a lot more knowledgable about these things than most.

That being said, in all my years associated with DTS as a student and adjunct faculty member, such a question never surfaced.

I think it is actually quite interesting as it goes to the nature of covenant and God in covenant.

For a human male in this era, he is not to have multiple wives (cf. 1 Cor 7:2). In fact, if in covenant with one, he must remain faithful and cannot enter into another, lest he terminate the former in the process.

I know this is not a post on marriage and divorce, but in Deut 24 a guy cannot divorce Wife1 and marry Wife2 and divorce her and go back to Wife1. Why? Because he's in covenant with Wife2 now.

How analagous is the analogy?

Did God enter a covenant with the church (New) that made the old (Mosaic) one obsolete (Heb 8:13)?

Such could be seen to mean no future for Israel (nationally) who has been written a certificate of divorce.

But, this can be troublesome for the covenantal system as well, it seems to me. In other words, there is significant discontinuity.

Dispensationalism sees this, but still sees a future for Israel, a discussion for another day perhaps as to what that future might be (e.g., national, ethnic, etc.).

The covenantal language and the importance of marriage and "Bride of Christ" terminology has to mean something. But what?

I'm curious if anyone ever put forth the notion of differentiation within trinity. For example, has anyone ever said that the Father was (or is) married to the nation of Israel (elect nation containing elect & non-elect people) and the Son is married to the church (all elect or mixed, depending on one's understanding of covenant).

Hey, we're all friends here, just working through some of this stuff MUCH deeper than the exposure can be in seminary.

Interesting slooge, Jay. I will cogitate further and search some sources that are deemed credible.

M. Jay Bennett said...

If the Mosaic covenant is built upon the Abrahamic, which is eternal, how could obsolescence equal divorce? Between these two covenants it seems we would have to say the "marriage" is fundamentally built upon the Abrahamic covenant, where God promised to be with them as their God (Actually I would take it back to the protoevangelium as the first promise given in the Covenant of Grace).

Did Israel begin with Moses? Or did it begin with God's call of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the promise to make them into a great nation?

Also, is it possible that the "newness" of the New covenant is an already/not yet reality. We are new creatures in Christ (already), yet we await final glorification (not yet). This does not mean that my glorified body will be essentially different from the body I have now. But it will be better. The heavens and earth will be made new, but this doesn't mean that they are essentially different from the present heavens and earth. The covenant for now includes both regenerate and unregenerate, but eventually God will purify his church and all will know him so that it will not be necessary to say to our neighbor, "Know the Lord."

Perhaps the newness of the New covenant is the same kind of newness. Perhaps the covenant is not essentially different from the covenants that preceded it. But is is better. Why? Because the covenants of old were totally anticipatory. They were all promise and no fulfillment. But the New is both promise and fulfillment. The new includes the Holy Spirit's personal indwelling of every believer and also the universal extension to the nations. The New is also reflective (a looking back at the finished work of Christ).


GUNNY said...

"Did Israel begin with Moses? Or did it begin with God's call of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the promise to make them into a great nation?"

That certainly depends on what you mean by Israel, for any of those options could be right or Jacob or even before Abraham where God would save a people, if the church is the spiritual Israel.

"The new includes the Holy Spirit's personal indwelling of every believer and also the universal extension to the nations. The New is also reflective (a looking back at the finished work of Christ)."

I feel you on that first part, but am skeptical on the already not yet of the New ... at least what you are suggest is the not yet.

Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, but it seems that is the sign of the New Covenant (i.e., not baptism).

This is drawn out in the book of Acts where different types of people receive the Holy Spirit, thereby validating that even Samaritans and Gentiles are part of the New Covenant.

The problem, as I see it, with what you said is that the New Covenant sure seems that the Holy Spirit is promised to all in the covenant.

This is why I think the New Covenant is dramatically different; it is not a covenant made with a regenerate & unregenerate mix, but with believers.

The fulfillment aspect is a covenant people who are all regenerate. This is what stunk about the Mosaic, there were so many unregernate, unelect messing things up for the remnant.

But the New is better than the Old in this regard.

"If the Mosaic covenant is built upon the Abrahamic, which is eternal, how could obsolescence equal divorce?"

What means you by "is built upon" in that statement?

M. Jay Bennett said...

My question about Israel's beginning was meant to point out that the nation began when Israel (Jacob) was born. It was also meant to point out that to centralize one's thinking around the Mosaic covenant when thinking about Israel is short-sighted.

What I mean when I say that the MC is built on the AC is that the MC is irrelevant and has no meaning apart from the AC. The MC does not stand alone but it is built upon a foundation which is the AC. Therefore, the graciousness of God toward his people under the MC is no different than it was under the AC. It is essentially the same graciousness based retrogressively upon the finished work of Christ.

In my mind, this is one of the problems with drawing such a strong contrast between the MC and NC in terms of law and grace. The MC, because it was built upon the AC, is no less gracious than the AC (or the NC for that matter). There is nothing ungracious about law when it is used lawfully. The problem arises when one believes that he can merit God's favor or achieve righteousness through personal obedience to the law.

If one follows the typical dispensational-like contrast to its logical conclusion then he would have to say Israel made a mistake by accepting the terms of the MC at Sinai. They should have declined the offer and remained under the gracious AC. I know you wouldn't say that. But it's where the dichotomy between MC and NC leads one, if one sees continuity between the NC and AC as Paul does.

I would agree that the personal indwelling of every believer by the HS is promised in the NC. But how can something invisible be a sign? It seems to me that the purpose of a sign is to signify that which is invisible (i.e. the promise of the Spirit)

If the Spirit is the way one enters the New covenant, how can it be promised to those in the New covenant? Why would God promise to give what he already gave?

This is a new idea I hadn't run across before. The baptist must either say that the Spirit is promised to New covenant members or to those who would believe. But because the Spirit itself is the sign of the New covenant problems arise. If the Spirit is promised to NC members then the problem is what I stated above. If the latter, then the problem is that God is making promises to people living outside of covenant relations with him. How does that work?

I don't know if I'd say it was always the unregenerate messing things up under the MC. There are plenty of examples of folks we have every reason to believe were regenerate messing things up big time. David would be a case in point.