From the Comments: The Connection of the Church with Israel, Part 12 (A Little New Perspective)

graftedolivetreeWe’re getting close to the end. Really.

Part of N.T. Wright’s contribution to contemporary theology is his understanding of the place of Israel in the great, grand narrative of scripture.

For most of us, Israel is like a mistake God made and wishes never happened. Jesus came to erase Israel, we seem to think. Therefore, we can save ourselves a lot of time and trouble and skip Old Testament studies, because it was all a big mistake.

Or we might see Israel as simply a place to find great children’s stories — a spiritual version of Aesop’s fables. Therefore, we study Abraham in middle school but never among the adults.

Several scholars have worked to better connect Old Testament and New, Israel and the church. We recently studied a series on the book  Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan. by John H. Walton. The gist of the book is to show that God’s purpose in giving us the scriptures, old and new, is to reveal himself to his people. Why?

Much of the answer is found in the fact that God is a covenanting god. He wants to be in relationship with certain elect people, with whom he makes covenants.

He elected Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants through Isaac and Jacob, to be the parents of the nation of Israel. Why?

(Gen 17:4-6 ESV) 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.”

As we’ve earlier seen, Paul points out that the entry of the Gentiles into the Kingdom, which is the elect covenant people, makes Abraham the father of a multitude of nations.

(Gen 22:17-18 ESV) 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,  18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

And, of course, God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s offspring (seed) further assures the eventual entry of the Gentiles.

Through Isaiah, God charged Israel to be a light to the nations —

(Isa 42:6-9 ESV)  6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,  7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.  8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.  9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

(Isa 49:6-7 ESV)  6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

God elected Israel, through Abraham, not just to be his people. They were to be a light to the nations. They were to display the greatness of YHWH, so that the Gentiles would be brought in.

There’s a subtlety in the last several chapters of Isaiah, which speak of God’s “servant.” In some places, the servant is clearly Israel. In other places, it’s clearly the Messiah, Jesus.

Wright explains that Jesus stepped up and did what Israel failed to accomplish by itself. He became a light to the nations, fulfilling Israel’s charge.

As Simeon the prophet declared in the Temple when presented with the infant Jesus —

(Luk 2:29-32 ESV) 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;  30 for my eyes have seen your salvation  31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

But this describes, according to the Prophets, not the Messiah but Israel.  Nonetheless, Simeon declares that Jesus will fulfill the purposes of Israel the nation!

And as Paul proclaimed to King Agrippa,

(Act 26:22-23 ESV) 22 “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:  23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Therefore, it was Israel that was intended to suffer to show God’s love to the world, but Jesus who suffered in Israel’s place —

(Isa 44:1-2 ESV)  “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!  2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.”

(Isa 45:4 ESV)  4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.

(Isa 48:20 ESV)  20 Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!”

(Isa 49:3 ESV)  3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

(Isa 52:13-15 ESV)  13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  14 As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind–  15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

(Isa 53:11 ESV)  11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

You can see the ambiguity. “Servant” is plainly Israel in the first several passages, but by Isa. 52:13, “servant” seems to be an individual, the Messiah. Jesus thus became the light of the world and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah in place of Israel. His sacrifice was for Israel (into which the Gentiles have been grafted!), but also to complete the nation’s task. He completed the work God gave to Israel.

It’s not entirely fair to ask whether Israel failed or succeeded, because Jesus, an Israelite, succeeded for Israel. And the history of Israel, you see, has become the history of Christianity — due to the ingrafting of the nations.

This is one reason Jesus had 12 apostles. He was symbolically placing himself in the position of Jacob — also known as Israel — the father of 12 sons. It’s obscure to a Westerner, but an Easterner would know that numbers symbolize a message — a message that does not have to be explained to be understood. Jesus became the new Israel.

In what sense is Jesus Israel? Well, he is light of the world, he is the Suffering Servant, he brought about the blessing of the nations, even the entire world, through his work on earth.

But there’s another element. We Christians are baptized “into” Jesus. The church is the body of Christ. We are charged to complete his mission.

(Mat 5:14-16 ESV)  14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus literally spoke to Israel in calling them the light of the world, but we understand that, having been grafted in, we step into that calling as well.

(Phi 2:14-16 ESV) 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Oh. It’s great that Jesus chose to step into Israel’s role as Suffering Servant, charged to show the world the nature of God in a most surprising, upside-down way — God who suffers for his children.

We now share in that mission.

(Rom 5:3-5 ESV) 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Mat 10:34-39 ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

This is tough stuff. Theology is fun, until it hits home. Here is home.

(Rom 11:19-22 ESV) 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.  21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

And so we’ve come full circle.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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24 Responses to From the Comments: The Connection of the Church with Israel, Part 12 (A Little New Perspective)

  1. Grace says:

    In Romans 9 Paul speaks about the Jewish people from the nation of Israel that some Jewish people are True Israelites and some are not.

    Romans 9:4-5 They are Israelites. The adoption as God’s children, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises belong to them. The Jewish ancestors are theirs, and the Christ descended from those ancestors. He is the one who rules over all things, who is God, and who is blessed forever. Amen.

    Romans 9:6-9 It cannot be said that God broke his promise. After all, not all of the people of Israel are the true people of God. In fact, when God made the promise to Abraham, he meant only Abraham’s descendants by his son Isaac. God was talking only about Isaac when he promised Sarah, “At this time next year I will return, and you will already have a son.”
    The promises of God belong to the Israelites, not belonged. The promise God made with Abraham and his Jewish descendants didn’t disappear when Jesus showed up.

    The problem with this theology is not whether the promise that nations are blessed, they are. The problem with this theology is that it implies a kind of subtle replacement theology. The absurd implications of this theology are that, Jesus, the King of Israel, prophesied by Israel’s prophets, the Holy One of Israel, He comes and does His thing, and what’s the end result… the result is a King who makes His promise that they remain a nation irrelevant. Some King of Israel!

    When people say, the nation of Israel is dried up, without any hope and with no future…they are a heathen nation going to hell! The Scriptures give a better perspective that is for the nation of Israel.

    Jeremiah 31:35-37 Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of hosts is his name: If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus says the LORD: If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.

    Ezekiel 37:11-14 God said to me, Mortal man, the PEOPLE OF ISRAEL are like these bones. They say that they are dried up, without any hope and with no future. So prophesy TO MY PEOPLE ISRAEL and tell them that I, the Sovereign LORD, am going to open their graves. I am going to take them out and BRING THEM BACK TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL. When I open the graves where my people are buried and bring them out, they will know that I am the LORD. I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, AND LET THEM LIVE IN THEIR OWN LAND. Then they will know that I am the LORD. I have promised that I would do this—and I will. I, the LORD, have spoken

    Romans 11:1-5 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

    Romans 11:26-29 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from JACOB; For this is My covenant with THEM, When I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are IRREVOCABLE.

    God has not said the church is now new Israel, nor did Jesus ever call Himself new Israel.

    The term Israel is either used of the nation or the Jewish people as a whole or the believing remnant within.

  2. rich constant says:

    thanks for the comment grace,
    I would say that you then believe that Romans, chapter / verse, 3:22 Paul is speaking to the forensic Righteousness of God with an anthropological viewpoint to the, faith of Christ,being in the objective genitive?
    dollars to donuts your answer is yes.
    rich constant says:
    February 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

    the viewpoint above, has been likened to a computer virus that has corrupted the primary operating System.
    The Theories of Lutheranism and Calvinism when put together makes the dogma of Paul sound sound like a small train that goes in a small circle and instead of going woo, woo,… the noise of the whistle go’s KOO , KOO.
    Skews the Whole conceptional meaning of God Delivering his broken Creation into the new cosmos.
    ROM 4:13 to the point of ROM 8:21
    4:13 For the promise
    to Abraham or to his descendants that he
    would inherit the world (cosmos ) was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
    8:21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children.
    and yes i know this is supposed to be a hyperbole ( I THINK) although i am having doubts about a lot now including the regulatory principal and the baconistic method of putting together the rules of our life in the body of Christ. which is about the freedom found in faithfulness.

    1:12 that is, that we may be mutually comforted by one another’s faith, both yours and mine.
    16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that had been kept secret for long ages,

    15:42 It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 15:43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 15:44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 15:45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 15:46 However, the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. 15:47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. 15:48 Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly. 15:49 And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven.

    15:50 Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15:51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – 15:52 in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 15:54 Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen,
    rich constant says:
    February 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

    rats this goes to/with the above post

    The Resurrection Body
    1st COR
    15:35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 15:36 Fool! What you sow will not come to life unless it dies. 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare seed23 – perhaps of wheat or something else. 15:38 But God gives it a body just as he planned, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 15:39 All flesh is not the same: People have one flesh, animals have another, birds and fish another.24 15:40 And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another. 15:41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory

  3. Alabama John says:

    Keep it simple:

    Acts 2:38 is meant for the Children of Isreal, the Jews, just as the rest of us that know of Jesus.

    Whether we that have the bible believe it or not is our individual decision and we must either enjoy the joy of it or suffer the consequences.

    There is no more blood exceptions.

  4. John says:

    Reading Isaiah, as well as the other prophets, becomes a delight, a joy and a grand challenge when we can follow the suffering servant from Israel, to Jesus, then finally to ourselves. It allows us to see that in Jesus we did not jump from a bad law to a good law; in Jesus we find the perfect (matured) suffering and dying child of God that Israel was experiencing great growth pains to reach. From the miniacle religious highs that the prophets said meant nothing without justice, to near death sufferings and near extinctions that about repentance, we find that being a child of God is more than looking forward to Sunday morning, but the placing of ones human self out into the masses where we bump up against the worlds pains. That part is often rejected because it does not feel religiously satisfying; but a good reading of the prophets will help us know that “good ol’ self satisfaction” is no where guarenteed.

  5. John says:

    Please forgive my misspelled words in my post above. Sometimes my mind and my typing are just now in step.

  6. rich constant says:

    this is just such an informative Great READ by JOHN MARK HICKS i had to copy and paste the WHOLE ARTICAL hope you don’t mind.

    to me …

    Stone-Campbell Hermeneutics III – Baconian Hermeneutics and Churches of Christ

    Warning: this is another “brief” post of over 3000 words. 🙂

    In the previous two posts I concentrated on Alexander Campbell–his modern Baconianism as his philosophical-methodological base and his embrace of the Reformed approach to theological hermeneutics. In this piece I want to think more specifically about how Baconianism shaped how Scripture was used in Churches of Christ. In my next piece I will address how the Reformed hermeneutic has played out among Churches of Christ.

    Lamar’s Baconian Method

    J. S. Lamar (1829-1908 ) wrote the definitive hermeneutical textbook for the 19th century Stone-Campbell Movement–The Organon of Scripture (1859). D. R. Dugan also wrote a signifcant hermeneutics text entitled Hermeneutics: A Text-Book (2nd ed., 1888 ) which was still used as a hermeneutics textbook by some when I attended Freed-Hardeman University from 1974-1977.

    They are bothcut from the same cloth. Both acknowledge their debt to Baconian inductivism and both specifically chose it over other potential methods. It was, in effect, the new hermeneutic of the 19th century as applied to the Biblical text. Dungan is a much more practical text (and thus endured in the schools) but Lamar lays the theoretical and methodological foundations. In Lamar we see what Dungan assumes. Consequently, Lamar is the focus of this post. Though many do not recognize Lamar today (while they may recognize Dungan), Lamar’s inductivism is what Churches of Christ imbibed by reading Dungan. They may not know Lamar, but they know his method and have rigorously practiced it.

    The most helpful and simplest way to understand his method is to examine Lamar’s “temple analogy.” He imagines a field where the blocks for building the temple are strewn out on the ground just like facts are strewn throughout the Bible. It is the builder’s task to erect the temple just as it is the interpreter’s task to erect a system of doctrine. Here is Lamar’s description (pp. 40-42):

    If now, while those stones or blocks were all spread out upon the ground, before the building was commenced, as, for the sake of the illustration we may suppose them to have been, a skillful architect had gone with rule in hand, and carefully measured and compacted every several piece, he could have determined with accuracy the place of every stone in the future building. And if he had been employed to superintend its erection, he could have had the work carried on according to the method or plan which was indicated by the stones themselves. Every piece had an appropriate place, and the marks upon it showed what was that place; and when they were all arranged agreeably to those indications, the structure was Solomon’s Temple.

    It is thus in the Scriptures. The materials of the Temple of Truth are accurately fitted, marked, and numbered, and spread out before the reader, it may be in some confusion, enough to arouse him from indifference to careful examination; and now if he will earnestly consider and carefully compare these materials, it is next to impossible for him to mistake their method, or to fail to arrange them in the precise order designed by their Author and Giver. And simple as it may seem, this just and natural arrangement of the facts or materials of the New Testament, without adding to or subtracting from their number–assigning to every fact, precept, promise, doctrine, blessing, and privilege its own exact place in the collection of the whole–will conduct us in the most direct manner to the clear, full, and correct understanding of Christianity. For the entire business of interpretation consists properly in the careful observation and comparison of the phenomena of revelation, preparatory to the determination of their respective places and relative bearings in the grand synthesis of the whole. The rules, therefore, by which we come to a just understanding of individual facts, and the method which controls the operation of those rules, and arranges those facts into the true Christian system, must be drawn from the nature of the subject as presented in the Bible itself.

    This method amounts to the legitimization of proof-texting. It reduces the narrative of Scripture to a field of marked stones or facts. These are then treated as isolated (atomistic) facts that now must be correlated and synthesized. The facts must be arranged into the “true Christian system.” In other words, the present order of Scripture–in its narrative flow–is not sufficient. The data must be rearranged and put into it’s, as the Baconian Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge put it, “proper order.” It is interesting, is it not, that the Bible is not sufficient as is. Rather, humans must fit it together in “precise order” to discern the “true Christian system”?

    Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (1872-1873) is an example of Baconian inductivism by a Reformed theologian. In his introduction, his headings include: “Inductive Method as Applied to Theology,” “Facts to be Collected,” “The Theologian to be Guided by the Same Rules as the Man of Science,” “Necessity of Complete Induction,” “Principles to be Deduced from Facts,” and “Scriptures Contain all the Facts of Theology.” Sounds like Lamar, huh? Or, is it Lamar and Hodge both sound like Bacon?

    I also find it fascinating that what is supposed to be so clear and plain to everyone who follows the rules of interpretation (as Campbell thought) actually involves earnest consideration and careful comparison because the stones (facts) of the Temple of Truth have been left on the field (Scripture) in some purposeful “confusion”! The method, then, becomes the savior. Without the method, we would know not how to erect the Temple of Truth. But it is a method dependent upon human wisdom though many have thought it was a divinely-given and intended method. [Bobby, does not F. LaGard Smith say something like this in his Cultural Church?]

    The Temple analogy represents the Baconian method itself which Lamar summarizes in this way (pp. 180-81).

    The induction which [Bacon] advocated required the collection of numerous facts or particulars; that they should be carefully weighed and compared; that whatever was special and exceptional, should be excluded or rejected; and that contrary or negative instances should be duly weighed; and that there should be no ascent to the general conclusion, until after all this care, diligence, and circumspection…. That included, besides this careful induction, which was exactly the reverse of it, namely, deduction; which descends from the general to the particular; from the whole to the parts included in it; which affirms that if a given general proposition be true, it follows of necessity that some other one embraced in it must also be true…[Though not developed by Bacon, deduction] is, nevertheless, an essential part of the magnificent scheme he projected….If asked to specify the precise province of deduction in this method, we reply that it is twofold: first, to verify the conclusions or generalizations of induction; and secondly, to conduct to new truth embraced in those conclusions.

    The Baconianmethod includes both induction (gathering the explicit facts) and deduction (implications and inferences). Both are necessary in order to discern “new truth.” Induction alone is insufficient. To see the full system–to erect the whole Temple–we must fill in the blanks with the “new truth” that deduction obtains. Thus, ultimately we can build a system where missing blocks (where there is nothing explicit) are created by deduction (inference). Further, what is deduced becomes a lens by which to read other texts in Scripture with the result that the “plain” meaning of a text is recontextualized by a deduced truth. In other words, the text cannot mean what it appears to say because it would contradict one of the truths we have deduced. It must, therefore, mean something else. Anyone heard that before?

    Campbell certainly used deduction (inference) and he believed truthcould be discern through inference. However, the problem with this fuller explanation of the Baconian method is that now the “true Christians system” is not possible without deduction. What happened in the history of Churches of Christ is that the “true Christian system” became equivalent with the “ancient order” (marks of the church) and “sound doctrine” such that without a full knowledge and practice of that system the individual or church was apostate. In other words, inference once again, as it had in the Westminster Confesson of Faith, became a term of communion–something which the Campbells intended to avoid like the plague.

    The following is my schematic summary of Lamar’s Baconian method:

    1. Induction

    Collect the facts.
    Carefully study and compare the facts.
    Whatever is exceptional is excluded.
    Contrary instances weighed.
    Draw a general truth from the specific facts.

    2. Deduction

    Draw a specific truthfrom a general truth.
    Deduction verifies the induction.
    Deduction yields new truth implied by general truth and combinations of previous deduced and explicit truths.

    3. Erect the System (Temple of Truth).

    Quarry out the facts and new (deduced) truths.
    Systematize them and fit them together.

    4. Result: The Truth, the Whole Truth andNothing but the Truth.

    The irony, of course, is that the Bible as a narrative of redemption is no longer the ultimate truth here. Rather, it is the systematic conclusions of an inductive-deductive method that finally gets us to the truth–it collects the scattered truths (facts) of the Bible, unearths what the Bible only implies, assembles together, collates them, orders them and produces a system (“sound doctrine”). The truth as given to us in the form in which Scripture offers it is thereby insufficient. We need to induct the facts, deduce the new truths, arrange them, systematize and order them into a presentation of the Truth.

    Is it any wonder, then, that though Scripture never offers us the “five steps of salvation” or “five acts of worship” members of Churches of Christ in the mid-20th century were as certain about these as they were that Jesus died for their sins. Their certainty was derived from their confidence in the method–generated by the Enlightenment, popularized by natural science and applied by human wisdom. And, at the same time, they thought their method was “common sense” or even the Biblical method itself.

    Churches of Christ and the Baconian Method

    As Churches of Christ ended the 1950s they were involved a acrimonious debate over institutionalism. This was not simply a hermeneutical discussion but it became the focal point. I will write more about this in another post. But I mention it here because perhaps the most significant book of that era among the institutionalists (the “liberals”) in the discussion was J. D. Thomas’ ‘We Be Brethren’: A Study in Biblical Interpretation (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1958). His subsequent books extended his discussion in defense of his method–Heaven’s Window: A Sequel to We Be Brethren (Abilene: Abilene Christian University Press, 1975) and Harmonizing Hermeneutics: Appplying the Bible to Contemporary Life (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1991). It represents a thirty-three year continuous defense of Baconianism.

    Thomas is quite explicit that he is indebted to the Baconian method (p. 12) and notes that Churches of Christ are in general agreement about its legitimacy. He writes (We Be Brethren, 16-17): “In general our brethren have used the Inductive-Deductive Method of reasoning in a practical way in the past and their conclusions have been quite satisfactory for the most part.” His phrase “for the most part” leaves considerable room for doubt in a method which is supposed to produce and verify the “Temple of Truth.”

    I think I can best make my point about the influence of Baconian methodology by illustrating it. Schematically, the method looks like this: isolated text + isolated text = deduced truth. The deduced truth+ isolated text = another deduced truth. Deduced truth+ another deduced truth= another deduced truth. The deductions (inferences) become as true as andas significant as the explicit statements of the text itself. In fact, the deductions often become the cement as well as a critical blocks in the “Temple of Truth.”

    2 John 9 has been particularly abused by this method. The “doctrine of Christ” is taken to mean “anything Christ teaches” or, more specifically, “anything the New Testament teaches post-Pentecost.” This is a fairly wide circle and everything the New Testament teaches is thrown into it, including deduced (inferred) truths. As a result we get syllogisms like this (and I have heard one’s like this on many occasions–and the minor premise can be a whole list of the “marks of the church” as well as other “doctrines”).

    Major Premise: No one who goes beyond what the New Testament teaches post-Pentecost is in fellowship with God.

    Minor Premise: The New Testament teaches post-Pentecost that communion is every Sunday and only on Sunday.

    Conclusion: Anyone who practices communion on any other daty than Sunday andless than weekly is not in fellowship with God.

    The major premise is a highly inferential way of reading 2 John 9. First, it takes as certain that the “doctrine of Christ” in the text is what Christ teaches rather than what one teaches about Christ. Second, it sneaks in a dispensational distinction–and one that is necessary for the conclusion because Jesus himself ate his own Supper on a Thursday evening (but we’re not permitted to do what Jesus did; did I just say that?). Third, it sneaks in the notion of “New Testament” as a written document when there was no written testament at the time of Pentecost itself. Fourth, “doctrine of Christ” is lifted from the historical context of the text and set in a new context. In its new context–as a premise in a syllogism–it now can mean just about whatever we want it to mean. Extracting it from its original context, we give it a new context. And the new context is the intramural debates within Churches of Christ or the polemics against denominationalism, etc. So, the major premise is itself a inductive-deductive conclusion based upon Baconian reasoning. It is part of the matrix of temple-building.

    The minor premise is an inference from a combination of isolated texts including 1 Corinthians 11:17ff; 16:1-2; Hebrews 10:25 and Acts 20:7. We Be Brethren uses this argument as a piece of common ground among all participants in the debates of the 1950s. They all agreed that this Baconian induction-deduction was certain. But it removes each of these text from their original contexts, isolates them and combines them with other texts that have little, if anything, to do with each other. The result is we draw a conclusion (an inference) from this combination of texts which is not explicit in the text itself. We have concluded that Sunday and only Sunday is the day of communion and this is an inference. The text nowhere states this but it is the inductive-deductive conclusion of Baconian methodology. [By the way, other Baconians in the 19th century did not think the conclusion followed; at the very least it is dubitable.]

    The conclusion of the syllogism, therefore, is certain by the rigor of Baconian logic and methodology, but it is dubious in the extreme because it is fundamentally unfaithful to the historical nature of the biblical text itself. It does not read the text as it was written but reads the texts as pieces of data to be discerned, extracted, collated, arranged and fitted into a system. And it is not surprising that the system actually comes first most of the time and we read the texts in a particular way iin order to support what we already believe.

    An example of how a deduced truth is used to reinterpret another text is Acts 2:46. While it might appear prima facie that “breaking bread” in Acts 2:42 andActs 2:46 refer to the same practice given it is the same context, one of the cherished truths of deduction within Churches of Christ is that the Lord’s Supper can only be observed on the first day of the week. This deduced truth is regarded as certain. Consequently, the daily breaking of bread in Acts 2:46 cannot possibly refer to the Lord’s Supper though the language of “breaking bread” in Acts 2:42 is usually thought to refer to the Lord’s Supper. A deduction drawn from isolated data is thereby used to color the reading of a text. The method, in this case, violates the context of Luke’s own narrative. The Baconian deduction undermines the historical and narratival reading of the text.

    Further, this deduction is then used as a test of fellowship andas a mark of the true church. The above syllogism is an example of this. An inference, then, becomes a line of communion. One does not have to look far within recent literature to actually find such use of inferences defended. See, for example, Jimmy Jividen, “Case Study in Breaking Fellowship Over Inference,” Gospel Advocate 132 (October 1990), 42 and “Should Fellowship be Broken Over Inference,” Gospel Advocate132 (June 1990), 21. Thomas and Alexander Campbell are turning over in their graves! They did not use Baconian inferences for that purpose. They used them to discern truth but they did not use them to draw lines of fellowship.


    While the Stone-Campbell Movement began with a strong sense of the grammatical-historical method–embracing a new literary method of reading the Bible, this was done with the presupposition sof Baconianism. Baconianism soon overshadowed the grammatical-historical (contextual) reading of the text by forcing implied conclusions from the facts as part of a grand system of doctrine and practice to which everyone must submit as a test of communion. In this way the “ancient order of things” (not only the explicit but the impled) became “marks of the true church.” (Anyone remember those sermons which identify the true church by its marks–membership, worship, government, etc.?)

    The combination of an inductive-deductive Baconianism, a Reformed hermeneutic (discussed in a coming post) and a primitivist (restorationist) vision shaped the Churches of Christ. This combination meant that we practiced a Baconianism on steroids because our every deduction became, in effect, a command and every command became a line in the sand.

    Oh, by the way, Lamar ultimately rejected his own method by the end of the 19th century. But Churches of Christ continued to apply it throughout the 20th century.

  7. rich constant says:
    Stone-Campbell Hermeneutics IV — Regulative Principle and Churches of Christ
    Stone-Campbell Hermeneutics V – Moral and Positive Law

  8. Alabama John says:

    So Rich to keep what you are saying in simple terms we all can understand and in so many fewer words, what the church of Christ has taught is BS and we should start over.

    Can we just start from there and move forward instead of beating the past to death by seeing who can top the others of us?

    What is the plan the “past knockers” have for the future is what so many want to know.

    This batter has struck out, no need to stand around, stopping the play, causing a ruckus, lets all start hollaring “next batter up and move on”.

  9. Jay Guin says:

    John wrote,

    [W]e find that being a child of God is more than looking forward to Sunday morning, but the placing of one’s human self out into the masses where we bump up against the world’s pains.

    Exactly (and nicely said).

  10. rich constant says:

    ya know A. john it took me dang near 6 years to get out of high school.
    although for some reason i learned to read.
    i had a natural ability in sports. i was good at almost everything i aspired to accomplish.
    never did get basketball still don’t.
    my dad was retired military played scratch golf 13 years.played catcher for Baltimore Oriels 13spring games then broke his leg anyhow world class in 5 events ask to coach 48 Olympics in boxing.
    and by the time i was 12 years old. my dad had taught me to do it all.i loved Him although enough is enough.
    he said to play baseball in high school / i played football. i wound up playing quarter back and captain of defense sometimes when i was just having tooo much fun the coaches would say in front of all the guys “keep it up constant and next week you’ll be playing third string pencil sharper to the score keeper. we all had FUN.
    learning HOW TO play a position on a team effectually is not an easy task. even thou i was just having fun WINNING.
    AT 21 I GOT BAPTIZED into a non-instrumental, non inst. CoC in 1967
    i dedicated myself to find the flaw in Christianity looked pretty easy to me,8 months at best i thought.
    the preacher said i don’t want you to believe anything i say un less you can read it in the bible and make it work for you, and mind you i was 3ed or 4th generation…
    to make a long story short
    i found out i love to read stuff . i want to know!
    whats funny is that over my life i found out that it is about desire and i “took seek and you will find” into the closet and bumped around until i found the handle again…i am a hard teach.and God knows that
    but then…
    i ask the wrong question.
    and about 51 years later i have studied my way into an answer ,that i can live with and build upon.
    i am no longer
    in a box “CEI” praise the Lord.
    it has taken the last five years for me to finely be comfortable with musical instruments in “worship Service. knowing and doing are different… ya think…
    besides i have in my time taken advantage of opportunity’s presented by what i blame on the Spirit.
    teachers i could relate to.
    Homer Haley he sounded like an nice old hick. taught history at ACU. i was like a kid in a candy store.
    and then one of the smartest people and kindest just a great scholar a man that exhibits the the humility that only comes from being not right so much of the time in a life time, and confesses to the fact in his approach to the father. i am sure he knows because he has taken into his hart. one of the most important scriptures i know to internalize,gal.5:22-5:26
    i have been a sponge on his website learning all i could.about 6 yrs.
    i will show you how much fun i had learning from such a brilliant fellow that is able to make complex theological ideas and concepts,so simple even i could learn.
    i even got some skills in theological language.

    May 16th, 2008 at 12:47 am Reply

    Here I am up and awake and you stop at this word.
    This is not right, just not right at all, John Mark.
    Quite honestly I’m not real sure that you wouldn’t throw this word out here, and for it to be a totally bogus word. From a warped sense of humor after this post, in that it might be some sort of irony. Which I will not even try to explain.
    Rich, would I tease you with a word like “pneumatology”? 🙂

    Rich, would I tease you with a word like “pneumatology”?

    John Mark I’m going to tell you just like I tell my kids, and I probably get it from my mom.
    It’s lucky for you.
    Which makes no sense at all and it’s not supposed to, just like that word I had to look up.
    Sorry about that.
    As agent Maxwell Smart would say.
    Bumbling through the world of secrets.
    enjoying every minute.
    rich in California

  11. Alabama John says:

    You’re a good man Rich.

    I, like so many have hard feelings for the COC we grew up in and quit for a lot of years because of things we saw that were taught around here in the deep South.

    For instance I enjoyed the bible time with my mother, hearing her pray and her teaching me and my brothers and sisters. But, when I was baptized I discovered I could not hear her pray anymore as I was a baptized man at 11 and she as a woman was taught to be in subjection to me, her oldest son in religious matters. I had to also quit the young peoples class taught by a woman and go to the mens class.

    How those kind of things are changing in only a few COC, actually one out of 50 or better around here, and its for the better and folks like me are rushing it as we do not want others to miss what we regret we missed by doing what was required to be “faithful”.

    How I wish I could hear my mother pray again. Even a song written about it and in a way death is what happened.

    Lets pull together and move forward and not look back as its hurtful and discouraging at best.

    There are hundreds of wayward COC that can be brought back to Christ by seeing the change. They know the history all too well.

  12. Larry Cheek says:

    Alabama John,
    Amen, and I would like to add that when we really begin looking in the neighborhoods we can find many who have left many other churches for the exact same reasons. Our goals really need to be helping to gather all of converts to Jesus into enough fellowship that all can enjoy the peace and love of our Lord. Help them feel like they are a part of the family of God.

  13. Randall says:

    Above Jay wrote” “He elected Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants through Isaac and Jacob, to be the parents of the nation of Israel. Why?” // OK, so why did God elect ABRAHAM and not some other guy?

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Randall asked why God elected Abraham and descendants and not some other guy. The answer is: God hasn’t said. Therefore, I don’t know.

    I can guess: because God saw that Abram would come to the faith for which he is commended. But I wouldn’t go building any systematic theologies on that theory.

    (Rom 9:14-16 ESV) 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    Or … God owes us nothing. We deserve nothing from God. And if he chooses to give some of us more than we deserve, that’s God’s business and no one else has the right to complain.

    This election doctrine is tough — but praise God! He’s added Gentiles with faith in Jesus to the elect.

  15. Randall says:

    (Rom 9:14-16 ESV) 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    Amen Jay, and again amen.

    However, before that you said: I can guess: because God saw that Abram would come to the faith for which he is commended. But I wouldn’t go building any systematic theologies on that theory.

    Seems to me that your guess might make foreseen faith meritorious. But we all are welcome to our own guesses. My best guess is that God chose Abraham b/c he wanted to do it i.e it pleased Him. After all, as far as scripture tells us anything, Abraham was out there worshiping the moon like his father when God chose him. Could it be that Abraham came to faith BECAUSE God chose him? Why is the doctrine of election so hard for you? Do you feel it makes God unfair to choose one over another b/c He wanted to do it? — For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

  16. Neal roe says:

    Jay, this has been an awesome campaign of posts. Thank God for letting you put them together for us. As a whole the posts compliment the HS & RG for me. You have brought me full circle through more than I can ever thank you for. You have made the book of Luke/ Acts so alive and Romans a well that springs deep from the Law / Prophets. Prayers for you and your family that peace will be yours in all ways. Your legacy will be peace for so many. Not bad for a tax attorney. Love you, man. Please visit us in Vero Beach sometime.

  17. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks very much. 🙂

    I’m not traveling much these days, but I’m working hard to get healthy enough to make Pepperdine in a couple of months. Hopefully I can see many readers there face to face.

  18. Jay Guin says:


    It seems likely to me that Abram was a YHWH worshiper before he was elected (in the Pauline sense). In Gen 24, Isaac’s servant selected his wife Rebekah from his clan, and the passage implies that she was already a follower of the LORD (YHWH in Hebrew). It’s not explicit, but it seems true to me.

    And we know that Melchizedek was a priest of YHWH in Salem (almost certainly Jerusalem). And so there appear to have been pockets of YHWH worshipers pre-Abram, although hundreds of years later, from Exodus on, they appear to have disappeared — perhaps from warfare or a failure to pass their faith on to the next generation. It seems wildly improbable that the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem before it was conquered by David were YHWH followers — perhaps they conquered the city and killed off the YHWH followers there.

    Not much is told us, but there are these fascinating hints here and there.

  19. Alabama John says:


    I like your question.

    Many have throughout time worshipped our Lord by a different name and in many ways unknown to us. As you said, even seeing God in the moon. Man has always like to have something they can see and touch that represents God. Even today.

    One story in the bible I always remember is Paul going to Lydia in Philippi. God heard her prayers but who knows what name she was calling Him.

    God knows the spirit He put inside of man not just the outside that we are limited in seeing.

    Just guessing, but God could of chosen Abraham because he was old and many knew him and Sarah. For her to get pregnant was a sign that God was involved as even Sarah laughed at the idea.

    That pregnancy alone would of sure started some talking and helped Abraham (and Sarah) be listened to and understood when they told the story of how it all happened far more than it would if they had been young and fertile.

    God knows how to get our attention.

  20. alreadybeen2 says:

    According to “books” of Enoch Abram broke his father’s idols thereby receiving God’s favor.
    Makes sense to me.

  21. Randall says:

    Melchizedek was a most interesting person. Some believe he was Jesus incarnate prior to Jesus being born of Mary and some believe he is a “type” of the Christ. In any event we see him as King of Salem (peace) and King of righteousness. There is no indication that he was in Ur when God called Abram. Abram encountered him much later after leaving Ur and going to the land promised to him.

    As for Abraham sending his servant back to his people to find a bride for Issac I suggest you may be reading a lot into the text when you suggest it was b/c they were YHWH worshipers. This was a tribal society and marrying a cousin is/was the norm even today. Abram, married his own half sister, Sarai. Laban and his kin seem to have worshiped false gods as we see his daughter stealing household idols when she left with Jacob.

    From my time in Pakistan and Afghanistan it is common to hear a joke about some guy going four kilometers down the road to the next village to take a wife when he had a perfectly good cousin right there in his own village. Mental/intelligence issues are quite common today in the Saudi peninsula and other tribal societies as I have already mentioned. They try not to air this dirty laundry in public though. When we lived in Qatar the Emir and parliament passed a law requiring those that intended to marry to have their blood/DNA checked to see if there was a high likelihood of genetic issues appearing in their children, though they were still permitted to marry.

    @ Alabama John: Lydia was worshiping with the Jews when Paul preached and “God opened her heart to receive the things that Paul was saying.” So thanks for helping make my case for me.


  22. Randall says:

    @ alreadybween2: The book of Enoch is NOT part of the canon, though it is interesting. There are a lot of traditions the Jews teach today about what a good guy Abram was and that is why God called him. But none of it is based on what the scriptures say about Abram prior to being called.

  23. alreadybeen2 says:

    Randall, what part of the books of Enoch do you find heretical?

  24. Randall says:

    alreadybeen2: I don’t believe I ever mentioned heresy nor heretical. I think I indicated it was not part of the canon. I didn’t and don’t intend to have a discussion of the aprochrapha, pseudepigrapha or other non canonical writings to determine what some think Abraham may have been doing when God called him while he was Ur of the Chaldees. I’ll simply stick with what we can glean from scripture.


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