How do we make sense of the Bible’s story? How does the Bible fit together? To help you answer these questions, the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and Office of Ph.D. Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted Drs. Craig Blaising and Stephen Wellum for an afternoon lecture on progressive convenantalism and progressive dispensationalism.
In a series of posts, we’ll share both sides of the issue via a three-part lecture. Last week we began with Dr. Wellum’s advocacy of progressive covenentalism. Today, we continue with Dr. Blaising’s argument for progressive dispensationalism. Dr. Craig Blaising is Executive Vice President and Provost, Professor of Theology, and Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Watch the discussion above, or read an excerpt below (edited for clarity).
What characteristics mark progressive dispensationalism?
“I’m going to describe [progressive dispensationalism] as a non-supercessionist, redemptive-historical biblical theology. When we talk about redemptive-historical biblical theology, a lot of biblical theology done today is done in that mode. It’s a redemptive-historical biblical theology, one that traces the canonical narrative as a history of God’s dealings with creation. A typical redemptive-historical biblical theology would follow this structure: Creation, fall, redemption, consummation. But a problem in just about all of the redemptive-historical biblical theologies is you spend a lot of time in creation and fall — you’re now in Genesis 3 — and the next thing you know at redemption you’re in the New Testament and with consummation you’re getting things concluded. What’s in between those two — Genesis 3 and the New Testament? A lot of Bible. In that ‘a lot of Bible,’ we find particularly Israel.
“When I use the word supercessionist, I’m going to use these terms basically equivalent. It doesn’t matter to me whether a person says ‘I’m a replacement; I don’t like to use the term supercesssion,’ or a person says ‘I believe in fulfillment,’ or a person says ‘I believe in expansionism.’ Whatever it is, it ends up meaning the same thing — that Israel as an ethnic, national, territorial entity has been replaced by something else in the consummation.
“Progressive dispensationalism is a redemptive-historical biblical theology that is not supercessionist. It is not replacement theology.
“Well, it’s progressive dispensationalism. What’s dispensational about it? There are some dispensational concerns. First of all is the integrity of ethnic, national, territorial Israel. You can call it ENT Israel. In other words, the integrity of that Israel, and that that’s not replaced by some other Israel that is non-ethnic, non-territorial, non-national. That ethnic, national, territorial thing has integrity in the redemptive history, in the canonical narrative.
“Second is the distinctiveness of the church. That the church is distinctive in the plan and purpose of God. It comes into existence with the ascension of Jesus into heaven and the sending of Holy Spirit and the creation of a unity that’s called the body of Christ. It’s certainly the case that people were saved from the Old Testament to the New, Paul makes this point, all justified by faith, but the thing that makes the church the body of Christ [is] the incarnate Christ who has gone to the cross, raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, sends the Holy Spirit, and creates it. And that’s a distinctive thing that happens in the canonical narrative.”