On Covenants, Kingdoms and Flourishing: A Q&A with Craig Blaising and Stephen Wellum

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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 share both sides of the issue via a three-part lecture. We began with Dr. Wellum’s advocacy of progressive covenentalism. Then, we saw Dr. Blaising’s argument for progressive dispensationalism. Today, we conclude with Dr. Ken Keathley’s Q&A with Drs. Wellum and Blaising.

Watch the Q&A above, or read an excerpt below (edited for clarity).

Dr. Wellum on inaugurated eschatology

“For my view, inaugurated eschatology is crucial in how fulfillment comes by Christ in terms of the new era. But the way you work it out will depend on how you understand the Old Testament’s unfolding — these plot vectors (for me, going through the covenants) — and how you think the prophets are looking forward.

“And what I would try to argue here is that through the biblical covenants are building on one another — being epitomized also in the Davidic covenant that’s taking Israel and the Abrahamic seed all the way back to Adam in that covenant, and the prophets then post-Davidic are looking to the future and they’re looking to the new age that’s coming. [The new age includes] the coming of the Lord through King who will bring kingdom, judgment, salvation, spirit, temple, restoration of Israel — a whole host of things that in the New Testament is now here but not yet. It’s not just certain aspects of that — it’s not just the spiritual aspects and that we’ll have the literal and physical later. Yes, we have a new creation in the future. Yet, the new creation is here now not just spiritually but in Christ it’s here — in his incarnation, his resurrection, and yes you could say spiritually in the church. It’s already here in that sense. So there’s some in principal here, yes, but you have to let the NT play out how it will ultimately be consummated…

“In principal, what the prophets look forward to has now come, including (and of course this is where we’ll differ) on the restoration of Israel. The restoration of Israel has now come in Christ to the church and that’s now occurring and there will be the final consummation of it. It’s not enough to say ‘already not yet.’ We all agree on that. Now you need the specifics that are being tied to how you think the Old Testament has unfolded and brought to fulfillment in the New.”

Dr. Blaising on inaugurated eschatology

“We would disagree on the issue of what is inaugurated. I would not say that everything has been inaugurated. Inauguration does not mean that every aspect of the kingdom has been inaugurated. What has been inaugurated is what has been revealed as inaugurated.

“The resurrection of the dead has not been inaugurated. Jesus has risen from the dead, but we do not have an inaugural experience of the resurrection. What’s key here is to understand that there is no resurrection apart from the bodily resurrection. Apostasis means a bodily resurrection. Paul says that Hymenaus and Philetus are in error because they’re saying the resurrection has already occurred. That has not been inaugurated. The day of the Lord has not been inaugurated. According to 1 Thessalonians 2, the day of the Lord has not yet come. There are certain eschatological features that are not here.

“There are certain features that are here — so those are the things we need to focus on. There is a form of the kingdom, so that’s the key thing. Paul can say in Colossians 1 that you have been transferred in the kingdom of his Son. That’s a present reality. And the interdispensational discussion that took place over progressive dispensationalism — some of them revolved around that verse. The kingdom is present here in this sense. The picture you get in Ephesians 2 — of Christ that is exalted above all authority, the continual use of Psalm 110:1 in the New Testament — points to the inauguration. And Peter using that Psalm 110:1 in Acts 2 refers to the Davidic promise in Psalm 102… this indicates that this is an inauguration of that Davidic covenant promise. Certain things have begun, but there are things that are still yet to be manifest. We have to look at what the scripture says is manifest and what is not.”

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Center for Faith and Culture

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

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