A fantastic discussion is being undertaken in a Facebook group called Scripturally Speaking – Biblical Dispensational Theology. Having been asked to participate, I admit that I have little to add that hasn’t already been published, but as the discussion is worthy, I will add some brief thoughts here:
First, I think the differences between traditional and progressive dispensationalism are almost entirely methodological at their core. This is how, for example, brother Darrell Bock can assert that Hebrews 8-10 “definitively argues against the view” espoused in an Introduction to the New Covenant, when an entire chapter of that book is dedicated to the exegesis of Hebrews 8-10, and concludes otherwise.
I appreciate very much Darrell’s logic in approaching Progressive Dispensationalism. He has personally confirmed to me that since the Abrahamic covenant is already/not yet, it should come as no surprise that the other covenants would have already/not yet aspects. He is right – if indeed the Abrahamic Covenant is to be understood through the already/not yet device.
He and I do not agree on that point, because we differ methodologically. Nonetheless, his position is well reasoned and consistent based upon his presuppositions and hermeneutic approach. So, rather than arguing conclusions, I believe it is more productive to be transparent about our methods and how they derive the resulting conclusions. I think Darrell is transparent in those regards, and commend him for that.
For example, while he supports his case with the idea that salvation is an example of already/not yet (and therefore, we shouldn’t be uncomfortable with the device in other areas), I disagree with that characterization of salvation. Rather than view salvation as already/not yet, I consider that there are passages that refer to each separate aspect, and that when we consider those passages together, we recognize the chronological aspects as distinct, and their Biblical referents as distinct. The plurality of chronological aspects does not allow us to violate the principle of single meaning by reading all aspects into every mention of salvation. Instead, we must interpret each mention contextually, recognizing the specific aspect(s) in view. When we treat salvation passages contextually, and with consideration for single meaning, it is easier to perceive salvation not as a jumbled mass of already/not yets, but rather as a series of precisely sequenced events and processes. So if I am asked whether or not I understand salvation to be an already/not yet, I don’t hesitate to answer in the negative. Consequently, I view the aspects of salvation as revealed in Scripture to be evidence – not for, but against the already/not yet device.
Still, in this case, I think the challenge of the moment is more to Traditional Dispensationalists rather than to Progressives. Progressives acknowledge a different hermeneutic emphasis than that espoused by Traditionals (for better or for worse). Yet, even while denying the legitimacy of already/not yet, Traditionals often apply the device to the New Covenant, for example. Then we turn around and chastise the progressives for applying the identical device to the Davidic covenant. We can’t have it both ways. We need to pursue more aggressively the consistency that we value. And though I disagree with it, I am appreciative of Darrell Bock’s Progressive Dispensationalism, insofar as it helps to crystallize the importance of consistency on our part.