Illumination #13

Using Heavy Hitters like Spurgeon and Ladd


One thing that irks me is when somebody tries to cite some famous theologian to try to give credence to their views.  The most popular is Spurgeon.  I’ve read A-Mills, Post-Mills, and Pre-Mills all quoting Spurgeon to show how he agreed with their position.  The trouble is that you can take one statement out of context to misrepresent someone in an attempt to give your position some supposed character.  BTW, Spurgeon was a Historical Pre-Millennialist.  He did not buy into the dispensational themes that were coming out of Plymouth Brethren, yet he affirmed the future, millennial kingdom.


This was the thing that got my temper up just a bit on Illumination.  Dr. Waldron tries to cite George Eldon Ladd in an attempt to give credence to the church constituting the new Israel.  Ladd believed no such thing and distanced himself from that position.  Dr. Waldron knows that Ladd was a Historical Pre-Millennialist, but wants to try to build this bridge with Historical Pre-Millennialists that simply isn’t there.  I was going to let it slide, but then he posted a correction where he admitted he overstated the case, but still held to the basic premise of what he was saying.  It was a bit unclear since he was responding to Barry Horner’s views on Ladd, and to Dennis Swanson’s interaction at his blog, so I wanted to understand what Dr. Waldron’s understanding of Ladd was.  So I posted a comment.  Here’s what I wrote, quotes by Ladd in pink.


Dr. Waldron-


I’m not sure if you believe that Ladd believed that the church was the new Israel or not.  Some of his comments in The Gospel of the Kingdom could be construed that way, but the following comments from The Presence of the Future shed light on the matter.  Here are some direct quotes:


"The recipients of the messianic salvation became the true Israel, representatives of the nation as a whole."


"Jesus’ call of the twelve disciples to share his mission has been widely recognized as a symbolic act setting forth the continuity between his disciples and Israel.  That the twelve represent Israel is shown by their eschatological role.  They are to sit on twelve thrones, "judging the twelve tribes of Israel"….  The twelve as a symbolical number looks both backward and forward: backward to the old Israel and forward to the eschatological Israel."


(I did not point this out to Dr. Waldron, but I point it out to my readers here.  Ladd’s position is clear that the nation of Israel will exist as the eschatological people of God.  I don’t see how one can read this quote and believe that the church now supersedes Israel when it comes to eschatology.)


"The disciples constituted not a new Israel but the true Israel, not a new church but the true people of God; the righteous nation that keeps faith; the true qahal Jahweh who have been summoned by Jesus into the blessings of the messianic fulfillment."


"Jesus came to bring to Israel the promised messianic fulfillment.  He offered the promised salvation to Israel not because Israel had a claim upon the Kingdom but because God had a claim on Israel.  Acceptance of the Kingdom of God would have meant the realization of the true destiny and the divine purpose in the call of Israel.  This purpose was fulfilled only in those who responded to God’s call.  These constituted neither a new Israel nor a separate synagogue nor a closed fellowship nor an organized church, but the believing remnant within the unbelieving nation, the ecclesiola in ecclesia.  They were in a twofold sense an eschatological community; they had received the present Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus and were therefore destined to inherit the Kingdom in its eschatological consummation.  Their only common bond was their relationship to Jesus and their participation in the blessings of the Kingdom resident in him."


"Jesus’ announcement of his purpose to build his ekklesia suggests primarily what we have already discovered in our study of discipleship, viz., that the fellowship established by Jesus stands in direct continuity with the Old Testament Israel.  The distinctive element is that this ekklesia is in a peculiar way the ekklesia of Jesus: "My ekklesia."  That is, the true Israel now finds its specific identity in its relationship to Jesus.  Israel as a nation rejected the messianic salvation proclaimed by Jesus, but many accepted it.  Jesus sees his disciples taking the place of Israel as the true people of God."


I’m looking for a good, succinct quote from Ladd on the church, but I may have to sum up.  The church is the present assembly of the members of the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is both present and future.  Those who have repented have entered the kingdom at present, but will also participate in the eschatological kingdom.  Here is the best quote I can find summing up the parables of the tares and the drag net.

“Thus the empirical church has a twofold character.  It is the people of the Kingdom, and yet it is not the ideal people, for it includes some who are actually not sons of the Kingdom.  Thus entrance into the Kingdom means participation in the church; but entrance into the church is not necessarily synonymous with entrance into the Kingdom.”


So not a new Israel, but the true Israel, the Israelite remnant through whom God had been working all along.  Then after Pentecost, this true Israel was baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Then later, Gentiles were allowed to participate in the kingdom without becoming Israelites, but as Gentiles.




Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13


-The Orange Mailman


For those serious prophecy students, here is how Dennis Swanson responded to Waldron’s assertions on Ladd.


Ladd’s language is plain an unmistakably aimed at distancing himself from those who believe that the church is the new Israel.  He stated upfront, “not a new Israel, but the true Israel.”  Ladd was familiar with Covenant Theology and was defining his own position.  But along comes Dr. Waldron, ignores Ladd’s clear language, and says they agree on this position.  Here was Dr. Waldron’s response to me.


Of course I believe that Ladd thought the church was new and true Israel–and so does everybody I know of including Horner and Swanson. I think your interpretation of Ladd is characterized by some wishful thinking. The evidence you cite is not conclusive and the conclusion you draw from it is contradicted by other clear statements he makes. Cf. the clear assertion in A Theology of the New Testament (p. 538) that “the church…has become…the true Israel of God.”

Dr. Sam


Notice Dr. Waldron’s quote of Ladd.  It says the same thing, that the church has become the true Israel, but no mention of the new Israel.  Ladd’s theology did not include a nod to supersessionism in any way.  Ladd always used that phrase, the true Israel, never the new Israel.  But somehow Dr. Waldron is using Ladd’s status as a heavy hitter in the area of eschatology to try to paint him as a supersessionist.  That irks me a bit.  Hopefully you readers will go back and read Ladd’s thoughts again.  They are quite deep.


Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13


-The Orange Mailman


P.S.  Dr. Waldron secretly wishes Spurgeon were an A-Millennialist.  He writes, “MacArthur claimed in his famous sermon that, if Calvin was alive today, he would be a Pre-Millennialist. May I with at least equal justification opine that, if Spurgeon were alive today, he would be an Amillennialist?”  Too bad, Dr. Waldron.  Spurgeon was, and is, a Pre-Millennialist.  You may state that it is your opinion that Spurgeon would be an A-Millennialist if he were alive today, but he’d be reading the exact same Bible he had back in the day.


Serious prophecy student can read Swanson’s views on what Dr. Waldron asserted on Spurgeon here.

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