I continue to be baffled at dispensational premillennialists who repeatedly speak about historic premillennialism erroneously. I want to be generous and say that it’s most likely due to a misunderstanding, but if you are going to take the time to write about something on the web, especially when the person doing the writing is some sort of scholar, doesn’t it seem like you would want to take the time to read and know what you are writing about?
The latest offender is a blogger that I recently started reading with great interest. Mike Vlach has some good things to say about the way the OT is used in the NT. But lately he has been blogging about dispensational distinctives. I have no problem with that, until he writes a post explaining the differences between Historic Premillennialism and Dispensational Premillennialism. The problem arises when several of the “differences” just do not exist. It just comes across like “you don’t want to be one of those people because they believe x y z”, when in reality those people don’t believe x or y, and their view of z must be explained.
You can read the post here, along with my unanswered comments underneath. One other poster had a few comments as well which echoed sentiments similar to mine. Two posters had questions for me which I was more than happy to answer. The comments were designed to show that the content of the post was not correct. But so far, no answer from Mike Vlach and no retraction of the post.
The three issues that he brings up are as follows. The first is the idea that the new testament writings have priority over the old testament writings. The problem is that he cites George Ladd who stands alone in this area. All other Historic Premillennialists would agree with Mike Vlach’s position. One quote from Ladd which states that “It is also possible that the Old Testament expectation of a kingdom on earth could be reinterpreted by the New Testament altogether of blessings in the spiritual realm.” Notice Ladd is not dogmatic on the point. I don’t own this particular work in which Ladd participates, so I don’t understand the overall context in which he is writing. I may wind up buying this to see if his comments are being taken out of context.
The second issue is the idea that Historical Premillennialists believe in a form of replacement theology. Vlach cites Ladd who believes that in some way the church constituted a new Israel. However, if you read Ladd’s complete position, he did not believe that the church replaced Israel. Consider this quote from The Gospel of the Kingdom which concerns Romans 11:26. ” It is quite impossible in light of the context and the course of Paul’s thought in this passage to understand “all Israel” to refer to the Church…. But secondly, there is to be a greater turning to the Lord on the part of Israel after the flesh, of such proportions that Paul can say that “all Israel,” i.e., Israel as a whole, will be saved…. When God’s purpose for the Gentiles is fulfilled, so this verse implies, Jerusalem will no longer be trodden down. There will be a restoration of Israel; “all Israel will be saved.” ” I admit that sometimes Ladd used language that could be interpreted from more than one point of view. I have seen him quoted favorably by both Dispensational PreMillennialists, A-Millennialists, and Preterists. But old school premillennialists like Nathaniel West, BW Newton, and SP Tregelles would all agree that the church is not the new Israel. They all held that Israel was Israel and the church was the church. They believed there were some parallels between the church and Israel, and there was definitely a historicist flair in many of their works, but they uniformly taught a future for the physical nation of Israel, and Ladd can easily be included here.
Thirdly, Vlach states something that is just flat-out not true. You can tell because he cites no source whatsoever to back up his claim. He states that Historic Premillennialists do not believe in a future restoration of the nation of Israel. I quoted in the comments section from Ladd himself where he states that there would be a future restoration of the nation of Israel. Older premillennialists also held out this hope. So will there be a retraction of certain aspects of Vlach’s post? I doubt it.
Some of you remember when I wrote to Dr. Gary Cohen about the misrepresentation of Historic Premillennialism in Zion’s Fire magazine. Dr. Cohen wrote me a very nice letter humbly acknowledging that he needed to study the issue better. However, did Zion’s Fire print a correction of any sort? No. I fear the same thing will happen at Mike Vlach’s blog. At least he has let my comments remain below his post thus far.
The entire progress of the dispensational position from classic dispensationalism to revised dispensationalism and now to progressive dispensationalism should demonstrate that there was a real need for dispensationalists to address the contradictions in their position. So many dispensationalists have moved significantly toward historic premillennialism. Now instead of attacking those dispensationalists (classic and revised) which they acknowledge have severe contradictions in their position, they attack historic premillennialists with whom they have so much more in common now. It’s uncanny. For a fuller explanation of why I still can’t be called a dispensationalist, feel free to mosey on over to Mike Vlach’s blog and read my comments.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
P.S. For those who are viewing this post because you have been referred here by Mike Vlach’s blog, I have removed the erroneous portion that Vlach has pointed out to me. He quotes me correctly, but I have deleted that part because I was wrong and he is right. The works that I own by Ladd are his earliest works published in the 50’s and early 60’s. It seems that the works that Vlach is quoting from (which I do not own) were published later in the 70’s and reflected language that was closer to a Covenant Theology framework. However, the other issues still stand. I am a Historic Pre-Millennialist following the like of BW Newton, Nathaniel West, and SP Tregelles. I also agree with Ladd on numerous issues, but depart from his framework when he states that the OT could be reinterpreted by the NT and that the church is the new Israel in the sense that it replaces the old Israel.