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Israelology

The Missing Jewel in the Crown Jewel of Theology

 

One of my favorite theological writers is Henry Thiessen. His Lectures in Systematic Theology was one of my texts in grad school; and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Right at the beginning of the text, he writes this:

 

For generations theology has been considered the queen of the sciences and systematic theology the crown of the queen. Theology itself is the science of God and his works and systematic theology is the systematizing of the findings of that science.

 

Or, if I might rephrase: The established doctrines of Systematic Theology are the crown jewels of all of the scientific disciplines. Those established doctrines are typically broken into 9 doctrines (sometimes 10 or 11, depending on how the major doctrines are categorized). They are:
 

  1. Bibliology - the Bible
  2. Theology Proper - God the Father
  3. Christology - Jesus Christ
  4. Anthropology - mankind (and sometimes distinct from Hamartiology: the doctrine of sin)
  5. Soteriology - salvation
  6. Pneumatology - the Holy Spirit
  7. Angelology - angelic beings (and sometimes distinct from Demonology: Satan’s kingdom)
  8. Ecclesiology - the Church
  9. Eschatology - End Times events

 

Most of the classic Systematics are Calvinistic in their theology - including Hodge’s & Strong’s. Modern Systematics like Wayne Grudem’s1 are also Calvinistic. One of the key concepts in Calvinism is “Replacement Theology.” Replacement Theology teaches that God is completely finished with the nation of Israel as a covenant people, and that the literal promises that God made to the nation of Israel have not only been ended, but they have spiritually been applied to the church. While not all Calvinists utilize Replacement Theology (John MacArthur is an example of a Calvinist who rejects replacement theology), the vast majority of Calvinists are Amillennial because they adhere to replacement theology.

 

Dispensationalism, as a distinct branch of theology, sees the unconditional and unrealized covenants that God made with Israel as still yet to be fulfilled. That’s why we believe that there still is to come an Earthly Kingdom of Israel with Christ sitting on the literal & eternal throne of David. That is an unfulfilled promise that God made to David (2Sam 7). Will God lie (Titus 1:2)? Will He repent (1Sam 15:29)? Of course not. Replacement Theology is based on the tenet that God can lie and/or repent of His unconditional promises.

 

It has only been during the last 100 years that Dispensationalism has become systematized. During that time, dispensational theologians have organized and refined their theology from a dispensational point of view.

 

Clarence Larkin “photgraphed” dispensationalism with his dozens and dozens of famous charts. While notable in error concerning the Age of the Earth, his charts are still quite helpful indeed in distinguishing dispensations one from another.

 

C.I. Scofield published his Scofield Study Bible, codifying a century of dispensational study.

 

Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote the magnus opus, not only for himself, but for the entire dispensational movement, when he penned his eight volume Systematic Theology - the single greatest Systematic Theology ever written. Users of eSword & theWord can economically purchase these volumes as premium modules for their software.

 

John Walvoord, the man who succeeded Chafer at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote dozens of books - many of which are available for free online, and are important contributions to dispensational theology. (They are relatively easy to convert to modules for your personal module library, by the way.)

 

Charles Ryrie continued to sharpen dispensational theology with seminal works like The Ryrie Study Bible, Dispensationalism/Dispensationalism Today, and Basic Theology (which is available as a premium eSword module).

 

That brings me to a fellow that, I’m guessing, most of us have never heard of: Arnold Fruchtenbaum. He is a messianic Jew who studied theology under Ryrie. He is a theologian, and a thinker. He, too, has contributed to the theology of dispensationalism with multiple excellent books. One work with a particularly interesting title is “Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.” In his Introduction he says

 

The issue of Israel is one of the major points of division in evangelical theology today. This is true both among Arminians and Calvinists. An evangelical theologian’s view of Israel will determine whether he is a Covenant Theologian or a Dispensationalist. It will also determine what kind of Covenant Theologian he is: postmillennial, amillennial, or premillennial. The question of Israel is central for a proper Systematic Theology . . . . Yet, while there are many Systematic Theologies today which have systematized all areas of biblical truth, none thus far have developed an Israelology as part of their system.

 

As good as Chafer, Walvoord & Ryrie are in their dispensational theologies, Fruchtenbaum hits the nail squarely on the head. If one’s view of Israel is central to one’s theology, then, one’s view of Israel should be a central component of Systematic Theology.

 

The concept of an “Israelology” is so new, there is not much yet written in this area. But there is some; and some of it has been made available as modules for eSword & theWord.

 

I’m pleased to be able to bring you an entire doctrinal subsection called “Israelology.” In it are some great works, both ancient and modern. Some focus on history; others on prophecy. But the common core of these modules is the viewpoint that God will keep His unconditional promises to the nation of Israel. He will not lie; He will not repent. What He has said, He will perform.  “Hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num 23:19).

 

*Grudem is premillennial; but he is not pre-tribulational. His reason? Israel is not to be distinguished from the church (ie - replacement theology). “But it must be said that behind this argument of pretribulationists is probably a more fundamental concern: the desire to preserve a distinction between the church (which they think will be taken up into heaven to be with Christ) and Israel (which they think will constitute the people of God on earth during the tribulation and then during the millennial kingdom). But, as we noted in an earlier chapter, . . . the New Testament does not support a distinction of this kind between Israel and the church. Hence it does not imply a need to see a distinction between these groups at the time of the tribulation and the millennium.” (Chapter 55 - “The Millennium.”)