Friday, February 6, 2009

Do New Testament Believers Become the New, Physical Seed of Abraham, Propagating the New Israel Nation of Christians Through the Womb?

Part of an ongoing discussion of multigenerational faithfulness.

Echoing the FBFI Resolution from 2006, when reviewing information on the Vision Forum concept of multigenerational faithfulness, I find it terribly interesting that those who promote the concept draw such little support for the more extreme edges of the view from the New Testament.

"Hyper-Calvinist" Replacement Theology

I would like to look specifically at those NT Scriptures in an upcoming post, but for now, I would like to briefly examine the significance that Vision Forum places on their own natural physical offspring as Abraham’s physical seed (spiritual eugenics). I do not believe that one can truly appreciate the concept of multigenerational faithfulness without appreciating the extreme neo-tribal, pietistic and separatist views of Vision Form, a “Protestant Exclusivism” that which Raymond Moore likened to spirit of the pietistic Massachusetts Bay Colony of the 17th Century. I believe that here we see the rationale as to why the Family Integrated Churches spend virtually no effort evangelizing the lost and focus only on “spiritual purification” of those who are already Christian, much like a spiritual cleansing of the Church in the same type of spirit that fundamentalist Islamic groups carry out “ethnic cleansing.” This is not the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Please refer back to my discussion of Doug Wilson’s prayers that the unborn babies of the non-elect die in utero if you find this concept to be a gross exaggeration. People who depart ecclesiocentric churches are cursed with “Death, Disease and Divorce” (the Dispensing of Existence) when they do so without the approval and blessings of their church leadership and are classified as apostates who are deserving of God’s full wrath for exiting “God’s umbrella of protection.” I believe that those who have been threatened with lawsuits and pursued in the courts by men like Doug Phillips can also attest to this type of spirit held toward those whom they esteem as God’s enemies (a group that includes Christian believers that often just happen to be their own, personal critics).

I believe also that seeds of this same mentality are encouraged by Ken Sande’s teaching that after certain conditions as established by Sande have been satisfied, it is appropriate to sue a fellow believer in Caesar’s courts if you don't believe that they are really behaving like you think Christians behave (Peaemaker, Appendix D). I have much personal knowledge of how this principle, whether thus intended by Mr. Sande or not, has been grossly exploited by the patriocentrists with *the saga* of Joe Taylor demonstrating just one of these examples. Those who seek to justify their own licensiousness and/or cover their own past error actually, literally, and actively seek to establish and classify their fellow believers who threaten their exposure as the non-elect (or those who do not demonstrate Christian behavior) in order to use the legal system to squelch all criticism. Yes, Christians (patriocentrists in particular) try to label their critics as non-Christians so that they can, in their own minds, be justified in bringing legal action against their critics in order to silence them through the legal system. I wish that I had liberty to share more of these sagas with the readers here, but too many of the persecuted have been too beaten down by this process to risk further harassment. Some are also still engaged in ongoing proceedings and others have been silenced with settlements out of court, thus prohibiting discussions of these matters.

But I digress from the topic of multigenerational faithfulness...

The primary weight of the Vision Forum arguments rest upon Old Testament Scriptures that make reference to physical Israel when holiness before God depended on the purity of the physical race of the Jews, the physical nation of Israel. And even some of the primary Scriptures from the Old Testament that are used that are offered as proof texts really don’t apply in a way that supports that Christian believers are Abraham’s new physical seed. Even a belief in what is termed “Replacement Theology” does not hold that the fruit of the womb of believers makes today’s Christian responsible to advance the Kingdom of God through “militant fecundity.”

Please note that this is not to say that there is not a problem with too many believers rejecting God’s blessing of children, a completely separate and unrelated argument that I fully acknowledge as a separate and legitimate concern within today’s church. But it is a separate concern.  Even those denominations that believe that the significance and role of the Nation of Israel passed away after the death and resurrection of Jesus do not follow the mandates of the Old Covenant as if all believers have literally become Jewish in the natural sense. They understand that Israel no longer plays a role in establishing the Kingdom of God as a consequence of rejecting Jesus, the Messiah. (Note my somewhat subtle point that I would like to state most obviously here: What Vision Forum teaches far exceeds Covenant Theology, Theonomy and Replacement Theology.)

Here is one such example of the typical understanding of Replacement Theology from Congregation Shema Yisrael, a Messianic congregation in my own, local area:
Replacement Theology does not believe that all the prophecies in the Holy Scriptures concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Land of Promise, like Ezekiel 36-48, and Zechariah 12-14, much of Isaiah 59-66, and many other prophetic passages are to be taken literally, but taken non-literally, or "spiritualized" into promises of God's blessing for the Church. However, the prophecies of condemnation and judgment still remain for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. Those passages are taken literally.

Bill Einwechter has offered the most comprehensive and concise description of the Scriptural basis for multigenerational faithfulness in his two part sermon on the topic, and I believe that his candor and forthright description should be applauded even though I disagree with his interpretation. He offers several psalms as examples of the concept of New Covenant believers as the physical seed of Abraham in his teaching. Psalm 37:25 says “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or their seed out begging bread.” After God opened up salvation and righteousness to all nations and no longer depended upon one’s physical belonging to the nation of Israel, the significance of physical nation of Israel in the literal sense of “seed” became "insignificant."

The unbeliever as the spiritual seed of the believer is as significant as the physical seed of the believer, one of the wonderful blessings of opening the door of salvation to nations other than the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and, Jacob. Anyone who believes (not restricted by physical offspring) can partake of God’s providential faithfulness, and we know that this was the great desire and command of Jesus before He ascended into heaven. He called us to go forth into all the earth and preach the Gospel of His Kingdom to every creature in order to make disciples of them. He did not say to establish His kingdom through procreation of “pure spiritual seed” of either believing gentiles or Jews. If Jesus meant this as a focus, He certainly could have specified this, noting that the culture of His day was saturated with sexual displays and cities devoted to licentiousness, much like our own culture of today.

So Psalm 37:25 does talk about God’s provision and, in terms of the Old Covenant, and it does speak of Israel. However, it does not state in any way that gentiles become beneficiaries of the Old Covenant that God extended toward Israel prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have a covenant of grace, not of flesh, and Paul said that to strive to attain the Old Covenant (of which he himself was a beneficiary as a Jew) was to make a mockery of grace and to deny Jesus Christ. As believers under the New Covenant by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone, we can draw hope and confidence from this verse through the better covenant, that of which the Old Covenant was only a foreshadowing. It in no way implies physical seed for the New Covenant believer in the way that it applied only to Israel under the Old Covenant. To use Psalm 37:25 almost argues a type of message akin to the Judaizers, making New Covenant Believers a type of Jew in the natural. The Psalm 25 reference of Israel’s seed inheriting the earth also does not imply that one becomes a natural Jew. This is interpreting the New Covenant by trying to apply it by use of the Old Covenant.

Unfortunately, Einwechter fails to consult the Book of Romans to read what Paul had to say about following the New Covenant by means of the Old one in this teaching on multigenerational faithfulness. Geoff Botkin also teaches that young men are to be godly sons of the Law in his justification for following an Old Covenant style life in order to merit grace and acceptance before God. (Botkin notes courtesy of Sovereign Grace Family Church and Trinity Reformation Baptist Church sermon notes and website archives). I invite the reader here to examine what Paul clearly stated directly about such teachings. Please compare Paul’s statement to Vision Forum’s interpretation of multigenerational faithfulness and the aberrant interpretation of New Covenant believers as today’s “physical Israel” through covenant-keeping under the Old Covenant standards. Paul says that the faith is made void and the righteousness of faith set Abraham apart.

Romans 4:13 - 17:
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Romans 5 continues to say, in verses 1 and 2 that:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Believers are not justified through the flesh or by virtue of birth into the covenant community of the church, though children born to covenant believers partake of the general blessings of having Christian parents. That blessing, however, does not grant children any special eternal, spiritual privileges and does not grant them automatic status as God’s elect by virtue of their birth in the same manner that being born into physical Israel granted the Old Covenant Jew the special status as a part of God’s chosen nation.

Paul clearly states that justification comes through faith that the individual puts in Christ, not as a virtue of one’s birth into a Christian family. We would certainly hope that all of our children will become authentic Christian believers through faith, but the child’s great blessing is a virtue of being raised by those who are believers themselves who hopefully saturate them in the Word of God from the cradle according to the Shema as a consequence. The blessing and benefit is not an automatic virtue bestowed upon children because they are our physical seed. The most powerful seed we sow as Christian believers is not our own physical seed. The seed that we sow as Christian believers is God’s Seed of the Word of Life into the lives of our children but especially into the lives of all those with whom we have contact in the spirit and hope of evangelism.

The Shema
from Deuteronomy Chapter 6

Actually, this Vision Forum teaching argues the same ideas about justification through birth into the covenant community of the church for which Federal Vision was criticized. They argued that church membership (also a virtue and blessing of infants born into a family of Christians in the covenant community) was a more significant determining factor that faith in Jesus Christ through confession and baptism. This blog article presents a very concise assessment of the teachings of Federal Vision concering the salvation of the children of believers, however one can also read the assessments and statements of the many denominations that denounced this teaching as aberrant. The interested reader can link to them from this report's references and link list under the section entitled "Information related to particular church bodies" included at the bottom of the web page.

The seed of the New Covenant believer is not physical seed, though God certainly does bless us through our offspring that we train in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The seed that we sow is not the seed of the Law of the Old Covenant. We sow the seed of the Word of God – the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ Jesus which offers forgiveness of sin and the ongoing saving power and care of Jesus Christ towards those who believe in Him. It offers forgiveness for the debts we incur by virtue of living that we can never pay through the precious sacrifice of Jesus, and not of works or virtue of our births should any of us boast.

Multigenerational faithfulness, as taught and promoted by Vision Forum in context, how Vision Forum responds to critics and criticism, how Vision Forum deals with those who hold do different interpretations of intramural issues in the Body of Christ, and how Vision Forum relates to the lost supports a social Darwinian approach to following the dominion mandate of Genesis.

Before you adopt the outer layers of the general concept, consider whether you believe that New Covenant believers are the transplanted physical seed of Abraham.

Consider whether believers are to work their way back to live as new and improved versions of Adam or Abraham who are called to propagate the earth with pure spiritual seed or whether we as believers are called to evangelize ALL those who are dying in their sins, a group that includes our own children until they come to their own faith in Jesus the Messiah. We can and should follow the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, but we must never forget that we are under a better covenant than the Mosaic one! We are under grace! Decide for yourself how the New Covenant should be appropriated before you sign on for all things pertaining to VF's "MGF" concept. You are likely getting more than you bargained for in the process. Be wise and informed in your choosing.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
And of his fulness have all we received,
and grace for grace.

For the law was given by Moses,
but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John 1:14 -17

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Romans 11:28 - 31

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

For if that first covenant had been faultless,
then should no place have been sought for the second.
Hebrews 8:5 - 7

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Hebrews 12:24

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:13-14

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Romans 8:1 - 10