Thanks again for a great fraternal together, and for twisting my arm to get me there. Time very well spent, with dear brothers. Gus, superb job in chairing and policing such a rowdy bunch as us, and doing so with such grace and thick skin!
FYI – below is my little summary, mainly for our church leaders & flock; but you’re welcome to use if useful in any way, to Sola5 family, etc. Let me know if you think there are major differences/themes in our debate that I’ve omitted/forgotten??
Yours gratefully in Christ,
Tim’s 2015 Spurgeon Fraternal Update
For my 17 years here in SA, my covenantalist brothers and I have been drawn together by many core doctrines that unite us as allies in the great battle for the gospel. We, and many of our churches, have formed precious friendships as we have stood firmly together for expository preaching, reformed soteriology, lordship salvation, careful ecclesiology, zeal for missions and church planting, complimentarianism, cessationism, and many other aspects of God-centred ministry in this age of pragmatic, shallow, and nominal Christianity. Yet for all these years, our camraderie has been sprinkled by brotherly jabs at one another’s eschatology and differences around covenantalism vs dispensationalism.
So at last, thanks to the annual Spurgeon Fraternal, we devoted 48 hours of almost non-stop study and debate to this matter – all set on a nearby island on a dam. Imagine – 35 pastor-theologians stranded for 3 days, 2 nights on a deserted island to sing, pray, fellowship, and grapple with doctrine! A kind of ‘Eschatology Survivor’ event – but thankfully no one got voted off each night, or it would’ve been a long swim back to land for me (since we dispensationalists were very outnumbered)!
The format was that 6 of us were asked to deliver 30 min. messages, followed each time by about one hour of Q&A and debate. (Talk about needing to know your stuff – having to face the firing squad and defend your message for an hour immediately after you finish!) What a rare group of men in this age – willing to grapple at this level with Scripture, with how the NT & OT relate, with unfulfilled prophecy and God’s plan for the future, for His Church, for Israel, and for the world, and how all things will be summed up in Christ.
It felt like a little taste of what the Nicene Council or Westminister Assembly type meetings would’ve been for weeks on end, labouring together to rightly divide the Word and feed our flocks. In an age where other synods are gathering to deny truth by endorsing homosexuality, how different to be with men who tremble at God’s Word.
Another highlight was that we all agreed we should not shy away from preaching biblical prophecy in our churches, and doing so with a definite eschatological position, and doing so passionately and persuasively. Where then do our main differences lie? Here is what stood out for me:
*Only near the end did we finally get into the nitty-gritty specifics, by making a case study of Zechariah 14 and how we would preach that text. That’s when the ‘gloves came off’ (in love, of course! 🙂 as we differed greatly on whether the original author’s meaning can be discerned in that text alone, what role the NT should play in interpretation, to what extent we can impose/import our theological system upon that text, whether Zechariah was speaking of a literal Jerusalem, an actual seige upon that city, earthly reign of Christ, etc.
*All agree that a core question is whether the NT Church is a continuation/fulfillment/
replacement of OT Israel, or whether God still also has a plan for restoring national Israel. Does God only elect individuals for salvation, or has He also elected a nation for His purposes? Much of this revolves around what you do with Rom. 9-11.
*Some of the covenantalist brothers affirmed that Rom. 11 does promise an end-times, final salvation of Israel, but not in fulfillment of OT kingdom promises of land or an earthly, physical reign of Christ over a restored Israel.
All of this made me even more grateful for: (a) God’s clear and all-sufficient Word; (b) the joyful & humbling journey of continuing to grow in knowing Him & His Word better; (c) the prophecies already fulfilled in Christ, and the anticipation of how our faithful God will fulfill the rest in His glorious plan for the future.
Your until we reign with Him (in the Millenium :),