Monday, September 07, 2009

Chatting with John Reisinger

The subjects of New Covenant Theology in general, and John Reisinger in particular, came up on this thread. As a nice surprise, commenter CR contacted Pastor Reisinger, who wanted to add some thoughts of his own.

John Reisinger was an evangelist for 10 years and a pastor for 45 years. He planted four congregations, and has authored eight books and 10 booklets. You can access his material at the Sound of Grace website.

Just last week I finished listening to a series by Pastor Reisinger on the sovereignty of God, which you can access here. It was a blessing and an encouragement to me.

I've encouraged Pastor Reisinger to make his comments on this thread, and invite you-all to join in as well.


John Reisinger said...

One of the problems in most theological discussions is the use of theological labels as if they were texts of Scripture. I do not know know any A-mils, or anyone else, who believes in what is called “the replacement theory.” The question is not, “has Israel been replaced by the church,” the answer is NO! The real question is, “Are the promises made to Israel (See Heb. 6:6-13 and I Peter 2:5-10) spiritually fulfilled (totally??, partiality??, not at all “??) in the New Covenant?” The answer has to be yes, fulfilled in some sense. We differ on what that sense is. Does that mean the promises to Israel will not be fulfilled “literally,” meaning in natural terms, in the future? Not necessarily. There is often a double fulfillment in Scripture. Pre-mils have a tendency to see little, if any, fulfillment and A-mils extrapolate from some fulfillment to total fulfillment. jgr

Anonymous said...

John, it is nice to hear from you. I am grateful for your many books that have demonstrated the superiority of the NC over the OC.

Since the passage came up, would you post your thoughts on the last verses of Jeremiah 31 that specifically point to specific landmarks as being something God would give Israel?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your willingness to interact on this blog. I have heard of New Covenant Theology but have only read a small amount about it. I don't even know enough about NCT to ask a question.

I found your What Is New Covenant Theology series at your website and will be reading through that. Thanks for making that available.

matt mckendrick said...

I echo Stan's thanks for your appearance here. Your book Abraham's Four Seeds had a big impact on me- I grew up in a dispensational environment and my wife came from a strong covenantal background. Your take on the covenants made a lot of sense to me and has shaped my thinking on that issue since. (I'm still leaning premill, Dan : )).

William Dicks said...

Hi John,

Nice seeing you here. I studied theology at an Arminian/Dispie Bible school. However, before I finished there I started noticing some things that I did not agree on in Dispie theology (sorry Dan!).

Mid to late 90s God did a work in me in how I see the Bible and "converted" to the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace, Calvinism, etc.

Close to the end of the 90s I came to believe completely in New Covenant Theology, however, with no help from anywhere, and I constantly thought that perhaps I had it wrong, since I was the only one that believed like I did. I am from South Africa, and really felt alone on this issue.

Then, we moved to the U.S. for two years (1999-2000), and while surfing the web discovered NCT online through Solo Christo and Sound of Grace.

I read your first version of Tablets of Stone online and later bought the updated edition. Your work, and work by such men as Moe Bergeron, Mike Adams, Geoff Volker and more really mean a lot to me and I have learnt so much from it.

The big thing I have learnt is to use the terms the Holy Spirit used to inspire the Bible, and not to create new terms where Biblical terms already existed. That has helped tremendously to establish a proper hermeneutical principle.

DJP said...

I too would like to hear Pastor Reisinger's take on Jeremiah 31:35-40.

It is hardly an inconsequential issue. If language that explicit doesn't mean what Jeremiah and every one of his readers would have understood it to mean, no amount of explanation that I can conceive of will redeem it from being a broken or deceptive promise — which I as a Christian find inconceivable.

If I promise my son Josiah that I'm going to take him out for ice cream, and end up taking not only him but all of his friends for not only ice cream but a full movie and dinner — I've fulfilled my promise, and done much more.

But if I promise Josiah ice cream, and then take not him, but his friends out for not ice cream, but a nature walk — and on top of that, I spank Josiah and throw him out on the street ....

Well, you may want to say I've done far better than I promised.

But I doubt that Josiah would see it that way.

CR said...

As we await, Reisinger's response, I have one question for the dispensationalists. Well, just a point of clarification, do you all believe that verses like Jer 31:35-40 teach that there will be a national salvation of Israel?

Thanks in advance for your response.

Mike Riccardi said...

CR, what do you mean by a national salvation? Is it just that the entire nation of ethnic Jews at a given period of time will be saved by grace through faith in Christ?

CR said...


What I'm asking is whether dispensationalists believe whether passages like Jer 31:15-40 teach there will be a national salvation, by that I mean, a national salvation in the similar scope and magnitude that occurred in Nineveh (I guess not a "nation" per se, but certainly a great city). Nineveh is an example of the only record of a national salvation that occurred so far.

Since salvation is through faith in Christ alone, yes, it would have to be a salvation of faith in Christ alone, but what I'm asking is what is the scope and magnitude of that salvation. Do dispensationalists believe there will be a national salvation of Israel.

Mike Riccardi said...

I'd be interested to hear others, but I believe that. The first passage I'd cite to back that up, though, is Romans 11:25-27.

DJP said...

Yes. Dispensationalists (and others) believe that what the OT says will happen will happen. It is the application of the Reformation principle of the perspicuity of Scripture.

Virtually (if not literally) every passage of doom and gloom in the OT ends with the promise of national restoration, and we believe that God meant what He said: for instance Leviticus 26:44-45; Deuteronomy 30:1-10; as well as Jeremiah 31:31-40 and many others. These passages demand both a national and a spiritual redemption of ethnic Israel. It accords well with the prediction of Revelation 7 and 14, where God seals Israelites, who evangelize during the great tribulation period, and win many to Christ; and with Ezekiel 37, which predicts a national restoration followed by spiritual revival.

JGR said...

DJP has zeroed in on the main issue. If the prophetic language of the OTS is be interpreted with the same hermeneutic as the NTS, and DJP’s promise to his son, then without question the Pre-mil is correct, end of argument. Pre-mil is an Old Covenant religion. Is it also the New Covenant religion? The vital question is “How does the NTS interpret the Old Testament kingdom promises?” JGR

JGR said...

JGR response to James Kime concerning Jer. 31.
Jer 31:35,36 says, 35 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, 
 who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD Almighty is his name: 36 "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me."
Everything under the Old Covenant was promised to be “everlasting.” The priesthood - Num 25:13; the Passover - Ex. 12:14; the Sabbath – Ex 31:16a, 17a; circumcision – Gen 17:8; the nation – Jer 36, etc. Everything the Old Covenant established was indeed “forever” as it finds it fulfillment in the New Covenant. Circumcision is “forever” as it is fulfilled in regeneration, the Sabbath is “forever” as it finds its fulfillment in Christ, the priesthood is “eternal as it finds its fulfillment in Christ, etc. Everything the Old Covenant established was done away in the New Covenant. Everything was “eternal” or “forever” even as predictions made of a coming change and fulfillment.
Jer 31:31-33 is quoted, with one change, laws, plural, instead of law, singular, in the Book of Hebrews 8 and 10. Unless there are two New Covenants, one with the church and one with Israel, the church is, IN SOME SENSE, a partaker in the promised New Covenant made with Israel in Jer 31.

DJP said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, Pastor R.

Do not (i.e.) John 5:46-47 indicate that Jesus held them responsible for what they should have seen in a straightforward reading of the OT? Is there any hint that He held them to the standard of gleaning from the text what no reader could have gotten, by any normal hermeneutic?

Don't such verses, and Luke 16:31, pretty well establish that Jesus held men accountable for a straightforward reading and interpretation of the OT?

Back to my example, would I be fair to spank Josiah (eternally!) for not understanding my words to mean the exact opposite of their normal import?

Aaron said...

Can somebody give me a brief summary of "new covenant theology" and it's core tenets? I either don't know or don't recall what it is, especially how it relates to the premil amil debate.

matt mckendrick said...

That's a good point Dan. But I'm wondering how you would respond to Pastor Reisinger's observation that the passover, circumcision, priesthood, etc. "look" different in the New Covenant. Is it your contention that an Old Covenant Israelite could have anticipated these fulfillments? Is there an exegetical basis for treating the land promise differently? I know this is a difficult issue, and I think both you and Pastor Reisinger are making valid points.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Reisinger, thanks for taking the time to answer me. If I may ask a follow up question though:

The passage in question in Jeremiah comes immediately after the explicit declaration of the New Covenant. I do not believe Israel (ethnic Jews) are partakers of God's family apart from faith in Christ. That said, I do believe that one day they will look upon him whom they have pierced and mourn and repent. At that point, when as a people they embrace Christ, God will complete this promise.

It is still Christocentric as they cannot be part of it apart from faith in Christ. It is still an emphasis upon the New Covenant, as Romans 11 teaches.

So yes it is fulfilled in Christ, but the manner in which it is fulfilled is that only believing Jews take part in this promise.

Do you believe such a view is inconsistent with NCT?

CR said...

Sir Aaron,

Trying to give a brief summary of NCT is like trying to give a brief summary of CT or Dispensationalism. I'm not convinced that it can be done. Also, there are some significant variations within NCT.

But in terms of its hermeneutic (at least how I understand it from Zaspel's and Wells - New Covenant Theology) it's this: NCT looks at the entire Bible, from a New Covenant perspective, to be sure, but it looks at the entire Bible. So, e.g., the law of Moses finds its fulfillment in the law of Christ (not just the teachings of Jesus but of the NT writers) and NCT looks to see how this is so in any given case.

Similary, with the promises of God. So, for example, it does not look at the fulfillment of all the OT promises from the perspective of Jew in OT times. It looks at the fulfillment of the OT from a New Covenant perspective but also using the entire Bible.

Matt makes an excellent observation that if we looked at it from the perspective Dan looks at it or Dispensationalism, then a saved Jew who lived in the times of the OC, if he were allowed to come back here and look at the church he would say, "what's going on? Where is the Levitical priesthood, why is the church not observing the Sabbath, why is not every male baby from Christian parents being circumcised?" The saved Jew would have understood those promises literally (if he took a "normal hermeneutic") to mean literally, physical circumcision and a literal observation of the Sabbath to this day - observed by the church).

Whereas covenant theology spiritualizes too much, and dispensationalism literalizes (probably not a word) too much, NCT tries to strike the balance with a NC perspective letting the whole Bible interpret and not just sections of it interpreting itself.

DJP said...

The saved Jew would have understood those promises literally....

And I think that is a fatal objection against taking them any other way.

The Word says that God "spoke to the fathers in the prophets" (Hebrews 1:1). He spoke to them. He didn't speak to us, and fool them.

Otherwise I see no way of getting around it: God fooled everyone for thousands of years, then after the resurrection yelled "Surprise! Fooled you all! 'A' really means 'ы,' and 'B' really means 'Ю'!"

JGR said...

A Question for DJP:
Do you believe the temple, priesthood, and animal sacrifices so clearly described in Ezek 40-48 will be literally restored in the future?

DJP said...

Oh, not fair! It's called "Chatting with John Resinger," not "Chatting with DJP"!


(That is a winking smile)

I asked you first.

Then... fair enough.

matt mckendrick said...

Oops- I guess the thread has been hijacked by people asking Dan questions. Sorry! But I wanted to make one more comment. : )

Dan, it seems an unspoken assumption of your position is that the believing Jew would be unhappy with the new arrangment- hence the "fooled you" language. But I don't think this is a case of asking for bread and getting a stone. Suppose I tell my son (in a few years) that if he does well on his test we'll go hiking in New Hampshire. Then after the test I tell him we're going to the Isle of Skye in Scotland (the most scenic place on Earth). This is a different fulfillment than what he expected, but I don't think he'll be upset or feel that I tricked him.

Here's a related quote from Pastor Reisinger: "Do you think that any OT believer, including Abraham himself, would trade what he now possesses in the presence of God for every inch of Palestine? Do you think a believing Jew in the future would feel 'let down' if all he got was heaven itself? If you were a Jew living in the celestial city, would you feel God had gone back in his word for giving you a heavenly city instead of the earthly city of Jerusalem?"

Anyway, I appreciate the discussion- I still have a soft spot in my heart for dispensationalism, and the unfair attacks on it by certain covenant types really annoy me

DJP said...

Regardless, in that case you are saying that God cannot be taken at His word.

That is a huge problem.

So, when God was promising the prophets and their audience X future for the nation of Israel — did He know He had no intention of doing what He was promising, of doing what any of the audience could ever have thought He meant by the words He selected?

And if so... then which if our promises don't mean anything like what the words the Holy Spirit inspired would lead us to expect? Or which of the words of doctrine, history, revelation, say ABC but mean ۞ ۩ ڈ ?

CR said...

NCT does not say that the Lord cannot be taken at His word.

Let me start by mentioning perhaps one of the most exegetically difficult passages in the Bible (probably THE most exegetically difficult passages in the Bible). It is a passage that poses difficulty for both covenant theology and dispensationalism and that passage is Matt 5: 17-20.

Christ is blunt: He says if we relax any of these commandments (he's talking about the Law of Moses and the Prophets) and teach others to do the same, he will be considered least in the kingdom. What that means (literally, if we are to use the dispensational hermeneutic of straight forward reading) is: that we are not only to teach but observe every single Mosaic law, sacrifice and ceremonial observance.

Covenant theology is also not off the hook, because they do away with the ceremonial and civil and keep the moral aspect. But that's not what the Lord said. He said every iota.

The only way as Christians we can observe all of Moses and the Prophets is if we observe it as it is fulfilled in Jesus.

Similarly, for fulfillment of the promises. I think JGR asked a good question of Dan on whether the animal sacrifices will be restored. Remember, the Lord doesn't say these things will be restored, He says in Matt 5 that we must observe every iota, right now, continually, ad infinitum until heaven and earth pass away.

The dispensationalist cannot apply his normal reading hermeneutic to passages like these. In my opinion, the dispensationalist is selective on where he applies his normal reading. Similarly, the covenant theologian merely spiritualizes difficult passages like these.

I think the hermeneutic that is more faithful to the Bible is the NCT hermeneutic which says, no no, we're not going just spiritualize passages away and say the church is Israel and vice versa, nor are we going to interpret passages apart from how they are fulfilled in Jesus. NCT (at least NCT as articulated by Zaspel and Wells) literally observes Matt 5:17ff and all of the OT promises by observing how they are fulfilled in Christ.

PS - let's cut JGR some slack on responses, he is in his 80s!

JGR said...

Abraham was promised a specific piece of land (Gen 15:18-21). While Abraham was actually living in the Promised Land, he was still looking for a heavenly city. Did Abraham see the physical land as the goal of the promise or did he see it as a pledge and type of a much greater land, heaven itself? According to the NT, exactly how did Abraham expect God’s promise to be fulfilled? JGR

JGR said...

I wholeheartedly agre with Matt McK when he said:
I still have a soft spot in my heart for dispensationalism, and the unfair attacks on it by certain covenant types really annoy me jgr

Stefan Ewing said...

Thank you very much for this discussion, everyone. It's been very educational and fruitful, in discussing different eschatological viewpoints in a serious way.