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Church movements throughout the years have all approached the Bible differently and this in turn has greatly impacted their life and practice in the world and relationship to Israel and the Jews. While the following models presented are general in presentation they do nevertheless faithfully define these movements and thereby help us to better understand the theological factors that motivate their actions.
The Aerial View
These movements look at the Bible as if it were a sphere. They see method in its pages and embrace the principle. In other words they see a temple in the Hebrew Scriptures, take the principle, and build churches that are in like fashion divided up into two sections. I.e.: A holy place for the congregation and a holy of holies for the Ministers or Priests. They do the same with candles, incense, vestments and “methods” of the New Testament Scriptures like elders, deacons etc.
- As regards Jesus death they stress His passion and sacrifice and call on their people to follow His example in sacrificial living etc.
- As regards eternity there is very little preaching on the reality of hell. The impression is very often left that all people, who live decently, will go to heaven.
- The dangers in this tradition are lack of true evangelical zeal, compromise and Laodiceanism (the lukewarm church).
- The Jews are mostly in reflection. That is, their symbols and stories adorn stained glass windows and furnishings.
- Their historic engagement is in the arena of social issues relating to justice and righteousness on earth.
The Segment View
For folks in this tradition the Bible is indeed like a sphere but they remove a segment of it. They see principles and embrace method. Much like removing a piece of cake from the whole. It is on this segment that they concentrate. They mainly emphasize the book of Acts as a resource and are reactionary to the wider Church in the world. That is, they are “ purists” in that they believe that they are rebuilding a New Testament Church. Their approach to other expressions of the Church is very often summed in one phrase, “Come out of them my people.”
- As regards the death of Jesus it was a passionate expiation of sin and they spend much time preaching on hell and the consequences of sin.
- The danger is that very often they are authoritarian in character, have cultic tendencies and fall into the trap of Nicolatianism (power over the laity).
- For them the Jews are in history. They are a biblically outdated people with no further role to play in world events.
- The historical engagement of this part of the church has been evangelism, as in the house church movement in the United Kingdom of the 80s and 90s. They are isolationists with a heavy emphasis upon a heavenly kingdom. They sometimes even frown upon Christians who vote in national elections. In short they have abandoned the world and its suffering completely. After all it is passing away!
The Linear View
Christians in this tradition see time and purpose. For them the Bible is like a long line of events, beginning at the Book of Genesis, that are broken up into dispensations of time. History is thus dispensational in that the dispensations of time reflect a different aspect of heavenly purpose. These dispensations of time are ages and there are five of these in sequence. That is, ages of innocence, conscience, law, grace and fulfillment.
- As regards the death of Jesus, it is a passionate rescue plan and as a consequence there is much preaching on end time events.
- The dangers in this tradition are tunnel vision, the devaluation of Biblical truth and very hardened eschatological views. They easily birth false apostles and do not engage the world compassionately.
- For them the Jews are a prophetic sign and they have no real concern or interest in them other than their capacity to fulfill end time expectations.
- They engage the world evangelistically with much emphasis on the “lateness of the hour.”
The Legal View
This view sees action and consequence. That is, all have sinned and therefore fall short of the glory of God or; the wage that sin pays is death. The Bible is thus a book of “The Covenant.” Salvation through all of time has only been by grace on the grounds of Jesus Finished work on the cross. The promise of the Son that He would die for the sins of the world was given, before time began, and thus, theologically, He died before the foundation of the world. The various Covenants of the Bible reinforce the Abrahamic Covenant which is God’s great decision to save the world and constitutes the first proclamation of the Gospel. (Galaltians3:8) The God of the Bible thus enters into a relationship with humankind based on legal undertakings that are set out and enforced in the covenants.
- As regards Jesus death it is a passionate act of propitiation. He, on the cross, satisfied the demands of God’s character that is reflected in the moral or majestic law (Ten Commandments). Jesus was born under the law, lived perfectly under the law, was condemned under the law and died under the law.
- The dangers are that one’s expression of faith becomes too technical and doctrinal losing warmth, love and compassion. Since this view recognizes the role that Israel plays in God’s plan of world redemption it can produce warped theological views and sometimes Israel can supplant the place that Jesus should occupy in believer’s lives.
- Jews and Israel occupy a central role in this theological position since they are the custodians of the oracles of God and Gentiles share in their spiritual things.
- The historical engagement of this part of the Church is seen in philo-Semitism and world evangelism.
This is a general but fairly true definition of Church groups. There is something good and bad in all of them and it is for us to think about them and construct our view accordingly.
I leave you with this challenge.