Progressive  Dispensationalism
Some Observations

1. Its Leaders

1) Craig Blaising, a former Dallas Seminary Professor who is now teaching at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; 2) Darrell Bock, professor of  New Testament Studies at Dallas Seminary; 3) Robert Saucy, who taught at Talbot School of  Theology (Talbot Seminary).  Due to the pioneering work of  these and other men, many have entered the progressive fold.

2. Its Books

1) Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church by Blaising and Bock (1992); 2) The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism by Saucy (1993); 3) Progressive Dispensationalism by Blaising and Bock (1993). A wealth of literature, books and articles, for and against Progressive Dispensationalism has been published in the years following.

3. Its Beginnings

[In this paper we shall sometimes refer to Progressive Dispensationalism as PD.]  {Any comments and/or additions by this web maker will be in {}}

In 1985 a group met together and launched the Dispensational Study Group.  "What has emerged is unprecedented discussion between covenant theologians historical premillennialists, charismatics, and the dispensationalists who invited them to the table" (Darrell Bock, Christianity Today, Sept. 12, 1994, p. 26).  Notice that it was the "dispensationalists" who initiated this dialogue.  "We met because some (but not all of  us) believed that there are biblical problems with aspects of  the older dispensational position.  We engaged in the discussion with all these groups as well as ourselves to sift through the evidence.  Traditionalists were on the program with us in virtually every year early on" (Bock).1 {Superscript refers to footnotes at the bottom; superscript is this web maker's.}  "PD wants to find common ground with nondispensationalism" (Christianity Today, 9/12/94, p. 28).  "The newer dispensationalism wants to bring itself in line with mainstream evangelicalism" (Christianity Today, 9/12/94, p. 28).  "PD is made up of  evangelicals who are dissatisfied with the dispensationalism of  their forefathers and who have met together to change it"  (Thomas Ice, A Critical Examination of  "Progressive Dispensationalism", Part 1, p. 5).
"The purpose of  the study group (which first met in 1986) appears to be to clarify dispensational issues in order to bridge the gap between dispensationalism and covenant theology . . . . it is a sad commentary on the present situation that whereas premillennialism (out of  which dispensationalism gradually emerged) arose in America primarily through early Bible conferences held in opposition to the postmillennialism and liberalism of  the day, progressive dispensationalism, in following the ecumenical spirit of  the times {This is a key statement as to the real reason for the rise of  PD.}, is seeking common ground with amillennialism" (Manfred Kober, "The Problematic Development of  Progressive Dispensationalism", Faith Pulpit, March 1997).  In the days of  the early Bible conferences, Bible believing men of  different persuasions met together in opposition to religious modernism (liberalism) and in defense of  the great fundamentals of  the faith and with a renewed interest in prophecy in general and the imminent return of  Christ in particular.  Today Progressive Dispensationalists are meeting with and dialoguing with men of  different theological persuasions because of  a common opposition to certain traditional teachings of  Bible believing dispensationalists and because of  some commonly shared, non-dispensational views on the nature of  the church and the nature of  the kingdom.

4. Its Name— "Progressive Dispensationalism"

What do they mean by the term "PROGRESSIVE"?  Bock explains:  "The term means that each dispensation is an advance in the program of  God and builds in a distinct way on previous dispensations.  Thus the progress is NOT a description of  how we view ourselves versus other dispensational views" (Bock).2  According to Blaising, the name "progressive dispensationalism" is linked to the progressive relationship of  the successive dispensations to one another.

5. Development or Departure?

Is this movement a healthy and helpful development of  dispensationalism?  Is it a healthy development to take a giant step back in the direction of  covenant theology?  When does "development" become "departure"?  Are the progressives developing dispensationalism or are they departing from dispensationalism?  "If  one uses an older form of dispensationalism as a standard, then there would be a reasonable basis to question whether or not PD is really a modified form of dispensationalism or whether or not it is closer to a modified form of  Covenant Theology, thus not really dispensationalism at all.  One current professor at Dallas Seminary who is strongly opposed to this new formulation of dispensationalism has described the issue to me as follows:  One has to decide whether or not PD is merely rearranging the furniture in the room (i. e., development of  dispensationalism) or whether or not they are removing key pieces of  furniture (i. e., abandonment of  dispensationalism)"  (Thomas Ice, A Critical Examination of Progressive Dispensationalism—Part 1, page 3).  The advocates of  PD commonly point out that dispensationalism has been modified and developed over the years.3  The implication is that PD is merely a further modification and development of  the system, when in actuality it is a radical departure from dispensationalism.

6. Its Method—Dialogue

Progressive Dispensationalism came into existence as a result of  DIALOGUE between dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists.  "This book has three purposes (the second of  which is) to foster genuine dialogue with non dispensational thinkers" (Blaising and Bock, from the back cover of   Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church).  "The desire for cordial relations with theologians of  other systems appears to be a primary motivation behind the emergence of  PD" (Robert Thomas, "A Critique of  Progressive Dispensational Hermeneutics," When the Trumpet Sounds, p. 415). "Dialogue is what dispensationalism needs" (Darrell Bock, Bib. Sac. Jan-March 1995, p.101).  "I would suggest dialogue" (Burns, Dispensationalism, Israel & the Church, p. 229).  "I reiterate my call for more dialogue and discussion" (Kenneth Barker, Dispensationalism, Israel & the Church, p. 304).  "Future publications need to carry the dialogue forward" (Blaising and Bock, Dispensationalism, Israel & the Church, p. 384).  "We must continue to talk to one another, both inside and across subtraditions" (Ibid., p.394).  "I have been heartened by what Radmacher calls the growing rapprochement that has been taking place between covenant and dispensational theologians. . . . certainly dialogue must continue between the two theological camps" (Barker, JETS, March 1982, p. 3).

"The Niagara Bible Conference used as its standard for resolving differences an appeal to the Bible, while PD seems to place great weight upon theological dialogue between opposing theological systems" (Thomas Ice, A Critical Examination of  Progressive Dispensationalism, Part 1, p. 5).

Bock describes the dialogue in this way, "What we have done is to lay a Biblically grounded study before the body and have invited discussion and feedback.  In fact, it is an attempt to engage in theological discourse where views are interacted with, challenged, and reflected upon.  Every PD piece I know of  has criticized covenental thinking at key points.  The affirmation of  dialogue you cite from Burns and myself is because we believe it is better to talk directly with those we disagree with than about them.  We interact with both our tradition and covenentalists.  What we are doing is discussing the Bible and interacting sometimes favorably, sometimes challenging the covenental view" (Bock).

Just as dialogue with non-fundamentalists was a key characteristic of  the neo-evangelical movement, so also dialogue with non-dispensationalists is a key characteristic of  the progressive or neo-dispensational movement.  The greatest need of  the church today is to listen to God in His Word and to eagerly receive Biblical truth into our hearts, not to dialogue with representatives from various theological positions. {This web maker agrees wholeheartedly.  We need to confront people with the TRUTH of the Word, not dialogue with various theological positions.  What next, dialogue with the Roman Church?}

7. Its Friends

In the Progressive Dispensationalism movement it is the old dispensationalists who are under attack and it is the covenant theologians who are often applauded.  If  the old dispensationalists are not attacked, then they are ignored:  "Saucy's section on the kingdom of  God goes out of  its way to avoid quoting the dispensationalist 'old guard' while quoting at length from standard NT scholars.  In 96 exhaustive footnotes, dispensational heavyweights such as Chafer and Walvoord do not appear once, whereas Ridderbos, Ladd, Perrin, Cranfield, Barrett, and even O. T. Allis are extensively, and favorably, quoted" (Christianity Today, 9/12/94, page 28).  "Significantly, these younger dispensationalists cite older dispensationalists mostly to distance themselves from them" (Bruce Waltke, Dispensationalism, Israel & the Church, p. 350). The book, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church by Blaising and Bock is composed of essays written by 10 progressive dispensationalists and then it includes responses from three men:  Kaiser, VanGemeren and Waltke.  These evangelical scholars were invited "in the interest of  promoting dialogue" (p. 34).  It is interesting that the men invited to respond are all non-dispensationalists.  It is as if  they are reaching out to the Covenant men and saying, "What do you think of  our new approach?  We are certainly coming your way, aren't we?"

Bock disagrees with this analysis:  "You are right to note  how we engaged with non-dispensationalists in the first book. This was because we had plenty of  interaction within our tradition both at the ETS group and in our teaching environment at Dallas and the other schools.  Are these our 'real' friends in the sense you imply?  The concluding essay of  the first book should be your clue as we critique the responses, especially those of  Van Gemeren and Waltke, the covenentalists in that section.  If  we really just wanted peace, we should have just thanked them and agreed with them.  But where is there any hint of  our disagreement with covenentalists in your discussions on dialogue?  Does this really represent the discussion fairly?" (Bock).

In essence Bock is saying that the Progressive men have strong disagreements with dispensationalists and they also have strong disagreements with covenant men.  It is indeed a position midway between the two.  Dispensationalists are wrong to place PD in the covenant camp, although it may seem that they are headed in that direction.

8. Its Theological Position

It is a middle position between dispensationalism and covenant theology.  One of  the progressive dispensationalists wrote: "In our opinion there is a mediating position between non-dispensationalism and traditional dispensationalism that provides a better understanding of  Scripture."

Bock stresses that Progressives have moved toward covenant theology in their affirmation of  an "already dimension to kingdom hope," but Bock believes Progressives have strongly adhered to dispensationalism in certain vital areas:  "Virtually every piece I have written has affirmed my commitment to a future for national Israel in a millennium (this includes a belief in sacrifices, a future temple, and pre-tribulationism).  I have affirmed all of  these points in public when I have spoken about dispensationalism at Reformed in Orlando, Westminster East and West, and when I speak at Calvin Seminary . . . we do not hold to the church replacing Israel in God's plan, a key point of  covenentalism" (Bock).  Bock considers himself and other progressives as dispensational and not covenental because "we do not replace Israel with the church" (Bock).

Bock admits that Progressive Dispensationalism is a position midway between dispensationalism and covenant theology but he believes that it leans more towards dispensationalism:  "You are right to suggest that PD falls between older dispensationalism and covenental theology.  However, it falls decidedly on the dispensational side of  that spectrum as its teaching about a future for national Israel shows.  Why did you not cite the remarks of  Al Mawhinney, a covenental theologian, who is cited on the back of  the PROGRESSIVE DISPENSATIONALISM volume that what is found in the book is NOT covenant theology?  Even he as a covenant theologian recognizes it as dispensational" (Bock).

Bruce Waltke, in evaluating David Turner's essay, says that his "position (on Revelation 21-22) is closer to covenant theology than to dispensationalism" (Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 178).

If  it is a middle position, then who is moving?  Are the covenant theologians moving toward dispensationalism or are the dispensational theologians moving toward covenant theology?  The movement is clearly on the part of the dispensationalists.  It is not the covenant theologians writing books on Progressive Dispensationalism, but it is Dallas Seminary and Talbot Seminary men writing such books.  It is the dispensationalists who are moving in the covenant direction.  The covenant men are pleased by the movement that they see but they themselves are not moving!  "Covenant theologians have openly expressed pleasure that progressives have moved away from normative dispensationalism, though covenant theologians clearly have not moved from the tenets of  their position"  (Dispensationalism by Ryrie, p. 162). Even a progressive dispensationalist admits the same:  "There does not seem to be much movement from the covenant side" (Larry Pettegrew, The New Covenant Ministry of  the Holy Spirit, A Study in Continuity and Discontinuity, Lanham, MD:  University Press of America, 1993, 25).  Poythress believes that PD in the long run "will most likely lead to covenental premillennialism after the pattern of  George Ladd" (Poythress, "Postscript to the Second Edition," in Understanding Dispensationalism, p. 137).

Bock believes that there are indications of  some movement from the covenant side:  "The question of  who is moving is an interesting one.  Are you aware that many covenental theologians are discussing a future for Israel and a hope for the earth in ways that only a few of  them would even raised in the past?  Some of  our insistence (both traditional and PD) that Israel is a serious category from the OT is causing them to reflect on Scripture.  This is a positive development.  The discussion is not as one way as you imply.  The Ryrie and Pettigrew citations are not the full story.  You are right that some covenental theologians do condescendingly suggest we are coming towards them, but only if  they read us selectively and miss the thrust of  what we affirm about God and the hope of  Israel" (Bock).

There can be no question that there are those in the Covenant/Reformed camp who are delighted in the direction that PD is headed in.  Richard J. Mouw writes the following:  "Dispensationalism is changing. I have read the 'progressive dispensationalists,' and as a Reformed thinker, I can only applaud their reformulation of  dispensationalist thought.  When the newer dispensationalists reject a uniquely dispensational hermeneutic, when they affirm the organic continuities between Israel and the church, when they reduce the number of  'kingdoms' referred to in the Bible, I can only say amen" (Christianity Today, March 6, 1995, p. 34).

9.   Its Relationship to Covenant Premillennialism

"The newer dispensationalism looks so much like nondispensational premillennialism that one struggles to see any real difference" (Walter Elwell, Christianity Today, 9/12/94, p. 28). "Will progressive dispensationalism simply turn into historic premillennialism?" (Ibid.)  When Bock was asked if  George Ladd (a covenant or historic premillennialist) would disagree with his views, he replied, "I think the fundamental thrust of  the structure he would not disagree with" (Ryrie, page 166).  "I don’t think that they [the progressives] will find it possible in the long run to create a safe haven theologically between classic dispensationalism and covenental premillennialism.  The forces that their own observations have set in motion will most likely lead to covenental premillennialism after the pattern of George Ladd" (Vein Poythress as cited by Ryrie, p. 178).

The already/not yet understanding of  the kingdom was George Ladd's position (he was a historic premillennialist and was posttribulational).  The progressive teaching that Christ is now ruling on the throne of  David was also George Ladd's position.  "Bock admits the closeness of  his views regarding a present kingdom to those of  George Ladd's historic premillennialism—a system adverse to dispensationalism" (Robert Thomas, "A Critique of  Progressive Dispensational Hermeneutics," When the Trumpet Sounds, p. 415).

In defense of  his own statement, Bock clarifies the fact that his position is very similar to Ladd's but not identical:  "The basic structure I affirmed with Ladd was the recognition of  a kingdom that is 'already' and 'not yet (just like our salvation is).  By the way, this view emerged long before Ladd.  It is not his.  It has been a position many have defended in this century in NT studies before there was the covenental premillennialism of  Ladd.  However, my 'already' is not Ladd's for the church does not stand permanently in Israel's stead for me as it does for him.  This is a significant difference.  Thomas' quote conveniently ignores the differences between Ladd and myself and simply equates us—or all but does" (Bock). {It is the understanding of  this web maker--a DTS graduate--that the Church is a completely new entity and in no way "stands" in any way "in Israel's stead."  This is a new point of  view in dispensationalism to this web maker.}

Ryrie has offered this summary: "The major similarities, if  not sameness, between Ladd and progressives are these: (1) the focus on the kingdom of  God as an overall, all encompassing theme; (2) the already/not yet, progressively realized nature of the kingdom; (3) the present position of  Christ reigning in heaven as the Messianic/Davidic king" (p. 166).

10. Its Ecclesiology (doctrine of  the church)

"Israel and the church are one people of  God" (Disp., Israel & the Church, p.93, 96 ,97 and see page 119).  David Turner goes further than some progressives in calling the church the "new Israel" (David Turner, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 288).  "The old sharp distinction between Israel and the church begins to become somewhat blurred" (Kenneth Barker, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 302).  Progressive dispensationalists "no longer accept the notion of  two distinct peoples of  God" (Blaising and Bock, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 392).  "In the new dispensationalism the church is reduced to the present phase of  the Davidic kingdom.  New dispensationalists do not like the concept of  the church as a parenthesis. . . . the church is 'a functional outpost of  God's kingdom’ [Barth quoted favorably by Saucy] and a 'sneak preview' [Bock] of  the kingdom" (Ryrie, Issues in Dispensationalism, p. 22.).  {This is, to this web maker, a definite departure from true dispensationalism, not just a modification.}

 Blaising says that Progressive Dispensationalists see tribulation saints "as part of  the body of  Christ, thus a part of  the church as it is defined in the New Testament" (Three Views of  the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell Bock [Zondervan, 1999], page 210.  See more on this in the discussion under Eschatology.

Denial of  the parenthetical nature of  the church:

"The older idea that the church was a parenthetical break between God's Jewish work in the Old Testament and God's Jewish work in the future is being replaced" (Christianity Today, 9/12/94, p. 28).  Waltke:  "[PD] denies that the church is a parenthesis within God's program for Israel."  Saucy:  "The present age is not a historical parenthesis unrelated to the history that precedes and follows it." {This is a false concept of  the parenthesis; it is related "to the history that" preceded it.  This does not, however, preclude the parenthetical nature of  the church.}  "The church is seen less and less as a parenthesis in the divine program.  Instead it is seen as vitally linked to and comprehended in the plan of  God revealed in the Old Testament" (Blaising, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 225 footnote).  Many scholars now recognize "a present form of  messianic kingdom that removes the parenthetical idea" (Burns, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 225).  "[PD] denies that the church is a parenthesis within God's program for Israel" (Waltke, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 347). "The present age is not a historical parenthesis unrelated to the history that precedes and follows it; rather, it is an integrated phase in the development of  the mediatorial kingdom" (Robert Saucy, The Case for  Progressive Dispensationalism, p. 28).  "You are correct to argue that we do not teach a parenthesis" (Bock).  {Again, this web maker states that a historical connection does not preclude a parenthesis.}

Denial of  the church as a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament:

"Their mystery concept of  the church is not that it was unrevealed in the Old Testament but that it was unrealized.  As a corollary, God has no separate program for the church.  The church is simply a sub-category of  the Kingdom.  It is called a 'sneak preview' of  the Kingdom.  The church is the Kingdom today.  In fact, David Turner calls the church 'the new Israel'" (Manfred Kober, "The Problematic Development of  Progressive Dispensationalism", Faith Pulpit, April 1997). Progressives believe that "the concept of  the church as completely distinct from Israel and as a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament needs revising" (Ryrie, p. 164).  "We hold to a different understanding of  the term mystery—not always new' revelation" (Bock).

11. Its Teaching on the Kingdom

Bock teaches that the kingdom was not postponed, but that it came in two phases (Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 60). He teaches that when the kingdom was announced as "at hand" this meant that the kingdom had arrived (Ibid., p.40).4 Progressive Dispensationalists teach that Christ is already reigning on the throne of  David in heaven, and that He assumed this throne at the time of  the ascension.5  This view is in agreement with the teaching of  George Ladd who wrote in 1974, "The exaltation of  Jesus to the right hand of  God means nothing less than His enthronement as messianic King" (Ryrie, p. 167).  According to PD, the Davidic throne and the heavenly throne of  our risen Lord at the right hand of  the Father are one and the same.  We have answered this by examining all relevant Scriptures in our paper entitled, Progressive Dispensationalism - When and Where Does Christ Sit Upon the Throne of  David? (Middletown Bible Church publication).  For another detailed treatment of  the question see three articles by Mal Couch in The Conservative Theological Journal, March, June and September 1998.  This is a three part series entitled, "Is Christ Now on the Throne of  David?"

"In Revelation 3:21, Jesus makes a distinction between His throne (the future Davidic throne) and the Father's throne (where He now sits).  Thus, the throne Jesus is currently on (the throne of  deity) is different than the one He will assume when the millennium starts (Davidic throne).  The writer of  Hebrews also indicates that Jesus 'sat down at the right hand of the throne of  God' not the throne of  David" (A Critique of PD, by Mike Vlach).

Robert Lightner has made the interesting observation that the book of  Hebrews has more to say about Christ's present session (His present ministry in heaven) than any other New Testament book, and although much is said about Christ being our Great High Priest and our Intercessor, yet nothing is said about Christ being presently seated on the throne of  David.  This omission is significant.

As already mentioned, PD teaches that the kingdom is ALREADY here in one sense, but that it is NOT YET here in another sense. This "already/not yet" dialectic (double talk? {Double talk is correct; these men would make good politicians.  Dialecticism is basically a communistic philosophy.  This writer is not accusing these men of  being communists, but it is certainly their philosophy.} is similar to what George E. Ladd and others have taught.

John the Baptist, Christ, the twelve, the seventy, all preached the same message, "Repent, for the kingdom of  heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2; 4:23; 10:7; Luke 10:9).  "Normative dispensationalism has always understood such verses to refer to the offer of  the Davidic, literal, earthly, Kingdom.  The progressive view is that this was not an offer of  the Davidic kingdom at all.  This was simply an offer of  salvation.  I can understand that.  In fact, they would cut their own theological throat if  they said it was a genuine offer of  the Davidic kingdom. What kind of  God would put a contingency for the kingdoms establishment, and then, when this contingency to repent was not met, establish the kingdom, in part, anyway? They didn't repent, and the kingdom didn't come at all in any sense, at His death, or His resurrection or His ascension, and it's not operative now either" (Dr. Robert Lightner, "Progressive Dispensationalism," The Conservative Theological Journal, p. 58).

Dr. Robert Lightner, in this same article, finds it very unscholarly that in all the PD literature which he has examined he has not found any references to George Peters' Theocratic Kingdom.  Peters, though not a dispensationalist, was clearly the foremost authority on the kingdom, but progressives seem to ignore him.  Peters wrote three massive volumes (fine print) in which he defended the contingent offer of  the Davidic kingdom at Christ's first advent, but for some reason progressives do not see a need to answer his arguments.  It would be like someone arguing against Bible creationism and totally ignoring the writings of  Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, two widely recognized pioneers in the field.

Progressive dispensationalists have removed certain millennial distinctions:  "All of  the redeemed in the millennium—the redeemed from all ages—become members of  the ultimate body, the church.  This view is in keeping with their belief in 'holistic redemption' and a single 'people of  God'" (Roy Beacham, Progressive Dispensationalism—An Overview and Personal Analysis, p. 13).  "What we argue is that members of  the church and of  Israel will one day share membership in the kingdom and be one through the work of  Jesus (John 10:15-17; Eph 2:11-22) . . . the kingdom is bigger than either the church or Israel . . . it will one day span the whole of  creation (part of what we mean by holistic)" (Bock).  {This is again a confounding of the Israel and the church.  Just because the kingdom is bigger than both does not in any way make "the redeemed from all ages" to be "members of the ultimate body, the church.}  For a full discussion of  this, see Bock/Blaising, Progressive Dispensationalism, pages 49-50.

12. Its Eschatology (doctrine of  last things, prophecy)

"Progressive dispensationalists are more circumspect about identifying certain details in the prophetic calendar than some of their predecessors were.  Looking for the 'blessed hope' of  Christ's return is still a motivating feature for the believer's walk with God, but some would be less confident about the ability to lay out a detailed scenario for its contemporary fulfillment" (Bock, Christianity Today, 9/12/94, page 29).  Also Progressives consider the book of  Revelation to be a book that is "difficult" to interpret (Ryrie, page 177).  Bock counters: "Our point about the difficulty of  interpreting Revelation simply argues that the book has been debated in church history and that certain aspects of  the book are debatable" (Bock).  {It is only debatable because of  the failure in church history and people like Bock not to follow the literal method of  interpretation from which dispensationalism is a result.}

"Both [Progressive] books recognize that the pre-tribulation rapture of  the church is distinctive of  dispensationalism but neither makes an issue of  it.  In fact, Blaising and Bock do not even mention it when it would seem natural to do so, and at one point only say the Rapture 'would appear to be pretribulational'"(Christianity Today, 9/12/94, p.28).  Bock, in correspondence with me is more dogmatic:  "We DO NOT express uncertainty about the order of  prophetic events.  Both Blaising and I have taught and defended premillennialism and pretribulationism in our classes for years" (Bock).

Saucy states in the preface of  his book, "The question of  the time of  the rapture has not been included in the work.  While most dispensationalists probably hold to a pretribulation rapture of  the church as being in certain respects more harmonious with dispensationalism in general, many would not desire to make this a determining touchstone of dispensationalism today.   For these the broad dispensational interpretation of  history does not ultimately stand or fall on the time of  the rapture."

PD’s wrong view of  the church will probably, in time, lead to a wrong understanding of  prophecy, in particular with respect to the timing of  the rapture.  If  it's not a problem to mix the church with Israel's kingdom, then why would it be a problem to mix the church with the Israel's tribulation?

In fact, they may have already done this.  Craig Blaising writes:  "Progressive dispensationalists see these ‘saints’ [tribulation saints]  as part of  the body of  Christ, thus a part of  the church as it is defined in the New Testament. However, they also affirm a pretribulational rapture on the basis of  1 Thessalonians 4-5" (Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell Bock [Zondervan, 1999], page 210).  On the one hand he says that the rapture is pretribulational but on the other hand he says that tribulation saints are part of  the church.  Progressive dispensationalists can thus apparently hold to two amazing tenets:  1) The church will be raptured before the tribulation; 2) The church will go through the tribulation.  Thus while the marriage supper of  the Lamb is taking place in heaven, part of  His bride will still be on earth!

John Brumett wrote an article entitled "Does Progressive Dispensationalism Teach a Posttribulational Rapture? Part 1" (The Conservative Theological Journal, June 1998).  In this article he analyzes PD’s teaching concerning the nature of the church and argues that such an understanding of  the nature of  the church should logically lead to a Posttribulational rapture.  In a follow-up article ("Part 2," The C.T.J., September 1998) Brumett shows many similarities between the teaching of  Robert Gundry (a posttribulational writer) and PD.  He then argues that if PD is to be consistent with its own doctrine, then they should be posttribulational as Gundry was.

Progressives ignore "the great prophecy of  the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-27.  Nowhere in the progressives' writings to date have I found any discussion of  the passage" (Ryrie, p. 176).6  One reason for this is that the Progressives are opposed to the idea of  a "parenthesis" and a literal understanding of  Daniel 9:24-27 forces a person to see a gap or parenthesis between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week.

13. Its Hermeneutic (Method of  Interpreting the Bible)

Progressive Dispensationalism denies that consistent literal interpretation is a defining essential of  dispensationalism. Blaising maintains "that consistent literal exegesis is inadequate to describe the essential distinctive of  dispensationalism" (Bibliotheca Sacra 145, No. 579, July—September, 1988, p. 272).  Robert Thomas, in his study, A Critique of  Progressive Dispensational Hermeneutics, deplores the departure of  progressive dispensationalism from traditional historical-grammatical interpretation.  He observes that progressive dispensationalism  practices "a selective use of passages seemingly in support of  their system—avoiding others that do not."  {That sounds like any heresy of  this day.} He cites ample illustrations of  this method and concludes that "thorough-going grammatical-historical interpretation does not condone this kind of  superficial treatment of  text, particularly when they are critical to support a doctrine being propounded" (Ice and Demy, eds., When the Trumpet Sounds, 423-424)7  The hermeneutic of Progressive Dispensationalism is called "complementary hermeneutics" and it allows the New Testament to introduce changes and additions to Old Testament revelation (Ryrie, p. 164).  For example, the Old Testament revelation includes the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7).  According to the OT, this covenant was made with Israel and it involved an earthly throne of  David.  PD agrees that the covenant was made with Israel and will someday involve an earthly throne, but they believe that the NT has introduced changes and additions so that they are able to say that the church is now included in the original promise (an addition) and the throne of  David is now in heaven (a change in location).

Blaising and Bock explain the complementary hermeneutic:  "According to this approach, the New Testament does introduce change and advance; it does not merely repeat Old Testament revelation.  In making complementary additions, however, it does not jettison old promises.  The enhancement is not at the expense of  the original promise." (Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, pages 392-393).

"If one endorses recent trends in evangelical hermeneutics, that person may easily fit into the PD camp, or perhaps even into a theological system that is decidedly non-dispensational.  On the other hand, a choice of  grammatical-historical interpretation must lead to dispensational conclusions" (Robert Thomas, "A Critique of Progressive Dispensational Hermeneutics," When the Trumpet Sounds, p. 425).

For a very helpful discussion of PD’s "complementary hermeneutics" and the problems with this method of  interpretation see "Progressive Dispensationalism," by Dr. Robert Lightner, The Conservative Theology Journal, pages 46-64.

14. Its Great Commission

Progressive Dispensationalists "give more attention to social action than they feel normative dispensationalists did or do . . . promoting kingdom righteousness in the present time is not the mandate of  the church, though progressives and others make it so" (Ryrie, p. 176).  "The church, according to progressive dispensationalists . . . is responsible for multicultural ministries that include the proclamation of  the plan of salvation through Christ as well as social mediation of  peace, righteousness, and justice" (J.Lanier Burns, a pro-progressive writer, Bib. Sac. Jan-March 1995, p. 102). "Dispensationalists have written very little in proposing a theology of  social ministry" (Craig Blaising, Disp., Israel & the Church, p.14).  Bock defends his position in these words:  "All of us preach that Jesus Christ alone saves from sin.  To suggest otherwise is not right.  What we are arguing is that Jesus did teach about his gospel being especially suited for the poor and fringe (Luke 4:16-18; 6:20-23; 7:22-23; 14:1-14).  When we do 'medical missions' as a part of  our outreach, we are recognizing this principle.  All we were saying is that we need to give more thought to these dimensions of  the church's call and task as we engage in reaching out to the lost" (Bock).  {To cite medical missions is a travesty; medical missions was never intended to be an end in itself; it was always a means to the end of  reaching souls for Christ.}

Fred Moritz, Executive Director of  Baptist World Mission, has responded to the Progressive Dispensationalist's idea of "social redemption":  "God’s plan for the church today has nothing to do with 'social redemption.'  God’s plan today is to save men from their sin and to gather out of  the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:14).  It is a program of evangelism" (Fred Moritz, Progressive Dispensationalism—An Evaluation, p. 5).

15. Its Schools

Some of  the schools where Progressive Dispensationalism has a strong influence are Dallas Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary and perhaps Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Grace Theological Seminary.

There are some schools (fundamental universities, fundamental seminaries) which take a very firm stand on many of  the issues of  the day, but historically they have not taken a strong stand on dispensationalism.  The President of  one nationally known fundamentalist institution, Bob Jones University, in an official questionnaire that was sent to the school by the IFCA in 1986, responded that the school takes no official position with respect to dispensationalism and that the school takes no official position with respect to covenant theology.  Someone has said that if  you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.  It is schools such as these that may be receptive to Progressive Dispensationalism.  After all, if they take no official position with respect to dispensationalism and if  they take no official position with respect to covenant theology, then why not adopt a position that is midway between the two?8  {It seems to this web writer that this is overly critical of BJU.  On the other hand, it needs to be carefully watched.  The same criticism can be made of DTS on separation and the Bible translation issues.}

16. Its Incompatibility With A Time-Honored Doctrinal Statement

Progressive Dispensationalism is adhered to and propagated by certain men at Dallas Seminary, especially by men in the theology department.  Is this new position in harmony with the time honored doctrinal statement of  Dallas Theological Seminary?  What would Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of  Dallas Seminary, have thought of this new kind of dispensationalism?  Concerning dispensationalism, here is what the statement says:  We believe that three of  these dispensations or rules of  life are the subject of  extended revelation in the Scriptures, viz., the dispensation of  the Mosaic law, the present dispensation of  grace, and the future dispensation of  the millennial kingdom.  We believe that these are distinct and are not to be intermingled or confused, as they are chronologically successive."  "We believe that all who are united to the risen and ascended Son of  God are members of  the Church which is the Body and Bride of  Christ, which began at Pentecost and is completely distinct from Israel."

The current leadership of  Dallas sees this new brand of  dispensationalism (PD) as being compatible with the doctrinal statement: "Dallas has made it clear officially that both types of  dispensationalism fall within its doctrinal statement.  This is because PD has a clear distinction between Israel and the church as structurally distinct components in the plan of  God" (Bock).  Bock further explains why he believes PD is in harmony with the doctrinal statement.  

I affirm that structurally the church is completely distinct from Israel.  The church is not Israel, Israel is not the
church and neither of   them separately  make up the kingdom, for the kingdom  encompasses  eventually the
whole host of   the redeemed.  Thus I do not mingle  the dispensations (or the structures  that mark out these
periods,  which is how  I prefer to think  of  them).   The view I  gave of  the church as  'new Israel' does not
contradict this affirmation  of   a structural distinction  between Israel  and the church.  To affirm a distinction,
however, does not  prevent us  from sharing  in the benefits that Jesus  provides.  There is  an equality Jesus
brings to those  he saves  even as he works across time through different  structures in distinct dispensations.  
When the Seminary  looked  at  this  issue  in the  late  80's  and  early  90's,  it was  concluded  that  we  fit
within the  parameters of  this statement.  Even  someone like  Dr. Walvoord,  who certainly knows dispensa-
tionalism and  its history,  though not agreeing with PD,  acknowledges  that it is  dispensational.  Anyone who
told you  that  we  are  in conflict  with the  statement  is misrepresenting  the position  of  the seminary.   They
may be  quoting  to you  their personal view,  but it  is not  and never  has been  the school's  view,  nor of  its
faculty as a whole.  The suggestion that we sign the statement knowing  we contradict it implies a lack of  inte-
grity for a statement I take very seriously and affirm annually with my signature on a contract (Bock).

One believer wrote to Dallas asking about PD and he received a response from Les Fleetwood, writing on behalf of  the president, Dr. Swindoll:  "The administration of  DTS sees no conflict here with the doctrinal position of  the school . . . . Dr. Bock's theological opinion is not in great conflict with our tradition" (This correspondence was published in the Levitt Letter, June 2000, page 3).

Dr. Swindoll, president of  Dallas Seminary, wrote a letter to Zola Levitt and Dr. Thomas McCall that was published in the September 2000 issue of the Levitt Letter.  Swindoll made the following comments:  "Your assistant, Dr. McCall, needs to know that all of  us on the seminary faculty sign our doctrinal statement annually . . . .  He also needs to be aware that even though a few faculty members may teach progressive dispensationalism, that position does not represent a drift in our commitment to premillennialism, nor does it mean that at Dallas Seminary 'prophecy is neglected.'" (p.3). It is clear that Dr. Swindoll has no problem with Progressive Dispensationalists teaching at Dallas and believes it is compatible with the doctrinal statement.  Also Dr. Swindoll sidesteps the real issue.  The problem is not that Dallas has drifted in their commitment to premillennialism, but that this school has drifted in their commitment to dispensationalism (maintaining clear distinctions between Israel and the church, etc.)

If  you take the DTS doctrinal statement at face value and compare it with the teachings of  PD, then there appears to be a significant conflict.  PD teaches that during this church age Christ has been seated on the throne of  David.  If  this is true, then there is a sense in which the Davidic kingdom is operational today during this present age.  "[PD] teaches that Christ is already reigning in heaven on the throne of  David, thus merging the Church with a present phase of  the already, inaugurated Davidic Covenant and Kingdom" (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, p. 164).  Thus, according to this view, the church and the kingdom are not chronologically successive, but they are chronologically simultaneous.  This is not what the DTS doctrinal statement says {nor is it what this writer--a DTS graduate--understood by DTS doctrinal statement).

The DTS doctrinal statement clearly states that the three major dispensations are law, grace and kingdom and that these three are "distinct and are not to be intermingled or confused" and that they are "chronologically successive."  This means that law is followed by grace and grace is followed by kingdom.  Contrary to this, PD teaches that law is followed by grace/kingdom and that grace/kingdom is followed by the millennial kingdom.  The "already" kingdom is followed by the "not yet" kingdom (Christ sitting on David's throne in heaven is followed by Christ sitting on the David's throne on earth). Thus PD intermingles the kingdom with the present age of  grace (church age) and it also teaches that the kingdom is not chronologically successive to the present age, but that it is simultaneous with it, to be followed by a future stage of  the kingdom.

Dr. Robert Lightner taught theology for many years at Dallas.  He believes that the teaching of  PD is a serious violation of the DTS doctrinal statement:  "The DTS's doctrinal statement is crystal clear in stating that there are three absolutely indispensable critical dispensations: law, grace or Church, and Kingdom, and it says, the three must never be intermingled. They remain totally distinct.  Do the progressives keep the Church and the Kingdom totally distinct?  I should say not; they combine the two.  That's a flagrant violation of  the DTS Doctrinal Statement" (Dr. Robert Lightner, "Progressive Dispensationalism," The Conservative Theological Journal, April 2000, p. 57).

It would be interesting if  we could somehow ask the original framers of  the doctrinal statement whether the new teachings of  PD are compatible with the DTS statement.9

In the IFCA we had a situation similar to what is now taking place at Dallas Seminary, with respect to the doctrinal statement and how it is being interpreted.  The IFCA has a very clear statement on the eternal Sonship of  Christ:  "We believe in one Triune God, eternally existing in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. . . .  We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of  God, became man, without ceasing to be God."  And yet the IFCA leadership allowed a man to be a member of  the IFCA who taught that Christ became the Son of God at the time of  the incarnation.  The IFCA also has a very clear statement on unlimited atonement:  "We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for all mankind as a representative, vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice."  And yet the IFCA allowed a man to be a member who taught that Christ died as a Substitute and paid sin's penalty only for the elect.  How did the IFCA justify allowing such clear contradictions?  If  Christ is the eternal Son of  God than how could His Sonship have not begun until Bethlehem?  If  Christ died as a Substitute for all mankind then how could He have died as a Substitute only for the elect?  The answer we received from the IFCA leadership was that we need to allow for "interpretive freedom" or "freedom of  interpretation." They wanted to be able to freely interpret the doctrinal statement in such a way that both positions were allowed and tolerated.  {This is precisely why this web writer--who was associated with IFCA--left when he saw some apparently minor deviations from their positions but which deviations have proved to be a real departure.}

Norman L. Geisler made the following keen observation:  "This is precisely how denominations go liberal, namely, when their doctrinal statements are stretched beyond their original meaning to accommodate new doctrinal deviations. . .  It is a sad day indeed when we allow the original meaning of  our doctrines to be changed" (Open Letter entitled, Why I Left the Evangelical Free Church Ministerial).

Conclusion

Progressive Dispensational is is nothing new.  It shares many similarities with non-dispensational premillennialism (also called covenant premillennialism or historic premillennialism).  It's a middle position between dispensationalism and covenant theology.  It is a serious departure from dispensationalism, and since it denies many of  the essential doctrines of dispensationalism, it is not worthy of  the name.  It teaches that the Davidic kingdom is operational today.  It teaches that today Christ is ruling from David's throne in heaven.  It has blurred some of  the sharp distinctions between Israel and the church.  It has denied three essential elements of  church truth:

1. It has denied the parenthetical nature of  the church.  Israel's history from the rebuilding of  Jerusalem to the second coming of Messiah is incorporated in the 70-week prophecy of  Daniel 9:24-27.  We know that Messiah was cut off after the 69th week, and we know from the book of  Revelation and other Scripture passages that the 70th week is yet future and represents the final seven years before the Messiah returns to the earth.  Between the 69th and 70th weeks is a "gap" of  nearly 2000 years, during which time God has been building His church (Matthew 16:18) and "visiting the nations to take out of  them a people for His Name" (Acts 15:14).  For an interesting book dealing with the parenthetical nature of  the church, see Harry Ironside, The Great Parenthesis. {This web writer--who is a graduate of  DTS--always understood the parenthetical nature of  church to be the position of  Dallas Theological Seminary.}

2. It has denied the mysterious character of  the church, teaching instead that the "mysteries" of  the N.T. were revealed in the Old Testament period but not realized yet.  But a careful study of  Ephesians 3:4-5; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26 and Romans 16:26 indicates that a New Testament mystery is that which had been hidden, kept secret, and not made known to men in previous ages, but which has now been made manifest and revealed and made known to God's saints in this present age by the N.T. apostles and prophets.  See our study on The Mystery of  Godliness (Middletown Bible Church publication)

3. It has denied that the church was established following the postponement of  the kingdom.  Dispensationalists have long taught that the offer of  the kingdom to Israel was genuine, but it was also conditional and contingent on the nation's repentance.  Since the nation did not repent at the time of  Christ's first coming, the kingdom did not immediately appear but was postponed.  See our publication, The Biblical Doctrine of  Postponement.  In the meantime God introduced a new program which is His church made up of  both Jews and Gentiles united into one body.  There is coming a day when the nation Israel will again be offered the kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and at this time the nation will repent and will trust their Messiah and the long-promised Davidic kingdom will be established.  For an excellent study on these themes, see Alva McClain, The Greatness of  the Kingdom.

Dispensationalists, though varying on certain points of  doctrine, have generally been unanimous on the three points given above.  These are essential to dispensational truth and must not be surrendered or compromised.

Since PD has departed from such essential dispensational doctrines, they should not be labeled as dispensationalists.  If  we are to call this PD by the name dispensationalism, then I would suggest calling it "neo-dispensationalism" because it shares so many of  the characteristics of  the neo-evangelical movement, as illustrated below.

Similarities between Neo Evangelicalism and Neo (Progressive) Dispensationalism

One of  the key documents of  the neo-evangelical movement was an article that appeared in Christian Life (March 1956) entitled, "Is Evangelical Theology Changing?"  This article (referred to below as IETC) outlined eight characteristics of  a new kind of  evangelicalism which became known as new or neo-evangelicalism.  Some of  these characteristics will be quoted below to illustrate that some of  the same trends which marked the beginning of  neo-evangelicalism are taking place today within "neo-dispensationalism."

Both emphasize dialogue.  New evangelicals engage in dialogue with neo-orthodox men or with others far removed from the Bible believing camp; neo-dispensationalists dialogue with covenant men and with others far removed from the dispensational camp.  "A growing willingness of  evangelical theologians to converse with liberal theologians . . . . an evangelical can profitably engage in an exchange of  ideas with men who are not evangelicals" (IETC).  So also today, neo-dispensationalists believe they can profitably engage in an exchange of  ideas with men who are not dispensational.  

Both have questionable friends. Neo-evangelicals are highly critical of  fundamentalists but reach out "in love" to those of questionable and divergent theological positions.  Neo-dispensationalists are highly critical of  dispensationalists but reach out to covenant theologians and other non-dispensationalists.  

Both emphasize unity at the expense of  doctrine.  "Progressive Dispensationalism's unity is based upon an inclusive, 'don’t-let-doctrinal-differences-stand-in-our-way' kind of  unity" (Thomas Ice, A Critical Examination of Progressive Dispensationalism, Part 1, p. 5).  "This work indicates where many dispensationalists are today, while recognizing that it is part of  a larger theological community that is the body of  Christ.  Our discussion should continue, but not at the expense of  our unity" (Blaising and Bock, Disp., Israel & the Church, p. 394).  

Both waver on certain prophetic issues.  "A more tolerant attitude toward varying views on eschatology . . . some are saying that the Bible doesn't teach that the church will escape the tribulation" (IETC). {It may not escape tribulation, but it was escape the Great Tribulation; the distinction is important.} Some neo-dispensationalists are very reluctant to discuss matters such as the timing of  the rapture and Daniel's seventy weeks prophecy.  Since neo-dispensationalists share such close affinity with George Ladd on his kingdom views, is it possible that they will also, in time, adopt his post-tribulational views as well?  

Both emphasize social action and include this as part of  the church's primary mission.  "A more definite recognition of social responsibility . . . we must make evangelicalism more relevant to the political and sociological realities of  our time" (IETC).  Neo-dispensationalists, since they believe the church is phase one of  the kingdom, believe that the church has a responsibility to society to make it more kingdom-like.  Present society has a long way to go!  

Both emphasize scholarship. "An increased emphasis on scholarship" (IETC).  Of course we realize that there is nothing wrong with solid, Biblical scholarship that exalts Christ and honors His Word.  Neo Dispensationalists, in their books, are enamored by covenant scholarship and by historic premillennial scholarship but they are highly critical of  dispensational scholarship.  See our previous discussion under "#7—Its Friends."  

Both are very critical of dispensationalism.  "A shift away from so-called extreme dispensationalism . . .  The trend today is away from dispensationalism—away from the Scofield notes" (IETC).  Neo-dispensationalists of  today are continuing this trend.

Both are questioning basic issues pertaining to the Bible.  "A re-opening of  the subject of  biblical inspiration . . . . the whole subject of  biblical inspiration needs reinvestigation" (IETC).  Neo-evangelicals re-opened the subject of  Biblical inerrancy whereas neo-dispensationalists have re-opened the subject of  Biblical interpretation, especially regarding the validity of  literal interpretation of  Scriptures.  

Both reflect a "theological mood."  Charles Woodbridge once wrote:  "The New Evangelicalism originated not as a carefully thought out system of  theology but as a theological mood or attitude quite different from that of  the stalwart 'Old Evangelicals' (The New Evangelicalism, p. 23).  Could the same be said of  neo-dispensationalism?  Did it originate as a carefully thought out system of  theology or as a theological mood or attitude quite different from that of  the stalwart 'Old Dispensationalism'?

Both result in compromise.  "NEO-EVANGELICALISM is a compromise toward Liberalism.  Its progenitors were Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, Dr. Edward J. Carnell, and Dr. Harold J. Ockenga.  It was spawned in the barren milieu of Fuller Seminary.  NEO-DISPENSATIONALISM is a compromise toward Covenantism.  Its progenitors are Dr. Craig, A. Blaising, Dr. Darrell Bock and in absentia, Dr. Robert Saucy.  It was spawned in the Chaferless milieu of Dallas Theological Seminary" (Miles Stanford).

George Zeller, revised 7/00, 8/00, 9/00

For Further Study

Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie (especially Chapter 9).

Progressive Dispensationalism—An Overview and Personal Analysis by Roy E. Beacham (Central Baptist Theological Seminary, July 31-August 2, 1997).

Issues in Dispensationalism, Wesley Willis and John Master, General Editors (Moody Press).

When the Trumpet Sounds, Tomas Ice and Timothy Demy, General Editors (Harvest House), especially Chapters 8 and 20).

Several articles in The Conservative Theological Journal (especially in the1998-2000 issues).

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1If the source merely says (Bock) with nothing further added, this is taken from Darrell Bock's correspondence with George Zeller.

2When evangelicals use "Progressive" to describe their movement, it is good to use extreme caution and discernment.  One example is in the area of  creationism.  "Progressive creation" is a movement popularized by Dr. Hugh Ross.  It is a very dangerous movement in the way it approaches the book of  Genesis.  For example, progressive creation teaches 1) the Big Bang occurred 16 billion years ago; 2) the days of  creation were long periods; 3) Noah’s flood was a local event; 4) Man-like creatures that behaved much like us existed before Adam and Eve, etc.  Sadly, many prominent evangelicals have embraced these false teachings.

3One example would be Clarence Mason's improvement on Scofield's definition of  a dispensation.  This is found in Mason's booklet Dispensationalism Made Simple.  Scofield's definition was good but Mason's definition was even better. If  Scofield had read Mason's definition he probably would have thanked him for the improvement.  He would not have opposed it.  Mason built upon the foundation that Scofield laid and added to it.  But what would Scofield think of  the teachings of  PD?  Is it adding to the foundation or building on some other foundation?

4Saucy, however, disagrees.  He teaches that the expression "at hand" indicates that the kingdom had drawn near or was imminent.  With this traditional dispensationalists would agree.

5Saucy varies from this somewhat.  Saucy, like Blaising and Bock, wrongly equates the right hand of  God with the throne of  David, but Saucy does not believe that Christ is now ruling from this throne.

6Bock states that the Daniel 9 passage is discussed in some articles found in JETS 1998.

7Bock disagrees strongly with the analysis of  Thomas and has responded to this in the Bateman book.

8I did receive a more recent letter from Bob Jones (4/12/2000) written by Thurman Wisdom, Dean of  the School of Religion.  He stated, "Though Bob Jones has taken no official position regarding covenant theology and dispensationalism, we would not have a Bible faculty member who did not hold to the pre-tribulation, pre-millennial position on eschatology. We prefer not to be identified with a specific interpretational label.  However, since we expect our Bible faculty members to interpret the Bible literally, in general our interpretations would vary little from those of  such dispensationalists as Charles Ryrie and John Walvoord."  {This is the understanding that this web writer has of  BJU; his youngest son is attending there and has expressed some concerns about use of  the KJV versus other so-called versions, but has never indicated in any way--which this writer is sure he would--deviation from literal interpretation and pre-tribulation, pre-millennial position.}

9We know that in the political realm, men are re-interpreting the Constitution of  the U.S. in a way that was never intended by the founders of  our country.  James Madison would be shocked at how this key document is being misused and abused today by those who should know better.  Sometimes this is done in the theological realm also.


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