I am glad to present for the first time what is Integrative Dispensationalism. First, is this a new form of Dispensationalism? Yes and no. “How can it be so?” –someone may ask. I will try to explain. In some sense, the ID is nothing new, because it just makes union or INTEGRATION of concepts that until today were seen as competitors or through an “either/or” lens. Therefore, if we are talking about content, the ID is nothing new (I do not intend to reinvent the wheel!). However, if we are talking about methodology, yes, the ID presents a new methodology to deal with old and so well known themes.
Unifying Principle of Biblical Narrative
Have you noticed that I used the expression: “Unifying Principle of Biblical Narrative” instead of “Unifying Theme of Biblical Narrative”? This is of utmost importance to understand what is Integrative Dispensationalism.
Instead of talk about “unifying theme” of the Bible or history, the ID understands that the best expression would be “unifying principle” of the Bible narrative. The common expression “unifying theme” leads us to look at the Bible and pick up just ONE theme to unify the Bible narrative (either you choose Kingdom or Redemption or Covenants or Promise and so on). However, the expression “unifying principle,” proposed by ID, seems to better because it lead us to think about a unifying PRINCIPLE (i.e., METHODOLOGY) in order to unify the Bible narrative. Therefore, our task it is not to pick ONE unifying THEME (over the others) of the Bible, but to establish a METHODOLOGY that will UNIFY the BIBLE narrative, through an harmonious INTEGRATION of the most important themes and concepts of the Bible: Glory of God, Kingdom, Redemption, Covenants and Promise.
For example, Paul Enns, in the Moody Handbok of Theology, defined Dispensationalism in this way: “Dispensationalists emphasize that the unifying theme of the Bible is the glory of God. In contrast to Covenant theology, which emphasizes salvation as the unifying theme, dispensationalists see salvation as man-centered and simply one aspect of God’s glory”. Renald Showers said: “indispensable factor is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God.” Blaising said that “Ryrie distinguishes dispensationalism from covenantalism as the difference between a doxological versus a soteriological perspective.”
Other dispensationalists seems to emphasize the “Kingdom” theme as a unifying principle. Dwight Pentecost said: “While there might be various phases of the program and different media through which that sovereignty was exercised, it has been the development of one program. This whole program may be called the theocratic kingdom.” So, the theocratic kingdom, in practice, is the way Pentecost try to unify the Bible narrative. Alva McClain did the same, but with the “meditorial kingdom” terminology. Some dispensationalists also have recognized that the Redemption plays a big rule in the Bible narrative.
Look at how this “unifying theme” approach has led many theologians to treat the important themes of the Bible in an “either/or form” to establish their whole system of Theology. The ID proposal is so simple: we do not need decide whether the Kingdom, the redemption, the covenants, the promise (Kaiser) or the Glory of God (Ryrie) is the unifying theme of the Bible. In fact, what we must to do is choose a methodology (principle) that will harmoniously use ALL of these themes to unify the Biblical narrative.
In sum, when Kaiser says that the “promise” is an important theme of the Bible, I say: “you got a point”. When Ryrie says that the “Glory of God” is the most important theme of the Bible, I say: “you got a point”. When others say that the “Covenant” plays a big rule in the Bible narrative, I also say: “you got a point”. If someone speaks the same about the “Kingdom”, my answer will be the same: “you got a point”. Since all of you guys got a point, let’s try to harmonize what you a saying: that is exactly what Integrative Dispensationalism is all about!
A First Attempt to Establish an Unifying Principle for ID
Instead of picking up just ONE theme to unify the Bible narrative, let’s try to establish now a methodology that will use all of the themes that are usually chosen in a “either/or” form. I am puzzling over this matter for some time. This will be just my first attempt. Therefore, as my studies are advancing, this principle can be changed, improved or corrected in case of error.
A) Hierarchy of the Program of God
Let us know the Program of God and how the main Themes can be harmoniously INTEGRATED.
1 – Glory of God:
Let’s start from the beginning: Glory of God. For me, there is a hierarchy in the God’s Program, and doxology comes first. This is in line with what Ryrie’s view of Dispensationalism. The problem is that Ryrie tried to argue the “Glory of God” (doxological) instead of the “Redemption” (soteriological), or even the Kingdom theme. We do not must see these themes as competitors to the Glory of God, but, we must see all of them working in concert to fulfill the utmost goal of God’s Program: His own glory. Yes, God brings Him glory through His program of the Kingdom and Redemption. Therefore, the ID do not fight over the themes to pick one, but establish an hierarchy to welcome all of the themes harmoniously. In this hierarchy, we put the Glory of God first.
2 – Kingdom
The Kingdom is the structure by which God rule His creation (and that brings Him glory).
3 – Redemption
Different from the first two themes above, this one is a contingent theme. That is because if there were no fall, the Redemption would never exist, while the Glory of God and the Kingdom would continue to exist.
B) How God has Implemented His Program?
1 – Promise
We just saw that God has a Plan or a Program. The beautiful thing is that God choose to reveal us His Program. How does he revel His plan? Through promises, starting with the protoevangelium (Gen 3.15).
2 – Covenants
In ancient world, when you promised something important to someone, probably, you would give a sign or symbol to this person to assure him that you would keep your promise. Like the wedding ring is a symbol of the spouse’s loyalty PROMISE, God give us some symbols that He will accomplish His PROMISE. These symbols are the COVENANTS.
3 – Dispensations
God reveals and accomplish His program not at a once, but in stages. Therefore, each stage of the revelation/implementation of the Program of God can be called a Dispensation.
Integrative View of the Postponement: a Partial Postponed Propose
I will propose a fictional dialogue to explain the A Partial Postponement view of “Integrative Dispensationalism”. In that point, I see positive things in the Revised View as well as in the Progressive View. That is why I like to read both revised and progressive authors! So, let’s go to the dialogue:
Someone: “Leonardo, you like to talk about Integrative Dispensationalism, and you also say that you like read both revised and progressive authors, but that does not make sense for me. So, let me ask you some questions. Do you believe that Jesus offered the Kingdom promised in the Old Testament in his first coming?”
Leonardo Costa: “Yes, I do.”
Someone: “Do you believe the Jews (as a nation) rejected the offer of the Kingdom?”
Leonardo Costa: “Yes, they rejected it.”
Someone: “Do you believe that the Kingdom promised then was postponed?”
Leonardo Costa: “Yes and No.”
Someone: “Hmm!? Do not you know the principles of logic?”
Leonardo Costa: “Yes, I do.”
Someone: “No, no, no! Now you got me very confused. Let me clarify my question to you. The revised authors say that the Kingdom has been postponed by the rejection of the Jews (as a nation), while the progressive authors say that the kingdom has not been postponed. Which side is correct?”
Leonardo Costa: “I believe both sides are right!”
Someone: “Hmm!? You really do not know the principles of logic that says that something cannot be true and false at the same time and at the same sense. So how both sides can be right at the same time?”
Leonardo Costa: “What I mean is that both sides are partially right. Indeed, Jesus offered the Kingdom to the Jews (as a nation) and they rejected it. Therefore, some elements of the promised Kingdom (the political elements and others elements related to mediation of Israel) were postponed. But the spiritual elements (e.g., forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit etc.) were not postponed and they already arrived at the present dispensation. So on the one hand, I agree with the revised authors, believing that there was indeed a postponement for some elements of the Kingdom (not the entire Kingdom), but, on the other hand, like the progressive authors, I believe that some elements of the Kingdom have arrived in our dispensation.”
Someone: “Okay! Now I got what you mean by Integrative Dispensationalism!”
Leonardo Costa: “So I perfectly can say that some aspects of the Kingdom has arrived, while others aspects of the Kingdom has been postponed, by the Jews rejection of Messiah.”
Integrative View of the Humanity
The impression that the revised authors pass (in my view) is that God has a plan for Israel and, through Israel, he reaches out to humankind (or that He has a plan for Israel and a parallel plan for the rest of humanity). I do not say this view is wrong, but I say that it is incomplete. What do you mean, Leonardo? Well, let me explain. Instead of saying that God has a plan for Israel and through Israel it reaches humanity, I believe the best way to describe God’s plan is like this: “God has a plan for all mankind and chose Israel to be mediator this plan (as a priestly nation).” So the Bible does not talk about a program for Israel and other for the gentiles, or even talks about a program for Israel that reaches the gentiles. In fact, the Bible talks about a PROGRAM for ALL HUMANITY that is MEDIATED by ISRAEL as priestly nation. It may be a simple statement but it makes a great difference in our thinking. I favor this perspective because humanity does not exist because of Israel, but Israel exists because of humanity. With that in mind, I do not want to deny the importance of Israel, on the contrary, I STAND for ISRAEL and I really believe in a literal fulfillment of OT prophecies for this nation.
When we look at God’s plan, we should see that it has different aspects and that they exist harmoniously. There is a plan for all mankind, a plan for Israel, a plan for the gentile nations and there is an overall plan for all humanity mediated by Israel. This is the great point to understand the Bible.
When the revised authors say that the church is a parenthesis in God’s Program, they are not wrong, because they speak of God’s plan with Israel (especially taking the chronology of the prophecy of 70 weeks as background). If we look at the issue from the perspective of Daniel’s prophecy (remember, that prophecy was made specifically for the Jewish people, Dan 9:27), then, the church is, indeed, a parenthesis (according the chronology of Israel in Daniel’s prophecy). However, we can look at the same history with a broader perspective to have a better unifying principle of the Bible. God always had a plan for all humankind and chose Israel to be a mediator of this plan. Therefore, the Church is a parenthesis in the Plan of God for Israel, but the church is not a parenthesis in the Plan of God for the Humanity.
Therefore, the present dispensation is not something parallel or strange to the God’s Program. He always wanted to rule over all humankind, through a priestly nation (Israel). This is God’s program. The question is: was this program inaugurated in first coming? I believe so because some blessings (not all) of the eschatological program are available to all peoples (e.g., the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the new heart etc.), through the mediation of Jesus. This initial fulfillment of certain elements does not nullify the ultimate fulfillment of the rest of the elements, instead they serve as a PLEDGE that all other elements will be fulfilled. Therefore, if the “already” fulfilled elements are a PLEDGE for the fulfillment of the rest elements, the INTEGRATIVE view support a very strong future for Israel! It also is Interestingly to note that, because of the rejection of the Jews, the missing elements of the present dispensation are exactly the political elements linked to the mediation of the priestly nation.
So, in the integrative view, the “Kingdom Program” is seen as a program for all humanity (and not only to Israel), however, through the priestly mediation of the nation of Israel, promised to David and ruled by one of his descendants, the Messiah.
Let me give you a practical example. Imagine me in a dialogue with Ryrie and Bock:
Ryrie: “The church is a parentheses in the Program of God FOR ISRAEL.”
Leonardo Costa: “You are right, Dr. Ryrie!”
Darrell Bock: “The church it is not a parentheses in the Program of God for all HUMANITY.”
Leonardo Costa: “You are also right, Dr. Bock”.