Losing the Debate Before you Begin

I was recently made aware of an upcoming debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Steve Gregg regarding Israel’s continuing role in God’s economy of salvation. You may find more information about the debate here.

I’ll admit that I know very little about Dr. Brown or Steve Gregg other than the fact that they’ve both debated Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries in the past. However, what interested me the most about this debate was the resolution that was chosen:

Resolution: Israel—whether the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or as a body politic—is no longer uniquely chosen by God, and no longer holds a special status in God’s economy.

For anyone familiar with the debate between Covenantalists and Dispensationalists it is easy to see that such a resolution improperly states the Covenantalist position. (Again, let me note that I’m completely unfamiliar with Gregg’s own views and such a resolution may be appropriate within his views, if this is the case though, he is not going to be arguing for biblical covenantal theology in the upcoming debate.) There are enough unargued assumptions in the resolution itself that Gregg has, in a sense, conceded victory to his opponent before the debate begins. Let’s look at a few of these assumptions.

Assumption #1.) Gentile believers, in the New Testament, have not been grafted into Israel.

By affirming that Israel no longer plays a unique role in God’s economy of salvation, the statement implicitly rejects the notion that the Gentile believers in the New Testament have now been grafted into Israel and that those believing among nations are now numbered among the people of God. 1 Such a rejection concedes a fair portion of the debate before the debate has even started and will not allow the one affirming to present a biblical case for Covenant Theology.

Assumption #2.) Because Gentiles are not related to Abraham by blood they should not be considered the seed or descendants of Abraham.

There are two ways in which this cripples the one who affirms such a resolution. First, it allows the Dispensationalist to ignore passages such as Galatians 3:29 which tells us that those in Christ are Abraham’s offspring and heirs to the promise made to Abraham and his offspring.

Not only this, but it also disregards Paul’s essential argument in Galatians 3 that the Offspring to which the promise refers is not the many descendants of Abraham, but rather Jesus Christ and, by extension, all those who are united to Christ by faith by nature of the fact that they are in Christ. 2

Let me reiterate that I do not know the positions of Steve Gregg, only that he is the one affirming this resolution. I would simply urge him to reconsider such a resolution and perhaps to suggest a change, if possible, before the debate takes place.

For our readers, we can use this example to help us in our own experiences with opponents of the Christian faith or right Christian teaching. It is essential when making an argument or when responding to an argument that we examine statements made and unpack the presuppositional commitments that are locked in to such statements. If we allow the Atheist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Annihilationist, or Dispensationalist to define the terms of the debate from the basis of his own worldview, or from a seemingly neutral point of view then we’ve already admitted defeat and we’ve failed to argue presuppositionally.

Notes:

  1. Ephesians 2:11-22
  2. Galatians 3:16,25-29

4 thoughts on “Losing the Debate Before you Begin

  1. This resolution sort of reminds me of the one Ergun Caner suggested for his debate with James White on Calvinism…except that one was much worse.

    With a resolution like that the debate will reduce to definitions of terms and qualifications of beliefs. I hate it when that happens.

    • Hi Fred,

      I wasn’t implying that Dispensationalists have made no argument concerning that passage, but rather that the resolution as stated for this debate allows that particular passage to be ignored, since the claims concerning it are already loaded into the resolution. Hope that makes sense.

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