If You Invoke Israel, Can You Deny Exile?

Over at Unam Sanctam, Boniface faces up to the difficulties that now confront the bishops in Rome. Will God let the true church go? He says, of course not and invokes the parable of Isaiah 5:1-7:

This is what God means when He says that He gave the vineyard over to grazing. A landowner cannot ever “destroy” his property, in the sense that land as such is indestructible – but he can certainly alter its use, sometimes in radical ways. When the vines did not yield grapes, God plucked them up, had the walls trampled down, and gave the vineyard over to the wild animals (the nations) for grazing. And because of the reckless, presumptuous overconfidence of the Israelites – whom the prophet Jeremiah says were led astray by false prophets who only spoke what the people wanted to hear – they were caught unaware and led to destruction.

My friends, just because God has promised that this vineyard – the Church – will always endure and that He will always look after it does not mean that the situation of the Church in this world could not be radically altered. In the case of the vineyard, God is still “maintaining” the land when He breaks down the wall and gives it over to grazing. He is maintaining the way any husbandman does: by putting the land to its highest and best use. If the vineyard consistently refuses to bear fruit for the Master, there is no reason to think He will not break down our walls and give us over to grazing. This has already happened to a large extent over the past fifty years.

Boniface concludes that God will not abandon his church:

Will God ever abandon this little piece of property which He has claimed for Himself and bought with His blood? Of course not. Such a thing cannot be. Could He choose to give it over to grazing? Could He break down its walls? – that is, many of the visible structures that have provided security in the past? Could He command His clouds not to rain on it? – that is, withhold many of the gifts that He had showered upon the Church in ages past? Could He pluck up much of the vines by the roots and cast them away to be burned, and could He give over the land to the grazing of animals, who will trample it down with their hooves, grind the vegetation between their teeth and foul the earth with their dung? Of course He could do all this. In fact, unless we bear fruits befitting repentance, He will most certainly do all things.

Perhaps then – and only then – will our little, beloved piece of ground be disposed to again produce good fruit. But until then, let it be given over to grazing.

Is that what happened to Israel or Judah? Is this not an ominous precedent? God did make promises to Abraham but then sent Abraham’s descendants into exile. Was that an example of the gates of hell prevailing against the OT church? Or was it part of a plan to bring all the nations into a spiritual Israel, the church? So if you think of Israel as a type, the Mosaic Covenant as a kind of republication of the Covenant of Works, and of the Israelites as a kind of second Adam (who makes obvious the need for the final Adam), you might also view the Holy See as a type, Protestantism being a better rendering God of the church’s place in redemptive history. But if you think of Israel as the substance and you’re drawing parallels with the church, you might need a few nips to get to sleep at night.

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4 thoughts on “If You Invoke Israel, Can You Deny Exile?

  1. I don’t believe in post-scriptural types or fulfillments outside of the second coming of Christ. But such does not eliminate similar sins existent in both OT Israel and Judah and those in the Church during NT times–including now.

    We do know that the Church did not replace Israel as dispensational preachers accuse us of believing. Rather, the Church joined all of the true descendants of Abraham with these descendants being determined by faith rather than physical ancestry–by the promise and Spirit rather than the flesh and works. We should note here Paul’s statement in Romans 9 regarding not all Israel is of Israel and his statement in Romans 3 regarding who is the true descendants of Israel. And we should note what Paul says in Romans 11 where belief in Christ saves Israel and what he wrote about the branches and the olive root.

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  2. Maybe if the Pope didn’t feel pressure to maintain a billion member church (Hey, someone has to pay the bills) he could maintain high standards without worrying what The New York Times and The CBS Evening News think about them.

    But then bragging about how big the church is is one of the Callers’ primary debating points.

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  3. David Gordon—J”ohn Murray (and his followers) implicitly believe that the only relation God sustains to people is that of Redeemer (which, by my light, is not a relation but an office, but I won’t quibble). I would argue, by contrast, that God was just as surely Israel’s God when He cursed the nation as when He blessed it.”

    “God’s pledge to be Israel’s God, via the terms of the Sinai administration, committed Him to curse Israel for disobedience just as much as to bless her for obedience. In being Israel’s ‘God,’ He sustained the relation of covenant Suzerain to her; He did not bless-or-curse any other nation for its covenant fidelity or infidelity. In this sense, He was not the God of other nations as He was the God of Israel. Murray’s (unargued and unarguable) assumption that “I shall be their God” implies gracious redemption, election, or union with Christ, is entirely unmerited (should I say “unwarranted?”) by the biblical evidence.

    The first generation of those to whom the Sinai covenant was given died in the wilderness, in a situation that they perceived as being worse than their situation in Egypt. Why? Because Yahweh was not their God? No; because Yahweh was their God (i.e. Covenant Lord); and because, as such, He was committed to imposing the sanctions of the Sinai covenant upon them. I suppose one could strain language here, and say that it was “gracious” of Yahweh to impose curse-sanctions upon the Israelites (but not upon the nations); but I certainly would take no comfort in God’s “grace,” if it entailed such.

    [DOC]Reflections on the Auburn Theology – T. David’s Page
    http://www.tdgordon.net/theology/auburntheology.doc

    Revelation 3: 7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
    8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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  4. Oliver O Donovan—We know where the church is because we know where the sacraments are and where the word is preached. We see people gathering to the sacraments, we see the church taking form.. … Even if it’s true that the church is going to be a minority, the church is going to be embattled and contested to a certain extent, but it can be so as a majority sometimes. Even if the church is a minority, it can’t be a self-conscious minority which says to itself, “We’re perfectly safe because we’re a minority.” That I have to say I find troubling in the kind of catacomb consciousness … I don’t think it was at all typical of the Christians that actually inhabited the catacombs. They didn’t huddle down there and say, “How nice. We at least know who we are while we’re down here.”

    O Donovan–The question of the church being unable to criticize society, that seems to me to be wrong… . It seems to me extremely clear that the question of the church’s assimilation to the ethos of the society in which it lives… that question is raised quite irrespective of the church’s relation to government. No doctrines of Christendom or against Christendom are going to change the fact that the church in a loud, confident and boisterous society – confident of its position, confident of its own right – is going to have to struggle to keep the authenticity of its gospel. It’s going to happen anyway, and relation to government doesn’t necessarily make it easier or harder…

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