“You had a chance to hear a workshop on culture wars or outreach and preaching, and yet you chose to attend one on continuity and discontinuity,” said David Gunn, editorial director of publications for Regular Baptist Press. “You are truly the elite of the elect!”
Continuity and discontinuity may sound like a dry, technical discussion, but it’s actually a vitally important subject for understanding Biblical interpretation and theological method. “When we discuss matters of continuity and discontinuity, we are talking about how we approach the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and between Israel and the Church,” Gunn explained. The workshop sought to answer (or at least raise and discuss) the following questions:
- Should we place greater emphasis on the distinctions between the Testaments and the peoples of God (discontinuity) or on their commonalities (continuity)?
- How should the progress of revelation impact our interpretation of Scripture and theological method? Should we give priority to the Old Testament or the New Testament?
- How should we understand the unconditional promises given to Israel? Are they limited to Israel, or can they be applied in some way to the church? Is their fulfillment totally future, totally realized already, or partially realized?
- How should we apply Old Testament texts (especially legal and prophetic literature) to the New Testament church?
Gunn surveyed the four major theological approaches on the market today—covenant theology, new covenant theology, progressive dispensationalism, and traditional dispensationalism—and illustrated how each camp handles these important interpretive issues. He then presented a model whereby traditional dispensationalists can apply Old Testament passages to the church based on an appreciation of the significant commonalities that both Israel and the church share. Chief among these is the fact that both Israel and the church are accountable to the same God as well as the recognition that moral values and duties flow from His unchanging nature.
“As a New Testament Christian, I’m not bound to obey to Mosaic Law,” Gunn explained. “But the Law reflects the character and nature of the Law-Giver, and I am most certainly bound to respect and obey Him!”