Periodical Reviews -- By: Andrew J. Cress

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 174:695 (Jul 2017)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Andrew J. Cress

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Andrew J. Cress


“The Dangers of Kingdom Ethics, Part I: Theonomy, Progressive Dispensationalism, and Social-Political Ethics,” Bruce A. Baker, Journal of Dispensational Theology 20 (Winter 2016): 227-50.

This introductory part of a longer essay is a peculiar and misdirected treatment of the dispensational discussion among progressive and traditional dispensationalists. Baker is a pastor in Brenham, Texas, who recently completed his dissertation at Baptist Bible Seminary (for which I served as external reader). This section of the essay is a prolegomenon to a forthcoming portion on ethics. It claims to be a defense of a traditional dispensational perspective, but falls short of being a solid representation of that respectable view.

The article repeats common complaints about progressive dispensationalism (PD). The article first criticizes PD because the framework allegedly adopts an already-not yet approach to the kingdom without persuasive biblical argumentation (p. 234). This critique is damaged, however, since an already-not yet perspective is widely accepted, has biblical foundation, and is not the exclusive property of any specific theological tradition. Baker also criticizes PD because he claims it represents such a significant move away from traditional dispensationalism that one wonders whether PD should be called dispensational at all (pp. 241-44). Baker barely acknowledges (and severely understates) the fact that dispensationalism is present anytime differing administrative relationships are affirmed in a context in which Israel is seen as distinct from the church. Furthermore, Baker claims that it is incoherent to argue in favor of a social role for the church today while looking toward a future consummation in which all things are made right (pp. 249-50). To argue for a social role for the church, however, coheres with claiming that a function of the law in the Old Testament was to encourage the pursuit of righteousness while exposing the presence of sin (which the entire Bible argues).

The title of the article suggests it is dangerous to pursue a kingdom ethic today. To do so, however, demonstrates the active work of the Spirit to transform the community of God’s people. Such activity foreshadows a future reality, demonstrating the benefit of conversion in the context of human relationships. The title and argument of the article neglect the fact that a kingdom ethic testifies for the very gospel that Baker is keen to preserve.

This article claims that a present-day ...

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