Discontinuity through Continuity (or Discontinuity without Parenthesis)

Just a few days ago I tweeted the following:

I’ve decided to expand upon and explain these tweets in further detail in this post. Allow me to do this by providing an illustration.

An Illustration: Israel, the Church, & Covenant Membership

I will use a particular aspect of the (often debated) relationship between Israel and the Church for my illustration. Specifically, I will use the discontinuity between Israel as a “mixed community” (composed of believers and non-believers) and the Church as a community of all regenerate/all believing members (contra. Covenant Theology [CT])[1] as my test case. Now allow me to illustrate what I mean by “discontinuity through continuity (or discontinuity without parenthesis).”

This discontinuity between Israel as a “mixed community” and the Church a composed of all regenerate/believing members (contra. CT) does not exist because the Church is in no way organically related to Israel (contra. dispensational theology [DT]), but rather, because the Church is the eschatological people of God (or “eschatological Israel”; continuity). Israel was the community of the Old Covenant in which one was essentially a member by birth, not by personal faith. In contrast (discontinuity), the Church is composed of all believers. It is not a “mixed community” (contra. CT). But this is not because the Church is unrelated to Israel–a “parenthesis” within God’s redemptive program with Israel (contra. DT)–but because the Church is the New Covenant community in which all members are regenerate and “know the Lord” (cf. Jer 31:31-34; contra. CT). The relationship between Israel and the Church is not one of raw continuity or of raw discontinuity, but discontinuity effected, executed, and accomplished through (by means of) the fulfillment of one unified redemptive plan (continuity). The Church is the genuine recipient of the OT promises (continuity; contra. DT), but the realization of these promises brings about discontinuity (contra. CT).


I think this illustration and its underlying principle (i.e., discontinuity through continuity) proves helpful in discerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. One can recognize genuine discontinuity without rejecting the one unified redemptive plan of God centered in Christ and on behalf of His people. Yet, one can recognize the continuity of God’s purposes without “flattening” real discontinuity in its administration and realization.

This principle–discontinuity through continuity–also exposes some common misconceptions:

  1. That only two systemic-theological options exist concerning how one “puts the two testaments together”–dispensationalism and Covenant Theology; and correspondingly…
  2. That demonstrating characteristics of discontinuity or continuity automatically makes one dispensational or covenantal.

The existence of this “other way”–discontinuity through continuityproves both of these assumptions as false.


[1] Although this is a great matter of debate, engaging in this debate is beyond the scope of this post. Therefore, in this post I am assuming that the Church is not a “mixed community” of believers and non-believers/regenerate and unregenerate, but is to be composed entirely and solely of the regenerate/believers.

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