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Archive for September, 2009

Note:  The following is an edit of a comment I left on SBC Impact, and to some degree it still reflects that context.  Rather than see it buried in an old thread, I thought it best to post the main points here.

Too often with discussions in which eschatology is the subject, opposing views are badly misrepresented, whether it is pretribulationists arguing that all other views are liberal or those with other views charging dispensationalists with heresy. The responsible practice of one sincerely seeking the truth is to read primary sources to better understand the various views, and not to simply rely on polemical works by those with whom one is already inclined to agree, although those works can sometimes be quite useful.  If you want to know what pretribulationists teach, read Ryrie, McClain, Saucy, MacArthur, Bock, Blaising etc.  For historic premillennialism (i.e. non pretrib) read George Eldon Ladd, Russell Moore and also C.H. Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle and Horatius Bonar.  For amil, read Venema, Hoekema, Poythress, Riddlebarger, Gaffin, O.P. Robertson, etc. For theonomic postmillennialism, read Bahnsen and Rushdoony. For partial preterism read Sproul and DeMar.  Of course, THE primary source is the Bible itself.

Despite what one might gather from anti-dispensationalist diatribes, every pretribulationist doesn’t agree with every jot and tittle of the Scofield Reference Bible. Also, Progressive Dispensationalists aren’t the only ones who have attempted to make some modifications to their eschatological viewpoint. Dr. Russell Moore notes in The Kingdom of Christ that there has been just as much movement on the part of several recent covenantal amillennialists as there has been by progressive dispensationalists.  Also, the historic premillennialism of George Ladd has some significant differences with the older historic (or covenantal) premils like Spurgeon, Ryle and Bonar.  Yet, it is often assumed that Ladd’s views are representative of older non-dispensational premils.  Theonomic postmillennialism has important differences with the historic Reformed or Puritan view.  Yet pretribulationists are alternately charged with being Scofield clones or are dismissed because modifications and clarifications have been made to dispensationalism since Scofield and Chafer, even though all of the other views have also seen attempts to varying degrees at further development, revision or modification in recent years.

The charge that dispensationalism is a new teaching and therefore to be rejected is often repeated. Ironically some today evidently fail to recognize that their own views, when taken in their totality, often represent a position that is of more recent vintage than dispensationalism. I’m thinking particularly of inaugurated eschatology with its already/not yet emphasis, which is largely a 20th century phenomenon that draws from Ladd in particular as well as other sources. If Ladd’s conception of the Kingdom of God is the only legitimate view, (as some have argued) then there are a lot of other figures in church history that flunk that test as well, including most amils prior to Hoekema, most premils prior to Ladd, as well as postmillennialism, which was the predominant view prior to the 20th Century.  I also find it interesting that many who point to Ladd’s eschatological views as being the way forward also often fail to note his abandonment of inerrancy and to reckon with whether his treatment of OT prophecy was a factor.

The charge of novelty can obviously also be brought against continuationism, particularly with regard to tongues or what has been termed a private prayer language in recent SBC controversies.

Another example is New Covenant Theology in its various manifestations, which is so recent that it arguably does not have a definitive expression or definition beyond being both non-covenantal and non-dispensational. If you are baptistic, non-dispensational and yet do not hold to covenant theology complete with Sabbatarianism as taught in historic confessions like the 1689 London Baptist Confession, the New Hampshire Confession and the 1925 and 1963 versions of the Baptist Faith and Message, you hold to a view that is quite recent, although I realize that exceptions here and there could be named through the years.   (As for covenant theology, given the 2000 years of church history, it is a post-reformation development that does not predate dispensationalism by very much.)

Of course, pointing out that a strong case can be made that the above views can be demonstrated to be more novel than dispensationalism proves little if anything with regard to whether or not they are biblical. The point is that it is folly to simply note that a teaching appears to be novel and just dismiss it out of hand the way that so many attempt to do with dispensationalism. Likewise, it is hardly responsible to simply point to someone on the lunatic fringe, however popular they may be, and thereby dismiss the camp with which they are identified. Recently I was taken aback when a young scholar posted on his blog that he abandoned dispensationalism after seeing an episode of Jack Van Impe’s show. If that’s reason enough to bail, then should amils abandon their view because of Harold Camping’s rantings or because it is the predominant view among many neo-orthodox and liberal scholars who reject the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture?  Should continuationists abandon their view when confronted with faith healers, the Word of Faith “prosperity gospel,” “Holy Laughter” and those who have taught that speaking in tongues is necessary to be saved?  Should non-dispensationalists abandon their identification of Israel with the church because it has often served as the justification for anti-Semitism?

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I do plan to begin posting here more regularly, Lord willing.  However, since I don’t plan to maintain the heavy focus on Southern Baptist issues, in all likelihood I will not be posting any more chapters from Baptist Why and Why Not.  This work was published in 1901 by the Baptist Sunday School Board (now called Lifeway.) It was edited by J.M. Frost, who was instrumental in the creation of the Sunday School Board and was its first chief executive.  It is an important work on Southern Baptist faith and practice from the beginning of the 20th century.

Because some of my readers had found the previous posts to be of interest, I wanted to note that several years ago my friend Don Elbourne had posted Baptist Why and Why Not on his website, along with several other historic Southern Baptist writings from the same period that may be of interest.

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Phil has addressed this issue before,  but this short post is an excellent introduction, especially for those who are not familiar with the term.  What is the result of this movement that began in the middle of the last century?

The average American today thinks evangelicalism is a political position or a religious ghetto rather than a set of biblical beliefs.  The task for the remnant who still believe and teach classic evangelical doctrine is to remain faithful and remember that the gospel—not the combined clout of a large politically-driven movement—is the power of God unto salvation.

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