Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another "diss" of dispensationalism

You can like it, love it, loathe it, or hate it, you have only two choices:
  1. Admit that dispensationalism has been a powerful, influential presence among Biblically-faithful Christians since (at the latest) the beginning of the 20th century, and a major motivator behind increased lay Bible study, Bible teaching, missions and evangelism; or....
  2. Build yourself a little bungalow beside that lazy river in Egypt.
It sure seems as if Desiring God's announcement of a conference on eschatology [link updated] comes down for Option #2.

Several folks (including yr obdt svt) made some protesting comments. To them, this response has just been offered:
To those disappointed the dispensational view has been left behind: It would unbalance the debate to have two premillennials. And we can only fit so many around the table, so we've gone with what's most relevant in our context. (Maybe when Jim gets back to Southern Seminary, they can have the intramural premil discussion there!)
I have submitted a response to that. Like this blog, that one is moderated, so it isn't up yet as I publish this post. But this is what I wrote:
Here's why that doesn't convince me.

"Historic" premils love to take a stance approximating "Oh, no no no, look — don't lump me in with those nasty dispensationalists! I'm sophisticated, and have a very old and respectable position!"

Plus, when the Presby's studied dispensationalism in the 1940s to see if it accorded with the WCF, they tried to be very emphatic that they meant dispensational premillennialism, and not "historical" premillennialism. The former (they ruled) was incompatible; the latter was hunky-dory.

And now for an institution to come and say "Oh well, same/same...."

I don't think so. Are they the same? Then let's be even-handed about it. Tell the Presbys and all the pitchfork committees that if they want to come after dispensational premills, they're going to have to come through the "historical" premills first.

And be sure to tell sites like this and this that they're just the same/same — so they should either shut out EVERYONE, or revisit the back of the bus and let it speak for ITSELF.

And if this (to me) common-sense approach isn't followed, I'm sure the moderator will instruct the audience to boo and hiss if any of the participants says anything critical of dispensationalism.


(BTW, to be clear: I am not advocating booing and hissing. If you go, don't boo or hiss. But I do think it would be unfair to criticize dispensationalism in absentia, since we won't be allowed to respond from the back of the bus.)

You'd have to have walked in my shoes to see just how bitterly hysterical this is. I can't count how many times I've read or heard "Reformed" types pouring acid scorn on dispensationalists (usually while misrepresenting them, or picking at some peripheral [or totally-unrelated] bangle) — and then they'll say, "Of course, historical premillennialism is an entirely different matter."

Yet here's a conference presumably organized by educated men, saying in effect, "Huh? Hey, we've already got one premil on the platform; it'd be redundant to have a dispensationalist."

Right. Because they're the same thing.

Except when they're being shredded, ostracized, misrepresented, tarred and feathered.

Got it.

UPDATE: see further thoughts here.


CR said...

What a proverbial slap in the face.

Al said...

Well, it could be that they are just speaking truth to power...

You guys rule the world.

al sends

Hayden said...

Case in point of the misrepresentations:

Matthison's book and John Gerstner's books.

I concluded reading those books and saying, I don't even know who they are talking about. Couldn't they find dispy scholars?

Matt McK said...

Heh. Finally got #2 after staring at it for awhile. A bit slow today.

DJP said...

Believe me, I understand. Hope it was worth the effort.


Fred Butler said...

And to add a more contemporary book to Hayden's list, Sam Waldron's "MacArthur's Millennial Madness, (er I mean) Manifesto: A Friendly Response." He all but calls John a heretic in that book for his dispensationalism.

DJP said...

Fred's being (uncharacteristically) modest in not noting that he has a series on Waldron's book, starting here.

Fred Butler said...

I was attempting to avoid the "link troll" smear.

But thanks for the plug none the less.

Andy Dollahite said...

To be fair, they aren't organizing a full-blown "conference" on eschatology, they added on a discussion panel composed of speakers who are already there to talk about other things. I think your points are certainly valid, but to describe this as some big time formal event seems a bit misleading don't you think?

DJP said...

Maybe. Find a blog that described it as a big-time formal event and complain, if you think that's worth the doing. This blog described it as "Desiring God's announcement of a conference on eschatology." The site describes it as "a special post-conference event ...following the Desiring God National Conference... [featuring] [c]onference speakers Sam Storms and Doug Wilson... [and] Jim Hamilton from Southern Seminary... as John Piper hosts “An Evening on Eschatology”... [and constituting a] panel."

You think you've found a hair worth splitting, have yourself a happy.

lyndao said...

Interesting... at least they don't include the partial-preterist view, one I still keep hearing a lot.

What gets really interesting is when the opposition tries to label as "historic premill" someone who really is progressive dispensational. A pastor I know is friends with Fred Zaspel (progressive dispensational, land promises still in effect for Israel, national salvation for Israel in the future), but insists that Zaspel is "historic premillennial." When I pressed him for further details as to what he understands of Zaspel's eschatology and how he would say that it is different from dispensational premill, he admitted that he really hadn't discussed the subject that much with Zaspel, and he hadn't read Zaspels website articles, etc. ... but, he assured me, his friend was definitely historic premillennial, not into that terrible, radical dispensational premill stuff.

Andy Dollahite said...


Nevermind. Thanks for telling me why I posted. I had deluded myself into thinking I asked a sincere question.

Fred Butler said...

at least they don't include the partial-preterist view

(Fred) That's because preterism isn't a millennial viewpoint. It's a hermeneutical grid in which a person interprets the Bible. Preterists tend to choose either of two flavors when it comes to the millennium: a or post.

Terry Rayburn said...

Even worse than neglecting a main-stream eschatological "school" is inviting a speaker who rejects Justification by Faith -- that would be neo-legalist Doug Wilson, who teaches that we will eventually be "justified" if we maintain our membership in the "Covenant" (which we supposedly enter by water baptism) by sufficient obedience to Biblical Law (as defined by Wilson). Oh, plus "faith", of course.

Matt McK said...


I really don't want to hijack this thread with an argument about Doug Wilson, but Mr. Rayburn's comment is frankly slander. I personally disagree with Pastor Wilson on a number of issues, but to accuse him of promoting any form of works-righteousness is absurd. Here's relevant post from just a few days ago.

Anyway, if you don't believe me ask Frank Turk. : )

DJP said...

Fair enough, both. I don't want this thread hijacked, either. On the subject of Wilson, I'll say four things:

1. I don't understand Wilson's view

2. Like NT Wright, Wilson seems to say that every last one of his critics just doesn't understand him

3. The really pathetic pitch (in effect "Remember your baptism") he made in his CT exchange with Christopher Hitchens didn't allay my concerns

4. Wilson might have clarified a lot if he'd given me a straight-up answer in this thread. But alas, he opted not to do so.

lyndao said...

(Fred) "That's because preterism isn't a millennial viewpoint. It's a hermeneutical grid in which a person interprets the Bible. Preterists tend to choose either of two flavors when it comes to the millennium: a or post."

Thanks for the clarification on the distinction. The person I know is partial-preterist / amillennial (really, partial-preterist and confused), but lately it's the partial preterist stuff being taught and emphasized, including a preterist view of Revelation, so that it comes across as its own millennial system.

threegirldad said...

1. I don't understand Wilson's view

Fascinating. My anxiety meter just dropped precipitously.

Coram Deo said...

Maybe Challies will live-blog it.

In Him,