Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More thoughts on dissing dispensationalism at Bethlehem's "Evening"

(Followup of this post)

What's really surprising me is the people trying to tush-tush any objection to the absence of a dispensationalist speaker at this event.

First pass
Suppose Dallas Theological Seminary were to host an event called "An Evening on the Extent and Efficacy of the Atonement."

Further suppose that the event were hosted by Chuck Swindoll, and that there were three presenters: a semi-Pelagian, an Arminian, and an Amyraldian.

Do you think that five-point Calvinists would be pleased? Would they feel it was a well-rounded presentation, by a major institution, on the announced topic?

Suppose further that, when they made their objection, Swindoll (or a spokesman) responded, "Well, if we had a five-pointer on the panel, that would be two Calvinists, since we already have the Amyraldian."

Would that be a satisfying response?

Second pass

Seriously: I think you could make a better argument that there is no need for a "historical" premill on the platform. They should have the a-, the post-, and a dispensationalist.

After all, you already have two presenters whose positions think that buckets of OT prophecies have a fulfillment that never could be gleaned from the words themselves, and never would have occurred either to the prophets or their audience; and you already have two presenters whose positions think that most of Revelation really isn't about actual events "that are to take place after this" (Revelation 1:19).

Why have a third ("historical" premil)?

The point 

It is just like that. Note: the event is titled An Evening of Eschatology. Again I ask, which has arguably been the most influential approach to eschatology among Bible-believers over the last century or so?

Note: I am not asking whether you like it, whether you agree with it, whether you're happy with the way things are or have been. I'm asking which has been the most influential in the area of eschatology in the past century or so.


Fred Butler said...

I'm asking which has been the most influential in the area of eschatology

Well, if we are going to have that qualification, it would be just amillennialism and premillennialism. Amillennialism has its roots in Augustine and is with out a doubt the historic shaping eschatology to impact the church, negatively so in my mind. Postmillennialism is just a corollary of the amill interpretive principles originally presented by Augustine but with variously different emphasis. Certainly how the postmill understands the timing of the coming of Christ is a bit different than the amiller, but honestly, the proponents of both systems practically draw the same conclusions on how to read eschatological passages like Revelation 20.

Premillennialism is left. It has historically stood in the shadow of amillennialism, because Origen and Augustine developed their eschatology as more of a reaction to it than anything else.

DJP said...

Fair enough. In the other post and in my comments I qualified my statement as referring to the most influential within the last century or so.

I've updated the post. Thanks.

Casey said...

I agree with you on this issue and appreciate you speaking up for it--though I believe it should say "Bethlehem" in your title instead of "Bethany."

DJP said...

Oh sticklebats, of course you're right. Sorry, thanks, fixed.

Casey said...

By the way, I loved the hypothetical DTS Conference analogy. Spot on.

Stefan said...


I hear you on the exclusion of the Dispensatonalist position, though to be fair, it was probably unintentional, since all the speakers were already scheduled to be there to speak on other matters.

That they include any kind of premillennialist at all should be remarkable, since any and all premillenialism is often written off with a broad brush stroke by everyone from mainline liberals to the Truly Reformed. (It's so pre-Augustinian, don't you know?) Then again, John Piper is historic premill, so there you go. (Which is NOT the reason I am, by the way!)

You have probably read more about it than I have, but I am not under the impression that historic premillennialism spiritualizes the literal promises of God in the Old Testament to the degree that you claim it does. And it does appear to have been the eschatology of the early church, so then would have been the framework by which the earliest Christians—steeped as they were in the promises of the old Testament—would have read the prophetic and apocalyptic writings in Scripture.

My impression, rather, is that the main difference with Dispensationalism is not so much in the timing of Christ's return (before or after the tribulation) or other matters, but rather in whether or not discrete dispensations are used as the main framework for understanding redemptive history.

As an aside, I have't studied it at all, but is there a difference between "historic" premillennialism and posttribulational premillennialism? It seems like there are mid-trib and post-trib Dispensationalists, which distinction escapes me, since I thought that Dispensationalism was by definition premillennial...???

Feel free to correct me on any factual errors I've made.

DJP said...

Yessir, you are mistaken. Ladd famously said that the only thing that made him premill was Revelation 20. Otherwise, could have been amill.

Stefan said...

Ack, I stand corrected!

Phil has helpfully posted Dennis Michael Swanson's Spurgeon and Eschatology, which not only exhaustively tries to discern the Prince of Preacher's own views from the four main viewpoints (HT: Dan), but also as a matter of course sets out the main points of the four different eschatological systems.

Sure enough, according to the pertinent section of Swanson's paper, you are quite right about Ladd. But overall, historic premillennialism does try to take a more "middle way" between the other eschatologies, hinging on a covenantal, Romans 11-type fulfilment of God's Old Testament promises.

So that said, I see your point more clearly. To use another analogy, it would be like having a panel involving a Roman Catholic, a Greek Orthodox, and a High Church Anglican discussing infant baptism, and the High Church Anglican standing in for the credobaptist position....

Stefan said...

I meant, discussing baptism in general.

CR said...

If I were a dispensationalist I would feel like Rodney dangerfield right now.

DJP said...

Welcome to my world, ~35 years and counting.

Stefan said...

Hah! I was thinking of Rodney Dangerfield when I was writing my comment...though admittedly in reference to historic premillennialists (thinking of the wider context of the whole Evangelical church).

Totally off topic, Dan, but if you ever want to refer someone to a Q and A website that is both Calvinistic AND Dispensationalist, try One could spend hours searching and browsing through the articles there, and it has been helpful to me over the years (as it was again just now as I was writing this comment, by God's grace, on something that has been laying heavy on my heart).

Articles range from the basic (Who Is Jesus Christ?) to the more complex (atonement) to the practical (diligence). They are also organized in the top menu bar, under "Crucial ?'s," "FAQ1," and "FAQ2."

P.D. Nelson said...

Dan I've made this comment on and I've decided I should post it here also. I don't know Piper view regarding his theology, if it is Dispensational then obviously he's being hypocritical. But if he is CT or even NCT why should he bring in a view that he doesn't hold? Does MacArthur bring in on his eschatology conferences CT speakers who hold to different views?

And second which dispensational premill view should we bring in? Classical or Progressive? Robert L. Thomas representing the Classical view says of progressive dispensationalism that it isn't dispensationalism at all but something different (Four views of Revelation page 179) Why should we reject Progressive dispensational's view on premill view? Shouldn't both views as well as historical be present to fairly represent all the views?

Joel said...

Ahhhhhh...I go running down the hall screaming because I feel like I should hold my tongue, but just can't.

I had mentioned earlier yesterday I think about Covenant Theology being a stumbling block for reformed soteriology, and this is such a clear example to me as to why.

Personally, I find post/amill far more offensive than Arminianism. I just do...because here we talk up the bigness of God and his promises and then POOF...his promises apparently mean nothing. I mean really...if a promise is made to Joe Schmoe by Penny Promiser, and JIll Smith is the one who collects on it HOW HOW HOW is that promise a promise of anything!

My brother is reformed, says the Doctrines of Grace meant so much to him...blah blah blah. Then he baptizes babies and believes amill and in an old earth. I mean bully for you on the reformed soteriology, but you screw up so much other theology. And yes it does screw everything up.

Let me be clear (as our president would say), part of the reason Calvinism v. Armianism feels so stupid to me is because so many "Calvinists" baptize babies and believe that some kind of protection is imbued by the infant baptism.

SO here...God is completely sovereign chooses who he elects and everything, but then just in case God messes up, I'm going to baptize babies so my kid is elect. So God is sovereign but I control his sovereignity. That, to me, is far more offensive than almost any Arminianism. Blech...just had to get that off my chest, Dan...if it needs to die in the rabbit hole...just kill it.

threegirldad said...

I posted this in response to Joe Rigney's comment at DG:

I suppose that this reply risks making the first phrase in your first sentence look prophetic, but here goes anyway: In what sense is Dispensationalism not a major millennial position? Based on what set of criteria? Or, as Dan Phillips has asked at his blog, "[W]hich [position] has arguably been the most influential approach to eschatology among Bible-believers over the last century or so?"

DJP said...

I'd just be repeating what I explained in both of these posts, PD. Yes, given that they're having a post- and an a- (and not one from every shade of either), to fulfill the promise of the title they should represent what is likely the dominant evangelical view.

DJP said...

Thanks, 3GD.

I pray nothing but good for Piper and his ministry, and am not angry about it.

But I find their reasoning for shutting out everyone who applies the same fundamental hermeneutic to the whole Bible to be wholly unconvincing.

They should call the event, "An Evening on Three Variations of the Same Basic Approach, To The Exclusion of What Probably Most Evangelicals Have Believed For the Last Century."

But I guess that would be kind of long.


PS - what would leave me a bit tiffed is if any of the speakers directly or indirectly criticize dispensationalism in absentia.

Chris Roberts said...


"Again I ask, which has arguably been the most influential approach to eschatology among Bible-believers over the last century or so?"

Whatever else might be said about your arguments, this is the weakest and frankly surprises me coming from you. Since when does influence determine the right to a hearing? As I mentioned in the DG thread, you guys are starting to sound like emergents whining that no one will listen to us or understand us.

As for the conference, precisely because dispensationalism has dominated, I am less interested in hearing from dispensationalists. It _does_ dominate, and I am far more familiar with dispensationalism (even, to some degree, of the non-kooky sort) than with any of the three positions DG will be presenting. I will be glad to learn more about them, much more so than hearing more about dispensationalism.

DJP said...

Ah, you're importing the approach of "disdain, insult and dismissal" that you've tried (unsuccessfully) over at DG to my backyard.

No, you're wrong, for all the reasons I explained in both posts. I'm not going to rewrite them for you. If you want to try to engage them, we can respond. Or, you might just find you should change your mind.

DJP said...

Thanks for the links, btw, Stefan. I'm checking them out now.

Anonymous said...

Joel, whose Profile is NOT available:
Personally, I find post/amill far more offensive than Arminianism. I just do...because here we talk up the bigness of God and his promises and then POOF...his promises apparently mean nothing.

I would suggest you don't understand amillennialism. I, and many other amillenialists, have found much comfort in God's promises as recorded in Revelation and there is much that we eagerly anticipate.

For the record, this amillenialist believes in a young earth and that all that is was created in six 24 hour days. I also believe baptizing infants is not justified in Scripture in any way whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not influence is a test for rightness, and it's not, I would suggest that the system of thought that has dominated evangelicalism of late should at least have a seat at the table. To not extend an offer to a capable representative (Dan, for instance) seems like a major (OK, minor) oversight.

Anonymous said...

If they let a dispensationalist in on the discussion, they will appear to give it credibility. For whatever other reason, I would say that is the main reason.

DJP said...

That's about the worst I can think, James. It certainly gives that impression.

Will they all put their fingers in their ears and hum for a few moments? Chris R might like that.

Anonymous said...

It will appear to give it credibility?

Are you saying that would be a bad thing? I don't follow you.

DJP said...

James means, I think, from their perspective.

Chris R (above) embodies the very worst of what one might fear is their motivating attitude — sneering, clueless dismissal.

So it could combine the incompatibles of (A) it is so hetero that we won't even talk about it, and besides (B) it is basically the same as "historical" premill, so there's no need.

Tangentally reminds me of what a friend who has a Master's in counseling said about Christians say who struggle with perverse sexual attractions: (A) it is just a sin like any other sin, and (B) no one understands my struggles.

Anonymous said...

If it is from their perspective and they actually believe that to be the case, I would suggest that they should act a little differently towards brothers in Christ who have a different, yet Biblically argued, position.

In other words, they shouldn't worry that it will appear to give it credibility. Now if it were heresy we were discussing that would be an entirely different story.

DJP said...

Yeah; but we should stress we're sheerly guessing, conjecturing, worst-case-scenarioing.

But we're here because the stated reasons do not make sense.

Anonymous said...


Fred Butler said...

I am going to start posting on Revelation 20 at my place in the next week DV. You amillers are welcomed to comment.

DJP said...

Fred: link troll.

threegirldad said...

Has anyone else read Joe Rigney's latest comment at the DG thread? If so, what do you make of it?

DJP said...

It's very disappointing, and perhaps very revealing.

I just composed and submitted the very nicest contentful response I could put together. In part, it reads:

Joe, I don't know you, and I don't want to be insulting — I don't know whether you're a layman, or what.

But to say that the difference between "historical" premillennialism boils down to "disputes ...about the rapture or the interpretation of Revelation" between two otherwise-indistinguishable views — yikes. That is.....

Well, the nicest way I can think to put it is this: it appears that you, for one, would have profited if you'd listened with an open heart and an open Bible to a dispensationalist's presentation. It would have been quicker than reading Ladd, Walvoord, Ryrie, Vlach, Feinberg(s), or the many others who individually would have dispelled such a notion.

Then you would know that it would be more accurate to say that the other three schools merely engage in "disputes" about the exact nature of the millennium, but otherwise are far closer to being interchangeable in many regards.

As Ladd himself said.

CR said...

I read both of Rigney's comments and I think I know his intentions, but it's still confusing.

His first comment was related to the fact that basically this was a last minute thing and that a couple of the speakers including Wilson were holdovers from the DG Conference. This eschatology conference is a BBC Seminary thing, not DGM. They really couldn't round up people fast enough.

His explanation that his distinction is between eschatological and millenial positions is a reasonable one.

There's one problem. The title of the discussion is not "An Evening of Millenial views" of which, Rigney is correct, there are three millenial views: pre, a, and post, but the title of the discussion is "An Evening of Eschatology."

And I think as has already been mentioned on that DGM post, there are not 3 eschatological positions (there are 3 millenial views), there are four eschatological positions. And I think that has been one of Dan's points all along. How can you have a discussion of eschatological positions with only three of the four positions being represented. Now if BBC Seminary meant to have a discussion of the millenial views, fine. They should have titled it as such.

The interesting thing will be to hear if the speakers can just stay on the subject of millenial views and not get into the details of the scope of Israel and whether they will be saved in large numbers. If the speakers can stay on the intended subject of whether there will be an actual literal millenial view or not, well, then, great.

But my guess is that at least two of the speakers ( the amils and post mils) cannot stay on topic and will find that they have to disparage dispensational premillenialism. And it's possible, that even for the historical mill guy, in order, to fit in, may even be forced to disparaged the disp mil position.

We'll see, maybe I'm wrong. But BBC Seminary really have themselves to blame on this.

BBC Seminary kinda dropped the ball with their title.

threegirldad said...

Thanks. Not wanting to be guilty of beating a dead horse, but I do have one more question: what about the statement that Dispensationalism "is a species of premillenialism"? Is that accurate? I've sure never seen or heard that description before, but I'm not in any position to engage in a systematic tit-for-tat about it.

Anonymous said...

Joel Said:

"so many "Calvinists" baptize babies and believe that some kind of protection is imbued by the infant baptism.

SO here...God is completely sovereign chooses who he elects and everything, but then just in case God messes up, I'm going to baptize babies so my kid is elect."

I don't think you could misrepresent the reformed position anymore if you tried. Are you doing that on purpose or are you just that much misinformed. Because I can't tell.

DJP said...

OK: so pedo's don't say that "baptism" of a baby makes him a member of the New Covenant — which covenant guarantees forgiveness of sins and knowledge of God (Jeremiah 31)? And Berkhof didn't say that the such children have a "promise" of salvation?

Anonymous said...

Dan, You're not going to let pedo's ignore what they actually teach?


My word verification: piration

Joel said...

I know I have many problems with understanding... and all the different views on eschatology is one area that's practical impossible for one person to understand.

To me... amillienialism spiritualizes far too many promises without a very good reason other than that in 300 AD it seemed impossible that Israel would ever come back into existence. To deal with that problem and the past promises made by God the church became "Spiritual Israel." I don't like that, because if God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants can be spiritualized that far so that they went to some other person in a completely different way it leaves me a great deal of concern as to the promises to me I take for granted. After all, if God has spiritualized promises in the past that the promisees thought were can I be SURE that Heaven itself may not just become a spiritualized promise?

HSAT, amillienialism, apart from its other aspects of covenant theology doesn't really have any practical problems (causing doctrinal confusion) at the same time a dispensational amillienialist probably has few fellow travellers.

(And a covenant theologian who sees the problems with pedobaptism and takes the word serious enough to accept a literal 6 day creation is all but ready to come over completely to the "dark side.")

As for I don't think you could misrepresent the reformed position anymore if you tried. Are you doing that on purpose or are you just that much misinformed. Because I can't tell.

I don't really know what I'm misrepresenting I think more than anything else I'm just pointing out the glaring issue with paedobaptism combined with reformed soteriology.

If you're saying that you can have a reformed soteriology without paedobaptism, I agree you can. However paedobaptism with a reformed soteriology is, I believe, is not well reflected on, even by many well publicized authors because if paedobaptism does anything than one is denying the Sovereign Perogative of God, IF paedobaptism does nothing than why do it, and instead let the baptism come after a profession of faith?

Anonymous said...


Show me where in reformed theology it is taught that baptism = election? It is not there. Not all who are members of the visible church will persevere. Without faith, no one will be saved.

Election is something that happens in eternity past. Having my daughter baptized doesn't "make her" elect anymore than it saves her. If she isn't counted among the elect then it doesn't matter if she is baptized or not.

To charge "the pedo's" with baptizing their children in case God messes up is cynical; a distortion of reformed teaching.

May I point you to a short but excellent article on baptism by Michael Horton?

I don't expect you to agree with the practice but at least, in the future, take the time to understand what the other side believes before you criticize it


From the same article -

"God has brought us into a covenant of grace and although not all members of this covenant will persevere (i.e., they are not elect), they enjoy special privileges of belonging to the covenant people of God. This was true of Israel (the church in the Old Testament), and the New Testament simply applies this to the New Testament church. (Hebrews, esp. 4:1-11 and 6:4-12; Dt. 4:20 and 28:9 with 1 Pet. 2:9,10; Gal. 6:16; Hos. 2:23 and Is. 10:22 with Rom. 9:24-28)."

I love both of your blogs (pyro and this one) keep up the good work. Not bad for a "credo". :)

God Bless,


DJP said...

Thanks, David, and if Horton wants to visit and comment, that's great. But since you're here, and taking that view....

Oh sticklebats. I'm looking at my own post-title and thinking, "OFF TOPIC!!"

All right, self-convicted, I'll leave it there for now.

But I do expect we'll return to this topic in the future.

Christian said...

Hmm...give John Wimber a pass but not John MacArthur, John Feinberg, etc.

I refer to the laudatory and largely uncritical note posted on the DG blog in the past year or two commemorating the 10th anniversary of John Wimber's death. Yes some vague noises are made here and there about not being in complete agreement with "Power Evangelism," "Power Healing" etc. but no specific disagreements are detailed in the pages I viewed. (If there are any on the DG or related sites, I'd be happy to be pointed in that direction.)

Would it be fair then to say that Bethlehem/DG is "open but cautious" where the gifts are concerned but alas perhaps not so open where dispensationalism is concerned? Holding a forum with the stated views being presented is what one would expect from the OPC, PCA or Reformed Baptists who adhere to the 2nd London Confession, all of whom regard dispensationalism as a pernicious error.

As for Historic Premil, Ladd moved in a more amil direction, with the exception of his view of Rev. 20, which as noted previously was apparently the primary reason he continued to wave the premil flag. But older covenantal premils like Spurgeon, Ryle and Bonar believed in an actual restoration of Israel to the land. Barry Horner brings this out quite nicely in Future Israel and on his website.

Ladd has become so synonymous with historic premil in the past 50 years that many just automatically assume that older non dispy premils like Spurgeon believed what he did. On several important points they didn't. However, Ladd's views on the Kingdom have been quite influential with the "leaky canoneer" (i.e. continuing prophecy) crowd.

I do seem to recall Dr. Hamilton (who will be representing the Historic Premil view) stating on his blog some time ago that he was somewhere between Progressive Dispensationalism and NCT.

Christian said...

Boyce College (Southern Seminary's undergrad college) recently held a forum that was a bit more balanced.

Actually, everyone on the panel was a premil, including a pretribulationist, Dr. Ware. Although Dr. Ware's progressive dispensationalism may not be sufficient to satisfy some. :)

Apparently the idea was to be more balanced and not have all premils on the panel, but Dr. Schreiner switched from amil to premil over the summer.

Christopher Witmer said...

I just saw the video, which was more than two hours long, and although I found it to be a very edifying discussion, I thought that they had a hard enough time debating the three positions as it was in the time allotted. The four people in the discussion were close enough in their hermeneutics that they could allow the discussion about eschatology to proceed without spending very much on hermeneutics. I think if a Dispensationalist had been thrown into that mix another full hour would have been necessary, and it might have ended up as a discussion less of eschatology than of hermeneutics. I think such a discussion would be a useful one to have, but the logistical challenges would have to be overcome . . .

DJP said...

That makes sense. But hermeneutics is the issue, isn't it - much as some are trying to (uncomfortably) tush-tush it aside?

I've got it set to DL and listen to the talk. May give impressions after I do.

Thanks for yours!