Where Are All The Young People? The Pre-Trib Conference 2010

I have recently returned from attending the 2010 Pre-Trib Conference in Irving, TX.  Among the speakers were Michael Vlach, Wayne House, David Larsen, Paul Wilkinson, Andy Woods, Mike Stallard, and Barry Horner.  Each presentation from these speakers was of high quality.  In my opinion the two most noteworthy presentations were by Wilkinson and Horner.  This is not to criticize the other men mentioned above, but just to say that Wilkinson’s excellent lecture about the disturbing rise of Anti-Israelite Christian Palestinianism (as advocated by the likes of  Stephen Sizer and Gary Burge), and Horner’s eloquent assessment of latent anti-Israelism residing within replacement theology were both weighty and up to date.

I was there mainly for the reason of manning a table for Veritas School of Theology: to talk to prospective students and to get some “visibility” for the seminary.  During the first day there was something concerning me which I could not put my finger on.  It was not just the presence of books about the rise of the “Nephilim” or “America in Prophecy” and such like which supplied the angst, but something else.  That “something” hit me when I stood at the back of the room for Paul Wilkinson’s morning lecture.  I looked out at the attendees and it dawned on me that there were hardly any young people among the throng of three or four hundred.  If I were to hazard a guess I would put the average age of those present at no less than 50 years old.  And if I pushed that up to 55 I would still feel comfortable with the mean.  Where were all the young people?

It had been about five years since my last attendance at this venue so I expected there would be many faces I wouldn’t be familiar with.  But young faces, young men hungry for the Word, there were none to speak of!  I don’t know if this disturbing fact was noticed by anyone else.  I spoke with some about it but hardly an eyebrow was raised.  The truth is, if this is a symptom of the eroding constituency of classic dispensationalism things are bad!  We may wish to point our fingers at the undoubtedly faddish “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement, but the lack of new blood in dispensationalism is very worrying, even if it was predictable.

For years I have watched the Reformed community encourage and promote new writers and speakers and new thinking.  I believe this is a major reason for the high standard of their materials.  In contrast I have not witnessed the same dynamic within the Dispensational community.  While I don’t want to diagnose the trouble here, I think it is obvious that Reformed thinkers speak and write about far more topics and often about more important subjects than Dispensational thinkers have done for many a year.  The dearth of first rate Dispensational materials which address “the whole counsel of God” thus appealing broadly to young Christian men and women is the inevitable result.  

I have always had an uneasy attitude towards the Pre-Trib Conference and Tim LaHaye’s ‘Pre-Trib Research Center’ which supports it.  In the first place the idea of starting a ministry wholly devoted to defending a less than crucial End Times teaching (which I happen to hold); never mind putting on an annual conference to regurgitate the same old arguments, seems unnecessary, unhelpful and narrow.  It is unnecessary because although pre-tribulationism is supported by good theological argumentation, it is not a cardinal tenet of the Christian Faith.  As far as its support from Scripture is concerned it can only be regarded as enjoying indirect testimony.  And this indirect scriptural witness, though I believe it to be stronger than the alternatives, is a fair reflection of the tertiary importance of the doctrine when compared to the Person of Jesus Christ, Justification by Faith, or the Trinity.

Further, the Pre-Trib ministry is unhelpful because it majors on such a less than vital doctrine in isolation from the rest of Theology.  This lack of integration makes the ministry off-balance (which is not unusual for dispensationalists of the last generation), and fails to incorporate the teaching within the broader perspective of Biblical and Systematic Theology and exegesis.  Thus the Bible student must look elsewhere to get a proper theological diet.

Finally, it is narrow for the obvious fact that it encourages fixation on one aspect of God’s Truth – and not a primary one at that.  This problem is only made worse because of the populist nature of LaHaye’s whole approach, epitomized by those awful “Left Behind” novels, which republished more or less Biblical Eschatology as pulp fiction.  Whether one believes in the pre-tribulational Rapture or not, the portrayal of parts of God’s Word in such commercialized garb is embarrassing (whatever the pragmatist supporters of this sort of thing might say).

These are things which someone must say.  All the sturdy work of Thomas Ice beside, the “pre-tribbers” must awake to the demise of Dispensational theology under their watch.  Surely it is time to stop following this restrictive path?  Surely it is time to open up the doors and let the fresh air of serious holistic theological thinking in again!  If that doesn’t happen soon, I fear we can not expect our ranks to be refilled from among the Christian Twenty and Thirty-Somethings.

 

See the follow up article: Diagnosing the Dispensational Malaise (1)

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69 comments

  1. Hello Paul,

    Great insight! While you and I might disagree with each other on the conclusions of the New Testament in regard to ethnic Israel and the Church, your analysis of the dispensational movement is as you may say in your homeland “spot on!” In my own journey, one of the things I noticed was the contrast in depth between covenental theologians and those from the dispensational camp. I won’t begin to venture why . . . thoughts?
    JCH

    1. Christian,

      If I were to put my finger on just one issue I would say the impotence of dispensations as formularies for theology and worldview. This single thing is, i think, the biggest problem. I do not thereby think Dispensationalism is wrong, but it has shot itself in the foot by its self-definition. Hence, I think of myself as a Biblical Covenantalist.

      your brother,

      P.

  2. Hello Dr. Henebury,

    I appreciated your post and insights. I’m not sure if 33 years is “young,” but I am one fired up dispensationalist. I just wanted to raise my hand and be counted.

    -Mike C. from Portland

  3. Serious [w]holelistic thinking is what is needed for sure. Dispensationalism has become anemic and pale. It’s love affair with the future has failed to produce any theological children in the present.

  4. Well, I don’t know any under-40 dispensational Calvinists personally, but I think they are out there — at schools such as The Master’s Seminary. Not sure if Matt Weymeyer is still in that age group, but he’s one that comes to mind. But it does sound like they’re not coming to the Pre-Trib conference, and so that particular conference and group may come to an end.

    1. Hi Lynda,

      The Masters bunch are doing some good work in this area: one of the few who are. But they are a bit of a mixed bag (PD’s and Traditionals), and if Vlach’s definition is anything to go by, they limit dispensationalism to ecclesiology and eschatology. I want to say more about that, but just here I will say that without building a dispensational (read “Biblical Covenantalist” Systematic Theology from the ground up there will not be enough energy in the movement to keep the flag flying for long.

      1. “building a dispensational (read “Biblical Covenantalist” Systematic Theology)” — do you mean something like S. Lewis Johnson’s approach with the biblical covenants and the overall Divine Purpose? I really enjoy his teaching, and notice that he integrated concepts such as the covenants, the kingdom (millennial) age, Israel and the Church all throughout his teaching of various books of the Bible, to a much greater extent than other teachers seem to do.

      2. Lynda, S. Lewis Johnson did stress the covenants over the dispensations. He would say that the dispensations were man’s perspective and the covenants were God’s perspective. I like that although I would add an important nota bene; which is that God’s perspective has been revealed so that it ought to be man’s perspective 🙂

  5. Paul:

    I would be interested in your thoughts regarding the influence of a man such as Dr. Fruchtenbaum, and his Israelology text. Do you feel this is a start of what you are looking for?

    Ray Metcalfe
    Toronto, On

    1. Hello Ray,

      You ask two questions here. Taking the one about the book “Israelology” first, my answer would be “Yes”. This book offers a very fine evaluation and refocusing of the debate between the eschatological camps. I recommend the book.
      In response to the question about Fruchtenbaum’s influence my personal opinion (and that is all it is) is that his “Pemberisms” (Gap Theory, Pre-Adamite world that fell, six abodes of Satan) are off-putting. Moreover, there is no real development of dispensationalism as a full theology. He relies a lot on Chafer. Chafer is good, but he needs improvement in many areas.

  6. Although I share your concern about the implications of apparently relatively few young people at the pre-trib conference (I myself was not in attendance), I think we need to be careful in concluding that the cause must be “anemic dispensationalism,” as legitimate a concern as that may be.

    My own observations, based on my limited experience as an elder in the local church, is that the reduction in younger people in sound Biblically-based churches is a general trend and not unique to those with a dispensational outlook. So one question to consider is whether the reduction you observe is really due to differences in theological viewpoint or has more to do with larger issues such as a reduction in scholastic abilities and interests among younger people in general, the growth in postmodernism, and attraction toward emergent thinking and practices which minimize the importance of objective rational thought as a component in the worship of God.

    1. After further thought, I wanted to make several additional comments on this topic.

      – In the case of the pre-trib meeting, we also need to consider the practicality and cost to attend for those who are bi-vocational or otherwise employed during the work week. And in the case of young people, funds are typically a greater issue and fewer are in full-time ministry.

      – As much as I look forward to your expected contribution to dispensationalism in regard to dealing with the covenants perhaps in more detail, I’m not so convinced that a lack of such treatment is the cause of what you are seeing, especially among younger people who are even less apt to appreciate theological subtleties related to the covenants.

      – I myself am not overly concerned about the possible demise of dispensationalism. Why do I say that? Because of how I myself came to be a dispensationalist: I’m a dispensationalist first and foremost because of what I believe about how to read the Biblical text (a literal hermeneutic). The view that the scriptures are to be taken at face value will always enjoy an inherent advantage and will lead readers to see the distinctions at the core of the dispensational system. So long as people read the Bible much in the same way they read the back of a cereal box — using natural language — then there will be dispensationalists around. So I see the bigger issue to be a failure to hand off the baton to the upcoming generation (for a variety of reasons) and an not convinced the situation is unique to dispensationalism.

  7. “I have always had an uneasy attitude towards the Pre-Trib Conference and Tim LaHaye’s ‘Pre-Trib Research Center’ which supports it”

    You’re right. These types are Arminianistic,sensationalist, and speculative in their eschatology.

    1. “You’re right. These types are Arminianistic,sensationalist, and speculative in their eschatology.”

      As a member of the pre-trib group, I would say you are painting with too broad of a brush. I and several other dispensationalists who I’m familiar with who are members do not consider ourselves to be sensationalizing scripture – unless you consider teaching scriptural truth using the symbols and imagery chosen by the Holy Spirit as sensational in which case I plead as guilty. 🙂 Nor are any among the group I’m familiar with Arminian (most being 4 point Calvinists).

  8. Perhaps the blame for the dearth of young Dispensationalists may be laid at the feet of the Seminaries. I agree that the problem isn’t unique to Disp.

    Someone mentioned Progressive Disp. I see PD being increasingly championed by proponents of non-pretribulational systems. If PD blurs distinctions between the Church and Israel then that system becomes attractive to them. There also seems to be more work done in publishing books from that camp.

    On the other hand, I only have two books by Normative Disp that directly address PD. And I only found them because I dug for that information.

    As far as I can tell, there’s a trend away from premillennialism and within premeillennialism there’s a trend away from pretribulationism. The Seventh day Adventist writers (Steve Wohlberg who is prodigious – see End Times Delusion) shouldn’t be underestimated in giving Disp a bad name.

    Here again, I suspect that the voices against Disp are the loudest. The detractors of disp and pre-trib generally engage a Hagee, LaHaye, Impe or the Left behind books but rarely if ever anyone at a high-level, and often the systems are misrepresented e.g. Zionism, salvation.

    Tony, how’s that book on Daniel going?

    1. I appreciate you good natured reminders about the work I’ve only begun on Daniel. Unfortunately, being a bi-vocational pastor makes it a continual challenge to keep all the balls in the air. For an extended period my time has been split between full time engineering work, part time pastoring, and maintaining a ministry-related website. So my progress on Daniel has slowed to a crawl for some time. However, I work on a contract basis and expect a “gap” will no doubt come along again at which point, Lord willing, more progress will be made. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when.’ So patience is my watchword at present.

  9. If the principle of dispensationalism had been developed along the lines of biblical covenants, a more comprehensive system might have developed that more naturally incoporates soteriology, as well as ecclessiology and eschatology.

    As well, perhaps the imbalances and novelties of classic Disp. might have been avoided.

    Would this curtail the seeming vacancy of the young constituency within Disp/Pretrib.? Who knows but God?

    I know that the situation you described at the PreTrib Conference is not unique or novel. Up here in Canada, I have seen this too. THere has been an attempt to foster interest in prophecy and eschatology in our youth group age kids. But largely this is a doctrine that seems to be co-opted by an older crowd. This may change in time.

  10. Tony, I’ll keep waiting patiently. I’m sure it will be well worth it.

    I still often refer to your work on Revelation. It’s one of the finest commentaries I’ve come across. Just the wealth of information in the footnotes has been a valuable resource to me. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Mac. Your comment about the footnotes is especially of interest to me because one of my goals when writing the commentary was to serve as a synthesis of many of what I concerned to be the best insights from others who have done significant works on Revelation. Being that my original target format was an online course and electronic format, I had the luxury of being able to include full quotes (rather than just citations) of most of my sources. This, in turn, was done for two main objectives: 1) so that unfamiliar readers would be drawn to follow up on these excellent resources by obtaining them for themselves; 2) that those overseas or in areas where the referenced materials are not available or very expensive could still see snippets of what they said.

      Part of the reason progress is slow on Daniel is that I’m expecting the work to be in the same vein with similar thoroughness and citation.

  11. As Tony notes, I’m sure there were some who would have liked to be there but were hindered due to being bivo, etc.

    However, I don’t think Dr. Henebury is being alarmist here. His observation appears to be a clear illustration of his quote from the “Who is Dr. Reluctant?” page:

    “The wife of a well known prophecy teacher once asked my opinion about why so many young dispensationalists quit the team and sign up with the Reformed camp. I answered by putting this question to her: what would you rather hear about, the antichrist or the Lord’s Christ? I might have asked several others, like “who writes all the best theology books? or the best apologetics books?” “Who do you have to read if you want to study beyond the Master’s level?” “Where are the next crop of young dispensational scholars going to come from?” “Who today is developing dispensationalism as a theology in its own right?”’

    Right or wrong, for all the good accomplished there, a Pre Trib Conference bespeaks of a movement mentality that is focused on a narrow slice of truth and that is not focused on expounding the whole counsel of God. The same could be said of the various Free Grace organizations. On the other hand, the Reformed leaning men have Together for the Gospel, the Gospel Coalition, etc.

    A generation or two ago, the dispensationalists were putting meat on the table in a whole host of issues but that doesn’t appear to be the case any longer. Or if so, such recent efforts don’t seem to have had wide distribution.

    1. Hi Chris,

      With regard to the various organizations which have been formed: their focus in many cases is specifically to address some particular slice within the broader theological spectrum. This, of course, is not systematic or comprehensive, but then I don’t look to such organizations for leadership on expounding the whole counsel of God because that isn’t their acknowledged purpose. But I don’t fault them for a lack of comprehensiveness because that simply is not and was not their self-stated purpose in the first place.

      As Paul correctly notes, this is a large topic. While I share Paul’s concern about the lack of young people taking the Scriptures (and therefore theology) seriously, I am somewhat less concerned about who writes the most engaging theology or apologetics works. While that is no doubt a calling card for those who are drawn to academics, I would hate to think that a person’s interpretation of Scripture would be determined or eclipsed by who happens to have written the latest or most interesting theological work. If so, what would it say about the perspicuity of the Scriptures? If our views on these issues had to come primarily from great theologians rather than the text itself? And, if this is indeed what is happening, then I would suggest our concern might be better placed understanding and addressing the desire to gain an academic hearing over following the truth as set forth in Scripture?

      I say this, well aware of the continuous cycle which most academic institutions and many academics seem to travel from a simple Scripture-centered beginning followed, in subtle stages, by a departure from simplicity to ever greater sophistry eventually leading to a denial of the truths once held. Such departures are nearly always lauded and encouraged by academia and a desire for respectability in said realm.

  12. Chris – Nice Post. You got it right . . . I love reformed theology because of the centrality of Christ as they continue to keep the main thing, the main thing! As a graduate of the Masters Seminary and one who was influenced greatly by John MacArthur – it wasn’t until after I graduated from the seminary that I was impacted (genuine conversion experience) by the centrality of the gospel (2 Cor 5:17). While you may differ with me in regard to my eschatology, you would be plenished with the exaltation and supremacy of Christ (and the gospel) in our litergy!

    1. “you would be plenished with the exaltation and supremacy of Christ (and the gospel) in our liturgy!”

      The implication of this comment, of course, is that those of us who preach and fellowship at dispensational churches fall short in our exaltation of Christ or otherwise inadequately recognize his supremacy.

      But then how is Christ truly exalted? Surely a careful handling of the text to preserve Scriptural distinctives given by the Holy Spirit is part of a proper exaltation of Christ. So I would disagree with this implication concerning a supposed short-fall of dispensationalism.

      1. Agree. Reformed Theology’s focus really seems more to exalt “First-Coming-Christ” by attempting to “fit” practically all of biblical prophecy into the events associated with the First Coming and this age (prior to the Second Coming), neglecting (distorting) all that is said concerning what Christ will yet do. Dispensationalism, done right, recognizes that all scripture is centered around two points (not one): the cross and the crown. J.C. Ryle said it well (and I’m not sure that he was technically “dispensational” or not, but his idea certainly agrees), that “Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue we must hold fast, if we would find our way through Scripture difficulties. When he then listed several OT passages that show Christ (mainly in types), half of the list represented things that relate to Christ’s Second Coming, the crown. This is the proper way to exalt Christ, to carefully handle the texts to show their true meaning — and that meaning is far more than (only) Christ’s First Coming. The mishandling of texts to only support the Cross part, simply does not do justice to the many texts that convey far more meaning and the greatness of Christ, texts that simply do not “fit” the Cross part of Christ’s work but anticipate greater things, “the Crown” part.

      2. Tony. Take for example “Hard To Believe” by John MacArthur. In the first edition there was only one paragraph in the entire book which explained the gospel. My concern is that you miss the forest for the trees. I believe Bryan Chappel’s “Christ Centered Preaching” is a MUST read for those who claim to represent the Word. Oh…and the “careful handling of the text” is what our current reformed brothers are doing in making a stand against the many attacks against the gospel.

  13. Linda. Too many presuppostions on your part to comment. As Paul and I have discussed our differences can be traced back to our hermeneutics. In the circles I run, the New Testament is what defines the Old . . . in yours, the Old Testament is what defines the New. This can best be seen in how the different camps view the sacraments – Christ (the gospel) is what is on display in the Reformed circles . . . the choices of men in the dispensational ones.

    1. Yes, we dispensationalist believe that the Old Testament can stand on its own – without the New. Just like it did during the intertestamental period and the way it was used in the days of Paul and the other apostles before the New was complete.

      Sure am glad I don’t have to worry about a yet future revelation coming along to (re)define the New Testamament.

    2. Hmmm, it appears you didn’t even read what I said — how about responding to what I said (from J.C. Ryle) regarding the Cross AND the Crown, instead of simply repeating the same sayings about reinterpreting the Old Testament etc.? But first, how about reading what amillennialist John Reisinger has said in defense of his dispensational brothers? Especially note his concluding remark, “Please do not make any snide remarks about them or question either their godliness or scholarship around me.”

      You later said, “it doesn’t appear that those replying have talked through these issues with someone who believes (and understands!) differently than yourselves” — but where does the fault lie? Instead, I’ve observed that non-disps refuse to discuss the specifics and actually exegete what a particular passage says — it’s always easier, and lazier, to generalize and just repeat the same mantras about how our view is superior, than deal with what a person has said — even with the specific things said by dispensational blog-commenters.

      1. O Linda !

        I didn’t read what you wrote, I only repeated the same sayings, hate discussing specifics, don’t exegete, like what is easy ’cause I am lazy, only generalize, love to repeat mantras, believe what I say is superior, and don’t deal with what people say…

        Whew, with all that going for me, if I may, respond to your dbc by saying that it is my exegetical understanding (mishandling?) that while most of the OT prophecies do in fact point to the gospel fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ . . . there are many which point to God’s final work at the end of the age.

        As to your cross – crown categories, it appears that you believe that CT rob the glory of Christ by not doing justice to the texts. My fear is that you’ve never heard exegetical teaching by a covenant theologian. If I may suggest, download as much of Sinclair Ferguson as you can . . . there you will see our Lord’s glory in the proper place.

        jch

  14. And your point is? Your response gets to the heart as to why many thinking young men (and women!) are jettisoning the dispensational model(s) for covenant theology. Where, in the progress of revelation, we see the fulfillment of many of the OT prophecies fulfilled in Christ (and the gospel!) and not future Israel. The issue isn’t redefining but fulfillment. As I’ve read through the responses of these threads, it doesn’t appear that those replying have talked through these issues with someone who believes (and understands!) differently than yourselves.

    1. Christian,

      Unfortunately your comments belie the smug attitude that is found all too often among the Reformed, particularly newer converts to that persuasion. I can’t speak for others, but I was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for several years and thus am quite familiar with the views on that side of the fence.

      No doubt, a great many dispensationalists are guilty of failing to read primary material outside of their tradition, but the same tendency is evident in the covenantal and NCT camps as well.

      1. Chris,

        I was referencing Tony’s remarks, were you referencing Linda’s?

        Seriously, I am “Smug” as a bug in the glory of Christ in the Church 😉

        It has been my experience in discussing the issues exegetically (language and context) with my DT brothers that once understood, the CT position is seen in a much more favorable light.

        Point? The defense of any position is built on solid exegesis of the text of Scripture. If you’ve lived on both sides of the fence as I have, you must be willing to admit (as I have!) the strengths and weaknesses in both positions (and there are many in both).

        Christian

    2. Christian,

      Let me attempt to respond to your question which, I believe, was directed at what I said about the Old Testament standing on its own without need of the New. You responded with, “And your point is?”

      My point was two-fold:

      1. When God gives revelation, we don’t need to wait for subsequent revelation in order to understand what He has said. Therefore, we don’t need to wait for the NT to define the OT. This is because we understand the character of God – that He intends to communicate to those who received the original OT revelation and that He cannot mislead. The idea that the NT ‘defines’ the OT (your words – see above) unavoidably says that the normative meaning of the OT requires the additional interpretive lens of the NT before it can be properly understood.

      2. My comment about being glad I don’t have to worry about a yet future revelation coming along to (re)define the New Testament was intended to raise the issue about concerns I’d have to deal with if the approach which you suggest concerning the NT defining the OT was carried to its logical conclusion: any revelation given by God at time N could be subject to being changed in meaning by subsequent revelation at time N+1. When you say that the NT defines the OT, you essentially are suggesting that those who only had the OT and died prior to the NT were misinterpreting major aspects of the OT. Therefore, it is only logical to suggest that we who now are confident in the promises of the NT might find ourselves in a similar position: being wrong about eternal life, ruling and reigning, and other truths if, after we die, upon being raised, we find that God decided to give the next installment of revelation to the saints which “defines the NT” in ways which change the meaning of what it clearly seemed to say. In other words, I was suggesting doing a thought experiment concerning how it might feel if revelation we feel sure of in the NT could be reinterpreted by information God hasn’t provided yet. What then would we really be confident in knowing?

      Those were my points.

      You also said, “The issue isn’t redefining but fulfillment.” Note that it was you that used the word “define” in relation to what the NT does for the OT, not me. Even so, I of course agree with what you mean when you refer to definition: “What is fulfillment?” This is where we dispensationalists part company by observing that what covenant theology finds as fulfillment is far too pliable because it only attains “fulfillment” at the cost of denying the meaning of prophecy within its context as understood by its original recipients. This, we say, violates the rules of interpretation and has troublesome implications concerning the perspicuity of the Scriptures, not to mention the very character of God.

      Well, we are now far afield from the original topic of this blog posting and we know we are unlikely to reconcile covenant and dispensational theology here. :-:

      But please do give those of us who do not share your views the benefit of assuming that we are not all novices that are unfamiliar with the points of view you champion. And part of that involves trying to say things in ways which don’t convey implicit insults to those you are trying to communicate with: such as implying we have not carefully considered covenant theology, haven’t read works or interacted in any depth with covenant brothers, don’t know what it means to glorify or exalt Christ, etc. It simply isn’t productive.

  15. Christian,

    May I correct you on one point in something you said above. You stated that I believe dispensationalists interpret the NT by the Old. Well, I actually don’t believe in such a practice. My position is that in order to maintain the integrity of both Testaments neihter has interpretive authority over the other. Further, such interpretive authority is not needed if one is reading the Bible correctly.
    Our attempts to do just this never completely coincide with the whole Truth. However, the harmony of the Word requires that neither Testament has power to trump the other, even though all admit the NT adds revelation, it never changes what was previously stated to be so in the OT.

    I have just posted a few of my objections to Covenant Theology. They are mostly methodological in nature. Perhaps you might like to wait until I begin to flesh out these objections in detail in the coming weeks?

    God bless brother!

    1. Paul, try interpreting the Apocalypse apart from the Jewish testament. Just for illustration, Rev 12:1. Much of the NT requires an understanding of the Jewish scriptures to interpret correctly.

      Certainly revelation is progressive. Just look at the amplification of the Abrahamic covenant by the Palestinian, the Davidic and the New. Also, the mystery nature of the Church not only illustrates this progression but also necessitates a need for distinction in passages addressing primarily Jewish issues from those of the Church proper. For instance, Mt 24 relates to covenanted Israel, not to the Church. The rapture is simply nowhere within the context unless you read it back into it. This would also hold for the “disciples prayer.” “Thy kingdom come” is a Jewish prayer. Christ’s ministry upto Mt 13 is to offer the kingdom to the nation. There is also the issue of Hebrews, James & 1 Peter being addressed to Jews within the Church. 1 Pet 2:9-10 are often applied to Gentiles within the Church but obviously, v. 12 denies that interpretation.

      Simply, if you don’t know your Jewish Testament, you will more times than not, not only miss apply the NT but miss interpret it. Too often application & interpretation fail to be distinguished.

      1. Loren,

        You are right that much of the NT has reference to the OT. But this is not the same as saying the NT MUST be interpreted by the OT. That is, it would be as wrong to give the OT any interpretive veto over the NT as to give a veto to the NT over the Old. The NT does have authority to tell us if an OT revelation (e.g. the Law) has ended. In such cases this must be expressly stated by the NT authors and not surmised by fallible interpreters on the basis of an inferential system of interpretation.

        As such, the OT and the NT are one Word of God to be interpreted in harmony without one assuming authority over the other.

        The NT clarifies elements in the OT and adds new elements. It also completes the OT as a revelation. But the problem does not go away just by reading the OT. E.g. Beale’s commentary on Revelation interacts a lot with OT texts, but does so under the thrall of a priority lent to his interpretation of the NT. Hence, knowing the OT isn’t enough. A decision has to be made about how the OT is to be interpreted.

        As an aside I am not in favor of calling the OT “the Jewish Testament.” In matters of provenance the NT is just as much a Jewish Testament as the OT. In matters theological there is much in the OT directed at the Jewish nation, but there is a lot which is not. But this also applies to the NT, though the percentage is diminished. But the amount of direct application to the Church by NT authors does not make the NT the “Christian Testament”. In fact, any true Jew ought to believe the NT Gospel today – it comes to the Jew first (Rom. 1:15-17).
        Finally, if we accept that the OT as the “Jewish Testament” we have thereby made it difficult to conceive of any meaningful unity of the Bible. So, as I again would agree with much of what you say, there are one or two clarifications which I would be compelled to make.

        Thanks for commenting.

        P.

  16. Paul,

    You are a dear brother and faithful servant. I have and will continue to be challenged by your intellect and faithfulness…

    As you and I were going back and forth a couple of years ago at breakfast, I thought you and I, in our commitment to the strengths and weaknesses of our Scriptural arguments, believed that our differences in theology, were a result of our differences in our hermeneutical arguments.

    While both holding a high view of Scripture, committed to a historic/gramatic approach in context were in agreement that the differences in our positions boiled down to how we approach the relationship between the Old and the New.

    Holding to an understanding of the progress of revelation (a concept I am sure you must address in your dispensational hermeneutic) what was revealed in the Old is fulfilled in the New (…and beyond!).

    I would disagree with you that this somehow deminishes the integrity of the Old Testament. For example, since becoming convinced of CT, one of the joys is seeing and now preaching Christ and the gospel from the Law, Psalms, and Prophets (a practice I have rarely experienced from my DT brothers).

    You mentioned “…reading the Bible correctly…” points to the nexus of the differences of our positions. We can exegete all day long but isn’t this the starting point? I believe you should write more on this subject…and allow someone from the other side to explain their hermeneutical approach…yes Paul, I do think you may carry your pressupositions into your description 😉 of the other side.

    Last thought . . . If I am reading the Bible correctly, I don’t see the Dispensational Model supported in the New Testament. Two key passages: Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 2. If you take for examples John MacArthur’s commentary on Romans and take a yellow high lighter and were to highlight everything brought INTO the text (eisegesis) you would be seeing a sea of yellow. Or take Ephesians 2:11 and following. As much as I like the theme of racial reconcilliation . . . this passage (if I am reading the Bible correctly) is the death blow to the dispensational model as it exegetically rubs out any distinction between Jew and Gentile. Ah…

    Grace and Peace!

    jch

  17. Thank you for your kind remarks Christian. Do you know, that conversation (at Lions in Napa) was the first in a bunch of conversations by which God brought me eventually to Texas!). I agree that our hermeneutical commitments decide much of the issue. Indeed, they also decide our exegetical choices very often.

    It is for this reason, among others, that I often tell myself (and the few who will listen to me) that exegesis, while being absolutely vital and irreplaceable to the task of Bible study, can very rarely do anything other than serve up possibilities and probabilities for further debate. Exegesis doesn’t decide an issue because exegesis is always coming to the center of God’s meaning (or else diverging from it). This is why I developed the “Parameters of Meaning” in order to help myself delimit interpretive options.

    Do I carry certain assumptions about the other side? Undoubtedly I do. But I do try hard to read CT’s on their own terms and to get into their thinking as it were. Perhaps the coming group of articles will show this up better (as well as my presuppositions)!

    God bless all the fam in 2011

    Your brother,

    P.

  18. Paul,
    Great way to end . . . look forward to being challened (and hopefully growing!). And I still remember the dinner you ordered . . . liver and onions 😉 You are a braver man than myself.
    jch

  19. I’m not replying to any comments but to the original thesis. I attended MBI when it was 90% staffed by DTS prof’s. I attended after my military stint & therefore older than the general populace by nearly 10 yrs. My son and son-in-law both attended MBI and we are all studied and ardent dispensationalist. Over the last 30 yrs, I would venture to say that 70% of youth either myself or my children interacted with were all dispensational even if they didn’t exactly know the system per se. Obviously, compared to say, Covenant Theology, we are and ever will remain a minority. But the remnant has always been small, has it not? Perhaps as a parent and a seminary level SS teacher, those I surround myself with are above the average church attendant. Most are widely read and never think to confine themselves to dispensational authors. As you mentioned, that is only one aspect in biblical theology. However, as Renald Shower’s title noted, it does make a pragmatic difference as to what school or system you adhere to. An unhealthy dispensationalist can certainly be pessimistic culturally as well as evangelically. But a healthy dispensationalist understands Paul admonition to work while it is day, the hope that the imminent return of Christ garners as well as a concerted effort to be holy as He is holy… so as not to be ashamed.

    As for major works on doctrinal matters within the dispensational camp, I can think of few greater than Chafer’s “Grace,” a real game changer to everyone whom I have ever had read it. Bibsac also does a commendable job of presenting indepth biblical & theological studies as well as several other theological journals as “The Theological Journal LIbrary” attests to.

    Yes a minority but then today the church as a whole is numb to doctrinal studies especially if it is anything even remotely penetrating the surface. People have time, enthusiasm & effort for taking a stroke off their golf game or securing their retirement portfolio, but not when it requires any such assimilation in the study of theology.

  20. Thank you for your comment Loren,

    There is a lot I would agree with in what you wrote. And if I nuanced one or two things a bit (e.g. the remnant is, of course, a reference to eschatological Israel not to dispensationalists) I might add a couple more.
    I should clarify that I do not believe dispensationalism come to its own is “only one aspect of biblical theology” (BT) I believe that dispensationalism as it has usually been taught for the past generation or so has left the very impression that it is only one aspect of BT and that is one reason why it has faltered. The problem is not in the basic system itself, but in the restrictive understanding of its implications among many of its adherents. This is what makes it a poor cousin of covenant theology (or so I believe).

    Chafer’s book is good, but it is one book on one subject. There has been and is a dearth of good theological works from dispensationalists. I shall address this in a new post.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

    Your brother,

    Paul

  21. Hello, I have recently found your blog by googling “young dispensationalist” with the hopes of finding somebody who is in love with JESUS and is dispen. Suffice it say I was sorely disappointed with the turnout! I saw more anti-dispensation than pro. What a real shame we have so much to offer.

    Where is the dispen who preaches/teaches a well rounded theology and who applies it to peoples lives. Where are the young preachers of this grace age who love our biblical theology and writers of past, present and future with same fervency of a five-pointer?

    1. Hello dispensational brother,

      Your characterization of this site as “more anti-dispensation than pro” would seem to indicate you haven’t done it justice in reading what it really is all about.

      In fact, this website is pro-dispensational in that it seeks to critique aspects of dispensationalism (or, more properly, the modern practices of dispensationalists) to suggest ways in which it could be strengthened.

      Have you found any other site on the internet which has attempted to provide cogent responses to the 95 theses against dispensationalism?

      Don’t be fooled. Dr. Reluctant may be “reluctant,” but also has much to offer to strengthen the dispensational cause. But you won’t find a “blind buy in” to any particular view here. Rather, the willingness to take a hard look, especially at our own practices as those who believe that dispensationalism represents the only valid way to interpret the scriptures which does justice to a consistent hermeneutic.

      So take another look around – I think you’ll find much of value.

  22. I would just add one thing. Whether a person is a dispensationalist, a covenant theologian, a charismatic or whatever is no indication of whether or not they love Jesus. I have met dispensationalists who I thought were anything but Christ-like and I have met dispensationalists who made me look very unChrist-like (I couldn’t argue with that).

    If the Bible teaches traditional dispensationalism, which I think it does, then I want to hold that view. But I am far from thinking I have “arrived” because I am a dispensationalist.

  23. Oh no! There is a big misundetstanding!! I was not saying that This site was antidispensational!! No, far from it!! What I was trying to say is: many of the other sites I googled were antidispensational. For instance, I have been looking for audio/dowloadable sermons on Scofield, Chafer, Darby, W. Kelly, plymouth brethren, and etc specifically their individual lives and impact on diapensationalism as a whole….not just eschatology. Reasoning that if young calvanists have lectures on augustine, calvin, owens, and others surely somebody has talked about our pioneers of dt. But most references were how scofield, darby are nothing short of being theological miscreants at least and angents of the antichrist at best.

    Dr. Reluctant’s blog has been the best encouragement for me who just recently picked up books on theology again. Also please know that many times I am typing thoughts on my cell phone while having short breaks from work. My phone is all touch screen and I have to retype text.

  24. Yes BIG misunderstanding!!! I love this website and log on it a multiple times during the day just to see what has been said. I appreciate Dr. Henebury’s topics and I am ENCOURAGED by someone who has a thirst to see dispensationalism tackle all issues across the theological spectrum!!

    My personal interest rest in the above also, but I hunger to see more of dt being applied to peoples lives. For instance how does this age of Grace affect marriage, finances, spiritual living, relationships and etc??? I have listened to many reformed thinkers young Mark Driscoll,Church Planting networks, and more seasoned thinkers such as John Piper apply reformational thinking to subjects such as these with seriousness, and humor and I wonder where are my like minded-brethen who are dt and relational vs. dt and religious political. Thank you for creating this website!!!!

  25. Garland,

    Read in the new light you have given I shall draw some encouragement from you. I shall be happy to help your studies if I am able to.

    God bless you and yours,

    Paul

  26. Thank you for the encouragement..I have found many more dt sites through your links as well as more plymouth brethren sites

  27. I attended my first Pre-Trib conference in 1992 (I think it was the first or second one) and there were plenty of young people. I went with our youth group.

    I went again in 2009, and I was pretty shocked too. I think between my (36 at the time) there was maybe 5 or 6 others.

  28. Thanks for the confirmation Pete. I reported this with no relish. I really believe dispensational leaders are fiddling while Rome burns. They don’t seem to want to recognize that for DT to survive they must connect it to a sound theological system which supports their hermeneutical premises throughout.

  29. [Recently ran into this web blast. Any reaction to it. Lord bless.]

    Pretrib Rapture Pride

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
    Ice’s mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn’t find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 – and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers “the early pretribulationists” (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including “Pseudo-Ephraem” and a “Rev. Morgan Edwards,” taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist’s arrival as the only “imminent” event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an “imminent” pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards’ historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson’s “Deceiving and Being Deceived” for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read “pretrib” into phrases like “before Armageddon,” “before the final conflagration,” and “escape all these things”!
    BTW, the KJV translators’ other writings found in London’s famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don’t have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib “proof” in the KJV that its translators never found?
    Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up “Famous Rapture Watchers” (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
    Pretrib didn’t flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby “explanatory notes” in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield’s criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book “The Praise of Folly” which is available online.
    Biola University’s doctrinal statement says Christ’s return is “premillennial” and “before the Tribulation.” Although universities stand for “academic freedom,” Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases – non-essentials the founders purposely didn’t include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
    Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn’t authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he’s working on another “Ph.D” via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice’s scholarliness, Google “Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “be careful in polemics – Peripatetic Learning,” and “Walvoord Melts Ice.” Also Google “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)” – featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 “End Times Passover” blog.
    Other fascinating Google articles include “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “X-raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving in Unnerving,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” and “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism” – most from the author of “The Rapture Plot,” the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?
    (Postscript: For another jolt or two Google “The Background Obama Can’t Cover Up.”)

    1. Those of us who have met and interacted with Dr. Ice will know this to be a completely unfair and irresponsible representation. Thus, we see a troubling trend common to many forums: that of “Christians” employing most un-Christ-like approaches (embracing deception and slander) to promote their particular “brand” of interpretation. What is especially irksome about these sorts of posts is that their tactics are completely out of proportion with the doctrinal issue at hand. As Paul mentioned, differences over the timing of the rapture are simply not of enough importance to warrant such behavior.

  30. Irv, we’ve tangled before on my blog. Still copying and pasting I see 😉

    Funny that I challenged you over Margaret and various other items and you just moved on.

    1. Even 99% of the Christians who hold to non-premillennialism, even people like Gary DeMar, consider Dave McPherson a loon. Supporting him doesn’t exactly shore up your home team’s theological credibility.

      1. Paul, really. I am not endorsing DM, just the historical timeline of recent theological positions. It makes for interesting discourse.

      2. Christian, it’s only interesting to me if it’s a). accurate – which it’s not; and not underhand – which it is.
        Further, I am more concerned with what the Bible teaches than with daft historical reconstructions. Added to this, although I am a pre-tribber I do not believe the timing of the rapture to be a do-or-die affair. If you want to talk constructively about the data by all means do.

        God bless and and yours,

        Paul

      3. Christian, it’s only interesting to me if it’s a). accurate – which it’s not; and not underhand – which it is.
        Further, I am more concerned with what the Bible teaches than with daft historical reconstructions. Added to this, although I am a pre-tribber I do not believe the timing of the rapture to be a do-or-die affair. If you want to talk constructively about the data by all means do.

        God bless and and yours,

        Paul

      4. Christian, it’s only interesting to me if it’s a). accurate – which it’s not; and not underhand – which it is.
        Further, I am more concerned with what the Bible teaches than with daft historical reconstructions. Added to this, although I am a pre-tribber I do not believe the timing of the rapture to be a do-or-die affair. If you want to talk constructively about the data by all means do.

        God bless and and yours,

        Paul

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