The Men Who Trained Me (and some books) – Pt.2

In the previous post I concentrated on men in England who helped me learn about the Bible and Theology.  Quite unexpectedly, in God’s providence I came to the States in 1996 to work at a Baptist Church in Fairfield, California.  That only lasted a year but I made some good friends.  I also met the future Mrs H. there!

Anyway, after leaving the church in Fairfield I started a church plant in Napa, which I pastored for over five years until the Lord made it clear that I was to go back to seminary.  After much debate, prayer and several conversations I decided to attend Tyndale Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.  I won’t here go into my reasons for not going to DTS or SWBTS, although I will say that I always try to live by conscience, and I have seen far too many people’s consciences seared by putting career prospects before truth.  That is not to say I think it is ungodly to attend either of these institutions.  Just that it would have been wrong for me.

The Founder and President of Tyndale was Mal Couch.  He was a stickler for biblical languages and and a clear and persistent voice for the importance of Israel in God’s plan.  Although his health was not good at the time I was there, Couch taught through the four volumes (actually seven) of Chafer’s Systematic Theology as well as Biblical Greek.  Personally he could be kind and generous, as he was to me (although he had a ruthless streak in him).  I think he was one of the most gifted men I have ever met.  That he established Tyndale to preserve “old Dallas” shows something of his heart and dynamism.  Quite early on he noticed that I was a devotee of Cornelius Van Til’s writings, and he asked me to conduct an intensive seminar on Presuppositional Apologetics for Tyndale.  I used Greg Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis as my main text.  The success of that venture would lead to me teaching Presuppositionalism at Tyndale (previously they had hovered between classical and cumulative approaches), and to my eventually being hired as Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics there, although I also taught Church History, Romans, Philippians and Colossians and a few other courses.  Dr Couch also appointed me his assistant Pastor at Tyndale Bible Church.  I would teach the first hour and he would take the second.  Towards the end of his time at Tyndale I found myself on the opposite side of some of Dr Couch’s decisions.  Our unfortunate disagreement caused fallout that has made me persona non grata to some (although they have never asked for my side of the story).  Dr Couch has now passed to his reward, but I will always respect him as an educator.

John Cook was the Registrar at Tyndale for most of the time I was there, both as student as a member of the staff.  A former bull rider and oil worker, an enduring memory of Dr Cook was his realism.  His frankness and thoughtfulness in dealing with students made a real impression on me.  He always had their best interests in mind.  I took Greek (more Greek!) from him and found him concerned with the utility of the language, not so much on its rigid rules.  I found this refreshing and helpful.  After I had left Tyndale John contacted me to talk over some things he had heard I had said about him.  After some context and clarification (and rebuttal) I asked his forgiveness for anything I had said that had caused him distress and we drew closer as a result.  He would occasionally email me to ask me for book recommendations or opinions of what he was reading.  He felt that the strict Dispensationalist diet he had been taught was a bit restrictive and wanted to inquire about things dispensationalists don’t usually write about.  I was only too glad to help.  One day John called me and told me he had been diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer.  Sadly, due to circumstances, the next time I saw him was at his funeral.  The cancer had done its work on him, but the Lord had renewed his soul and will one day give him a resurrected body.  I will always be grateful to God that I could attend John’s funeral just before we left Texas for California.

Arnold Fruchtenbaum came and taught a couple of intensives while I was at Tyndale.  One was a course of Systematic Theology.  I had read and been impressed by his Israelology some years previously.  Although laborious reading, it makes an important contribution to Dispensational theology and is one of the few academic works of theology that dispensationalists have put out in the last 30 years.  While I simply cannot agree with Dr Fruchtenbaum’s “Pemberisms” (crystalline earth, gap theory, etc), I enjoyed listening to him and took note of his thoughtful way of dealing with students questions.

I had several classes or conversations with Robert Lightner from which I benefited.  Lightner was an exegetical theologian, but cared deeply about the local church.  Dr Lightner was concerned for simplicity and clarity, and he helped me see that to be obtuse is not the same as being profound.  He did not come across as a theological heavyweight.  for example, when back in ’07  I tried to engage him about the “New Perspective on Paul” he said he hadn’t heard or read much on it.  That he was erudite was clear enough, but I guess he was more interested in maintaining the line between traditional Dispensationalism and the progressive brand.  He once said that he had seen a marked change in his students at DTS.  Whereas in the 1970 and 80’s graduate students already knew what they believed about eschatology, now they were all over the map.  It didn’t help matters when, upon leaving his lectures, students would then hear that view contradicted by a young professor.

For a while my family attended Victory Street Chapel in a very unfashionable part of Dallas.  There I met Zane Hodges and Robert Wilken.  Although I did not share their enthusiasm for Free Grace theology, I was impressed by Wilken’s sincerity and openness, and by Hodges’ constant emphasis on personal holiness.  For those ‘Lordship’ proponents who believe these men were antinomian, I can testify that such was not the case in their own lives.  I remember Zane Hodges telling me once that DTS started to go awry once they introduced accreditation.  In its heyday Richard Quebedeaux in The Young Evangelicals had referred to DTS as “the Harvard of Evangelicalism.”  That was before they sought accreditation!

I took an informative course on “The History of Prophecy” from Thomas Ice.  I believe I had took something else with him, but memory fails me.  I do recall him going off on bird walks occasionally. They were usually entertaining even if sometimes off subject.  Ice relied on powerpoint a lot, which sometimes slowed him down quite a lot.  But he knew his stuff and I learned a lot from him.  Inadvertently he helped me focus on the biblical covenants more than the dispensations, as I began to see more the rather loosey-goosey way that the ‘seven dispensations’ were classified and named.  I also began to see more how constricted Dispensationalism had become by concentrating almost solely on eschatology.

There have been others who have taught me (or tried to teach me): Kenneth Kitchen, J. Randall Price, Tom McCall, David Olander, etc, but I think these are the main ones.  Perhaps I will write some posts about books and authors from whom I have learned a lot?  We’ll see.

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19 comments

  1. Fascinating read, Paul. I’ve enjoyed Ice’s pretrib research website. Also, being supporters of Ariel My family has had a little interaction with Fruchtenbaum when he has come to Aus. I share your reflections; there are some points of his sys theo that I’m not with, but overall I lot his straightforward, Biblically grounded approach.
    As I’ve recently been consumed with soteriology (Calv, Armin, Molin, etc) I’ve found Fruchtenbaum’s commentary on Hebrews helpful, particularly with regards to the security of salvation

  2. I have tapes — dozens and dozens of Tyndale cassettes given to me by Gary Dromi a Tyndale grad… My first introduction into the world of Dispensationalism was twofold:C Feinberg’s “Millennialism 2 Views” and 300 10 minute podcasts by A Fruchtenbaum……… and off we go…..

    1. Out of interest, does anyone know if, historically, dispensationalism has an association with a particular soteriological camp?
      For example, the Fruct labels himself a mod-Calvanist, as does Geusler. MacArthur is a full blown five pointer…

      1. Would love more info on DTS, Paul. Where is it heading?

        One of the main teachers recently helped promote a book (which I bought) by a popular individual I now consider fringe and biblically “innovative.” And that’s all I’m saying. 😉

      2. Dave,

        I think that on the whole the Dispensationalist camp has leaned towards Calvinism in its 3 or 4 point guises. This is not easy to pin down though. Certainly men like Darby, Chafer, Walvoord and many others were Calvinist. Most rejected limited atonement and many replaced perseverance with eternal security. Dr Couch was a staunch Calvinist. Ice, Fruchtenbaum, Lightner a little less so but still in that fold.

        The problem is that many people do not understand that classical Arminianism is not semi-pelagianism and is close to Calvinism in some important respects. Thus, we know that Moody, Torrey, Gordon, Haldeman and others were Arminian. I would say Gaebelein, Scofield, Geisler, are pretty indistinguishable from classical Arminianism except for the Arminian belief in prevenient grace.

        In his ‘Letters from Spartanburg’ A.W. Pink writes about the flack that he took over his book ‘The Sovereignty of God.’ Gaebelein, e.g., repudiated it.

        My position is Calvinistic but I do not hold to the formulations of Calvinism in TULIP which I think are almost wholly deductively arrived at. I once had a discussion with Dr Couch about regeneration prior to faith, which is necessary to TULIP. He did not like it when I pointed out to him that his questions (like, “are you saying men contribute to their salvation?”) should be considered inadmissible until the relevant texts had been examined in their contexts. But I was trying to show him that he was actually denying the very hermeneutical principles he espoused when studying the rest of Scripture. He was being deductive not inductive.

    2. Doug,

      Feinberg’s book is still an excellent read. Funnily enough, I remeber chatting years ago (I think I was still at Tyndale) with Gary Dromi, who at that time was living in Lucerne I think. He was in poor health and was going through a rough time. The Lord laid him on my heart and I prayed for him off and on for years. Fairly recently I heard from him and he had moved and was doing well. Praise God for His faithfulness!

      Btw, I shall be issuing short weekly videos at the Telos site soon. Watch out for the Newsletter.

      God bless,

      Paul

  3. Thanks for taking your time to respond Paul. As always, greatly appreciated. I e got enough to chew on for now… Until my next question ;).
    Happy New Year

  4. Thanks for posting Part 2 Paul, and a late Happy New Year wish to you. 🙂

    You have been discipled by some very good names on the list here. One that I didn’t see – perhaps he was already retired then – was Dwight Pentecost.

    Also did you notice there is difference the 4-point Calvinism between, say, Lightner (and Ryrie and Fruchtenbaum), and the Calvinism of say Martyn Lloyd-Jones or Phillip Jensen or Moore College? It seems if I were in, pardon that I name names here, John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church’s ministry circle, I will acknowledge R.C. Sproul’s 5-point Calvinism as true Calvinism, I will recognize Michael Horton’s Calvinism as Calvinism, and will grudgingly acknowledge Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s 5-point or Moore Coolege’s 4-point as legitimately Calvinist, they will deny DTS and Lightner and Fruchtenbaum’s 4-point as Calvinist at all. I have not seen any direct review if the Lightner circle’s works on salvation or predestination by “Reformed” circles, but the snippets I’ve seen led me to believe the GrCe Community Church circle would have thought Lightner formulation is a water down of Reformed doctrine of grace, so much that it is a stretch to still call it Calvinism. What are your thoughts on this?

    I admit I’m happy with the Lightner et al’s redefinition of Calvinist teachings – convinced the Bible teaches what they hold to. I do find it causes problems when agreeing with a much more Dortian understanding of Calvinism that come through from my own church circle’s sermons. Would Lightner still be Calvinist or in fact something else?

    I have friends in circles where Dave Hunt and other decidedly non-Calvinist or even anti-Calvinist dispensationalism are widely read, who call your theology “very Calvinist”. I know people that call themselves Free Grace (which is also a very diverse tribe – a lot of Free Gracers have distanced themselves from Wilkims and Hodges) who say that you have been “tainted” by your years at LTS and discipleship from British Calvinist teachers, as they found traces of what they believe to be Reformed influences throughout most of your teachings. I also see Calvinists claim you have been “corrupted” by Arminianism. (!)

    1. Also Paul, is it beneficial to read theological books? I’ve been rethinking about it and people have gently or sometimes bluntly pointed out I seem to be taking part in theological fights as a sport rather than truly growing in The Lord. And suggests I cut down quoting so and so teachers’ teachings, and start afresh again from the Scriptures. Would love to hear your thoughts, as I thought mch if theological fights are inevitable as we attempt to use biblical wisdom to develop positions/understandings.

      1. My thoughts on your question about theological reading is, avoid populist authors, read the tried and true authors, and focus on quality rather than quantity. Above all, read your Bible, always noting the context!

    2. Well, a big difference would be the issue of regeneration prior to faith. Another would be the rejection of Lordship Salvation which is de facto a rejection of perseverance. Lightner & Ryrie would probably like to be called Calvinists. But they are no Dortians as you can see.

      As for what people say about me (whoever they are), I cannot but smile. I can’t seem to please anyone!

      1. That makes sense Paul, I disagree 100% with regeneration before believing, and having read John Chapman, Charles Ryrie and Dan Phillips on the subject of salvation (“Know and Tell the Gospel” by Chapman, “Balancing the Christian Life” by Ryrie, and “The World-Tilting Gospel” by Phillip), I have found myself read, understood and yet still reject Lordship Salvation. Which means I found that I disagree less with Lightner and Ryrie than Jensen…

      2. That makes sense Paul, I disagree 100% with regeneration before believing, and having read John Chapman, Charles Ryrie and Dan Phillips on the subject of salvation (“Know and Tell the Gospel” by Chapman, “Balancing the Christian Life” by Ryrie, and “The World-Tilting Gospel” by Phillip), I have found myself read, understood and yet still reject Lordship Salvation. Which means I found that I disagree less with Lightner and Ryrie than Jensen…

        Thanks so much for your comment.

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