Review: Eschatology: Biblical, Historical and Practical Approaches by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider, editors. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2016, 501 pages.
This book is a celebration of the work of Craig A. Blaising. Though I am not a Progressive Dispensationalist, I do like Blaising’s writing. He always approaches a subject from interesting angles, and usually makes important points.
The book is divided into the three sections of the subtitle, plus a beginning section on foundational matters. The list of contributors is impressive and the table of contents is inviting. But more important is whether the contributions are up to snuff. On that score I can answer with a firm if not universal yes! In this brief review I shall first turn to the most impressive essays and then say one or two things about what I might refer to as the more makeweight chapters.
First place for this reviewer goes to Daniel Block’s piece on Mosaic eschatology centered on the Book of Deuteronomy. The essay presents a fine arrangement and handling of the salient texts, with good interaction with scholarship. But its best part comes with the author’s treatment of Deuteronomy 4, 30 and 32. This is an excellent piece of biblical theology.
Pretty close on its heals is the next chapter on “The Doctrine of the Future in the Historical Books.” Although it did not interact with as many interpreters as Block, the writer, Gregory Smith, did use his limited pool of sources well. He has many good footnotes, but too often relies on the same people (e.g., Merrill, Dumbrell, Kaiser, EBC). This I think confines him to general conclusions instead of a decided stance. He manages to convey the importance of the Davidic hope in the Historical writings, even if he leaves things a little open-ended. Still, I learned a lot from Smith’s article and I recommend it.
The opening chapter is by Jeffrey Bingham and is a scholarly look at the answers given by the early church to the assailing of the two Testament canon by Marcion. Bingham’s major thrust is that the Fathers recognized that theological continuity between the OT and NT was essential and also possible, whereas Marcion sided with a radical discontinuity (e.g. 45-46). The article is informative and asks good questions, but Bingham runs out of space to answer them. He does show, however, that the paths taken to minimize the perceived discontinuity problem are still with us and that Dispensationalism has not been given a fair hearing for its hermeneutical stability across the Scriptures.
John and Stefana Laing’s bold effort is entitled “The Doctrine of the Future, the Doctrine of God, and Predictive Prophecy.” It ambitiously tries to bring the three ideas into unified focus and nearly succeeds. It is well structured, well annotated, and well written. Some of the notes were especially nice to have, either for apologetic or for theological purposes. They include a lengthy footnote, for example, about the ecstatic behavior of pagan prophets in which they customarily lost control of their faculties (83 n.6). This article, with its mix of thoughtful historical, theological and apologetic content, must have taken a lot of effort to put together within the imposed page limit. For the most part I liked it, although I have to take issue with their repetition of the hackneyed line about the prophets being more ethical preachers (forthtellers) than predictors of the future (foretellers). Sooner or later evangelicals will discover that the scholarly consensus has shifted back quite a bit.
I could write glowingly about several other pieces in this fine book. George Klein on the Psalms, Mark Rooker on the Prophets, Glenn Kreider on the eschatology of Jonathan Edwards, and more. Mark Bailey handles Dispensationalism well. For readers interested in Jurgen Moltmann the chapter by Lanier Burns is a great one stop treatment, even if Barth and Pannenberg must be content with a brief but competent review by two German scholars.
I said I would refer to a few less impressive chapters. For me Stanley Toussaint’s piece on eschatology and hope was just okay. I was disappointed that he did not tie hope more poignantly to the resurrection. Charles Ryrie wrote a short piece, “The Doctrine of the Future and the Weakening of Prophecy.” I shall only say that if I ever reached his age I doubt that I could produce an essay as good as Dr. Ryrie, although I’m afraid it isn’t very good. Finally, Albert Mohler on the application of eschatology to the contemporary situation was rather pedestrian.
But after all is said and done I can give this book my recommendation. It is not only a tribute to a fine evangelical scholar, it is a collection of solid articles, some of them super, on biblical eschatology.