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A DISPENSATIONAL LAMENT

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  8 Comments

When I posted my satire “Witnessing to Dispensationalist” I received an email from a dispensationalist scholar who is an old friend of mine from my dispensational days. He is a Th.D. and a published scholar. Note how he responded to my humorous satire:

Dispensationalist Lament

Ken, the Ryrie club is made up of antique mindsets. Let’s hear more about Bock and Turner…rather than the previous generation that can barely be called scholarship (e.g. Ryrie, Walvoord, Feinberg, etc.). The interesting thing about our/my seminary experience is that one could go through that former program (and I would criticize a lot of it today) and never take a course on dispy or even hear it. I have finished teaching 30+ years of graduate level Greek and NT without even one lecture on this subject… The Bible and its own literary conventions was enough to keep me busy and no need for any creative constructs to make sense of the text. Yes…the past generation of dispensationalism was exegetically naive, generally lacked critical biblical studies education, and made some wild claims from their own imaginations…but they are now relegated to a part of history.

My Postmillennial Response

I agree, Bock, Blaising, and the new beed dispensationalists are enormously superior to the old breed (Walvoord, Ryrie, etc.). But the book sales of Walvoord and Ryrie, and their populist minions (Lindsey and LaHaye) far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, outstrip them: sales in the thousands v. sales in the tens of millions. This makes these lesser lights far more influential in the present than the progressive dispensationalists. For instance, The Ryrie Study Bible has sold 2 million copies. LaHaye’s Left Behind series has sold over 60 million. My most basic grief is with the influential, older form of dispensationalism which is so well represented in publishing and among televangelists. I consider it a marvelous sight to behold to see thinking dispensationalists write-off Ryrie and Walvoord as scholars. How many churches believe, support, and promote Ryrie-like dispensationalism? Thousands upon thousands.

Dispensationalist Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

He replies: The one’s you mention are a grief to us all and only illustrate that we have done a poor job in training the Christian laity to think. I remember reading an article in Time (or whatever magazine) in the doctor’s office as we turned 2000 and it gave the stats on Lindsey. I was appalled. Lindsey, Van Impe, LaHaye, et.al. only prove what marketing can do with a gullible public. So BLAST ‘EM (and perhaps put their names in your headers as well). Maybe one of the problems are these @#$^ Study Bibles…they are all an abomination…whether dispy or whatever. They (somebody) chop up the texts, ignore literary units, insert filtered theology of whatever type as if it is a settle view. Laity eat them up because it is quick and easy. O Well…can’t get too worked up in retirement.

 

 

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

8 responses to A DISPENSATIONAL LAMENT

  1. William Donelson July 20, 2012 at 6:30

    Thank you unnamed ThD. I truly wish there was a place for honest scholars to sit down and put all their cards on the table. And openly publish a readable co-authored document to show the errors of the past that were based on man’s opinions and man-made systems of hermeneutics…and now should be reject. But more…this document should show the common areas of agreement on Christ (without compromise). If this parallel presentation could be done, maybe the people in the pews and pulpits would stop fighting each other based on emotional dogma…and join to fight the true enemy of men’s souls. The enemies of Christ have long used the divide and disarm ideas for far too long. May God open our eyes to HIS hermenuetic to understand what He meant when He used the words He used the way He used them. Context IS King! WBD

  2. “…we have done a poor job in training the Christian laity to think.”

    In addition, I think that most lay-Christians are more interested in “pie in the sky by and by” rather than taking on the tasks of being Christ’s body here on earth and performing the hard work of discipling the nations that He has comissioned us to do. It’s a lot easier to attend Bible studies and potlucks (not that there’s anything wrong with either of these – love potlucks) hoping the rapture will solve all their problems and all the world’s problems rather than tackling the problems themselves. “Let’s just let Jesus do all that hard work when He returns. After all, it will only be seven years of really nasty stuff after the rapture occurs, then everything will be wonderful and we’ll reign in glorious bliss with Him!”

  3. I hate how you imply that anyone who believes that God works in Dispensations of time are fixated on the rapture, and eschatology in general. Any serious study of God’s Word will not lead the reader to take Ryrie’s notes (for example) as inspired, or an easy explanation to difficult passages as inspired facts. I own several study Bibles and if I were take all of these ‘notes’ as fact, I would live in a land of confusion. I think we should juxtapose the positions and work them out with the Word. I just see no sense in beating up Ruckman for his Armenian views, nor do I see the advantage of crucifying Ryrie for his Calvanist interpretation. It seems like you’re more of the ‘I told you so, see!’ train of thought, whereas I prefer to read multiple points of view and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in truth and discernment. I’ve yet to see you write an article that accomplishes anything but petty bickering, rarely addressing the valued points of Salvation through Christ. This is the true problem with the church. So called ‘scholars’ who are more concerned with having an infallible interpretation of non salvation issues rather than introducing people to the saving work of Christ. Whether or not there will be a calling out (which seems clear in Scripture), or whether I live through none, half, or all of the Tribulation in no way lessens my faith that my soul will be saved through the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Not all dispensationalists’ are date setters. Common sense along with Scripture makes it quite easy for me to see, however, that we are NOT living in the Biblical 1000 year reign of Christ. If so, we have some incorrect information about the state of humanity during that time. (Typing on phone, please excuse grammar/spelling).

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. July 20, 2012 at 6:30

      Kevin:
      I am not sure why you are concerned that I am “fixated” on the rapture problem in dispensationalism. I have published over 300 articles on the site, mostly about postmillennialism. However, our site also critiques other viewpoints (as our masthead notes). My occasional articles rebutting dispensationalism are usually aimed at the dominant dispensational viewpoint which sells tens of millions of books and dominates the Christian airwaves. It is a serious problem that needs to be exposed as such.

      Anyone who thinks these issues are salvation-determining is sorely mistaken. Although it is usually the dispensationalist who writes-off the other views as border-line liberalism.

      Try to find the 1000 year reign of Christ in any book of the Bible other than the most symbolic book in it. You will not find it. The 1000 years is symbolic. Like the 7-headed beast, the slain Lamb, the locusts with women’s hair, the woman standing on the moon, and so forth.

      Keep reading!

  4. Kenneth, please don’t be offended, as I may come across more crass than I intend. As I’ve told you before, I read your blog every day, and while I disagree with certain things, I also learn a lot. I refuse to close my mind to others’ points of view, as I only want to claim allegiance to Christ, no dogmatic teachings, or vain opinions of men. The Word is written in such a way as to ‘make the simple wise.’ Teachers help, but it took me 2 decades to undo the confusion of completely false teaching(Coc). I like to weigh all teachings that I expose myself to against the Word, so if I sound irritated, it’s not my intention. You’re a talented writer, I appreciate your blog, and will continue to read. I will evolve these comments more into questions in the future. I would definitely like to address your comment about Revelation being the only book that mentions the literal reign of Christ, because it seems to have been prophesied throughout the entire OT, but duty calls, back to work. Thanks for the reply. Blessings.

  5. Kenneth, I know I mentioned OT prophecy of millenial period in my last post, but there is a NT passage that I would like to get your opinion on, and let me reiterate, I’m nit a Biblical Scholar. Explain the postm view of Matt. 25:31-34 : “When the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the thrine of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, come, ye be blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.” Has this already happened, is it symbolic? What is your standard criteria for literal vs symbolic?

    Thanks brother, have a great Sunday!

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. July 23, 2012 at 6:30

      Kevin:
      This passage actually speaks of the final judgment at the end of history, rather than an extended bureaucratic reign for 1000 years. After this judgment, the the two groups (saved and lost) will enter into their final, eternal condition — not into a temporary (1000 year) condition.

      As with so many eschatological passages, we must recognize a mix of literal and symbolic. For instance, the text even describes the scene as “Like” (but not actually) that of a shepherd dividing goats from sheep. I doubt if there will be physical throne on which he sits with people gathered on the left and the right. These are images of justice being administered.

      The question of which passage is literal and which is symbolic is a difficult question that cannot be answered in the abstract. You need to consider each passage on a case-by-case basis. And even within basically literal passages you will often find symbolic elements.

  6. I still think you should repost your “Identifying Dispensationalists” blog. 🙂

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