Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Response to Dave

by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D., Director, NiceneCouncil.com


Thank you for reading and interacting with my blog, "I Was a Teenage Dispensationalist." I would like to respond to you, since you took the time to reply.

You are correct that the reading of the Acts 2 passage was a catalyst in my thinking; it was, not an end all. It led to my further research, which led me out of dispensationalism.

Upon your second reading of my original blog, you realized that I do distinguish the more scholarly men, such as Ryrie and Walvoord, from the popular writers, such as Lindsey and LaHaye. Generally speaking, Ryrie and Walvoord are less inclined to populist extravagance and date-setting. However, they are not entirely untouched by the charge of "naivete" and even to date-setting.

You state: "I think a survey of responsible dispensational scholars would reveal that very few of them would engage in anything approximating date-setting." I find interesting your statement that "very few" of them would do so. As I will show, though they tend not to be as overt as the populists, they still have that temptation.

You go on to state: "However, it is extremely unfortunate that some, even quite a few, have made far too many extreme statements correlating current events with fulfillment of prophecy." But correlating "current events with fullfilment of prophecy" even occurs in Ryrie and Walvoord, for instance.

For example, consider Walvoord’s best-seller: Armageddon, Oil, and Terror: What the Bible Says about the Future. He was viewing the (then) current oil crisis as an indicator of "Armageddon." You will never find even a progressive dispensationalist writing such a book.

In his Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (p. 258–59) Walvoord states: "The fact that Israel is already back in the land, that a world movement toward world government is also current, and that there is already a world religious movement combine to indicate that the time of fulfillment of end-time events may not be distant." This is certainly doing what you lament: "correlating current events with fulfillment of prophecy."

On p. 400 Walvoord even provides a table of "Predicted Events Relating to the Nations." #1 is "United Nations organized as first step toward world government in 1946." #6 is "Red China becomes a military power." #8 is "The Arab oil embargo in 1973 results in world recognition of the power of wealth and energy in the Middle East." He mixes these "predicted events" right in with #20 "Second coming of Christ occurs accompanied by the armies from heaven." So the establishment of the UN, the military prowess of Red China, and the 1973 Arab oil embargo are "predicted events" in biblical prophecy? How is that for "correlating current events with fulfillment of prophecy"?

On p. 422 he lists a table of "Predicted Events Relating to the Church." This includes "2. The rise of Communism and atheism as major opponents of Christianity. 3. The ecumenical movement promoting a world church organization in 1948." He mixes this in with "6. The Rapture of the church" and "12. Second coming of Christ occurs...." So, the establishment of the ecumenical movement in 1948 is a "predicted event"? Is this not "correlating current events with fulfillment of prophecy"?

And consider Ryrie’s book The Living End. On p. 45 he writes of Revelation 9: "John’s description sounds very much like some kind of war machine or UFO.... Until someone comes up with a satisfactory answer to the UFO question, this possibility should not be ruled out." This is absolutely bizarre.

In that same book on page 56 he writes of Ezekiel 38: "Suddenly Zionism blossomed, and with the blessing of the United Nations the Jewish State of Israel was born in 1948, and since then the Jewish people have been returning in unprecedented numbers.... Ezekiel’s prophecy could not have been fulfilled fifty years ago. But today it can, and soon it will." He clearly declares that Ezekiel's prophecy will "soon" be fulfilled. This is date-setting. He does not even qualify it with "it seems that" or "it may."

Chapter 10 of The Living End is titled: "No Tricentennial for the U.S.A." On pages 128 and 129 we read: "But even if the messages of the prophets do not alert you, before finally dismissing them, take a good look again at current events.... How do you account for these unusual events converging in our present day? Jesus said: ‘Even so when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.’ (Matthew 24:33 NIV)." (Emphasis KLG) How is that for "correlating current events with fulfillment of prophecy"? And date-setting? These "current events" (events actually happening now) indciate "it is near, right at the door."

You state that "the Scriptures indicate that there is only one regathering of Israel into the land." However, the verses you would use to support such a view speak of their return in faith. Whereas, modern Israel is close to being an atheistic nation, and is at the very least non-Christian.

Dispensationalists too easily succumb to naivete in interpretation and date-setting in prophetic pronouncements. This even occurs with noted, scholarly dispensationalists such as Ryrie and Walvoord, though with a little more moderation.


Anonymous said...

Before throwing out date setting accusations at a specific system you should concede that some Amillenarians and Postmilleenrians have done some date setting of their own in the past likewise in the present and also in the future just like some Premillenrians have done in the past and will do so in the future.We must be fair in our disagreements with others and use standards which we ourselves follow. Need I remind some within the Amillennial camp that Harold Camping and his claims coming of Jesus Christ in either 2011 or 2012 ? I see using the date setting accusations as nothing more than really a cheap shot at trying to use that to disprove a system. All sides have done their far share of that. I reject anyone who date sets. And I am consistant in this when I denounce those in my camp who do it also with those who are of other systems. Neither Premillennialism ( Either historical or dispensational ) or Amillennialism or Postmillennialism in themselves do not lead to date setting. Those who date set are wrong. I wish broadbrushing would not take place but sadly enough this is done all to often when Christians debate one another on issues.

NiceneCouncil.com said...

Dave is correct in one point: there once was an amillennialist who engaged in date-setting. And he has reminded me of his name: Harold Camping.

However, date-setting is endemic and widespread within dispensationalism. Camping sold hundreds of books promoting his date-setting. Lindsey and LaHaye have sold tens of millions of books promoting date-setting.

Date-setting is so bad in dispensationalism that in 1989 several major dispensationalists wrote a manifesto against date-setting, urging fellow dispensationalists to not engage in it. Dispensationalist scholars Marvin Pate and Calvin Haines wrote an important work on the matter: Doomsday Delusions: What’s Wrong with Predictions About the End of the World (1995).

Premillennialists Dwight Wilson wrote his classic work titled Armageddon Now! which documented the widespred use of date-setting within dispensationalism.

And consider the following titles of dispensational works published just in the last decade or so of the Twentieth Century:

Lindsey, Planet Earth -- 2000 (1994).

Sumrall, I Predict 2000 (1987).

Lewis, Prophecy 2000: Rushing to Armageddon (1990).

Terrell, The 90’s: Decade of the Apocalypse (1992).

Hunt, How Close Are We?: Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ (1993).

Graham, Storm Warning (1992).

Ryrie, The Final Countdown (1991).

Jeffries, Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny (1988).

McKeever, The Rapture Book: Victory in the End Times (1987).

McAlvanny, et al., Earth’s Final Days (1994).

Marrs, et al., Storming Toward Armageddon: Essays in Apocalypse (1992).

Liardon, Final Approach: The Opportunity and Adventure of End-Times Living (1993).

Webber and Hutchins, Is This the Last Century? (1979).

Amillennialists have their embarrassing advocate and hundreds of his followers. Dispensationalists have their embarrassing advocates and tens of millions of followers. I suppose Anonymous' best response would be along the following lines: "Gentry argues that every five minutes a dispensationalist somewhere in the world sets a date for the rapture." Anonymous can only reply: "He must be found and stopped."