Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Defending Christianity?

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

The header to our blogsite is: Defending Christianity.” One of our blog readers, Rick Warden, a missionary and strongly conservative Christian, responded to my last blog (“Dispensationalism’s Progress Death” Part 2) and complained about our blog’s header. As a committed dispensationalist he is disturbed about several aspects of our blog heading, as well as its mission and content.

We welcome Mr. Warden’s concerns and would like to respond to them, partly to clarify our mission and partly to defend it. Our response may help others who have similar questions. Warden is not the first person on “planet Earth” (see: we can speak dispensationalese) to raise questions about our mission.

Our Purpose

Mr. Warden’s first comment against our website regards its header or title. He complains: “Your blog title states ‘defending Christianity’ as if dispensationalism is non-Christian. Can you prove that or at least make an attempt to back it up?”

In reply I would begin by noting that we do not believe dispensationalism is “non-Christian” at all. All those associated with (the sponsor of the blog) were at one time dispensationalists ourselves. Thus, we know quite well that dispensationalists are strongly evangelical Christians, just as we were while in the movement.

However, though recognizing dispensationalism as a form of evangelical Christianity, we believe that it is a seriously defective, misguided, embarrassing, and naive form. Perhaps our brief header is too brief. Actually our header “Defending Christianity” means: “Defending the integrity of Christianity against one of its most embarrassing advocates, dispensationalism.” But that is too long a title, and as Warden complains our blog is already “long-winded.” Consequently, it would not make an effective title. Besides, our title served its purpose: it pulled Warden in to see what is going on.

Our Rationale

But now what do I mean by stating that we are defending the integrity of Christianity? Simply put: dispensationalism is a humiliating embarrassment to the integrity and majesty of the full-fledged Christian worldview is embodied in Scripture. Dispensationalism leaves the impression that the Christian faith is a naive and incompetent faith commitment. Scores of scholarly works point to dispensationalism as evidence of the naivete of the Christian faith itself. Just consider a few works as samples of scholarly criticisms that highlight dispensationalism: Paul Boyer’s, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture. Daniel Wojcik, The End of the World As We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America. Bernard McGinn’s Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil. Examples could be multiplied ad nauseum. In fact, I am not feeling good right now and will have to finish this posting later....

There. Now I am back. Where was I? Oh, yes:

And why should these secular scholars not write-off the Christian faith (as dominated by multi-million bestselling dispensationalist works) as a serious philosophy of life? Think of Edgar C. Whisenant’s Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 and Hal Lindsey’s 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon. Think of the book titles that flooded the market before the year 2000:

• Faird, Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come? (1988)
• Lindsey, Planet Earth -- 2000: Will Mankind Survive? (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).

Even fellow premillennialists bemoan dispensationalism’s tendencies in this direction. One premillennialist admits: “The premillenarians’ credibility is at a low ebb because they succumbed to the temptation to exploit every conceivably possible prophetic fulfillment. . . . It is not likely that the situation will change greatly.” (Dwight Wilson, Armageddon Now!, 218).

Premillennialist Craig L. Blomberg bemoans that “a frightening percentage of the evangelical Christian public seems always to suffer a collective amnesia, forgetting how the same kinds of publications just a decade or two earlier turned out to include a considerable amount of false prophecy. The one statistic that remains unvarying is that to date, 100 percent of all such scenarios have proved wrong,” because of engaging in “the next round of speculation.” (Blomberg and Chung, Historic Premillennialism, 70.)

Warden continues stating his reasons for disappointment with our blog: “From what I’ve read of your blog, it is long-winded, filled with hyperbole and lacking in clear points regarding dispensationalism. When people freely throw around hyperbole it is a sign that evidence is lacking. ”

This complaint involves two unfortunate statements. First, he is dealing with only “what I’ve read of your blog,” which shows he has not read all of our blogs, and is basing his surmise on partial evidence. Who knows what he has read on our blog? He doesn’t say.

Second, he complains that is “lacking in clear points regarding dispensationalism.” But this flows out of his first problem: a partial reading of our blog. It also shows that he expects too much from a blog. We have several published books and video projects that provide deep and serious treatments of dispensationalism, as you can see by checking our webstore at We also post a number of focused articles critiquing dispensationalism at But then, Mr. Warden expresses a concern about our being “long-winded.” So I am not sure our books would work for him. Anti-dispensationalism is hard to reduce to a bumper sticker.

Finally, Mr. Warden complains: “Dispensationalism is not dying and neither are the prophecies.” We must understand that for any very large entity to die can take time. Massive red giant stars will eventually collapse in on themselves and explode into a supernova. And they are considered short-lived stars to begin with (due to their massive weight which accelerates their eruption). But even still they don’t die overnight. Their enormous size creates strong, internal countervailing internal forces within the star’s nucleus that balance out the gravitational weight problem. For awhile.

This is like dispensationalism: it is such a large behemoth that its death will take a long time. Furthermore, given its inherent naivete — which allows its adherents to tolerate one failed Antichrist prediction after another and which can endure one erroneous rapture prediction after another — we can’t expect the system to die quickly. Dispensationalists are adept at grinning and bearing it.

Nevertheless, it is dying. And as we have pointed out: it dying from a brain-drain. Many of its scholars are opting out; others are radically transforming the system into what it has never been. Read the dominant dispensationalist’s vehement attacks on progressive dispensationalism. Fear is in their words: their beloved system is collapsing within.

We agree that the prophecies of the Bible do not fail of their purposes. But the prophecies of dispensationalists constantly fail. Again, review the titles listed above. As we have said many times: Dispensationalism is embarrassing itself to death.