Dispensationalism is alive and well. Well, it’s at least alive. The most recent defense of “futuristic premillenialism” comes from a new book from Moody Publishers edited by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue. Christ’s Prophetic Plans is a compilation of essays from the faculty and president (John MacArthur) of The Master’s Seminary. As I perused this book I noticed some very positive features. One was the delineation of “six essential features of dispensationalism.” They are:
1) Progressive revelation from the New Testament does not interpret the Old Testament passages in a way that cancels the original authorial intent of the Old Testament writers as determined by historical-grammatical hermeneutics.
2) Types exist, but national Israel is not a type that is superseded by the church.
3) Israel and the church are distinct, thus the church cannot be identified as the new or true Israel.
4) There is both spiritual unity in salvation between Jews and Gentiles and a future role for Israel as a nation.
5) The nation Israel will be saved, restored with a unique identity, and function in a future millennial kingdom upon the earth.
6) There are multiple senses of ‘seed of Abraham’; thus, the church’s identification as ‘seed of Abraham’ does not cancel God’s promises to the believing Jewish ‘seed of Abraham.’
The next chapter explores what dispensationalism is not by examining five myths.
1) Myth: Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation.
2) Myth: Dispensationalism is inherently Arminian.
3) Myth: Dispensationalism is inherently antinomian.
4) Myth: Dispensationalism leads to non-Lordship salvation.
5) Myth: Dispensationalism is primarily about believing in seven dispensations.
The book includes a section of “recommended resources” which, unfortunately, cites no sources which disagree with the premise of the book. A glossary is also included. I did find a couple of the “definitions” to be skewed in favor of the views of the authors. For example, dispensationalism is defined as “a nineteenth-century AD school of biblical interpretation that consistently employs normal hermeneutics throughout Scripture.” Covenant theology is defined as “a seventeenth-century AD system of theology based on covenants not spoken of directly in Scripture.” (Italics mine) There is a Scripture index but no topic or author index.
Some first impressions.
An old cast of characters and arguments.
As I examined the book I found the usual cast of characters treated that I’ve read in the past among them Charles Ryrie, J. Barton Payne, John Feinberg, Robert Saucy, Craig Blaising, Darrell Bock and Scofield. The antagonists are Oswald Allis, Anthony Hoekema, John Gerstner, Daniel Fuller, Vern Poythress and George Ladd. There are relatively few new names introduced to the subject. An example of old arguments I found in Mayhue’s chapter “Why Futuristic Premillennialism?” he writes,
“Futuristic Premillennialism is distinct because it is the only option out of the four major views that results from (1) dealing with all Scripture inductively, (2) consistently employing the time-tested grammatical-historical hermeneutical approach, (3) engaging all the Scriptures with the principles and skills of unprejudiced exegesis, and (4) not having to shift to a double-meaning hermeneutic when dealing with ecclesiology and eschatology.” (62)
Now an old argument is not necessarily a bad one and this is fine as far as it goes but why not interact at least somewhat with Vern Poythress in his book Understanding Dispensationalists where he devotes a full half of his book to the problem of interpretation as it relates to dispensationalism?
Most surprising to me was that there is virtually no interaction with the recent publication A Case for Historic Premillennialism edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung (Baker Academic). This book was published in 2009 so it is not so recent that it could not have been incorporated into the discussion. In my estimation this was a major oversight.
Christ’s Prophetic Plans is a good introduction to those curious about dispensational premillennialism but for those looking for advances in the field this will prove to be a disappointment.
Christ’s Prophetic Plan is from Moody Publishers. It is a paperback with 224 pages and sells for $19.99.