Friday, December 26, 2014

Christian Defense of Israel

An article by Peter Wehner:

I want to build on the thoughtful and timely post by Jonathan Tobin, in which he called attention to the catastrophe that is happening to Christians in the Middle East; why the outcome of the struggle over the region cannot be ignored; and why, in his words, “Christians should never think they could better the lives of their co-religionists by aiding efforts to destroy the other religious minority in the region: the Jews.” Jonathan made a compelling case speaking as a person of the Jewish faith; I’d like to speak as a person of the Christian faith...keep reading

Hat tip to Dr Michael Rydelnik

Blessing & Cursing Israel

I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Gen 12:3

Many theologians don't see a future for Israel. They believe prophecy is fulfilled in the church which they view as the New Spiritual Israel. So they are forced to re-interpret this verse in light of their presuppositions.

Wheaton College New Testament Professor Gary Burge did this during an interview with partial preterist Hank Hanegraaff. He noted the inclination of some evangelicals to find a biblical mandate in supporting Israel, and sees this as an error. When his host asked about Gen 12, Burge talked about context. He asked - how could that verse possibly be lifted out of Genesis, moved about 3000 years into the future and then applied to secular Israel?

"No", he asserted, "the blessing was intended for Abraham and his children." But the blessings of the covenant are not anchored to a "bloodline" - they are anchored to "faith." Hence no blessings apply to modern, secular Israel which is out of covenant with God.

Dr. Burge took it further. He noted that Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah often had harsh things to say about Israel. He then argues that on that logic one would have to say that Isaiah must be cursed by God as well. Burge corrects this "error" by saying that, on the contrary, to bless Israel is to be a "truth teller." He then claims that this is what he's doing - blessing Israel by telling the truth.

Did you catch the sleight of hand?

If blessings and curses cannot be contextually carried 3000 years into the future to a secular Israel, then Burge's "truth telling" argument becomes redundant. Secondly, prophets like Isaiah were specially ordained and used by God. They weren't cursing Israel on their own initiative, they were delivering God's message.

Unlike Isaiah, Dr. Gary Burge isn't God's appointed prophet to Israel. More problematic, the charges he and his colleagues accuse Israel of are often spurious. We should remember that God used Assyria to punish Israel, but that He still held the former accountable for it (Isaiah 10:5).

Yet if modern scholars miss the obvious bloodline context of Gen 12:3, the patriarch Isaac did not. In Gen 27:29 Isaac applies the same blessing and curse to Abraham's bloodline-descendant Jacob-Israel. The verse is quite clear and even shocking to modern, easily offended sensibilities:

May peoples serve you and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brothers; may your mother's sons bow down to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed.

But that's not all. Even "truth-teller" Isaiah was inspired to write of Israel in a future kingdom context:

For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste. Isa 60:12

It's no wonder that sensitive anti-Israel activists Michael Prior and Naim Ateek shunned large chunks of the Old Testament. In contrast, Dr. Burge informs us that we should now think "Christianly" and therefore we should re-interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.

Likewise, in attempting to explain away the future prophetic relevance of Zechariah 14, partial preterist Gary DeMar tortured the texts by allegorizing the events. Motivated by his presuppositions, Philip Mauro employed the same scriptural gymnastics and concluded:

"Enough has been said, however, to make evident that the prophecies of Zechariah referred to above, and hence other prophecies of like character as well, relate to things spiritual and have their fulfillment in this present era of grace." (Emphasis mine)

The New Testament Apostle Peter didn't appear to have re-interpretation in mind when he addressed unbelieving Israel in Acts 3:25.

You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, and in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. 

Just in case there's any confusion, the Apostle Paul also comes to our rescue:

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them, when I take away their sins. Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of their forefathers, since God's gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. Rom 11:26-29

The New Testament therefore confirms what the "truth-telling" prophets wrote about Israel in the Old Testament. These prophets affirmed that Israel will ultimately seek God because of its afflictions (Deut 4:30-31; Hos 5:15); that God will act to restore and cleanse Israel for His name's sake (Ezek 36:22-38); that they would possess the land forever (Jer 7:7, 25:5; Amos 9:14-15) and that God would never reject Israel's descendants for what they have done (Jer 31:31-37).

This being the case, the Blessings and Curses are still applicable to national Israel today.

So while it would be fair for someone to point out Israel's errors, as someone might do for any other nation - it would be quite another situation if one were to unfairly and regularly demonize it. That would be tantamount to cursing Israel.

And we all know what that means.

P.S. I mentioned Craig M. Nielsen in an earlier post. He's produced a video in which he states that Israel doesn't own the land - God does. He's correct. And God has decreed that land to Israel forever (see above).

Instead of arguing that the Abrahamic bloodline blessing isn't operative, Nielsen questions Israel's genetic traces to Abraham. Whatever works, I guess. Why would anyone call to question any ethnic origin unless they had an ulterior motive? Chris White has produced an excellent video which debunks Nielsen's canard. Watch it HERE

Further reading:

A Christian Defense Of Israel

A response to Gary DeMar

Fred Butler's thoughts on preterism

Problems with preterism

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dan Phillips on Ferguson

Some good thoughts HERE

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hibbs, Hocking & Hindson

Where is the church at now? Thoughts on Francis Schaeffer and current morality etc. Interesting and ominous.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel - Book Review.

Dr. Paul Henebury reviews the book The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel HERE

For the most part I agree with what he says. There were sections which should have been given more in depth treatment. I especially appreciated his thoughts on Chisholm's contribution, which raised some questions for me.

Speaking of Chisholm, his method of interpretation is discussed in the essay How “Literal” Should Interpretation Be? A Critique of the Analogical Hermeneutic HERE

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Is the Church the Fulfillment of Israel?

"Look, the days are coming"-- this is the LORD's declaration-- "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-- a covenant they broke even though I had married them"-- the LORD's declaration.

"Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days"-- the LORD's declaration. "I will place My law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying: Know the LORD, for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them"-- the LORD's declaration. "For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin."

This is what the LORD says: The One who gives the sun for light by day, the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar-- the LORD of Hosts is His name:

If this fixed order departs from My presence-- this is the LORD's declaration-- then also Israel's descendants will cease to be a nation before Me forever.

This is what the LORD says: If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below explored, I will reject all of Israel's descendants because of all they have done-- this is the LORD's declaration.

Jer 31:31-37

Some tough statements made about RT in the video:


Friday, December 5, 2014

Jack Hibbs & Paul Wilkinson on Christian Palestinianism

Craig M. Nielsen on "Christian Zionist Heresy"

I followed a rabbit trail last week. After seeing that the preterist folk had visited my blog, I followed them back to their home and noted that they'd linked one of my posts. But it wasn't that which attracted my attention - it was a link to another article on the Mondoweiss website: Why Christian Zionism is nothing short of outright heresy. The article plugs Craig Michael Nielsen's book Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict. Of Christian Zionism the article notes:

Yet few, if any, scholarly Christian theologians support this view. It is a belief advanced mostly by powerful TV evangelists and lobby groups. The average “garden variety” Christian has little to arm themselves against the deluge of almost hysterical demands on Christians that they must support the Zionists’ absolute entitlement to their colonialist project in the Holy Land with its dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs.

The blurb on Nielsen's book tells us that:

.... We must stop defending the radically anti-Christian Zionist movement. It's not anti-Semitic to oppose Israel's genocide of Palestinians. It's anti-Christian to accept it. Find out how wrong we have been about Israel. Then demand that the U.S. stop funding the Palestinian Holocaust. It's the Christian thing to do. (Emphases mine)

The notions of genocide and Palestinian Holocaust, as applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are both shameful and factually challenged. If you want a quick rundown on Nielsen's thoughts on Zionism, you can read them HERE. This excerpt captures it in a nutshell:

Christian Zionist ethics are driven by a mantra of “the end justifies the means”. For them, since God is bringing back the Jewish people to Israel according to prophecy, the Jewish people’s responsibility to treat non-Jews with equality and mercy in Israel can be ignored. What matters is that they take all the land, every other consideration is trumped by the golden rule of “take the land by whatever means necessary”.

Mondoweiss claims to be driven by a "progressive Jewish perspective." In fact it is one of the most biased sites in the anti-Israel market place. One left wing editor has even claimed that Israel was behind the Passover Kansas City shootings. You know, just like Jews were behind 9/11 and all that other stuff. Daniel Greenfield observes of them:

Mondoweiss is probably the leading anti-Israel site on the internet after Stormfront. Its editors are often openly bigoted. One Mondoweiss editor said, “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, but I can understand why some are.”

One contributing Mondoweiss writer is Stephen Sizer's collaborator Ben White. Are you starting to get the picture? White has written articles asking why there has been a rise in anti-Semitism. He has his theories: an oppressive, occupying Israel can only blame itself. White cites the "alleged anti-Semitic remarks made by Jürgen Möllemann" and concedes that comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany are unsound. But then he writes as if with authority:

Comparisons between the Israeli government and the Nazis is (sic) unwise and unsound, since the Israelis have not (at the time of going to press) exterminated in a systematic fashion an enormous percentage of the Palestinians. Cold-blooded killings, beatings, house demolitions, vandalism, occupation, military assaults, and two historical pushes at ethnic cleansing–yes. Full fledged genocide–no.

One inconvenient fact is that the Jews have been hounded and persecuted for centuries - even when they weren't in the land. There's always some excuse (or lie) for anti-Semitism. White has attempted to draw the reader's attention to what others have said about Israel. Then he's tried to distance himself from that egregious narrative while actually promoting it. I guess he's still working on his Matt 5:9.

But let's get back to Craig Nielsen. Nielsen is associated with the Palestinian Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN). One of the stated goals of PIEN is to foster peaceful relations between the Palestinians and Israel. A closer look at its website reveals it to be an anti-Israel instigator. In one 16 page document the word "occupation" is used 33 times. The word "suffering" appears 14 times and is presented as a motivation for Palestinian violence:

When we review the history of the nations, we see many wars and much resistance to war by war, to violence by violence. The Palestinian people has (sic) gone the way of the peoples, particularly in the first stages of its struggle with the Israeli occupation.

Aside from not providing hard data for these assertions, one doesn't see any reprimand about how Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority, treat their populations (especially the Christian minorities) or their historical hatred for Jews. PIEN even links to an article by Hanan Ashrawi who blames Israel for the evacuation of Christians in the Middle East. Ashrawi is a member of the PLO Executive Committee, a terrorist apologist and a revisionist.

That Christians are leaving the Middle East (and other areas) in droves has nothing to do with Israel. One should read Persecuted - The Global Assault On Christians and/or watch the authors being interviewed HERE to understand that the culprit isn't Israel.

I'll say it once again -Israel isn't perfect. But neither is it the oppressor that instigators like White, Nielsen and Sizer portray. And neither is Israel's alleged occupation the motivating factor for the violence against it. That notion should be discarded along with the one that claims poverty breeds terrorism.

What motive undergirds this narrative? I can hear familiar protests - I'm not an anti-Semite; I'm anti-oppression and anti-occupation. It has nothing to do with the Jew. What would Jesus do?

It has everything to do with the Jews.

As I grow older I should be growing kindlier and more patient. Sadly, I've become cynical in some areas. May God forgive me...but when your time is exclusively occupied in trumping up charges against Israel and ignoring abundant data that contradicts your narrative, and when you consistently ignore oppression elsewhere - then you are likely an anti-Semite. It's an insidious cancer that creeps up on you. The antidote is to read your Bible carefully and worshipfully.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that debating people who embrace these views is rarely fruitful, especially when they insist on ignoring or re-interpreting Scripture.

Further resources:

Supersessionism, the Holocaust, and the Modern State of Israel

Supersessionism

Epicenter 2012 - Panel Discussion on RT

“Hating Jews More Than is Absolutely Necessary”  

Debunking the Palestine Lie 

Christian Palestinianism

The world’s fastest growing faith is not Islam!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 CDH Conference - Defending Premillennialism

Materials from the 2014 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics (Defending Premillennialism) are now available HERE

(Note Dr Stallard's response to Sam Storms' Kingdom Come)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Steve Anderson on Gays

The same pastor who produced the popular anti-pretribulational video After the Tribulation has just been exposed in the Australian media for making hateful remarks about gays. I've already noted his vile attitude toward Jews and now this...

Baptist pastor Steven Anderson: ‘Let’s kill gays for AIDS-free Christmas’

How sad! Perhaps he should watch this video.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christopher Cone on Biblically Derived Premillennialism

Dispensationalists have been accused of, among other things,[1] being pessimistic (as by Marsden and Bube)[2] and anti-semitic (as by Wilson),[3] in large part due to our premillennial understanding of Biblical eschatology. However, upon exegetical consideration of several foundational prerequisites of Biblical socio-political thought, it is evident that Biblical socio-political undergirding in fact requires the premillennial understanding, and that such an understanding affords dispensationalists an appropriate (i.e., Biblical) degree of care, realism, and constructiveness for the world around us. In short, owing much to our premillennial understanding, dispensational thinking – far from being a hindrance to the progress of society, is a great benefit to society. This has profound and far-reaching practical implications not only for dispensational thought, but also for practical ministry in the church and for interaction with those outside the church...keep reading

Sunday, November 23, 2014

SEBTS - Day of Prophecy

Ed Hindson, Craig Blaising, Michael Rydelnik, William Watson and Daniel Akin recently participated in some discussions on the topic of prophecy HERE I especially enjoyed the Panel Discussion HERE

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Seventh-day Adventism - A Cult?

Can the Seventh-day Adventist Church be classified as a cult? Phil Johnson explores the question HERE

(Hat tip to Bryan C)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just One Clear Verse

How often have I heard that! Just give me one verse to prove _____ (insert whatever you like). Most often prophecy buffs or opponents of dispensationalism will insert "the pretrib rapture."

As a friend pointed out to me, that's what Doug Hamp did recently. He visited a few Facebook groups, posed the question and reported his findings. He didn't say what the question was but there are no prizes for guessing, and his "astute" readers picked up on it. According to Hamp:

I...have asked people what they believe is the best verse/passage about a certain doctrine which is extremely popular in American churches. I was told point blank, “there is no verse,” and “it is a mystery” or “I just know.” Those kind of responses I would expect from Mormon missionaries, not Bible carrying born-again evangelicals. At one point several people asked me what I was getting at since there was no verse and they couldn’t give me a biblical reason why they believed it. I asked if there is no verse then how do we know that it is true.

However, there were two people who asserted that it is the “it is the most logical,” and proceeded to build a logical case why the doctrine had to be true but in the end could still not provide even one clear verse in support of the doctrine. The problem with a logical syllogism (a syllogism has two premises and a conclusion) is two premises, even if true, may lead to a faulty conclusion will necessarily be faulty. (Emphases mine)

Did you get all that?

I confess to having little patience with the Mormon remark. Van Kampen pulled that stunt in The Rapture Question Answered (p 193) by associating the arrival of the pretrib rapture theory with the the arrival of "new cults such as Mormonism, Christian Science, Unitarianism, and Jehovah's Witnesses." He suggested that these "cults" appeared because of the "disillusionment with Orthodox Christianity." He also touched on the possibility that Irving - "later accused as a heretic" - originated the doctrine. Irving was a historicist, not a pretribulationist. Van Kampen's book spawned a generation of zealous proselytizers telling people to "compare Scripture with Scripture"; to take a "face-value" approach, and that it is all ultimately "plain and simple." If the rapture question was really so "plain and simple" one wouldn't need to write two books to prove one's point.

Getting back to Hamp; he once held to the pretrib position. Note this:

I believe that the Bible in its totality teaches a pretribulation rapture followed by Jesus returning before the beginning of the millennium.  The millennium is a literal 1000 year period in which Jesus will rule and reign from Jerusalem.  We will be there assisting as judges in some capacity. (Emphasis mine)

And note his article HERE. But now he says:

...I was sad too! I liked the doctrine. You are right there are a lot of positions that we teach that are not taught in Scripture...and my point is that we ought to stop. If we do speculate, then we ought to be quick to mention that and not teach it as "doctrine."

One can't argue with that attitude. Non-pretribbers will kick up their heels in joy and celebrate. But here's what I think (not that it matters much):

Hamp instigated. One of his responders is also notorious for doing that. As an admin of more than one group I'm all too familiar with the phenomenon. You don't visit other groups after some personal epiphany, start trouble and then complain when you get evicted. There are plenty of non-pretrib groups which will oust you for similar behavior. You should have explained your reasons (logic) for changing your mind in your blog and then indicated where the errata lay in your previous thinking.

Hamp knows the rapture timing isn't explicit in Scripture. Walvoord said as much about pretribulationism and posttribulationism. That Hamp used the word totality in context to pretribulationism (see above) implies he understands the timing is inferred in a number of passages. Paul Henebury rightly assigns it a Category 3 teaching, which is "an inference to the best explanation." Richard Mayhue wrote:

Problems remain to be solved by pretribulationists. Yet at this state of the art, pretribulationism most consistently fits the Biblical data and is championed by this writer as the view which best explains the coming of our Lord for His own.

In fact when Mayhue first read Gundry's books he was impressed. It was only after he read them several times over that he began seeing flaws in Gundry's arguments. He goes so far as to encourage The Master's Seminary students to study and develop an opinion on the rapture, even if they disagree with him.

I've said this before; it's one thing to attack someone else's eschatology, and quite another to defend against criticism. Yet the sad reality is that some of us (me included) probably do better at defending our eschatological positions than we do some of the fundamentals of our faith. Try debating the Trinity and the divinity of Christ to a clued up Jehovah's Witness next time one knocks on your door. I've had the unfortunate experience and now have my paperwork prepared.

Ironically, Hamp holds to what I'd call a range of fringe prophecy beliefs. I'd suggest that he'd be hard pressed to biblically or "logically" prove some of them with just a few passages, let alone the one where demons are conspiring to alter human DNA. Perhaps he should listen to his own advice. You can find much of his stuff on his website and on YouTube.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jason Lisle - The Ultimate Proof of creation

This is a talk by Jason Lisle delivered to the The Master's Seminary. Listen to it HERE

You can read his blog HERE

Hurting "free-thinking" atheists?

“I’ve been doing science for 30 years; don’t you think it offends me when you say you don’t believe in evolution?”

I nearly fell out of my chair! I had been asked by an atheist group (the Center for Inquiry) to come down and speak at a meeting they were holding to discuss their recent promotion of a bus advertising campaign on the Toronto Transit line declaring “There is probably no God, so relax and enjoy your life.” They apparently wanted a “religious” view represented so had invited me.

After the initial pre-determined questions to the panel members were asked, the audience (all atheists except for one to my knowledge) were invited to ask questions. The (biologist) gentlemen’s question (above) was issued to me after I had declared I was a creationist...keep reading

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Problem with Jews...

I don't like Jews because....Jews are very annoying - they really are. They are the cause of all the world’s problems...keep reading

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What Will Christian Leaders in Bethlehem Say?

Article by CAMERA's Dexter Van Zile:

It’s crunch time for Palestinian Christian leaders, especially those living in the city of Bethlehem.

Palestinian terrorists are murdering and crippling Israelis in the streets of Jerusalem by running them over in cars. They are stabbing unsuspecting Israelis to death.

Leaders in the allegedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority are accusing Israel of contaminating Muslim holy sites and calling for more violence against Israelis.

They are starting to talk like Hamas about the impossibility of allowing Jewish sovereignty on land previously governed by Muslim rulers...keep reading

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pope Francis & God's Magic Wand

The pope recently made statements about evolution that raised eyebrows in the media. Yet the RCC has held these views for some fifty years. I remember grappling with the evolutionary implications to the Gospel as a teenager, and being dissatisfied with the answers I received from my priest.

When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining God as a magus, with a magic wand able to make everything. But that is not so. He created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and arrive at their fullness of being. … And so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or conjurer, but the Creator who gives being to all things. The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to another, but derives directly from a supreme Origin that creates out of love. The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve. ~ Pope Francis (Emphasis mine)

One wonders what the pope means by "magus" and "magic wand." Is he really placing limitations on a God who created the universe ex nihilo? What does that say about the other dogmas supported by the R.C.C.?

One serious problem I've had with the R.C.C. - and especially this pope - is in comprehending its expansive and ambiguous language. At least one cardinal has recently admitted that:

"I'm sure he's [Pope Francis] not confused, himself. It's confusing for a lot of people, including myself at times. For someone who appreciates clarity I would like to get a few things clear so I can cooperate."

Creation Ministries International has responded to the pope HERE

In light of all this I found the following C.M.I. review of Fr. Victor P. Warkulwiz's book on creation fascinating. Here is an excerpt:

Blending this diversity of fields, Fr Warkulwiz has written a 519 page book not only on the scientific arguments for young-earth creationism, but also he has added a lot of history, philosophy, and theology. The book consists of 16 doctrines derived from Genesis 1–11, such as God created the world from nothing, God created each thing in the world immediately, God created each living creature according to its kind, God created the world in six natural days, God created the world several thousand years ago, the whole human species descended form the first man and woman and God destroyed the world that was with a worldwide Flood. He quotes extensively from the early and medieval fathers of the church, especially Augustine, Aquinas and Bonaventure. He drives home the main point that traditional Catholic teaching has always been young-earth creationism. It is only under the influence of the so-called Enlightenment that Catholic theologians and scholars have strayed. The influence of evolution culminated in the teachings of Jesuit priest, Pièrre Teilhard de Chardin, who mesmerized numerous Catholics to believe in evolution with his ‘theological fiction’.

Read it HERE

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Christians Discussing Same-Sex Attraction

I thought this video was both interesting and enlightening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mike Vlach on the 'Intermediate State as Millennium' View

Mike Vlach continues his thoughts on the millennium:

In a previous post I argued that premillennialism best fits the Bible’s storyline, particularly that there must be a successful reign of the Last Adam (Jesus) from and over the realm (i.e. earth) where the first Adam failed. Thus, the millennium of Revelation 20 is a fulfillment of the Gen 1:26-28 mandate.

In this entry I offer some comments on another view of the millennium and compare it with the premillennial view. This perspective is found with some who hold to amillennialism. Not all amillennialists hold the perspective I am about to explain, but some do...keep reading

P.S. Keep an eye out for an upcoming book by Mike on the Kingdom:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Premillennialism Must be True

Mike Vlach gives four reasons why premillennialism must be true:

Premillennialism is the view that there will be a kingdom of Jesus between the second coming of Jesus and the eternal state. This millennium is both future from our standpoint and earthly in nature. Yet while many premillennialists have focused on the fact that there is a coming earthly kingdom of Jesus (see Revelation 19-21), it is also important to explain why there must be such a kingdom. It is one thing to know something is true, it is another to know why something is true. What is the rationale for premillennialism? In this entry I address the “Why?” question. I offer four reasons why there must be a future earthly kingdom of Jesus and why this perspective is so important to the Bible’s storyline...keep reading

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blasphemous Theology?

Science and religion have often appeared at loggerheads, but Papal astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno says there is no need for conflict.

Brother Consolmagno said while literal readings of the Bible suggested the world was young, the perpetration of that belief, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary, was simply "bad theology".

"It's almost blasphemous theology," he told Fairfax Media during a visit to Brisbane on Wednesday.

"It's certainly not the tradition of Catholicism and never has been and it misunderstands what the Bible is and it misunderstands what science is."

And that was why Brother Consolmagno, a decorated planetary scientist, struggled when asked how he reconciled his faith with his science...keep reading

(Hat tip to Eric W.)

Further reading:

Abandon YEC and reconcile the Bible to evolution?

Augustine: young earth creationist

Friday, October 17, 2014

Robert Gundry - Peter an Apostate in Matthew's Gospel

In 2013, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) had as its theme “Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, and ETS.” The present writer had learned from direct eyewitnesses who were present that there was a strong call for Robert Gundry’s reinstatement as a member of ETS.  Strong verbal cries as well as applause broke out in one particular session.  This is not surprising, for troubling events have been occurring at ETS as it pertains to the degeneration of the orthodox meaning of inerrancy for many years now.  Even in the present writer’s days as a doctoral student from 1986 to 1990, ominous developments among its members regarding changes in evangelical definitions of inerrancy were gaining more frequency. These developments manifested themselves in many of the classes attended, which are now conducted by prominent ETS members who have risen to take on influential roles at the Society...keep reading

(Hat tip to Dr. Keith S.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Amillennialism & Revelation

Matt Waymeyer has done some good work responding to the amillennial view of Revelation. His little book Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate is a must read. At only 129 pages it is packed with pointed information and arguments. The notes themselves are worth getting the book.

You can download and listen to his talk given at the 2010 Shepherd's Conference HERE. Lynda O has blogged on Waymeyer's presentation HERE.

Waymeyer has also written a couple of articles addressing Waldron and Storms HERE and HERE. The comments section is an interesting read. Note Fred Butler's comments on Ezekiel's Temple in the Waldron article.

Hat tip to Joel H for the following link: A Christian woman writes about her honest misgivings about the amillennial teaching in her church HERE

Dr Reluctant on Storm's Kingdom Come HERE. Further thoughts HERE

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Useful to the Master

Love Alistair Begg:


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fred Butler on Internet Atheists

I thought the following was a decent article by Fred Butler of Hip & Thigh:

I wrote the following response a number of years ago on an Internet message board where I regularly frequented. Three atheists began posting disparaging comments against religion in general and Christianity specifically. The main atheistic poster who became my antagonist, was named Rob, but two other nameless friends joined him in befuddling and aggravating the Christians who also participated on this message board.

It is sad to say that none of the believers effectively answered their religious objections, nor offered any answer to their questions, even though the atheists were asking the same, re-treaded questions that all unbelieving, God rejecters have always asked. I was troubled by the inability of the Christians to offer any meaningful apologetic for their faith, as well as challenge the foolish unbelief of the atheists. In order to offer up a needed response to these anti-theists, as well as help the Christians learn to argue persuasively for Christianity, I wrote the following post...keep reading

This excerpt resonates with me:

First, is the typical “swarm your opponent” tactic. I have seen this done by Muslim apologists on other lists. The tactic is simple: The agitating unbeliever runs across a Christian posting board and posts a few smart aleck comments to stir the dander of the Christians. They respond with their comments to the unbeliever’s original post. The next time the Christians check back onto the board, however, they discover that the unbeliever must have gone down to his coffee shop/bookstore hangout and told 2 or 3 of his atheist buddies about this Christian message board and convinced them to post as well. It is assumed that swarming the Christians with several posts rehashing the same, lame questions unbelievers have asked over the centuries will somehow make Christianity appear foolish and establish the unbeliever’s position.

Another "swarming" tactic is to generate a large list of objections so that the subject of the attack needs to spend a considerable amount of time in refuting each point. If the objections aren't refuted then the "swarmer" claims victory.

Christians also use this tactic. A classic example is the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism. Responding to these sorts of lists takes time and energy. Thankfully, Paul Henebury actually took the time to respond to that one HERE. Note his apologetics articles as well.

I've come across similar lists compiled by preterists and posttribulationists. These lists are invariably copied and pasted from some other source and pop up all over the place. People who generate these lists aren't really interested in a two-way dialogue unless it leads to scoring points at the expense of their victims.

P.S. Thought this was pretty good too:

A Sample List of Self-refuting Statements

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Analysis of Gentry & Wellum's Kingdom Through Covenant

This is a TMS article by Dr Michael Vlach:

In their book, Kingdom through Covenant, authors Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum offer what they consider to be a better approach for understanding God’s purposes than either dispensationalism or covenant theology. The purpose of this article is to give a critical review of their book, pointing out various strengths and weaknesses. While there is good information in the book about the biblical covenants, misunderstandings about typology and the role of Israel in God’s plans hinder the book from offering a better alternative than dispensationalism...keep reading

See also Paul Henebury's review:

Part One

Part Two

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Book on Israel & the Jews

We are living in a world that is increasingly hostile to both the modern state of Israel and the Jews. This hostility generally comes from Islamists and secular sources, but also from some Christians. There is a steady shift away from support for Israel within the churches. I am regularly seeing premillennialists in this shift.

In a previous post I mentioned a newly published book on Israel, the Land and the Jews. It is edited by Mitch Glaser of Chosen People Ministries and Darrell Bock.

The book features a large number of notable authors, each tackling diverse subjects concerning Israel. Each chapter is accessibly concise, yet packed with loads of information. Much of this information was new to me.

Given the times, this book is a very important contribution. You can buy it from Amazon, and can watch some of the videos of the 2013 Conference which resulted in the book HERE

The People, The land, and The Future of Israel

Foreword by Joel Rosenberg & Introduction by Mitch Glaser

Hebrew Scriptures

1) Israel according to the Torah - Eugene H Merrill
2) Israel according to the Writings - Walter C Kaiser
3) Israel according to the Prophets - Robert B Chisholm Jr.
4) The People and Land of Israel in Jewish Tradition - Michael L Brown

New Testament

5) Israel according to the Gospels - Michael J Wilkins
6) Israel in Luke-Acts - Darrel L Bock
7) The Jewish People according to the Book of Romans - Michael Vanlangingham
8) Israel according to the Book of Hebrews and the General Epistles - Craig A Evans

Hermeneutics, Theology, and Church History

9) Israel and Hermeneutics - Craig A Blaising
10) Israel as a Necessary Theme in Biblical Theology - Mark R Saucy
11) Israel in the Land as an Eschatological Necessity? - John S Feinberg
12) Israel in Church History - Michael J Vlach
13) Israel in Light of the Holocaust - Barry R Leventhal

Practical Theology

14) The Jewish People: Evidence for the Truth of Scripture - Michael Rydelnik
15) Israel and Jewish Evangelism Today - Mitch Glaser
16) Israel and the Local Pastor - David Epstein
17) A Survey of Positions on Israel Currently Taught At Theological Schools - Gregory Hagg

Conclusion by Darrell Bock followed by Chapter Notes (352 pages)

Friday, September 5, 2014

On Populating the Millennium

Regardless of when the rapture occurs in relationship to the 70th week, people must be saved post-rapture and thus without the benefit of the church's "great commission." It also occurs in an environment under the wrath of God. The closer the rapture event to the beginning of the millennium, the more problematic and redundant the Sheep-Goats Judgment event becomes.

Gavin Finley (End-Time Pilgrim) claims a solution to the problem:

They (pretribulationists) do not discuss the Millennial entry issue in any detail at all. Curiously the subject is kept rather vague. They certainly do not discuss the entry of mortals into Millennium in terms of the Sheep-Goat Judgment. Post-Tribbers are beginning to look into this. And why are they interested? It is because they, (unlike the Pre-Tribbers), have a personal interest in the blood covenant issues inside the 70th Week of Daniel. Post-Tribbers know that they will be going up on stage to bring in the final witness during the final seven years of this age. (Emphases mine)

One popular posttrib response has been to simply refer to Zechariah 14 to show that people make it into the millennium. But Finley raises the issue because it has been a problem, not because there's some biblical "blood-covenant" that needs to be addressed. That's a whole other issue.

His solution involves coming up with a third category of people who aren't saved, yet merit a pass at the Sheep-Goats Judgment. We should note that Revelation speaks of only two kinds of people - the saints and the earth dwellers (Rev 13:7-8).

In Finley's scenario, the Sheep and Goats are unsaved. The Sheep avoid the Mark of the Beast and escape the "Wicked Tares Judgment." Conveniently, they resist the everlasting gospel (Rev 14:6-7) which is preached to all to those who dwell on the earth (every nation, tribe, tongue, and people). Hence they also evade the rapture in order to progress to the Sheep-Goats Judgment.

The Sheep merit a last-minute reprieve because of a works/heart based judgment (Matt 25:34-40). They are not judged "for entry into heaven or eternity." They are attributed this "blood-covenant" righteousness as a passport into the millennium. He claims that Matthew 25 clearly shows that "a human person to human person blood covenant loving-kindness is the central issue."

He writes:

As we [posttribulationists] see it, the Sheep-Goat Judgment appears to be based on matters of heart attitude and character. These heart issues may in turn evidence themselves in works to be sure. But the heart issue revolves around blood covenant commitment to someone in trouble who happens to belong to Messiah. This is the lovingkindness (sic) Messiah is looking for and finds in the sheep. The Sheep-Goat Judgment is not a judgment of works as we have been told. (Emphases mine)

Finley works hard to avoid a faith-by-works salvation, or a different dispensation application to the Sheep-Goats Judgment. He simply needs a vehicle for the unsaved to access the millennium.

The Goats (a fourth category) also escape the Tares Judgment because they haven't taken the Mark of the Beast. However, this category does not make it into the millennium because of its lack of "heart attitude and character" towards the persecuted (Matt 25:41-46). How they could posses the character to resist the Beast yet not possess the heart/attitude to be Sheep is not explained.

The scheme fails to explain the conditions outlined in Hosea 5:15; Matt 23:39 and Matt 24:22. How do any saved individuals (including Israel) enter the millennium in their physical bodies? It also ignores what Revelation consistently says of the Earth Dwellers. See Thomas Ice's article HERE and Tony Garland's article HERE.

Only the righteous inherit the kingdom. Finley has created a quasi-righteous millennial passport in order to solve his posttribulational dilemma. Pretribulationists might respond that if these Sheep were not "saved" then they rejected the gospel (2 Thess 2:8-12; Rev 13:7-8; Rev 14:6-7).

Interestingly, posttribulationist Robert Gundry avoids these convoluted explanations and simply relocates the Sheep-Goats Judgment to the end of the millennium. Ron Rhodes responds to him HERE

This Blood Covenant theory appears to owe some debt to Word of Faith pioneer E. W. Kenyon. Whatever the case, Finley holds the view that the church must do its part by participating in the events of the tribulation. Sadly, he ignores the purposes for the tribulation, and poisons the well by asking leading questions:

Is the Bride of Christ passive and out of the loop, as we see in the pre-tribulation rapture scenario? 

But how about this pre-tribulation Rapture of an unsuspecting uninvolved 'bride' leaving early without Israel? 

Is the Church to be unaware and passive in the Rapture, as our present day Bible prophecy teachings have suggested? Will God’s faithful witnesses be engaged in cheap, Hollywood style melodrama? Is the end time merely a boring, ho-hum story of survivalist Christians scurrying around like rats after being 'Left Behind' (sic).

Do we just work and play, watch the ballgame and the soaps on TV, talk with our stockbroker, attend church, and wait around for the rapture? Is the bride of Christ, passive in the covenant?

Gavin Finley has turned the rapture debate into an emotional one where the non-pretribulationalist adopts the higher moral ground. Given the website's popularity, it's no wonder many parrot this sort of bias.


Addendum:

I came across an attack on pretribulationism from a prewrath proponent who claimed pretribbers overstate the millennium population problem. He writes:

They are essentially two groups:

1. Those who have been “Jesus’ own” (i.e. were saved) prior to His second coming. This group includes all Old Testament saints as well. This is the group who will “reign” with Jesus during the Millennium.

2. Israel and the remnants of other nations who did not literally participate in the war against Jesus in the last days (and also did not receive the “mark of the beast”). This is the group who will be “reigned” over by Jesus and the saints.

It is a (sic) simple as that. This view is supported by the following passage from Zechariah...

Sound familiar?

But, no, for the reasons stated above it's not that simple at all. This individual also seems to limit the Antichrist's reign. It doesn't help him. In another attack on pretribulationists he ironically quotes Matt 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

However one might want to interpret the parable of the Ten Virgins, it is quite clear that only the righteous will inherit the kingdom (Matt 25:1-13). There is no sitting on the fence in the 70th week waiting for the last minute so that non-glorified people can populate the millennium. If they haven't become saved by the time of the prewrath rapture (whenever that might be) they are likely to have taken the Mark of the Beast.

It's that simple.

Eric Douma on the 70th week (Part One)

Why didn't the Dispensationalist Cross the Road?

Read the top ten reasons why the dispensationalist did not cross the road HERE

I like Dan Phillips' response HERE

....and another plug for his Twenty-five stupid reasons for dissing dispensationalism

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting the Gaza conflict Wrong

The following article by Matti Friedman is a lengthy read but worth the effort.

Excerpt:

The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues...keep reading (note that it is in 3 parts)

Listen to Sheree Trotter's Speech at the Israel Support Rally HERE

The Charter of Allah: The Platform of The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Israel an Illegitimate State?

I mentioned in a prior post that Peter Goodgame has adopted the New Exodus concept. This involves revising the relationship between Israel and the church. He suggested I take the time to understand where his analysis of the transition between the Old Covenant and New Covenant (NC) is leading him. I was invited to an email dialogue. However, I prefer this venue.

Peter says we shouldn't be smug in our personal understanding. There are so many views that "humility is the key so that we do not deceive ourselves." I agree. However, here's the red flag. He writes:

I'm going deeper, way deeper, and far beyond the "literal interpretation" of dispensationalism that I was raised on, upon which I based my Red Moon Rising book...I'm beginning to see that eschatology is like one big parable, and just like Jesus used parables to both DISGUISE and REVEAL the truth, I now feel that eschatology works the same way. A literal reading of prophecy, especially a literal reading of OT prophecy, actually DISGUISES the truth, and has contributed to the eschatological confusion that we see in the church today, and also to the widespread problem of Christians focusing on agendas and causes that have NOTHING to do with the GOSPEL or the KINGDOM OF GOD. (Underlining mine)

New Age teachers employ the same deeper meaning methodology. Paramahansa Yogananda extensively cited Scripture. His interpretations departed from the literal and were influenced by his assumptions and worldview. Goodgame was actually raised in a Seventh-day Adventist environment in his earlier years. SDA prophecy appeals to types and anti-types, allegory and symbolism. Adventism is rooted in Historicism (and White's prophecies). When someone says they're digging for deeper meaning, what they're often doing is piling their assumptions over plain-sense texts and changing the original intent of the author.

Prophecy isn't given for private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Paul commended the Bereans for searching out the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Christ expected the disciples to understand what the prophets wrote about Him (Luke 24: 25-27). Robert L Thomas notes that there are some 278 OT allusions in Revelation (Revelation 1-7 p 40). We are told that Revelation was given for our blessing and understanding (Rev 1:3).

This contradicts the premise that one must delve deeper to derive a veiled meaning. The Emmaus Road Disciples might well have responded that they couldn't have understood the prophets because the texts disguised the truth.

Goodgame understands that God made a New Covenant promise to Israel. He assumes that, since Jer 31:31 was applied to Israel, the church must be its continuation to derive any benefit. Thus, if the church is the continuation of Israel then his New Exodus concept must be applied to the church rather than an "out of covenant" secular Israel. That is circular reasoning.

Paul Henebury observes the following:

Personally speaking, I don’t see why dispensationalists have pulled their hair out over the New Covenant. To me at least, the language of Luke 22:2, made as it was with those who were to become “foundations” of the church (see Eph.2:20), and repeated imperturbably by Paul in I Corinthians 11:25; when taken with the argument in Hebrews, decisively shows that Jesus, “the Mediator of the New Covenant”, made the New Covenant with the Church!  If one is expecting to find that truth in Jeremiah or Ezekiel then one is not a dispensationalist. Those prophets did not envisage “the Body of Christ,” so naturally they did not write about the relationship of the New Covenant to the Church.

Paul further notes:

Does this necessitate two separate new covenants? No indeed! It means only that the same new covenant was given to the Church as shall be given to Israel.  The New Covenant promises to Israel are not the New Covenant promises to the Church. (Underlining mine)

It's a leap of logic to assume that the same promises made to Israel apply to the church, or that they must be the same entity to derive any benefit. Supersessionists typically point to Rom 2:28-29 and Gal 3:28 where the context is salvation. Those verses do not remove gender or ethnic distinctions. That a true Jew is one who is circumcised within does not mean a saved Gentile becomes a Jew. Similarly Goodgame cites Zechariah 2:11 and concludes:

....that “many nations” will be joined to the Lord at this time and shall become the Lord’s people. In other words, many Gentiles will become Israelites when the Lord comes to dwell in Israel’s midst.

That's not what the verse says. Gentile nations who are God's people need not become Israelites. Goodgame reads into these passages what he presumes true.

In Isaiah 60, God warns of the consequences of Gentile nations and kingdoms not blessing Israel (note v12). Of those same nations, Zechariah 8:23 tells us that they will grab the sleeve of a Jewish man saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." Isaiah 19:25 states that in that day God will say, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance." There is no incorporation of Egypt and Assyria into Israel as God's people. They are treated as distinct to Israel (not Israelites), yet are still God's people.

Goodgame claims there is no Scriptural warrant for a "God-led Exodus of modern day ethnic Jews back to their ancient home in the Middle East." The only "God-led Exodus" is the "New Exodus" of nations out of "Babylon." He allows for some prophecies to be fulfilled by Israel today, but these are all negative.

For example, a Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem so that the Antichrist can fulfill the Abomination of Desolation. He's sure of that because he's studied it. One wonders how he could be certain given a literal interpretation disguises the truth. Then there's this:

Should we give these Jews weapons and support their violence against the former inhabitants? In other words, does their claim to possess the land still stand, even though they are out of covenant with God?  No way! Israel's legal right to the land was ALWAYS conditionally based on their observance of God's ETHICAL commandments. Modern Israel is so far from this that it isn't funny, and they have been apostate from the beginning when they claimed to be a nation in 1948. (Underlining mine)

How can Goodgame have his Temple without Israel's reformation? But one can see where all this is heading. The narrative isn't new. It is popular among some Neo-Premillennialists who make similar statements. Out-of-covenant Israel is an oppressive, unethical new-kid-on-the-block. The church is "true Israel."

Note that God did not make a covenant with Israel's neighbors either. And speaking of ethics, what do we say of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamist regimes that oppress their civilians and conspire to destroy Israel? Do they have a better claim to the land?

Post-exilic Israel was not returned to the land because they repented. That occurred afterwards. Israel was returned because the 70 years of God's decree had expired. Moreover, its right to the land is unconditional and eternal (Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; 31:31-37 and Amos 9:14-15). It is the enjoyment of it which is conditional. In Leviticus 26:27-33, God warned Israel that the consequences of disobedience would be discipline (see also Deut 4:40).

However, in Leviticus 26: 44-45, God said He would not reject them and would remember His covenant with them. God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew (Rom 11:1-2) because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29).

Scripture demands Israel's presence in the land prior to Christ's return. God promised to return the Jewish people in unbelief in order to purify them (Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-25; 37:1-4; Hosea 5:15). Zechariah also demands Israel's presence in the land as the nations come against it (Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-5, 16).

Dispensationalists are often accused of privileging Israel to the point of idolatry, and not focusing on the Gospel of the kingdom. The proper response is to note that modern Israel isn't perfect but neither is it the oppressor that people like Goodgame claim it to be. We rejoice that God loves Israel and plans to redeem it. We see God's faithfulness to Israel reflected in our own lives.

As for the latter point, it might be observed that unfairly demonizing Israel is also detrimental to the Gospel of the kingdom. We might inquire as to what motivates such behavior. This is important in light of the rising global hatred against Jews. The typical excuse is that criticizing Israel is not tantamount to anti-Semitism. Yet the one-sided narrative we too often see contradicts that apology and inflames Jewish hatred.

Two of the most balanced treatments of this subject can be found in David Baron's Israel in the Plan of God and Michael Rydelnik's Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict. See also Israel The Land and the People, edited by H. Wayne House and Footsteps of the Messiah by Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

Keep an eye out for a new book edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser. It has contributions by Mike Vlach, John Feinberg, Michael Rydelnik and others.

Addendum:

One way to understand where Goodgame is now coming from is to look at the books he's reading. Of particular interest is Bill Johnson's theologically problematic When Heaven Invades Earth, which I bought soon after becoming a Christian. You can read a review of Johnson's book by Bob DeWaay HERE.

An excerpt:

Johnson warns against "a powerless Word." The only way God's Word lacks power is if we refuse to believe and obey it. Johnson suggests that he and others like him who refuse to be taught the truth but relish signs and wonders have "power." The rest of us who love and believe God's Word (from Scripture, understood according to the Holy Spirit inspired authors' intent) are supposedly powerless. Johnson's teaching is false and is abusive to the Lord's flock. Ordinary Christians who cannot replicate the miracles of Jesus and His apostles are relegated to a lesser category: powerless Christians to be pitied by elitists like Johnson.

He further cites Johnson:

Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. (Johnson: 76)

But where does following "off the map" take Johnson?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rethinking Zionism

Dr. Mitch Glaser takes Another Look at Zionism.

Excerpt:

Today many will say they support Israel but try as much as possible to separate support for the modern state of Israel with the term and “philosophy” of Zionism. Even some Christians and Messianic Jews who believe Israel has a divine right to the Land sometimes want to distance themselves today from the term Zionism. Over the years the term Zionism has been battered about and linked with racism in United Nations statements , which was later revoked by UN resolution 46/86 in 1991. It has become a synonym for Middle East imperialism, racial intolerance and hatred for all Palestinians. Oren will convince you to reconsider if for some reason you are beginning to believe these things.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Unger Responds to Piper & Taylor on the Rapture

I guess after William Lane Craig's comments were aired, others thought they'd throw their hats into the rapture-bashing ring. Anyhow, hat tip to Dan Phillips for this one:

A few days ago, I had an article passed on to me called Nine Reasons We Can Be Confident Christians Won’t Be Raptured Before The Tribulation from Justin Taylor’s blog, in which he was summarizing the teaching of John Piper.  A bunch of folks got worked up (on the internet?  What?), but my superiors asked me to respond and so I agreed to write a response.  Now I’m no stranger to disagreement and my various theological positions that have essentially made me the sweaty asthmatic nerd on the playground of Evangelicalism (nobody likes an outspoken cessationist who is Calvinistic and dispensational), so I’ve basically got nothing to lose!...keep reading

Addendum:

Unger has amended his article to present a softened stance. Perhaps some sensitive soul was offended. That was commendable of him, though I liked the first edition. I like some of the following observations:

Now I celebrate the life and ministry of both John Piper (who gave me my wife) and Justin Taylor (who’s done wonderful work at Crossway).  I understand that they’re not on the same page as me when it comes to hermeneutics and, as a result, eschatology.  I also know that many who have left pre-tribulational circles (as well as other circles that people love to hate) tend to have had painful encounters with two guys who seem to be elders at a whole lot of churches.

I get that.  I know that there’s bad defenders of pre-tribulationalism out there, and I get that there’s obnoxious arguments and graceless “end times evangelists” who teach ideas about the end times that are laughable.

That being said, I also get the idea from a lot of ex-pre-trib fellows that a majority of their understanding of pre-tribulationalism comes from crabby elders and silly extra-biblical ideas that they rejected in their youth (I too was caused to suffer through Jack Van Impe videos).  When I have conversations with ex-pre-tribs, I regularly learn that many of them haven’t done much serious reading of pre-tribulationalism in their recent adult years, and generally assume that the theological convictions they reached when they were young are mature and settled, although they wouldn’t ever say that about any other point in their theology.

Fact is that obnoxious arguments and lack of grace aren't limited to curmudgeonly old pretribbers whose Scofield Bibles may only be prised from their cold dead hands. Unger mentions Hal Lindsey (I don't know Impe) in a less than favorable light. I kinda get that too, sort of. But I thought that was a weak ending to his response. It was unnecessary.

I don't think Hal's a great representative of dispensationalism, but he doesn't deserve the cheap shots that get fired off at him by non-pretribulational critics. I find many of them are quick to cry foul at any hint of criticism of their own views. In that respect I've found that Hal has broader shoulders and more class than many of his detractors.

Young Evangelical Anti-Israel Activism

I thought this was worth posting:

In 2010, a film was released that perfectly encapsulated the erosion of Evangelical Christian support for Israel. The film, With God on Our Side, featured a young man learning about the Palestinian struggle and coming to see Israel not as evidence of God’s faithfulness, but as a mean and heartless nation enabled by American Evangelicals who have embraced Zionist ideology.

The film’s narrative of peace-loving Palestinians mistreated by heartless Israelis and their Christian Zionist supporters has been repackaged and promoted again and again by anti-Israel activists in some of the most influential Evangelical institutions in the United States. These activists, often in high positions, have found eager disciples in places like the megachurch campus of Willow Creek and the academic halls of Wheaton College, one of America’s preeminent Evangelical institutions. And they have been able to exploit the resources of popular Evangelical development organizations like World Vision...keep reading

(Hat tip Andy Woods)

A New Exodus?

When I first got into the study of prophecy (not too long ago), I found some of Peter Goodgame's points interesting. He was one who tended to stretch the boundaries (thinking outside the box) so I (wisely) treated him with caution.

Sad to say that it now seems he's imploded. His new stance on Israel is hardly innovative. And, despite his denial, it is replacement theology - albeit using the "fulfillment" narrative.

The Israel of God and the end of RMR 

After the Tribulation - Is Steve Anderson right?

Steve Anderson's viral After the Tribulation video is still popular around the traps. It's hardly in-depth exegesis. In fact it's more of an extended rant. Still, some people love to see criticism of pretribulationism regardless of where it comes from. But how much sense does Anderson's view make?

Non-pretribbers like to point to the sequence of events in Matthew 24. Jesus comes after the tribulation and the gathering is mentioned there, hence that's when the rapture occurs. I saw a fairly typical remark the other day that went something like this:

"[As opposed to pretribulationists] we believe in a face-value of God's word and Jesus said that the rapture would happen immediately after the tribulation."

I can understand where they're coming from. After all, the disciples asked Jesus when all these things would be (the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple), the sign of His coming and the end of the world (age). Oh, and the rapture - don't forget the rapture. They recognized v 31 immediately as the rapture. It was foremost on their minds just before Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:6).

What happens after the tribulation?

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Mat 24:29-31

First note that this gathering occurs after the tribulation and after the signs. If the rapture is the gathering after the tribulation then it cannot cut the tribulation short. If the rapture occurs after the tribulation, after the cosmic signs and after the sign of the Son of Man; then it is also unlikely that the Great Multitude of Rev 7:14 has arrived via the rapture. It is more likely that this group of people is continuously arriving from out of the tribulation (See Robertson's notes).

How long is the great tribulation (Jacob's trouble)? See Dan 7:25, Dan 11:36, Dan 12:7, Rev 13:5 and Rev 12:14. It is 1, 260 days. Now that's a problem for Anderson's view right there.

Most importantly, why is the tribulation terminated? It is terminated otherwise no flesh would be saved (Matt 24:22). This flies in the face of the argument that Rev 3:10 means protection within (Gundry), rather than out of the time of trial. If God protects within, there is no reason for Him to terminate the great tribulation. That there are tribulation saints to be resurrected at Rev 20:4 also rejects that view.

What happens to the church at the rapture? According to 1Co 15:51-52 and 1Thess 4:16-17, the dead in Christ are resurrected and the living are glorified.

These verses suggest that the tribulation is brought to an end to preserve the "elect" in their physical bodies (flesh) in order to populate the millennium. To say that God intervenes otherwise no believers would remain alive to be raptured makes absolutely no sense within the context of Matt 24:22.

Matthew 23:39 & Hosea 5:15 state that Christ's physical return is contingent to Israel's repentance, and supports the former observation. The millennium must be populated with saved non-glorified Jews and Gentiles. If the rapture is the "gathering of the elect" then the remnant of Israel must also be raptured at the end of the 1,260 days.

Why then the need for a Sheep-Goats judgment? And who populates the millennium?

I mentioned Steve Anderson's popularity. Anderson has also produced anti-Israel videos which support Replacement Theology. These appear to be gaining popularity with some non-dispensational premillennialists. How sad!

One final thought:

I recently read a prewrath response to a scholar's denial of the rapture doctrine. The respondent offered up 1 Thess 4:17, John 14:2-3, Matt 24:31 and Rev 7:9-14 as proof texts. I can agree with the first two examples, although I'd like to point out that Marvin Rosenthal denied that John 14:2-3 were rapture passages. The reason was that he had Christ coming only once and then staying in the earth's atmosphere for the balance of the tribulation.

The last two examples are the result of circular reasoning for the reasons I gave above. There is no mention of a rapture or resurrection at Matt 24:31 or Rev 7 - these are assumed, as is the connection between these verses. In fact John Feinberg notes that many commentators "of various stripes" see the parallel between Zech 12:10 and Matt 24:29-30. It should be patently obvious that Israel is in view here (not the church). In context, the very next verse is its final gathering in the land as per OT promises.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Aussie Pro-Israel Blog

This is a blog covering headlines about Israel from a sympathetic standpoint. It is very active and a worthwhile visit. Go to Daphne Anson

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why Dispensationalism Still Matters - Baptist Bulletin

I thought this was an excellent summary:

Two of the more common hermeneutical and theological viewpoints within the world of Bible-believing Christianity are dispensationalism and covenant theology. [1] Each position represents a version of Biblical orthodoxy. Both perspectives generally affirm the major doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ and the Virgin Birth, salvation by grace through faith in the blood atonement of Christ on the cross, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave, and the visible and literal second coming of Christ. Thus it is possible for the two camps to recognize the members of the opposite group as spiritual brothers in Christ. However, they disagree strongly on many significant theological points. In particular, these disagreements often involve how one views the expression of continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. Lurking behind this issue are certain hermeneutical and theological commitments by the two sides. In light of these commitments, this article is an attempt to articulate some of the major differences between the two views from the vantage point of a traditional dispensationalist...keep reading

Hat tip to Kathryn D.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eric Douma's Eschatology Studies

Pastor Eric Douma once presented a formidable defense of the pretribulational rapture view as a response to a challenge. Sadly, these audio studies had been offline for quite some time.

Well, they are finally back up again and can be accessed HERE  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On New Revelation

In the past I've blogged about Ellen G. White's "prophetic" influence on Seventh-day Adventist teachings. I've seen some correlation between the Adventist system and the Roman Catholic Church's Magisterium. The reliance on extra-biblical "prophetic" sources is alive and well among Charismatics as well.

This is a great piece by Dan Phillips. Read it HERE

Monday, July 21, 2014

Excellent Studies in Eschatology

From the Spirit & Truth Website:

Paul Henebury presents a series of lectures concerning eschatology, the study of what the Bible reveals concerning the future. This material concerning unfulfilled prophecy is drawn from more in-depth courses which may be undertaken from Telos Biblical Institute.

Studies in Eschatology

I found the last two lectures "Distinguishing Israel from the Church" particularly helpful.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Universe from Nothing?

A Creation Ministries International review of Lawrence M. Krauss' book:

Atheists insist that all of nature can be explained on its own terms without invoking a supernatural creator. Some argue, as does Lawrence Krauss in his recent book A Universe from Nothing, that modern science has now made it plausible that space-time, matter-energy, and even the universe can emerge from nothing. As we shall see, these ideas are self-contradictory and not aligned with current thinking—even in the secular scientific community—concerning the possibility of a universe existing in the eternal past...keep reading


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

News.com.au has come out with a lengthy article that, on the surface, appears to neutrally examine the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, using words like "occupation" subtly sways the sentiment. Then there are examples like this leading statement:

The horrific murder of three Jewish teenagers late last month — two of whom belonged to more extreme sects — was met with an immediate and violent retaliation.

Is the writer suggesting that the alleged extremism of two of the teens somehow reduces the culpability of the murderers? Or does the writer want to share out the blame? It is important to be aware that attempted kidnappings of Israelis by Palestinian extremists are regularly foiled by Israel. The alleged "sect" association of these teens wasn't a factor and certainly not an excuse. Moreover, Israel's retaliation wasn't immediate unless the article is referring to the tragic example of the Palestinian teen who was murdered soon afterwards. Yet the very next line refers to Israeli planes and helicopters bombarding Gaza and the West Bank.

A noteworthy observation is that the Simon Wiesenthal Center (among others) quickly condemned the murder of the Palestinian teen. In contrast, the mother of one of the alleged murderers of the Israeli teens said she was proud to be the mother of a martyr. Her definition of a martyr is one who gives one's life to kill Jews. While the deaths of the Israeli teens didn't cause any riots, the Palestinian teen's death was quickly attended with massive riots and more rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and Fatah. That's why Israel retaliated.

Another important contrast that must be noted is that Hamas (as Hezbollah has done in the past) sets up its rocket launchers in civilian areas. This is done to maximize civilian carnage in the event of an Israeli response. In his book Dreams and Visions, Tom Doyle tells the story of Ali, a disillusioned Palestinian Freedom Fighter aspirant. During the 2009 Gaza incursion by Israel he learned that Israel had gone out of its way to warn civilians to get out of the area. Israel's target was Hamas. But Hamas operatives prevented these people from leaving by threatening to shoot them.

Finally, apart from dismissing biblical authority, the writer of the above article has missed the central point of the conflict. One side refuses to recognize the other and wants to destroy it.

It's that simple.

Further resources:

Debunking the Palestine Lie

Prager - The Middle East Problem

Hamas Orders Civilians to Die in Israeli Airstrikes

Hamas Expert at Driving Media Agenda

Dianna Buttu grilled by CNN

Why is Israel fighting with Gaza again?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Jesus was a Palestinian - Palestinian Liberation Theology

Melanie Phillips looks at a darker side of pro-Palestinian theology.

Within the Protestant world, many churches are deeply hostile to the State of Israel. They present the Palestinians as victims of Israeli oppression while ignoring the murderous victimization of Israeli citizens at their hands. This much is generally known. What is less known is the even more disturbing fact that this perverse animus is increasingly fed not by the politics of the present moment but by theology...keep reading

As an aside; soon after three Israeli teenagers were abducted, two self-described Christian Peace Activists tweeted the following message.

"The abduction of three yeshiva students in the West Bank last Thursday was ordered in advance - by Israel."

Sizer will likely be more familiar to observers than Alice Bach. The latter was an academic at Case Western University who blogs with The Electronic Intifada and has written for the Huffington Post. Biblical authority isn't exactly prominent in Bach's personal theology. She has also drawn the attention of Campus Watch, among others.

Further resources:

The full story behind the kidnappings


Friday, June 6, 2014

Israel, Salvation - Progressive & Normative Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism draws too hard a line between Israel and the church; although there are differences between them...Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation.

These two statements are fairly common. Israel is a nation composed of ethnic Jews, while the church is Christ's body composed of saved Gentiles and Jews. So what exactly is a "too hard line"? An example would have been good to work with; typically none are provided. I rather suspect that the "hard line" needs to be blurred when one speculates about eschatology i.e., whether particular texts refer to Israel, the church, or a combination of both, and especially in relation to the rapture, tribulation, millennium or the eternal state.

Popular websites such as Tim Warner's Progressive Dispensationalism 101 don't help. Here's what he writes under his Major Problem #5 Multiple Plans of Salvation:

Many traditional dispensationalists have devised different plans of salvation for Israel and the Church. Pre-tribulationists usually claim that during the tribulation, the plan of salvation will incorporate the Old Covenant in some way. Salvation for the Old Testament saints is seen as having to do with works along with faith. Progressive dispensationalists see only one means of eternal salvation, through the blood of Christ.

Warner doesn't provide citations or sources. I would suggest that if one wants to know what dispies teach about the method of salvation (whether in the OT or the 70th week) then one should read primary sources. Note also that Warner's Major Problem #4 Only a Remnant of Old Testament Israel is Saved, is a red herring. Dispies do not claim that all OT Israel is saved. See Dr Fruchtenbaum's article HERE

Dispensationalist John Feinberg comprehensively deals with the topic of Salvation in the Old Testament in Traditions & Testament - Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg (Chapter 3 pp 39-77). I recommend Mike Vlach's booklet Dispensationalism - Essential Beliefs and Common Myths and pay particular attention to pages 35 to 38.

Dr. Vlach has dialogued extensively with PD proponents. He provides a brief summary on the distinctions between Classic Dispensationalism, Revised or Modified Dispensationalism and Progressive Dispensationalism (Dispensationalism pp 9-12). He notes that PDs see more continuity between Israel and the church. Citing Blaising and Bock he writes:

Progressives do not view the church as an anthropological category in the same class as terms like Israel, Gentile Nations, Jews, and Gentile people....The church is precisely redeemed humanity itself as it exists in this dispensation prior to the coming of Christ.

And, more notably, this:

They stress that both Israel and the church compose the "people of God" when it comes to salvation and both are related to the blessings of the new covenant. This spiritual equality, however, does not mean that there are not functional distinctions between Israel and the church. Progressive dispensationalists do not equate the church as Israel and they still see a future distinct identity and function for ethnic Israel in a coming millennial kingdom.

It's entirely possible that I've missed some important nuance but in his Appendix 1 of Israelology (p 861) Arnold Fruchtenbaum presents a diagram (the second of three) which he says is representative of the dispensational view of the relationship between the church, Gentiles and Jews. This diagram has three oval figures. Two of the ovals are adjacent - one represents Israel while the other represents the Gentiles. These two are intersected in the center by a third which represents the church composed of Jewish and Gentile followers of Christ.

On page 862 Fruchtenbaum corrects the notion that dispies teach that God's purpose for the church comes to an end - even temporarily - so that He might work with Israel exclusively. In Feinberg's Continuity and Discontinuity Robert Saucy (who is an advocate of discontinuity) disagrees with Chafer's statement in Dispensationalism that God, throughout the ages, is pursuing two different purposes - one earthly and one heavenly (p 240). Some modern dispies would agree with Saucy. Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes that:

Dispensationalism does believe that when the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, then God's purpose for the church on earth is complete, but continues in heaven and then continues again on earth in the Messianic Kingdom. (Israelology p 862)

Of course this is where the crux of the problem is for non-pretribulationists who want to see the church on earth for all or part of the 70th week.

The matter of the relationship between Israel, Gentiles and the church in the eternal state is more complex and speculative. My guess is that there may be various understandings among dispensationalists. Even so, a comparison of Robert Saucy's views (The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism) with that of dispensationalist Robert L Thomas' (Revelation 8-22) sees no major differences, at least to me.

Dr. Saucy writes that the idea of incorporating Israel into the church does not logically require that the church becomes a "new Israel" (pp 208-209). In fact Saucy does not necessarily hold that it should be "incorporated". He argues that even if this was the case it does not require a denial of continued distinctions and that the question is not crucial to understanding Israel's prophecies. Continuing on he says that if the word "church" is the name of the body of Christ, "or the final eschatological people of God throughout eternity, then it would be correct to include Israel in the church." But Saucy then makes the intriguing observation that "one never finds the term church applied to those beyond the present age."

He summarizes by noting that whether Israel should be considered part of the church rests on the biblical application of the term "church." If "church" signifies all of God's people then saved Israel must become "a part of His body." On the other hand, if that term only applies to the present age then it would seem to not encompass a future saved Israel. Either way the church cannot be identified with Israel. They enjoy a "similar identity as the people of God" and the "blessings of the promised eschatological salvation", but "this does not eliminate all distinctions between them." One question which isn't resolved is: since Saucy affirms discontinuity, how does he regard the term "in Christ" in respect to saved OT saints?  

In discussing Rev 19, Robert L Thomas notes that the difficulty in including Israel along with the church as part of the bride is chronological (Revelation 8-22 p 368). He admittedly draws on pretribulational assumptions when he states that OT and 70th week saints will rise in time for the Millennium but not in time for Christ's "triumphal return" (Dan 12:1-2,13; Rev 20:4). But he also writes:

Yet it is incontrovertible that Israel will appear in the New Jerusalem which is also Christ's bride...So the bride of Christ will be a growing body of people, with the church functioning as Christ's bride during that phase of the wedding feast that comes during the Millennium, but with the integration of the new order (21:1 ff), the bride receives the enhancement of the redeemed of Israel and of all ages, including the Millennium. (Emphasis mine)

I'm sure some dispies would disagree with Dr Thomas here. My point is that Warner has incorrectly assigned views and limitations to dispensationalism. In fact I recommend going to a Saucy, Blaising or Bock to learn more about PD rather than Warner's PD 101 page.

Aside from differences between dispensationalism and PD and the status of the Davidic Covenant, the greatest objection (and concern) is the PD concept of Complementary Hermeneutics (CH). About four years ago I came across someone who converted from pretribulationism to posttribulationism. He was quick to find fault with pretribulationism and dispensationalism while praising PD and posttribulationism.

Oddly enough, contra Saucy, he preached his version of the continuity of Israel and the church while actually recommending Saucy's book. At the time I hadn't come across Feinberg's Continuity & Discontinuity and Saucy's contribution. I only knew then that there were concerns about PD's already-not-yet fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and CH. This fellow brushed them off as irrelevant straw man objections.

I find that this person now has his own blog and enjoying an extensive following. On one page he compliments PD as a "refinement" of "Traditional Dispensationalism." More importantly, he claims to espouse PD's complementary hermeneutical framework, and provides a link to Warner's PD 101. A look at some of his Scripture "discoveries" calls to mind Robert L Thomas' warnings regarding PD & CH and the dangers of enthroning the interpreter.

Suddenly, the 144,000 Jews of Revelation are really something deeper (or different) than the text plainly states, as is the Mark of the Beast etc. I remember one discussion where this man even suggested that Michael the Archangel might be the pre-incarnate Christ (though not a created being). Perhaps one may only be limited by one's imagination.

To be fair, I'm sure Blaising and Bock would be alarmed to learn how PD and CH are being used to re-interpret Scripture based on one's prior inclinations (as I know to be the case here). This individual is the perfect example of Dr Thomas' concern regarding CH.

As for me I'll stick with dispensationalism, warts and all.

A final afterthought: it would be helpful if critics, who claim dispies teach multiple ways of salvation, would clearly formulate how they believe salvation was arrived at in the OT.

Further reading:

Progressive and Normative Dispensationalism

Recommended Reading in Dispensationalism

Some Mud That Sticks: A Little Insider Criticism Of The Face Of Dispensationalism

Contra The 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism


Addendum:

I see that Tim Warner ran afoul of James White (Alpha & Omega Ministries) back in 2006. I find the following comments in one response by White enlightening:

I have commented on Warner’s dispensationalism and the over-riding role it takes in his commentary resulting in eisegetical errors in John 6 and elsewhere. I do not have to commit myself to a never ending series of give and take articles with every unusual interpretive system that finds a voice on the Internet, and this is particularly true with the wide range of “dispensationalisms” that are developing as the movement shatters into a thousand different streams. In any case, I looked at the articles, and have chosen to respond, not so that another endless series of articles can be produced, but because I see value in illustrating when tradition (in this case, some kind of “progressive dispensationalism”) distorts exegesis resulting in error. (Emphasis mine)

Elsewhere White writes:

In our last installment we examined Tim Warner’s assertion that rather than the great promise of God to His people that He has provided a full and complete salvation in Jesus Christ, Warner’s man-centered “progressive dispensationalism” leads him to make this amazing statement:

Jesus did not tell the Jewish crowds what God had absolutely decreed, but God’s desire and purpose. “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).

Unsurprisingly, White appears to have a low opinion of dispensationalism. In these cases he takes issue with Warner's attack on Calvinism and uses it to denigrate dispensationalism in general. In fact White does this in several other responses. Yet dispensationalism has nothing whatsoever to do with how one interprets John 6 (the subject of the exchange). White is either biased or ignorant of dispensationalism and its hermeneutics. Whatever the case, it's sheer irony that Warner, who disparages dispensationalism, is used by White to do the same thing!

Meanwhile, Warner not only misinforms his readers on what classical dispensationalism teaches but he gets PD wrong as well. Darrel Bock has seen his page and has said that he does not align completely with Warner.