Monday, August 29, 2016

Dispensationalism Before Darby

A few years ago Grant Jeffrey came across an old document written by a certain gent called Pseudo Ephraem. Jeffrey claimed that it contained a pre-Darby concept of a pre-conflagration rapture. It caused a stink among incensed non-pretribs. They needed Darby to be the origin so that they could continue to push the well-worn line: Darby to the Scofield Bible to (insert your favorite pretrib "false teachers" here) all the way to the dreaded Left Behind novels.

So Robert Gundry jumped in and bloggers got busy blogging and explaining why PE didn't really mean what the pretribs thought it did. I read a lot of that stuff. Much of it reminded me of the sorts of arguments supersessionists adopt towards biblical texts guaranteeing a future for Israel.

I've previously blogged on PE HERE. One persistent poster informed me that:
the problem is that you also have to take the text by pesudo ephraem in context, and by the lingo that is used in his day so a plain reading would not do...
Yes, I've noticed that the "plain reading" never works (on any day) when it doesn't say what you want it to. Shame that. For the record, here's a sample of PE's "lingo":
Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord! For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins… ~ Pseudo-Ephraem (c. 374-627)
Sounds pretty straight forward to me but... Anyhow, Jeffrey got called a "false prophet" and the usual stuff. The Didache was dutifully rolled out, along with the obligatory Early Church Fathers. They had to quash PE so the customary line could continue to be spun: Darby, Scofield, Lindsey....whatever.

Then along came William C. Watson's Dispensationalism Before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism.

One may conveniently dismiss Pseudo-Ephraem. But Watson's book provides plenty of other pre-conflagration accounts - enough to keep pretrib skeptics busy for years inventing excuses as to why all those people didn't mean what they actually wrote.

I reviewed the book HERE

Of course, the book won't stop anti-pretrib polemicists from continuing to spin the same Darby-origin lines. It's one of those things critics just can't help doing.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Getting Jehovah Witnesses to Take Your Literature

Alan Kurschner of Eschatos Ministries has offered some good tips about witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses when they come knocking. You can read the article HERE.

We have them knock on our door frequently. Despite the fact that they've been told not to accept literature, I've never failed to get them to take mine. I tell them I'll only take theirs if they take mine - which is a printed out copy of biblical comparisons between Jesus and Yahweh.

One word of warning - some of them may seem vague when you question them. However, if you're going to sit down and dialogue with them you had better know your Scriptures, and how they argue! Some of them are very well prepared and sneaky. Having more than one Bible translation available will be handy. A Bible software program is even better.

See also my article Jehovah’s Witnesses & Jesus Christ

Friday, August 26, 2016

Morning and Evening – Charles Spurgeon

A short review of the devotional Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon (Edited by Alistair Begg). Read it HERE

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What We’re Up Against - Tennant

I have a lot of respect for Dominic Bnonn Tennant's effort in the following exchange he had on Facebook with a few professing Christians etc. A good lesson:
Here is an exchange from the Facebook wall of a purportedly Christian band. They asked people to post pictures for a #lovewins collage. Since that seemed like celebrating the subversion of constitutional democracy and the replacement of marriage with a delusional fiction, I asked them with surprise if I had been mistaken about them being Christian. Here is the disheartening result.
Notice the implications. It is difficult to go out and make disciples of the nations when a hoard of people professing Christ is following a step behind you, daggers poised over your back and thumbs on their lighters, waiting for you to open your Bible and start talking...keep reading

Union with God the Trinity - Sinclair Ferguson

I've gained an appreciation for Sinclair Ferguson's insights. From Ligonier Ministries:
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be within hours of death—not as an elderly person, but as someone condemned to die although innocent of every crime? What would you want to say to those who know and love you best? You would, surely, tell them how much you loved them. You might hope you could give them some comfort and reassurance—despite the nightmare you yourself were facing. You would want to open your heart and say the things that were most important to you.
Such poise would surely be praiseworthy. Of course, it would be human nature at its best—because this is what Jesus did, as the Apostle John relates in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17).
Within twenty-four hours before His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus expressed His love in exquisite fashion. He rose from supper, wrapped a servant’s towel around His waist, and washed the dirty feet of His disciples (including, apparently, Judas Iscariot’s; John 13:3–5, 21–30). It was an acted parable, as John explains: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (v. 1).
He also spoke words of deep comfort to them: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (14:1)...keep reading
Also, Paul Henebury: Is the Trinity Necessary? 

I keep adding to this, I know: Sinclair Ferguson: Lessons From the Upper Room

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What Lies Ahead - Book Review

“What Lies Ahead” seems like an awkward title to me for a book on Prophecy and End Times. I can just hear the non-dispensational, pretribulational jokes. Nevertheless, this book is a great prophetic overview. It doesn’t aim to be exhaustive in its defense of dispensationalism and pretribulationism, but it is broad in subject and scope.

The book is well written, easy to understand and presented in a logically laid-out format. It contains many helpful charts and diagrams. The tone is set by addressing the question of why we should study prophecy, followed by a discussion on Postmodernism versus the Biblical Worldview.

My favorite chapters were those which covered Covenant Theology versus Dispensationalism. What is Covenant Theology and how does it differ to Dispensationalism? What are the CT hermeneutics? The illustrations are very helpful, as is the commentary. I’d recommend the book just on these clarifications and the discussion of the covenants...keep reading

Friday, August 19, 2016

Was Mark Confused? Birth Narratives? etc

The title of this post was taken from James White's Dividing Line, 18th Aug 2016 segment. It's longish at nearly two hours, as are many of White's videos. I wish he'd practice an economy of words. Nevertheless he hits some important issues which have bothered me lately.

What do you do about apologists who slap an inerrancy badge on their chests but seem to have a different definition of it than others do? I know one popular "inerrantist-writer" (not Licona) who spends a significant amount of blogging time telling readers why we can't believe the biblical account on a number of points. Is he really an inrrerantist, or is he compelled to claim that in order to be still considered in the evangelical camp (whatever that is)?

From White's website:
Was Mark Confused? Birth Narratives? Original Readings?
Did more than a Jumbo, but less than a Mega, today (1:45), responding to video clips posted by Yahya Snow mainly from the comments of Dr. Mike Licona wherein he said Mark was confused as to the location of the feeding of the five thousand, etc.  Lots of discussion of inspiration, inerrancy, synoptic issues, allegations of contradiction, etc.  Not an easy program to listen to while jogging I’m afraid, but important stuff! here
Also of interest is White's previous segment which spent some time addressing William Lane Craig's interaction with Catholics. As an ex Catholic I was particularly interested. White refers to a Catholic prayer which partly states:
O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of every grace that God grants us in our misery; it is for this cause that He hath made thee so powerful, so rich, so kind, that thou mightest assist us in our miseries. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners, if they but come unto thee; come once more to my assistance, for I commend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation; to thee I entrust my soul...yes, for if thou protect me, I shall fear nothing; not my sins, for thou wilt obtain for me their pardon and remission; not the evil spirits, for thou art mightier than all the powers of hell; not even Jesus, my Judge, for He is appeased by a single prayer from thee.
Catholics apologists are defensive of aspects of their Mariology. The prayer speaks for itself. Listen to or watch White's program HERE

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why I Left Islam

Interesting video. Hat tip David Wood:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Nabeel Qureshi Redux

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood and Pulpit and Pen controversy. Since then apologist James White chimed in. I listened to a portion of the discussion before tuning out. I happen to like much of the written apologetic material on White's website. But the video presentations often take too long to make points. So I didn't get the full gist. I believe Wood's particular style of presentation was mentioned. I can understand the criticism. Sometimes, however, the softer approach can also be condescending and damaging. This sort of bickering and in-fighting isn't helpful for the gospel cause.

Anyone who's read Nabeel's "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" would have no cause to doubt that he came from a genuine Muslim background, even though his Islamic opponents label it a sect. He was upfront and careful to document the beliefs of his particular Islamic denomination. This should never have been called into question by another informed Christian. Moreover, Nabeel carefully details the slow painful process he underwent in converting to Christianity. In effect he lost his entire family for the cause of Christ.

Regarding the issue of dreams - it wasn't dreams which led Qureshi to faith in Christ. In the final analysis it was Scripture and Christian apologetics which converted Qureshi. J D Hall doesn't accept Wood's defense of Qureshi's one-time differing dream report. But this simply ignores all the other data presented in Nabeel's book.

In the book Jesus in Iran, Back to Jerusalem's Eugene Bach talks about Iranians who told him of their dreams of Christ. This is a phenomenon reported by many Christian missionaries in the Middle East. Western apologists are (rightly) skeptical regarding dreams and visions. However, Bach points out that these people aren't converted by their dreams:
They [Iranians] do not wake up knowing more but instead wake up wanting to know more. The dreams ignited a sudden desire to find a Bible or to find a Christian to help explain their dreams to them...The dreams are not an end result but a starting point to follow Jesus.
In other words, genuine conversion doesn't come from experiencing a dream. It must come from the empowering of the Holy Spirit and hearing the Word of God.

All that said, I've read Nabeel Qureshi's book and reviewed it HERE

Some interesting statistics from Joel Rosenberg.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Amillennialism, Dispensationalism & Israel

I was searching through the internet for Puritan resources and came across the Grace Online Library. It has some great materials on the Puritans. Of course I was immediately drawn to the Eschatology Section and this article.

The author states that in any conversation with a dispensationalist he gets asked what he believes about Revelation 20. He (I'm assuming GOL is a male) says they're not amused when he responds that the chapter comes after 19 and before 21.

I confess that I've never had such a conversation, and I wouldn't intentionally go there. In my experience (which is no doubt limited) the conversation is often initiated by the amillennialist and the topic is most often centered on the rapture, Darby, Scofield etc. Ultimately I'm convinced that the heart of these questions lies in the amillennial relationship between Israel and the church.

He writes that he was once a young DTS clone. He'd read dozens of books on "Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism and even the more novel “Pre-Wrath” Rapture position." Then he began reading out of his "comfort zone" and was shocked: my shock and amazement, my favorite Dispensational authors (cf. Walvoord, Ryrie, Pentecost, Chaefer (sic), etc.) didn’t always represent the other side with the fairness such a serious subject deserves.  In fact, there were flat out misrepresentations, caricatures, and enough straw men to make an army.   
We are given links to various titles critiquing dispensationalism. Vern Poythress' Understanding Dispensationalists can be read online.

My reading experience likely hasn't been as extensive as GOL's. But I've read critical books such as Riddlebarger's "A case for Amillennialism", Donaldson's "the last days of dispensationalism", Walker's "Jesus and the Holy City" and sundry other polemical books and articles. I've seen my share of straw men.

It's hard for me to take seriously an article using the words "pseudo Christian cult" and "dispensationalism" in its title, as you see HERE.

Historic Premillennialism is considered to be an orthodox Christian millennial system. Arguments posited against this older form of chiliasm will be in the nature of a disagreement among brethren about non-essentials. The dispensational system, however, differs from orthodox Christian doctrine in many areas. Most of these aberrations will, if seriously considered, end in the denial of the everlasting gospel.
Speaking of straw men - denial of the everlasting gospel? Sadly, this sort of thing is both erroneous and common. Then there's John MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus
For my part, I came from an amillennial background and migrated to dispensationalism. Why? Because I once spent a lot of time reading New Age re-interpretations of Scripture. When I got back to the Bible, I wanted to believe what it was saying - not an interpretation which departs from the intended meaning because it serves a theological presupposition. To be blunt, texts such as Jeremiah 31:31-37 are sufficiently clear for me to cast suspicion on any theology which tells me God's promises to Israel are fulfilled in the church. The Covenant Theology approach to these texts serves to maintain the assumption that the church is New Israel. One must perform gymnastics to consistently get that meaning.

Here are a few useful links:

The First Resurrection in Revelation 20

Mayhue responds to Gerstner

Saucy responds to Poythress

Contra the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism

It's just not "cool" to be dispensationalist...

Book Review:

In Israel's Only Hope - The New Covenant, John B Metzger scours both Testaments to show how and why God's promises to Israel are not forfeit. If you want Scripture without the twist, Metzger's book is a joy. He demonstrates that God will save Israel exactly as He has outlined. The promises are not fulfilled in the church (Fulfillment Theology.) Moreover, Metzger (like Paul Henebury) is not above critiquing proponents of his own dispensational system regarding the New Covenant, dispensations and the church.

You can read my review of his book HERE