Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics 2020 in Philadelphia Area

We are keeping our eye on the developments of the cornavirus, but at the present time, we are still planning on meeting for our CDH meeting on Sept. 16-17, 2020 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in the Philadelphia area. Below is the “Call for Papers” that was distributed through the Council website. Plan on joining us. If you are a traditional dispensationalist who would like to give a paper, we would love to consider your proposal.

CALL FOR PAPERS

Thirteenth Annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

Crowne Plaza Hotel Conference Center, Claymont, Delaware (Philadelphia Area)

September 16-17, 2020

“Dispensationalism, Politics, and Culture”

This is a call for papers for the 2020 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.  The Council is an academic study group for traditional dispensationalists although observers from other theological traditions are welcome to attend. This year’s focus is on the dispensational understanding of politics and culture. This is a follow-up to last year’s discussions on social justice and race. If my read on last year’s work is correct, many of us preferred the term biblical justice to social justice. This year we expand our talks at a time when politics and culture appear to be at a boiling point in the United States. Our hope is to bring the Bible to bear on the polarization that confronts all of us. As usual, we desire not simply a theological debate but an attempt to evaluate the hermeneutical and methodological positions involved as we engage in interaction about politics and culture. We want to answer “why” we hold the views we affirm.

We may be asking specific individuals to do various topics as well as receiving your proposals.  Off-topic proposals will be considered but those concerning politics and culture will be reviewed first.  All proposals with full title and descriptions (not more than 200 words) should be emailed to the Executive Director, Dr. Mike Stallard, at mstallard@foi.org. The deadline for topic proposals to be turned in is June 1, 2020.  The entire Steering Committee of the Council will decide collectively which papers are accepted.  This process usually does not take long.  The deadline for presentation papers to be turned in is September 1, 2020 in order to be posted at the Council website.

This year there is a modest registration fee of $25 for the Council to help cover the costs of the meeting.  Registration will be online at the Council website:  www.dispensationalcouncil.org.  Please make sure to register online as information becomes available if possible.  You may also register in person at the conference.

Topics that we are requesting members to consider are the following:

  • The contribution of a particular section or book of the Bible to issues of politics and culture — examples
    • Should all Ten Commandments (vertical) be enforced in society today?
    • Should only the last six (horizontal) of the Ten Commandments be enforced today?
    • Application of the book of Proverbs to issues today
    • The contributions of Jesus’ teaching on issues of politics and culture during his earthly ministry
    • The contributions of Paul’s teaching on issues of politics and culture in his epistles
    • Empire criticism and the book of Revelation
  • Is there a form of government that is more biblical than other forms of government? (monarchy, democracy, democratic republicanism, etc.)
  • Is there an economic system that is more biblical than other approaches to the economy of a nation or the world (e.g., capitalism, socialism, communism)?
  • As a corollary to the previous question, what does the Bible teach about private property?
  • What is the biblical role of government?  Does this change through the panorama of the ages? Is it different in dispensationalism than in other theological systems?
  • What is a biblical approach to understanding and interacting with culture in general?
  • Do Niebuhr’s classical categories (Christ and Culture) have validity for our theological thinking today?  (Note D. A. Carson’s Christ & Culture Revisited)
  • An evaluation of various forms of liberation theology and how culture is impacted by such teachings (e.g., Latin American liberation theology, feminist or womanist theology, black theology, Christian Palestinianism, Jürgen Moltmann, etc.)
  • A defense or refutation of just war theory — does dispensationalism differ from other theological systems on this issue? To what extent can dispensationalists embrace pacifism?
  • To what extent can a Christian get involved in politics – running for office or working for politicians?
  • How should Christians respond to recent advancements of immoral and unethical behavior in society at large (i.e., homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.)?
  • What is the relationship of nations today (including the United States) to the kingdom of God?
  • Analysis of various views in church history of politics, government, and culture.  Some examples would be (1) is postmillennialism given over to the advancement of political means to advance the kingdom?; (2) Christian attempts to bring in the kingdom during the time of the English Civil War (Cromwell, 17th century); (3) Augustine’s City of God; (4) changes brought in by Constantine in the early 4th century, (5) views on social engagement in progressive dispensationalism.
  • Does the distinction between Israel and the Church, a doctrine championed by traditional dispensationalism, affect one’s view of how believers interact with politics and culture?
  • How does dispensationalism affect one’s view of political engagement on the issue of Zionism and Israel as a nation today?
  • An analysis of a specific Christian’s approach to political engagement (John Nelson Darby, Wilbur Wilberforce, Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, etc.)
  • Is there a necessary correlation between liberal theology and liberal politics? Between conservative theology and conservative politics?

Other topics related to the theme are welcome as well.  These are suggestions to help us think about the issues.

As always, we will attempt to have an appropriate pastor’s panel to make sure our discussions stay grounded in concern for the local church.

Again, final papers are to be submitted to Dr. Stallard by September 1, 2020 at the email listed earlier.  There will be no remuneration for presentation of papers.  Council attendees need to provide their own transportation to the Council site. Those who are speaking at the Council must also register for the conference similar to what takes place at the Evangelical Theological Society and the Pre-Trib Study Group.

Information on area hotels will be provided on the Council website.  The Crowne Plaza hotel that is hosting the Council this year has some relatively good prices.  If you stay there, make sure to tell them you are with our group. The Crowne Plaza is at the corner of Interstate-95 and Highway 92 (address is 630 Naamans Road, Claymont, Delaware).  It is about 13 miles southwest of the Philadelphia International Airport, a straight shot down I-95.

Remembering the Summer of 1974

As summer was beginning in 1974, my twin brother Jimmy and I at the age of 20 began a quest, a search to find God. We had listened for many years to Billy Graham on television and were attracted to the message but did not fully understand it. We began to visit different kinds of churches in 1974. I remember one church where the people were nice but the invitation was not like Billy Graham’s invitations to receive Christ. They asked everyone in the church to go forward and put your hand on the back of the person in front of you and then they had a prayer. Nothing was clear. I remember asking God if this was enough. Had I done enough? I found out that was the wrong question. It is not what I have done. It is what Christ has done that counts. We simply receive what he has done by faith.

Jimmy and I quickly started to attend the West Huntsville Baptist Church where there was great music and good biblical preaching. On the way home we had many interesting talks. Often we would discuss what faith was all about. What did it mean to have faith? What did it mean to believe? Our understanding was growing. But we were beginning to understand that belief was not just intellectually understanding or accepting that God existed or that Jesus was a real historical person who lived in Israel in the first century. We were beginning to see that faith was trusting in God, trusting in Christ and what He has done to take away our sin. The final light dawned on August 18, 1974 when together we trusted Christ in this way to be our Savior. As a result, our lives have counted in a major way since then because of God’s ongoing work in us.

It is two years ago today that we lost Jimmy to cancer. Jimmy’s life and message continue and his impact is still great. I will always treasure those talks we had about eternal things, faith, and salvation. i will treasure even more the memory of coming to Christ together as twins in the Lord.

Christian Palestianism, Part 2

I am posting here a link to the second of three videos I did recently for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry on the topic of Christian Palestinianism.

Christian Palestinianism, Part 1

I am posting here a link to the first of three videos I did recently for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry on the topic of Christian Palestinianism.

THE TESTIMONY OF ONE EVANGELICAL ZIONIST

I was invited to write a guest column at the Zionists of America website and wanted to share it here and in other forums like Facebook and the website for the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  My family was on vacation visiting my grandparents in Virginia. The date was June 5, 1967. I was only 13 years old. The television news coverage spent quite a bit of time on the nation of Israel’s so-called preemptive attack upon Egypt in what would later be called the Six-Day War. I was mesmerized although I understood little of what was going on.  Why was I attracted so much to this event?  The answer may be surprising.  My parents had given me a Bible years before, a common cultural practice in the southern United States. I had started to read it off and on.  One thing that stood out was that the word Israel was mentioned hundreds of times.  I was not Jewish, but I had respect for Israel because it was in the Bible!  That is simplistic to some people, but it was a starting place for a young man who had made no final decisions about worldview.  One thing I knew – I did not hate Jewish people!

               Fast forward seven years.  As a senior in college I became an evangelical, born-again Christian believer.  The local church that I joined taught the Bible in great detail.  As part of the teaching, I was boldly told about God’s plan for Israel throughout history and that God had a plan for Israel’s future that was positive and wonderful.  Although I had studied about the pogroms and the Holocaust in college classes, I now began to look at these atrocities through the eyes of a biblical worldview.  How could anyone do such heinous things against other human beings? The issue became more than just academic to me.

               After graduation from college, I began a career as a computer analyst and engineer working on things like missile defense systems. A few years into my work, my heart was drawn to go into the ministry so I went to seminary where I studied, among other things, biblical Hebrew. As I progressed, I decided to move to Dallas, Texas (1981) to work toward a Ph.D. degree in theology at a Zionist seminary. However, I needed to work to pay for the school bill and provide for my new wife.  So I applied to work at General Dynamics in Fort Worth which at that time was making F-16 jet fighters. When I received the offer letter from the company, joy filled my heart since the letter noted that my first project would be working with the Israel Defense Force.  Israel at the time was procuring many F-16s which they still fly today.  I worked for about five years as an avionics engineer on one of the cockpit computers. For about four of those years, I rubbed shoulders with military men from the IDF.  For almost a year, I was a classroom teacher on software for them. We had a colonel and his wife eat dinner in our home. We were invited to celebrations of Israeli Independence Day.

               However, the highlight of those years working on F-16s for IDF was a free trip to Israel!  I spent the month of July 1982, during the First Lebanon War (Peace for Galilee), in Israel working with Israeli soldiers. I did not get to do much touring of the country, but I did get to know the people and their concerns at the time since it was a time of war. My love for the Jewish people in general, and in particular, for Israelis moved a notch up and became much more personal. Their cause, which was already mine due to theology, became mine experientially. Perhaps the most special time of this trip to Israel was a dinner in the home of the IDF colonel who was in charge of the project we were working on. As we sat around the table someone said that he was a hero from the Six-Day War.  He was asked to show us his medals, which he did, and we discussed what had happened and a little about that war.  Looking back at that precious moment, I think of the word Israel that I had encountered in the Bible as a young lad reading about it for the first time and that newscast on June 5, 1967 when I was thirteen years old. In 1967 I would never have dreamed that I would be sitting in Israel with a hero of that war during another time of war in 1982. Beyond that, I would never have thought that I would be doing work that would assist the Israeli nation in defending itself against its enemies. I literally felt like I was in a movie.

               My ministerial career began to develop in 1986 in serious ways, although I had been speaking at various venues before then. I spent the next three decades as a pastor of local churches where I promoted Zionism and as a seminary theology professor where I made sure to tell my students the word Israel was in the Bible. So many Christians act like the word Israel is not in the Bible or that it does not refer to the Jewish people at all in modern application. But due to my earlier experiences with Jewish people and Israelis, I could speak on such topics with confidence and meaningful illustrations to highlight the truth about Israel in the present time.

               In 2016, my ministry pursuits took a dramatic, but logical, shift. I had been on the Board for the Friends of Israel ministry headquartered in New Jersey in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The Executive Director asked me to consider becoming a full-time employee as the Director of International Ministry which is what I am doing now. This position allows me to write, teach, and administrate a world-wide program which includes advocacy for the nation of Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism wherever we find it. By God’s grace, that thirteen-year old boy from 1967 has come a long way.

               I can understand why some Jewish people would be skeptical of evangelicals like me who support Israel and the Jewish people.  The unsettling history of persecution shows why the barriers exist. But I share my story in the hopes that Jewish people might remember that a theological friend is one of the best friends they can have.  For me to abandon the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, I would have to turn my back on the testimony I have given here.  In fact, I would have to abandon my entire theological worldview.  I would have to forsake the Bible that I had been reading when I was thirteen years old.

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Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed

I have recently been reading the book by Philip Hallie entitled Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. My copy is from 1994. It looks like the original book came out in 1979. It is the story of the French village in southern France named Le Chambon (on the Lignon River), a small town of around 3000 souls who saved many Jewish people, mostly children, from the Nazis from 1940-1944. The village was primarily Protestant — from the Huguenot tradition. The local Protestant pastor, Andre Trocme was the driving force behind the effort. Much tragedy was encountered but in the words of the author, “goodness happened there” as well as the people in a nonviolent way stood against Hitler and the Nazi determination to destroy the Jewish people. Although I do not agree with all of the theology of that community and its pastor, I appreciate their courageous stand. I highly recommend the book.

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Sailors and the Handiwork of God

Recently, someone gave me a free copy of an old book on submarines.  The author was a leading United States Navy man in the War in the Atlantic starting in 1942 when the German submarines were at the height of their successes against British and American shipping.  I found  a tremendous little section that I was not expecting about the reason that most sailors believe in God.  I thought it was worth sharing here.

“Sailors are supposed to be notoriously superstitious and to believe in all sort of omens religiously. When you get down to brass tacks, these so-called superstitions are fundamentally religious in nature.  They are an admission that man doesn’t run this Universe to suit himself and that his plans are subject to veto by a Higher Power.  Sailors instinctively understand this and believe in God because they have a better chance than men who stay ashore to observe and think about the handiwork of God.

They see the daily miracles of sunrise and sunset and understand the Power that regulates them better than the scientists do.  The scientists can “explain” the whole thing in terms of Newton’s Laws and show you that there is no miracle to it at all, the sun can’t help rising and setting.  But sailors who know nothing about Newton’s Laws are wiser than the scholars who expound laws which sailors can’t understand.  They go beyond the mathematics of the sunrise and see in it the hand of the One Who created these laws of mathematics as well as everything else. Read the rest of this entry »

Sixth-Grade Football and Jimmy

Image may contain: shoesTomorrow will be the first physical birthday I have had when I can’t call my twin brother Jimmy. Today in heaven he is far better off than I am on earth. Bittersweet. Memories hit me strangely sometimes coming out of nowhere. This week it was a sixth grade memory. During recess the guys were playing touch football. Jimmy and I were smaller than the other guys and we were the “good students” so they did not give us much credence as athletes. But we played with them. For some strange reason they decided to let Jimmy be the quarterback of one team for awhile. I went out as a receiver. We were fast although the other guys didn’t know it. We had the ball around the 20-yard line. When the ball was hiked, I took off as fast as I could. Jimmy at QB launched it as far as he could. It was a perfect pass right to me. A young lad named Larry Brown, who would later play running back at our high school, caught me from behind just before I crossed the goal line. I think Jimmy and I changed some thoughts about us on that one play — the greatest passing play of all time, if you don’t mind me saying so!

Jimmy, Me, and Wasps

Jimmy and I were raised in the state of Alabama where I am convinced there are more wasps per square inch than anywhere on the planet. Somewhere along the way we picked up a phobia of wasps. The family always made fun of us about this particular phobia. But what I find intriguing is that Jimmy had the knack of being attacked by a wasp with me there while he was minding his own business and not bothering the wasp. I’ve never believed the story — “leave them alone and they will leave you alone.” No. They are all demon possessed! If there are any PETA people who think wasps are more important than people, you can stop reading now. Because in the stories below wasps are killed and I am not sad about it. Read the rest of this entry »

PRAYING FOR THE DEAD

It is a common practice in Roman Catholic tradition to pray for those who have departed from this life into the next. Of course, they have purgatory to contend with and attempt to shorten the experience of their loved ones in that place of purgatorial fire. But I do not pray for the dead. I do not pray for my twin brother Jimmy who recently passed away. Here is why:

1. The Bible does not teach praying for the dead. At this point we have to discuss which Bible — Catholic or Protestant. The only passage which teaches praying for the dead is from 2 Maccabees 12:45 in the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was added to the Catholic Bible in the 1540s at the Council of Trent as part of the Counter-Reformation. They wanted to prove that the Church had authority over the Bible instead of the Bible having authority over the Church as the Reformers were teaching. However, it is the teaching of Jesus which helps. The Apocryphal books which were added to the Catholic Bible were all written before the time of Jesus. These books were available when Jesus was on earth in his earthly ministry in his first coming. But Jesus gave his stamp of approval on the Jewish Scriptures which constitute the Old Testament of the Protestant Bible. In Luke 11:51 Jesus uses the phrase “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” Abel died in Genesis. Zechariah died in 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Old Testament in the Jewish order of the books. Jesus was saying the equivalent of our modern Christian “from Genesis to Revelation.” In this statement he affirms the Jewish Scriptures that he possessed WHICH DID NOT INCLUDE THE APOCRYPHA. He also affirmed the Jewish canon in other passages like Luke 24:27. In other words, Jesus put his stamp of approval on the Old Testament that is found in the Protestant Bible. So those who follow the teachings of the Apocrypha must answer the question why they have a different Old Testament than the one Jesus used. I want to have the same OT that Christ used. One of the consequences is that I have no biblical grounds for praying for the dead.

2. The Bible teaches that the eternal destiny of souls cannot be changed when one passes away. For a believer, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-9; Phil. 1:21-23). Once a person dies, his fate is sealed (Luke 16:19-31). There are several other passages that could be discussed but the conclusion is the same. There is no teaching allowing for or commanding prayer for the dead. Such praying is of no consequence.

Sometimes I find myself asking God to give Jimmy a hug for me and tell him that I love him. That is a kind of praying for the dead, I guess. It is a natural human response in light of losing a loved one. God knows how frail we are and might actually answer such a prayer in the affirmative. I don’t know. But his eternal destiny is settled and my prayers could not improve his lot in any way. He has new personal friends now: Paul, Peter, the other apostles, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, King David, and the rest of the Old Testament heroes of the faith. But most of all, Jimmy has been firmly embraced by God and Jesus. If I did pray for Jimmy, it would be but a thimble of water poured into the Pacific Ocean. Things are already settled. My brother Jimmy is in heaven awaiting the day when I cross over to meet him. Perhaps he is the one praying to God asking Him to watch over me.

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