I recently finished reading The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Zondervan) by two pastors Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson. It was quite interesting. I recommend it to you for your consideration although at certain points, which I will not go into here, I have some disagreements. But the good thing about the book is its desire to have theological thinking done by pastors in our churches. In fact, the divide between the Academy (the Seminaries) and the Church is a concern they are trying to address. There is a ditch on each side of the road. I have seen men who can parse every Greek and Hebrew verb but don’t seem to have any great desire to walk across the street and tell somebody about Jesus. On the other hand, I have had lunch with pastors who, after we have gone through the Roman’s Road, have nothing to talk about. Academic minutiae on one side. Shallowness on the other. God spare us from both. At Baptist Bible Seminary where I serve we have tried to bring balance to our training of pastors. Even our seminary journal is named The Journal of Ministry and Theology for a reason. We are a resource for the Church. The book I mentioned at the start of this blog is one attempt to bring balance from one side of the ledger.
I am going to try to pick up my blogging again and perhaps speed it up, Lord willing. I plan to do more personal things on Facebook (where my activity has picked up) but more academic/technical things on our-hope.org. I have been asked to speak at the Pre-Trib Study Group this coming December giving an analysis of Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come which I blogged about a few times. I hope to finish my string of blogs in response to Sam’s points which I had started to do. My paper at the Pre-Trib Study Group will be an expansion of the paper I delivered at the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics last year. I want to be constructive in my criticism and not bombastic in my disagreements. Please pray for me on this.
For this blog post, however, my main thought goes ahead to the upcoming Council meeting in September which I advertised in my last blog. My presentation is entitled “What Do Israel and the Church Share from a Traditional Dispensational Viewpoint?” I want to help traditional dispensationalists do a full-blown theology and not just hammer the distinction between Israel and the Church (which I firmly accept) as a matter of polemics in our debate with replacement theology. In doing this, one area that gives me pause is the constant use by dispensationalists of the distinction between Israel and the Church as a theological switch that provides proof for the pre-trib rapture. This argument would be more plausible if the distinction has been proven to be absolute on other grounds before we get to the rapture question. To be sure, some dispensationalists in the tradition have argued for a pretty absolute distinction by keeping the Church out of the future earthly kingdom. In addition, Lewis Sperry Chafer’s view of two distinct new covenants was at least partly caused by his desire to make the Israel-Church dichotomy more absolute. As to the idea that the Church as a heavenly elect will have no part in the future earthly kingdom, this seems to be countered by Luke 19:11-27 and like passages. As to the idea of two new covenants, very few dispensationalists today hold such a view. The book I edited entitled “Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant” shows three views defended, none of which are the two new covenants view. No one showed up to defend this view at the Council when we discussed it.
The eighth annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics has been scheduled for September 16-17, 2015 at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Our topic this year is “Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church.” I am doing a paper on what Israel and the Church share from a traditional dispensational point of view. I believe that we often times spend all of our time discussing the distinctions. This is appropriate since it marks dispensationalism as unique. However, Israel and the Church do share some things in God’s design for those institutions. We must not lose sight of that side of things. I am looking forward to the interaction at our Council. Anyone is welcome to attend as an observer. There is no charge for the two-day Council. For more information for registration see http://www.bbc.edu/council.
There are seasons of life. As one gets older, the opportunity for losing good friends to the vicious enemy of death increases. I have experienced the death of five friends in the last year or so: Bill Quick, Patsy Hayes, Dick Engle, Rod Decker, Belva Donahue. Names on a page. Representing people that many of you reading this do not know.
Bill Quick was a friend who had a complicated past and an interesting sense of humor. Part of our church, his testimony was that the Lord had changed him, but he, like all of us, worked through the issues of life. He served faithfully in our church on the Praise Team and the Lord used him.
Patsy Hayes was a dear believer in my local church. She was in the hospital for around eleven months fighting some form of skin disorder and other issues. She eventually came out of it. We were excited about seeing her back on her feet again. She was a person full of energy and a heart who knew the Lord but wanted to know Him more deeply. However, he chose to help her go deeper by calling her home. She died of a heart attack when we thought things were going so well.
Dr. Dick Engle was for many years one of the Old Testament and Hebrew professors at Baptist Bible Seminary. He was a man that never said a bad word about anybody in my presence. He was a kind, gentle spirit who loved deeply. He showed patience toward me as I tried to help him with his computer many times. And he loved the Bible, especially the First Testament as he called it. The Lord took him this past spring.
Dr. Rod Decker was a close, personal friend. In fact, he preached the funeral of Dick Engle mentioned above. Recently (a few months ago), cancer took my friend Rod before his time. The loss stings me, although I am sure not as much as it hurts his own family. Rod was a great scholar and taught me much. I will always remember the conferences we attended together and the conversations as we traveled. He will be missed much.
Belva Donahue is the one on the list that was closest to me. My mother-in-law. She feigned anger at my “mother-in-law” jokes from time to time, but the truth was she was the best mother-in-law the husband of a daughter could ever want. She was kind yet feisty. She had her opinions but did not hate. And she shared her faith in God to the end, when she passed away this summer at the age of 89. She will be remembered.
All of these folks had put their trust in Christ as Savior. I will see them again when I get to heaven. Death, that great enemy the Bible tells us, has been conquered through Christ (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Its sting is only momentary. Its attack futile. The sorrow is only for a night. Eternity awaits…in glory and grandeur. The true believer has a special relationship to death. Dying is not our destiny (Rev. 21:4).
We have had a brutally cold winter this year with more than the average snowfall here in northeast Pennsylvania. I have provided a picture looking out from my front porch out into my front yard recently. We are expecting another heavy snowfall in the next couple of days. I have friends who love this kind of weather and are into cold, outdoor sports like snow skiing. That is the way they want heaven to be. Others want heaven to maintain the four seasons of North America. For me, I believe there is a demon behind every snow flake. The picture of palm trees I have provided from my recent trip to Orlando, Florida shows where my allegiance lies. As a Southern boy, I vote for global warming every time it comes up.
In two earlier posts, I gave some introductory remarks responding to Sam Storms’ blog entry entitled “Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium” along with my initial response to his first reason why he can’t hold to the premillennial position – the idea that death in the kingdom, from Storm’s point of view, can’t be harmonized with the alleged truth that Jesus ends death at the Second Coming. I will deal here with his second reason. It is somewhat helpful that Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come has recently been released. Although a more complete analysis will come later, it will prove helpful here at filling in more detail than his outline given in the blog at the website of the Gospel Coalition.
The second reason that Storms gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “you must necessarily believe that the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subjected to the curse imposed by the Fall of man.” He goes on to affirm that, in conjunction with this idea, “the natural creation is set free from its bondage at the parousia.”
The basic idea is that premillennialism cannot be right since it teaches that Christ’s Second Coming does not end the curse on the natural created order. This particular argument is actually a variation of the one I responded to in my last post about the end of death since death is the primary result of the curse.
In an earlier post I started this series responding to Sam Storms’ Gospel Coalition post on why he changed his mind about the millennium (from premillennial to amillennial). In that post, I dealt with some introductory things. Starting with this post, I will make one post each for the six reasons he gives to allegedly prove that premillennialism is untenable. Hopefully in a friendly way I can make some assertions that help to defend the premillennial understanding of the end times.
The first reason that Sam gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “you must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.” He goes on to couple that statement with the words “death is defeated and swallowed up in victory at the parousia.” Sam’s post is just giving general statements and not the detailed arguments that will naturally be present when his book Kingdom Come is released soon. However, I would like to take a stab at responding to the general statement here.
Many blogs started to go up over the weekend when word was received that Dr. Roy Zuck went home to be with the Lord late Saturday. He was Academic Dean at Dallas Theological Seminary for most of the time I was a student at DTS. I thought it was appropriate for me also to share my memories of a man of such character as Dr. Zuck. He is greatly loved and respected, especially by those in the DTS family, but also by many evangelicals outside the seminary family who appreciated his contribution to teaching, theology, and publishing.
I was a New Testament major in my STM at Dallas. Having obtained an M.Div. at Liberty Baptist Seminary, I did not have as many opportunities to have contact with Dr. Zuck as did the DTS Th.M. students. In fact, I never had a formal for credit class with him (which is disappointing).
With this post I am beginning a series of seven posts giving response to the testimony and basic argumentation of amillennialist Sam Storm. Storm, whom I have never met to my knowledge, took advantage of the opportunity that the Gospel Coalition website gave to post testimonies of evangelicals who had changed their minds about some doctrine. His well written summary gave some testimonial information about his experience as a student at Dallas Seminary 1973-77, his wrestling with tenets of dispensational premillennialism (especially the pre-trib rapture), and six essential arguments showing biblical information that he insists cannot be handled within a dispensational framework. I had intended to respond when I first saw the article by Storm a couple of months ago, but I came down with an illness and then my heavy travel schedule for Baptist Bible Seminary in February moved it off my table for a while. It is spring break now, so I am picking it back up. In doing so, I want to treat Storm with respect and hope he will do the same for me. I have no basis by which to judge him as something other than a fine brother in Christ, who simply disagrees with the position that I hold. However, our differences do matter for theology and ministry in the churches. I will use his first name below to highlight friendship in Christ in spite of our differences.
On February 12, 2013, my good friend Dr. Mal Couch went home to be with his Lord and Savior after a long battle with cancer. I had done an audio interview with him not long ago that has been distributed on CD. Apparently, he was busy for the Lord’s work until the very end of his life on earth.
I met Mal and his wife Lacy in the early 1990s. I was the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas and was looking for a good female biblical counselor to whom I could refer the women of my church. The women in my church were not sufficiently mature to do such counseling except perhaps for one or two, but none were trained in biblical counseling. I did not like to do a lot of counseling of women. I don’t remember how I found the BACA Counseling Center which Lacy Couch was running, but it was located over in Ft. Worth only a few miles from my church in Arlington. When I went over there to meet her and talk to her I found something I did not know existed! — Tyndale Theological Seminary. Mal had started the seminary in light of a perceived decline in theological education in his view. He was a graduate of “Old Dallas” (Dallas Theological Seminary). He was not in favor of changes that were bringing about a “New Dallas.” I was a Ph.D. student at Dallas when I met Mal. So our conversation was an interesting one.
Perhaps my fondest memory of Mal was his generosity. For several years in a row he paid my way to the Dallas–Ft. Worth area to speak at the Conservative Theological Society annual meeting which he had started. This is where I presented some of my first exegetical papers in a conference setting and where I explored some issues related to traditional dispensationalism, something that Mal and I agreed on in the general sweep of things. To be sure we had some specific differences. For years he would introduce me at his conference as his good friend but a congregational Baptist and used the moment to teach elder rule at my expense! I once told him and the conference attenders I could follow elder rule as long as I was the elder! We had some fun with our differences but I will remember Mal’s generosity which allowed me to fly half way across the country to Texas and participate in these times of theological discussions. I will always remember him also as a man who loved the Word of God. I will miss Mal. But because of the truth that both of us believe, I will see him again at the resurrection.