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.
My approach will be to discuss some introductory things in this specific post and then provide six later posts talking about the six main points Storm has outlined as his reasons for abandoning premillennialism. He has a book supporting amillennialism coming out later this year entitled Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, which will no doubt give more detail and for which I hope to give the reader a review.
There are some similarities between Sam’s experience and mine. Although I did not grow up in church at all, I was saved and baptized in a Southern Baptist Church, the same denomination in which Sam grew up. However, my experience in my church appears to be somewhat different. That particular congregation which pointed me to the Savior was a dispensational church. Many of its members carried the New Scofield Reference Bible. I consider my home church to have been aggressive evangelistically. Three hundred people were baptized the same year I was baptized. But I also consider that church to have been a strong doctrinal teaching church. There was strong teaching on all sections of the Bible, on dispensational truth, on doctrines relative to salvation, systematic theology in general, and ministry skills. Although I did eventually read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, the dispensational literature that I cut my teeth on was by Ironside, Ryrie, Pentecost, and Walvoord. Although I read popular treatments from time to time, it was the serious literature that I gravitated to and to which my church pointed me. For this I am grateful. I must say that I am not sure I ever remember anyone at my church, especially the pastor, ever saying that an amillennialist was suspected of not believing in biblical inerrancy. In fact, George W. Truett, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas before W. A. Criswell, was highly revered. However, he was a postmillennialist (some say amillennialist). In spite of my pastor’s position on dispensationalism, he still respected someone from a different position.
Another similarity is that Sam and I both attended Dallas Seminary but not at the same time. He graduated from Oklahoma in 1973 and followed right away at DTS finishing in 1977. I graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1975 and started my M.Div. at Liberty Baptist Seminary in 1977. I did not make it to DTS until the Fall of 1982 where I graduated with an STM (Master of Sacred Theology) degree in 1984. I finally earned my Ph.D. from DTS in 1993 (actually finishing in the summer of 1992). Like with our church experiences, Sam’s DTS experience and mine were somewhat different. The DTS that I experienced, just five years after Sam graduated, showed great respect for many amillennial scholars. I think of amillennialist Oswald T. Allis and Anthony Hoekema (the latter mentioned by Sam in his post). There were others. I don’t recall ever hearing a DTS professor in class or out of class hint that the amillennialist “was less than evangelical” to borrow an expression from Sam’s post. Had DTS changed its spirit in five years? Walvoord and Pentecost were still teaching, when I came to campus. While I did constantly witness teachers with convictions strongly affirming premillennialism, I did not detect this disparaging attitude that Sam says that he experienced. Did I just not see it because I was already firmly entrenched in the camp? I don’t think so. I just know that I came away from Dallas Seminary with great respect for those who disagree with me on the millennium and many other issues. In fact, my teachers knocked some rough edges off of me when I was too negative toward others myself.
I read a lot of the same literature that Sam did in my studies at DTS and on my own as a pastor in Arlington, Texas. My conclusions did not change like Sam’s. I never changed my mind about the millennium. I remain a committed premillennialist. I suspect that the real differences involve hermeneutical and theological commitments. These should surface when I begin in the next post to review Sam’s six arguments.