Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bye Bye Rapture

NT scholar Ben Witherington has a post on Global Warming where he says this:

Since the rapture is not a Biblical doctrine at all but rather something dreamed up by a teenage girl in about 1820 at a revival in Glasgow Scotland and then preached by Darby and Moody neither of whom were ever Bible experts, perhaps we had better pay attention and see what a proper Christian response should be to this crisis, especially for the sake of being a good witness.
While I agree that one's eschatology should not be used as an excuse for environmental blindness or mismanagement, I'm not sure that all dispensationalists (and I'm not one) are quite so blaise about global warming.

While we're on the topic of rapture-bashing, see the article by N.T. Wright, "Farewell to the Rapture".

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not as entirely preterist as Wright, but Dispensationalism is a heresy. "Progressive Dispensationalism," tries to get close to the position of historic premillenialism (there is also historic amillenialism) without giving up favorite fictions like the rapture.

I have noticed that the vast majority of dispensationalists use their eschatology as reason to discount not only global warming, but peak oil ("God will ensure we have enough till Jesus returns," they tell me) and even peacemaking efforts. Peacemaking, instead of being seen as a non-negotiable command of Jesus, is seen as delaying the parousia--especially any peacemaking in the Middle East.
So, dispensationalism, like all heresies, has grave consequences at odds with biblical ethics.

Sean LeRoy said...

No we're not (though I'm a very modified Disp) and I would expect a better research from BW - whom I respect and have learned a lot from. Tom Ice has done much historic research which, I think, debunks Witherington's complaint.
As for Wright, I also have read his works - though not the paper on the rapture - and have great respect for him; however, here the 'neo-gnostic' drum he beats (equating the pre-trib view w/ it) just doesn't fly. That is both a gross misrepresentation and doing theology by slinging mud - something I thought only US politicians were good at.
Finally, I read your post Michael, and with due respect, I have to ask --> what kind of Disp's do you know??? Where do you hang out, brother =)

Michael F. Bird said...

Sean,
In seminary my Theology Prof was a progressive Dispie and the books which we were exposed to were a mixture of Ryrie, Pentecost, and Blaising/Block. When I make the odd chide remark against Dispies I usually have in mind the apocalyptic soap-opera called the "Left Behind" series and not the progressive Dispies like Blaising and Bock.

Sean LeRoy said...

MB -
Sorry...I hear ya...Actually my last comment was directed to Michael who commented first =)

I appreciate your work. Did you go to Dallas, or some equal?

I like the Prog Disp like Bock, but I've really gleaned a lot from Walt Kaiser's 'promise' approach; I think its a good and necessary balance.

Secret Rapture said...

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Anonymous said...

The Dispensationalists I know are from my former existence in the Southern Baptist Convention (still a Baptist, still Southern, but no longer SBC). Most of them were Dallas grads.

I think the Disp. line of not caring for the earth goes back as a popular view at least to D.L. Moody and his explanation of why he never worked for social justice. The most social justice oriented era of evangelicalism was in the 19th C. when most were post-millenialists. I am an Amillenialist with historic pre-mill sympathies on some points (Comes from having had both Alan Culpepper and George R. Beasley-Murray as NT profs.)--which is what I meant by saying I'm not as preterist as N.T. Wright. I do think, as Mike Bird is showing in his post above this one, that there is a future parousia. I just don't believe in a future thousand year reign or a secret rapture. I think those are gross misinterpretations.

But what leads me to call Dispensationalism, at least in its classic form, a heresy is the way that, in dividing up the Scripture into various dispensations, it posits a very diff. "way of salvation" in each era. I hold with most of Christian heresy, that salvation was always and everywhere by grace--God didn't change God's mind or "the rules." I also am greatly offended by the way that classic Disp. tries to neuter the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount by referring them only to "the Kingdom era" (Will we even have enemies to love then?).

I should say one positive word since (a) all of us are heretical in our theologies SOMEWHERE and (b) heretical theologies can still point to neglected truths. Dispensational groups have been better than most evangelicals at noticing how Jewish Jesus is and in rejecting Christian anti-semitism. Now, some have gone overboard in promoting Christian Zionism, confusing the modern political state of Israel with biblical Israel and giving said modern state a COMPLETE PASS in political ethics (to the point of abandoning Palestinian Christians and Lebanese Christians rather than fail to support "the chosen people"). But still, that's not inherent in the view itself and Dispensational groups in Europe rescued Jews from the Holocaust all out of proportion to their numbers.
Good on 'em. Their biblical interpretation on eschatology is still wrong, but good on 'em anyway. :)

exegetical fallacy said...

MW-W
I think that you have picked a small, somewhat outdated wing of dispensationalists. It may be fun--and easy--to point out all the holes in a 1950s and 60s DTS type Dispensationalism, but is this profitable or even relevant? I also think your use of 'heresy/heretical' is a bit strong. Obviously Christians will disagree on issues but I'm not quite sure it would be very helpful to call our brothers (they are Christians, right?) heretics, or holding to heretical views (Michael Bird is a Calvinist, but I don't think he'd call you a heretic for being an Arminian.) Also, I'm afraid I know too many Dispensationalists that do care for the planet and do promote peace to use a broad brush "Dispensationalist = disregard-for-planet-non-peace-persuing-(heretical)people. I mean, emergant folk get all up in arms whenever broad brush statements are made concerning the emerging church--why is it ok to make sweeping remarks against dispensationalists (granted, your last statement did clarify that you have a more specific Dispensationalist in mind, but agian, seems like a rather out dated, or dying off [literally!] group of dispy's)?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Since I believe all of us are heretical at some point and will spend some time in the Resurrection life having our theologies corrected, I am not so reticent to use the term heretical as a description.

I don't know if Mike Bird would, but I have been called a heretic as an Arminian by Timothy George and others.

I have heard that recent "Progressive Dispensationalists" like Craig Blaising have new attitudes on several of my concerns, but I haven't seen this translated into most of the Dispys whom I meet. By the way, I wasn't even born until '62, so the DTS grads I have met included many who graduated in the '70s and '80s.

I'm sorry, but as far as I can see Ben Witherington's description above is quite accurate as to the origins of the strange doctrine and the attitudes he claims follow it are attitudes I REGULARLY encounter with Dispensationalists.

If there is a sea-change on Dispy attitudes toward social justice, earth care and the like, I am glad to hear it. I still find the approach to Scripture and to the parousia to be very wrong (is that better than "heretical").

That doesn't consign anyone to outer darkness or prevent friendships, etc. I have friends whom I am convinced are completely off their nut on many things (and they have the same views of me). This probably goes back all the way to the 1st C.

exegetical fallacy said...

M W-W,

Thanks for the response and dialogue. I'm very sorry to hear that you've been called a heretic by certain Calvinists--as a staunch calvinist myself, I get most bugged by fellow calvinists for these type of accusations! These things ought not to be this way.
'Wrong' rather than heretical? Maybe. Personally, though, whenever I say other Christians are 'wrong', people tend to view me as narrow minded. I take this neither as a compliment nor a critique, but it is interesting that most who use terms like 'heretic', 'wrong', etc. are the fighting fundy's, whom I know you do not resonate with. But fair enough. Thanks again for helping me to think and your always stimulating responses.
ef