Why I’m thankful for the freedom to disagree

second_coming

About a year ago, our church was studying 1 Thessalonians together. It was a pretty terrific sermon series. Very thoughtful, careful stuff. But a funny thing happened when we came up to chapter five in our study: after listening carefully as our pastor unpacked the text, which deals heavily with the return of Christ, I turned to Emily and said in mock terror, “Oh no! We’re a dispensationalist church!”1

It should come as no surprise to anyone whatsoever that I would not align with the dispensationalist viewpoint on the end times. I just don’t see it in the Scriptures and I’ve not heard nor read a compelling case for it. And, in the interests of full disclosure, in its most extreme (or Hageeian) forms, I find it to distract from the gospel.2 This isn’t the case at our church, by the way…

This week, as we studied Daniel chapter seven together, the subject came up again. And as I listened to Norm, our pastor, preach, I found myself incredibly thankful for three things as he walked through a very difficult passage very, very quickly:

1. I am thankful that, regardless of the details of our viewpoints, we agree on the purpose of eschatology. Regardless of the viewpoint, all faithful Christian eschatology joyfully affirms that Jesus will return to inaugurate the new creation, that sin will be defeated, that every tear will be wiped from every eye, that there will be no more sickness, sadness, death, malice, gossip, adultery, Reality TV or blasphemy. All of it will be gone. A new heaven and a new earth will be made out of the old, and the Lord and His people will live together in perfect harmony for all eternity.

But faithful Christian eschatology also understands the application for believers today: We are told about what is to come, so we can live in light of it today. The purpose of eschatology is to say, “God wins, take heart, weary Christian!” This changes how we serve, how we live from day-to-day, how we handle suffering… with an eye toward the new creation, we will not be crushed by the trials of this fallen one.

2. I am thankful our salvation is not dependant upon our eschatology. Let’s be honest: there is not a single eschatological viewpoint that is entirely accurate. Because the subject matter itself is complex, and the texts that speak to it are so frequently filled with symbolism that is easily lost on modern readers, we should approach eschatology with a great deal of humility. We should be fully convinced in our own minds, even as we rejoice that our understanding of this area does not exclude us from the kingdom. Faithful Christians are dispensationalists, just as faithful Christians are amillennial, postmillennial, historic premillennial… and when we meet one another in the new creation, we will have plenty of opportunities to say to another, “Wow, we were all so wrong on that—but how amazing is this?”

3. Most importantly, I’m thankful for areas of disagreement that do not require division. This can’t be said of all doctrinal issues, certainly. Some demand us to divide in order to be faithful to historic orthodoxy, but those tend to be matters of first importance—the person and work of Christ, the nature of Scripture, the nature and character of God… the things that, unless you hold to, you can’t rightly be called a Christian. But in matters where we can disagree without division—and I believe eschatology is one of them—it is a glorious thing indeed.

Links I like

A Moral Revolution at Warp Speed—Now, It’s Wedding Cakes

Albert Mohler:

Six months. That’s all the time it took for the news to shift from a landmark Supreme Court decision in Washington to a Colorado court ordering a baker to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The momentum of this revolution is breathtaking, and its threat to religious liberty is plain for all to see.

The Real Problem with Mark Driscoll’s ‘Citation Errors’

Andy Crouch:

Publishers and public figures often defend this practice of sole authorship as the “industry standard.” Indeed, in certain domains, like politics and government, it is taken for granted that top figures write little or none of what is attributed to them. When the economist Larry Summers left Harvard to join the Clinton Administration, he is said to have remarked to his friends, “When I was in academia, it was the greatest possible sin I could commit to sign my name to something I did not write. Now that I’m in government, it’s the secret to success.”

Not a simple matter

Burk Parsons:

About ten years ago I had breakfast with one of the finest Old Testament scholars of our generation. A confessional Presbyterian, he has fought many battles for doctrinal orthodoxy and biblical fidelity, and since the 1970s has written numerous articles in theological journals, has authored several books (some of which are now considered modern classics), and has taught in some of the most doctrinally faithful seminaries in America. At that breakfast, one of the men who was with us asked the esteemed scholar to explain his view of the millennium and to identify which millennial position he affirmed. I will never forget his immediate response. He said, “It’s not that simple.”

What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism?

Kevin DeYoung:

There are a number of legitimate dangers that need to be heeded when it comes to the New Calvinism. This could be, for some people, just another fad, just another chasing after the It Thang. The movement could crumble under the weight of self-importance. There is the danger of idolizing our heroes and envying our colleagues. There is the danger of minimizing important doctrines in an effort to promote gospel-centered unity. There is the danger of not being careful enough with our associations–and the opposite danger of taking glee in deciding who is in and who is out.

The Road to Apostasy

Erik Raymond:

When someone walks away from the faith it sends seismic ripples throughout the church. Somewhere amid the shock and emotions, we realize that we saw alarming signs but didn’t think they would materialize. I personally have seen this happen far too many times. In each case however, the steps, the path is strikingly similar.

So, how does it happen? Let me walk you down the road to apostasy. This is intended to illuminate this dark and often camouflaged path.

Eschatology Matters (Even if We Don’t Want it To)

Does anyone else think charts and graphs when they hear "eschatology"?

Eschatology is a weird thing (and a weird word). Too often when I think of the end times, immediately images of complicated charts and graphs (possibly drawn in crayon) and/or the thought of being “left behind” with an earnest Kirk Cameron come to mind…

What about you?

Does the idea make you want to curl up into the fetal position?

When people talk about the Rapture, are you secretly hoping they’ll just be raptured right then? (To borrow a joke.)

I dont’t have an eschatological position locked yet. I’ve not done enough study.

But I need to.

Last week, C.J. Mahaney posted an excerpt of Jeff Purswell’s closing message to the Next 2010 conference, reminding us that eschatology isn’t something to be ignored, but rather it’s the crown of our theology. Purswell puts it this way:

Eschatology is not intended to be an add-on to your theology. In many ways eschatology is the crown of theology. It answers questions that other doctrines raise.

And so we believe in God’s good providence. Where is God’s providence leading? We know Jesus paid for our sin, and he’s helping us battle that sin. But how will sin finally be overcome? We know that Jesus triumphed on the cross. What will it look like when he finally triumphs over all things? How will the Holy Spirit finish his work in us? What will the church ultimately look like?

Eschatology answers all these questions. If your eschatology is unformed, your doctrine—your beliefs—will be unformed as well. [Read more...]

Problems with Premillenialism by Matthew Svoboda

I used to go back and forth between Amillennialism and Historic Premillennialism… Now, because of many of the reasons below I am seeing any form of Premillennialism as less and less of a viable option. I know that highly offends some people, but let’s be graceful and deal with the points I raise below.

1. Premillennials insist on a “literal interpretation” of Eschatological/apocalyptic literature. It is my belief that not only is this wrong, but they cannot even hold true to their own convictions. Premillennials want to take some of Revelation (chapter 20 for instance) literally, while they easily allow for other parts of Revelation to be interpreted symbolically. Revelation should have a balance of literal and symbolic- but it seems silly to me to be someone who always harps and insists on “literal” when, at times, you don’t think twice about interpreting symbolically. How about some consistency? According to biblical and non-biblical apocalyptic literature the genre demands symbolism. Most Premillennials simply do not do justice to Revelation when they insist on all of the literalism (especially since they don’t necessarily follow through on their own claims). To be fair- this isn’t every Premillennial. If someone is absolutely convinced that Revelation 20 occurs after Christ’s return I suggest Dr. Grant Osbornes commentary- he at least does justice to the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation.

As I will demonstrate in a few points below- when I deal with certain texts- that Premillennials want the “plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of Revelation 20,” yet, they reject a plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of many other New Testament texts that deal with Eschatology. So, Premills insist on a literal interpretation on apocalyptic literature, which is meant to be symbolic, and yet reject a straightforward reading of texts that are not apocalyptic. Obviously, no Premill will say that is what they do, but as I will demonstrate it seems to me that is exactly what they do. [Read more...]

Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda

This is a blog people. This will not be an exhaustive argument for Amillennialism. This post will merely be a small argument as to why I believe that Scriptures teach an Amillennial understanding of the Lord’s Return. Maybe I should do a post about what I actually believe because many Amillennials disagree on a number of different things… But, I’m not going to, if you want me to clarify something just ask me in the comment thread.

I am going to write a post after this one titled, “Problems with Premillennialism.” In that post I will deal with more passages and by default will be a further continuation of why I am Amillennial. This post will not deal with a lot of different texts, but rather principles that lead me to Amillennialism. The next post will deal more deeply with specific passages.

Also, some of my arguments are not completely restricted to Amillennials. In fact, some of them I learned from Grant Osborne who is a Historic Premillennialist. It is when I put all of these things together that force me to hold to an Amillennial position. Like Graeme Goldsworthy, I am not a big fan of the term “Amillennial,” but it is just easier to use it than to fight the system.

1. Hermeneutics

There is a simple hermeneutical principle that I have accepted to be true, mainly because it only makes logical sense and because it is what I see the Apostles doing. Here is the principle: Interpret the lesser revelation by the fuller revelation. What this means is that we should interpret the Old Testament according to what we see in the New Testament. Does it make more sense to describe a room when it is only dimly lit or when it is fully revealed (fully lit up!)? It makes more sense to interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament because many times the New Testament interprets the Old Testament for us. When it does this it also gives us an interpretive grid that we can and should use.
[Read more...]

Eschatology: My Perspective by Matthew Svoboda

Amillenials aren't fans of charts

This should be a pretty fun and interesting series. I’ve studied Eschatology quote extensively over the last few years. I have read 3 full commentaries on the book of Revelation from 3 different perspectives, I have read countless books and articles, and I have listened to over 30 hours of lectures. On top of that I did an 8 week series for my small group in which I merely did an exegesis of what I feel are 8 of the more important passages on this issue. I say all of that to tell you, I am no expert. I have studied hard, given myself a ton of headaches, and have gained a lot of joy out of my time of studying Eschatology.

While some of you loonies think Eschatology is in the holy triumphant of doctrines along with the Trinity and Justification by Faith Alone, most of us realize this is an issue that we can disagree and still have the deepest forms of Christian intimacy with one another. Therefore, I am happy to interact with all of you on this post, but as soon as you start acting like a 15 year old brat I will simply ignore you, whether or not you are making good points. I am thankful to Aaron for asking me to write a post for his blog… He is a friend of mine so let’s make this as edifying and enjoyable for all of us as possible!

This is a topic that some spend way too much time on and in which others don’t devote enough time thinking, “we’ll never figure it out until Jesus comes back anyway.” You “Panmillennials” need to man up and engage Scripture on this issue! God had it written in his word for a reason. Study it until you become convinced in your own mind what it teaches.

I grew up Dispensational… Not by conviction, but by default. I thought every Christian believed what the great Tim LaHaye taught us. He was a legend in my Southern Baptist Church. Heck, he is a legend in 90% of the United States. When I moved to the Midwest I was hoping he wasn’t as popular he as he is in the South, well, he is. When I went to Bible College (Boyce), I was sitting in Theology III and we arrived at Eschatology. I had never studied it much, but I did know what Scripture taught in regards to the “key events” of the End Times. My professor started to summarize the major views- he then said a word that forever changed my life (yes, I’m being a little dramatic, but it did change how I view the Scriptures and relate to the world around me)—Amillennialism. When he described it with a preface of “not many people believe this anymore” I was a little taken back, but I soon realize he merely meant not many Baptists believe this anymore. [Read more...]