Why I Cannot Change My Mind on the Premillennial Return of Christ

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Reposted courtesy of Proclaim & Defend.

In a Gospel Coalition article, Sam Storms has a piece entitled “Why I Changed My Mind on the Millennium.” He says that it is now impossible for him to hold to premillennialism, having now switched to an amillennial position.

As a response, I would like to share why I cannot change my mind on a premillennial position.

Storms finds it impossible to believe in the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth for 1,000 years for a number of reasons and concludes that “premillennialists must believe what the NT explicitly denies.” Major points that he insists that are a clear contradiction to NT teaching is that premillennialists must “believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.” He also insists that the “the New Heavens and the New Earth are introduced immediately following the parousia.”

Does Scripture teach explicitly & without any doubt what Storms says it does?

No, it does not. I wholeheartedly disagree with Storms on these points and other details he says the New Testament cannot teach regarding Christ’s literal earthly kingdom. Let’s consider these two points in further detail and then conclude with John’s chronology in the Book of Revelation, a chronology which contradicts Storms’ amillennialism.

In 1 Corinthians 15:54, Paul writes that when the rapture comes, “death is swallowed up in victory.” Paul nowhere indicates that this defeats death for all mankind at the moment of His Rapture or even His Revelation return. Revelation 6-19 tells us that many will die after the rapture during the Tribulation period. Revelation 20:9 tells us that many rebels will be devoured at the conclusion of the Millennium, which is 1000 years after His glorious return. The fact is, death is not destroyed until after the Great White Throne Judgement, Rev 20:14 “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is speaking to the church and promises that individual Christians and the corporate church will be raptured “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” For them, death will be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:52). But Paul never states that death itself will be defeated at the moment of Christ’s return for the saints, only that Christ’s resurrection will ultimately put death to death for all who believe in Him.

Next, Isaiah 65:17-25 describes the Millennial Kingdom saying that there will still be sin and therefore death after the return of Christ: “For the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (v. 20). While the Millennium will be a period of unsurpassed righteousness and the curse of sin is beginning to be lifted, the Millennium will not be without any sin or disobedience. Unparalleled peace and long life will characterize the Millennium, but the earth will not be fully delivered from the curse of sin and even the presence of death until after the Millennium.

In Isaiah 65:17-25, the prophet shows a clear connection between the Millennium and the Eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Isaiah often does not distinguish between the Millennium and the Eternal State, such as in Isaiah 60:19-20. Isaiah sees these two aspects of God’s rule together as one. Why? Because the Millennium, although it is 1000 years, is a brief period of time in comparison to eternity, yet both are a part of the eternal kingdom of Christ with the Millennium the first stage of His eternal Kingdom. However, this does not mean they are identical. One reason is that the Millennium clearly has a temple whereas in the eternal kingdom there will be no temple.

During the Millennium, the sacrifices will be offered in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, described (in much detail) by Ezekiel 40-48. For the first time, animal sacrifices will be offered by national Israel in faith with a full understanding of why they are being made: to remember and rejoice in the finished work of Christ. Therefore, animals will continue to die in the Millennial period.

Zechariah 14:17 indicates that some will not obey the Lord Jesus after His return and during the Millennium. Some will refuse to come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, and “upon them shall be no rain.” During this part of His Kingdom, Jesus will rule with a rod of iron, and He will punish all disobedience, smite the disobedient with a plague, and “smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:18-20)

Finally, the New Testament lays out a straightforward chronology in Revelation 19-22 of the things that will happen from the time of His coming to the eternal state. Storms says this is impossible to believe. The final eschatological events as given in Revelation 19-22 are as follows:

  • The Second Coming of Christ in glory, Revelation 19:11-21
  • The Binding of Satan and a 1,000 Year Millennium, Revelation 20:1-6
  • The Final rebellion in battle of God and Magog, Revelation 20:7-9
  • The Judgement of Satan and the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers, Revelation 20:10-15 (including the destruction of death and hades as they are cast into the lake of fire, Rev 20.14)
  • The Creation of the New Heaven and Earth and the removal of the curse, Revelation 21-22

If there is going to be a literal earthly Kingdom with Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of David for 1,000 years, how much more clear could Scripture be? Postmillennialists and amillennialists insist on allegorizing many Scriptures and replacing Israel with the church, including this concluding section of the Scripture. They also say that the 1000 years is not 1000 literal years, although this time period is explicitly referenced six times in Revelation 20:1-6.

Storms says that the natural creation continuing under a form of the curse of sin after Christ’s coming, is impossible. Nevertheless, Revelation 20, taken at face value, indicates that the New Heaven and Earth will not be created until after the 1000-year Millennial Rule. Those born during the Millennium will have the opportunity to witness the visible rule of the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfillment of all the OT and NT Covenant promises, and they like anyone else during human history must be born again to enter the eternal Kingdom of God.

The natural creation will not be set free from its bondage until after the final rebellion at the conclusion of the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. In all of what John writes in Revelation, and contrary to what Storms’ teaching, there is no indication that the Bible explicitly teaches that the New Heaven and New Earth must be introduced immediately following His Second Coming. Why would a clear reading of the Bible be impossible to believe?

Perhaps Storms would say that 2 Peter 3:4-14 is one such passage that bolsters his amillennial view that the New Heaven and earth immediately follow Christ’s second coming. After all, Peter places the two events of Christ’s coming and the New Heaven and Earth together. Nevertheless, Peter’s emphasis is not upon a fixed order of future events, but to challenge Christians to holy living now in light of all aspects of the eschatological climax of human history. Peter links our future hope with our daily conduct.

As one reads this passage, it is not at all improbable that the coming of Christ and the subsequent creation of the New Heaven and New earth will be separated in time by even a long period of time. Peter focuses the reader upon the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:8-14) and the end of human history upon earth and how this should cause us to live godly for His glory in the present time. Peter in no way establishes an order that requires the New Heaven and New Earth to immediately follow His coming.

In fact, Peter’s overall emphasis in this passage is not upon the personal return of Christ but rather he emphasizes the extended period of time called the Day of the Lord which concludes with the creation of the new heaven and earth. It is also in this passage that he states, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Clearly this reminds us that a 1000-year Millennial Kingdom separates His glorious return from the making of the New Heaven and Earth. Peter is perfectly consistent with the order laid out by John in Revelation 19-22.

We must remember that Biblical writers may place two events right next to each other that may be many years apart. Isaiah 61:2 is a classic prophetic passage that tells us of two events listed beside each other but are separated in time by 1000 years. “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” fulfills Christ’s first coming. “And the day of vengeance of our God” fulfills His second coming.

The Millennial hope was the clear expectation of the early church and it remains the expectation of many godly, believing people. Let’s not let go of this incredible promise! Premillennialism rests securely upon the hermeneutic of a literal interpretation of Scripture that leads us to “be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Matt Recker bio


Matt Recker has served full time as a pastor in New York City since November 1984. After establishing City View Baptist Church in Flatbush, Brooklyn (1984-1989) and Parkway Baptist Church in Rosedale, Queens (1990-1995), he then pioneered Heritage Baptist Church in 1996 where he now serves as pastor.

Why This makes me less sure of a millennium

During the Millennium, the sacrifices will be offered in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, described (in much detail) by Ezekiel 40-48. For the first time, animal sacrifices will be offered by national Israel in faith with a full understanding of why they are being made: to remember and rejoice in the finished work of Christ. Therefore, animals will continue to die in the Millennial period.

I am a convinced pre-millennialist, but its statements like the one above that make have to throw a lot of caveats to that.  I hold to the pre-millennial return of Christ based on Revelation, but that in no way means that I have to believe in a Rapture which he seems to equate equally with pre-millenialism.  I also cannot see Biblically in light of Hebrews 10 that a return of the Old Testament sacrifices does not directly contradict the intended purpose and meaning of Christ's death.  It seems to go against the entire message of the gospel to say that God's ultimate redemptive plan of history would include a return to the symbols of salvation of the one physically ruling and reigning in the millennium who fulfilled that entire system and made it unnecessary.

I will continue to hold to the millennium, but without the necessity of interpreting passages that were either fulfilled spiritually in the church or historically in the first century in a way that violates the message of the Gospel.

 

Question begging on both sides

"Begging the question" is an old, now-obscure term for "assuming what needs to be proved." What I see happen frequently with eschatological debates is each side assuming that its view is true until the other proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's false. From that assumption, it's not too hard to assault the certainty of the other guy's view and conclude that your own must be true.

A better place to begin is with the assumption that Scripture does reveal what we need to know. And it reveals clearly what we need to know with certainty. It also reveals less clearly what we do not need to know with certainty.

From that angle, it looks to me like amil and postmil views have substantially more problems than premil. So, for me, premil--which has problems of its own--is the "less than certain but far less problematic" view.

As for future sacrifices in a rebuilt temple. It's not obvious to me that having sacrifices that symbolically look back on the cross is more of a problem for the gospel than having sacrifices that symbolically looked forward to it. It was never sacrifices that saved in OT times, and won't be at any point in the future either. But I have to concede that bringing back sacrifices seems gratingly retrograde in view of everything we have in Romans, Galatians and Hebrews. 

... so again, the future temple visions are a difficulty that has no problem-free explanation. I'm content to teach the passage just like that then shift to what we do know for sure. Christ will return and will reign and set things straight. The details are not be ignored, but also shouldn't be allowed to become a distraction.

Why would animal sacrifices be reinstated?

Aaron Blumer wrote:

It's not obvious to me that having sacrifices that symbolically look back on the cross is more of a problem for the gospel than having sacrifices that symbolically looked forward to it. It was never sacrifices that saved in OT times, and won't be at any point in the future either.

I agree with you on this analysis.

Allow me to offer a tentative suggestion. OT sacrifices symbolically looked forward to the cross. Today, we symbolically "remember" the cross by observing the Lord's Table, which is admittedly more somber and sedate than animal sacrifices. (Imagine making animal sacrifices on a monthly basis at church, in place of the Lord's Table.) Could it be that a reinstatement of some form of animal sacrifice in a yet-future period will provide us with a way to "remember" the cruelty of the cross in a more graphic manner, strengthening our appreciation of what Christ did in our place? The more removed we are from the cross, into the future, the less we grasp the awfulness and horror of Christ's death.

This thought doesn't answer all questions on this detail of a premillennial perspective. But it provokes my thinking at least.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Less sure

Ben Howard wrote:

During the Millennium, the sacrifices will be offered in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, described (in much detail) by Ezekiel 40-48. For the first time, animal sacrifices will be offered by national Israel in faith with a full understanding of why they are being made: to remember and rejoice in the finished work of Christ. Therefore, animals will continue to die in the Millennial period.

I am a convinced pre-millennialist, but its statements like the one above that make have to throw a lot of caveats to that.  I hold to the pre-millennial return of Christ based on Revelation, but that in no way means that I have to believe in a Rapture which he seems to equate equally with pre-millenialism.  I also cannot see Biblically in light of Hebrews 10 that a return of the Old Testament sacrifices does not directly contradict the intended purpose and meaning of Christ's death.  It seems to go against the entire message of the gospel to say that God's ultimate redemptive plan of history would include a return to the symbols of salvation of the one physically ruling and reigning in the millennium who fulfilled that entire system and made it unnecessary.

I will continue to hold to the millennium, but without the necessity of interpreting passages that were either fulfilled spiritually in the church or historically in the first century in a way that violates the message of the Gospel.

Ben,

I share some of your concerns. I have seen good defenses of premillennialism. This is not one. Only if you start with a premillennial position will you find it in Isaiah 65:17-25. Verse 17 clearly indicates Isaiah is speaking of "the new heavens and new earth." Verse 18 speaks in "forever" language. The images seem clearly idealized when speaking of the child and sinner dying at 100 years old, the wolf and the lamb, etc. To have sinners you need a Tribulation where people get saved and enter the Millennium in earthly bodies, co-existing with glorified saints, reproducing like rabbits to have a force at the end to mount a rebellion against the King. Verse 25 makes it clear that "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." I don't know how that can be true if there's a rebellion at the end of the 1000 years and an attack on Jerusalem. I am not persuaded that there will be a rebuilt temple with animal sacrifices. This interpretation of Ezekiel's vision in 40-48 is only possible with an extreme literalism that disregards the NT where Jesus is the Temple, the Final Sacrifice, The Faithful Israelite, etc. I do not fully embrace all that Amillennialism teaches but this version of Premillennialism is scarcely believable. God will do what he will do. I will be surprised if he does it in this way. We all will be surprised in some ways. 

Steve

WHITCOMB ARTICLE

I commend pvawter for posting Dr. John Whitcomb's treatise on millennial sacrifices. It begins, proceeds and ends from  from a dispensational point of view, beginning with dispensationalism's hermeneutic of the authorial intent of Scripture's writers. Dr. Whitcomb's ability to correlate scores of biblical sources is both lucid, theologically consistent and persuasive, a rarity in most such discussions. It will probably be criticized as so much top-water "proof-texting" and a failure to interface with the scholasticism of historical theology. But no one could possibly aver that the article is simply a string of horseback interpretations of various themes. Doubters, deniers and all inquirers must take an honest look at this material. 

 

Rolland McCune

Thanks for the mention Dr.

Thanks for the mention Dr. McCune, but I was made aware of the article by a couple of your former students as we were discussing The Greatness of the Kingdom last month. Jon Robertson spoke very highly of your class and even shared some notes on McClain he copied from you. I especially appreciated your insights into the efficacy of the OT sacrifices. It was something I had not considered before.

Walvoord, sacrifices, priesthood?

1. This quote made me wonder if Walvoord is really the author of this article linked by pvawter. 

"Keenly sensitive to the tensions and problems involved in this theological controversy, John F. Walvoord significantly concluded that "the most thoroughgoing students of premillennialism who evince understanding of the relation of literal interpretation to premillennial doctrine usually embrace the concept of a literal temple and literal sacrifices."

2. The author affirms that the sacrifices are not "simply," "not primarily," or "not mermorials." I'm not sure which it is.

"Millennial sacrifices will not simply memorialize Christ's redemption but will primarily function in restoring and maintaining New Covenant Israel in theocratic harmony."

"Thus, animal sacrifices during the coming Kingdom age will not be primarily memorial..."

"These rituals will not be memorials. They will atone . . . in the same efficacious way as the ones in Aaronic times." (Quoting Averbeck)

3. Does an everlasting priesthood mean that the sacrifices in fact are not limited to the millennium? 

"Why does Ezekiel emphasize the special function of Zadokian priests in the future Temple? The obvious answer is that God promised to the line of Zadok an everlasting priesthood (1 Sam. 2:35; 1 Kings 2:27, 35)."

 

 

 

 

Unconvincing?

This is a good article to refer a convinced, premill church member to. It preaches to the choir. Now, there is nothing wrong with preaching to the choir. That term simply means you're writing for a friendly audience, and you can take a lot of things for granted - because you're all basically on the same page, theologically. But, if a Christian who was not premill read this, I doubt he'd be convinced:

  • You'll have to convince him the rapture, specifically the pretrib rapture, is actually a real event. This will be hard. Even in Fee's commentary (NICNT), he misrepresents a responsible pretrib position.  
  • You have to convince him the millennium is literally 1000 years.
  • You have to convince him Satan will be literally bound in the future, for 1000 literal years.
  • You have to convince him of the premill chronology in general.

This is all very, very difficult. Eschatology is a vast topic, and many premill advocates (even theologians, not weirdos) are guilty of going far, far beyond the Scriptural evidence. On the other side, many opponents of the premill position are guilty of overlooking evidence. I remember when I preached through Zechariah. I had Unger's commentary, among others. He went too far, many times. Dispensationalists like prophesy (which is a good thing), but we sometimes like it too much!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Schreiner, Rev. 20 and Premillennialism

TylerR wrote:

  • You have to convince him the millennium is literally 1000 years.
  • You have to convince him Satan will be literally bound in the future, for 1000 literal years.
  • You have to convince him of the premill chronology in general.

Have you heard the sermon Thomas Schreiner preached (in 2013, I think) during his series through Revelation? As you probably know, he prefers the amillennial position, but tentatively changed his mind when he preached Rev. 20. He may have switched back to amill. now, since he's a few years removed from his Revelation series Smile

In this sermon, he provided several strong exegetical answers to some of the questions you've listed. They are very helpful.

Here's a link to this resource. Unfortunately, the audio has been removed from the internet it seems. I have the audio file, if you're interested.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Rev 20-22

When I preached through Rev 20-22, it was one of the turning points of my theological education (which really isn't saying too much!). It was eye-opening to me. I got rid of a lot of odd baggage (e.g. will the New Jerusalem really hover in space during the Millennium!?), and came to a settled conviction on a whole host of other issues. There is nothing better for learning a passage of Scripture than having to teach through it!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Toggling back and forth

Daniel.Viezbicke wrote:

Again. https://vimeo.com/156101491

It would be good for those secure in their position to watch this video. I can identify with Schreiner's journey (apart from his level of scholarship). I was also discipled in dispensational, premillennialism. I don't know that I ever heard other viewpoints fairly presented. I was first challenged in my thinking in the 1990's while studying at Reformed theological Seminary. I have never embraced Amillennialism but would if convinced. For the past few years I have leaned historic premil. Perhaps some who claim their position on this is a slam dunk either haven't really looked at the other positions or resist change because of what it might cost them if they changed their view. Either way, does it need to be a separation issue? I think not. I still wrestle with this and do not make this a test of fellowship. Our elders hold different views. We discuss it. We debate it. We don't divide over it.

Steve

THE TOGGLE

Steve:

Sorry for not getting to this earlier. I don't exactly know who are the "secured in their position" or the "slam dunkers," but I will give a personal perspective. As far as the "toggling" between what seem like disparate theological interpretations, I can't understand the fluid hermeneutics involved. True, a basically  covenant hermeneutical framework could yield an amillennial, postmillennial, or even a form of an "historic" premillennial conclusion to eschatology. Thus Schreiner could theoretically toggle from amillennialism to a form of premillennialism and back again. But even that would seem to exhibit a good deal of hermeneutical instability.

But, to me, the divide between dispensational premillennialism and other eschatology approaches rests on antithetical bases that would not admit such back-switching. Thus my dilemma. The millennial question does not rise or fall on certain individual words in Revelation 20, such as "thousand," "years,"   Satan himself  being "bound" in an "abyss," or the purposes of millennial animal sacrifices in the Book of Ezekiel and elsewhere. Those questions should have been settled long before in one's philosophy of language, hermeneutical principles and the like, even before the validity of rational conversation itself could be established.

You lamented in effect that you were discipled only in dispensational premillennialism. As far as how much doctrinal latitude a seminary can be permitted to have depends on its mission and available class time. DBTS, Central, and (I presume) Lansdale, being direct ministries of a local church, do not have open-ended possibilities for certain areas of interpretation. DBTS, for example, wanted to provide a training center that would further the biblical, doctrinal base and mission convictions of Inter-City Baptist church world-wide. So an expansive, essentially smorgasbord, curriculum that would dispassionately examine in depth the pros and cons of, for example, differing forms of church polity, eschatological systems or philosophies of doing church would be self-defeating. A seminary with a university approach to ministerial training has few such restraints. Thus a church or denominationally related institution that significantly broadens its original doctrinal and mission base in order to attract students, finances, greater academic acceptance and such, may well find itself in trouble. Schools, for example, that hire administrators and professors that do not hold the shared faith and vision of its founders and history soon finds their constituency, faculty, benefactors and alumni seriously divided, often irretrievably so.  Too many worthy institutions no longer exist because of it.                                                                                                                                                                 

Dr. R. V. Clearwaters  remembered when Bethel Seminary's president and teachers were "Scofield Bible-carrying" Swedish Baptist preachers and leaders. Today, for whatever reasons, the Baptist General Conference, Bethel College and Seminary are almost totally bereft of such ideas, and in fact have imported many very questionable and alarming tenets. In the 1990s I was invited by Dr. Clarence Bass of Bethel to address his theology class on the dispensational approach to Scripture. I found the class divided over the issue at the time.  At about the same time I was asked by Dr. Millard Erickson to give what was termed the dispensational understanding of tongues and gifts of the Spirit. Both Bass and Ericson were trying to be objective and non-prejudicial in teaching but in reality were in the vanguard of new ideas at Bethel and the General Conference. In the 1970s I had occasion to exchange theological thoughts with an "older" Evangelical Free pastor who deeply lamented the loss of dispensational teaching and preaching in his ecclesiastical fellowship. He and others like him sourced the problem in the expansive doctrinal latitude of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School's professors and administration.  The vision, prayers, giving and sacrifice of Free Church people who founded Trinity College and Seminary seemed to get lost as the schools grew in size and enlarged their influence in evangelicalism.

Some might find the open-ended doctrinal and practical route the easier way to go. Others would simply be pleased if dispensationalism were marginalized or expelled altogether in sort of a "survival of the fittest" intellectual struggle. Dispensationalism was one issue of dissension that afflicted the early faculty of Fuller Seminary. The dispensational leanings of Charles E. Fuller, Wilbur Smith, and Everett F. Harrison incurred some uncharitable opposition from Carl F. H. Henry and George Eldon Ladd for whose agendas it was incompatible. This and other doctrinal divisions and aberrations in many ways has left Fuller a prodigal seminary in a far country.

I am of the opinion that a church, fellowship of churches, or seminary are not well-served if there are intramural doctrinal disagreements among its highest leaders over an issue as biblically pervasive as eschatology. There has been far too much shrugging of the shoulders in a "why don't you emphasize things that are important and practical" such as salvation, consecration, community social concerns, interpersonal relations, self-worth, justice and hunger. Or at least "doing something" about the nasty now and now instead of haggling, if not joking, over the future, including the end.

 

Rolland McCune

SCOFIELD

A "Scofield Bible-carrying" person was a euphemism for a dispensational premillennialist because of its popularity and almost universal acceptance, especially in the Bible Conference era. But it had its problems. I used one for many years, but read it "from the top down." The New Scofield Reference Bible (1967) was never that popular. My teacher, Dr. McClain, was on the revision committee. Notes from the committee meetings reveal a lack of unanimity on certain subjects. Dr. McClain and Dr. Walvoord, for example, differed sharply on some proposed revisions.

Rolland McCune

Helpful clarification

Rolland McCune wrote:

A "Scofield Bible-carrying" person was a euphemism for a dispensational premillennialist

I understand your comment in that light. From my younger perspective, I understand the Scofield Bible-carrying euphemism but sense that it no longer carries a euphemistic effect. Thank you for the historical insights!

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Dr McCune

Your remarks about the distinction in objectives between (1) a church which has a bible college or seminary as a ministry to train leaders, and (2) a bible college or seminary in a university format is well taken. I hadn't thought about that before. Many thanks.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Pros and cons

Rolland McCune wrote:
So an expansive, essentially smorgasbord, curriculum that would dispassionately examine in depth the pros and cons of, for example, differing forms of church polity, eschatological systems or philosophies of doing church would be self-defeating.

I'm not sure why it would be self-defeating. If the position that a school holds is truly biblical and can be Scripturally supported, then presenting the potential good points of an opposing position would not overwhelm the correct position. And examining the cons of the school's own position could only help the student when they are faced with someone in the future who asks about those cons.

PEDAGOGY

Kevin:

Thanks for the note. I think your proposal might work in certain circumstances and with certain students. But for a church or denominationally related seminary (or Bible college) that was founded to preserve its corporate conscience regarding doctrinal distinctives and missional objectives, I would find it unworkable. I only speak from my own experience and observations. Such a school would not want to implement an atmosphere of "untrammeled thought" to perpetuate its convictions. Such educational pedagogy simply does not exist for studies of the eternal Word of God; it has completely unacceptable underpinnings.

(E.g., back in the early 1930s R. V. Clearwaters was in PhD work at the University of Chicago, a Baptist school founded by Rockefeller money. Some of his conclusions were frowned upon if not rejected because of their conservative flavor. He was told by the Dean, Dr. Shailer Matthews, that the University wanted him to "get their [liberal theological] viewpoint." Upon questioning, RVC was assured that the University was indeed a place of untrammeled thought, despite his inability to comprehend the situation. The University had embalmed the Gospel from the get-go and would not in the end seriously be open to anything else.)

To me, an essentially open-ended approach would indeed be self-defeating. Students coming to seminary for their first theological degree simply do not have sufficient propadeutic to handle dispassionately the ins and outs of theological, philosophical, biblical, hermeneutical, textual, and many other issues in biblical/theological studies. What is often done is to assign term papers on some subject of the student's need and/or interest. Outside reading and/or private discussion, individually or in groups, is usually available as time permits. Also, if the student's initiative and mental energy are sufficient, hours spent in the library will do wonders. Otherwise, post-graduate studies are designed to handle biblical/theological problems and controversies, among other things.

I confess that I have succumbed once again to the old habit of over-responding or over-explaining what is probably of minor interest to most.

Rolland McCune


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