Just a few paragraphs to wrap up day two at the GARBC Conference in Elyria.
Today was a first for me; it was my first time hearing “Rennie” Showers. Rennie is on staff with the Friends of Israel gospel ministry, and writes extensively for Israel, My Glory magazine. He has written several well-known books on dispensationalism, eschatology, and Christian advocacy for the geo-political state of Israel (commonly referred to as Christian Zionism). The notes he has presented are extensive, but as I mentioned in my twitter posts, he seems to be making broad and sweeping generalizations regarding Covenant Theology. When presenting their positions,
he offers no direct quotes and no bibliography. He simply states that “This is the covenant theologian’s position.” While I want to guard against lobbing unnecessary stones, it seems to me that his argument would be strengthened if he actually quoted CT’ers (Covenant Theologians) in their own words rather than presenting their positions in his own words.
Also see my tweets on Showers’ view regarding multiple gospels. If I understood him correctly,
he stated that Abraham did not believe in Christ or even a coming Messiah; rather, the object of his faith was in the promise of God to provide him a son (Isaac) in his old age (Romans 4 was offered as proof). In my opinion, this multiple gospel view (Christ also preached another gospel … the gospel of the kingdom) comes dangerously close to affirming multiple ways of salvation. Acts 4:12 seems to refute a “multiple gospel” view of history.
Although each of the speakers and workshop leaders appears to be a traditional dispensationalist, it is intriguing to identify the nuances of each as he presents the traditional view and contrasts that with CT. Dr. Bauder has shown a gracious spirit toward those who may not hold a traditional DT (Dispensational Theology) hermeneutic, while others have offered no praise or affection for any CT’er. Perhaps—and I want to give the benefit of the doubt here—this is a simple oversight on the part of several of the speakers. For the sake of the gospel, though, it would be reassuring to hear some praise for the CT’ers high view of Scripture, their call for a pure gospel, and their love of truth. I have heard this courtesy from the other side of the aisle, but it seems slow to come from this side.
One final concern before I offer a few brief reporting snippets: we have yet to hear any speaker address or acknowledge the weaknesses of the traditional dispensational system. Having heard a number of critiques of CT, several attendees have expressed their desire for the speakers and panelists (I’ll explain the panel in a moment) to acknowledge and address the apparent weaknesses of dispensational theology. It seems that those who are confident in their theological system express their confidence best when they are willing to self-critique that system. I’m hoping it will happen prior to our departure on Friday!
Now for a few, brief report-style snippets:
1) Attendance improved today, and we are expecting an overflowing crowd for tomorrow evening’s gathering. First Baptist will offer overflow seating to accommodate 400 via live video streaming. If you are attending the conference, arrive early on Wednesday evening.
2) New to this year’s conference was this afternoon’s panel discussion. The topic (of course) was dispensationalism. Attendees (approximately 200 attended this inaugural event) were given the opportunity to ask questions related to dispensationalism. Sitting on the panel were: Dr. John Hartog III (FBBC & TS), Dr. Kevin Bauder (CTS, Minneapolis), Dr. Rennie Showers (FOI), and Dr. Mike Stallard (BBC & S, Clarks Summit). Several attendees took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions, and did not adhere to the dispensational topic. Questions regarding broader fundamentalism and Calvinism were asked, as were questions related to specific individuals in conservative evangelicalism and gospel-centered gatherings like Together For The Gospel and The Gospel Coalition. Several panelists made statements regarding the perceived danger of an over-emphasizing the gospel (in Stallard’s words, “One of my concerns is how my students are responding to this. For groups such as T4G to place such an emphasis on the first coming, they must deemphasize the second coming. I want my students to not diminish their interest in the second coming.”).
Showers responded by stating, “We are not saying that we are trying to downplay the gospel; we are saying that the gospel is the center of CT. That’s the whole thing God is doing throughout history [in their minds]. This is one of the reasons they are amillennial. CT is saying that salvation is the thing God is doing throughout history, and that is why they don’t see any need to talk about future events.”
Bauder appeared to temper the tone of the previous responses by stating: ”We, as dispensationalists, draw a distinction between the gospel as the center of our system, and the gospel as the center of God’s overall plan. When it comes to the system of faith, the gospel is the hub of that system—so much so, that we can use the gospel as the touchstone in providing an answer to many theological questions. The real question is this: how does God intend to bring glory to Himself? The CT: the history of redemption. The DT: the history of redemption, but there’s more than that. The DT insists that God intends to glorify Himself in many and various ways.”
Later, when asked if it possible to make too much an issue of dispensationalism, Bauder acknowledged that, “It’s possible to make more out of dispensationalism than ought to be made … It is not a fundamental of the faith, it is not the gospel. I do not withhold fellowship from CT’ers! My greatest hero in the faith was a Covenant Theologian, as is my best friend in the faith.”
Overall, the discussion seemed profitable. Tomorrow, several round table discussions will be held with the panelists leading the discussions.
3) The Articles of Faith amendment re-clarifying the GARBC’s stand on the pre-trib rapture passed overwhelmingly. There were only six “no” votes. Don’t even ask!
The Lord is blesing our time together as an association, and the time renewing acquaintances and friendships has been refreshing!
See you tomorrow on twitter, and tomorrow evening here on the SI Liveblog!