Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rhapsodic about the rapture

I don’t normally discuss dispensationalism, but this caught my eye:

The pastor’s assertion is problematic, because anyone who knows anything about Camping knows he came out of a Reformed background, and is a staunch amillennialist. I can recall him renouncing Dispensationalism when he was interviewed on that LA radio show.
I pointed out to the pastor that if one were to consider Camping’s hermeneutic, it is drawn from the same typological, Reformed Augustinianism that fuels the typical amillennial and postmillennial eschatology. It was certainly evident when Camping debated James White a year or more ago on the Iron Sharpens Iron program.
He claims Camping talks about the rapture, the end of the Church age, and the Great Tribulation, themes he says are only found among Dispensationalists. But just checking my Reformed systematic theologies I have, like Reymond and Berkhof for example, all of them believe in the rapture, the end of the Church age, and the Great Tribulation. They understand these concepts differently in their schemes than what is articulated by Dispensationalists.
Now. Just so I am clear. I am not saying all my Reformed brethren are on the brink everyday of becoming a nut like Camping because of their hermeneutic. I am just saying a heavy emphasis on spiritualizing texts lends itself easily to his way of thinking. And that can be found among Reformed folks just as it is among Dispensationalism.

A few comments:

i) While Camping used to be Reformed, he’s a civil engineer by training. To my knowledge, he never attended seminary.

Of course, it’s quite possible for a layman to have a sophisticated grasp of Reformed theology. But it’s not as if Camping was a theology prof., OT prof., NT prof., or church historian at a Reformed seminary.

ii) I admit I don’t have a systematic knowledge of Camping’s theology. This is the extent of my direct familiarity: I have a relative who used to donate to Family Radio. In return, donors receive a slim monthly periodical. As a result, I had frequent occasion to read his answers to Bible questions that subscribers wrote him.

As I recall, his hermeneutical approach was a pastiche of allegory, numerology, and word-studies based on running your index finger down a column of words in a concordance of the KJV, wherein you ascribe the same overloaded meaning to every occurrence of the same word (in English).

Sorry, but I fail to see much resemblance between his hermeneutical approach and Reformed exegetes like Beale, Carson, Currid, Duguid, Hamilton, McComiskey, Poythress, Schreiner, Thielman, Waltke, &c.

iii) Brother Fred’s analysis also fails to distinguish between Reformed Bible scholars and Reformed systematic theologians. But if we’re discussing hermeneutics, and if we’re especially interested in prophetic fulfillment, shouldn’t we take exegetes like Beale, Poythress, and Robertson as our foil? These are Calvinists who specialize in exegesis, and also write about eschatology in their commentaries or monographs.

And even at the level of systematics, the late Anthony Hoekema marks a shift away from Augustinian “spiritualization.” Likewise, it won’t do to say that Poythress is “spiritualizing” the text when, in fact, he has a very earthly view of eschatological fulfillment:

“Response to Robert L. Saucy’s Paper,” Grace Theological Journal 10/2 (1989), 157-159.

Likewise, take Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

On the one hand, Peter Enns nominally represented the Reformed position. However, he was later fired on issues like this because his view of fulfillment reflected a serious deviation from the standard Reformed position.

On the other hand, Bock takes a more typological approach than Kaiser. Yet Bock is a leading dispensationalist.

“Spiritualize” may be a polemically effective battle cry to rally the troops, but it really needs to be retired in the interests of theological accuracy.

iv) In addition, as Brother Fred also knows, the eschatological options in Reformed theology aren’t limited to either amillennialism or postmillennialism. You can be a Reformed premil. I believe that Tom Schreiner, Jim Hamilton, and D. A. Carson are Reformed premils.

iv) Is there a distinctive Reformed hermeneutic in contrast to Dispensational hermeneutics? That’s not an easy line to draw.

a) To begin with, both contemporary Reformed exegetes and contemporary Dispensational exegetes employ the grammatico-historical method. So at that basal level there is no appreciable difference. They simply arrive at different conclusions.

b) Traditionally, there’s a difference between covenant theology and dispensationalism. However, the difference is more like a rugged coastline rather than a sharp straight line.

On the one hand you have progressive dispensationalism. Fred knows more about that than I do.

On the other hand, covenant theology ranges along a continuum.

1 comment:

  1. I count it a great honor to have received one of your rubber hose beatings.

    Thanks bro.