Dispensationals and Exegesis

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by JesusIsLord, Feb 5, 2018.

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  1. JesusIsLord

    JesusIsLord Puritan Board Freshman

    Guys, I have a dear brother and co-worker that is a staunch dispensationalist. He and I work together so we get plenty of time to discuss our differing view points. However, one that keeps coming up is exegesis. He makes it seem as though anyone who is not Dispensational, just doesnt exegete the text correctly. In my experience, most often the Dispensational guys will make it seem as though they have the monopoly on exegesis. Is this true?

    Ive even heard my friend say things like "John macarthur resurrected exegetical teaching in our lifetime".
  2. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Monopoly is a loaded word. I can be applied to anyone with conviction about anything disputed.

    With charity toward brethren in another traditions, I think it is obvious that dispensationalists think they are right. That's normal. I think most covenant theologians think that they are right. That doesn't prove anything either way. I expect many dispensationalists to admire MacArthur. Covenant theologians admire MacArthur for reasons other than dispensationalism. It make sense that both kinds of theologians would contend strongly. Some are disagreeable and some are not.
  3. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    As with many fundamentalists and their mindset, they believe for the clarity of Scripture to be true they must interpret almost everything (seven headed monsters don't exist of course) wooden literally.
    You should ask him how in the world does he get to insert a gap in Daniel's 70th week that the NT knows nothing of.
  4. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello Pablo,

    Here's a book by Sam Waldron from Reformed Baptist Academic Press replying to John MacArthur's saying that all Calvinists should be Dispensational: MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response. I just bought three of these for the elders of our church, as there are quite a few Dispensationalists joining us, and we need to give a clear response (on Amazon it's going for $68 - I don't know why - as at RBAP it's only $11 + PH). Waldron is an excellent exegete and teacher.

    Also I attach (below) a section, "Critique of Premillennial Dispensationalism", from Dean Davis' The High King of Heaven (I have his permission), one of the top-notch hermeneutical examinations of the various schools of eschatology (he's amil).

    Attached Files:

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  5. RefPres1647

    RefPres1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I mean, John MacArthur has used eisegesis (something he accuses paedos of using in their defenses) when he's explaining the rapture:

    "People always say, 'Where, where does the rapture come in?' it’s in the white spaces between chapter 3 and 4. Yeah, the church on earth in chapter 2 and 3, and all of a sudden, we appear in heaven, and I want you to see what happens. The theme of Heaven is worship. We go from earth to heaven."


    So they may use some exegesis, but in order for that doctrine to be fully explained, there is a lot of eisegesis (even their version of the rapture has to be found "in the white spaces". :detective:
  6. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Tell him to read Poythress's book Understanding Dispensationalists. The hermeneutical issues are at the forefront here. How does the Scripture itself tell us to do interpretation?
  7. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Or read it online here:

    Go here to see what is available online:

    Click the actual image of the book in question, not the small icons shown below the images. The result will be that some are excerpts and others are the full text.
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I used to say (it's been ages since I listened to radio ministry) that it took me less than a minute of listening to any speaker on the radio and I could tell if he was reformed (-ish).

    One day, many years ago, I was tuning to Christian radio, and I heard JMA talking for the first time. Didn't know who it was, didn't know he was a "four-pointer" at the time, he wasn't doing anything but preaching Scripture, I'm pretty sure the topic had nothing to do with Calvinism--and within a minute I decided to listen to him whenever I heard him. And I did, except for if he was teaching on Daniel or Revelation.

    Here's the thing: if JMA "resurrected" exegetical preaching, how could I recognize "my listening style" when I heard him the first time? I'd been listening to OPC preachers since I was born. The quote at the top is a parochial and blinkered comment.

    JMA rekindled interest in fresh exegetical preaching "on the radio," more or less taking Barnhouse' and JVMcGee's places. I'm sure he helped lots of people who were in the wasteland of American evangelicalism. But that's a commentary on American evangelicalism's shallow theological and biblical depth, not on churches that refused to be part of that bandwagon from the get-go.

    Some of us were blessed (all grace, no deserving) to grow up under good preaching and far away from the spotlight of notoriety. JMA was blessed to rise up and fill a prominent, public niche that stood empty; and he's done a thankworthy job, even if I find him unlistenable at certain points.

    Some people assume Baptists (alone) are the most "natural Christians" who recently lost their way on preaching, and JMA singlehandedly and heroically resuscitated the faith. JMA doesn't believe that.
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  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    He resurrected the word-study commentary. The idea was killed off by James Barr's book on biblical semantics. Macarthur brought it back to lfie.
  10. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    There are some good points Dispensational would hold with, as most of the prominent ones teach and hold to a fully inspired Bible, hold to Conservative understanding of it, and do , among the Calvinistic ones, hold to a strong reformed Sotierology.
    I hold more in common with them, especially those who are Baptists, than to any Arminian Theology holding Christian, or to Charismatics, for examples.
  11. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    That would be a good thing.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Not really. Words form sentences and that is where the meaning is. And word studies tend to take on a life of their own.
  13. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    This is a proper and reasonable critique of word-study exegesis. Nevertheless, it is fair to argue that there is a need for exegetes to study the words that make up the sentences. And sloppy or hasty treatment of those words moves the careful exegete away from the precision of the biblical text.

    The words matter.

    Case in point. Recent arguments/defenses of paedo-communion. In some defenses I have read and heard, weight is given to a particular read of Ex.12 and the institution of Passover. v47 is singled out here for its language "All the congregation of Israel shall keep it."

    Note the bold term. This sentence is, by certain PC advocates, assumed to mean that ever-after the entirety of the nation--great & small, old & young (as small as can eat meat), male & female ought to eat; and the operative term in the sentence for this understanding is "congregation." As if that term had self-evident meaning.

    This is the fourth use of this term in this chapter, all which is without question contextually relevant. ALL THREE previous uses of this term call for a distinct, nuanced meaning in its own sentence context. The import is: each previous use narrowly considered has nuance not proper to the other two.

    The correct use of word-study is exactly what is needed in such cases, because a definition that is 1) broad enough to encompass every use of the term, or to use Barr's trenchant critique, one that is 2) an instance of "illegitimate totality transfer": that is the imputation of every possible nuance of the word's meaning to any particular case of its use--either one flattens the value of the term. Meaning is taken away, or definitions are vacuumed up indiscriminately; and no good use can be made of the jumble.

    Therefore, when one comes to v47, it is simply false to say that the meaning of the term "congregation" is self-evident from the sentence. Does it mean exactly what it meant in ANY of the previous 3 uses, which nuances are all distinct? Or is it even a FOURTH nuance, and distinct from the previous 3?

    Paedo-communionist defenders flee from such a challenge; their arguments and defenses are simplistic. (In rationalist fashion they frequently resort to an alleged "cumulative case" stance; making it necessary to painstakingly crush each PC postulate, in order to prove the house of cards that it is.)

    Word-studies properly done force the exegete to grapple with the full semantic range of a term, and argue for one (or possibly double-entendre) intentional use in the text under immediate consideration; as well as how a term found in a given passage may be intentionally taken up and reused by a later author (or how a later author took the previous term), in order to stretch its benefit or its application.

    Either way can shed light on the original or later/earlier text. It just cannot add or take away the fundamental communication-purpose for the use of the word in a given context.

    Final note: Barr's insight shouldn't be allowed to overrule the Holy Spirit's purpose for his words in a given text. In ordinary human prose or poetry, considered as art, even an author may return to his own text-creation and acknowledge additional layers which he may attribute to his own subconscious (or his "muse"). How much more, then, may we with due respect (and not by a surrender to postmodern anti-rubrics) regard the language of the Inspiring Author.

    Words matter.
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree. And I think Barr downplayed true elements of biblical thinking in his fear of "illegitimate totality transfer."
  15. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    yes, bad uses of word studies are well known, as in DA Carson book on Exegetical Fallacies well documented, but the basic concept at looking at the individual word in its proper use and context is still sound.
  16. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Perhaps you could suggest to your friend this following book:
    Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow by Rev. Grover Gunn and Curtis Crenshaw.
    Its a great refutation to dispensationalism.
  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    More to the original post, someone recommended Poythress's book on Dispensationalism. It is great. He examines the assumptions both sides bring to the text, and he is able to treat Dispensationalists without thinking they are all Hal Lindsey types.
  18. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    This was one of the books that I read while in strictly Dispensational theology, and did appreciate that the author was showing kindness to me at that time, as I was wrong and sincere. Before him, I had read other books, but those authors seem to not want to not only show the errors in Dispensational thinking, but made sure was shown as being pretty much non-Christian, period.
  19. RefPres1647

    RefPres1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    Understanding Dispensationalists by Polythress is a great one too.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2018
  20. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    It would be nice to have available for the Body of Christ a couple of solid books for Dispensationalists to understanding Covenant theology, and for the Reformed/Calvinist to get a handle of why Dispensationalists hold with what they do. The books would not be designed to really change minds, but to give an accurate representation.
  21. RefPres1647

    RefPres1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree, I just know that one gives a good representation as to why they think the way they do so we can understand their mindset. There's this one book that explains covenant theology really well and gives a decent explanation as to why dispensationalism doesn't work: it's called the Bible.
  22. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    The problem is that those who hold to a differing theology would also claim the Bible.
  23. RefPres1647

    RefPres1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree, that was just me trying to be funny. Trust me, I grew up in a Dispensational Arminian church growing up and I understand the way they think and their biggest arguments are whether the rapture is pretrib or posttrib. Most of them would probably find the truth if they researched for themselves like I did, but unfortunately, most are content to getting all their Bible time from the pastor and don't read it themselves.

    Jordan Stone
    Member of Immanuel Bible Church
    (Confessional (SLBC) Reformed Baptist)
    Northern Virginia, United States
    Soli Deo Gloria :spurgeon:
  24. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    I grew up on a Scofield/Ryrie SB, so know pretty much what that viewpoint is all about from the scriptures.
    Since changing, I have found it harder to get a handle on not so much Covenant theology, but how and why Reformed baptists , as I now see myself being, and Presbyterians disagree on some crucial areas of biblical understanding.
    I wonder if it really should be labeled Reformed for both groups, as there seems to be enough differences to have it maybe under a subset category?
  25. RefPres1647

    RefPres1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree that we (RB) & Presbyterians agree on much more than we disagree on, but of course, the way we view the covenants and baptism is enough to separate us. I also think that Reformed is a name for both groups because they are both arguing against Rome's view of justification.

    If anything (and I'm sure I'll get attacked for saying this), the Reformed Baptists deserve the big "R" since the Roman Catholic view of baptism was for infants. I understand Presbyterians look at it as an entrance into a covenant community and not regeneration; having said that, Presbyterians didn't really reform from the RCC practice of infant baptism. However, Reformed Baptists did turn away from it (and we reformed to what we believe is biblical teaching on baptism).

    If we're basing our reformation on what we believe is back to biblical teaching, then sure, we're both reformed, but it gets under my skin when some say that Reformed Baptists can't be "Reformed" because we don't adhere to infant baptism since that was what Rome was doing along with the practices we both recognize as unbiblical.
  26. RefPres1647

    RefPres1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not trying to attack my Presbyterian brothers, two of my best friends are Presbyterian, I just feel like we get the short end as RB sometimes :) :2cents:
  27. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    My understanding on Reformed would be that the reformer such as Luther and Calvin were vested so much into getting across the correct biblical teaching regarding Justification /salvation, that they just kept and assumed over some of the RCC teachings, such as infant baptism, but did not view that exactly same fashion Rome still does.
    The common complaint I have read on Calvin and others were that they did not reform far enough away from Rome, as someone like Luther really did not want to invent a new church, but to see Rome reform itself from within.
  28. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    I have wondered if the Reformed baptistsviews on water baptism especially, causes some reformed to see us teaching a distinctly different take on what is perceived as being real Covenant theology proper.
  29. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    If it is a common complaint, I think it comes from people who have not studied Calvin's work very carefully. Anybody who reads more than a couple of different works by Calvin would see that he did not shy away from controversial stands if he thought Scripture demanded it.

    For what it is worth, I'm a wool-dyed sometimes militant "Reformed Baptist," but after studying covenant theology from the Presbyterian perspective, I would never accuse them failing to reform "far enough."
  30. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    I think that would be more as to how some who are Presbyterian might view Reformed baptist actually, as thankful that we throw off the Dispensational and Arminian thinking, but wishing us to complete the voyage over by becoming full blown Covenant theology holders, as they would define that term.
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