Amillennial and Reformed

The church that I was converted into was your common, evangelical Baptist church. Although it was conservative and generally had a high view of God, it was not Reformed. Through various circumstances, that I won’t get into here, I came to the doctrines of grace. As a result, I switched churches to one that was Calvinistic. This latter church strongly preached the five points of Calvinism and the five Sola’s of the Reformation – so much so that I started to begin to think that maybe that was the only theology they knew, but that’s another story (can one be too Calvinistic? Maybe not Calvinistic enough!). Not only did they hammer the five points, they were also very strong on dispensational premillennialism.
For quite some time I considered myself to be a dispensationalist. Essentially, this was a default position because I had really not studied the issues thoroughly. It was therefore no problem for me when the church I attended and worked for taught this version of eschatology.
At this time, one radio program that I listened to fairly regularly was The Bible Answer Man, hosted by Hank Hannegraaf (sp?). One day, as I was driving in my car, I heard ole Hank interview a guy named Gary DeMar on the issue of the Left Behind novels. I was quite taken aback by what transpired. Without going into all of the details, they essentially put a question mark on much of what I believed about the end times. I was quite surprised and was thankful that the show played again the same night and I had the opportunity to listen to it another time.
About a week or so after hearing this, and discussing it with some friends, I happened upon DeMar’s book End Times Fiction, as well as Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future and Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism. The local Christian bookstore normally didn’t have much in the way of theology, so I was extremely excited to find these books. I bought all of them and began to read.
I started with Hoekema first because he taught at Calvin Seminary, so I figured it would be pretty Reformed. Admittedly, I didn’t understand much of what he was talking about. I was still in the earlier stages of my theological education, and all of the terminology was hard to keep track of. So I read DeMar to much profit. Yet, as I read DeMar, I had the nagging question in the back of my mind: “Okay, if Left Behind is nonsense, what do I believe now?” I found that DeMar didn’t answer my questions. He tore down my dispensationalism, but didn’t build up a better theology. That is when I turned to Riddlebarger.
I must say, Kim Riddlebarger’s book is one of the best Christian books that I have ever read. Not only did he confirm my problems with dispensationalism, he provided a clear alternative: amillennialism. He wrote fairly with an irenic spirit, making sure to treat all views fairly. He gave excellent exposition to key passages, and set the eschatological positions in their historical places. I came away from this book quite convinced.
While I was going through this shift, some friends of mine and I started a study on eschatology. We bought three copies from the Counterpoints series. One on the millennium, one on the rapture and one on Revelation. We met weekly, on Monday’s to look into the subject. By this point, I was pretty much amillennial – and this study sought to cement it in my mind. The others slowly came along. What this meant was that in a dispensationalist church, two members of the staff were now amillennial. Without going into details, we all ended up leaving the church (no, not because of eschatology).
So, here I am today. A convinced amillennialist, a convinced Calvinist, a convinced Baptist and (and!!!) a convinced Covenant Theologian. Ooh. Forgot to mention that.
This post is not to say that I don’t like dispensationalists. Quite on the contrary, I think dispensationalists are grande, even though I disagree with them. In light of John MacArthur’s recent statements, I still love the man, and love to listen to his preaching. But I think he is wrong when he claims that to be truly Reformed we should all be dispensationalists.
I would recommend to you readers out there an awesome post by Riddlebarger listing resources on Reformed amillennialism. Very, very helpful indeed. Sadly, Riddlebarger posted an article by the absolutely amazing historical theologian Richard A. Muller on why you have to be amillennial to be Reformed. Although I am amillennial, I think the claim is just as bad as MacArthur’s. He’s at his worst when he claims that to be truly Reformed, you must be a paedo-baptist. Hopefully, I will post more specific thoughts on this later. But don’t discount Riddlebarger for posting the Muller piece – in fact, don’t discount Muller either, both men are excellent theologians. Just read and listen to everything with an open, but critical mind.
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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Amillennial and Reformed

  1. Rogers Meredith

    You are heading in a good direction!

  2. stauf46

    You’re a better man that I am, Ian. I was spittin’ bullets when I heard Dr. MacArthur’s talk.

    I’ve calmed down some, and I really think that a lot of folks are going to take a long hard look at Amillennialism and Postmillenialism because of this message. For that I am thankful.

    My amil convicitons are at least 20 years old. That’ll be the excuse I’ll use for being upset at the message (the flesh is still at work …).

    I still appreciate John MacArthur’s teaching, but there is no excuse for misrepresenting the position of other believers in this manner.

    There’s a great Calvin quote up at Fide-O right now, by the way.

  3. Allen R. Mickle, Jr.

    It’s a good thing you can tolerate us dispy’s because on the flip side we have to tolerate you CT’s!

    God bless you brother… I think good ol’ John needs to have a little more charity on this issue as well. But it’s also important for those reformed amil’s to have charity regarding us dispy’s.

    Allen

  4. Dan S.

    I would add to the last two lines of your post, “don’t discount MacArthur either.”

    I must admit I was disappointed in his sarcastic and vitriolic tone as I listened. But I also do not understand Riddlebarger’s response citing Muller. Especially unfortunate and unhelpful was the title of Riddlebarger’s post. Appreciated your comments on Brooker’s blog.

  5. Ian

    Rogers: Well, if you say I’m going in the right direction, I gotta start re-thinking things! ;)

    Terry: I admit, I haven’t heard the lecture itself. I hope that it isn’t laced with overtones of malice. If so, I can see being mad. From what I’ve read, it does appear that he misunderstands the amill position (and history).

    Allen: Actually, it was your church history prof. at DBTS, Gerald Priest, who really helped me soften to dispensationalists. Sadly, and likely due to some bad experiences, I was quite anti-dispy. Dr. Priest really set things straight for me without even trying. He is such a godly man. And now we’ve got a dispy on board, I guess I should really put away my shotgun!! ;)

    Dan: I didn’t realise there was a sarcastic tone, that is too bad. I found that Riddlebarger/Muller is making the same mistake MacArthur did. Ridiculous on both sides.

  6. Rogers Meredith

    Perhaps I should have said “right direction”.
    BTW I recall a post a while back concerning a site, co. (or other) that sold photos or pictures of theologians. Do you recall the post and do you have the contact info, still?

  7. Clint

    Fellas,

    I’m wondering if Dr. Macarthur’s statements result from his need to balance emphases in his ministry.

    For example, Macarthur is frequently on the pan-Reformed conference circuit and is being identified more and more with this ‘movement’.

    On the other hand, Macarthur is president of The Masters’ Seminary which has in some ways presented two views of itself: the Macarthur-pan-reformed angle and the Old-Dallas-Sem-Reborn angle of Richard Mayhue (Dean) and Robert Thomas (NT prof).

    The percieved tension and difference of emphasis between Macarthur and Mayhue/Thomas has been witnessed for years. Yet there still appears to be unity among the TMS faculty.

    I see Macarthur attempting to strengthen his solidarity with the other ‘angle’ at TMS, lest his increasing pan-Reformed presence cause a rift in his own backyard.

    As for my view of the statements, I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Dr Macarthur’s own context would point toward some definitive pro-Dispensational statements being made.

    I think the days of battles over eschatology ought to be left behind (pun intended). We are in a battle for the gospel itself and we need all hands on deck!

  8. Rogers Meredith

    Is it not so that ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, symbology, pneumatology, harmarteology, epistemology, theology, homiletics, biblical and systematic theology, sacramentology, liturgics, historical theologies and Christology all speak to the same thing: the salvation of mankind and so the gospel?
    Could it could also be that Dispensationalism is on the ropes and headed down for the count?

  9. Clint

    Rog,

    Certainly the gospel can’t be abstracted from its inter-relatedness with the all of revelation.

    However, I do think that we must be careful about choosing Millenial hills to die on when the heat of battle is taking place over the nature of God and the work of Christ.

    The Millenial front is still part of the same war, but our duty lies more urgently elsewhere, in my opinion.

    Regarding your other point, Dispensationalism may be on the outs in the Reformed Resurgence, but it is still pretty firmly entrenched in popular Evangelicalism. I would assume this to be true as much in Meeker, Co. as in High River, Ab.

    BTW, I need to connect with you soon and share some updates, scuttlebutt and the like.

    Blessings,

  10. Rogers Meredith

    Bueno!
    Of course I agree that eschatology is not the hill to die on, we are to preach the hill He died on!
    Still I do think that, with the larger no. of predestinarian baptist , and the ensuing changes in ecclesiology and eschatology that seem to follow (to whit the SBC) John may indeed be feeling the heat.

  11. Dan S.

    Clint said,
    We are in a battle for the gospel itself and we need all hands on deck!

    Absolutely correct. Count me in!

    As for the motivation behind MacArthur’s opening message, what Clint said certainly makes sense, but it is speculation at best. All we can know for sure is what he in fact said, namely that he is concerned that the regular rules of interpretation are set aside when it comes to prophecy.

    Not saying he is right (although I lean toward premil [am I still invited to comment here, Ian?]) – but that’s what he said.

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