By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
Editor’s Note: I remember hearing the name Paul Benware more than 30 years ago when he taught at Moody Bible Institute. Our paths have never crossed directly, but there is one specific incident that sticks in my mind regarding Dr. Benware. I remember one day in a seminary class when Dr. John Whitcomb called Dr. Benware—his former student—“one of my favorite Old Testament professors.” I made a mental note of that statement, determined that one day I would take the time to learn all I could from and about Dr. Benware. That day has arrived! I introduce you to this brand new author for Dispensational Publishing House—which will publish his forthcoming commentary on the book of Daniel, Lord willing, later this year—and commend his ministry to you with the highest regard.
Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day. (Ps. 25:4-5)
“I was raised in a Christian family, but my dad was an ultradispensationalist, influenced by J.C. O’Hair—attending his church in Chicago. So I had this interesting perspective.”
Thus began the ecclesiastical journey of Dr. Paul Benware—whose first name was an easy choice for his father.
Yet, in spite of that background, Benware said that he really did not understand much about dispensationalism at all until he went off to Los Angeles Baptist College, where he sat under the ministry of Dr. John Dunkin—the school’s president, who would also become his father-in-law.
When Benware one day asked Dunkin where he should attend seminary, Dunkin responded: “There is only one place for you to go—that is Dallas Theological Seminary!”
And thus, Benware continued on a trail that would lead him through many of the great, historic dispensational schools as either a student or a teacher.
When asked who had the greatest impact upon him by their teaching, Benware responded, “Probably Dr. Ryrie would have been the greatest single influence. He had such a skill in teaching the Word. As did many others—Walvoord and Hendricks and Pentecost. I think I was there in the heyday of Dallas Seminary. It was small enough that we could go to a teacher’s home and have a class, and these men were in their prime.”
“Look at many of the pulpits and schools were DTS men were, and the impact they had,” Benware exclaimed.
Benware finished at Dallas and went on to earn his doctorate of theology at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Ind., where he studied the Old Testament under Dr. John Whitcomb.
“I deeply appreciate his investment in my life,” Benware stated.
“I just so appreciated his skill in preaching the Word,” he said. “Both Ryrie and Whitcomb had the skill to take the Word and bring it to a place where people could understand it. Those men, by example as well as by clear declaration, were profound in the way that they shaped my personal thinking, and I am forever grateful for them. Obviously, there were others, and they all had their place, but Ryrie and Walvoord at Dallas, and Whitcomb at Grace, were probably the main ones.”
Benware regards his seminary training as being so valuable because of “their instruction of men in the Word—making that their emphasis.”
“The exposition of the Word of God—that is what changes people’s lives,” he stated. “And I think that is why Dallas had such a huge impact for a period of time, because it was producing those kinds of men.”So how has dispensational theology—or even its presentation—changed in the decades that Benware has been involved in higher theological education?
“The elephant in the room is progressive dispensationalism,” he said. “There is a ripple effect with that—the whole area of hermeneutics.”
Benware said that, in the eyes of some, there was always a perceived stigma with dispensationalism.
“You certainly were not in the intellectual elite if you were a dispensationalist,” he said, explaining the pressure that some felt to ease away from the label. “I think that has had a tremendous effect.”
“There are men in the academic world who want to have the accolades of the academic community. And you probably do not get that—in their minds—if you are a dispensationalist,” he said.
Benware believes that there has been positive development within the movement, as well.
“Certain passages of Scripture are now addressed in greater ways—whether that be in Acts 2 or on the new covenant, or even clarity on the issue of Israel and the church. This is what I see—greater clarity on individual passages. There has been that kind of good evolution within dispensational thinking,” he said. “The amount of good study and information that men have produced in looking at passages, which before were either lightly gone over or, perhaps, ignored has brought greater clarity on some issues, and in the process eliminated some views that were not really helpful. It is really the idea of greater clarity in certain doctrinal positions and certain passages of Scripture.”
“I think that you do have it clearer that dispensationalists are thinking,” he stated. “Unfortunately, there are folks—they may not claim to be dispensationalists, but they hold to pretribulational, premillennial views—and some of the things they say are just bizarre. And we get splashed with the mud out of that mud puddle because we hold similar views. But it is good that dispensationalists are thinking—showing that they are attempting to be guided by the Holy Spirit in understanding His Word.”
“I was not smart enough to figure out my own path,” Benware said, looking back. “The Lord brought key people to me—particularly my father-in-law, who became my mentor. Those experiences were life-changing.”
He added: “Of course, the colleagues that I worked with—interaction with them was so very good, so very helpful, and helped shape and refine my thinking. I have been blessed by the Lord to have those kinds of exposures to key men over the years.”
Benware said that what the church really needs today is “people who would declare the integrity of Scripture.”
“We had better do our best to present God’s Word correctly,” he said. “At the judgment seat of Christ, one of the main criteria will be our faithfulness in handling the Word of God. There is a carelessness that comes with a lack of precision in thinking and a lack of precise exegesis as well.”
Later this year, Dispensational Publishing House will be producing an updated version of Benware’s commentary on the book of Daniel—and he is excited at the prospect.
“Books minister to people that you will never, ever meet in this life,” he stated. “It is amazing—in the hands of the Lord—what a book can do. Every now and then the Lord allows you to hear what He has done through a book. You hear reports of, ‘Wow! Thank you for putting that book in print. This was a game-changer!’”
Benware stated, “I was really pleased to see that Dispensational Publishing House started in 2015. I think that is terrific. It is amazing what small things can do. It took one little Sunday school teacher to influence D.L. Moody.”
Previously in this series:
- A Dispensational Discourse: An Introduction (June 4, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Rich McCarrell (June 11, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Charles Dyer (July 2, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Ron Bigalke (August 6, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Christopher Cone (September 3, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Woodrow Kroll (October 3, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. J. B. Hixson (November 5, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Thomas Ice (December 3, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Michael Vlach (January 21, 2017)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. William Barrick (March 11, 2017)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Mark Musser (April 8, 2017)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Robert Lightner (May 6, 2017)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Paul Martin Henebury (June 3, 2017)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. William Watson (Aug. 12, 2017)
Copyright © 2017 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
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