By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
Editor’s Note: I have known of Dr. Thomas Ice since the early days of the Pre-Trib Research Center and had the privilege of interviewing him for the first time for a seminary class in 1997. I have met him numerous times since then, and have listened to many hours of his teaching through these years. I have looked to Dr. Ice as a model of one who applies sound exegesis and a profound understanding of theology to the areas of Bible prophecy and dispensationalism. What a joy, then, to introduce him to you by means of this interview series on DispensationalPublishing.com! I also look forward to providing our readers with blogs from the 25th Anniversary Pre-Trib Study Group, which will be held next week in Irving, Texas. In this interview, I asked him about that meeting, as well as the state of dispensationalism.
“One of the things we have going at this upcoming conference is arguing for a literal hermeneutic—a grammatical, historical understanding of the passage,” stated Dr. Thomas Ice. “The Bible itself, when it interprets a passage, interprets it grammatically and historically. We are slipping back into medieval hermeneutics, where every passage has to refer to Jesus, based on a misunderstanding of Luke 24:27.”
“Literal interpretation is not considered to be deep enough,” Ice said. “People are looking for ‘deeper understandings.’ They start theologizing the text, rather than exegeting it. There is an overall move toward non-literal interpretation. Whenever the church has shifted toward mysticism, it always leads to a non-literal hermeneutic, allegorizing—and that is kind of where we are going.”
Ice said that he sees these trends reflected particularly in the realms of higher theological education and Christian publishing.
“The publishers that used to publish our stuff will not do it anymore, and I think that reflects the trends in academia,” he stated. “More people are using self-publishing and all that kind of stuff, and newer publishing companies like Dispensational Publishing House have an easier time now, so they are not going to be able to shut us out.”
“There still are many people who are dispensational. But when you think of the period after World War II, compared to today, in academia, it is amazing to see the decline. But I do not think it has changed for the person in the pew. It is going to make sense to them. Dispensational theology has always thrived when there is verse-by-verse teaching because you are dealing with the totality of Scripture, and you have to harmonize it. Dispensationalism is able to harmonize the text. The fruit of literal interpretation is easy to harmonize with the totality of Scripture when you take it literally.”
Ice believes that the effects of progressive dispensationalism are clearly displayed in Christian academia today.
“In the late 1970s when I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, we knew the difference between liberal scholarship and conservative scholarship,” Ice said. “Students today do not know the difference, and it is merged together, and it waters down our theology. They have not been taught conservative, traditional theological scholarship. The reason progressive dispensationalists left traditional dispensationalism is because they wanted to be acceptable to the scholarly world, which means the liberal world. There are other factors as well, like the postmodern mentality. Only God knows all, but you can certainly see the trends. They are almost shutting us out. They are certainly not defending and teaching a literal hermeneutic anymore.”
Regarding progressive dispensational theology, Ice offered the following analysis:
“My opinion of progressive dispensationalism is that it is not really dispensationalism, because they have changed their hermeneutic, they have changed their exegesis, they have changed their theology,” stated Ice. “As a result, you are seeing a decline in theological issues that dispensationalism historically is known for, such as pretribulationalism. Pretribulationalism, as John Walvoord used to say, is a result of your ecclesiology and eschatology.”
Ice said that he sees the lack of distinction between Israel and the church leading to a blurring of dispensational lines and creating confusing theological concepts—such as a form of the church continuing on into the tribulation after a pre-tribulational rapture.
For the past quarter century, Ice has worked closely with Dr. Tim LaHaye, the originator of the Pre-Trib Study Group and the Pre-Trib Research Center. LaHaye will be remembered next week at the 25th Anniversary Pre-Trib Study Group meetings, having gone to be with the Lord on July 25 at the age of 90.
“I was a co-founder of this organization with Tim LaHaye, and we plan on continuing it as it is,” Ice said. “It pretty much revolves our annual conference and our monthly newsletter. I speak in churches and conferences when invited.”
“Tim LaHaye was recognized by Wheaton College as the most influential evangelical in the second half of the 20th century. When I wrote my article on him after he died, I quoted the Scripture, ‘But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves’ (James 1:22).
“That guy was a doer like nobody else. He started the Pre-Trib Study Group to pass this on to the next generation, because he saw in the early ‘90s the slippage of the teaching of these things and the decline of the pre-tribulational rapture. The Left Behind series had a tremendous influence promoting the pre-tribulational rapture. He was always thinking, ‘What can I do to impact the world for Christ?’”
“He will be sorely missed,” Ice stated. “He was going to live to be 100, his doctor told him. I appreciate what he has done.”
Ice said that one reason that dispensationalism may be falling on hard times is that many churches have become less committed to preaching “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).
“Most churches, by and large, are into felt-needs preaching. The Bible church movement began mainly in the Presbyterian and Congregational denominations during the fundamentalist-modernist controversies. DTS began with the Bible conference movement.”
“This was kind of an inter-denominational movement of the best Bible teachers—primarily Presbyterian. DTS institutionalized the Bible conference movement.”
“The whole idea of verse-by-verse teaching came from the Bible reading movement in England and Ireland. It led to the Bible church movement. Now the Bible church movement has gone church growth. They have abandoned Bible teaching, and they are interested in becoming big.”
So where we do go from here in an attempt to advance the traditional dispensational movement?
“We have put out all kinds of books,” Ice said. “We re-state everything. Because of the winds and the trends and everything like this, no one is hearing it. The Bible tells us to continue, to persevere ‘in doing good’ (Gal. 6:9), to continue to try to influence people. But to have a major shift, I do not know that there is anything that we can do that we are not doing. God is the One who causes the winds to blow. He caused our view to be popular among evangelicals and now it is not. But it is still a vibrant force.”
“We just have to keep doing what we are doing, and God is the One that yields the fruit. I see some reaction by the millennials against the Church Growth Movement.”
“Apostasy has come throughout the world, throughout Christendom. We are seeing the global rejection of the gospel.”
Ice calls Revelation 3:10 “a rapture passage” first and foremost:
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
“But I also think there is another major point there—the earth-dwellers are tested. And not one earth-dweller becomes a believer. An unbeliever is an unbeliever is an unbeliever. The reason they do not believe is because their names are ‘not . . . written in the book of life’ (Rev. 20:15). But they are tested in history and God is glorified and vindicated.”
“Jesus Christ is the hero of history,” Ice stated. “Each age ends in failure. That is why all the glory ends up going to the God-man—in history. And God is glorified through that.”
- 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)
Copyright © 2016 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Great article. The only thing that confuses me is the two comments about the Bible church movement began in the Presbyterian church and also the movement of the best Bible teachers, mainly Presbyterian. Please explain as I know the Presbyterians today are very liberal and are more into a social gospel than the true gospel.
The problem may have started with the implosion of the Bush era and the moral majority exercises that had American Christianity and the political order in lock step. We cannot blame this on the idea that Churches became more interconnected so the interpretation mehods became unreliable.