By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
(Read Part 2)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
The 25th Anniversary Pre-Trib Study Group provided a very strong emphasis on the subject of literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture and related subjects.
The first speaker to tackle this topic was Dr. David Mappes of Baptist Bible Seminary. I will provide just a few of the highlights from his presentation from Monday, Dec. 5.
“A Biblical and Theological Discussion of Traditional Dispensational Premillennialism”—Dr. David Mappes
Mappes gave this scholarly, technical lecture with obvious passion and concern for the direction evidenced by much of the conservative evangelical movement today. He also brought personal illustrations to bear upon his topic.
“In the academy, the scholar can make the Bible say whatever the scholar wants to say,” said Mappes, decrying the fruit of much contemporary scholarship. “The Bible has become the scholar’s playground. The very meaning of meaning is up for grabs today.”
“It does not matter what you think it means,” said Mappes regarding the Biblcial text. “It matters what the author asserts in means. In postmodern hermeneutics, you cannot know what the author means.”
“We need to look at the whole of the context to determine the meaning of the parts,” Mappes stated. “Our primary context is always the whole book that we are reading. When we deal with meaning, we always start with the author.”
“There is great attraction today in Reformed theology. As a dispensationalist, I have more problems that I have to try to answer than a covenant theologian. We have all kinds of complex issues to address. If you are a Reformed scholar, you do not have to deal with really 39 books in the Old Testament when it comes to eschatology.”
“This is where seminaries are going,” Mappes stated. “They study about the text. They do not really study the text. The greatest thing that we can do as pastor-scholars is to develop a culture of exposition in our churches.”
Mappes said that he is “grieved” by the decline of Bible exposition that we are witnessing.
“Students . . . are not coming from churches where there is a high priority on exposition,” he added. “I want to encourage you pastors . . . toward high-quality exposition.”
“Do not be intimidated by the academy,” said Mappes.
Of course, there was too much information offered at the conference to allow for a comprehensive breakdown of each session. I will just present a short survey of the four lectures from Tuesday, Dec. 6, which all basically related to the issue of hermeneutics.
On Tuesday morning, it was a Pre-Trib Study Group first when Dr. Abner Chou of The Master’s University and Seminary presented two consecutive sessions.
These incredibly detailed lectures followed technical papers that Chou had prepared for the conference-goers. His topics were, “The Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic: Its Defense and the Demand for Premillennialism” and “A Hermeneutical Evaluation of the Christocentric Hermeneutic.”
“For centuries we have assumed our hermeneutic; now is the time to prove it,” said Chou.
He explained that, “History is the basis for theology.”
Clearly, Chou has thought through the issues of literal interpretation at a level that few others have, and is poised to become an authority on the subject for years to come.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Michael Rydelnik, professor of Jewish studies at the Moody Bible Institute, brought a presentation called, “The Messianic Hope: Are There Messianic Passages in the Old Testament?”
The answer to this question would seem to be obvious, but Rydelnik showed how evangelical scholars are increasingly responding to this question with the answer, “No.”
His lecture also included a fascinating discussion of Old Testament textual criticism and the fact that some variant readings likely represent the original text and actually present a clearer understanding of the Messiah.
“We read the New Testament through the Old, not vice versa,” said Rydelnik.
To conclude the day on Tuesday, Dr. David Farnell of The Master’s Seminary spoke about “Evangelical Challenges to Orthodox Inerrancy: The Danger FROM WITHIN.”
Farnell presented a fast-paced talk exposing some of the more subtle and insidious attacks against the doctrine of inerrancy “from within” conservative evangelical institutions—where we would not expect to find them.
Such attacks are evidenced by the use of terms such as “functional inerrancy,” as well as the allowance for “errors” within an “inerrant” text.
Farnell is clearly passionate about this topic—and outspokenly declares that he is willing to speak about it regardless of the cost or implications.
“Scholarship must bow to the Word of God,” he said.
You can read much more about Farnell’s work in this area on a website dedicated to the subject: DefendingInerrancy.com.
“This is why . . . the young generation is not interested in Bible prophecy,” said Dr. Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, commenting on the attitudes of students who are learning concepts such as “functional inerrancy.”
In my final installment in this series, I will describe a few more of the sessions and share some concluding thoughts about the 25th Anniversary Pre-Trib Study Group.
(To be continued)
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
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