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Thoughts Concerning “Mark Dever’s BIG Statement”


I’ve been following the discussion at “Expository Thoughts” blog, concerning “Mark Dever’s BIG Statement” and a response to it. The overall issues here are two: a local church’s doctrinal statement, and the subjective idea of doctrinal “triage” in which various biblical doctrines are ranked as being of first, second, or third-tier importance.

In the matter where my experience is more limited (I’ve only been a regular member at two churches in my life), I learned of the differences between local churches — some have very detailed doctrinal statements. Some churches that have detailed statements require membership adherence to that doctrinal statement; others do not exclude for membership based on these matters, but simply give the statement as “this is what we teach and believe.” My local church has neither a detailed doctrinal statement, nor membership qualification based on that; nor do they ever fully disclose and teach “New Members classes” though the church has had a great influx of new members and regular attenders in the last six years. The pastor happens to be amillennial and partial preterist in his view, and this is the only view presented. He frequently makes passing remarks showing his confused and highly-allegorized ideas of scripture, so he is clearly not neutral, in contrast to the many pastors that are amillennial but relegate the matter to a lesser level of importance.

The other issue, of doctrinal hierarchy, is one I’ve given some thought to, and I firmly believe that much of this concept is based on man’s ideas rather than God’s. Many of the preachers and bloggers (and many of the blog posters are also pastors) apparently rank eschatology as of little importance (3rd tier), others at 2nd tier, though all concurring that we shouldn’t divide and restrict fellowship based on either 2nd or 3rd tier doctrines. When these individuals rank eschatology on the same level of importance as drinking alcohol, or KJV-only versus non-KJV only, though, I believe that they do a great disservice to scripture and miss a huge difference between these items. Drinking alcohol, for instance, is explicitly designated in scripture, through Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians, as one of the lesser matters (along with eating meat sacrificed to idols, and general attitudes toward physical eating and drinking) up to each person’s own conscience. The KJV-only controversy is, of its very nature, not a biblical issue but a more recent development in which people have elevated the matter of translations to the level of doctrine itself.

Eschatology fits neither of the above cases, and in fact the Bible throughout addresses the subject very frequently and is quite clear on its meaning — clear, that is, unless one chooses to eisegete, instead of exegete, scripture. The matter really should not be that difficult. As one poster at Expository Thoughts noted, “the same hermeneutic that leads to an affirmation of believer’s baptism also leads to a premillennial view.” When Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, speaking of the coming man of sin, says that this person will set “himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God,” it is not difficult to understand that Paul is speaking of an actual temple building — especially when we also consider the many other texts that speak to the matter. To quote S. Lewis Johnson regarding the 2 Thessalonians text, “This cannot be a temple made of men who believe in the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus, while right in the midst of that temple, would be sitting in the abomination of desolation. How ridiculous can you be in the interpretation of Scripture? So Paul understands that in the last days, that temple in Jerusalem is going to be rebuilt.”

As S. Lewis Johnson pointed out, in the New Testament our Lord’s second coming is referred to 318 times, so that is is mentioned proportionately in every chapter of the New Testament; some epistles have not just one but many references to the second coming. By contrast, the doctrine of baptism is mentioned 19 times in 7 epistles, and the Lord’s Supper is mentioned only six times. Yet we have whole denominations based on the teaching of baptism, also on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Yet these same people want to relegate eschatology to something unimportant, on the level of eating/drinking or different English translations?!

A common reasoning on this point is that the Reformers were such great, learned Christian men, great leaders, and thus since they obviously believed amillennialism and yet professed Christ, we must include fellowship with similarly-minded believers today and thus eschatology is not essential. True, the Reformers believed this, but it was among several teachings that they brought in, unchanged, from their Roman Catholic background. They were in error, and by their own admission did not study or give eschatology serious consideration. John Calvin evidently thought that the supposed millennial kingdom was the same as the eternal New Heavens and New Earth, and concluded that eternal life could not be restricted to 1000 years — merely showing his own lack of understanding on the matter. Today’s Protestant believers do not have the same excuse as the Reformers, a background (from most of their lives) where they had only been exposed to the concepts of Catholicism and Church-State government. To say that we should seriously consider the validity of amillennialism because the Reformers believed it is the same as saying we should believe any other teaching of Catholicism. Here I heartily concur with Dan Phillips’ remark concerning “Big-name guys were asked what one thing they’d change about John Calvin” — “my no-name answer would be that he be more conscious of what he brought over uncritically from Roman Catholicism, and take pains to reform it as well.”

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