Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics 2017 – Day 1

I had hoped to publish about my attendence at a council in September 2017, so while it is now been almost 6 months since the event perhaps it’s better late than never. The papers for this council may be even available now at Our Hope (though the site is down currently), so feel free to look up the details of these papers if any of the topics are of interest. In September 2017, I spent two days at Baptist Bible Seminary at Clarks Summit University (South Abington Twp., PA) for the 10th annual meeting of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics. This council met in Murphy Memorial Library on the campus of Baptist Bible Seminary. Present were around 15-20 council members and around 10 or so observers. The council began meeting 10 years ago to provide a study group forum for traditional dispensationalists (as opposed to Charismatic, progressive, ultra, or mid-Acts dispensationalists) to discuss theological and interpretive issues within the traditional dispensational world. The theme for this year was the “Glory of God in Dispensationalism”, focused on the third point of Ryrie’s famous sine qua non.

The meeting began with a brief welcome from the president of Clarks Summit University, Dr. Jim Lytle. He noted how many students even in his own school would come to his institution knowing little to nothing about dispensationalism, even though they may come from dispensational circles. He expressed pleasure at the goals of the meeting and welcomed the council for this event. His welcome was followed by a greeting from the current dean of Baptist Bible Seminary, Dr. Lee Kliewer. He expressed that “great theology leads to doxology,” and to that end he led the group in a brief singing of the Doxology. Given that the Library is a part of an old Roman Catholic facility with great acoustics and aesthetic qualities, this was a good way to begin.

After a brief introduction from Dr. Mike Stallard, the founder of the council, the morning kicked off with three papers presented. The first was presented by Dr. Bruce Baker (Pastor of Washington County Bible Church, TX) on “A Biblical and Theological Examination of the Glory of God.” This paper sought to better define what is meant by the term “glory of God” especially with reference to Ryrie’s point and with reference to broader theological issues with the doctrine of God.

The second paper was present by Dr. Doug Brown (Dean of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, Ankeny, IA), titled the “Glory of God and Dispensationalism.” His presentation focused on 7 premises intended to show and defend that the glory of God in dispensationalism is unique, especially with reference to how the fulfillment of promises to Israel in the coming kingdom brings God glory.

The third paper of the morning was presented by Dr. Christopher Cone (President of Calvary University, Kansas City, MO). Dr. Cone aimed to give a historical and theological discussion of Reformed and Dispensational theologians in their treatment of the theme of the glory of God and how it relates to redemption. It was a very interesting paper!

The morning concluded with a panel discussion of each of the three preceding presenters, discussing various issues and questions amongst themselves about their papers and answering questions from other council members. Topics included the distinction between the means and the end, the difference between theory and practice, the relationship of Calvinism to dispensational theology, and considerations about why students seem to be leaving dispensational theology.

After lunch, the afternoon featured two more presentations with more exegetically focused papers. The first presenter was Dr. Mark McGinninss (Professor of Old Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary) who presented a paper on “Israel’s Relationship to the Glory of God in the Psalms.” His presentation systematically summarized references to the word “glory” with reference to God. His goal was to summarize the OT as a whole by using the psalter as a summary in this regard. Some question and answer followed.

The final session of the day was by Dr. Dave Frederickson (Professor at Western Seminary’s Sacramento Campus, CA). His presentation was on “The Power of Micro-Progressive Revelation: Jesus’ ‘Middle Apocalypse’”, an exegetical discussion of Luke 17:26-37. His presentation was focused on interpreting this passage on its own terms, rather than using the later Olivet Discourse to interpret it. This presentation generated the most question and answer of all thus far, giving the council members an opportunity to seek clarification and gain a better understanding of his position.

The council then had a dinner break, and would return for a final session that evening. Dr. Mike Stallard (Director of International Ministries for Friends of Israel, Bellmawr, NJ) presented a paper on an early dispensationalist titled “Prophetic Hope in the Writings of Arno C. Gaebelein: A Possible Demonstration of the Doxological Purpose of Biblical History.” Stallard summarized how Gaebelein saw four areas in which the plan for the ages was worked out, viz. creation, the nations, Israel, and the church. There was a good time of discussion as well.

This concluded the first day of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics. Tbe second day there would be more, and I will share that again later!