Eschatology Ed. by Bungham & KreiderDallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has been the flagship seminary for teaching and training ministry leaders Dispensational theology. For years, under the leadership of men like Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, and Lewis Sperry Chafer, DTS taught Classic Dispensationalism (CD). Now, for more than a decade, DTS is at the forefront of developing Dispensational theology under what is commonly known as Progressive Dispensationalism (PD). The key difference between CD and PD is the relationship and realization of the New Covenant to the present day Church.

One such leader of PD is Craig Alan Blaising. In celebration of his work on PD over twenty contributors, including Daniel L. Block, David S. Dockery, Timothy George, Paige Patterson, Charles C. Ryrie, and David L. Turner, came together to write Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches under the editorial leadership of D. Jeffery Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider (Kregel, 2016).

The Man

In regards to his Dispensational roots, Blaising was trained at DTS where he completed his ThM (’76) and ThD (’79). Upon completing his ThD he became an Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at DTS in 1980 where he finished as a Professor of Systematic theology in 1995. He then moved onto Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1995 where he would teach theology until 2001. Since 2002 he has been teaching theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is currently the Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology.

His two primary contributions to PD have been Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition (1992) and Progressive Dispensationalism (1993) which he coedited with Darrell Bock. These books have made a lasting impact on the trajectory of Dispensational theology and showed that some of its proponents were trying to seek development within the system whether in response to criticism within or outside. What marked these books, thus allowing PD to separate itself from the CD of Ryrie, was their understanding of the present blessings of the New Covenant for the Church (and not just a future restored Israel).

The Book

As the title indicates, the book contains contributions which focus on the biblical, historical, and practical approaches to eschatology. The biblical approach is covered in the first two parts with a focus on general doctrinal foundations (Part I) and the doctrine of the future in various parts of the Bible (Part II). Part III covers a sprinkling of eschatological overview throughout church history ranging from the Apostolic Father and Origen to Jurgen Moltmann and more contemporary millennialism. The final section covers practical issues to which the doctrine of the future can be applied.

The overriding theme of the book is a focus on the hope given to believer’s in eschatology. Jesus is this hope and it is provided for us in his death, burial, resurrection, and future return. This theme of hope is present in almost every chapter of the book. Stanley D. Toussaint focuses his chapter on this concept and traces the idea from Genesis 3:15, where the hope is initially given, all the way to Revelation, where the hope is fully realized. Most books written on eschatology from a Dispensational perspective do not usually have this heavy of a focus on the hope Christ gives us in his return which is encouraging about this book.

There are two aspects of the books that stick out despite the encouraging focus on eschatological hope. First, there is an underlying, and almost overt at times, rift between CD and PD. As mentioned before, the defining separation between the two Dispensational systems centers on the present benefits of the NC. This becomes clear when one compares Ryrie’s chapter The Doctrine of the Future and the Weakening of Prophecy with the aim of the rest of the book. In less than six pages Ryrie argues that prophecy is weakened if we say that some or all of it is fulfilled now. Present fulfillment, he argues, “weakens the force of the entire body of biblical prophecy.” (73) This kind of statement cannot be supported and puts on in straight jacket when it comes to interpreting various prophetic passages and books. Prophecy is not weakened when it is fulfilled (even if that fulfillment is now), its fulfilled as Scripture said. It is not a categorical rejection of future prophecy to say that some of what was once thought to be future is in fact present. With the movement towards more present fulfillment of the NC within PD, Ryrie’s chapter seems a bit out of place in the whole book.

The second interesting aspect of this book, and more encouraging, is the very minor role Pre-tribulational Rapture theology plays. In fact, it is not even mentioned for the first 390 pages until Mark L. Bailey’s chapter The Doctrine of the Future and Dispensationalism. In it Bailey gives the standard defense for a pre-tribulation view. What might have been helpful for the book, and the position, is to include at least one chapter on historical background of the tribulation but some would argue that it would be hard to go back that far in time.

Conclusion

Near the end of the book David S. Dockery tries to reflect on the future contribution that PD makes towards millennialism. He recognizes that the rift within the Dispensational system has been on the timing and nature of the rapture and believes that “progressive dispensationalism is an attempt to bridge that divide.” (454) This seems to be the contribution, thus far, in regards to PD and eschatology; bridging the divide among Dispensationalist’s and between Dispensationalist’s and other views.

Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches is an encouraging book in that, coming from Dispensationalist’s, it focuses primarily on what ought to unite all eschatological views – the future hope for the world in Jesus Christ. Hope is the focus of all eschatological views and we ought to be able to at least acknowledge that no view has the corner on it.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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