Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Leaving Dispensationalism Behind (Part Two)

We moved to Los Angeles in July of 1999 to attend The Master’s Seminary. During one of our first Sundays at Grace Community Church, we met a young couple who had just moved to California for a new job. We quickly became friends with Big Red and Mrs. Big Red (despite their aberrant collegiate loyalties). We invited them over for dinner, and during the course of the evening, Big Red began to articulate a partial preterist view of prophecy. I was somewhat familiar with amillennialism, but I had never encountered preterism.

I applied the standard dispensational defense and accused Big Red of “spiritualizing” and “allegorizing.” Unfazed, Big Red urged me to apply my “literalism” to the time texts in the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation. I couldn’t. I was dumbfounded. And scared. For the next week, I felt like a zombie. I had just moved my family half-way across the country, and I was wondering if I had made a mistake.

I read the Bible voraciously. Time texts seemed to jump off of every page. I could not avoid them or explain them away. I borrowed Big Red’s copy of The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul and read it twice. I listened to a set of tapes from a Ligonier conference on eschatology. I was blown away. My dispensational ship had hit an iceberg and began to take on water.

However, I was starting my first semester of seminary, and so, I tried to put preterism and eschatology on the back burner. Without intending to, I wound up writing a couple of seminary papers refuting aspects of preterism, but I always had an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind. The time texts continued to plague me throughout the year, particularly Matthew 24:34,

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

As I wrestled with this text and others, I dug my heels in, stubbornly refusing to admit defeat. I scoured the Bible for answers. Big Red patiently endured my feeble objections. By the end of my first year in seminary, I clearly saw the fatal flaw in dispensational eschatology: selective literalism.

However, it would be another two years before I would embrace preterism. In the meantime, a new problem arose. Big Red began talking about the “B” word, and I was appalled.

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