Monday, January 29, 2007

A Copernican Revolution (Part One)

Leaving Dispensationalism behind was a long process for me. It was not something that happened overnight, nor was it just a matter of tweaking a few theological points. Moving from Dispensationalism to Reformed Theology involved an entire paradigm shift. I have often compared this shift to what it must have been like for Copernicus to change from a geo-centric view of our solar system to a helio-centric view.

Before Copernicus, geo-centrism was the dominant perspective. It seemed to make sense. However, as Copernicus did his calculations, something didn’t add up. He saw the same sun, planets, and stars as the previous astronomers, but he discovered that if the earth was truly the center of our solar system, then the planets should behave differently than they do. The conclusion is that there must be a different center. Copernicus suspected that the sun was the center of our solar system, and his calculations confirmed this. Today, Copernicus is credited with changing astronomy from geo-centrism to helio-centrism, and we call this the Copernican revolution.

I had my own Copernican revolution in my theological journey. When I was first exposed to Dispensational ideas, I would go back to the Scriptures to see if these things were so. A lot of things made sense.

However, as I got deeper into Dispensationalism, I began to notice a verse here and there that did not seem to fit in the Dispensational scheme. This troubled me, so I asked my pastor, but he did not have a satisfactory answer. I thought that seminary would explain things better.

Unfortunately, when I got to seminary, the problems compounded. I was finding entire passages that seemed to conflict with Dispensationalism, both OT and NT. It seemed like everywhere I turned, there was a problem passage. I began to suspect that the problem was not with the Scriptures but with Dispensationalism itself. I was reading the same Bible as the Dispensationalists, but the Scriptures behaved in patterns that defied Dispensationalism.

I thought, what if there is another theological system that made better sense out of the Scriptures? As I investigated Reformed Theology, I found that it comported much better with the Bible. The old problem passages now made perfect sense. Thus, my move to Reformed Theology did not involve a rejection of the Bible, but embracing an alternative explanation for the Bible. Much like Copernicus, I was using the same data as my Dispensational friends, but the data forced me to come to a different conclusion. I'll cover some specific examples next.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Spellbound by the Reformers?

When I ran in Dispensational circles, I was frequently told that those who left Dispensationalism for Reformed Theology did so because they were spellbound by the Reformers. Perhaps you’ve heard something like this:

“People become Reformed because they love Calvin and the Puritans. They have so much respect for these men that they swallow their theology whole. Reformed Theology is uncritically accepted.”

For me, this was certainly not the case. I became Reformed because of the Scriptures. My journey was a thoroughly exegetical one. While in seminary, I read through the entire Bible multiple times. I read selected chapters hundreds of times. I memorized dozens of relevant passages. I studied the Greek and the Hebrew in countless texts. In short, I became Reformed because I was convinced that this is what the Bible taught.

Of course, I came to appreciate the Reformers and the Puritans. I read a few contemporary Reformed books (R.C. Sproul, namely), but I never took anyone’s word for it. I always went back to the Scriptures to check and see if these things were so. This is what dispensationalists had taught me to do.

Furthermore, I have many friends and acquaintances who moved from Dispensationalism to Reformed Theology. None of them embraced Reformed Theology because of being spellbound by the Reformers and Puritans.

I’m not sure how this myth got started, but I suspect that it is often recycled because Dispensationalists cannot fathom that the Bible might teach something different. There must be some other explanation. So, who’s the one that is spellbound?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Leaving Dispensationalism Behind (Part Five)

In the middle of my fourth year in seminary, I embraced paedobaptism. This was the biggest hurdle because infant baptism is frequently portrayed as a Roman Catholic holdover from the Reformation. I fought this move harder than any other. I scoured both the library and internet for arguments for and against paedobaptism. However, the Biblical evidence began to be so overwhelming that I could see the writing on the wall. Intellectually, I was paedo for months before I could embrace it emotionally. This was a scary move because I knew that none of my classmates or professors would understand. Nevertheless, I had to follow the Scriptures at whatever “peril” to myself.

We eventually settled into the same church (PCA) that Big Red had joined. For all my fretting, joining a reformed church was a huge relief. I found instant camaraderie with a slew of former Baptists. The pastor was very generous with his time, and I was given numerous teaching opportunities. I developed some good friendships with many of the men in the church. At one time, the three interns at our church were myself, the Boneman, and the Craw. Quite a triumvirate! Those were the days.

I thought about transferring to a reformed seminary, but that would have set me back three years. I was ready to graduate and start to pastor, so I decided to remain at Master’s, and looking back, that was the best decision. I finished up my last three semesters and graduated in May 2004.

In January 2005, we moved back to Kansas City to pastor Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA). We have been there two years now, and it has been a constant blessing to us.

There are many more autobiographical details that I hope to share later, but I wanted to provide an overview of my journey. Hopefully, this will resonate with those who are thinking about leaving dispensationalism behind. Pax.