Monday, October 1, 2007

Dr. Robert Thomas

There are great living dispensational scholars today who understand that the Bible has various programs for different times in divine history. There is also a large company of such godly scholars in the past who made outstanding contributions to our grasp of the full message of the Word of God. What they have written is still with us today in terms of how we should interpret the Scriptures. Below are some thoughts that any interpreter of the Bible should be aware of.


Dr. Robert Thomas
    Since the 1970s, evangelicalism and evangelical hermeneutics have undergone radical changes, changes that have affected interpretation of the Bible’s prophetic teachings. Iain Murray specifies the general time period of evangelicalism’s slippage: “We have seen that the new evangelicalism, launched with such promise, had lost its way in the United States by the late 1960s.” Later he notes regarding evangelicalism’s attempt to attain academic respectability.
The academic approach to Scripture treats the divine element – for all practical
purposes – as non-existent. History shows that when evangelicals allow that
approach their teaching will sooner or later begin to look little different from
that of liberals.
    Probably the single most devastating change in hermeneutics has been a widespread endorsement of the step of preunderstanding at the beginning of the exegetical process. It has dispensed with the goal of a traditional grammatical-historical approach for achieving objectivity in letting the text speak for itself. 

    The flippant way many evangelicals have forsaken the traditional principle of single meaning illustrates the impact of incorporating preunderstanding into the exegetical process. ... The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture. 

    One of the areas in which PD (Progressive Dispensationalism) has departed from traditional grammatical-historical principles lies in its notoriety for violating the traditional hermeneutical principle of single meaning. The [PD’s] purpose that not only national Israel of the future will fulfill her Old Testament prophecies, but also the church is currently fulfilling those same prophecies. What PD calls “complementary hermeneutics” clearly violates traditional principles of literal interpretation. 

    New evangelical hermeneutics have opened wide doors for PD in implementing its preunderstanding and its quest to find a midpoint between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. … By thus ignoring the way the original historical setting “freezes” the meaning of a text, D. L. Bock concludes that textual meaning is dynamic, not static—ever changing through the addition of new meanings. [Bock] tries to justify this change by calling it revelatory progress, but revelatory progress speaks of new passages with new meanings, not new passages that change meanings of older passages. 

    If the current direction of evangelicalism continues, the movement will eventually reach the status of postmodernist and deconstructionist approaches to the Bible. The only remedy for this sickness will be a return to traditional grammatical-historical principles of interpretation. 

    Adapted from: The Gathering Storm, gen. ed. Mal Couch