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A Question The Christians Aren't Answering

R. S. Martin

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Maybe the emails didn't go through. Maybe I haven't waited long enough. You never know, especially with people in academia. But I'll post it here. Some of you have a lot of training in religion and may feel more free to given an unbiased answer than the Christians. I thought the email is unbiased and very respectful. Maybe it's not. If so, maybe someone can point that out, too. I will copy it here:


Dear Sir,

I have a question about dispensationalist theology and am not sure whom to ask. About two weeks ago I stumbled onto this literature and have been in conversation with <name and identifying details of my colleague mentioned in other posts>. Our conversation led to more reading, which led to more questions. I do not expect to read any more on it, but I do think I need some insight on this particular point to understand Oswald J. Smith's theological position. [smith is one person I am studying.]



I will list the books I read and then describe my question.


Crutchfield, Larry V. The Origins Of Dispensationalism: The Darby Factor. London, University of America Press, 1992.


Kraus, C. Norman. Dispensationalism in America: Its Rise and Development. Richmond, Virginia, John Knox, Press, 1958.


Sandeen, Ernest R. Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millennialism, 1800-1930. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1970.


Stallard, Michael. Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein. Queenston, Ontario, Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. (Dissertion, completed 1992; up-dated with footnotes.)


(NOTE: Crutchfield and Stallard are scholars who are dispensationalist by religious conviction, while Kraus and Sandeen seem to be classics in the field. The first two build critically on the last two and on Marsden [for exCers: Marsden is a scholar in fundamentalism of the same calibre as Sandeed].)


My problem is that I thought dispensationalists were very strong on conversion and the new birth. I cannot see the theological connection, or the redemptive value, or the logical link, between the emphasis in dispensationalism and conversion or the new birth. I think dispensationalism makes sense to its adherents because it explains why God commands genocide in one part of the Bible (to use one example) and forbids taking the sword in another. I understand it allows adherents to see the Bible as a unified whole without error and as literally true in all aspects. I understand that for them this means a progressively developing picture throughout history from Adam to the Final Judgment after which Eternity will begin.


The prophecies describe the details of how the picture will develop. This is where I begin to get confused. I understand that the central focus of Christianity is salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that salvation requires repentence and the new birth. Kraus says Calvinist human depravity fits the dispensationalist picture, too. This means that Christ’s atonement for sin has to fit in and that the Fall is important.


According to the way I understand the Fall and the Atonement, a deep awareness of morals and ethics is required. I see practically no reference to, or awareness of, morals or ethics in the dispensationalist literature. The emphasis seems to be on knowing what part of prophecy is going to happen next and when (in history) it will happen, and who is right, i.e. Scofield, Darby, Gaebelein, Cameron, etc. It is unclear to me how they think conversion fits into this picture. Rather than central faith tenets, the references to evangelization and conversation that I encountered in the dispensationalist literature seemed more like an afterthought.


I think I must be missing or misreading something, but I don't know what. Can you enlighten me? Thank you.


Also, would you be interested in meeting sometime later this fall or early next year? At the moment I am focusing on Hodge. But next I want to focus on Oswald Smith and Jerry Falwell, which takes me into the 20th century and a different cultural ethos. Since you identify as evangelical, I am guessing it would be closer to your culture than my own, and conversation might be helpful for me to get a context. I think I have a fairly solid grasp of the Mennonite culture of North America, but I understand there is an entire evangelical-fundamentalist culture out there that I have encountered only in text-books, online discussion forums, websites, and Randall Balmer's video series Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Where are the churches and their schools in <our city>, what are their faith statements, what about the wider network in the country and continent? To what theological trends to they adhere--Calvinist, Methodist, a combination, neither? Those are a few questions that might guide discussion, providing this is a field you would be willing to talk about.



So there's the email. Heavy stuff. Sensitive issues. But he knows I have deconverted and he said he has no problem with that.



At first I was going to cut out the part where I'm asking for the meeting but then I decided to keep it. It might help people here realize how little I know about evangelical culture outside Mennonite circles, and how helpful it would be to have some descriptions.

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In case the question got lost in the jargon:


How does the new birth fit in dispensationalism?


Dispensationalism seems to be all about prophecy and not about getting saved. Yet the dispensationalist churches seem to be all about getting saved and knowing the date and time you got saved.


What's the link? What am I missing?

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Just to be fair, I got a reply just now from the one person. I guess it didn't go through the first time. But I will still appreciate feedback here.

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Impressive stuff. With all that bullshit to confuse and boggle one's mind... you have still managed to ask the essential question that fundys themselves never ask... "What's the point"? Take a bow. (Insert clapping Icon here)


I don't think many xtians travel down that mental path.


Theologically I cannot see a point or at least one from god's point of view.


However... in terms of church leadership, I see this as a useful tool to scare the bejesus out of the masses.


Pre-rapture teaching said that if you were not an adherent of <put dogma here> you went to hell. Well now... that is just toooo far away for some preachers eh? Soooo let's dream up dispensationalist theology to argue that within **your** lifetime... any day now... you could be called to be with god in heaven and you'd **better** be ready!!!! <put ghouly noises here>


You should hear the preachers talk about the tribulation. What a stinkin' lot of sucking and blowing about nothing. They rail on about how terrible it will be. If you stop and think about it, you can only conclude that xtians are a bunch of sissys. It amazes me. There is nothing in Revelations that is worse than what is going on in Africa.


Really, if (bible) god exists and the rapture happens tomorrow (and I notice the 5 godly people are missing :Hmm: ), then I'll just have accept my fate bravely. But of course that is silly because the rapture makes no sense.


But my point is this... xtians take it really seriously and many pee their pants at the thought of being left behind. So not only does one need to fear eternal punishment but punishment on this earth too. What a sick theology.


In a nutshell Ruby... it's great marketing.



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