Skip to comments.Why Dispensationalists Can't Argue for a Young Earth and a Global Flood
Posted on 06/07/2007 11:23:25 AM PDT by topcat54
Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University, devotes a chapter to the subject of eschatology in his book The Evolution-Creation Struggle.1 He believes that the interpretive methodology of dispensational premillennialism is inexorably linked to the way its advocates defend their position on creation. Ruse isn’t the first to point this out. I’ve been making the same claim for years. It’s about to catch up with young-earth/global flood creationsists.
Consider the following comments on Matthew 24:34 from Henry M. Morris, a dispensationalist and a founding father of the modern-day creationist movement. The following comments on “this generation” come from his creationist themed Defender’s Study Bible which was first published in 1995: “ The word ‘this’ is the demonstrative adjective and could better be translated ‘that generation.’ That is, the generation which sees all these signs (probably starting with World War I) shall not have completely passed away until all these things have taken place” (1045). Morris describes the use of “this” as a “demonstrative adjective,” but it is better designated as a “near demonstrative” adjective identifying what generation will see the signs. In Greek and English, the near demonstrative (this) is contrasted with the distant demonstrative (that). Greek language specialists make this very point:
Greek grammars and lexicons recognize two demonstratives: near and distant. The near demonstrative, as the name denotes, points to someone or something “near,” in close proximity. They appear as the singular word “this” and its plural “these.” The distant demonstratives, as their name suggests, appear as “that” (singular), or “those” (plural).2
The near demonstrative “this” always refers to something contemporary, as the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature makes clear: “[T]his, referring to something comparatively near at hand, just as ekeinos [that] refers to something comparatively farther away.”3 Prior to his comments in his Defender’s Study Bible, Morris wrote the following extended comments on Matthew 24:34 in his Creation and the Second Coming :
In this striking prophecy, the words “this generation” has the emphasis of “that generation.” That is, that generation—the one that sees the specific signs of His coming—will not completely pass away until He has returned to reign as King.4 Now if the first sign was, as we have surmised, the first World War, then followed by all His other signs, His coming must indeed by very near5—even at the doors! There are only a few people still living from that6 generation. I myself was born just a month before the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Those who were old enough really to know about that first World War—“the beginning of sorrows”—would be at least in their eighties now. Thus, we cannot be dogmatic, we could very well now be living in the very last days before the return of the Lord.”7
Matthew 24:33 tells us what audience Jesus had in view: “so, you too, when YOU see all THESE things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” It is obvious, and without any need for debate, that the first “you” refers to those who asked the questions that led to Jesus’ extended remarks (Matt. 24:2–4). Jesus identifies those who will “see all these things” by once again using “you.” If Jesus had a future generation in mind, He could have eliminated all confusion by saying, “even so THEY too, when THEY see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, THAT generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Instead, Henry Morris and others have to massage the text to support a future tribulation period.8
Then there is the problem of the way Morris understands the meaning of “last days” in the notes found in his Defender’s Study Bible. He states that “this ‘last days’ prophecy of Joel was fulfilled at Pentecost only in a precursive sense” (1179). Even though Peter says that the events at Pentecost are a fulfillment of what Joel predicted (Joel 2:28–32)—“this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” Acts 2:17)—Morris argues that “its complete fulfillment must await the time of the end. . . . Thus Peter’s statement: ‘This is that’ (Acts 2:16) should be understood in the sense of ‘This is like that’” (1179).9 What implications does this have for the young earth-global flood interpretive methodology that is defended by dispensationalists as the most literal interpretation of the Bible?
Ruse demonstrates that evolutionists are beginning to pay attention to the hermeneutical model used by young earth-global flood creationists and how inconsistent they are in their interpretive methodology. How will we ever convince skeptics of the truthfulness of the Bible when it is distorted to defend interpretations where “this” means “that,” and “this is that” actually means “this is like that”? An evolutionist like Ruse may rightly argue that if Morris can make “this generation,” with its obvious first-century meaning, “have the emphasis” of “that generation” (distant future), then why can’t the time element of Genesis 1 (the use of yom= a 24-hour day) “have the emphasis” of long ages of time? Maybe the days of Genesis 1 are just like 24-hour days, given dispensational hermeneutics. If time indicators in the NT are not interpreted literally, then why must they be interpreted literally in the OT? The dispensationalists have a big problem on their hands, and so do the creationist ministries that tolerate their eschatological hermeneutic.
1. Michael Ruse, The Evolution-Creation Struggle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). In the Acknowledgments, Ruse writes: “At a more personal level, I have gained much from the friendship, insights, writings, and criticisms of Ronald Numbers [author of The Creationists] and David Livingstone [co-editor of Evolution, Science, and Scripture]. They showed me that my story would be radically incomplete without sensitivity to the significance of millennial thinking” (319).
2. Cullen I K Story and J. Lyle Story, Greek To Me: Learning New Testament Greek Through Memory Visualization (New York: Harper, 1979), 74. “Sometimes it is desired to call attention with special emphasis to a designated object, whether in the physical vicinity or the speaker or the literary context of the writer. For this purpose the demonstrative construction is used. . . . For that which is relatively near in actuality or thought the immediate demonstrative [houtos] is used. . . . For that which is relatively distant in actuality or thought the remote demonstrative [ekeinos] is used.” (H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [New York; Macmillan, 1957], 127–128, sec. 136).
3. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 4 th ed. (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1952), 600.
4. There is nothing in Matthew 24 that says Jesus is going to return to earth to reign as king.
5. Why does “near” mean “even at the doors” for Morris in the twentieth century, but it did not mean “near” in the first century?
6. Notice how Morris uses the far demonstrative “that” to refer to a generation in the past. How would he have described the generation in which he was living? Obviously with the near demonstrative “this” to distinguish it from “that” past generation.
7. Henry Morris, Creation and the Second Coming (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1991), 183. Morris died on February 25, 2006 at the age of 87.
8. The latest example is found in Tim Demy and Gary Stewart, 101 Most Puzzling Bible Verses: Insight into Frequently Misunderstood Scriptures (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2007), 105–106. There is no mention of the audience reference in Matthew 24:33, just that “The phrases ‘this generation’ and ‘these things’ are linked together by context and grammar in such a way that Jesus must be speaking of a future generation.” This tells us nothing without an actually discussion of the grammar and the audience reference.
9. Thomas Ice argues in a similar way: “But this is [like] that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” He tries to explain the addition of “like” by claiming that “The unique statement of Peter (‘this is that’) is in the language of comparison and similarity, not fulfillment.” (Thomas Ice, “Acts,” in Tim LaHaye, ed. Prophecy Study Bible [Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000], 1187).
"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
Like most everything else from Gary DeMar, this article is undiluted nonsense.
Interesting article. Dispensationalists are reaping what they've sown.
This means that...Me means you...Black means white...
Ruined the Rapture and Pre-Millienialism on one word and someone’s opinion of what the ‘original’ Greek interpretation of that word is...
Sure, I’ll buy that...You got a bridge I can buy as well???
Which is why his work is a pile of dung. Dispensational premillenialism is a natural result of the historical grammatical approach to biblical interpretation combined with proper theological method. What he is proposing as an explanation is incoherent.
and without any need for debate
Mr. DeMar should stop trying to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. He should study all of Gods word and try to understand that Our Lord also tells us in Matthew 24 Take heed that no man deceive you.
Exactly. Gary DeMar has absolutely no foundation upon which to make his argument against dispensationalists (even ignoring the fact that his arguments about Greek demonstrative pronouns are not sound in the least). DeMar's eschatology, and Reformed eschatology in general, are based upon a completely figurative and exceptionalist approach to Biblical interpretation - in essence they twist the Scriptures to force them to fit into a historicist mold. The way DeMar and other anti-dispensationalists approach the Scriptures essentially turns the Word of God into a "choose-your-own-adventure" book like the ones we read as kids.
I see it's easier to throw stones than address the substanmce behind the charges. E.g.,
How will we ever convince skeptics of the truthfulness of the Bible when it is distorted to defend interpretations where "this" means "that," and "this is that" actually means "this is like that"?
Thus the true state of dispensationalism and it's fundational methodology is revealed.
You missed the point. The basic assertion of his work, a priori, is wrong. There is no need to dissect point 4 when point 1 is seriously flawed.
There is absolutely no basis in his assertion. He is making an argument by starting with a false premise. The interpretive framework for Dispensational premillenialism rests on its own merit, not on the perceived relationship to a theological position that some evolutionist doesnt support.
No I didn't as evidenced by your non-response.
The article clearly states the authors underlying belief ...
He believes that the interpretive methodology of dispensational premillennialism is inexorably linked to the way its advocates defend their position on creation.
My response was ...
Dispensational premillenialism is a natural result of the historical grammatical approach to biblical interpretation combined with proper theological method.
Whether all dispensational authors recognize the same approach is debatable. But it is theological method that separates dispensational from non-dispensational threology. Only dispensationalism is grounded in proper method. The reason why non-dispensational eschatology (i.e., Reformed) is a hogde-podge of uncoordinated results is its inability to deal with the OT. A dispensationalist develops a Biblical theology of the OT from the OT text. The non-dispensationalist develops a Biblical theology of the OT from a NT understanding of the OT text.
That is why a non-dispensationalist has no use for Israel, the millenium, an earthly kingdom of God ... everywhere you see the kingdom of God in the OT, you are thinking "Kingdom of God in the heart."
The reason why non-dispensational eschatology (i.e., Reformed) is a hogde-podge of uncoordinated results is its inability to deal with the OT.
One of the silliest statements I've seen in a while.
“A dispensationalist develops a Biblical theology of the OT from the OT text. The non-dispensationalist develops a Biblical theology of the OT from a NT understanding of the OT text.”
You are absolutely correct. Because dispensationalists refuse to read the Bible in its whole unity they become confused and fail to see the unity of God’s purposes.
"This generation shall not pass" doesn't need to be turned into "That generation" to make sense. I read it as Christ saying, "This generation (in which all these things I'm speaking about will happen) shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled".
And as far as the "new testament's" claim that "this" is a fulfillment of "that," one has to first believe in the authority of the "new testament" before one accepts any of its claims. This means "proving" the claims by merely quoting them is an exercise in circular reasoning.
The non-dispensationalist develops a Biblical theology of the OT from a NT understanding of the OT text.
Mind telling me why you think it's a bad idea to pay attention to the way Jesus, Paul, the gospel writers, Peter, Jude, James and whoever it was who wrote Hebrews interpreted the Old Testament?
If you read the NT back into the OT, it is a trivial matter to impute to a passage a meaning that would not be gained from grammatical and historical associations. I.e., you can read into the passage whatever you want.
Instead of considering textual, grammatical, and historical factors as the primary instruments for interpretation, the non-dispensationalist considers theological factors of primary importance. The OT context is downplayed and gives way to the NT theological interpretation. I.e., by reading the NT back into the old, you minimize the OT background of the NT text ... and at the extremes dispense with it altogether.
By starting in the OT, the dispensationalist enhances and expands the NT understanding as he already has his Biblical theology of the OT in hand when he comes to the New. When you start in the New and read back into the Old, the tendency is to undo or replace the understanding that would have been had by constructing a true Biblical theology of the OT.
Gary DeMar should check out the website reformation.org, owned by Niall Kilkenny. That website promotes a young earth and a global flood, yet Niall Kilkenny is not a dispensationalist. She is a historicist.