Lord’s Day, December 2, 2012

Mark this day on your calendar. I’m about to write something good about a Dispensationalist. 

Daniel B. Wallace, is professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, where he has taught for more than 25 years. Dallas Theological Seminary is probably the epicenter of dispensational premillennialism, a scheme of thought which I have criticized obliquely if not directly in these pages more than once. For my money, it’s a heresy because it contravenes the Creed’s affirmation that “his kingdom shall have no end,” and it’s my understanding that the Fathers at Nicea had chiliasm in their sights when they affirmed that unending kingtdom. (Millenialism/Chiliasm teaches that Christ’s kingdom is earthly and will last 1,000 years.) Dispensationalism also ramifies badly in our politics: think servility toward Israel and Reagan Secretary of Interior James Watt.

On March 18, Prof. Wallace blogged The Problem with Protestant Ecclesiology. Ecclesiology is doctrine about the Church. Almost of necessity, Protestant ecclesiology is weak, because Protestants have split, re-split, and re-re-split from the Reformation until now:

Several evangelical scholars have noted that the problem with Protestant ecclesiology is that there is no Protestant ecclesiology. In many denominations—and especially in non-denominational churches—there is no hierarchy of churches responsible to a central head, no accountability beyond the local congregation, no fellowship beyond the local assembly, no missional emphasis that gains support from hundreds of congregations, and no superiors to whom a local pastor must submit for doctrinal or ethical fidelity.

By the time he’s done, an Orthodox convert like me is thinking “sooner or later, we’re gonna get him; he’s asking questions his tradition cannot answer, his professed continued loyalty to it notwithstanding.” You can read the whole thing pretty quickly; it’s 8 months worth of comments that would take forever to read.

That’s the nice thing I have to say about him, by the way.

I learned of his blog as Robert Arakaki, a graduate of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, replied in Holy Tradition’s Importance in Canon Formation. Arakaki, like me, went from Calvinism to Orthodoxy, only he caught on a whole lot younger.

Arakaki dwells on the point, which Wallace acknowledges, that the content of the Bible upon which Protestants claim exclusive reliance, is “settled by appeal to an ecclesiological structure that is other than what Protestants embrace.” In other words, Protestants only can know what the Bible is because the Church wrote it (well, the New Testament anyway) – the Church from which Protestants are mostly several schisms removed. His reply is longer than Wallace’s original, but that’s because Arakaki has a lot of patristic support to quote.

I suspect that the internal contradictions of Protestantism will continue driving thoughtful and pious Protestants toward Orthodoxy (with a few diverting to Rome). Those remaining will tend to be the innovators and capitulators. But my crystal ball is no good, and God doesn’t tell me much beyond the next step or two. My own next step or two, by the way; not somebody else’s.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.