Answering Questions on My Former Dispensationalism and Barth
A commenter here has been corresponding with me via email; he has a few concerns that he would like me to address in regards to my views on eschatology. He was wondering about Karl Barth, and what Barth meant in this quote taken from Barth’s Commentary on Romans (Der Romerbrief):
“Will there ever be an end to all our ceaseless talk about the delay of the Parousia? How can the coming of that which does not enter in ever be delayed? The End of which the New Testament speaks is no temporal event… What delays its coming is not the Parousia, but our awakening…” [Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 500-01.]
For anyone of you Barthians who read here, if you would like to take a stab at this and inform us exactly what Barth meant; then I would be obliged. André, would like to know if Barth actually believed in a bodily return of Jesus Christ. I have communicated with André that Barth definitely believed in the second coming of Jesus Christ, just as any orthodox Christian must. And that the context for the pretextual quote lifted from Barth above must be his apocalyptic conception of revelation as event; with the notion that when Barth refers to ‘no temporal event’ he is emphasizing the idea that God’s coming in Christ is something happens ever anew and afresh moment by moment through God’s being in becoming as we encounter him in Christ through the primary witness of threefold Word. I know that Barth wanted to get away from thinking in classical linear terms, and instead have us think apocalyptically in regard to God’s life interdicting ours on an ongoing basis in Christ. But I would also posit that for Barth, that this continual in-breaking on the world in Christ is portending of final and proleptic encounter that will be ultimately realized in consummate form. In other words, the fact that God is apocalyptic in his life, and that he does break in on the world presently; only reinforces the idea that God will make a final move of Christian hope wherein these shadowy break-ins of his life in Christ on the world find their orientation from the idea that we will finally participate in the glory that the Son has always shared with the Father in their shared life.
But this isn’t what I really wanted to deal with in this post; André asked me this:
Dear Mr. Grow
Do you expect a “second coming” or “return” of Jesus?
I espessialy ask you because of your dispensationalist background.
Wondering how you got out of it and how much you got out of and what you used to fill the gap with.
I affirmed, of course, as an orthodox Christian, that my hope is a bodily return of Jesus Christ as the book of Acts asserts in its first chapter. I am thinking that some Preterists have been influencing André; I don’t know that for sure, but it sounds like a full preterist question.
In regards to responding to his question about my dispensationalism; and how I got out of it (like it was a cult); and how much I got out of it; and what I used to fill the gap with (not sure I understand that point … I’m still waiting for further clarification on that from André).
1) I never sought to “get out” of dispensationalism. I grew up as the son of a Conservative Baptist pastor. I grew up being influenced by the commentaries of H. H. Ironside, and then later by Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and all of my Multnomah professors (which many of them were graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary). I started out as a classic/revised dispensationalist which saw a hard discontinuity between Israel and the Church, and when I entered undergrad I moved to a progressive dispensationalism which didn’t see a ontological distinction between Israel and the Church; just a functional/economic one instead. I held onto my progressive dispensationalism until about 2010 … so 7 years after I graduated from seminary; and this was really a function of my commitment to a certain kind of hermeneutical theory (the LGH, Literal, Grammatical, Historical). The seeds of a shift started to happen for me in undergrad when I was taking a class called ‘Dispensationalism’; we read a book that had more to do with Covenant theology than amillennialism, but it was used as representative of the amillennialist hermeneutic (it was O. Palmer Robertson’s “Christ and the Covenants”). It was this book that got me thinking about amillennialism as a viable position. After seminary, in and around 2004, I read Kim Riddlebarger’s book ‘A Case for Amillennialism’; his book made me think twice, and even more. Then I read Stanley Grenz’s ‘Millennial Maze’ at a later date, along with Anthony Hoekma’s ‘Bible and the Future’ (or some such title); and I read others, like G.K. Beale’s commentary on Revelation, and I listened to some lectures by amillennialists. None of this by itself converted me to amillennialism, because all of this was given hermeneutical shape by classic Covenant theology. In the mean time, during this time, I had been reading Thomas Torrance, Karl Barth, and others; and they offered me a Christ conditioned hermeneutic. One that emphasized interpreting scripture, like the Old Testament, through a reinterpretation approach in light of Christ’s fulfillment of the promises. And so my hermeneutical rootage shifted from a Literal, Grammatical, Historical approach (which comes out of the Scottish Common Sense movement, and really a kind of rationalist approach that could find some heritage in the History of Religions approach of the German higher critics) to what I like to call a Christ conditioned ‘depth dimension’ (pace Thomas Torrance and Adam Nigh) approach to scripture that sees Christ as the principled and intensive cipher through which Scripture ought to be interpreted (this is given model through the New Testament author’s usage of the Old Testament, for example). Anyway, with all of this background; I had moved from a Progressive Dispensationalism a couple of years ago to a Post Tribulational Historic Premillennial position (which is a non-dispensational premillennial perspective). And then just over a year ago I read Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation & The Climax of Prophecy. After I read these books I was pushed over the edge; I became an amillennialist. That said, I could still be a historic premillennialist, in principle; hermeneutically, there really isn’t much difference between the two, except for how they read Revelation 20 and the thousand years passage.
Anyway, that is a short sketch on my history and movement from dispensationalism. That went longer than I had hoped, and so I will have to pick up André’s other questions on this next time.