Monday, November 18, 2002

There goes Dreher Again

Rod Dreher of NRO should stick to writing about Catholicism. When he ventures into the world of Protestantism, it is generally to cast simple-minded aspersions on dispensationalism. Attacking dispensationalism is not necessarily a bad idea, but Dreher demonstrates an unhelpful lack of knowledge about his subject.

In previous writing, Dreher opined the completely trivial (and condescending) view that Protestants support Israel because of dispensationalism. Granted, some dispensationalists no doubt support Israel for no reason other than to keep her around to fulfill her eschatological role. However, Dreher neglected to mention that many dispensationalists, and clearly all of the sizable number of non-dispensationalist Protestants who support Israel (count me in their number) do so because Israel is our only friend and the only democracy in the region—not to mention that all her neighbors would like to see us dead. We have no ulterior motive behind our support—our reasons are as pure as, well, Dreher’s. I am happy to see that in his latest article he acknowledges that many Evangelicals and other Christians support Israel for unspecified "other reasons".

Writing about a Catholic response to the Left Behind phenomenon, Dreher states:
it may surprise (and disappoint) many Christians to learn that this set of beliefs, generally called "dispensationalism," is not explicitly taught by the Bible, nor has ever been widely held by Christians

Maybe, if you mean "Christians" who don’t attend church and have learned all their theology from the Left Behind series. However, church-going dispensationalists (and keep in mind I am not a dispensationalist) would not be caught by surprise and would not agree with Dreher’s premise or conclusion. In my experience:
  • Dispensationalists know the history of dispensationalism, and the major role played by the 19th century Plymouth Brethren.

  • Dispensationalists will hardly agree that their theology is not taught in the bible, and can present an impressive apologia via Sola Scriptura. While they acknowledge the importance of men such as Darby and Scofield, all affirm that dispensationalism is biblical and many are adamant that it was not discovered but rediscovered in the 19th century.

The fact that dispensationalists and non-dispensationalist Protestants both claim that the bible supports their position might make good fodder for a Catholic negative apologia on Private Interpretation, but if you think you could go to Tim LaHaye and tell him that dispensationalism is not explicitly taught by the Bible and expect a response such as "Gee, I’m surprised, I wish I had known that" then you are utterly na├»ve. He will unleash a ton of scripture that you need to rebut. Or go stroll around the Dallas Theological Seminary claiming that "did you guys know that dispensationalism is not taught in the bible?" and see what happens. If that is the sum total of your argument, you are going to get your hat handed to you.

Dispensationalism is a comprehensive theology and not just an end-times view. In fact its eschatology is not its basic tenet but rather a result of its view on God’s unfinished plan for the Jews.

Ironically, I agree with Dreher’s assessment that dispensationalism is not biblical. However, I view it as a misinterpretation of scripture rather than an explicitly and intentionally extra-scriptural "tradition". It is more difficult to refute dispensationalism than Catholic high tradition.

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