Mar 152010
 

“¶ “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
(John 17:20–23 ESV)

The most divisive doctrine in the church today is not Calvinism or hyper-Pentecostalism or the mode of baptism or church government.

It’s dispensationalism.

While Jesus prayed for unity in John 17, the dispensationalist warns against it as it will inevitably lead to the “one world religion under the leadership of the false prophet”.

Someone should have warned Jesus…

When I think about the kind of unity that J.I. Packer and John Armstrong are promoting I rejoice until I think about the assault that will soon be launched against them in the name of “Bible believing prophecy”.

Packer’s vision of unity is this...”It is the one that views the visible church as a single worldwide, Spirit-sustained community within which ongoing doctrinal and denominational divisions, though important, are secondary rather than primary”.

“Embracing this vision will mean that our ongoing inter- and intra-church debates will look, and feel, less like trench warfare, in which both sides are firmly dug in to defend the territory that each sees as its heritage, and more like emigrants’ discussions on shipboard that are colored by the awareness that soon they will be confronted by new tasks in an environment not identical with what they knew before. There they will all need to pull together in every way they can. The church in every generation voyages through historical developments and cultural changes, against the background of which new angles emerge on old debates and truths may need to be reformulated in order to remain truly the same as they were. Not to recognize this is a defect of vision on our part.”

The question before the house today…can we embrace the pursuit of unity in the church as Jesus prayed for while still looking for the signs of the times?

More importantly…are we enjoying the pride we feel in our divisions more than we want John 17 to manifest?

When I brought this up last week, Armstrong left this comment;

“You have captured the essence of the argument by responding to my friend Jim Packer’s argument in the foreword. Sadly, many on the right will reject it because of Packer alone. That tragic fact should cause some to say, “What goes on here?” The book will help them see why people react to Packer and what prompts what sometimes becomes anger and misleading comment. I always say, “Read the book and really respond to what is actually said and if you disagree then tell why in a fair and simple way.”

My prayer is to stir a great movement for “relational unity in mission” not create a one-world church, which is as unlikely as ever regardless of what some have told us for 100 years about prophecy. While we are told there is a one-world church coming we keep creating new churches (denominations) every year! Something about this picture ought to make us think but then thinking is not highly valued in some Christian circles these days. We much prefer conspiracy theories to real critical thought.”

I long to see this happen, to see this culture become the norm in the church…and I’m a dispensationalist.

So are most of you.

Can a dispensational eschatology co-exist with a pursuit of unity?

In other stuff…

Ingrid Schlueter actually wrote a really good article...I commend it to your reading.


  No Responses to “John 17”

  1. The most divisive doctrine in the church today is not Calvinism or hyper-Pentecostalism or the mode of baptism or church government.

    It’s dispensationalism.

    Michael —

    On what basis do you say this? I’ve never seen Dispensationalism kill a church, but I’ve personally seen Calvinism kill several. Is this something you have numbers for?

    This topic surfaced here too:

    http://paleoevangelical.blogspot.com/2010/03/is-dispensationalism-compatible-with.html

    Small world. Must be the same church functionaries attending the same conferences, etc.

  2. First? I gave a message on Sunday on 1 Thes. 4 that most would consider dispensational and it was anything by divisive.

  3. I went to Ingrid’s site and her article was spot on. I hadn’t been to her site before and don’t know much about her but she sure opened up on a personal level and gave us all a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing the link!

  4. Whoops. My post should have said my message was anything BUT divisive.

    I agree with MDSF in terms of the number of churches that have been destroyed by Calvinism, and would add hyper Pentecostalism to it. But it might be a chicken/egg proposition because much of the division caused by these movements involves a reaction from Dispeys.

  5. By the way, an awful lot of Dispensationalists are also Calvinists. The Arminians are pretty late to the game. I don’t think these are clear-cut categories of distinction.

    I’d love to stick around today but it is already approaching 80 degrees and my Harley beckons. Have a wonderful Monday!

  6. I liked Ingrid’s article a lot.

    As to this discussion about church unity, I had better stay out of it since among the PP regulars I am probably the only one here who embraces the concept of The One True Church, which I have come to believe was the Eastern Orthodox Church. When we talk about Christian unity, we mean “When everyone becomes Orthodox.” So I’ll just read and not irritate anyone with the EO’s Apostolic claims.

    As to which is more divisive, the Dispies or the Calvies, I have had members of both groups tell me I was going straight to hell. The extremists in both camps seem a little Loonie-Tunes to me.

    The Dispensationalists always look at me in total amazement that I don’t agree with the Rapture, etc, because most of them were raised in Dispie churches and never heard a reasonable presentation of other views and equate “No Rapture” with “No Bible,” which of course alarms them. Yes, despite what some want to think, many of them do equate Rapturism with Believing the Bible is True and Not Believing the Bible is True means you’re a commie liberal on your way to hell. So yeah, eschatology is a salvation issue for some, although not among the better educated among the Dispies.

    The Calvinists (present company excluded) always wanted to back me into a corner, shouting the same phrases over and over at me and telling me that I am calling God a liar.

    Seriously, of the two groups, I am more comfortable with the Dispensationalists, maybe because I used to be one myself and they bring back happy memories of Daily Vacation Bible School and Summer Camp. The Calvinists I have known seemed to view the Bible as some kind of massive puzzle, a regular Rubic’s Cube which they believe they have solved. Actually, the Dispensationalists do the same thing with prophecy.

  7. When you read ODM attacks on everyone from Rick Warren to J.I. Packer to the “emergent church” the rationale is always the same.

    It’s not based on doctrine per se, but on the belief that any attempts at unity are part of the “end time deception” that will lead to a “one world religion”.
    No I don’t have numbers, but in my personal opinion this is the case.

  8. And let me add that I’ve had to break fellowship with several Calvinists (they just wouldn’t stop debating) whereas I’ve never had to break fellowship with a Dispensationalist over doctrine. The Dispensationalists usually came to the conclusion that I was certainly an odd duck but they thought they could put up with me.

  9. One of the reasons many fundamentalists dislike Billy Graham so much is that he has a charitable attitude towards all Christians.

  10. I don’t like blaming a doctrine for divisivenss, as has been said ad naseum, there are many divisive Calvinists, Arminians etc.

    If it is safe to say that Dallas Theological Seminary is the foremost dispensational seminary in the nation today (and I do believe this), then I do not see a propensity from their leading professors/authors towards this problem.

    Yes, a dispensationalist will emphasize a coming one-world religion in his eschatology. But I don’t know that the non-fringe lump their brothers and sisters in Christ in that group.

    I am open to being proven wrong. If anyone has quotes declaring non-dispensationalists to be part of the coming deception, that can be documented to Chafer, Ryrie, Walvoord, Unger, Hodges, Zuck, Pentecost and the like, then I am willing to be swayed. I just haven’t seen it, and as a dispensationalist myself, I’ve read a lot by these men.

    As an aside, a division exists within dispensationalist schools, including Dallas (i.e. Blaising, Bock).

  11. I think Lutherans are the divisive group – they preach too much truth for others to handle. 😉

  12. To suggest that “ODM’s” only oppose unity is ridiculous, Michael. Bob DeWaay’s look at Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life book is all about doctrine, particularly what comprises the Gospel itself. Those of us who write on topics regarding current trends do so out of concern for the biblical Gospel, and we can find unity with all of those who look to the atoning wounds of Christ for forgiveness of sins, regardless of label, eschatology, etc.

  13. MLD

    The Lutheran’s motto: Its hard to be wrong when you’re right. 🙂

  14. You’re a dispy? Wow, not what I would have expected.

    That being said, I respect anyone’s eschatology if they have researched scripture and come to that conclusion. I was not that way. I was brought up pre-trib, but upon recent study I can now only categorize myself as a historicist. No biggie to me though. My pastor just finished up a two month long Revelation study. He is definitely a dispensationalist, but I totally appreciated how well he was able to articulate and back-up his beliefs.

  15. Bob,
    Have you been reading the cover page to our Bible? 🙂

  16. Michael,
    I think you have your finger on an issue that some Dispensationalist push to the point past confusion to division, and that is that some look at the coming deception as having its roots or sum in present ‘disagreements.’ I refer to those folks as Dispen-sensationalists. 😉 Regardless, it is fruitless speculation that divides. Not all Dispensationalists make that error. Some of us don’t make any at all, and we’re not Lutheran either. 🙂

  17. To suggest that ODM’s understand the gospel and can clearly define and defend it from the challenges of current trends like TM, TMJ, PMS, EC, ED, and EIEIO is lucid. We know a fakery when we don’t see one. Just because we don’t allow comments on our sites doesn’t mean we’re not open-minded, we’ve merely made up our minds. We don’t oppose unity, we just recognize there are some people we can’t get along with until they change. And Dispensationalists are humane, too.

  18. Xenia —

    Seriously, of the two groups, I am more comfortable with the Dispensationalists, maybe because I used to be one myself and they bring back happy memories of Daily Vacation Bible School and Summer Camp. The Calvinists I have known seemed to view the Bible as some kind of massive puzzle, a regular Rubic’s Cube which they believe they have solved. Actually, the Dispensationalists do the same thing with prophecy.

    As best I can tell this is an inevitable result of systematic theology; the lure of certainty within a systematic theology tends to draw people to the perimeter of what their theology will explain, and the explanations get weird out there.

    I have yet to see a systematic, intellectually satisfying discussion of what it means to reach the limits of what one’s theology explains well.

  19. Systematic theology learned hand in hand with biblical theology is wonderful tool…one that more lay people really need in their theological toolkits.

  20. Where the differences lie between the view of end times is how each side views the church. The system that uses their lens to explain end time events depends on how they believe the church is or will be.
    The Jews can’t come in any other way than becoming Christians and that has to be done before Jesus comes back, one camp says; while the other camp argues that the Jews will come in but will have to wait to become believers after or during the tribulation.

  21. Uniformity is impossible and not even desirable … unity is lovely and it is inherent in all lovers of Jesus… Divisiveness is a function of uniformity… and every camp malfunctions at that point. Unity is a generosity of spirit that transcends everything except the barest of creeds… Jesus is LORD!… I have unity with everyone who has that as their creed.

    The dispensationalists have no special hold on divisiveness… we all share in that … here is the critical question … with whom would you share table fellowship? At the table therein is unity. And with that I have just fractured the discussion.

  22. May I kindly suggest that Jesus is likely not praying for the unity of doctrine that we so often apply to this prayer (and as suggested by the post). The oneness He seems to ask for is the oneness of the believer and Christ. I am one with my fellow believers because of the individual oneness we each share in Christ (i.e. the One Body of Christ, or Church universal).

    I mention this because if this is for doctrinal unity, then the Father did not answer Jesus’ prayer, did He?

    I know one response would be, “Well, not yet, but He will” – A possibility yes, but unsatisfactory to me for I don’t see Jesus’ prayer as eschatological, but ecclesiological.

  23. “dislike Billy Graham so much is that he has a charitable attitude ”

    I was always told this was one of my more annoying “traits”, being charitable that is. It was always taken as compromise, man pleasing etc. I tried being rude and nasty for a few months and people were actually pleased with my spiritual growth. I dont get it.

  24. Mark 9:40 (English Standard Version)
    “For the one who is not against us is for us.”
    -Jesus

    Hmmm….
    Michael, You’re in better company than your ODM critics.
    Keep calm and carry on.
    http://ny-image0.etsy.com/il_430xN.6449164.jpg

  25. read and caught up on the all the day’s posts and i am left with only one thot

    snolybab should have a listing in the dictionary (it doesn’t)

  26. Snolybab is a perfectly good word than means the evil empire is in reverse.

  27. I like Snolybab, but “beard” spelled backwards is “draeb” which, in context, doesn’t make much sense to me.

  28. hmmm – i know what it spells backwards – like it better the way it is … an evil empire in reverse is a good empire?
    but Snolybab is an excellent word, wasn’t there an old Anglican priest named Snolybab? or was his name Snolybob? 😉

  29. The odm’s embarrass me.

    The paranoia and lack of trust that God is able to protect and speak to His people without their chicken little warnings makes me wonder what they trust.

    I have seen people led astray and follow after counterfeit revivals.

    I’ve watched as the LORD, let them go. I’ve also seen them come back to the truth after all the dust settled.

    Is Jesus really to be believed when He said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church or not?

    I have no problem eating with or even ministering with almils, premils, run of the mils, (I stole that last phase from someone here, fil?

    God likes the variety. How come the end times stuff isn’t so cut and dry in the Bible that there could be no argument. Or predestination, or whether Paul had a wife, or ,,,

    Ruth Graham once said that if two people were exactly alike, then one was unnecessary.

    Heaven is going to have many surprises.

  30. The debate today over eschatology is frankly minor (in my opinion) compared to the debate at the time of the Reformation over the Lord’s Supper. I think most today fail to realize how significant Luther and Zwingli felt this topic was to the Christian faith. Put another way, these were not men who argued over petty trifles. Then, factor in the Catholic view of the Eucharist, and you have quite a stew in comparison to the pre,post,amill debate of our day.

  31. Alas …Jessica was correct… lol

  32. AV is also correct… the eucharist lies at the center. I obliquely raised the issue by speaking of table fellowship. The early church I believe saw the two as one. A meal accompanied by remembrance of Jesus…

    What was this mystery they asked? The definitions failed them… creating the impossibility of unity and the call for uniformity. Alas, had they just partaken in wonder and awe, in humility and the fear of the LORD… our unity might have been preserved and the calls of uniformity might have failed.

    But these things once forged cannot be unmixed, innocence lost so impossible to regain. Let us break bread and receive from his hand thinking on these things on another day.

    Peace to all

  33. Is there such a thing as Spiritual ADD?

    I am coming to the conclusion that the more I know…the more I know nothing.

    I see wisdom and truth in every flavor of Christianity…save the hyper-Charlatans like a Benny Hinn or Todd Bentley…and the corrupt guys like my step-dad.

    There is no singular “right” answer in the Theological debates…only a bunch of “right” answers.

    The raw fact is…we really don’t know…save that Christ is who He says He is…and that Salvation is through Him. God is. We’re all going to die a physical death…and the eternal part of us…whatever that is…will live on in eternity…either with God…or separated from Him.

    The end times stuff…good luck with figuring that out with all certainty.

    I’m beginning to question whether it is really a fruitful cause to spend so much time trying to figure it all out…(for me, personally).

    But, then again, there are different parts of the Body…and for some the endeavor to study Theology and try to make sense of everything Spiritual may be exactly what God has for them to do…Michael and others on here certainly appear to have that giftedness.

    For me, it’s becoming a giant headache. I end up questioning everything…as I default to my own intensely personal experiences…and filter Theology through the seeming contradiction in what I’ve experienced and how my mind/soul/spirit/will and flesh wrestle on a very practical boots-on-the-ground level…and all limited by (in some cases) ignorance…lack of certain experience…bias…presupposition…and only a certain amount of intelligence. It’s humbling (which is very very good for me) to interact with many on here. I am not nearly as “smart” as I think I am (sometimes)…when I spend time on this forum.

    I can say this…I can have fellowship with darn near everyone (even the Lutherans 🙂 ) I’ve interacted with on here…not sure if that door would swing both ways…but for me…I am personally not stumbled by a disagreement over (IMO) tertiary (secondary) issues.

    I am stumbled by hypocrites…especially self-professed “prophets of God” and pastors and/or church leaders who are corrupt and do not repent when confronted with their sinfulness. I have no use for guys like my step-dad…and that list includes a guy like Heitzig. Deception and lack of true confession and repentance at the leadership level is unacceptable, IMO. The “appearance” of accountability is still a lie.

    I am becoming increasingly righteously angry over organizational cultures that promote abuse within the “church” and society.

    Generally, I still believe that God is Sovereign and man is responsible…still don’t know how or why. I am comforted by God’s Sovereignty…I am challenged by man’s responsibility. I am p.o.’d by church leaders abusing the children of God in the name of the Lord…and getting away with it here on earth.

  34. for the ODMs

    You’re dying to prove
    That you are never wrong
    You’re so right, you’d rather be sad
    But you won’t go along

    You built a wall didn’t ya
    ‘Round what you’re thinking of
    Never mind what anyone says
    You’re turning your back on love

    Lonely days and lonely nights
    Will we ever get it right
    Don’t be blinded by the light
    Turn your back on love

  35. AV,

    Your 10:03 — is right on the money.

    Even the Lord’s Supper, though, pales in comparison, theologically, to even more central issues — Christology, for example, and GETTING THE GOSPEL RIGHT! (sorry to shout, but done for emphasis).

    To me, that’s the heart of Christianity and the Reformation —

  36. ODM’s aside, (I don’t follow the rants anyway)

    I’ve experienced far greater spiritual snobbery from the almil camp.

    Maybe its a local thing, or because I don’t get attacked from my own camp.

    But what do I know, Dispy’s ALWAYS confuse Israel with Christ. Or so I’ve been told.

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