Eschatology, D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider (eds.). Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016.
Summary: A compendium of essays on the future hope of Christians reflecting a dispensational premillenialist perspective.
Craig A. Blaising is a biblical theologian whose roots are in the Baptist tradition. He has taught at three southern seminaries in the U.S. and is known for his work in what is called “progressive dispensationalism.” This volume of essays, a survey of scholarship around the “last things” was compiled in honor of his 65th birthday and certainly reflects this theological tradition at its best.
Discerning what theological persuasion the writers were coming from, I thought, “O.K. here we go, prophecy charts and predictions that our conflict with ISIS is the prelude to Armageddon.” There is none of that in this book. Instead, what I found was good scholarship seeking to be faithful to scripture and relatively wide-ranging in discussing the history of eschatology through church history and the implications of this all for the church, organized into a comprehensive survey that I would suggest reflects the best of dispensational premillenialism.
After introductory essays that include a biography and curriculum vita of Blaising, the book is organized into four sections:
- The Doctrine of the Future and Its Foundations
- The Doctrine of the Future in the Bible
- The Doctrine of the Future in the History of Christian Thought
- The Doctrine of the Future and Christian Ministry.
Hence, the collection moves from theological foundations to biblical theology, to historical theology, and to pastoral and practical theology.
The first section includes a fine essay by Stanley D. Toussaint on the concept of hope and the profound basis the prophetic passages offer for hope that sustains endurance and joy. Then Charles C. Ryrie and John D. and Stefana Dan Laing address the eclipse of attention to the prophetic scriptures having to do with our future hope and the impact this has in the life of the church.
The next section explores the doctrine of the future in each part of scripture, essentially doing the spade work to construct a biblical theology from the whole of scripture about our future hope. It was interesting to see the historical books in scripture discussed by Gregory Smith, exploring the implications of the Davidic covenant and its statements about David’s, and Israel’s, distant future hope. If you want to find arguments for a future hope for Israel as a national entity, you will find it among this and other articles in this section.
Section three turns to historical theology with articles beginning with the early fathers and concluding with contemporary European theology, capped off by David Dockery’s article on Millenialism in Contemporary Evangelical Theology, which gives one of the best explanations I have seen of a-, post-, and pre-millenial positions. It was interesting that while several essays concerned Reformed, Anabaptist, and Baptist theology, there was no treatment of eschatology in Wesleyan theology, and a mere subsection of the Contemporary European Theology devoted to Catholic theology.
The final section turns to pastoral and practical concerns. J. Denny Autry discusses the place of eschatological concerns in both preaching and pastoral care. For my money, the book should have ended with R. Albert Mohler’s essay of contemporary challenges. Stephen Blaising’s contribution on the doctrine of the future and the marketplace felt like an add-in to include Blaising’s son in the collection. Mohler concluded his essay with these words, that should have ended the book:
“The rapid disappearance of cultural Christianity in our own time will mean that Christians may soon find themselves in a situation similar to that of the early church in Rome. Preaching the Lordship of Christ and biblical eschatology rooted in the arrival of God’s kingdom will be considered culturally and politically subversive. Proclaiming a biblical eschatology that heralds the message “Jesus Christ is Lord” will lead to direct confrontation with the culture.
“While the disappearance of cultural Christianity is a cultural disaster, it is also a theological gain. It is disastrous for society because it will destroy a worldview most conducive to human flourishing. A post-Christian culture will be a very inconvenient place to raise your children, minister the gospel, or speak in the public square. Yet, at the same time, the evaporation of cultural Christianity may prove a theological gain for the church. Our lives and beliefs will only make sense if indeed Jesus Christ is Lord and our hope is not bound up in the city of man, but in a city to come. From a gospel witness perspective, that is a very convenient place to be.”
This quibble with the order and selection of these last essays aside, I would commend this collection, along with Dr. Blaising’s own work if you seriously wish to take the measure of dispensational premillenialist eschatological thinking today. This probably could be used as a basic textbook, or at least supplemental text in theology courses in Christian colleges and seminaries sympathetic with the dispensational premillenialist position. Rather than being about prophecy charts and sensational predictions, it is about the substance of Christian hope concerning the future of every believer, the church, Israel, and the world.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.