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  • « Monergism MP3 Library Mid- May Features | Main | More Thoughts on Christ's Active Obedience and its Relation to The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness »

    Review: The Late Great Planet Church, Volume One, presented by

    lategreatplanet150.jpgThe Late Great Planet Church (volume one) is a well-structured and easy-to-watch dvd presentation that gathers together the insights of several notable scholars and pastors, most of whom were formerly committed dispensationalists, specifically on the rise of dispensationalism and the often dubious nature of its history during its formative years. It continues with more recent trends, including both the “revised dispensationalism” championed by Charles Ryrie, and the “progressive dispensationalism” of such scholars as Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising. By the end of the dvd, the viewer will be well-acquainted with the basic history of the entire movement.

    What the dvd is not, however, is a detailed explanation of all that dispensationalism actually teaches, or a scriptural critique or rebuttal. In the course of the historical narrative, the viewer will pick up a basic idea of the central themes and problems in the dispensational worldview (e.g. a rigorous distinction between Israel and the Church, an elaborately-developed eschatology upon which an entire theology is built, rather than an eschatology grounded in a prior, comprehensive theological understanding, etc.); and furthermore, he will come away with some of the major differences between early dispensationalism (Darby and the Plymouth Brethren), classical dispensationalism (Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer), revised dispensationalism (Ryrie and Walvoord), and progressive dispensationalism (Bock and Blaising). However, the minutia of the system are never laid out in clear detail; rather, the big ideas are given in broad, overarching terms, and the scriptural truths either to confirm or refute these motifs are generally not provided.

    Of course, this is no doubt because the dvd in question is volume one, and is intended to lay the groundwork for a thoroughgoing biblical critique in volume two. I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the second volume: those who have watched the excellent defense of the doctrines of grace produced by the same team (Amazing Grace: the History and Theology of Calvinism) will doubtless share the same optimism that the forthcoming scriptural critique will be clear and compelling.

    But what will the viewer gain specifically from this first volume? First of all, it will likely be an eye-opening account of the doctrinal and moral foibles of the founders of dispensational thought. Particularly enlightening was the early dispensationalists' self-attested disregard for the first eighteen hundred years of church history, which basically contained nothing of doctrinal profit for the modern church, as God had not been pleased to enlighten them with the necessary truths to understand the entire content of the bible. Spurgeon's reaction to Darby and the Plymouth Brethren was also instructive, as was the simultaneity of the rise of many eschatologically-based cults such as Adventism and Mormonism, in the days of dispensationalism's birth. The discussion could easily have become bogged down in guilt-by-association and ad-hominem attacks, but a couple qualifying statements of intention in the midst of some of the rather sordid history help to ameliorate that impression.

    Overall, the tone strives to be gracious to and understanding of those still adhering to dispensational beliefs; but the anti-dispensational position of all the speakers is patently clear from the beginning. This is not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it gives a commendable air of straightforward candidness – but the fact that most of the scriptural argumentation is left for the next volume leaves a bit of a disjunct: one may certainly see that the producers are against dispensationalism, but they may not always see why, at least not in all the particulars.

    In sum, this dvd may be very eye-opening, and it should certainly cause many sincere Christians who have been steeped in dispensationalism to begin questioning the validity of their position; but it will not provide all the answers to the questions it raises. I would certainly recommend it to give away to dispensational friends, but it would be much more effective coming from someone who is knowledgeable enough to discuss the teachings of dispensationalism in light of the scripture passages pertaining to those teachings, and who has the kind of relationship conducive to such a discussion. Otherwise, it may be very helpful to wait for the second volume, and make use of the two together.

    The Late Great Planet Church: available at Monergism Books.

    Posted by Nathan on May 18, 2009 11:49 AM


    I highly anticipated the release of this documentary - and waited with genuine excitement at the prospect of it being delivered. But...

    I was somewhat disappointed by the focus of this volume. Is there much to be gained from knowing the 'slimy' origins of dispensationalism, or the crankiness of J.N.Darby? Perhaps, but I doubt that 2 hours needs to be devoted to this revelation.

    Dispensationalism is such a serious error and so pernicious in its refusal to fade away that we need sharp, clear precept on precept dismantling of its absurd interpretations of the Bible, and silly prognostications. I realize that they exist in print - but the chance to easily communicate through a visual medium provides another tool much needed.

    Therefore we can't waste time with anything less than the very best Biblical dismantling of what may arguably be one of the most destructive and anti-hope ideologies to ever infect Christianity.

    I'm not sorry I purchased the video - but I'm almost sorry. My disappointment with Vol 1 will not stop me from purchasing Vol 2 - but that's primarily because I am desperate to equip myself and others with the best available information.

    Thanks for the effort - but give us the substantive arguments, and biblical well reasoned ammo to help our friends see the light, or lack of it regarding dispensational hermenutics.

    Hi Scott,

    I agree that there remains the need for a "sharp, clear precept on precept dismantling of its absurd interpretations of the Bible" -- but I still have high hopes that volume two will meet our expectations in providing this eminently scriptural rebuttal. We'll see when the time comes...

    "Therefore we can't waste time with anything less than the very best Biblical dismantling of what may arguably be one of the most destructive and anti-hope ideologies to ever infect Christianity."

    Scott, perhaps you may lose some of these pejoratives? Maybe a bit? To be honest, Dispensationalism may "infect" Covenant Theology, but infect Christianity? You've certainly mistepped in your assessment unless you maintain the idea that only Covenant Theology is true Christianity. I mean, your remarks such as Dispensationalism being an "anti-hope ideology" are practically absurd. Anti-hope? Have you even begun to read Chafer (as an example)? You read the excellent bio on him done by Richards? I mean, "anti-hope", where does that even begin to formulate?

    I'm a Dispensationalist, attend Dallas Seminary, and certainly love the Doctrines of Grace. I'm sorry we disagree about the over-arching program of God, and the exact focus of biblical-history, but I certainly wouldn't say Coventant/Federal Theology infects Christianity, I actually really enjoy reading and studying the Covenant motif and find it helpful and beautiful at the same time. Do I essentially agree with it? No, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from each other. Both ways are helpful to a point, both ways do not grasp the full-extent of the eternal Word and God's program. So we both fall short of grasping it all in our systems, but doesn't mean we have to tear each other down.

    Ross Turner

    My comments on the Late Great Planet Earth are theological and ideological not a personal attack.

    Ross, perhaps you have an alternative explanation as to why U.S. Christians have no view of the future which includes long term planning and building? Why is do Christians pay so little attention to do those things that take decades to accomplish? It is my opinion that the eschatology of dispensationalism is where this blame should be laid. For the past 60 years the so-called prophecy experts have been telling us that the signs are 'certain' and that we are in the very last of the last days. Problem is every so called
    certainty has been 100% wrong.

    Its time for the church to embrace a eschatology of hope, one that empowers the church to roll up its sleeves and dig in to the long term challenges of Gospel transformation in our inner cities, the building of alliances between the 1000's of churches that are largely disconnected from one another (in no small way influenced by Dispensationalism fear mongering concerning the scary 'one world church' alleged to be coming at any moment), but who desperately need to stand in Christian unity for the sake of evanglization, and the discipling of the nations.

    There is a reason why there are few scholarly defenses of dispensationalism - and I believe its because as a systems of interpretation it remains only as a populist hermeneutic, propped up by Christian publishing companies who see it as a way to generate sales. From Hal Lindsey, to John Hagee to book after book of imaginative, highly sensationalistic prognostication dispensationalism continues to grip the popular mindset - but not the academy. But this will not last. In a few decades the consistently taught view that 'the generation that sees the restoration of the national Israel' will reach the point where it will no longer be possible to make this claim. (I mean at some point 'the generation' will cease to have meaning as a 'sign')

    Ross, I don't question the orthodoxy of dispensational prophetic writers - I'm sure they are sincere believers in Christ. What I question is the system. I regularly work together with Christians who hold these views (after all it still remains the majority opinion of most ordinary evangelicals, particularly Charismatic/Pentecostal Christians). I love them as my dear brothers in Christ - even if I think their understanding of 'last things' is bankrupt, and actually holding the church back from long term brick by brick building so necessary if we are going to see the gospel being the 'salt' and 'light' which Jesus called us to be.

    Ross - take on the devastating critiques of dispensationalism - whether its Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? Keith Matheison or Gary Demar's Last Days Madness, or the older Study of Dispensationalism by A.W. Pink and see if you still feel certain that Dispensationalism is a hermenutic which stands up. I don't and I want to see the day that it ends as a dominant way in which Christians think about the 'end of all things'.

    There was a time when the majority of protestant Christians believed in what is called historicism, time has resulted in that eschatology being tossed on the junk heap of history. I sincerely believe, and hope for the day that popular dispensationalism - the kind which is taught by John Hagee, and Hal Lindsey, and dozens of other 'prophecy' experts will be a thing of the past, a historical oddity - and the church will have matured. In the words of the great theologian John Lennon - 'you may say I'm a dreamer - but I'm not the only one.'

    Ross with all due respect; those of us who hold faithfully to Covenent Theology do so precisely because we believe it is the true hermenutic, therefore the fullest, and truest undestanding of the Christian faith. Above and beyond all other hermenutical systems. If you can not honestly say that about dispensationalism you need to find out why. As far as dispensationalism not infecting the church; it stands to reason that if it is not faithfull to the biblical revelation than by necessity it does infect the church just as any other false teaching does.

    You mentioned that you derive great benefit from reading Covenental authors. We praise God for this. I to have benefited from the teaching of Dr. John McArthur. However you wrote "Both ways are helpful to a point, both ways do not grasp the full-extent of the eternal Word and God's program. So we both fall short of grasping it all in our systems, but doesn't mean we have to tear each other down." Correct me if I am wrong, but it sounds like you are hinting at some sort of equivalancy in the errors of both systems. I know you do not believe this other wise you would not hold the position you do. You feel as I do that your system is more equal. I know I do. I feel the same way about Covenant Theology this is why I no longer bother wading through dispensational liturature. It is the same reason I stopped going to charismatic churches. It is a muddy mixture and I was tired of wearing my knee high rubber boots to church, in the hopes that I might find something there to eat. However to be fair I do not want to equate you with them, that is perhaps taking it a bit too far, but you get my point.

    I just spent 2 hours listening to much "mud slinging". I'm not sure the Nicene Council did themselves any favor by lowering their standards to Darby's and Scholfield's. I'm looking forward to a more professional Vol .

    What is the current state of progress on the release of Volume 2? It's been two years. Is the project still forthcoming, and if so, when?

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