A visitor posted the following comment on the first blog post concerning popular arguments against dispensationalism.
For those of you who are eschatologically expert, I invite you to comment specifically on a Google article entitled “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” a photographic version of which is on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site. Since some have given the impression that that article is full of errors, I would very much like to be informed as to which particular item in it is in fact erroneous. Thanks in advance. Karl
The document to which he refers (Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty) was written by Dave MacPherson, who vehemently opposes “pre-tribulational premillennialism” (the Rapture precedes both the 7-year tribulation and the millennial reign of Christ). It is part of a 30-year campaign by Mr. MacPherson to attempt to prove that dispensationalism must be wrong.
An internet search concerning the pretribulational rapture will likely include results leading to articles and books that MacPherson has written over the last 30 years against this pretribulationalism, which he considers is false teaching and a dangerous hoax.
So, returning to the topic of a previous blog, “Dispensationalism must be wrong-Part I” below is an edited version of my response to Karl’s comment and the Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty document:
________ The following section is part of an edited version of my reply to Karl.
I have read this article several times over the last year as it is frequently cited across the internet. And I have looked at Dave MacPherson’s work on several occasions and been to several websites that have his material.
I have not done extensive research on Darby’s life myself, so I cannot comment on those specifics. However, I did hear a very well-researched paper on Darby at the annual Pre-Trib Study Group Conference in Dallas, in 2005, which dispelled many myths, misconceptions and results of poor and biased research. I think I still have the paper somewhere on my computer that I will look for.
________ The following section was not in my reply to Karl.
I have not yet found the article to which I referred above, however I have found several pertinent articles written by Thomas Ice (Executive Director of the Pre-trib Research Center).
One is a direct response to MacPherson’s article – click here.
Below are links to other articles by Dr. Ice.
________ The following returns to an edited version of my reply to Karl.
I would like to comment on the charge of dishonesty that forms the basis for the article, with the charge focusing largely on the issue of plagiarism.
Perhaps the main factor in this issue directly relates to the character and integrity of the person who is charged with plagiarism. This is a serious accusation and essentially crosses the line into judgment against the person’s heart – his intent and motives.
Although some may dismiss personal character references as unimportant in a rebuttal such as this, I believe in this case they are both important and quite relevant. (We must remember that character references are frequently used in many formal, even legal situations, including a court of law).
I have know some of the men mentioned in the article, have met others and am familiar with their work in general. Concerning the others (the ones who are still living), I’m fairly certain there is only “one-degree of separation” between us – meaning I know men who both know them fairly well and are associated with them in some way. The reason this is important is because I know the character and integrity of these men or those who know them (who wouldn’t be associated with them if there were these kinds of issues). I am quite confident that there aren’t character or integrity issues that would result in plagiarism (and plagiarism simply won’t occur unless these problems exist). Rather, I would stake my own reputation on the fact that these men are godly, sincere and live lives committed to serving the Lord and others.
Yet, the implication throughout this article by MacPherson (and his work in general) is that these men are inherently dishonest as reflected in their treatment of dispensationalism in general and the rapture in particular. My wife has a saying she uses frequently, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” I have found this to consistently hold true – and the simple fact is that these men are not dishonest.
As I mentioned above, for someone to make this accusation who does not personally know them is to cross the line into judging the hearts and motives. Beyond that, there are other credible explanations for the supposed evidence against them besides intentional plagiarism and deception.
As someone who has taught many courses over a period of twenty years in the areas of Bible exposition and theology, I know that I have personally used what I have learned over the years from the teaching, preaching and writing of others – including some of the men in question. During the 25 years I have been a believer, including studying in a Bible institute and seminary, I have learned, synthesized and internalized so much of this material I couldn’t begin to remember where I got it all from. And I’m sure this isn’t unique to me – it is simply the nature of the process of teaching and learning. Once the material is internalized, it becomes one’s own – particularly when we synthesize and combine it with our own thoughts. When this happens, we might use something that is essentially a quote from a given teacher or a compiled quote from several teachers, with neither memory of the source nor any intent to plagiarize another’s work.
Another factor, is that most of these men know one another personally and have discussed these matters extensively, learning from one another. Sometimes there are student-teacher relationships – where students take extensive notes in class. Then if the teacher publishes and later the student publishes, there are inevitably going to be quotations that may or may not be cited – or even remembered as quotations. And of course, once a teacher hits upon a memorable way of stating something, he will repeat it often and many people will hear it. The result can be fairly extensive propagation of certain phrases – but this doesn’t mean there has been plagiarism.
Just this evening I read an illustration that was exactly an illustration I had used for years – even though I thought for sure it was original with me. Maybe we both copied it from someone else – maybe we both simply had the same thought. But in the end, it just doesn’t matter if there was no intent to deceive. And in the case of a very specific topic like the rapture, it is almost certain that there will be overlap of ideas and repeated use of certain ways of saying things.
In one case, MacPherson accuses Charles Ryrie of plagiarizing Hal Lindsey. But of the two, Dr. Ryrie is the more well-known theologian and the more prolific writer – and he is four-years older than Lindsey. Does MacPherson know for certain that Lindsay didn’t actually use something he had heard from Dr. Ryrie – even though he published first – and then Ryrie later published his own original thoughts? These kinds of questions must be answered before someone accuses someone else of something so significant as plagiarism. This isn’t simply a matter of a young college student trying to quickly put together a paper the night before it is due and lifts some material he finds on the internet. However, because I haven’t done the work myself, yet, I admit that I can’t say whether or not that MacPherson done the necessary research on this, but I do know from reading his material that his style is very polemic and (I admit subjectively) has the feel of being a personal negative bias against pretribulational theology.
Yet, unless someone has had the personal conversations with these men, there are completely legitimate potential explanations that are far less insidious explanations of apparent plagiarism. The men in question represent a very dynamic process that has been the development of dispensational theology. It is quite normal that there would be “cross-pollination” of thought when dealing with exactly the same topics, biblical passages and collateral work as those who have gone before. And furthermore, many of them simply indicate that a student / teacher process was underway and theology was being passed from generation to generation.
Discussions need to occur with those who are charged, before they are charged, to try to genuinely discover why there are similar passages in some books. If such personal investigation occurred it must be documented and should be presented along with the accusation.
But no matter what investigation might reveal, the ultimate issue regarding the veracity of dispensationalism is whether it stands the test of actual exegesis to demonstrate that there are problematic conclusions being drawn. From what I have found, MacPherson has primarily attempted to discredit Pretribulationalism by trying to construct an historical theology against it rather than a biblical theology. At the end of the day, historical theology proves nothing. At most it can only say what happened, not whether or not it was right or wrong apart.
In short, I find this article to be little more than a diversion tactic that will capture the attention and imagination of those, who for whatever reason are predisposed against Pre-trib Dispensationalism – or who know very little about the subject. For those of us who both know the biblical theology and understand the process of development of this theology, this article is yet another interesting, but ultimately ineffectual attempt to discredit the theology of the pre-trib rapture.
Beyond this, which is sufficient by itself to challenge the article, I’m sure there are those out there who do have the experience and research expertise and resources to adequately respond to each point on a case-by-case basis.
To say the least, despite the sense by some that this is somehow the death-knell for pre-trib dispensationalism – I believe it falls far short of anything approaching that. And furthermore, it does so with language and accusations and style that actually raises questions concerning the character of the author himself as he does cross the line of judging another brother. This is very serious indeed.
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity