“Dispensationalism must be wrong” – Part II

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

MacPherson, Dave

Dave MacPherson

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.

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.

Dr. Thomas Ice

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.

Brief History of Early Premillennialism
Alleged Irvingite Influence on Darby and the Rapture
A Short History Of Dispensationalism
A Brief History of The Rapture

________ 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.

Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

4 Comments
  1. The qualifications for church leaders in Timothy are mandatory – not optional. MacPherson can’t read the thoughts of anyone’s heart but he can compare authors and can note if plagiarism is involved. His Google articles include “Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal” (includes side-by-side quotes), “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers)” (he sloppily left out more than 40 words while reproducing Macdonald’s 1830 revelation!), “Pretrib Hypocrisy” (what Christ condemned), “Famous Rapture Watchers” (showing how the greatest Greek scholars interpreted Rev. 3:10 etc.), “Wily Jeffrey,” “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts, and “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism” (proof of anti-Semitism in dispensationalism’s foundation!). The secular world takes plagiarism seriously – and punishes offenders – even if some Christians don’t! The Bible does say we are to judge others righteously and also says that judgment must first begin in the house of God – and Jesus warned there would be a great falling away from the faith of Christ in the last days and that He would have to test believers and that many would be purified since He will have a bride without spot or wrinkle. BTW, Lindsey is not spelled “Lindsay” and the picture of Dave MacPherson is not of the MacPherson you write about! You need to do a lot more research before you jump into print and you owe an apology to the MacPherson you talk about – the one who has focused for 40 years on the origins of various rapture views (Google “Scholars Weigh My Research” to see how other scholars evaluate his research). Thomas Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” from a school that is NOT accredited and which was fined by the State of Texas for illegally issuing degrees! For proof of this, visit the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site and type in “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers” and read what World Net Daily said about all this! You may not know this, but the famous C. I. Scofield began dishonestly adding “D.D.” after his name in the 1890s instead of letting some institution honor him with it! You are assuming that MacPherson hasn’t corresponded with and interacted with his opponents whereas he has even debated on Christian radio with his opponents and critics including “Dr.” Ice! Finally, have you yourself ever written to MacPherson and asked him anything before you have jumped to conclusions? Lord bless, I’m for Biblical integrity too and so is MacPherson. Sally

    • Sally,

      Thank you for taking time to comment on this post.

      I will try to work my way through your comment, point by point.

      I think I was very careful to not defend plagiarism. If plagiarism did, in fact, occur, it was wrong and any who did plagiarize need to deal with it appropriately. I simply offered my personal knowledge of these men as a character reference – and based on that, offered other possible explanations of apparent plagiarism. And, I would suggest, based on my knowledge of these men, their work and their ministries, that if a few quotes here and there occurred (out of hundreds of pages of work) that there was neither intent nor need for these men to ride the coattails of someone else to further their own careers / ministries by trying to pass off someone else’s work as their own. They are all established authors and theologians in their own right and could have easily rewritten the material in their own words. It isn’t as if the ideas were completely unique to the each author – and given the extensive knowledge of one another’s work, I think it would be hard to sort out who had which ideas first. Again, this isn’t a defense of the indefensible. I just wonder if the issue is as significant as Mr. MacPherson has attempted to portray it. Perhaps it is.

      Yes, I know how to spell Mr. Lindsey’s name. I realized that I had mistyped it and thought I had corrected it – and even double-checked on the correct spelling because I had seen it spelled both ways in various articles.

      Concerning the picture of Mr. MacPherson. I apologize for that, but it was an honest mistake. I did a fairly extensive Google search to find the picture of him. I am almost completely certain that I did locate his picture because it was connected to an article that was supportive of his work. However, it wasn’t a particularly flattering picture and so I looked for a better one. When I saw the one I ended up using, I thought they were the same person – and they may have been if the first one I found was not the Dave MacPherson in question. I didn’t just use the first picture of a Dave MacPherson that I found – because there are several out there. So, I apparently made a mistake, even though I did what I thought was sufficient research to post the correct picture – which was definitely my intent. But again, I apologize for the mistake.

      As I said in the post, I have done some research into Mr. MacPherson’s work and know that he has been doing his research into this subject for 40 years or so – and have read at least parts of the article “Scholars Weigh My Research.” I am not questioning his research in the sense that I know he was done a lot of work. I only suggested that perhaps his conclusions are not the only ones possible. However, concerning the Pre-trib Rapture view itself, even if plagiarism did occur, this has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of the doctrine. If one man’s conclusions are biblically sound and he is quoted by someone else, even if not credited properly, then the conclusions remain biblically sound. Plagiarism changes nothing. And this was the main point of my post. Whether or not this was Mr. MacPherson’s intent, this is a commonly used polemic device – and is essentially part of the misguided “genetic fallacy” form of argumentation. So, I was cautioning others to not be concerned that this was the “death-knell” for Pre-trib dispensationalism – as I have actually seen claimed. And I have seen this specific article cited in a number of articles and comments across the internet that were promoting this idea – and this is the second time it has happened here.

      I am aware of the situation with Dr. Ice’s degree – and looked into it myself a couple of months ago. And from the research I have done, the attempt to slander and smear Dr. Ice and the school from which he graduated with this one small piece of information as you present it does not fairly represent the whole picture. When one begins to look into it further, it becomes clear that there are two sides to this story (as there usually are) and the entire issue is not quite as simple or cut-and-dried as it might appear on the surface.

      Concerning the reporting of WND: Just this week there has been fairly strong criticism on biased reporting on another issue – and some have suggested this isn’t an isolated incident. I am not prepared to either defend or criticize WND’s work – much of which I’m sure is good – but I am suggesting that simply citing them as a sole source for a slander may be inappropriate given the seriousness of the charge – and the fact, again, that there does appear to be two sides to the issue.

      I am also aware of the accusation against C.I. Scofield concerning the D.D. – often repeated across the internet. However, despite the fact that it is often repeated and found in what appears to be a significant number of articles and blogs – it seems that they are all relying on a single source – either directly or two or three times removed – and it seems that a good number do so without attribution. Yes, it could be that all the very negative things that have been written about Scofield are true. However, given his stature and influence, it would seem appropriate to do more research and rely on more than one source before someone accepts a charge that one man has single-handedly corrupted a huge segment of Christianity throughout the United States. But again, even if these things are true of Mr. Scofield – dispensationalism does not rise or fall on his character – it rises or falls on biblical exegesis.

      Concerning any assumptions made about Mr. MacPherson – no I am not assuming that he hasn’t corresponded with these men or attempted to deal with this publicly with the men in question. What I am suggesting is that it is not enough to produce an article full of extremely strong accusations against men who are brothers in Christ in simple list form, without some kind of accompanying documentation. For example, he impugns Dr. Ryrie’s character with a single sentence that he plagiarized Hal Lindsey’s work – without even noting what was plagiarized or any other kind of documentation. Neither does he acknowledge that there may be another explanation (for example, the possibility that Lindsey first got his idea from Ryrie although Lindsey may have been the first to get the idea into print). I’m not saying for certain that MacPherson is wrong. But again, I am cautioning others about uncritically accepting such an accusation against another brother or thinking that such an accusation or even action itself undermines dispensationalism as a systematic theology. Again, only biblical exposition can do this. (And this is not a blind defense of Dr. Ryrie.)

      Concerning writing to MacPherson – no, I haven’t done this. However, I have tried several times to locate a website that he might run so that I could see his work first-hand and interact with him if possible – and I have not yet found any, despite a number of Google searches. Perhaps I’ve simply overlooked it and missed it – but it isn’t because I haven’t tried. But even if I hadn’t made such an attempt, I don’t think I have jumped to any conclusions – but rather have just offered potential alternatives to his conclusions. I’m not saying his conclusions aren’t valid concerning these men – perhaps they are. But as I have noted before, I am saying that even if true, these revelations in and of themselves don’t deal with Pre-tribulationalism. Historical theology is a servant to biblical theology – not the other way around. So, in either case, I don’t think I owe Mr. MacPherson an apology – although I am willing to apologize if necessary.

      Concerning the need for additional research – I am continually doing research on this and other subjects. But I have done quite a bit of research into this already – and have tried to not go beyond that research in my posts. As I learn more, I will post that information as necessary and helpful to our readers – because we do wish to maintain biblical integrity.

      Thank you again. Your comments have caused me to think through this more, do additional research and re-examine my own conclusions. For now, I remain comfortable with what I have written.

      Dave

  2. Dave,

    I have an article about Emile Guers entitled “Emile Guers: An Early Darbyite Response to Irvingism and a Pre-Cursor to Charles Ryrie.” I no longer call Guers a Darbyite since the influence between the two men was reciprocal. However, the artilce shows a rather early critique of Irvingism by those who would be comfortable with Darby. I think it is helpful. It is at my website under biblical studies/systematic theoloyg/eschatology (www.our-hope.org). I did not see a way to attach the article here. Let me know if you are interested.

    Mike Stallard
    Baptist Bible Seminary

  3. MacPherson’s bestselling book “The Rapture Plot” has all the answers that have been raised about his research. It can even be borrowed at any library thru inter-library loan for seminarians who may presently be penniless. After you read it, you will know why he is the “Rush Limbaugh of the Rapture.” It’s not the mountains of evidence he has uncovered in Britain etc. or his choice of styles. It’s undoubtedly the way he parts his hair – or the way his opponents would like to part it!

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