Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Myth of Theological Liberalism

Over at one of my favorite blogs--Parchment and Pen--Dallas Seminary prof Dan Wallace discusses a peculiar prejudice that graduates of his fine institution are unjustly subjected. Here's an excerpt:
One of my interns, a very bright student who is preparing for doctoral studies, met with one scholar [at the most recent meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in New Orleans] to discuss the possibility of studying under him for his doctorate. The scholar was cordial, friendly, and a fine Christian man. He encouraged James to pursue the doctorate at his non-confessional school in the UK. (We have found the UK schools to be far more open to evangelical students, since they are more concerned that a student make a plausible defense of his views than that he or she holds the party line.) Later, James met a world-class scholar of early Christian literature and engaged him in conversation. James demonstrated deep awareness of the professor’s field, asking intelligent questions and showing great interest in the subject. Then, the professor asked him where he was earning his master’s degree. “Dallas Seminary” was the response. The conversation immediately went south. The scholar no longer was interested in this young man. James was, to this professor, an evangelical and therefore a poorly educated Neanderthal, a narrow-minded bigot, an uncouth doctrinaire neophyte—or worse.

This was no isolated case. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. There is an assumption that students from an evangelical school—especially a dispensational school—only get a second-class education and are blissfully ignorant of the historical-critical issues of biblical scholarship. Many of the mainline liberal schools routinely reject applications to their doctoral programs from evangelical students who are more qualified than their liberal counterparts—solely because they’re evangelicals. And Dallas Seminary students especially have a tough time getting into primo institutes because of the stigma of coming from, yes, I’ll say it again—a dispensational school. One of my interns was earning his second master’s degree at a mainline school, even taking doctoral courses. He was head and shoulders above most of the doctoral students there. But when he applied for the PhD at the same school, he was rejected. His Dallas Seminary degree eliminated him.

The prejudice runs deep—almost as deep as the ignorance. Yes, Dallas Seminary is a dispensational school. But it’s not your father’s dispensational school. Progressive dispensationalism, engineered by Darrell Bock, Craig Blaising, et alii, about twenty-five years ago has tied a dispensational hermeneutic to a more nuanced appreciation of the biblical covenants. Gone are the days of seeing two New Covenants, of distinguishing the ‘kingdom of God’ from the ‘kingdom of heaven’ in Matthew, and of seeing eschatology as not-yet but not already. The differences between other hermeneutical systems and the dispensationalism of today are not nearly as great as they used to be. But much of liberal scholarship has simply not kept up. There is widespread ignorance about what dispensationalists believe along with what seems to be an unwillingness to find out.
You can read the whole thing here.


Dean said...

Since I'm not a theologian, what is dispensationalism?

Francis J. Beckwith said...

It's a theological movement within Evangelical Protestantism that began in the mid-19th century.

Here's a nice article on it:

Dean said...

Thank you sir.