Dr. Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of our ministry, has written many articles for the Levitt Letter. He holds a Th.M. in Old Testament studies and a Th.D. in Semitic languages and Old Testament. He has served as Zola’s co-author, mentor, pastor, and friend for nearly 30 years.
This article appeared originally in the February 2000 Levitt Letter.
This article has been a long time in coming. Throughout the years, our ministry, purveyors of the most accurate Bible teaching we can do, has been watching as some seminaries have deteriorated. You will recall a few years ago our arguments with Dallas Theological Seminary over an anti-Israel professor whom they subsequently fired. That particular Arabist cursed Israel on a radio program, and enough was enough.
And you will recall our project last year was trying to get Criswell College and some other Bible schools to drop the terrible textbook, A Survey of The New Testament by Robert H. Gundry, from their teaching. That textbook advocated Replacement Theology and a Gentile church "in Matthew's time," and so forth. We came to them in a spirit of helpfulness, having special sensitivities to that subject in general and Israel in particular. We were treated as rabble-rousers and troublemakers, and I was thoroughly criticized for even speaking up.
The results were disheartening. While a Bible college in Lakeland, Florida, dropped the book, the president of Criswell said they were dropping it, but that never happened. Our newsletter published his very words.
We received a provacative email from a viewer recently:
I feel as though I am an inside spy! I work at Moody Bible Institute and have been keeping a close watch on their use of the Gundry book. I just checked the bookstore, and it appears that the Gundry book is a required text for a New Testament Survey class offered in the evening school. It is also a "recommended" text for the New Testament Survey class offered in the day school. After reading of the dangers of this book, I am very concerned of its use.
I think I would like to send a letter to some of the VPs I know here, but need your help in what I should say. Can you forward me some information I could use to support my request that Moody reconsider its use of the text? I would greatly appreciate it!
Thank you for your wonderful ministry!
In Yeshua, — RSE
Our present subject is Progressive Dispensationalism, a doctrine we discovered back at Dallas Seminary, which has now infected Moody Bible Institute, Talbot Seminary, Biola College, Dallas Baptist University and any number of other formerly fine, trustworthy Bible teaching institutions. Some of the formerly Dispensational seminaries, teaching the very logical system of spiritual economies given in the Bible, have departed into this strange teaching which takes a negative view of modern Israel, and that is our chief objection. Like Amillennialism, a doctrine which holds that there will be no future Kingdom on earth, Progressive Dispensationalism considers modern Israel to be the work of man and not of God. It rejects the concept of God's covenant with an unsaved Israel such as we have today.
Despite the teachings of the Dry Bones vision and any number of other passages, Progressive Dispensationalists demand a believing Israel before they will accept it as a nation regathered by divine miracle.
In fact, these theologians have adopted the politically correct view that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians. They are apparently convinced by the media's negative reports despite the plain evidence of the eyes of any pilgrim who goes to the land.
The Progressive Dispensationalist teachers ignore the resurgence of the Messianic movement in Israel and even the heartening spread of faith in Yeshua (Jesus) among the Jews in this country. They seem not to understand how the situation in modern Israel leads to the Tribulation and the Millennium, which is very clear even to Sunday school teachers everywhere. They seem embarrassed about the idea of Israel becoming the head of the nations, and they think that an emphasis on Israel somehow diminishes the church.
They seem to de-emphasize the study of eschatology — or prophecy — entirely. There has been a decline of prophecy conferences nationwide and little teaching of Revelation going on these days in the pulpits or classrooms. There is, in particular, a reduced teaching of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture which is arguably the doctrine of prime importance to the church today. The fact that the Lord can come at any moment would have a profound influence on every Christian.
Dr. Thomas S. McCall, our senior theologian, has proposed a four-question test in choosing a seminary or Bible school. Assuming that you want Bible teaching and doctrines that are accurate, then you must first be assured that the seminary holds to the Deity of Christ. It is amazing that there are Bible schools operating which do not consider our Lord to be God incarnate, but they're all over the place. We call them liberal seminaries, and we gave an example in a recent newsletter of a student of one of those who didn't care if Christ even ever lived, according to what he said. Once the truth of the deity of Christ is settled, other important matters such as His virgin birth, substitutionary death and physical resurrection readily become believable.
Secondly, you must insist on a seminary holding to the Inerrancy of the Bible. Obviously, if we're going to say that some Scriptures are not accurate or literal, etc., that way lies madness. Either the Bible is true or it's not true, and if we're going to have a seminary at all, it must hold to the Bible containing no error. There are some schools claiming to be conservative that are not willing to assert that the Scriptures are without error. They may use some slippery terms like, "the Bible contains the Word of God," or "the Bible is inerrant in matters of faith" (but not history). Beware these evasions.
Thirdly, the field of Eschatology is so critical today. Prophecy is more important than ever and, in particular, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, as we said above. When a school that was founded on the blessed hope of the imminent Pre-Trib Rapture begins to depart and waffle on the subject, it is a sign that both their eschatology (prophecy) and ecclesiology (knowledge of the church) are deteriorating.
And finally, the Truth about Israel's importance is critical. Does your seminary teach that God is moving in Israel today and that we are seeing prophecy fulfilled? Or does it teach, like the Dallas Seminary professor, that Israel is merely a political entity and that "conceivably these people (the Jewish people) might be driven off the land," (his words on Christian radio!)? Such is the fruit of doctrines like Progressive Dispensationalism. Many seminaries and Bible schools used to be friends of Israel and were convinced that the regathering of the Jewish people was a harbinger of the second coming of Christ. Recently, though, some leading evangelical schools are beginning to question "the promise of His coming" and the significance of modern Israel. Beware such statements as "prophecies about Israel won't be fulfilled until Christ's return." This is misleading and ignores all the preparation of Israel that must take place before and during the Tribulation.
So there you have Dr. McCall's four questions (like the four questions in Passover): the Deity of Christ, the Inerrancy of the Bible, Eschatology, and the Truth about Israel—or D.I.E.T., a healthful and nutritious diet for believers!
We have noted over our experience that some Bible schools offering accredited BA degrees suffer from very tense atmospheres on certain subjects. There is stress between theological and non-theological faculties, which is to say that virtually secular teachers are brought in to teach secular subjects as the Bible school negotiates the slippery slope of accreditation. When a Bible school or college wants to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree, then academic professors are brought in from outside who may well teach that the Old Testament is mythological as they teach their various subjects. In the seminaries, graduates have to go elsewhere for doctoral degrees (encouraged by accreditation committees to "broaden" their training), and they come back changed.
The seminary and Bible school tend to present themselves to supporters as godly places indeed where much prayer, sincerity and teaching truth according to the doctrinal statements is happening, but the atmosphere is quite different in the classroom. Supporters and donors of these big schools must be convinced that all is well, while there is almost a shooting war behind the scenes.
Progressive Dispensationalism, with all its confusing prophecy, is a key issue. Drs. Blaising and Bock at Dallas Theological Seminary have written two books on Progressive Dispensationalism. Dr. Saucy at Talbot Theological Seminary has written a similar book promoting Progressive Dispensationalism. Dr. Pate at Moody Bible Institute has also chimed in with a Progressive Dispensationalism book. Normative Dispensationalists like Dr. Ryrie, Dr. Walvoord, and Dr. Ice have all written books and articles vigorously exposing and refuting this aberrant teaching, but most supporters are not aware of this significant theological battle.
Administrators have become political, like CEOs of secular businesses. Dr. McCall and I are acquainted with the administrators at Dallas Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Criswell College, Dallas Baptist University and any number of others. We cannot help but reach the conclusion that, rather than dealing with us as Christian brothers, they are more like common businessmen and, in some cases, not as trustworthy as common businessmen. Their emphasis seems to be on donations and enrollments and not on what is being taught; hence, one college fought us to the death over keeping a clearly bad textbook, and the president of another college ignored all of our correspondence and appeals.
We found disillusioned students and faculty members everywhere. Our ministry chaplain taught a college student who spent 18 months at Moody Bible Institute and came out of there totally shocked with what he had heard in the classrooms. He is now enrolled in a secular university. Faculty members likewise are under pressure to keep a smile for donors and a "don't rock the boat" attitude where the administration is concerned. One professor at one of the leading seminaries, who continues to teach all the important Biblical truths, says he is being kept as "window dressing" so that when informed alumni ask about the current doctrinal shift, the administration can point to him as evidence that the school has not changed. But he has little or no voice in the current theology of the seminary faculty. Doctrinal statements that the new professors have signed need "reinterpretation." Their interpretations are often broadened to include what amounts to false doctrines.
It will be very hard to correct seminary errors because of the mindset that the administrators are great men, indeed, who utter something next to Scripture when they speak. They do not take kindly to suggestions or constructive criticism. We found most administrators in denial. The presidents of Dallas Seminary and Moody Bible Institute told us they had "no problem" with Progressive Dispensationalism, when we knew there was tremendous tension over this very doctrine behind the scenes. We have many friends at these institutions, after all. Dr. McCall is a doctoral graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary, and he and I were among Moody's best-selling authors over the past 25 years. We have personally both spoken in the chapels of these institutions and are well acquainted with faculty members there and elsewhere.
Criticism of any doctrinal shift is considered disloyal and divisive. Supporters are purposely confused and made to think any theological argument is mere hair-splitting when, in reality, there has been a sea change in the doctrinal teachings at the seminaries we have mentioned.
What exactly is Progressive Dispensationalism? We asked theologians as knowledgeable and seminal as Dr. John Walvoord and Dr. Charles Ryrie, and they almost shrugged because, as it is often said, the stuff is so "slippery" that it is hard to get a handle on it. Essentially, Progressive Dispensationalism teaches that Jesus is already sitting on the throne of David. The distinctions between the church and Israel are purposely blurred, and the doctrine seems to move in the direction of Amillennialism which, of course, does away with the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, the whole Millennial Kingdom, the importance of modern Israel and virtually all of the basics of accurate eschatological teaching. They claim to be Dispensationalists, but have gutted Dispensationalism of some of its most important concepts.
With Biblical inerrancy, there are professors at leading seminaries pronouncing that some of the Scripture is mythical and that its histories are inaccurate.
In keeping with political correctness, there is also Egalitarianism, which has been covered extensively in the Moody Bible Institute student newspaper. This is the doctrine that teaches that women are equal in function to men in the pulpit and other ministries. This has led to the ordination of women to serve as pastors of churches. Some modern professors consider this a very good move, while those who believe the Scriptures find the idea repellant. And finally, the relative importance of prophecy, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, and the significance of modern Israel are de-emphasized to a point of almost irrelevance. Israel, in particular, is criticized, as we've pointed out above, rather than heralded as a sure sign of the coming of the Tribulation and second coming of Christ.
We must say that there are any number of Bible schools available which are holding to Dispensationalism and correct doctrines about Israel and prophecy. We can name some—Philadelphia College of The Bible with Dr. Ryrie, Liberty University with Dr. Falwell, Tyndale Theological Seminary with Dr. Couch, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with Dr. Patterson, and Cedarville College with Dr. Gromaki.
Readers should know that we are open to any seminary writing in with positive answers to Dr. McCall's four questions. Simply go to your local Bible school or the one you're considering attending, and ask them if they're on a proper Biblical "DIET."
And the other good news is God is still running the world, Israel is still His heart's desire and the focus of His activity among men, and prophecy marches onward with an imminent Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the born-again Church coming to deliver us before a seven-year Tribulation and then to a thousand-year Kingdom of rejoicing on earth! Please know that in the last two weeks of February, for most of you, we will have two television programs on the subjects discussed in this article, and we encourage you very much to write to these seminaries, particularly those we have mentioned above. The addresses of the two major seminaries we have mentioned above are:President Charles R. Swindoll