An Uncommon Union

The subtitle of this book is Dallas Theological Seminary and American Evangelicalism, written by one of my favorite professors ever, John D. Hannah.  When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) back in the early 1970s, Hannah was a professor in the church history department.  Hannah covers the history of DTS–and to a great extent of evangelicalism–beginning with the late 1800s.  Though DTS did not begin until 1924, the movement that spawned it began with the Niagara Bible conferences in the late 1800s with James Brooks, C. I. Scofield, and others.   Hannah discusses John Gresham Machen and his correspondence with Chafer and the same regarding Warfield and Chafer.  I knew that Lewis Sperry Chafer, the main founder of DTS and its president from 1924 to 1952, was influenced by the lawyer C. I. Scofield, but I did not know how much.  Chafer himself said that Scofield was his mentor, and he dedicated several of his books to Scofield.  Neither Scofield nor Chafer had formal theological training, knew Greek and Hebrew, or cared for church history.  If one reads the doctrinal statement of DTS and Chafer’s systematic theology (I’ve read all seven volumes), it shows.

Moreover, Hannah demonstrates that Chafer was an odd mixture of Calvinism, Arminianism (he calls it Keswick), and Plymouth Brethren, believing in predestination but rejecting the sovereignty of God in sanctification, given to Keswick theology in that area.  Warfield took Chafer’s book to task (see Warfield’s review on this blog), He That Is Spiritual, and demonstrated that Chafer’s view sanctification was Arminian, based on Keswick theology and thus a works system, whereby one must “yield” to the Holy Spirit to make progress.  In other words, “ought” (obedience) became the basis for “is” (God’s grace).  Warfield challenged how and where did one get the ability to yield.  If one must “yield” to have sanctification, one then has the option not to “yield,” which in turn means sanctification is optional.  Thus, antinomianism is possible.  We have the mixed up theology of reformed in the first tense of salvation (past tense, “saved” from the penalty of sin, based rightly on election, chosen by God), Arminian in the second tense of salvation (present tense, being saved from the power of sin, Keswick, based on one’s ability to “yield” to the Spirit, whatever that means), and Plymouth Brethren in the third tense of salvation (will be saved from the presence of sin, based on the rapture).  It has been my observation that such a view unlinks the golden chain of salvation, making each tense separate from the others, rather than one chain linked together.  Since the rapture only applies to the church, one wonders if Old Testament saints will be glorified.  I’ll talk more about these matters in the latest edition of my book, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow, if I can get out another edition soon.

Hannah divides the book up into the five presidencies in chronological order: Chafer, Walvoord, Campbell, Swindoll, and now Bailey.  If you want to know the inside history of the major dispensational school in the world, and of dispensationalism itself, this is the book to get.  Hannah discusses the three phases of dispensationalism, classic (Scofield, Chafer, C. I. Scofield Bible), moderate or revised (Walvoord, Pentecost, Ryrie, New Scofield Bible), and now the progressive (Blaising, Bock, and too many to mention.  Words in bold print are their words).  If you want to know about this movement’s history and theological development, especially its development toward covenant theology in the third phase, this is the book to get.  As usual with Hannah, it is clear and well written.

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