Christian Book Expo: My View

I’d been waiting for Publisher’s Weekly to file a report on the Christian Book Expo of last weekend, and now they have.  Marcia Nelson begins with this ominous lede,

Stacks of unsold books and glum publishers stood for three days inside
the cavernous Dallas Convention Center this past weekend at the
Christian Book Expo, a first-of-its-kind event designed to connect
publishers and authors directly with readers in the evangelical
Christian market. Only problem was there were few readers to connect
with, despite the show’s location in Dallas, the buckle of the Bible
Belt and a top market for Christian publishers. The show, sponsored by
the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, attracted 1,500
consumer attendees; it had hoped for 15,000-20,000. 

My experience there is reflective of Nelson’s report.  I was on a panel about the “emerging church” sponsored by Christianity Today and moderated by Mark Galli.  My fellow panelists were Scot McKnight, Kevin DeYoung, and Alex & Brett Harris.

We were in a room with probably 700 chairs, and there might have been 100 people in attendance.  The discussion on our panel wasn’t all that energetic, with the only real juju coming when Scot accused Kevin and his co-author, Ted Kluck, of being “uncharitable” in their book on why they’re not emergent.  Galli interjected that McKnight was crossing a line in calling DeYoung uncharitable, but McKnight persisted, arguing that by knowingly misrepresenting their opponents, DeYoung and Kluck are, by definition, uncharitable.


I came to Scot’s defense.  After reading their anti-emergent book, I was unimpressed.  In dealing with my work, for instance, DeYoung and Kluck cherry-picked their way through my blog posts, never even citing one book I’ve written.  They ignored, for instance, that I’ve published an annotated version of A Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most treasured books of their Calvinist tradition.  When evidence contradictory to one’s thesis is willfully ignored, this, I think, is uncharitable.

A similar thing happened yesterday, as I spoke at Houghton College.  Here is a question I got, verbatim: “How can you defend Brian McLaren when he rejects the atonement.” A Houghton theology prof, John Case, answered in my stead, with some anger in his voice: “It is outrageous when evangelicals chastise emergents over issues of “truth” while making statements that are patently and knowingly false.  I have read every book that McLaren has written, and he have never rejected the atonement.  And, further, no particular understanding of the atonment was ever affirmed by an historic church council, thus one’s view on the atonement is not a test of orthodoxy.”

Now, I suppose that I have uncharitably represented some of my theological opponents on my blog and in my books, so I am open to the charge of hypocrisy.  I plead nolo contendere.  So be it.

Back to the Expo.  After the panel, I walked around a bit with publicist extraordinaire, Kelly Hughes, and we were both a bit aghast at the emptiness of the place.  The CBE was an attempt by the Evangelical Publisher’s Association to develop a direct-to-consumers event that would bring readers and authors together (interestingly, just what Doug and I are trying to do with our company).  What doesn’t seem to make sense, however, is to ask people to pay to come to an event so that they can buy product.

To be sure, there was content being offered.  Our panel, for instance.  But the rest of the program was so clearly skewed in the direction of one version of Christianity (“How to Rapture-Proof Your Teen in 40 Days”) that I couldn’t find anything of interest for myself.

I don’t know the answer for the struggles of the publishing industry, but this wasn’t it.

That said, I have a hearty appreciate for Mark Kuyper and the ECPA.  At least they’re taking risks and trying new things.

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  • Larry

    I have to agree with Scot, De Young and Kluck were uncharitable, to put it mildly, throughout their book. Not only did they cherry pick thing from some rather obscure sources, but throughout the whole book they never once even stopped to consider why it is that emergents tend to believe the type of things that they do. They merely assumed that Reformed was synonymous with truly Christian and that any deviation from the Reformed view of things was, at best, sub-Christian.

  • Pete

    I agree Tony, kudos to ECPA on trying something new. I was a bit discouraged by that number (only 1500 people attending vs the projected 15,000) because it means that Christians who typically love to have their values reaffirmed through events like that aren’t that interested anymore! (I realize economic pressures probably had something to do with it too but Fireproof is making millions so that’s debatable!)
    But at the same time i’m encouraged. Because the amount of people who like to have their values reaffirmed through events like is shrinking. (Although my Fireproof statement might contradict that : )
    I think the emergent discussion is making a difference, a real difference. I can see (in my small circle) that people are really beginning to get real. They are not pretending as much anymore. They are beginning to come out of the theological shell they’ve been stuck in and looking around for the first time.
    There still is a long way to go, but I just wanted to encourage you Tony. You have challenged me and helped move me to a different place. A good place. A dangerous place that I am loving right now! A place where Christ has become so much more central, so much more meaningful.
    Keep up the fight, God knows we need people like you right now to get us off our theological asses!

  • nathan

    I was wondering if the Harris boys just sat there and watched? Why were they even on that panel?
    Was it because of their age and the assumption that “emergent” is some kind of “youth movement” by some people out there?

  • nathan

    something else…
    I thought it was pretty interesting the DeYoung got a single session talking about the emerging church all by himself.
    How was that received/attended?

  • Kenton

    “Now, I suppose that I have uncharitably represented some of my theological opponents on my blog and in my books, so I am open to the charge of hypocrisy. I plead nolo contendere. So be it.”
    Reiterating my earlier thoughts in this more appropriate post, you done good on Saturday, Tony.
    You’re probably right that the cost of admission was a barrier. The upfront cost was $30/day, but if you were a little web savy, you could get that down to $20 in advance. Personally, that $30 price probably exceeded what I was willing to spend to go. I did make one find: I bought Timothy Johnson’s “Finding God in the Questions” for three bucks. Otherwise, it was pretty much how Tony described it. (I had a guy pitch me his book on “preparing for the coming crisis.” WEE-URD.)
    I didn’t attend deYoung’s session. I had had enough of him already.

  • Kenton

    Oh, and yes, Alex and Brett Harris were representing the younger generation, and they did seem a little out of place to me. Pretty quiet for the most part. They seemed to want an end to the bickering more than anything, and were looking for a both/and resolution that I didn’t quite follow, but I think they wanted old school reformed evangelicalism with the Ramones t-shirt. (???) Much more charitable than deYoung was, though.

  • nathan

    I’m always a bit skeptical about people getting book deals when they have the right last name (even if they have good ideas).
    Reformed with a Ramones t-shirt.
    That’s funny.

  • Jason

    As far as McLaren goes, blog postings and radio interviews count.
    What is DeYoung supposed to do? Write a book that quotes every single little line you have ever written in a book and form a rebuttal on it? Give me a break, Jones. I could call you a cherry-picker and I could make it stick with all of your posts on traditional evangelicals. Talk about uncharitable.
    As far as you go, well, you are, by definition, a heretic, as you have knowingly and blatantly contradicted Scripture (homosexuality, Paul being ‘wrong’, the substitutionary atonement (which is clearly taught in Scripture, regardless if a council voted on it or not)). There is no Gospel without the substitutionary atonement. In my mind, you have perverted the Gospel and fall under the condemnation of Galatians 1:8-9.
    I pray that you will repent while the Lord is being gracious with you.

  • Larry

    There is no Gospel without the substitutionary atonement.
    And what did the church teach in its first 12 centuries of its existence, before Anselm worked out the idea of substitutionary atonement? I guess every Christian that lived during those times was also a heretic.

  • nathan

    so people are now heretics based on their epistemology, their differing, but reasoned interpretation of a secondary issue of non-essential belief, and the choice to embrace the witness of the Spirit in the people of the Church for 1500 years….

  • Bo

    Jason, , do you contradict scripture when you don’t make women cover their heads or let them wear gold? Even if scripture is inerrant we’re nowhere without inerrant interpretation. Let’s take a break from calling people heretics for at least a century or so. And yes, Larry is right on about there being no penal substitutionary atonement theory until the 12th century. I pray that we all repent. Grace and Peace

  • I went to the first day of the Expo. I agree that it’s not a good idea to ask people to pay money to buy books. Maybe they can make the exhibit hall free next time.
    But you can’t expect the first year of anything to be well attended. People will need time to hear about it by word of mouth.
    Also, though everyone said their books were “discounted,” mostly they were the same price they are every day on Amazon.
    There were panels and classes that were interesting, but you’re right that they were largely aimed toward a particular sub-set of evangelicals (though a large one).
    With time, better advertising, and a little better planning, this thing could be big one day.

  • tmac

    I think emergents would be wise to place a premium on charitable dialogue–regardless of the dialogical methodology of conservative evangelicals or the particular issue being discussed. Responding to uncharitable dialogue with uncharitable dialogue misses the mark. If emergents want to receive a fair hearing among conservative evangelicals (and I think they deserve one), they need to approach each and every interaction with dialogical grace, compassion, mercy, kindness, and so on. Nothing will negate a fair hearing from evangelicals faster than unfair conversational tactics. I am aware that many evangelicals have been less than fair when interacting with emergents, but nothing is gained by sinking to their unfair level. Emergents need to teach evangelicals what charitable dialogue is all about. Don’t wait for the evangelicals to figure it out. Teach them.
    And so, Tony, don’t be a hypocrite. Lead the way–whether in published material, your blog, at a college, at a book expo, in a church or a coffee shop…lead the way. Be charitable. And as we lead the way in each of our lives, may we become a community that knows how to engage in charitable dialogue.
    peace out.

  • Dave James

    It seems there is a huge point being missed here by those on the side of calling the atonement “a secondary issue” – or in some cases, rather, any given interpretation / understanding of the atonement a secondary issue.
    It makes no difference whatsoever when a specific “developed” theory was proposed. And obviously you don’t have to have any idea of how it might work in order to become a born-again believer.
    HOWEVER, once anyone begins to set forth propositions and making statements regarding the topic – as well as making qualitative statements and evaluations of various doctrinal views – then there is no option but to evaluate those views in light of scriptural evidence. And when those views, or the way they are expressed come into direct conflict with clear statements of Scripture, then it is not only proper, but absolutely necessary to comment / teach / write about them. That is simply following the apostolic pattern of the entire NT.
    The atonement is central to the gospel – and it was eternally part of God’s plan of redemption. The arguments here are like saying that since a 6 year-old can’t formulate or articulate a view of the atonement, then we shouldn’t deal with what a 40 year-old says about it. That is completely illogical and a standard that is not applied to anything except theology. What about moving from the milk to the meat of the Word? What about moving from thinking like children to becoming spiritually mature. What about God giving spiritual leaders to the church – pastors / teachers – to bring the church to maturity in Christ?

  • Ellis

    (Just collided with this rather unusual internet paper. Ellis)
    by Dave MacPherson
    When I began my research in 1970 into the exact beginnings of the pretribulation rapture belief still held by many evangelicals, I assumed that the rapture debate involved only “godly scholars with honest differences.” The paper you are now reading reveals why I gave up that assumption many years ago. With this introduction-of-sorts in mind, let’s take a long look at the pervasive dishonesty throughout the history of the 179-year-old pretrib rapture theory:
    Mid-1820’s – German scholar Max Weremchuk’s work “John Nelson Darby” (1992) included what Benjamin Newton revealed about John Darby in the mid-1820’s during his pre-Brethren days as an Anglican clergyman:
    “J. N. Darby was a very subtle man. He had been a lawyer, or at least educated for the law. Once he wanted his Archbishop to pursue a certain course, when he (J.N.D.) was a curate in his diocese. He wrote a letter, therefore, saying he had been educated for the law, knew what the legal course would properly be; and then having written that clearly, he mystified the remainder of the letter both in word and in handwriting, and ended up by saying: You see, my Lord, such being the legal aspect of the case it would unquestionably be the best course for you to pursue, etc. And the Archbishop couldn’t make out the legal part, but rested on Darby’s word and did as he advised. Darby afterwards laughed over it, and indeed he showed a copy of the letter to Tregelles. This is not mentioned in the Archbishop’s biography, but in it is the fact that he spoke of Darby as ‘the most subtle man in my diocese.'”
    This reminds me of an 1834 letter by Darby which spoke of the “Lord’s coming.” Darby added, concerning this coming, that “the thoughts are new” and that during any teaching of it “it would not be well to have it so clear.” Darby’s deviousness here was his usage of a centuries-old term – “Lord’s coming” – to cover up his desire to sneak the new pretrib idea into existing posttrib groups in very low-profile ways!
    1830 – In the spring of 1830 a young Scottish lassie, Margaret Macdonald, came up with the novel notion of a catching up [rapture] of Spirit-filled “church” members before Antichrist’s “trial” [tribulation] of non-Spirit-filled “church” members – the first instance I’ve found of clear “pretrib” teaching (which was part of a partial rapture scheme). In Sep. 1830 “The Morning Watch” (a journal produced by London preacher Edward Irving and his “Irvingite” followers, some of whom had visited Margaret a few weeks earlier) began repeating her original thoughts and even her wording but gave her no credit – the first plagiarism I’ve found in pretrib history. Darby was still defending posttrib in Dec. 1830.
    Pretrib promoters have long known the significance of her main point: a rapture of “church” members BEFORE the revealing of Antichrist. Which is why John Walvoord quoted nothing in her revelation, why Thomas Ice habitually skips over her main point but quotes lines BEFORE and AFTER it, and why Hal Lindsey muddies up her main point so he can (falsely) assert that she was NOT a pretribber! (Google “X-Raying Margaret” for info about her.)
    NOTE: The development of the 1800’s is thoroughly documented in my book “The Rapture Plot.” You’ll learn that Darby wasn’t original on any chief aspect of dispensationalism (but plagiarized the Irvingites); that pretrib was initially based on only OT and NT symbols and not clear Scripture; that the symbols included the Jewish feasts, the two witnesses, and the man child – symbols adopted by Darby during most of his career; that Darby’s later reminiscences exaggerated his earliest pretrib development, and that today’s defenders such as Thomas Ice have further overstated what Darby overstated; that Irvingism didn’t need later reminiscences to “clarify” its own early pretrib development; that ancient hymns and even the writings of the Reformers were subtly revised to make it appear they had taught pretrib; and that after Darby’s death a clever revisionist quietly made many changes in early Irvingite and Brethren documents in order to steal credit for pretrib away from the Irvingites (and their female inspiration!) and give it dishonestly to Darby! (Before continuing, Google the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site and read “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers” – a sample of the current exciting internetism!)
    1920 – Charles Trumbull’s book “The Life Story of C. I. Scofield” told only the dispensationally-correct side of his life. Two recent books, Joseph Canfield’s “The Incredible Scofield and His Book” (1988) and David Lutzweiler’s “DispenSinsationalism: C. I. Scofield’s Life and Errors” (2006), reveal the other side including his being jailed as a forger, dishonestly giving himself a non-conferred “D.D.” etc. etc.!
    1967 – Brethren scholar Harold Rowdon’s “The Origins of the Brethren” quoted Darby associate Lord Congleton who was “disgusted with…the falseness” of Darby’s accounts of things. Rowdon also quoted historian William Neatby who said that others felt that “the time-honoured method of single combat” was as good as anything “to elicit the truth” from Darby. (In other words, knock it out of him!)
    1972 – Tim LaHaye’s “The Beginning of the End” (1972) plagiarized Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970).
    1976 – Charles Ryrie”s “The Living End” (1976) plagiarized Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970) and “There’s A New World Coming” (1973).
    1976 – After John Walvoord’s “The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation” (1976) brutally twisted Robert Gundry’s “The Church and the Tribulation” (1973), Gundry composed and circulated a 35-page open letter to Walvoord which repeatedly charged the Dallas Seminary president with “misrepresentation,” “misrepresentations” (and variations)!
    1981 – “The Fundamentalist Phenomenon” (1981) by Jerry Falwell, Ed Dobson, and Ed Hindson heavily plagiarized George Dollar’s 1973 book “A History of Fundamentalism in America.”
    1984 – After a prof at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in Florida told me that the No. 2 man at the AG world headquarters in Missouri – Joseph Flower – had the label of posttrib, my wife and I had two hour-long chats with him. He verified what I had been told. But we were dumbstruck when he told us that although AG ministers are required to promote pretrib, privately they can believe any other rapture view! Flower said that his father, an AG co-founder, was also posttrib. We also learned while in Springfield that when the AG’s were organized in 1914, the initial group was divided between posttribs and pretribs – but that the pretribs shouted louder which resulted in that denomination officially adopting pretrib! (For details on this and other pretrib double-mindedness, Google “Pretrib Hypocrisy.”)
    1989 – Since 1989 Thomas Ice has referred to the “Mac-theory” (his reference to my research), giving the impression there’s no solid evidence that Macdonald was the real pretrib originator. But Ice carefully conceals the fact that no eminent church historian of the 1800’s – whether Plymouth Brethren or Irvingite – credited Darby with pretrib. Instead, they uniformly credited leading Irvingite sources, all of which upheld the Scottish lassie’s contribution! Moreover, I’m hardly the only modern scholar seeing significance in Irvingism’s territory. Others in recent years who have noted it, but who haven’t mined it as deeply as I have, include Fuller, Ladd, Bass, Rowdon, Sandeen, and Gundry.
    1989 – Greg Bahnsen and Kenneth Gentry produced evidence in 1989 that Lindsey’s book “The Road to Holocaust” (1989) plagiarized “Dominion Theology” (1988) by H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice.
    1990 – David Jeremiah’s and C. C. Carlson’s “Escape the Coming Night” (1990) massively plagiarized Lindsey’s 1973 book “There’s A New World Coming.” (For more info, type in “Thieves’ Marketing” on MSN or Google.)
    1991 – Paul Lee Tan’s “A Pictorial Guide to Bible Prophecy” (1991) plagiarized large amounts of Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970).
    1991 – Militant Darby defender R. A. Huebner claimed in 1991 to have found new evidence that Darby was pretrib as early as 1827 – three years before Macdonald. Halfway through his book Huebner suddenly admitted that his evidence could refer to something completely un-rapturesque. Even though Thomas Ice admitted to me that he knew that Huebner had “blown” his so-called evidence, prevaricator Ice continues to tell the world that Huebner has “positive evidence” that Darby was pretrib in 1827! Ice also conceals the fact that Darby, in his own 1827 paper, was looking for only “the restitution of all things” and “the times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19,21) – which Scofield doesn’t see fulfilled until AFTER a future tribulation!
    1992 – Tim LaHaye’s “No Fear of the Storm” (1992) plagiarized Walvoord’s “The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation” (1976).
    1992 – This was when the Los Angeles Times revealed that “The Magog Factor” (1992) by Hal Lindsey and Chuck Missler was a monstrous plagiarism of Prof. Edwin Yamauchi’s scholarly 1982 work “Foes from the Northern Frontier.” Four months after this exposure, Lindsey and Missler stated they had stopped publishing and promoting their book. But in 1996 Dr. Yamauchi learned that the dishonest duo had issued a 1995 book called “The Magog Invasion” which still had a substantial amount of the same plagiarism! (If Lindsey and Missler ever need hernia operations, I predict that the doctors will tell them not to lift anything for a long time!)
    1994 – In 1996 it was revealed that Lindsey’s “Planet Earth – 2000 A.D. (1994) had an embarrassing amount of plagiarism of a Texe Marrs book titled “Mystery Mark of the New Age” (1988).
    1995 – My book “The Rapture Plot” reveals the dishonesty in Darby’s reprinted works. It’s often hard to tell who wrote the footnotes and when. It’s easy to believe that the notes, and also unsigned phrases inside brackets within the text, were a devious attempt by someone (Darby? his editor?) to portray a Darby far more developed in pretrib thinking than he actually had been at the time. I found that some of the “additives” had been taken from Darby’s much later works, when he was more developed, and placed next to or inside his earliest works! One footnote by Darby’s editor, attached to Darby’s 1830 paper, actually stated that “it was not worth while either suppressing or changing” anything in this work! If his editor wasn’t open to such dishonesty, how can we explain such a statement?
    Post-1995 – Thomas Ice’s article “Inventor of False Pre-Trib Rapture History” states that my book “The Rapture Plot” is “only one of the latest in a series of revisions of his original discourse….” And David Reagan in his article “The Origin of the Concept of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture” repeats Ice’s falsehood by claiming that I have republished my first book “over the years under several different titles.”
    Although my book repeats a bit of the Macdonald origin of pretrib (for new readers), all of my books are packed with new material not found in my other works. For some clarification, “The Incredible Cover-Up” has photos of pertinent places in Ireland, Scotland, and England not found in my later books plus several chapters dealing with theological arguments; “The Great Rapture Hoax” quotes scholars throughout the Church Age, covers Scofield’s hidden side, a section on Powerscourt, the 1980 election, the Jupiter Effect, Gundry’s change, and more theological arguments; “The Rapture Plot” reveals for the first time the Great Evangelical Revisionism/Robbery and includes appendices on miscopying, plagiarism, etc.; and “The Three R’s” shows hypocritical evangelicals employing occultic beliefs they say they have long opposed!
    So Thomas Ice etc. are twisting truth when they claim I am only a revisionist. Do they really think that my publishers DON’T know what I’ve previously written?
    Re arguments, Google “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts” and also obtain “The End Times Passover” and “Why Christians Will Suffer ‘Great Tribulation’ ” (AuthorHouse, 2006) by media personality Joe Ortiz.
    1997 – For years Harvest House Publishers has owned and been republishing Lindsey’s book “There’s A New World Coming.” During the same time Lindsey has been peddling his reportedly “new” book “Apocalyse Code” (1997), much of which is word-for-word the same as the Harvest House book – and there’s no notice of “simultaneous publishing” in either book! Talk about pretrib greed!
    1997 – This is the year I discovered that more than 50 pages of Dallas Seminary professor Merrill Unger’s book “Beyond the Crystal Ball” (Moody Press, 1973) constituted a colossal plagiarism of Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970). After Lindsey’s book came out, Unger had complained that Lindsey’s book had plagiarized his classroom lecture notes. It was evident that Unger felt that he too should cash in on his own lectures! (The detailed account of this Dallas Seminary dishonesty is revealed in my 1998 book “The Three R’s.”)
    1998 – Tim LaHaye’s “Understanding the Last Days” (1998) plagiarized Lindsey’s “There’s A New World Coming” (1973).
    1999 – More than 200 pages (out of 396 pages) in Lindsey’s 1999 book “Vanished Into Thin Air” are virtually carbon copies of pages in his 1983 book “The Rapture” – with no “updated” or “revised” notice included! Lindsey has done the same nervy thing with several of his books, something that has allowed him to live in million-dollar-plus homes and drive cars like Ferraris! (See my Google articles “Deceiving and Being Deceived” and “Thieves’ Marketing” for further evidence of this notably pretrib vice.)
    2000 – A Jack Van Impe article “The Moment After” (2000) plagiarized Grant Jeffrey’s book “Final Warning” (1995).
    2001 – Since 2001 my web article “Walvoord’s Posttrib ‘Varieties’ – Plus” has been exposing his devious muddying up of posttrib waters. In some of his books he invented four “distinct” and “contradictory” posttrib divisions, claiming that they are either “classic” or “semiclassic” or “futurist” or “dispensational” – distinctions that disappear when analyzed! His “futurist” group holds to a literal future tribulation and a literal millennium but doesn’t embrace “any day” imminency. But his “dispensational” group has the same non-imminency! Moreover, tribulational futurism is found in every group except the first one, and he somehow admitted that a literal millennium is in all four groups! On the other hand, it’s the pretribs who consistently disagree with each other over their chief points and subpoints – but somehow end up agreeing that there will be a pretrib rapture! (See my chapter “A House Divided” in my book “The Incredible Cover-Up.”)
    2001 – Since my “Deceiving and Being Deceived” web item which exposed the claims for Pseudo-Ephraem” and “Morgan Edwards” as teachers of pretrib, there has been a piranha-like frenzy on the part of pretrib bodyguards and their duped groupies to “discover” almost anything before 1830 walking upright on two legs that seemed to have at least a remote hint of pretrib! (An exemplary poster boy for such pretrib practice is Grant Jeffrey. To get your money’s worth, Google “Wily Jeffrey.”)
    FINALLY: Don’t take my word for any of the above. Read my 300-page book “The Rapture Plot” which has a jillion more documented details on the long-hidden but now-revealed history of the dishonest, 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented, American-merchandised-until-the-real-bad-stuff-happens pretribulation rapture fad. If this book of mine doesn’t “move” you, I will personally refund what you paid for it!

  • Dave James

    This whole article on the Pre-Trib Rapture is unfortunately a rather typical sleight-of-hand attempt to discredit the whole view using (sort of) historical theology, rather than biblical theology. It is ad hominem argumentation at its best / worse – trying to discredit a view by attacking the people who held it – and in this case by calling them dishonest, challenging their motives, making broad negative generalizations about their material even though the writings were theologically detailed – and behind all this is a direct challenge to their integrity as both men and Christian leaders.
    The underlying assumption, presumably, is that these men wrote these things because they wanted to become rich, popular or powerful by taking this “sensationalist view.” This is serious and crosses the line to being judgmental. Unless someone knows these men personally and has spoken with them about not only their views, but why they held them, then he has no actual authority to make such claims – and what’s worse, he has no moral authority for making them.
    If someone is going to try to challenge a doctrine that goes to the heart of biblical hermeneutics and has practical and theological implications of staggering proportions, then they should deal with the text first. It isn’t necessarily a problem to deal with historical theology, but it can only be done responsibly in the context of biblical theology.
    If a doctrine is true, it will stand on its own and it doesn’t matter what problems there might be with who, when or how it is stated. Truth does not depend on the messenger. In the very worst-case scenario, even if the most morally corrupt and horribly evil person who has ever lived says, “the Bible assumes the existence of God” – his character has no bearing the truthfulness of that statement.
    And for what it’s worth, scholarly work has been done that indicates that the negative publicity received by Darby over the decades is not only problematic, but that it represents a distortion of the truth. There are definitely two sides to this story. But again, if there are a dozen conflicting stories, it just doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not the Pre-Trib Rapture view is a biblical doctrine.

  • Sara

    What is a “Christian” book? What is a “Christian” book expo? I thought only that which can be baptized can be Christian.

  • Dan

    Good comments here.
    Dave James: good response to the paper on the Pre-trib paper. Exegete the text of Scripture and analyze the claims in light of this scholarship.
    If one’s position is being misrepresented it is hard to be charitible. However, “bless those who curse…” I’m afraid both evangelicals and emergents mischaracterize their opponents.
    Interesting how the Christian Book Expo is poorly attended. Michael Spencer argues that evangelicalism is doomed to immanent destruction. I would think the emergent writers would like to hasten this coming demise considering how critical many have been of evangelicalism. Maybe the emergent writers could have an emergent expo at the next ETS conference.

  • Jake

    I agree with Dave James that what the Bible says is the most important thing. But much of the Bible itself is history – history which airs the bad things as well as the good things about its “heroes.” For a couple of centuries folks have elevated their opinions of Bible passages and church history over recognized Greek scholarship and history experts – and we’re as divided as ever on the rapture issue. Unlike MacPherson who at least supplies quotes and sources, James rests on his opinions and doesn’t give us even one “scholarly work” which supposedly disproves criticism of Darby. And how was James able to check out MacPherson’s sources in such a short time? II Tim. 3:14 has the phrase “knowing of whom thou hast learned them” – know something about your teachers, past and present. What the Word says is important, and in I Tim. 3 it lists mandatory qualifications for church leaders – leaders ranging from Darby and Scofield on down to Lindsey, LaHaye, Ice, etc. Jesus said that a rotten tree can’t bring forth good fruit – and we’re called to be fruit inspectors. Of course Darby can’t respond after his death, but isn’t it of interest to see how he responded before his death? (Some seem to think that historians should deal with only living persons!) History shows us what past Bible teachers thought the Bible was teaching – and whether they rested only on the Word or something else. MacPherson has evidence that many such teachers, including Bullinger and Lindsey, have blended in even occultic notions such as astrology, disguised as evangelical orthodoxy! Even Margaret Macdonald’s best friends were involved in telepathy and automatic writing! When evangelicals compare Mormonism with the Bible, they utilize more than theology; they also expose the dirty linen in the lives of Smith and Young. So why is there a double standard which says it’s wrong to discuss the (covered up) dirty linen of Scofield, etc.? Nowadays the world is hating Christians and Christ more than ever – and it often mentions (as their “excuse”) the names of TV preachers who’ve had scandals. But if Christians had been more careful to follow the “discipline” in I Tim. 3, maybe the world today would be more friendly and open towards us. If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, the Word says. If we can cover up stealing when prophecy teachers commit it, should we be surprised if God allows our government to steal what we own? With the same measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again, the Word says. Can we continue to believe that the Lord is the real author of a latter-day belief that continues to be riddled with dishonesty?

  • Dave James

    Jake: Just for clarification – I didn’t check any of the sources that were mentioned because my point was purely philosophical about the approach to the issue and using ad hominem argumentation to prove a point. In fact, my point was precisely (as was indicated in my illustration) that even if the research is 100% accurate it does nothing to either prove / disprove or support / refute the biblical issue itself.
    However, I can say this, that I personally know Charles Ryrie and he is one of the most humble, brilliant, consistent, gracious, articulate theologians of our time. He is a good man, period. The brief statement made in the article accuses him of plagiarism and implies that he is simply part of a long line of conspiracy. Of all of the people mentioned Dr. Ryrie doesn’t need to plagiarize anyone to make his points. I’m 50 years old and I say, teach and write things all the time that I have picked up from 25 years of reading and listening to a wide range of theologians and their arguments. All of us have our personal positions informed and shaped by these things. Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Who thought of something first? The first person to write it? Not necessarily. There are a dozen explanations for how similar ideas – even down to the phrasing – could completely innocently show up in more than one book, sermon, conversation, etc. My issue is the wholesale attack upon the character and integrity of a whole host of people when there are any number of possible explanations that I would guess have not been explored – which is bad enough by itself – but then this is used to prove that a biblical doctrine must be wrong. That is ad hominem argumentation and this probably the most irresponsible approach that could possibly be taken – particularly by someone who attempts to use this approach to also elevate his own scholarship above those he is attacking.

  • That link is broken, but there’s another one here:

  • Tyler

    [Listen, I’m not trying to be a jerk here. I think you’re wrong on the positions you take on most issues, just as I’m sure you think I’m wrong, but I’ve been known to defend your view of the atonement as fairly orthodox, based on what I read in that paper you read at Wheaton (Re: Orthodoxy as an event), so please don’t take this the wrong way.]
    Okay, DeYoung and Kluck seemed pretty uncharitable, I would have to agree – but as regards John Case’s comment regarding McLaren not denying anything taught in church councils, would that even make a difference if he did? What if the atonement had been affirmed in a church council? What if some Christian leader (let’s say McLaren for argument’s sake) came out tomorrow as a Pelagian, which was condemned by the council of Carthage, would that make a difference? What if he came out as an Arian? Would anyone in the conversation actually take a stand and say that he’s gone too far and is now in the realm of heresy? I’m sure some would, but it’s not as though many wouldn’t continue to defend his theological and academic right to come to his own conclusions regarding the nature of God. Hell; even I might. The reason I’m asking is, why is the mentioning of the councils even brought up in the first place?

  • Dave James

    This is why I suggested that you can go to historical theology for some information and even possible guidance in interpretation, but this can only be done in the context of biblical theology.
    Historical theology is ultimately a history of theological understanding / interpretation of the text – but I agree that it really doesn’t matter. And the names of the various controversies that were “decided” are simply just short-hand for often complicated issues.
    At this point in time, after 2000 years, I don’t think there is really “anything new under the sun” – just a reworking / re-application of what has gone before. As one of my theology teachers once put it, “if you come up with a novel / new interpretation that has never been seen / used before, then it’s probably heresy.”
    We now have the responsibility to teach the interpretations that most faithfully and consistently handle all the relevant biblical texts on a given topic. When someone takes positions that are contrary to a plain and obvious reading of the text, then they need to be called on it and we all need to have a teachable spirit to keep us all in line.
    Paul’s goal, for example, was to have everyone in all of the churches believe exactly the same thing. Variety might be the spice of life, but when it comes to theology, variety is the poison of the Christian life.
    If there is such a thing as truth, and I believe there is on every issue – then when we are with the Lord, and see Him as He is face-to-face, then we will all believe – or learning to believe that truth.

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