Friday, March 22, 2013

PreMillennial Math

Charles Ryrie defined Dispensationalism by the following three precepts:

  • A clear distinction between God's program for Israel and God's program for the Church.
  • A consistent and regular use of a literal principle of interpretation.
  • The understanding of the purpose of God as His own glory rather than the salvation of mankind.

It is the second principle above, the principle of literal bible interpretation, that Dispensationalists use to defend their belief in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:4-6). It is on this basis that they level their most strident attack at differing eschatological views. Those who would deny the literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth are accused of "not believing the bible" and "over spiritualizing the text of scripture to conform to their system." At first blush this would seem to be quite a forceful argument. It strongly implies that Dispensationalism stands in the purity of literalism, and that all other viewpoints spiritualize the bible to the point of unbelief. But does this strict literalism hold up under close scrutiny? Or is Dispensationalism guilty of precisely the same "spiritualization" of time in interpreting the text of scripture?  

Dispensational Math

The following equation represents the Premillennial Dispensationalists view of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy:

490 years total = (483 years past) + (X years in between) + (7 years future)

490 years = Daniel's 70 weeks of years (70 x 7 years)
483 years = The first 69 weeks of Daniel's Prophecy (accomplished in the past)
7 years = The last week of Daniel's Prophecy (coming in the future)

Because Dispensationalism asserts that there are 483 years of the prophecy which have transpired in the past and that there are 7 years as yet unfulfilled which will come to pass at some point in the future, it is apparent that there is a missing figure from their equation - the X factor, if you will. Anyone with a basic understanding of algebra is able to see that the only way to resolve this equation is to set X = 0. But doing so would require that one place the events of the 70th week of the prophecy in the past, not in the future, which would undermine their entire eschatology. Setting X to any value greater than 0 creates an inequality, not an equation. What we learn from this observation is that the so-called "interruption" of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy is really nothing more than a fanciful way of hiding the X that destroys the literal nature of their equation to any reasonable observer. It draws one's eye away from the missing value in their equation, thus creating the illusion of literalism.

So how does this "equation" look at this very moment in time? As of this very moment, X is greater than or equal to 2000 years (X >= 2000).  For the sake of simplicity let's just call it 2000 years. Thus in premillennial math:

490 = 483 + 2000 + 7 

490 = 2490


This is literalism? How one's interpretation of scripture can assert that 490 = 2490 without betraying its claim to literalism remains a mystery. Perhaps more strange is how an eschatology that supports "literal" interpretation through mathematical inequalities could accuse others of spiritualizing. The amillennial view of the thousand year reign of Christ can be expressed using precisely the same construct employed by the Dispensationalists in their interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy:

(1000 year reign of Christ) = (1000 years past) + (X years more)

As of today there's been at least 2000 years since the ascension of Christ. So if the Lord came back today the amillennialist's equation would be:

1000 = 1000 + 1000

1000 = 2000

This inequality is not literalism, to be certain, but neither does the amillennialist claim to be utterly literal in his handling of biblical prophecy. The point established here is simply this:

No one's eschatology is strictly literal - not even the premillennialist's - 
and thus appeals to literalism offer no point of distinction whatsoever.

A sober view of the clearly non-literal aspects dispensationalism, as represented by the mathemetical inequalities of their own assertions, proves their refuge of literalism to be a mirage.

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