A Case for Premillennialism: A New Concensus

By Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey L. Townsend, gen. eds.
Chicago, IL : Moody (1992). 290 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
4.1 (Spring 1993) : 102-103

The 1990's have seen a resurging discussion of premillennialism in general and dispensationalism in particular. A Case for Premillennialism illustrates the resurgence, being one of two volumes from the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary in 1992`the other being Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church edited by Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock (also reviewed in this issue of TMSJ).

Campbell and Townsend have collected fourteen essays written primarily by graduates of or current/former faculty members at DTS. D. Edmond Hiebert and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., are the exceptions, along with Kenneth Kantzer who writes the foreword. Half of the essays deal with books of the Bible, such as Genesis by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., and Ezekiel by Mark F. Rooker, while others deal with specific chapters, such as Isaiah 2 by John H. Sailhamer and Romans 9-11 by S. Lewis Johnson.

Of the fourteen chapters, the most significant are chap. 2, "Evidence from Genesis" by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. (35-54); chap. 5, "Evidence From Jeremiah" by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (103-17); chap. 6, "Evidence from Ezekiel" by Mark F. Rooker (119-34); chap. 7, "Evidence from Daniel" by Kenneth L. Barker (135-46); chap. 11, "Evidence from Romans 9-11" by S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (199-223); and chap. 13, "Evidence from Revelation 20" by Harold W. Hoehner (235- 62). To get an overview of the book, it is good to start with chap. 14, "Premillennialism Summarized: Conclusion" (263-71) in which Townsend summarizes the evidence from each of the individual chapters.

It is good to get an update on where DTS stands regarding premillennialism in these times of adjustment and rethinking. This reviewer commends the general editors for their attempt to give the wider Christian public a sense of the range of current thinking at Dallas Theological Seminary. Though it is not pleasant to write a review with questions or critical observations, it is necessary for focusing the discussion. The following represent several of this reviewer's responses/reactions while reading the volume:

(1) The subtitle, "A New Consensus," is a bit surprising. If this is "new," how does it relate to the "old"? Secondly, if there is consensus, what is it, given the wide range of authors -e.g., Elliott Johnson, a traditional dispensationalist, compared with Darrell Bock, a progressive dispensationalist, compared with Walter Kaiser, a nondispensational premillennialist?

(2) It is surprising that Kenneth Kantzer writes the foreword for such a volume since he has been no friend of dispensationally-oriented premillennialism in the past. As a matter of fact, in the opening sentence of this volume he writes, "Premillennialism is not a fundamental doctrine of evangelical faith. For example, the Bible certainly does not set it forth in the same unequivocal terms or give it the same central position that the deity of Christ, the vicarious atonement, or the second coming have" (7). One wonders why this recognized Christian scholar is a leading contributor on this particular subject when he candidly downplays its importance in the study of theology.

(3) The general editors write in the preface, "The editors of this volume were motivated by a felt need for a presentation of exegetical evidence for premillennialism, the view that there will be an earthly reign of Christ preceded by His second coming. . . . This project therefore was undertaken to present the best exegetical evidence for premillennialism in a positive way. Our purpose was not to attack amillennialism or postmillennialism so much as to state positively why we, the editors and authors of this volume, are premillennialists" (13). In light of the commendable goal of the dispensational editorial team, why is the term `dispensational' noticeably absent throughout much of the volume? Premillennialism has several variations, one of which is historical premillennialism held by many faithful men who follow a covenantal approach to theology in the areas of soteriology and ecclesiology. In addition, historical premillennialists generally interpret the book of Revelation in ways radically different from dispensationalists.

In summary, individual essays contribute to ongoing scholarship and summarize current thinking, but in this reviewer's opinion, the cohesive impact of this volume falls short of the expectation suggested by its title, A Case For Premillennialism: A New Consensus. Nevertheless, for those who want to stay current in the premillennial discussion, this reviewer recommends A Case For Premillennialism as "must" reading.