The following is a summary from Ken Fields.
2) New to this year's conference was this afternoon's panel discussion. The topic (of course) was dispensationalism. Attendees (approximately 200 attended this inaugural event) were given the opportunity to ask questions related to dispensationalism. Sitting on the panel were: Dr. John Hartog III (FBBC & TS), Dr. Kevin Bauder (CTS, Minneapolis), Dr. Rennie Showers (FOI), and Dr. Mike Stallard (BBC & S, Clarks Summit). Several attendees took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions, and did not adhere to the dispensational topic. Questions regarding broader fundamentalism and Calvinism were asked, as were questions related to specific individuals in conservative evangelicalism and gospel-centered gatherings like Together For The Gospel and The Gospel Coalition. Several panelists made statements regarding the perceived danger of an over-emphasizing the gospel (in Stallard's words, "One of my concerns is how my students are responding to this. For groups such as T4G to place such an emphasis on the first coming, they must deemphasize the second coming. I want my students to not diminish their interest in the second coming.").
Showers responded by stating, "We are not saying that we are trying to downplay the gospel; we are saying that the gospel is the center of CT. That's the whole thing God is doing throughout history [in their minds]. This is one of the reasons they are amillennial. CT is saying that salvation is the thing God is doing throughout history, and that is why they don't see any need to talk about future events."
Bauder appeared to temper the tone of the previous responses by stating: "We, as dispensationalists, draw a distinction between the gospel as the center of our system, and the gospel as the center of God's overall plan. When it comes to the system of faith, the gospel is the hub of that system--so much so, that we can use the gospel as the touchstone in providing an answer to many theological questions. The real question is this: how does God intend to bring glory to Himself? The CT: the history of redemption. The DT: the history of redemption, but there's more than that. The DT insists that God intends to glorify Himself in many and various ways."
Later, when asked if it possible to make too much an issue of dispensationalism, Bauder acknowledged that, "It’s possible to make more out of dispensationalism than ought to be made … It is not a fundamental of the faith, it is not the gospel. I do not withhold fellowship from CT’ers! My greatest hero in the faith was a Covenant Theologian, as is my best friend in the faith."
Overall, the discussion seemed profitable. Tomorrow, several round table discussions will be held with the panelists leading the discussions.
ht: John Bunjer