Boy O, Boyd!
Dispensationalism in Transition
1992, vol. V, No. 8
Part Two -
Part Three (PDF Files) |
Alan Patrick Boyd
As many of our readers know, Canadian dispensationalist pastor Alan Patrick
Boyd has written a noteworthy master’s thesis for Dallas Theological
Seminary. It is entitled: “A Dispensational Premillennial Analysis of the
Eschatology of the Post-Apostolic Fathers (Until the Death of Justin
Martyr)” and is dated May, 1977.1
This Master of Theology thesis is signed by Dr. John D.
Hannah, who is presently Dallas Seminary’s Chairman and Professor of
Historical Theology. Apparently, Hannah was in the Historical Theology
Department at Dallas Seminary back in 1977.
Dr. Hannah’s examining committee granted Boyd a well-deserved “A for the
project, which makes profuse reference to the ancient sources in the
original Greek and Latin. I estimate that this thesis is around 75%
This scholarly 124 page thesis may be secured by interlibrary-loan through
your public library. Though not without its flaws (e.g., occasional scanty
treatment and presumptive conclusions), it really is quite helpful for
exposing the anti-historical nature of the dispensational cause.
Cause for Dispensational Concern
That the historicity question is of concern to dispensationalists is evident
from dispensational writings. For instance, consider John Walvoord’s review
of House Divided. Here is a 400 page work confronting systemic
dispensationalism head-on. But how did Walvoord review the book? He
only dealt with Chapter 15, a twenty-four page study entitled: “The History
of Theology on the Kingdom”! 3
Our chapter on the historicity of dispensationalism apparently touched a raw
nerve. Walvoord commented: “Though denied by Bahnsen and Gentry, the
Christian church was predominantly premillennial in the first century and
most of the second century until A.D. 190.”4
And our readers are familiar enough with the attempts at
historical justification by H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice (Dominion
Theology: Blessing or Curse?), Dave Hunt (Whatever Happened to Heaven? 5),
and Hal Lindsey (The Road to Holocaust). Recently my dispensationalist
friend and adversary Rev. Tommy Ice 7 called to inform me that he had
been talking with Boyd. Boyd was surprised and dismayed that
Reconstructionists were using his 1977 Dallas Theological Seminary’s
master’s thesis in our anti-dispensational critiques.8 (Walvoord
overlooked our references to non-Reconstructionists when he complained this
historicity matter is “denied by Bahnsen and Gentry”). When Boyd wrote the
historical study, he was a dispensationalist. According to Tommy Ice, he
remains an ardent (premillennialist, but not Dispensationalist) to this day.
It is certainly true that Reconstructionists have availed themselves of
Boyd’s historical critique of dispensationalism. I have a copy of the
manuscript and have cited it in some of my books, including House Divided:
The Break-up of Dispensational Theology (1989)and He Shall Have Dominion: A
Postmillennial Eschatology (1992). So have Gary North, Gary DeMar, and
others. We all consider it to be a significant historical analysis.
Frankly, I was astonished when I heard that Boyd was surprised that his work
was being employed against dispensationalism. What in the world did he
expect? The work is one of the better insider exposes of dispensationalism
that I have seen, both for what he proves (it is anti-historical) and what
he assumes (the church experienced a “rapid departure from New Testament
eschatological truth,” [Preface, nl]). According to Ice, Boyd feels that his
arguments have been taken out of context and wrongly employed in
I propose to give a few issues of the newsletter over to a consideration of
a few of the major contra-dispensational conclusions in Boyd’s work. I do
not see how his research has been inappropriately employed in the debate
against dispensationalism. In addition, I think that our readers should
become more intimately acquainted with the thesis and its utility in the
debate. (All references to the thesis will be noted by parenthetical
pagination, rather than be space consuming footnotes.)
The Thesis of the Thesis
In his Preface, Boyd notes that “the author would like to acknowledge, on
the basis of classroom and private discussion, that Dr. Charles Ryrie, whose
statements regarding the of dispensational premillennialism in the Church
fathers are carefully scrutinized in this thesis has clarified his position
on these matters. Unfortunately, he has not published these clarifications,
and it is hoped that he will do so in the near future” (Preface). It is
obvious at the outset that Boyd is critically “scrutinizing” Ryrie's
assertions on the matter of dispensational historicity. It is further
obvious that Boyd disagrees with Ryrie’s assertions, so that he expects
Ryrie to change them in public. Unfortunately for Boyd, Ryrie’s imminent
change of position may take as long as the dispensational imminent rapture –
thousands of years.
The first words of the actual text of Boyd’s thesis opens with an offending
citation drawn from Ryrie’s The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (1953):
“Premillennialism is the historic faith of the Church” (p. 1). Boyd
comments: “The purpose of this thesis is to determine the historical
validity of this statement within the context of the patristic writings
spanning the post-apostolic era until the death of Justin Martyr. In other
words, the purpose of this thesis is to determine whether Dr. Ryrie's
‘premillennialism’ is similar to, or dissimilar to, the premillennialism
exhibited in some of the patristic writings under consideration” (pp. 1-2).
Boyd goes on to point out in his first footnote: “It is the present
conviction of this writer that there was a rapid departure from New
Testament eschatological truth in the early patristic period. Therefore, it
warrants the writer little concern that there are not roots of
dispensational premillennialism in that period, but instead the roots of
both posttribulationism and amillennialism. The roots of dispensational
premillennialism are Scriptural, and the most one could hope to find 9 in
the early patristic period would be some remnants of it (as this thesis
demonstrates there are). Similarly, it warrants little concern that there is
evident post-tribulationism and seminal amillennialism in these patristic
writings” (Preface, nl ).
In this series I will provide a seriatim survey of significant elements in
And in this Corner. . . !
Boyd comes out punching in his Introduction following the Preface. On his
first page, containing four lines of text and thirty-one lines of footnote
material, Boyd notes that “it is very evident that a vital aspect of Dr.
Ryrie's millennial apologetic is based upon patristic eschatological
thought. . . . The purpose of this thesis is to determine whether the
reputed historical foundation for his premillennialism really exists” (p. 1,
In his conclusion, after only five rounds (i.e., chapters), he declares a
TKO: “It is the conclusion of this thesis that Dr. Ryrie’s statement is
historically invalid within the chronological framework of this thesis” (p.
89). All that lies between these two statements is carefully presented,
tightly-argued truth, based on the writings of Clement of Rome, the author
of 2 Clement, Barnabas, Didache, Ignatius, Hermas, Polycarp, Aristides, and
Justin Martyr. He even includes the writing of the Gnostic heretic Cerinthus
“since he was an early premillennialist” (p. 14), and “indisputably” so (p.
The purpose of Boyd's thesis, then, is to demonstrate the error in declaring
Ryrie's (and Dallas Seminary’s) type of premillennialism, i.e.,
dispensationalism, to be the historic premillennialism of the early Church.
Boyd is not impressed with the assumption of similarity of ancient and
modern premillennialism” (p. 2, n.1). This, of course, is the major point of
Reconstructionist employment of Boyd. Dispensationalism is fundamentally
different from early premillennialism – despite recurring claims of its
virtual identify with patristic premillennialism.
Reconstructionists do not argue that the early Church lacked premillennial
adherents. Due to the problem of Zionism in the early Church (see: Acts
10-11; Galatians), this is to be expected. Our use of Boyd is basically
threefold: (1) He demonstrates there are fundamental differences between
dispensationalism and historic premillennialism that should forbid use of
arguments for dispensationalism (hence Boyd’s special pleading for the rapid
declension of patristic Christianity from the truth). (2) There are far
fewer premillennialists in the first two centuries than dispensationalists
admit. (3) There are early, nascent, fully orthodox, non-millennial views
circulating in the early Church.
In that dispensationalism is in transition, it is important for us to
understand some of the reasons for that transition. A part of that rationale
is traceable to the historical question. As Jerry Clower would say,
dispensationalism is "a new fangled innovation."
1. As I prepared for graduation from Tennessee Temple Collage (with a B.A.
in Bible), I applied to Dallas Seminary in 1973. I ended up going to Grace
Theological seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana, however. I almost crossed
paths with Boyd.
2. In the first 20 pages I counted 521 lines of footnotes and 157 lines of
text. Nigel Lee is quite envious of this accomplishment.
3. See my response to Walvoord’s review: “Where’s the Beef ?“,
Dispensationalism in Transition (Nov., 1990). See also Gary North, ‘First,
the Head Goes Soft,” Dispensationalism in Transition (Aug., 1980).
4. John F. Walvoord, ‘House Divided” (Book Review), Bibliotheca Sacra,
147:5S7 (Jul., 1990) 372. He does not tell us why most of the Church dropped
premillennialism in A.D. 191; he just informs us that the Church was
premillennial until A.D. 190. But I think I have if figured out: You
take 1260 (the days of Tribulation, Rev. 11:3) and subtract 686 (the number
of the Tribulator, Rev. 13:18) and you get 584. From this you subtract
the 70 weeks of God’s time reckoning. From this you subtract 144 (from the
144,000 protected during the Tribulation, Rev. 7:4), leaving you with 360.
The obvious next move that does not even need arguing is to get the square
of fifteen (12 apostles plus the 3 of the Trinity), which is 225. You
subtract that (sea God’s warning about subtraction in Deut, 4:2; a warning
obviously not headed by the Tribulator)from the preceding 360 figure, which
results in 155 from which the literal method would lead you to add (see Acts
2:41) the number 42 (Rev. 11 :2).The figure arrived at is 197. From this you
subtract 6 (Exe. 20:11), a work week, which obviously indicates the
Tribulation saints are weak due to persecution in the Tribulation. Viola!
You get 191, especially significant date due to Biblical numerics. This
amply explains why in A.D. 191 pre-millennialism fell into disrepute: The
Tribulation numerical symbolism in which apostasy is expected anticipates
that result. What could be plainer?
5. See review in Dispensationalism in Transition: “Shall We Gather at the
River?” (Nov., 1989) and “Whatever Happened to ‘The Earth is the Lord’s”?
6. See my review in Dispensationalism in Transition: “Dispensationalism’s
Achilles Head,” Parts 1 and 2 (Aug. and Sept., 1989).
7. For a taped radio discussion between Ice and me,
entitled “Dispensationalism or postmillennialism?”
8. Apparently he is not very interested in or has
sparsely read in Christian Reconstruction since his thesis has been
mentioned was a number of years in my writings
9. Why? Why is it that “the most one could hope to find” would be remnants?
Is this an law of some sort? Or a dispensational assumption?
10. See for Greg L. and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., House Divided: The of
Dispensational (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics,
What do YOU think ?
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