On Implicitly Conditional Prophecy: What Are You Trying To Imply By That? -- By: Joseph Parle

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 14:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: On Implicitly Conditional Prophecy: What Are You Trying To Imply By That?
Author: Joseph Parle


On Implicitly Conditional Prophecy:
What Are You Trying To Imply By That?1

Joseph Parle

Associate Professor of Bible Exposition
and Academic Dean
College of Biblical Studies, Houston, Texas

Traditional dispensationalists consider prophecy to be the key to determining how literal one’s hermeneutic is. Amillennialists and dispensationalists have both often argued that they possess a literal interpretation of the Bible. The source of disagreement, however, has consistently revolved around prophecy. Stallard summarizes the dispensational approach as follows: “An interpreter can not pick and choose what he wants to be literal and what is figurative when there is no evidence of a figure of speech or extended metaphor.… To do so is inconsistency at its best. One of the reasons that dispensationalists focus on prophecy is that its interpretation almost becomes a barometer by which one’s overall approach to the text can be stabilized.”2 Thus, in a dispensational hermeneutic, prophecy should not be interpreted metaphorically unless the text clearly indicates so. Ryrie writes regarding the role of literal hermeneutics in prophetic interpretation, “The hermeneutical principle is basic to the entire dispensational system including its eschatology.… Dispensationalism is the only system that practices the literal principle consistently. Other systems practice literalism but not in every area of theology or on all

parts of the Bible.…Consistent literalism is at the heart of dispensational theology.”3

Recently, some both inside and outside the dispensational camp have questioned this assumption regarding prophecy. Due to space limitations, this article will focus on two individuals who identify themselves as dispensationalists but argue that prophecy is often implicitly conditional: D. Brent Sandy and Robert Chisholm Jr. This article will discuss their assertions, evaluate them, and propose an alternative methodology for identifying implicitly conditional prophecies.

D. Brent Sandy

One representative of the functional view of prophecy is D. Brent Sandy. While discussing the conditional nature of prophecy Sandy writes, “Unfortunately it is not always clear even in retrospect what parts of the covenant were unconditional, what parts were conditional, and what parts were hyperbolic. At least from the surface level of the text, God can appear to change his mind, but conditionality is not always stated.”4Sand...

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