A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Charles Dyer

From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission.

Dr. Charles Dyer has a unique combination of experience in Christian ministry, having served at the highest levels of Christian education as both an administrator and an educator; having been involved in Christian publishing as both an author and an editor; and having additional experience as a pastor, radio host and tour guide. Above all, he is a scholar and a fine Christian gentleman. He is also the author of the forthcoming volume from Dispensational Publishing House, Future Babylon: The Biblical Arguments for the Rebuilding of Babylon. We are glad to draw on Dr. Dyer’s expertise in this article, and we look forward to providing special opportunities for you to interact with him when we launch the release of that book.

“I went to a small Bible college, but I had several professors who really pointed me in the right direction,” stated Charles Dyer as he looked back on his preparation for a lifetime of significant ministry opportunities. “They had a Biblical approach. They taught me that God intended the Bible to communicate. You take it at face value. If you do that you are going to end up a classic dispensationalist.”

It was in Bible college that Dyer wrote his first paper on Babylon—a haunting subject that captivates his attention to this day, as will be discussed much further around the upcoming release of his new book for Dispensational Publishing House, called Future Babylon.

Dyer attended Dallas Theological Seminary, where his favorite professors were “Howard Hendricks, Roy Zuck and Stanley Toussaint. I became a classic dispensationalist by being a Biblicist. Hendricks got me thinking Biblically, and Zuck and Toussaint were so strong Biblically. Those three were probably the biggest influence on me.”

Dyer was also blessed to study under such men as Dr. Charles Ryrie, Dr. John Walvoord and Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost.

“I was there at the golden age of those guys,” Dyer said.

“I remember Dr. Walvoord, when he was asked why there was the attack on dispensationalism. His response was it was primarily an attack on the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Dispensationalists took the Bible in a very straightforward way. Walvoord really saw an attack on dispensationalism being an attack on the authority and inspiration of the Bible.”

After finishing his master of theology program, Dyer stayed on and finished the doctor of philosophy program.

“I loved it,” he said. “I was in Bible exposition. You had to do arguments on each book of the Bible—all 66 books.”

Dyer had the unique opportunity to work at the school, beginning in his third year of seminary. He served in numerous administrative and faculty positions, and also had opportunities to become involved in writing and editing. There were many school years where he was mixing more than one of those roles together with continued study. He was first published in 1981 at 29 years of age, and had the opportunity to contribute expositions of Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel to The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (Victor, 1985).

“You learn how to use your time wisely,” Dyer said.

When Zuck was editor of the highly-regarded theological journal Bibliotheca Sacra, Dyer added another skill to his repertoire.

“He made me the assistant editor. I learned writing and editing under Roy Zuck. He was the master. He would show me how to make things fit. It was just a fascinating course on writing and editing, with the hands-on Roy Zuck.”

Dyer filled that role from 1981 to 1985.

“I enjoyed them all,” he said of the various jobs. “I found out I enjoyed both teaching and administration. I got into writing and found out that was a great way to influence others that may never come to your classroom.”

Dyer left Dallas Seminary in 1985 for three years to go back and assist his college alma mater, but returned to Dallas for another 12 years in 1988. In 2000, he and his wife Kathy headed north to Chicago to work for another historic, dispensational school—Moody Bible Institute. He served there for 10 years as provost and senior vice president of education, and continues to have a relationship with MBI even though he now lives in Arizona.

“It was the right time to make a move,” he said of his call to Moody. “(MBI President) Joe Stowell had approached us on it in 2000.”

Dyer has had a bird’s-eye view of higher theological education for more than 40 years, and is well-qualified to speak on the trends that are affecting dispensationalism within academia.

“There is pressure on academicians to abandon or soften their position on dispensationalism,” Dyer said. “To be scholarly, you cannot be dispensational—they start with that given. Academic pride comes in. The text has one meaning, but academicians are always looking for the new. You want to be respected by your peers—the 500 people in your discipline who are at the top of the heap. If you say you are a classic dispensationalist, they will say, ‘Well, you are obviously not a scholar.’”

Dyer is convinced that we have reason to maintain our Biblical, dispensational viewpoint.

“The pressure to abandon classical dispensationalism is not because it does not have scholarly roots and depth behind it, but it is because of the psychological pressure that is put on individuals who want to be accepted by their peers,” he said.

Dyer considers classical, traditional, normative and revised dispensationalism to all be basically the same thing under different names.

“We may approach texts differently—we may approach words differently—but they are all in the same camp, and I consider myself in that camp,” he said. “I prefer not to label and sub-divide that camp. There are always going to be differences with individuals. We do not see everything the same way. But we agree on the essentials.”

“There is a difficulty finding normative or classical dispensational faculty, because the students coming out of graduate schools have not had faculty who identified themselves as a positive role model in normative dispensationalism,” Dyer stated.

The downturn of dispensationalism in higher theological education ultimately trickles down to local churches.

“According to 2 Timothy 3, we know what it is going to be like in the last days,” Dyer stated. “Paul was describing what he saw that final state being. The good news is we do not know if we are in those last days. God could send a revival to our country. But absent a revival, we could be heading into that final period heading up to Christ’s return.”

Dyer said that any revival would be marked by prayer and by preaching in the spirit of 2 Timothy 4:2—which ties right back into dispensationalism.

“To the extent people have gotten away from dispensationalism, we are actually seeing them neglect large parts of the Bible,” said Dyer. “The average graduate today does not know how to approach Isaiah or Revelation. You are seeing a lot more topical preaching and a lot less expository preaching.”

“To the extent that they are no longer preaching the word, they are trying to come up with messages that are tickling ears. It is sad to see the state of preaching in many local churches today.”

Now, as he approaches what some might consider retirement age, Dyer has actually taken on a new challenge, as he is serving in a pastoral role for the first time in his career—at Grace Bible Church in Sun City, Ariz., where he preaches on Sunday evenings. He also continues to host The Land and the Book for Moody Radio. The program airs weekly on roughly 400 radio stations. Dyer also stays involved in writing and leading tours to Israel.

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There are 17 Comments

Steve Davis's picture

I am happy to hear about men like Dr. Dyer who have served the Lord for years and remain faithful. I do find that some of the statements he makes do nothing to support dispensationalism. 

1. "You take it [Bible] at face value. If you do that you are going to end up a classic dispensationalist.” 

2. “I remember Dr. Walvoord, when he was asked why there was the attack on dispensationalism. His response was it was primarily an attack on the inspiration and authority of Scripture."

3. “To be scholarly, you cannot be dispensational—they start with that given. Academic pride comes in."

4. “The pressure to abandon classical dispensationalism is not because it does not have scholarly roots and depth behind it, but it is because of the psychological pressure that is put on individuals who want to be accepted by their peers." 

These assertions do nothing to support dispensationalism. I would suggest that for the most part Bible-believing non-dispensationalists do in fact take the Bible at "face value" (as intended by the authors, are not attacking the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and hold their positions for the same reasons dispensationalists hold theirs = because they believe, right or wrong, that's what the Bible teaches, not some supposed psychological pressure. 

Dispensationalism has its scholars and able defenders. Their efforts should be respected. However, this article reveals another side of dispensationalism that won't win many adherents.  

As for the rebuilding of Babylon - that's a "we will see" but I'm not holding my breath.   

 

J. Baillet's picture

I would add the following assertions by Dr. Dyer to the list:

“To the extent people have gotten away from dispensationalism, we are actually seeing them neglect large parts of the Bible,” said Dyer. “The average graduate today does not know how to approach Isaiah or Revelation. You are seeing a lot more topical preaching and a lot less expository preaching.”

“To the extent that they are no longer preaching the word, they are trying to come up with messages that are tickling ears. It is sad to see the state of preaching in many local churches today.”

There are many Bible-believing pastors who preach the gospel of God's free grace in Jesus Christ and who expound the whole counsel of God, including Isaiah and Revelation, and are not dispensationalists. I would commend to you innumerable Reformed Baptist Churches, including those in the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America. Al Martin and Sam Waldron come to mind. Charles H. Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones were not dispensationalists. I have personally heard Joel Beeke and Michael Barrett who are currently with Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Barrett was formerly a long-time pro­fes­sor of Ancient Lan­guages and Old Tes­ta­ment The­ol­ogy and Inter­pre­ta­tion at Bob Jones Uni­ver­sity. Trust me, Dr. Barrett knows and practices expository preaching. A number of professors at Bob Jones University are members of the Free Presbyterian Church of North America, which developed from the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster founded by Ian Paisley. The late Rev. Paisley was a close friend of Bob Jones, Jr. Although you may be a dispensationalist and be in the Free Presbyterian Church, you need not be and many are not. Amongst many others in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I would commend to you Tony Curto and Bob McKelvey, who were formerly Baptists. There are many fine expository preachers in the Presbyterian Church in America, and I could go on and on. R. C. Sproul incapable of expository preaching?

As Steve Davis rightly points out, you may believe that these men reach wrong conclusions from Scripture, but Dr. Dyer is not here critiquing their reasoning from Scripture. He is engaging in argumentum ad hominem. If you are not a classic dispensationalist, you have failed to take the Bible at face value. In fact, you probably do not believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. You now neglect large portions of the Bible and have likely abandoned expository preaching altogether. The only explanation is that you are motivated by pride or have caved to peer pressure. These are indeed perilous times. Perhaps the great falling away is upon us.

I understand the desire to defend "classical" dispensationalism.  In GARBC circles, I have seen that in the Baptist Bulletin since David Gunn has become the editor. However, if this is your approach, you will only be preaching to the choir. You will have no credibility outside of your camp.

JSB

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Thanks for reading guys!

A quick response.

Dyer states:

“I remember Dr. Walvoord, when he was asked why there was the attack on dispensationalism. His response was it was primarily an attack on the inspiration and authority of Scripture. . . . Walvoord really saw an attack on dispensationalism being an attack on the authority and inspiration of the Bible.”

Please note that he is not saying that only dispensationalists believe in inspiration. Rather, it would be like saying that the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. were an attack on freedom and the American way of life. Not that the rest of the county is not America—but what says "America" more than New York and Washington, D.C.? (Note: This is my analogy, not Dr. Dyer's.)

In a similar way, who believes in inspiration (and its fruit in literal interpretation) more strongly than a classical dispensationalist? Walvoord (and Dyer) are explaining the rationale for the attack upon dispensationalism. That is all that it was addressing.

As for the concern that we are preaching to the choir and have no credibility outside our camp. . . . Hmmmm. . . . 

First, if you read our blogs at Dispensational Publishing House, you will find that we have already included enough people to offer a fairly well-rounded perspective. Secondly, we are setting forth a positive agenda for classical dispensationalism. I am not sure how deviating from that would help our credibility.

I appreciate SharperIron running these articles, and am glad for the interaction.

P.S.—You will never meet a nicer guy than Dr. Dyer!

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

J. Baillet's picture

I have no doubt that Dr. Dyer is a wonderful and nice guy. I was responding to the statements in the interview. I have heard similar statements from others, so I do not want to single out Dr. Dyer. In fairness, such statements can be found going both ways--from dispensationalists toward non-dispensationalists and vice versa--making insinuations if not casting aspersions instead of addressing the merits of the arguments. Hopefully, I can find time to interact with the blogs at Dispensational Publishing House. Again, I was responding to the statements in the interview.

Thank you for your gracious response.

JSB

J. Baillet's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:

Dyer states:

“I remember Dr. Walvoord, when he was asked why there was the attack on dispensationalism. His response was it was primarily an attack on the inspiration and authority of Scripture. . . . Walvoord really saw an attack on dispensationalism being an attack on the authority and inspiration of the Bible.”

Please note that he is not saying that only dispensationalists believe in inspiration. Rather, it would be like saying that the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. were an attack on freedom and the American way of life. Not that the rest of the county is not America—but what says "America" more than New York and Washington, D.C.? (Note: This is my analogy, not Dr. Dyer's.)

In a similar way, who believes in inspiration (and its fruit in literal interpretation) more strongly than a classical dispensationalist? Walvoord (and Dyer) are explaining the rationale for the attack upon dispensationalism. That is all that it was addressing.

(Bold face added).

Well, perhaps a progressive dispensationalist. Or a covenant theologian. Or someone seeking a third way. Many in each camp hold as dearly and as strongly to the inspiration of Scripture as anyone in the classical dispensationalist camp. Perhaps classical dispensationalists are at times woodenly literal while missing the plain and intended meaning of the text. Your assumption is that classical dispensationalists indisputably believe in the inspiration of Scripture and its literal interpretation more strongly than anyone else.  I dispute this assumption.

JSB

Ron Bean's picture

I have a friend who holds fast to a literal interpretation of the Scripture, sees a difference between Israel and the Church, holds to the pre-millenial return of Christ to establish an earthly kingdom, and who is definitely not a dispensationalist.  

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

Give poor Dr. Dyer a break. He is a classical dispensational, and like any honest adherent to a theological position, he sincerely believes his position is the most Biblical. There's nothing wrong about being unapologetic about that. He certainly wasn't nasty about it. Would we rather he tap-dance and water down his positions with a lot of meaningless platitudes about brotherly love and "room for disagreement?" 

Some folks disagree with classical dispensationalism, and take exception to the idea that it is the most Biblically defensible framework from which to interpret the Scriptures. That's good - perhaps the theological conversation can actually begin anew! That hasn't happened in the last several decades, which is one reason why the DPH exists - to advance a discussion which needs to be had. 

For example, I sincerely believe the New Covenant is here and in force for the church, and it will also be in force for Israel in the future. I remember having several long conversations with my NT professor about this, and we disagreed. He was unapologetic, and so was I. Neither of us convinced the other. Yet, I was driven to take a more serious look at the classical dispensational argument that the New Covenant is not for the church. There's nothing wrong with that; in fact, this was a good thing. That wouldn't have happened if we'd both tip-toed apologetically away from potential disagreement and lied to each other. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Your assumption is that classical dispensationalists indisputably believe in the inspiration of Scripture and its literal interpretation more strongly than anyone else.  I dispute this assumption.

J. Baillet, You might start by reading what Paul actually said. He didn't say that dispensationalists believed in inspiration "more strongly" than anyone else. He asked who believed it more strongly than dispensationalists. The answer he would give is no one. His point seems to be that others might believe as strongly, but not more strongly.

It does strike me as ironic that your comment does the very thing that dispensationalists reject (namely ignoring what was actually said and meant in order to pursue a different point) and in so doing completely misrepresents what was actually said, as dispensationalists contend other options do frequently. In other words, you kind of prove the point. 

J. Baillet's picture

Larry wrote:

Your assumption is that classical dispensationalists indisputably believe in the inspiration of Scripture and its literal interpretation more strongly than anyone else.  I dispute this assumption.

J. Baillet, You might start by reading what Paul actually said. He didn't say that dispensationalists believed in inspiration "more strongly" than anyone else. He asked who believed it more strongly than dispensationalists. The answer he would give is no one. His point seems to be that others might believe as strongly, but not more strongly.

It does strike me as ironic that your comment does the very thing that dispensationalists reject (namely ignoring what was actually said and meant in order to pursue a different point) and in so doing completely misrepresents what was actually said, as dispensationalists contend other options do frequently. In other words, you kind of prove the point. 

My apologies to Mr. Scharf. He is indeed only saying that classical dispensationalists hold to the inspiration of Scripture (and literal interpretation) at least as strongly as others. Thank you for pointing this out.

JSB

josh p's picture

Dr. Dyer did convince me about the literal reality about Babylon. He made some excellent arguments IMHO. 

Steve Davis's picture

TylerR wrote:

Give poor Dr. Dyer a break. He is a classical dispensational, and like any honest adherent to a theological position, he sincerely believes his position is the most Biblical. There's nothing wrong about being unapologetic about that. He certainly wasn't nasty about it. Would we rather he tap-dance and water down his positions with a lot of meaningless platitudes about brotherly love and "room for disagreement?" 

Some folks disagree with classical dispensationalism, and take exception to the idea that it is the most Biblically defensible framework from which to interpret the Scriptures. That's good - perhaps the theological conversation can actually begin anew! That hasn't happened in the last several decades, which is one reason why the DPH exists - to advance a discussion which needs to be had. 

Tyler,

I don't think anyone would suggest that Dr. Dyer shouldn't be unapologetic for his position. Of course he believes his position is the most biblical. Most people believe that about their position. What was questioned was not whether he was nasty or not (he wasn't and everyone agrees he's a nice guy). What was questioned was the way he defended his position in making statements that have little basis in reality.

Now I do wonder about the fascination people have about Babylon being rebuilt and am skeptical about the speculation surrounding Saddam Hussein and his Babylon project, the place of Iraq in eschatology, etc. This is especially true if one is pre-trib and won't be here when it's rebuilt anyway (unless it has to be rebuilt or at least started before the Rapture). So I don't see the point but it looks like it holds great interest for some. And as long as someone says "this is how I understand it" and not "this is what the Bible clearly teaches", then fine. 

Now if Babylon refers to the world system(s) and world powers today including the USA, their rebellion against the Almighty and their certain defeat and judgment at the Second Coming of Christ - that would be something of value IMO. Otherwise I don't understand the interest in speculative eschatology about possible events Christians won't be around to witness.

Steve

TylerR's picture

Editor

I, too, have little interest in speculative eschatology. I've never once pondered "future Babylon." It's never occurred to me. If I were to look into it, however, I'd probably reach for Dr. Dyer' work! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

Why is it speculative? You have a plain mention of Babylon in Revelation 13. In fact it's a significant portion of Revekation. Don't we all assign (or recognize) meanings to words? I held a view similar to the one expressed above until going through a serious study of Revelation and having that view confronted. It's not like we are talking about Blood Moons or something. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm studying Revelation with my family for devotions. We'll be at Revelation 9:13 this evening, and when we get through Rev 13 I'll come back and make some comments here about whether future Babylon is "speculative". This is the first time I've taken a really detailed look at Revelation from the Greek text, and I may re-tract what I wrote (above) in the next few weeks.

Thanks for the question!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Davis's picture

josh p wrote:

Why is it speculative? You have a plain mention of Babylon in Revelation 13. In fact it's a significant portion of Revekation. Don't we all assign (or recognize) meanings to words? I held a view similar to the one expressed above until going through a serious study of Revelation and having that view confronted. It's not like we are talking about Blood Moons or something. 

By speculative I'm referring to the nature of the fulfillment on which there is no consensus. In the past (and present) many understood Babylon in Revelation to refer to Rome. A "plain mention" in visionary Revelation does not demand a literal, rebuilt city of Babylon any more than many other elements of the visions. The Iraqi War helped stoke the imagination of some to look at these prophecies in light of historical events. Certainly the visions point to either actual events or general characteristics throughout this age but the extent to which we can identify those events is debatable. Even the passages in Isaiah have been interpreted as both already fulfilled and to be fulfilled.

Personally I question whether there will be a rebuilt Babylon in Iraq. That doesn't mean it won't be. And I'll stand corrected when/if it is. In the end I'm not that concerned and don't see why those awaiting the Rapture are. If I understand the position (and maybe not well) Babylon will be rebuilt during the Tribulation scenario after Christians are gone and perhaps serve as the headquarters for the Antichrist. And that what we see now in the Middle East hints that we are approaching the last days and that the coming of Christ is near. To get to that there is a healthy dose of speculation trying to fit present events into biblical prophecy and that the coming of Christ must be near. It's a different tune to the same song that's been around for years. If in his plan God allows Babylon to be rebuilt, so be it. I don't see the importance of that for believers. What we do know and on which we can agree is that Jesus is coming again, may be morning, may be noon, may be evening and may be soon. 

Steve

josh p's picture

Thanks for the replies. Tyler, I found Thomas helpful if you have him. He is brief though if I remember correctly.
Steve, I agree that we should abhor "newspaper exegesis" and also agree that one needs to be careful not to major in minors. I personally don't think that the prophecies regarding Babylon's destruction were fulfilled but YMMV. My only real point is that the word means something and the most literal or natural sense would not normally be considered speculative. Certainly not a major issue though.

G. N. Barkman's picture

In an apocalyptic prophecy filled with symbolism, it seems that a symbolic meaning is equally likely to a literal one, if not more so.  It's the nature of this particular book.  Our goal is to understand the original intent of the author, and that requires thinking in  terms of the literary style employed.

G. N. Barkman

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