Is Dispensationalism a Cult?

In a book entitled Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth Calvinst author John H. Gerstner accuses dispensationalism of departing from the truth in its doctrine of salvation. He then says, "To depart from the essential salvation pattern is inevitably to depart from Christianity. We define a cult as a religion which claims to be Christian while emptying Christianity of that which is essential to it" (John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, Second Edition, 2000], 169).

This book is endorsed by many of the leading Calvinists of our day so they too must believe that Dispensationalism is a cult. One of the major disagreements is on the subject of "regeneration."

Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

Here Gesrstner states the difference between Calvinists and Dispensationalists in regard to regeneration:

"The question is whether faith is 'based' on regeneration or regeneration is 'based' on faith. That is, is it 'because' a person is regenerated that he believes, or is it 'because' he believes that he is regenerated? There can be no question that the dispensationalists are saying that it is because a person believes that he is regenerated simultaneously" (Ibid., 159).

Of course the word "regeneration" means passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. Let us look at the following words of the Lord Jesus to see if it can be helpful in answering the question as what comes first, regeneration or faith?:

"He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (Jn.5:24).

Here the Lord Jesus speaks of passing "from death unto life." From the following words of the Apostle John we can understand that what he wrote in his gospel was written so that those who believed would receive life as a result of believing:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30-31).

It is a result of believing that the sinner is "passed from death unto life." The Calvinist teach that a person is regenerated prior to believing. That idea is directly contradicted by the words of John which I quoted.

Since it is "believing" that results in passing from death unto life it is obvious that one must be dead spiritually before believing. Despite this the Calvinists say that one is "alive" spiritually before believing.

The Dispensationalist view on this subject is the correct view because it is based on what the Scriptures actually say. The Calvinist view is based on a denial of what John wrote. Dispensationalism is not a cult.

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Rob Fall's picture

Dennis Clemons wrote:
Gerstner is very well-written and is most certainly now more covenental than ever before. ;^} However, he was wrong when he called DT a cult. While I agree with the man much more than I disagree, he saw a trend in DT towards semi-pelageanism and erroneously accused all of DT of all being cultic. (Whomever said above that DT is mainly an eschatological and ecclesiastical construct was correct although with unfortunate tentacles that affect most major doctrines negatively.) Although wrong in their theology, they are clearly not automatically semi-pelagean.SNIP
So far, this is the only comment besides mine that addresses the crux of the OP.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Greg Long's picture

Dennis Clemons wrote:
The worst that can be said about CT by an honest student is that it leaves fewer problems to resolve than does the Arminian, non-CT, or semi-pelagean theologies.
So if I don't believe CT "leaves fewer problems to resolve than does" other theologies, I'm not being an honest student?

That's good to know.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Jack Hampton's picture

Rob Fall wrote:
So far, this is the only comment besides mine that addresses the crux of the OP.

Rob,

Earlier I said the following and I was wondering if you had any comments on what I said:

I agree with the thoughts which you express. To answer one of your questions, most people say that those in a cult are not saved. Gerstner did not address this qustion in his book. But one sign of a true cult is their teaching that they have a monopoly on the truth and because of this everyone else is going straight to hell.

It is strange that much of Gerstner's criticism is against other Calvinists, Calvinists who are not five point. These men who are criticized teach salvation by grace through faith alone but yet they are called a cult. That being the case then according to Gerstner's standards then practically all persuations who differ from Five Point Calvinism are cults. Gerstner's teaching on this is more in line with the teachings of cults than is those who he accuses of being a cult.

Jack Hampton's picture

Dennis Clemons wrote:
That said, those who believe that man has the power to believe without God first regenerating him cause a rift in Scripture that cannot be united.

Dennis, the Calvinists teach that logically a sinner is regenerated prior to believing the gospel. However, the following words reveal that receiving "life" (being regenerated) comes as a result of believing:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30-31).

It is the teaching of the Calvinists that causes a rift in Scripture that cannot be united.

James K's picture

Rob, the premise of the OP is incorrect.

Quote:
The Dispensationalist view on this subject is the correct view because it is based on what the Scriptures actually say. The Calvinist view is based on a denial of what John wrote.

There is no such thing as the Dispensationalist view on the subject. Further, calvinists don't even all agree on it. I won't interact with the OP other than to say it demonstrates a real ignorance of what people really believe. I am sure he read a book or something about this and got all fired up.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Rob Fall's picture

James K wrote:
Rob, the premise of the OP is incorrect.

Quote:
The Dispensationalist view on this subject is the correct view because it is based on what the Scriptures actually say. The Calvinist view is based on a denial of what John wrote.

There is no such thing as the Dispensationalist view on the subject. Further, Calvinists don't even all agree on it. I won't interact with the OP other than to say it demonstrates a real ignorance of what people really believe. I am sure he read a book or something about this and got all fired up.

To me, the premise of the OP is the concern over the labeling of DTers as cultists. Anything beyond the labeling is better handled in another thread. I guess I spend too much time dealing with matter in 163x Germany when and where religious debates were a blood sport.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

Jack Hampton wrote:
Rob Fall wrote:
So far, this is the only comment besides mine that addresses the crux of the OP.

Rob,

Earlier I said the following and I was wondering if you had any comments on what I said:

I agree with the thoughts which you express. To answer one of your questions, most people say that those in a cult are not saved. Gerstner did not address this qustion in his book. But one sign of a true cult is their teaching that they have a monopoly on the truth and because of this everyone else is going straight to hell.

It is strange that much of Gerstner's criticism is against other Calvinists, Calvinists who are not five point. These men who are criticized teach salvation by grace through faith alone but yet they are called a cult. That being the case then according to Gerstner's standards then practically all persuasions who differ from Five Point Calvinism are cults. Gerstner's teaching on this is more in line with the teachings of cults than is those who he accuses of being a cult.

I think I need to be charitable of some one who's home with the Lord. Back in the day, when a preacher got on a roll and made a statement as curious as this one it was said, "Brother XYZ was just waxing evangelisticly."

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jack Hampton's picture

Rob Fall wrote:
I think I need to be charitable of some one who's home with the Lord. Back in the day, when a preacher got on a roll and made a statement as curious as this one it was said, "Brother XYZ was just waxing evangelisticly."

Now that is funny! Some people just have a way with words.

Jack Hampton's picture

James K wrote:
There is no such thing as the Dispensationalist view on the subject.

James, when I referred to the "dispensationalists view" on this subject I was referring specifically to the dispensationalits whom Gerstner was critizing. I can see how what I said could be taken in another way, however. Please excuse me for not being clear.

James K's picture

Jack, that may be so, but it would demonstrate how ignorant Gerstner really was. He saw dispensationalism as a monolithic movement as though they all agree on all his points of criticism. Since he couldn't figure out what it really was, his calling it a cult isn't worth any time, IMHBAO.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Rob Fall's picture

James K wrote:
Jack, that may be so, but it would demonstrate how ignorant Gerstner really was. He saw dispensationalism as a monolithic movement as though they all agree on all his points of criticism. Since he couldn't figure out what it really was, his calling it a cult isn't worth any time, IMHBAO.
However, "how ignorant Gerstner really was" wasn't addressed in most of the posts above. If it had been adressed, this thread wouldn't be 70+ posts long.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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