Council on Disp. Hermeneutics

The Double-Edged Sword of Dispensationalism: Destructive as Methodology, Constructive as Outcome (Part 4)

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Illustrating how a self proclaimed (leaky) dispensationalist can apply the same methodology (theological precommitments predetermine outcomes), John MacArthur states the precommitment this way: “God’s law is a manifestation of His nature. What God has commanded, moral attitudes and behaviors, is a reflection of His nature.”43 MacArthur recognizes this (pre)commitment has implications and explains them as follows:

“So, to come along and say that the law is unimportant is to say that the very nature of God and the will of God as reflected in His law is insignificant and unimportant, which I see as a blow or a strike against the very character of God. That is why, at the end of Romans 3, Paul says, after talking about justification by grace through faith alone, he says, ‘Do we nullify the law?’ And then he says, me genoito, ‘No, no, no, God forbid: but we establish the law.’”44

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The Double-Edged Sword of Dispensationalism: Destructive as Methodology, Constructive as Outcome (Part 3)

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Case Study: Methodology and Outcome Pertaining to the Character of God, Law, and Implications

The Premise

Basic dispensational thought asserts its derivation as Scriptural and as arrived at through the exegetical process, and consistently applied LGH principles. Because of this fundamental principle of origination, dispensationalism cannot simply be an eschatological addendum to an already established system—it must be the direct product of Biblical study. Thus dispensational thought should be philosophically and theologically comprehensive and have great interdisciplinary importance. It ought to be synonymous with Biblical worldview

This idea is nowhere more evident than in relation to the basic understanding of the character of God and how He works. If dispensationalism is the product of Biblical exegesis according to the LGH, then any and every theological affirmation ought to be not just subject to scrutiny by Biblical content, but the Biblical origin of the idea should be demonstrable and readily connected to the most normative understanding of passages being studied.

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The Double-Edged Sword of Dispensationalism: Destructive as Methodology, Constructive as Outcome (Part 2)

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Great Implications of a Subtle Distinction

At this point it is important note the vital distinction between (1) a hermeneutic which results in a theological system and (2) a theological system which prescribes a hermeneutic. The latter is found in most worldviews, and is easily identifiable in other Christian denominations and theological systems (e.g., the allegorical/theological hermeneutic of covenantalism, the canonical/dogmatic hermeneutic of Catholicism, etc.). Yet dispensational thought is grounded and rooted in the former: a hermeneutic which results in the theological system. The moment the theological system prescribes a hermeneutic, the theological system can no longer be considered a product of exegesis. Dispensationalism as a theological methodology is self-defeating at best and destructive at worst. Yet if it is an outcome, then it is constructive and useful, as Ryrie characterized it.

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The Double-Edged Sword of Dispensationalism: Destructive as Methodology, Constructive as Outcome (Part 1)

Presented to the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics 9/14/2022.

Introduction

As Charles Ryrie catalogued the three aspects of dispensationalism’s sine qua non, he prefaced the three distinctives by emphasizing a critical methodological difference between dispensational thinkers and covenant (theology) thinkers: “the covenant theologian finds biblical distinctions a necessary part of his theology even though the covenant of grace is the ruling category…the dispensations supply the need for distinctions in the orderly progress of revelation throughout Scripture.”1 Ryrie cites the need for distinctions as the occasion for developing theological systems, and the basis of those distinctions as the covenant of grace for covenant theology and the progress of Scripture for dispensational theology.

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Observations from the back row of the 2010 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

The third Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics was held on September 22-23, 2010 at the Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. There were approximately forty council members and nearly that many observers.

The council members present were not introduced to the observers although they did have nameplates at their tables. The council members sat at tables facing the speaker’s podium and the observers sat in (uncomfortable) chairs behind them. Casual observation revealed members (all male) from Faith Bible Baptist College and Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Grace College and Seminary, Friends of Israel, Grace School of Theology, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary, Tyndale Theological Seminary, Western Seminary, The Master’s Seminary, Word of Life Bible Institute, the Pre-Trib Research Center, Shasta Bible College, College of Biblical Studies and of course the host seminary. Several pastors were also on the council.

The theme was “Dispensationalism, Language, and Scripture.” Over the two days, ten papers were presented. Each presenter had thirty minutes to read his paper, and an hour of discussion followed each. Attendees were each given CDs containing .pdf files of the presentations. No hard copies of the papers were distributed. As the presenters read each paper, the text was projected on a screen behind them.

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