Dispensationalism

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.

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Ethos Statement on Hermeneutics & Eschatology

Republished with permission (and unedited) from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. (The document posted at Central’s website in August of 2010.)

Hermeneutics and Eschatology

All faculty at Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis affirm a hermeneutical system that interprets all Scripture with a consistently literal or normal method. We also affirm the paradigm of grammatical, contextual, theological, historical exegesis with a view to discerning authorial intent.

Dual Hermeneutics

We all hold that the same hermeneutical principles must govern the interpretation of both testaments. We reject any approach that asserts, for example, that Old Testament prophecies concerning the first advent, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ should be interpreted differently from Old Testament prophecies concerning the second advent and the earthly rule and reign of Christ. There is no New Testament hermeneutic that supersedes an Old Testament hermeneutic.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 4

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

Thesis 18

Contrary to the dispensationalists’ structuring of law and grace as “antithetical concepts” (Charles Ryrie) with the result that “the doctrines of grace are to be sought in the Epistles, not in the Gospels” (Scofield Reference Bible—SRB, p. 989), the Gospels do declare the doctrines of grace, as we read in John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and in the Bible’s most famous verse: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 3

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read Part 1 and Part 2.

10. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ commitment to compartmentalizing each of the self-contained, distinct dispensations, the Bible presents an organic unfolding of history as the Bible traces out the flow of redemptive history, so that the New Testament speaks of “the covenants [plural] of the [singular] promise” (Eph 2:12) and uses metaphors that require the unity of redemptive history; accordingly, the New Testament people of God are one olive tree rooted in the Old Testament (Rom 11:17-24).

Response: Dispensationalists see the dispensations (divine economies) as a biblical way of viewing the history of providence (See e.g. Renald Showers, There Really is a Difference). They believe these dispensations, or at least some of them, can be derived inductively from the Scriptures (e.g. Eph. 1:10, 3:2. cf. Jn. 1:17, Rom. 5:13, Gal. 4:1-5).

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 2

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read Part 1.

7. Despite the dispensationalists’ general orthodoxy, the historic ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church affirm eschatological events that are contrary to fundamental tenets of premillennialism, such as: (1) only one return of Christ, rather than dispensationalism’s two returns, separating the “rapture” and “second coming” by seven years; (2) a single, general resurrection of all the dead, both saved and lost; and (3) a general judgment of all men rather than two distinct judgments separated by one thousand years.

Response: We have commented above (see Response to #6) on the the fact that the major creeds were written after chiliasm (early premillennialism) preponderated in the early centuries. (G.N.H. Peters’ great work, The Theocratic Kingdom, 1. 494-495 mentions 15 early chiliast sources). For example, Victorinus of Pettau’s (d. 304) Commentary on Revelation was definately chiliast according to David L. Larsen, The Company of Hope, 70-71.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 1

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant.

Series introduction

Monergism.com, that excellent source for all things Reformed and Covenantal, has posted rebuttals of Dispensational Theology on its website. Included is a set of sixteen lectures by James Grier and a series of “95 Theses Against Dispensationalism” brought together by a group of believers (most—if not all—of them Partial Preterists) calling themselves by the collective nom-de-plume, “The Nicene Council.” There is also a DVD out criticizing this pernicious doctrine that I and many others hold.

From other posts, I have made it clear that I believe the title “Dispensationalism” is unfortunate in that it focuses attention more on the proposed economies within the history of revelation and away from the identification and outworking of the biblical covenants. This leads to misunderstandings and some lack of priority even within the ranks of adherents of the system.

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Why I Am a Dispensationalist

I was reared in a conservative Lutheran church and school where dispensationalism was a term of derision and began life as a most unlikely candidate to become a teacher of dispensational theology. Today, however, I am deeply committed to classical dispensationalism and feel so strongly about this position that it affects every aspect of my belief and practice. Why am I now a dispensationalist? I offer seven introductory reasons.

1.  Dispensationalism understands the relevance of the entirety of Scripture.

Teachers in the denomination I grew up in employed several catch phrases when they came to difficult prophetic sections of Scripture. They would speak of “closing the Book” or talk of passages like Daniel 7-12 or Revelation 4-20 being “filled with mystery.” Preterists and other non-dispensationalists also cloud such portions of Scripture by speaking of them in terms of “apocalyptic language” which is incapable of clear, systematic interpretation (especially futurist) and fulfillment.

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My Journey Out of Dispensationalism

My friends have often heard me say, “The more I read my Bible the less dispensational I become.” This statement comes from someone who was spiritually nurtured in churches with dispensational theology, who graduated from a Christian university steeped in dispensational theology, who received his first graduate degree from a dispensational seminary, and who—for twelve years—preached sermons that reflected dispensational theology. For the first sixteen years of my Christian life, I rarely questioned the fundamental distinctions of dispensational theology. What are those distinctions? In his discussion of what he called the “sine qua non of dispensationalism,” Ryrie asserted:

A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the Church distinct …  This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a man is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive (Ryrie 44-45).

Later he concluded, “the essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the Church” (Ryrie 47).

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