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95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 3

This is part 3 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 2 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/11/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-2/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

11. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ structuring of redemptive history into several dispensations, the Bible establishes the basic divisions of redemptive history into the old covenant, and the new covenant (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8; 9:15), even declaring that the “new covenant … has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete is ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).

12. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ frequent citation of the King James Version translation of 2 Tim 2:15, “rightly dividing” the truth, as evidence for the need to divide the biblical record into discrete dispensations, all modern versions of Scripture and non-dispensational commentators translate this verse without any allusion to “dividing” Scripture into discrete historical divisions at all, but rather show that it means to “handle accurately” (NASB) or “correctly handle” (NIV) the word of God.

13. Because the dispensational structuring of history was unknown to the Church prior to 1830, the dispensationalists’ claim to be “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” by structuring history that way implies that no one until then had “rightly divided” God’s word.

14. Dispensationalism’s argument that “the understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies” (Charles Ryrie) is an example of the circular fallacy in logic: for it requires understanding the distinctive character of a dispensation before one can understand the revelation in that dispensation, though one cannot know what that dispensation is without first understanding the unique nature of the revelation that gives that dispensation its distinctive character.

15. Despite the dispensationalists’ popular presentation of seven distinct dispensations as necessary for properly understanding Scripture, scholars within dispensationalism admit that “one could have four, five, seven, or eight dispensations and be a consistent dispensationalist” (Charles Ryrie) so that the proper structuring of the dispensations is inconsequential.

16. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to compartmentalizing history into distinct dispensations, wherein each “dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose” and includes a “distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment” (Charles Ryrie), recent dispensational scholars, such as Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising, admit that the features of the dispensations merge from one dispensation into the next, so that the earlier dispensation carries the seeds of the following dispensation.

17. Despite the dispensationalists’ affirmation of God’s grace in the Church Age, early forms of dispensationalism (and many populist forms even today) deny that grace characterized the Mosaic dispensation of law, as when C. I. Scofield stated that with the coming of Christ “the point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation” (cf. John 1:17), even though the Ten Commandments themselves open with a statement of God’s grace to Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exo 20:1).

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).

19. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ historic position that the Sermon on the Mount was designed for Israel alone, to define kingdom living, and “is law, not grace” (SRB, p. 989), historic evangelical orthodoxy sees this great Sermon as applicable to the Church in the present era, applying the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-12), calling us to be the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13), urging us to build our house on a rock (Matt 7:21-27), directing us to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13), and more.

20. Despite the dispensationalists’ vigorous assertion that their system never has taught two ways of salvation (Couch), one by law-keeping and one by grace alone, the original Scofield Reference Bible, for instance, declared that the Abrahamic and new covenants differed from the Mosaic covenant regarding “salvation” in that “they impose but one condition, faith” (SRB, see note at Ex. 19:6).

About Stuart Brogden

Reformed Baptist, married to one woman since 1978, enjoy camping, motorcycle riding, solid books that assist in understanding the Word of God, fellowship with the Lord's saints, and some classical music. A wretch saved by grace, with nothing to give my Lord except my sin. Desire to make the gospel known and shepherd some of the Lord's sheep.

9 comments on “95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 3

  1. One thing to note: In #17, we see evidence of the paedobaptist view of the covenants, confusing the temporal grace given the Hebrews in the Mosaic Covenant with salvific grace found only in the New Covenant. The distinctives of paedobaptist and credobaptist views of covenant theology was covered,

    here: http://defendingcontending.com/2013/08/27/baptist-covenant-theology/
    and here: http://defendingcontending.com/2013/08/03/whats-the-difference/

  2. It has been said that Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology are two irreconcilable systems of theological thought and interpretations of the Bible. That’s just the way it is. One believes as passionately as the other. Do you not think, my brother, that dispensational theologians read your “theses” against them without seeing your misunderstandings of and mistakes in representing what they believe? Your misunderstandings and mistakes ARE numerous.

    And do you not think that they as well could present “95 theses” against Covenant Theology? That, however, is not the issue.

    It’s with great sadness to them (and I hope would be to many), that you would publicly, on the internet (for all to see–especially unbelievers) present “your side” against their approach to biblical interpretation. Do you really think that you hold a corner on all biblical truth? Will we not ALL change our thinking a bit when we get to heaven?

    Here is the real question: What is the HEART of the matter when our Lord gives His request to the Father in John 17:20,21 regarding us who are ALREADY believers? And does “being perfected” in unity, v.22&23, really have to do with getting our doctrine right? Is that what will convince the world? Or is it not rather a deeper relationship of love, IN SPITE of our differences? Do you really think the Lord is pleased with what you are doing, my brother?

    Joe

  3. Joe,

    Neither covenant theology nor dispensationalism is monolithic. Progress dispensationalism is much closer to truth than classic dispensationalism founded by Darby. That system is a fable made up by feverish minds in the early 19th century and cannot be reconciled to the Scriptures. Covenant theology is sharply divided between paedo and credo baptists views; I hold to the credo-baptist view of covenant theology.

    But note this: the church is not equal to national Israel and it is not separate from the elect within national Israel. God provided a temporal system for national Israel – for a time. Only true Israel – the body of Christ – is special to God. Nobody within the true church has perfect theology and I do not cast out anyone who differs with me on secondary issues as long as he has the gospel right.

  4. Manfred,
    And the last half of my post on Jan. 23rd? You TOTALLY missed the point, my brother, being so wrapped up in your intellectual exercise–and that before the world.

  5. Joe – Two things, as if they are not obvious.
    1. What the lost and hell-bound world needs is the gospel, the biblical gospel. Nothing else.
    2. We who have been born again by the Spirit of the living God are to never stop growing in our love and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. This means, since we all have imperfect minds, we will have differences that we discuss in attempts to determine which perspective is in alignment with Truth. This does not dishonor God. What dishonors God is when His children fight and bite one another – personal attacks. Which is why such are also against the rules of this blog :-)

    Since its inception, advocates of dispensationalism have been been aggressively promoting their systematic theology. There is nothing wrong with defending against that.

    If one ponders all the new religious views that grew out of the early 19th century, it would cause one to wonder what was in the water. …

  6. Manfred,

    Discussions such as these can go on and on. I will simply quote a paragraph in Renald E. Shower’s book, “There Really Is A Difference,” and let you take up your discussion with him.

    “Covenant Theology did not begin to exist as system until the 16th and 17th centuries. It did not exist in the early Church. Louis Berkhof, a prominent Covenant Theologian, wrote, “In the early Church Fathers the covenant idea in not found at all,” (Berkhof’s ‘Systematic Theology,’ p.211), “…nor was the system developed by the prominent Reformers…” Ibid.

    “In 1647 the Westminster Confession of Faith in England Became the first confession of faith to refer to Covenant Theology,” (Ryrie’s ‘Dispensationalism Today,’ p.179.

    BOTH systems were developed centuries after the early Church.

    My counsel to you, Manfred is to LET IT GO. It’s not only obvious that you have an axe to grind, but all of these discussions are “in house” matters. That is, within the family of believers–NOT for the whole unbelieving world to read and laugh at.

    Joe

  7. Joe,

    As I’ve said before, I will spend no more time reading or listening to defenses of dispensationalism.

    Regarding the relatively newness of paedobaptist covenant theology, I agree; the paedobaptists developed their system of covenant theology in the 17th century as a defense of their traditions, learned from Rome. They ignore the dual nature of the covenant with Abraham (Gen 15 vs Gen 17), they ignore Paul’s argument in Galatians 4, the twist Hebrews 4, they misunderstand Gen 8:20 – 9:17, and they misunderstand Hebrews 13:20. And many other passages.

    Covenant theology, rightly understood, is biblical theology. That is the Baptist view of covenant theology, in significant difference to the 17th system codified in the Westminster Confession.

    So the contrast between Covenant Theology (the paedobaptist view) and dispensationalism is a false contrast – these are not the only alternatives. The proper interpretation is not to navigate between two error filled systems, as some counsel. It is to humbly search truth from the Scriptures, comprehending the different genres of literature, the historical context, and the placement within redemptive history. That is how I arrived at my position, with the help of others who have gone before me.

  8. Manfred, you have so much knowledge! I think there will be only a very small percentage of people who will arrive in heaven not having to change their thinking about anything and everything they believe. Would you agree?

  9. Joe – The Holy Spirit of the living God gives man whatever knowledge of Truth he may have. He gives a hunger for righteousness which comes from His Word to those He has raised from the dead. Yet we all have blind spots and sin has and continues to warp our thinking. EVERYONE will realize how little he knows when the Lord returns to gather His people to Himself and we are raised in glory to live with Him forever. No man will able – or willing – to take credit for any good: what good do we have that was not given to us? There will be a never-ending learning about the glorious Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Judge of all flesh and we will worship Him together with all the saints purchased by the blood of the Lamb of God. Let the saints PRAISE HIM!

    P.S. – If you would like a free digital library of more than 2,000 books, articles, and sermons (mostly from a Baptist perspective) send me your snail mail address at sbrogden at gmail dot com and I would be happy to send a DVD that has all this catalogued and will run on PC, Mac, or Linux machine – free for copy and give away as you see fit.

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