Archive | Dispensationalism

Why I am No Longer a Dispensationalist

My Dispensational Upbringing

I have been taught Dispensationalism from my mother’s womb. I was born in a dispensational environment. It was assumed at my church to be a part of the Gospel. There was never another option presented. It made sense. It helped me put together the Scriptures in a way that cleared up so much confusion. And, to be honest, the emphasis on the coming tribulation, current events that prove the Bible’s prophecy, the fear that the Antichrist may be alive today (who is he?) was all quite exciting. But what might be the biggest attraction for me is the charts! Oh how I love charts. I think in charts. And dispensationalism is a theology of charts!

Making Fun of Dispensationalism

The first time I came across someone who was not a Dispensationalist was in 1999. I am not kidding. It was the first time! I don’t think I even knew if there was another view. It was when I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary (the bastion of Dispensationalism) and I was swimming with some guys who were at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Once they discovered I was a dispensationalist, they giggled and snickered. They made fun of the rapture, the sacrificial system during the millennium, and the mark of the beast (which, at that time, was some type of barcode). It was as if they patted me on the head and said “It’s okay . . . nice little dispensationalist.” I was so angry. I was humiliated. I was a second-rate theologian. They were “Covenantalists” (whatever that was). But they were the cool guys who believed in the historic Christian faith and I was the cultural Christian, believing in novel ideas.

The Novelty of Dispensationalism

This made me mad enough to start studying with great passion. And you know what I came to find out? Dispensationalism was a novel idea. It did not really catch on until the 19th century and was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible (the standard Dispensational Sword of Truth—oh, and always in the NAS). This disturbed me. But what disturbed me most is that so many of the great theologians and personalities made fun of it. The Left Behind series was in full swing at this time. I think I was on the third book eagerly waiting for the fourth. But when I listened to a popular Reformed radio personality make jokes about the books, using them as foils and examples of how radical Christians can get, I stopped reading them. I was embarrassed to even have them on my shelf.

I was very conflicted. Dispensationalism still made a lot of sense, but I did not like the fact that it was new and my reformed crowd distanced themselves far from it. I remained a dispensationalist through seminary, but I tried to keep it a secret. Continue Reading →

Top Ten Reasons the Dispensationalist Did NOT Cross the Road

10. They were not a part of the ‘crossing’ dispensation.

9. They thought that the other side was for Israel and this side was for the church.

8. Charles Ryrie was still on this side of the road, why cross?

7. It is pointless since Jesus is just going to bring them back after 7 years.

6. Like the OT prophets and the church age, they were unable to see the other side. Continue Reading →

Where I Stand on Dispensationalism

Years ago I worked out my view of the whole Dispensationalism/Covanentalism thing. Well, “worked out” is not the best way to put it. I put down a position flag that was somewhat tentative and have not revisited it in some time.

If you are not familiar with this issue, let me attempt to help. There are two theological camps out there called “dispenationalists” and “covanentalists.” While there are many prophetic implications (how you view the end times, millennium, rapture, anti-Christ, etc), the primary issue has to do with how you see the nation of Israel in relation to the church. Are they distinct or one? Is their a future for the nation of Israel? Is there a distinct future for the nation of Israel? Has the Abrahamic covenant been fulfilled, forfeited, or transferred? If fulfilled, is the fulfillment literal or spiritual?

There. Clear as mud?

Let me try again.

Dispensationalist believe that there is still a future for the nation of Israel (the literal descendants of Abraham) due to their understanding that the Abrahamic covenant has yet to be completely fulfilled.

Covanentalists believe that the church has assumed the Abrahamic covenant and is the “spiritual” Israel. In Christ, there is no distinction between true (faithful) Israel and the church.

Though I graduated from the Mecca of Dispenationalism, I am honest enough to admit that both sides have good arguments and good people representing these arguments. Everyone should be able to have a great deal of understanding and empathy as to why each side believes the way they do. If they don’t, then I suspect they have not really studied the issue. 

Confusing this even more is all the variations that construct an ever growing spectrum of belief between the two. Dispensationalists come in many varieties (with “Progressive Dispensationalism” holding the scholarly consensus among Dispensationalists these days). So does Covanentalism. As well, there is more to each than a simple side by side comparison. Sometimes they are not alternative parallel rival views about a particular issue, but would be better understood as comparing apples and oranges.

Theologically speaking, it is important for us to understand that this issue should be seen as a secondary issue. In other words, this should certainly not cause anyone to break fellowship. It is a non-cardinal issue that does not have any bearing whatsoever on one’s orthodoxy (much less one’s salvation).

However, being non-essential does not mean that it is non-important. I think it is important for us to wrestle with these things and take them seriously, even if we are unwilling to elevate them in an imbalanced manner.

My purpose with here is to briefly present my position which could be thought of as a mediating position between two extremes. I introduced this in 2002 during the filming of The Theology Program. It is called “Progressive Covanentalism” and represents my tentative flag in the ground concerning the Israel-Church-future thing.

Progressive Covenantalism: God made one covenant of redemption to man that has been progressively fulfilled and understood throughout the ages by way of “installments.” The first “installment” was made to Adam and Even in Eden when God vaguely promised to fix what they broke (protoevangelion; Gen. 3:15). This was a covenant of redemption made by God to man. It was the first promise concerning redemption. All successive covenants are further installments to this covenant, representing extensions of the first, making it progressively more clear how this was going to play out. Continue Reading →

My View of Dispensationalism: Progressive Covenantalism

I am a dispensationalist . . . I think. Below is my explanation of my view. While the term “Progressive Covenantalism” suggests a hybrid between Covenant Theology and Progressive Dispensationalism, it is not really meant to. My view is simply Progressive Dispensationalism with two changes: 1) The emphasis is on the continuity brought about by the single covenant of redemption, not made between the members of the Trinity (as in Covenant Theology), but between God and mankind, represented by Adam. 2) The change of name. I don’t like the word “dispensationalism.” Sadly, it has lost its effectiveness due to the increadible amount of misrepresentation due to ignorance of its history and development. Therefore, I think it should be superseded (oh yeah, how was that for a play on words my young replacement theologians?). Anyway, here is a brief video clip describing what Progressive Covenantalism is. I have inserted the charts so that you can see them better. Continue Reading →

What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Word “Dispensationalism”? (Part 2)

Dispie chart

Twelve years ago this month I was digging trenches at an archaeological site in Israel. Unfortunately, I dug myself into a theological hole with my fellow excavators before we were even close to removing all the dirt from our square. One old-school professor at an East Coast college was particularly troubled by my admission of dispensational leanings. He gave me the predictable rundown of objections. “Doc, have you read Progressive Dispensationalism by Blaising and Bock?” I asked. “You might be surprised by some of the things that they say,” I quickly added. His response, which I’ll never forget, was both witty and warped: “I’m not interested in progressing in dispensationalism!”

Continue Reading →

What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Word “Dispensationalism”? (Part 1)

Hal Lindsey comic
Introduction: A dispensationalist’s (small “d” intended) Gripe

At Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, we’re unabashedly committed to irenic theology. This means that even when we vehemently disagree with a particular theological stance, we do our very best to describe that stance fairly and squarely. And there’s only one sure-fire way of knowing that we’ve met this objective: anyone who’s adopted the position we’ve put on the table could pull up a chair and say, “It looks good to me!” Continue Reading →