Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dissing Dispensationalism 3

Ok, This is the second point from Phillips post on dispensationalism. Phillips says,

It's new. Sorry, must have missed the memo -- when was the last truth gleaned from the Bible? I knew the Canon was closed to addition; I didn't realize it was closed to study as well. Funny that anti-dispensationalists would effectively relegate Psalm 119:18 to a different dispensation.
And, while we're at it, tell me again -- how old are the five Sola's as a formulation? How about the acronym TULIP? Um, Covenant theology -- when was that systematized? And what was the chief objection raised to Luther by learned Roman doctors at Worms? Or go way back, fifth century -- how old is the doctrine of the Trinity now? "Old as the Bible," you growl? I totally agree. Same for dispensationalism.

Here, Dan makes an excellent point. Dispensationalists see their view as old as Scripture itself, just as everyone else who seeks to formulate an understanding of what is said in Holy Writ.

With that said, as a system, it has only taken shape in the last 180-200 years. That does not make it untrue, just because it’s new and that is not a valid argument against it, but it is one that should cause us to examine it closely. As a matter of fact, I would say that many of the principles of dispensationalism were held by those of the first century who did not understand the first coming of Christ. They were so segregated as far as Jews and Gentiles that they could not even see that Gentiles would even be included in the kingdom. They saw them as beneath them. Jesus demonstrated as much in His parable of the Good Samaritan. These tended to see the promises of God being dependent upon their ethnic descent. Though many dispensationalists won’t actually come out and say it, they end up making the point that there will be physical descendants of Abraham who are saved because of that, though I am sure Phillips would not hold to that view.

Psalm 119:18 relegated to a different dispensation? I’m sorry I don’t get that at all. Maybe I have not been well read enough to understand Phillips’ remarks here. If he means that many writers speak of the gospel opened up in the Law, then fine. I have no problem with that. What else are we to see from the Law of God? It is holy and just. It reveals to us our utter sinfulness and in the broad scope of the Law we see the imagery of Christ and His work (His perfect active obedience to it), so what is the problem with that? Why is it relegated to another dispensation?

It's not Reformed/Calvinistic. First, some shocking news: my goal in life is not to be judged as perfectly Reformed or Calvinistic. (I'm hopeful that brother Hendriksen, now with the Lord, would concur.) When I stand before the throne, I don't expect the Lord to say, "Let's see... how Reformed were you?" Anyway, maybe someone can point out where Calvin (or Luther, or Knox, or Zwingli, or Owen) maintained that, after he himself died, nothing remained to be learned, because he/they had been perfect in all his scholarship and thinking, and had exhausted every last bit of truth from the Bible. I can't think that these great men imagined that they had mined every last grain of ore from the vast Biblical treasury, leaving us today only to visit theological museums, or reminisce about how great it must have been to live when the Bible still had more to teach, and we had more to learn.

Hm. "Calvin the Apostle." Don't like it.

One last thought on these first three. If these are really big, determinative factors -- they have been, to a great many of dispensationalism's bitterest critics -- then it seems to me that we owe Rome an apology. In that case, we agree with Rome that we dare not directly delve into Scripture for ourselves. We agree with Rome that we need a Magisterium to filter Scripture for us. Like Roman Catholics, we're not allowed to see anything in Scripture that our (Reformed) Magisterium tells us isn't there; and with Loyola, we should say that white is black (and Israel is the Church), if Mother (Reformed) Church tells us so.

Ok, I totally agree with these comments and frankly there are times when I think some reformed folks simply would drink the kool-aid if certain idols that they have erected offered it to them. This would actually go hand in hand with his opening comments to this post.
However, it is the last point that gets me. Again, go back and read my posts concerning eschatology so far and you will find that I didn’t come to the understanding of the true Israel of God being the Church and vice versa by reading Reformed idols. Is there a distinction between the nation Israel and the remnant, which is the true Israel (according to the inspired apostle Paul in Romans 9)? This is not replacement theology. It is simply understanding who the Israel of God is: it is all of the elect.

BTW, I don’t like Calvin the Apostle either and I’m sure he (Calvin) would concur.

For those who are just joining, the post can be found here.


Gordan said...


Thanks so much for doing this series!!

I had tossed the same thought around for a bit, and decided I was neither disciplined nor, frankly, interested enough to go through with it. But I sure am happy someone is!

My thought on this particular point (of the "newness" of Dispensationalism) is this: Though the five solas, for instance, were not formulated until the 16th Century, we are justified in saying they go back to the Bible itself. Both because we can show the Bible teaching them, but also because we can show teachers in the historic church agreeing with them, in an unbroken line all the way back.

This is different than the case with Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism came along and introduced several legitimate innovations in Biblical study. They saw things no one else in Church History had ever seen (e.g. the secret Rapture.) Dispensationalism met with stiff resistance from wide portions of Protestantism, precisely because several of its innovations were in conflict with Christianity's historic understanding. You don't find, for instance, a line of Church Fathers down to the 1st Century teaching that God has two covenant peoples on the earth. That is a legitimately new idea. And, I would add, new because it's never been true.

I'm saying I think there is a difference between a new formulation of old Truth (as in the Reformation), and a new formulation of never-before-seen truth; and that it is proper to look suspiciously upon the latter.

Please continue this series to the end, brother!!

Tim said...


I tend to agree with your assessment. My point was the simple thing of new does not equal wrong. But you obviously took things a little farther and I think your conclusion was right on.