Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rebutting Dispensationalism

Let me take a quick run at Dispensationalism; the system of hermeneutics and history that I grew up in, and by and large was trained in for many years. I usually don't like it when a former adherent to a belief system, or interpretive framework returns to their former 'system' only to bash it over the head---as if to bolster their new found, and maybe even novel (to them) way of thinking. And yet, I have avoided head on critique of dispensationalism for quite some time now; to satisfy my own self imposed moorings in line with what I just described. No more. I have been listening to some classic dispensational teachers lately, and they only have made it that much more clear why I have repudiated my once held classic and progressive dispensational beliefs.

For those who don't know; classic Dispensationalism holds that there is a hard or even soft (depending on what version) distinction between ethnic Israel and the Church. Such that the former are God's special covenant people whom all of history and creation is oriented around and toward, and the latter are God's mystery people whom he briefly interrupted his plans for Israel with; in order to let some of the Gentiles into the heavenlies. Clearly this is bolderdash! And yet the teachers I have been listening to lately believe just the opposite; they believe that anyone, like me, who thinks that Jesus is the point and purpose of Israel, and Creation, no less are most likely close to not being Christian. And/or, they believe folk like me are severely confused, and need to be corrected. But wait a minute, who needs to be corrected? Doesn't the Apostle Paul say that there has been one new man created in Jesus Christ? That the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down in Christ? Doesn't the Apostle say that Jesus is the point of creation, being the firstborn from the dead? Doesn't the Apostle Paul argue that the point of the Abrahamic Covenant was not for seeds (like the nation of Israel), but for the Seed, singular, who is Jesus Christ? And if this is so, doesn't it make more sense to conclude that the point and vocation of the nation of Israel was to serve as the mediator of the Mediator to the nations; and that in their mediation, their election is made sure through the fulfillment of Jesus Christ's life for them and all humanity? Jesus is Israel (not even the church); Jesus is the point and fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant; Jesus is the point of prophetic history; Jesus is the point of salvation history; Jesus is the point of creation through recreation in him. Dispensationalism, in any of its forms, has just been defeated at this point; it can go no further. It can't cope with the straightforward teaching of the Apostle Paul.

So it isn't someone like me, who affirms an amillennial understanding of salvation history, that needs to be corrected on the point and purpose of salvation history and creation; it is the dispensationalist who denies the clear teaching of Scripture on this issue. Salvation history has never primarily been about the nation of Israel, it has always been about the one whom Israel was elected to mediate to the nations in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant; Jesus Christ. If your interpretive schema, dispensationalist, ends with a nation instead of a person; then you are wrong, and you ought to reconsider your interpretive paradigm.

This was somewhat of a rant; in the near future I plan on offering some more substantial/supported points in this regard. I grow weary of hearing dispensationalists assert the things they do without understanding.


  1. Bobby,

    It is curious that both of your critiques of Dispensationalism (the other one was written at the time of the Shepherds Conference) have garnered responses (other than mine). Eschatological discussions tend to be hot topics and those who hold the Dispensational position eager to defend.

    I wholeheartedly concur with your observations, by the way.

    1. Hi Ian,

      I'm assuming you meant "haven't garnered;" and I guess it just depends on who is reading at the time :-). I actually think I've scared most of my dispensational readers away by now ;-) ... I know I have at least one still, but he rarely comments.

      When I first started blogging, back in 2005, I had a blog completely dedicated to my advocacy and promotion of dispensational (progressive) interpretation; lots has changed since then :-). I think I am going to attempt another post, right now, on this issue. I know many of my readers probably think spending time on such things is probably not worth much time; but it is a huge part of my own theological development (my dispensational background), and something I know quite a bit about (dispensational theology). And it is also something that I am constantly engaging with given the church circles I still inhabit (my whole family, like my parents are dispy---and many of my academic contacts are still dispy, in fact).


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