Q & A Friday: Are you a Dispensationalist?

Erik Raymond —  February 16, 2007

Labels are often difficult. It is usually better to define terms before endorsing or rejecting them.

By saying I am a dispensationalist I mean the following:

  1. I see a distinction between the church and the nation of Israel
  2. I see a future for the nation of Israel
  3. I employ a consistent literal historical-grammatical approach to Bible interpretation
  4. The major theme in the Scriptures is the glory of God

Also, by saying I am a dispensationalist I also believe the following:

  1. I do not see multiple ways of salvation in the Bible, sinners are saved by grace through faith (whether Paul or Abraham, cf. Rom. 4.1-5)
  2. I do not believe that some parts of the New Testament are not for us today (i.e. the Sermon on the Mount)
  3. I do not believe that Jesus may be our Savior without being our Lord

Some people think it is odd that we could be both Reformed and Dispensational. I like to remind folks that it is the same approach to the Bible that produces both for me. I am not Reformed because Calvin was Reformed and I am not Dispensational because Ryrie is. I think the Bible teaches Reformed soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and Dispensational eschatology (doctrine of things to come).

Here is a really good article on Dispensationalism by Matt Weymeyer that I would commend to you.

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Fridays are Q&A Fridays here at IrishCalvinist.com so if you have a question fire it in to…

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

42 responses to Q & A Friday: Are you a Dispensationalist?

  1. I don’t know Erik–Reformed and Dispensational? Reformed soteriology, but Dispensational eschatology? Can one have a Reformed, Gospel-centered, biblical theological approach to the Scriptures as well as a Dispensationalist hermeneutic?

    I know others wiser than me (including you!) have held a commitment to both of these theological positions, I just don’t see how the two can really jive.

    I’m thinking a new blog name is in order: Irish Dispensational Calvinist. :)

    PS. I’m roping in some of those twenytsomethings for babysitting.

  2. If by “a Reformed, Gospel-centered, biblical theological approach to the Scriptures” you mean historic redemptive, then no. But my hermeneutic is consistent with Dispensationalists and I think I am pretty gospel-centered. Aside from a few questions from readers, I have not been slandered as a dispensationalist :/ I’m curious if this is what you meant.

    I am not changing the name. I think it is already taken anyway.

    Good work on the baby sitting. I need to do the same.

  3. Erik, Personally, I am Historic PreMill. I cannot let go of Israel as being finished in God’s plan. And while there is are some distinctions between Israel and the Church I also see some overlapping in the NT that is hard to dismiss.

    For the most part I am still studying eschatology and am not dogmatically against any classically held moderate system. Different eschatological views have been held by men in the same denominations and ascribing to the same hermeneutical framework.

    I find myself not far from your position except for your comment: #2 “I employ a consistent literal historical-grammatical approach to Bible interpretation”

    But overall I agree that we must look to the Scripture for our theology and not assume that a Calvinist must ascribe to certain eschatology. After all Loraine Boettner who wrote such a great book on Calvinism was a PostMill and not Amill.

  4. No, no, I had no intention of doing any slandering of dispensationalism or dispensationalists.

  5. OK, I have some questions. This topic has been on my mind for quite some time, and more this week after reading this blog post, 25 Stupid Resons for Dissing Dispensationlism: http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2006/11/twenty-five-stupid-reasons-for-dissing.html
    The post is VERY long, and has about 300 Bazillion comments, all with interesting tidbits of info. My poor brain is having trouble wrapping around it all.
    My questions are:
    1) Are there some folks who believe in Covenant Theology but still think God has a plan for Israel? I researched this awhile back and seemed to find *some* via googling, but maybe they are just mixed up? Having “become more Calvinist” as of late, my husband and I have also brought other traditions we gleaned from growing up Baptist into consideration in light of scripture. We have been drawn to Reform thinkers because of their love for scripture. Some of our friends warn against Reform thought because they say Reform folks don’t like Israel (my husband grew up in a church that was FOCUSED INTENTLY on Israel — maybe even too much, although I think God wanted them to have this passion to do the work He had picked out for them). We haven’t found Reform folk to be as “anti-Israel” as rumors have it, but are still wondering what is what and who thinks what and what scripture teaches.
    2) Do you know if John Piper is dispensationalist? I thought his explanation of how we become “Jews” when we are saved was interesting. It didn’t seem as if he was dissing the racial Israel (and didn’t seem to say whether or not God was done with Israel) but simply said we are grafted into the same saving faith Abraham had when we become regenerate.
    3) Does dispensational also mean pre-mil, necessarily? It doesn’t seem to, from your definition or the definitions referred to by the “dissing dispensationalism” post I mentioned above.

  6. “I see a distinction between the church and Israel.”

    So do I. Israel now stands for those who stood with the pharisees in their blasphemy and upon whom the blood of all the prophets has been charged against; those faithful waiting Israelites like Simeon are now counted among the faithful. What future is there for Israel apart from coming to Christ? “There is salvation in no other name.” And in coming to Christ what do they become if not the church? “We were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks.” I see no NT category for an Israel that is not part of the church.

    As a Talbot grad, and one raised in a Dispensational context, it was a hard road of separation for me, but I no longer find myself able to identify with Dispensationalism, progressive or otherwise. Dispensationalism diminishes rather than exalts the complete work of Christ in fulfilling all things and in being the all in all.

    As for my hermeneutic: I subscribe as well to a historical-grammatical approach where I find Christ as the revealed logos is the totality of the Scriptures, for both the Jew and the Greek. If Christ is now seated upon the throne, far above all rule and authority having completed the work which God gave him to do, where is the logic (or Biblical justification) in the re-humiliation of Christ to a physical earthly throne in a small geographic region, when he is now seated in the heavenlies with no limit or end to his kingdom?

    It seems to me that in dispensationalism, justification is given to the request in 1 Samuel 8 for a king other than God… and they are still looking for God to fulfill that request and He is saying that whole system is obsolete, having been superceded by Christ.

    Further on hermeneutics: Is there a difference (for you) between a “literal” hermeneutic and a “historical-grammatical” hermeneutic and what you call a “literal historical-grammatical” hermeneutic?

  7. I have been trying to restrain myself, but I can no longer hold back my opinion.

    I have no clue what you all are talking about.

    It may be hard to swallow, but there it is.

  8. here’s a link to answer the question about piper:
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/QuestionsAndAnswers/ByTitle/1439_What_does_John_Piper_believe_about_dispensationalism_covenant_theology_and_new_covenant_theology/

    (btw: i’m not the author of the site erik, just happen to have the same cool name :))

  9. I have long been befuddled by those who think that Calvinism and Dispensationalism are totally incompatible. Furthermore, I have never seen an argument attempt the case let alone make it. It just seems to be a condescending statement our stricter Reformed brethren make as if it was self-evident. Maybe I am a little dense. If the two ideas are truly incompatible, somebody please show me how.

  10. Regarding these points:
    Also, by saying I am a dispensationalist I also believe the following:

    1. I do not see multiple ways of salvation in the Bible, sinners are saved by grace through faith (whether Paul or Abraham, cf. Rom. 4.1-5)

    [maybe you should have said, "I am not the type of dispensationalist who sees multiple ways of being saved." ]

    2. I do not believe that some parts of the New Testament are not for us today (i.e. the Sermon on the Mount)
    [maybe you should have said, "I am not the type of dispensationalist who believes some parts of the bible are not for us today." ]

    3. I do not believe that Jesus may be our Savior without being our Lord
    [maybe you should have said, "I am not the type of dispensationalist who embraces a divided Christ separating him from his Lordship and Saviourhood." ]
    These three points which you deny are for some dispensationalists, good theology and part of the definition. They are certainly things which some attempted to teach me. One could even describe himself as historic-premil and completly eschew dispenstionalism altogether for there is more invovled than simply an eschatological view. Spurgeon is perhaps an example of this holding to a historic-premil position but writing against the teachings of Darby and the sharp disctinction between peoples of God. Have you ever been exposed to the classic dispensationalism that teaches affirmatively what you deny? Maybe I misunderstood your message: Did you mean, “In spite of being a dispensationalist I also believe the following?” It sounds like you are saying to be a dispensationalists means the following….. Which I don’t think it does, though like youself there are certainly dispensationalists that will affirm those things.

    sda

  11. I appreicate Erik putting himself out there with this topic. I think all the comments have been great.
    I am new to this blog, and to Omaha Bible Church. And this whole topic has been on my mind, as a part of a bigger question. I agree with Erik that nobody wants to be defined by a theological word or system. That being said, it is a necassary evil and, for the most part, inescapable. Nobody wants to say I hold to this position because it came with the other parts, that were in the box. But, the fact remains that some parts logically fit with others, or atleast seem to fit more consistently.
    The bigger question, that I have been asking myself is if “Reformed” is the same thing as “Calvinism”. The more I ask it, the more I see theologically, historically, and due to the weight of theological systems that they are not the same. The reformed faith incompasses more than the doctrines of grace.
    The smaller question is if a “consistent literal historical-grammatical approach to Bible interpretation” really can support Dispensationalism. I would say that approach, if atleast, does not align itself with Traditional Dispensationalism. The fact is, despite our desires, that we all have presuppostions. For an example, if I see a continuity between what we call the O.T. & N.T. in that I see all the covenants that God made with man, as one continious covenant, building upon eachother, then I would see those a what has been called as the Covenant of Grace. Thence, I would not be a defined as a Dispensationalist, but more by what we call Covenant theology. We can’t escape logical/consistent relations or theological systems.
    To me, “consistent literal historical-grammatical approach to Bible interpretation” seems to fit more with the Progressive Dispensationalist system. Just a quick study will show those of the Traditional Dispensational and Covenant theology camp, both see the tension in trying to maintain that hermeneutic and remain a Dispensationalist. The reason why, is that a consistent literal (futurist) hermeneutic supports and has been used to define Traditional Dispensationalsim historically and practically. Bruce Waltke explains it this way, with my comments in parenthesis.

    “Hermeneutics of PD (Progressive Dispensationalism)
    The foundational difference between PD and traditional dispensationalism is hermeneutical. With PD’s desire for cordial relations has come a hermeneutical shift away from literal interpretation, also called the grammatical-historical method, which has been one of the ongoing hallmarks of dispensationalism.

    Evaluation of PD hermeneutics
    Part of the confusion over PD is that its adherents claim to hold to the grammatical-historical method of interpretation but by it they mean something different. Historically, the grammatical-historical method meant that biblical texts had only one meaning that could not change. This meaning was what the biblical author intended. This meaning could be found as the believer put aside his biases, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and sought the author’s meaning by looking at the grammar of the text and taking into account the historical situation facing the biblical author. PD advocates, though, say the meaning of texts can change and we cannot be sure of our findings because of our “preunderstandings.” This approach places PD outside the realm of dispensationalism.

    (Thus, the grammatical-historical method of interpretation seems to be an odd fit to PD and any system related to dispensationalists that my have an “already but not yet” hermeneutic.) . Historically, the grammatical-historical method meant that biblical texts had only one meaning that could not change. (The grammatical-historical method of interpretation it fits Covenant theology though.)
    The future of PD
    Drift toward Covenant Theology
    The hermeneutical doors that PD has opened make very possible the eventual shift to covenant theology. As a covenant theologian, Vern Poythress is appreciative of the moves PD’s have been making. But he also says, “However, their position is inherently unstable. I do not think that they will find it possible in the long run to create a safe haven theologically between classical dispensationalism and covenantal premillennialism. The forces that their own observations have set in motion will most likely lead to covenantal premillennialism after the pattern of George Ladd.” Walter A. Elwell: “the newer dispensationalism looks so much like nondispensationalist premillennialism that one struggles to see any real difference” Commenting on the one people of God concept of PD, Bruce Waltke states, “That position is closer to covenant theology than to dispensationalism”.
    I want to be clear here that I am not trying to come to rash judgement by association. I want to have iron sharpen iron and build bridges of dialog for etification and fellowship.
    It seems to me, as much as we would like to refrain from these type of terms and assocaitions, we might not be able to separate ourselves from them. And there may be a reason for that.
    To be fair, and in keeping with Erik’s daring nature in laying himself out there with this whole topic, I started out as a Traditional Dispensationalist. Hermeneutics has brought me all the way to what some people call a “truthly or throughly reformed” position. Let me be the first to say that both sides of that theoloigal fence should not accept nor be happy with that term. I am certainly not. Though saying that may cause more questions, for some, it does paint me in a corner. Sometimes that is good for explanations, some times it is bad because of the tendency to judge a postion by how we have witnessed it’s expression. I come from the most intolerant, legalist, and abrasive reformed camp. That is unfortunate, since that does not have to come with the other parts in the box. For almost a perfect example of how we can’t escape theological assocaitions and logical connections, as well as the baggage that often times has be attached to that, I am a Reconstructionist. I have left the only Reconstructionist church in the Midwest, that I know of.
    Besides opening myself up for presumption and abuse, what does that have to do with the topic at hand? We all are trying to be consistent. We all won’t get there. We all are in transition. Doctines fit together. We should accept those who Christ accepts and pray for the trajectory of God’s grace in all of our lives, as we build the kingdom of God along side other inconsistent brothers ans sisters. We should build one another up, in our most holy faith, even if we don’t always agree. We should keep the lines of communication open, and most of all glorify by enjoying Him (and His people) forever

  12. Deborah,
    1) yes there are people who claim covenant theology but hold for a future for Israel. There is a wide spectrum of views on this topic.
    2)Piper claims to be a mix of covenental and dispensational.
    3)Dispensationalism and pre-mil tend to go together, but there are those who hold to one but not the other. Some would say that these people would be inconsistent in their systematic theology in order to do so.

    JG:
    I’m with you, this is all confusing. I know what I believe the scriptures teach, but different people claim to mean different things when they define the terms. This is a discussion that is wrought with undefined terms which is why it is helpful that Erik starts to define what he means by the terms.

  13. Steve B.- I too would see believing Jews today as belonging to the body of Christ. This is what is patterned in Acts and what we see throughout the NT. I do believe that the age we are living in is the church age and that any day now (immanence) the church will be removed (1 Thess. 4.16-17). During this time the 7 years of tribulation will ensue. God will use this time to convert a great multitude, such as has never been seen before, many will be martyred, and there will believers at the end who are there, those who are unbelievers at the end of the tribulation will have been destroyed. And all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11.25-27) because God has not forsaken his people (Rom. 11.1ff), the gifts and the calling are irrevocable (Rom. 11.29). I’m sure you are familiar with this.

    I really am unsure as to what you mean with these two statements. These statements alone are troubling and represent a substantial mischaracterization.

    “Dispensationalism diminishes rather than exalts the complete work of Christ in fulfilling all things and in being the all in all.”

    “It seems to me that in dispensationalism, justification is given to the request in 1 Samuel 8 for a king other than God…”

  14. Scott:

    Thanks for your comment and observations…

    “These three points which you deny are for some dispensationalists, good theology and part of the definition. They are certainly things which some attempted to teach me.”

    I understand some of the baggage, and this is why I wanted to make distinctions. There are variant wings, if you will, but not all Israel is Israel (if I might ironically allegorize….:-D)

    Consider the late S.Lewis Johnson, a great Calvinistic Dispensationalist (taught at DTS) and also John MacArthur (and the faculty at The Master’s Seminary) for examples of guys who hold the soteriological fort while being dispensational.

    Again, thanks for the observations and comments.

  15. I’m continually amazed at the lengths prideful man will go to categorize and compartmentalize whatever he is involved in, trying to set himself above others.
    In trying to get back on course, let’s think and pray on 1Cor 1:10-17.

    Bob

  16. Erik,
    I really don’t mean to be offensive and don’t intend to mis-characterize, my apologies if I come across that way. I desire irenic, yet rigorous examination and challenge…and those are the implications I see from holding to dispensationalism.

    Dispensationalism is a difficult system to nail down as it is in flux, or at least there is not really one authoritative voice to respond to, would you not agree?

    I said…

    “Dispensationalism diminishes rather than exalts the complete work of Christ in fulfilling all things and in being the all in all.”

    At its core, dispensationalism sees an incompleteness to what Christ has done, in its more extreme form (which I assume you are going to distance yourself from) he failed in his presentation to Israel in offering the kingdom. I know that they wouldn’t use those words, but I can’t get around the connection to the old plan B scheme. Even if you don’t hold to Jesus resorting to plan b and beginning the parenthesis, the end time scheme is based on restoring things to where they were pre-week 70 so that week 70 can ensue, so that Christ can finish his work with the nation. I don’t see much difference in those two options, other than an attempt to remove uncomfortable implications.

    When Jesus speaks of the doom of the temple, is he simply predicting the future, or is he pronouncing judgment? I believe he is pronouncing judgment. This is a critical point. The judgment is twofold: it fulfills the words of Jesus (Luke 11:48-50; 20:9-18; 21:5-6) and is truly what Jesus meant by the blasphemy of the Spirit being unforgivable (Mark 3; Matthew 12; Luke 11); it inaugurates the new and better way described in Hebrews, especially chapters 8-10.

    My point is that if Christ has fulfilled what the temple stood for in shadow form, a theology that demands a restoration of the shadow misses the point and diminishes what Christ has done. Somehow, God needs to once again go through the humiliation to plead with a nation that has rejected him over and over and over, and has rejected him in finality (rejecting Christ being a terminus). But a focus on the covenant promises being about land as opposed to Christ leads to dispensationalists like Pat Robertson seeing God more angered by Ariel Sharon’s “dividing” the land of Israel than he is by Ariel Sharon’s rejection of Christ. That diminishes the work and person of Christ. I would say it this way: Israel as a nation and religious system have no future in God’s redemptive economy, even though God may still redeem “all Israel” which would include Jewish people, maybe even in mass. But that will forever make them “in Christ” which makes them part of his body, and if church is not comfortable, it makes them part of the “Qahal” (Hb.) or congregation of God (Gen. 28:3).

    I also said…

    “It seems to me that in dispensationalism, justification is given to the request in 1 Samuel 8 for a king other than God…”

    When God speaks to Samuel and says: “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” it serves as a precursor to the statement made by the chief priests: “We have no king but Caesar.” Is there a more vulgar six words in the Scripture than these? Israel experienced the warning of Samuel (1Sam 8:18)by choosing Caesar as their king: He destroyed the nation, the temple, the priesthood. But again, I don’t think Jesus is simply predicting, but is enacting judgment. That stuff is done, obsolete and we are dead to it. So I see resurrecting that system to enthrone Jesus on the throne they reserved for Caesar, is not what the Scriptures are talking about when they see Jesus taking the throne of David, rather I see that throne as the result of the resurrection and ascension, a throne he is seated on now, and a return to the physical throne of the physical nation of Israel in the physical town of Jerusalem as a huge demotion and re-humiliation, akin to re-crucifying Christ.

    Paul (Acts 13, 13:34 and Isaiah 55:3)connects the fulfillment of the kingdom promises, the sure mercies of David with the resurrection. God has fulfilled His promises made to the fathers in Christ. Dispensationalism in my estimation does not accept this fulfillment of the promises, so they keep looking for literal Israel.

  17. I have observed your site for a number of weeks and I am encouraged by your position. I share this and find it is very possible to be a Calvinist and a dispensationalist or even a progressive dispensationalist. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement!!

  18. Let us be ever mindful of 2 Tim 3:16.

    A great number of Israelites, God’s chosen people, were not saved (Rom 9:1-5). Does this mean that God’s promise has failed (9:6)? The remainder of chs 9-11 answers this pressing question. It is the true Israel, made up of jews who believe, like Abraham, that inherits the promise (9:6-29). The majority of the Israelites were rejected because they sought righteousness by works rather than by faith (9:30- 10:21). But Israel’s rejection is not final because in the end Israel as a whole will believe and be saved (11:1-36). Therefore God is faithful to his promise.

  19. I don’t use the term “dispensational” anymore. I call those in this camp what they are: anti-covenant. Dispensationalism is the different gospel and its advent marked the Church’s “slouch towards Gommorah”.

  20. Steve:

    “I really don’t mean to be offensive and don’t intend to mis-characterize, my apologies if I come across that way. I desire irenic, yet rigorous examination and challenge”

    no worries Steve, I’m with you, just pushing for some context and clarification.

    i would agree that their are varient wings within the camp. i have heard John MacArthur answer a q&a without putting on the dipsensational button, but claiming exactly what I am claiming here…it is dicey.

    There is no doubt in my mind reading the OT that the Isrealites were looking forward to a literal fulfillment of God’s promise for the land. Where in the NT does this change? Romans 9-11 are strong…”the gifts and the calling are irrevocable” (v.29) They are tied to the unchanging character of God (Gen. 12; Ps. 89, etc..) This seems the most straightforward, normal and consistent.

    btw, i’m not voting for pat robertson to anytime soon as the guy to serve as this absent voice you refer to…

    thanks,

    erik

  21. Edwin,

    thanks for coming by and reading. the goal of this site is the exaltation of Jesus Christ through the promotion of his gospel and edification of his saints. Thoughtful and engaging biblical discussion is the goal. Your comments regarding dispensationalism are short-sighted, historically inaccurated and demonstrative of a lazy blog commenter. If you disagree, fine…but provide substantiation or context, do not just come in here and belch such rediculous things as dispensationalists being anti-covenant. This is the type of stuff that gets comments deleted.

  22. To be completely honest, I haven’t made up my mind totally about what I believe. Unlike many people these days though, I haven’t disregarded A-millenialism as a possibility.

    One thing I have been taught of the Lord is that Dispensationalism is not in the scriptures. There may be variations in the meaning of the word ‘dispensationalism’ so I’ll clarify what isn’t found in scripture and that’s any millenial view that has believers ascending to Heaven BEFORE the tribulation (pre-trib).

  23. Q. “Are there some folks who believe in Covenant Theology but still think God has a plan for Israel?”

    Yes. Postmillennialist believe that Romans 11:24-26 requires the fact the Judaizers will someday reject their false religion in favor of Christianity, thus resulting in a greater blessing for the gentiles. I consider myself to be a postmillennial preterist.

    That said, until the come to Christ, they cannot be considered God’s chosen people.

    I must also add that dispensationalism has varying degrees. MacArthur is correct in his view of Lordship salvation, but seems very dispensational when it comes to eschatology (as does Pink). Some go so far as to take a Paul-only approach (though Paul himself taught the law as a way of life for believers).

  24. Wow Erik. I just returned from a weekend away and just noticed that this comment stream has really gotten going.

    I sure hope that my initial comment didn’t sound cynical in raising my question about the compatibility of Reformed and Dispensational theology. Such written text often doesn’t convey the jovial spirit in which one is writing. I hope that initial comment of mine didn’t contribute to the 1 or 2 less than kind comments here. Thanks for how you’ve handled this discussion.

  25. Erik

    “There is no doubt in my mind reading the OT that the Israelites were looking forward to a literal fulfillment of God’s promise for the land. Where in the NT does this change?”

    The Israelites received that promise: Look at 1 Kings 4:21, 24

    Everything changes in the New Testament. If the whole can be defined by the sum of its parts, then every constituent part of the nation has a new and improved definition:

    Priesthood: not Levites, but the line of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7-8)

    Temple: not a building in Jerusalem, but temples of the HS with Christ as cornerstone (1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Pet 2:1-10); and a true tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-2)

    Sacrifices: done away, Jesus once for all.

    Jerusalem/Zion: We come to a new Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22)

    Covenant: We operate under a new covenant, the old is done away (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8-9)

    King: Jesus is indisputably the king, superior to even David and Solomon -”one greater than Solomon is here…” (Ephesians 1:20-23; Acts 2:34-36)

    Kingdom: the new kingdom is unshakeable (Hebrews 12:27-28)

    And if we must still talk about land, it too has become better – the king’s kingdom extends to the ends of the earth and even the heavens.

    The real question is not where does this change in the New Testament, but where does it stay the same?

    There is no attempt to put you and Pat Robertson in the same camp, I wouldn’t read or respond to your blog unless I felt there was substance here…and I am a big fan of John MacArthur.

  26. Jesus’ offer of the kingdom to Israel was met by unbelief in order that Isaiah’s prophecy about divine blinding and hardening would come true (John 12:37-40). Thus, their unbelief was purposed in order that Jesus might bring in his other sheep into the fold of God’s people (John 10:17) and graft them into the tree of promise (Rom. 11:17ff.) BTW, the Church is arrogant to think it does not ride on the coat tails of God’s promises to Abraham and subsequently Israel.

    God repeatedly instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh to let Israel go. Pharoah repeatedly rejected the offer because God repeatedly hardened his heart in order that God might be glorified in Pharoah’s rejection and subsequent judgment (Exod. 9:16; Rom. 9:17). The offer of the kingdom to Israel was genuine while at the same time it was desined that they would reject it. In the same way, the offer of the gospel to all people is genuine even though God only chooses those who are already His elect.

    Puritan Lad said until Israel “come[s] to Christ, they cannot be considered God’s chosen people.” Does this mean that all who are choosen “in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) can’t be called God’s elect until they believe? The whole notion seems misplaced. We do not know whom God chooses, but that does not mean they only become part of the elect when they believe – that smacks of Arminianism.

  27. I’m a newbee. I just went through this thread and this is good stuff. I agree with Steve though. And would even say Matt. 24/Olivet Discourse has been fulfilled. Have you ever heard of New Covenant Theology?

    http://www.ids.org/ids/wnct.html

    http://www.newcovenanttheology.com/

    http://www.searchingtogether.org/

    They hold to the now and not yet theology.

  28. I have been reading this discussion and find myself very confused.
    Can someone give me a short explaination, in layman’s terms, what makes a person a dispensationalist?

    Thanks and God Bless,

    J. Hall

  29. What makes a person a dispensationalist:

    1) sees a distinction between the people of Isreal and the Church in God’s redemptive plan for the world.
    2) believes the promises made to Isreal await fulfillment in the future, the 70th week of Daniel has been waiting to begin for 1900 plus years now.
    3) premillenial, you can be premil without being a dispy but you can not be dispensational without being premillenial.
    4)believe in a rapture of christians before 7 year tribulation, though a minority argue for a mid trib or post trib rapture.

    You know, aside from the actual scripture and all of hurdles that must be jumped to arrive at much of dispensationalists interpretations of it, there are several key factors that prevent me from ever again entertaining dispensationalism, and they are:

    Because in dispensationalism the Church becomes a “Plan B”, a byproduct of Isreal’s rejection of Christ. The New Covent age, the most glorious epoch of history this side of heaven we’ll ever see is reduced to a parenthesis in history.

    The seventeith week of Daniel cannot be seperated from the first 69 (that expired over 1900 years ago and counting) by an indeterminate gap of time. There is no precedent in Old or New testaments to justify such a division.

    It acknowledges absolutely NO covenantal fulfillment of scripture in the A.D. 70 destruction of the temple, of Jerusalem, of the priesthood permanently.

    It improperly views Isreal. If there be no temple, no priesthood, and no sacrifice then how is God’s wratch towards Jews placated? The only source for this is Christ, which if they do not accept places them in the same category as non-believers.

    And just like armenians are forced to invent the doctrine of the “age of accountability” that scripture is silent on to justify their free-will obsessed believism, likewise Dispensationalists invent events and ideas out of nessesity like the proclamation of the temple being rebuilt in the future. Jesus said it would be destroyed, and it was. Seems like that prophecy was already fulfilled, but then again so is the rest of Matthew 24 when understood from a preterist viewpoint.

  30. Anthony,

    I would consider myself to be dispensational and I am not sure that I believe anything you just articulated.

    1) To say that there is a disctinction between Jews and Gentiles is not to make the church a “Plan B”, but rather to use a consistant method of interpreting scripture. One cannot be a physical descendent of Jacob (a Jew) and not a physical descendent of Jacob (a Gentile) at the same time. In fact, to say that say that Gentile salvation was a by product of Israel’s rejection is to ignore the promises made to Abraham in Gen. 12 that “in you (Abraham) all the families of the earth will be blessed.” In fact, this is part of the root of the olive tree (Rom. 11). Dispensationalists simple try to maintain a distinction between the promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 that on one hand God promised “I will make you a great nation,and I will bless you” and on the other that he promised to bless the nations at large.

    It should also be noted that membership in the church requires baptism into one body by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). It is also interesting to note that 1 Cor. 12 takes place in the discussion of Spiritual Gifts, which did not exist prior to Acts 2 and the giving of the Spirit on Pentacost. So if there was no baptism into the body of Christ (the church) and no giving of gifts to the members of the body (the church), prior to pentacost it is save to assume there was no church prior to pentacost. Thus who were saved would have been required to become a Jew, and place themselves under the law (i.e. be circumsized)

    2) While I cannot speak to the issues of the weeks in Daniel, Romans 11:25-27 says, “25For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery–so that you will not be wise in your own estimation–that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. 27″THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”

    A couple of observations: (1) Paul sees a disction between Israel and the Gentiles. (2) Paul is writing out of concern that Gentiles would thing that they hade replaced Israel and become “wise in their own estimation” or “arrogant” (11:18). (3) Paul asserts there will be a future salvation of Israel (who are not Gentiles). (4) Paul believes at that time “all Israel” will be saved – that Christ shall return to Zion, remove “all” sin from Israel, and take away their sins. Now I could be wrong, but I have not seen any of these things happen yet in history. Christ has not returned and Israel is far from being godly.

  31. I can’t tackle everything you replied to at the moment but….
    To be dispensational, then you would have to acknowledge two seperate covenants in existence, one for the people of Israel and one for the Church. Even if you believe the Old Covenant to Isreal is figuratively “set aside” until some point in the future, you are nonetheless affirming its validity, when it is no longer valid in light of Christ’s redemptive work.
    “For if that first covenant had been faultless there would have been no occasion sought for a second.”
    When He said, “A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disapear.” Hebrews 8:3, 8:13 (I encourage reading the whole chapter and not just the first and last verse that I have quoted here due to space)
    The problem is, 1 Cor. 11 sees ONE tree, into which unbelieving Jews bere broken off of, and Christian gentiles were grafted into- not an entirely seperate tree. Jews who believed in Christ would have been part of this tree and subsequently never would have been broken off as their unbelieving and unrepentant jewish brothers had.
    Jesus said to unbelieving Jews “If you do not believe who I say I am, then you will indeed die in your sins” (my paraphrase, apology)
    And Paul certainly sees no distinction between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Gal 3:25 says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are ABRAHAM’S DESCENDANTS, HEIRS ACCORDING TO PROMISE.”
    Dispensationalists so tediously copartmentalize God’s dealings with men that they fail to see the continuity of covenant through the entirety of the Bible. Paul didn’t do this, or else why would he use the illustration of a single olive tree to represent God’s people?
    As Christians we are spiritual descendents of Abraham- Gentiles grafted in as new branches, replacing many branches broken off for unbelief, but added right alongside the faithful Jews who recognized Christ at His Advent and were never broken off.
    And what of all the races of people that all trace their lineage back to Abraham through Ishmeal, or Esau, or later descendants that were nevertheless still strangers to the covenant? Paul said that “Not all who are Isreal are Isreal”

    I do admit, I am going to have to check out McArthur’s brand of Dispensationalism in the future… I thumbed through his book on the Second Coming last night at a bookstore but didn’t get too deep into it. I’m used to the views of Disps like Tim Lahaye or Timothy Ice, who both give me a seriously unsettling feeling in my stomach every time I read them or hear them speak.

  32. I thought I was alone in being a Calvinist and yet sticking to dispensationalism. I like how you put it Erik. It has encouraged me.

  33. Hey Rob- It is a broad description. I am far more comfortable defining terms than defending people (in various camps).

  34. Rather than focus on which theological system is right, we, as the body of Christ, should focus on which parts of each theological system are wrong. Theological systems are flawed by their very nature; they are produced by man, not God.

    The eschatology of Calvin and Luther was practically derived from the catholic church; although they found a new antichrist figure and timetable, which was practical for their worldview.

    The world has changed, and the post-millenial view has been essentially laid bare. Amillenialism borders on mysticsm, and is an attempt to grasp at the failure of post-millenialism.

    In my view, premillinialism, either historic or predispensational is the only current coherent view.

    Being raised Plymoth Brethren, I have also seen the shortcomings in dispensational theology, and they are not few. This said, their are many permutations of dispensational theology, and it is unfortunate that those with sound soteriologic views are often dumped into the same batch with other Weslyans and penticostals.

    It is truly a shame that men cannot judge a theology by biblical principles and Gods leading alone. I have been blessed to find the obvious truth that the reformers brought to the Church; however, they were mere men, influenced by the time they lived in.

    I consider myself adherent to most reformed views, but to me, calvinism is miserably short sighted when it comes to the things of the end.

  35. Hi eric,

    I see that this post is a couple of years old. Are you still holding to a Calvinistic and dispensational position? I fall into that camp myself and don’t understand why (except for tradition) that the two cannot go together.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Kubecki.com » Blog Archive » Random Thoughts - 2/16/07 - February 16, 2007

    [...] Erik Raymond gives a good definition of reformed dispensationalism [...]

  2. links for 2007-02-17 » Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key - February 17, 2007

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    [...] The Irish Calvinist asks “Are You a Dispensationalist?” [...]

  4. Irish Calvinist » Blog Archive » John MacArthur defines self-respecting Calvinism as Premillennial - March 7, 2007

    [...] I am not going to try to quote him here, because frankly I did not take notes, I just sat there and listened. MacArthur pulled no punches in his messages saying things like Jesus, Peter, the writer of Hebrews, and James were all premillenial. He also said that it is too late for Calvin but it is not too late for you [to join the Reformed Premillennial movement]! I just want to note that he neither proposed nor answered the types of objections that are oftentimes levied against premillennialists (like some I have heard lately). Instead, MacArthur systematically unpacked the biblical theology that leads one to an unabashed Calvinistic eschatology. [...]

  5. On Covenants and Dispensations….and some other stuff, too « In Weakness, Grace Abounds - March 2, 2008

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