Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Reformeds and dispensationalism, hither and thither

I am working on some posts defining what I mean by dispensationalism. That could take some time. Well, it already has taken some time.

My previous post clearly troubled some consciences, which always results in either change or heel-digging and chest-beating. There was a lot of the latter. (There was also some brotherly, challenging, worthwhile discussion in the meta of that post.) One of the most amusing/bemusing responses was the repeated charge that, in interacting with what I've heard and read for over thirty years, I'd created "straw men." Go figure. (Charismatics often do the same when their doctrines and practices are held up to analysis.)

So the following, I hope, are instructive one hand / other hand examples:
  1. On the one hand David Bayly (a good guy, whose dad Joseph was a wonderful writer) wrote a very gracious essay titled Why Dispensationalism Is Wrong..... He tells a story involving an former prof of mine (John Sailhamer), ends by linking to my post on dissing Dispensationalism, below -- but not before saying:
    I don't agree with dispensationalism, but I'm not an expert on it. And when I did meet an expert, I found certain stock Reformed criticisms of dispensationalism rather threadbare. Dispensationalists deserve to be taken seriously. Reformed believers don't appreciate being accused of the things Arminians suggest against us. Most are false. We need to be as careful in what we say about dispensationalism as we ask Arminians to be toward us.
  2. Among those most certainly not taking brother Bayly's advice would be The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. I was pretty jazzed to see the site at first. They look like they may have a truckload of really cool resources. And then I saw they had a section on Eschatology. This intrigued me; many of us are content to define "Reformed" by the Five Sola's, but some also define it as having a specific eschatology. So, optimistic fool that I am, I clicked.

    It features discussions of various positions. Ah! so there isn't just one! Oh, but look closer. Postmillennialism and amillennialism apparently enjoy the status of being presented by advocates of those systems themselves, with some alternative assessments offered. But under dispensationalism? Alas; only criticism, by anti-Dispensationalists. Why? The blurb at the top explains quite clearly:
  3. There are three basic eschatological views which are held by those calling themselves "Reformed." These are: postmillennialism, amillennialism, and historic premillennialism. Absent from the list is dispensational premillennialism because it is a view which (a) is incompatible with the doctrines of grace (b) compromises God's aseity, and (c) compromises God's sovereignty. Below are included some critques of different aspects of dispensationalist teaching.
    Now, this is just foolish, and sad, and utter nonsense. Blind traditionalism isn't confined to Rome, is it? Ah well; maybe some reasonable soul like David Bayly will have a chat with the webmasters, and we Calvidispies can get on their bus, even if we have to start with sitting at the back of it. [UPDATE 8/7/2009 — because I'm about to link to it, I checked the site again. It is two and one-half years later. Do you think the webmasters have learned one thing about dispensationalism in that time? Has there been a millimeter's growth? Evidently not.]


ricki said...

Will you ever quit beating that horse? Wait - I'm getting a word from the Lord ... "no".

I want to understand this dispensationalism "stuff" and you put a hurdle up before you even begin ... you're a better writer than that.

Ok - now I can read on.

DJP said...

Criticiing Charismatics Biblically?

(Tone alert: the following is written with brotherly humor)

"The Lord" was right. "No."

ricki said...

I think of you every time I smoke a Cohiba.

ann said...

Why are You 9 days in the future? :)

I gather the "meat" comes in 9 days. All right, waiting is good ;)

DJP said...

That's right, Ann! Nothing but CUTTING EDGE STUFF here!

(shamefacedly) I'll go back and correct the date.

David said...

I don't understand any of those three critcisms, but (b) in particular baffles me. How does dispensationalism compromise God's aseity?

Connie said...

Yippee! I'm looking forward to this!

Like "thirstydavid" has commented, I don't understand those three criticisms either--that's one reason I'm looking forward to your posts. But then, I do have a long history under DTS teaching and ministries which some would say is the "problem"!!

LeeC said...

I can't fathom holding to any other stance.

I tried to put up a reply to your "Denomination inquiry" thread once but Blogger ate it I guess.

I am in awe of how God has provided us with a church that we can assent to its doctrinal statement and constitution 100% as fellow Calvidspiebatogelicals.


The last church we were at we had to give the leaders several caveats at our membership meeting.

As for traditionalism I have often said that many of the Reformed need to realize the need to keep reforming.

If I don't see Christ in my reflection I ain't done yet! (boy do I have a loooong road!)


Rileysowner said...

Although I tend toward an A-mil view, I am looking forward to you posting on Dispensational views of eschatology. So far, even though I am willing to listen, I have not found a dispensationalist who can really explain their view in such a way that it makes sense to me Biblically. Having said that, there are dispensationalist whose theology in other areas I admire greatly. I am looking forward to this so maybe I can understand why some people find it so self evident, while I don't.

Phil Walker said...

I've shut up, but I do still read. Our last conversation on this made me realise that what you mean by "dispensationalism" is very different from what I hear by "dispensationalism", so I wait with interest to hear what it is you believe which is "dispensational".

DJP said...

Aiiiieeeee, so much pressure on such a weak link!

Even So... said...

former prof of mine (John Sailhamer)

My jealousy index just rose 1000%...

Lance Roberts said...

I think as you study more, you'll see why dispensationalism is in direct conflict with reformed (covenant) theology.

Lance Roberts said...

I hope you didn't suck up any of Sailhammer's Limited Geography views on creation (Genesis Unbound).

Anonymous said...


I would hope that your statement on dispensationalism would encompase more than just eschatology.

I'm eager to see what you will be posting.

DJP said...

Lance -- I think as you study more, you'll see why dispensationalism is in direct conflict with reformed (covenant) theology

You have to make up your mind. Are we talking about covenant theology, or reformed?

As I've explained, if being reformed is affirmation of the 5 sola's, there isn't a whisker of dispensationalism out of kilter. In fact, I'd argue that sola scriptura finds far more robust realization in dispensational hermeneutics than in the bait-n-switch Roman flashbacks of CT's bobbling of prophetic Scripture.

"Oh sure, God says 'Israel'; but what He really means is...."

Nathan White said...

I assume, during this series, you will give us an exegesis of Acts chapter 15 and then explain to us why NT christians shouldn't become Jews (there's always been a process to that you know) so that we can enjoy all of the wonderful future blessings from a God who shows no partiality and who has broken down the dividing wall between Jew and Greek??

This will be interesting. :) But, I guess you make a point when you use the term 'blind traditionalism', since dispensationalists can't really appeal to tradition since your system wasn't even invented until the 1800s.

BTW, did you know that Spurgeon called Dispensationalism "stupidity"?

LOL. Dan, I enjoy your posts very much, but I can feel a good head-shaking coming on with these :)


DJP said...

Yes, Nathan, of course.

In addition to listing and providing detailed exegesis of the 45,975 verses which can make sense only on a dispensational hermeneutic, I will also give detailed exposition of the 14 verses that decoder-ringers love to camp out on, in their desperate hopes of diverting attention from the rest of the Bible.

I will also directly quote Luther's response to the exact same carping from actual Roman Catholics (not just those still wed to their spiritualizing eschatology, while liberated from most of the rest), and I will respond to every irresponsible remark made by every great man in the history of Christendom.

All for free, and in my spare time.

How's that sound? Sound good to you?

I mean, after all, knowing what a fair hearing I'll get all around, what could possibly prevent me from making that type of time investment?

Nathan White said...

Sounds real good, Dan! Just don't squeal when we call you on some of those verses and MacArthur's study notes don't give you the ammo you need to adequately deal with the text :)


DJP said...

Unlikely to squeal, since I doubt I've ever read a complete sentence in MacArthur's notes.

But that was a good guess. After all, you know, all us Dispensationalists are real stoopid. We see words like "Israel," and we're just not sophisticated enough to know better, like our much smarter brothers.

Nathan White said...

LOL, Dan, if I didn't have such an appreciation for your posts, I would get offended at that. I can already tell this is going to be fun. :)

I was thinking about it more, and I like your 'decoder ring' comment above. It actually does represent 'our' (if by 'our' you mean all of the historic fathers of the faith before 1830) system of interpretation. I approve of that label. Only, keep in mind, the 'decoder ring' could also be referred to as the New Testament. For example, only a fool would go to Malachi 4:5 and say that John the Baptist was not Elijah because Jesus wasn't using the 'plain' rendering of the text. The same goes for Israel and the church.

Thus, decoder ring is perfectly fine, if in fact it is understood that we refer to this as 'the new testament'.

That's it, I'm done. I'll wait for the posts.


Anonymous said...


New to the blog thing. I just read your other dispi post that you linked with this article. I used to be Dispi-pre-mill myself. I lean heavily towards Amil with still a belief that the majority of physical Israel will be grafted back into the vine of Christ and be one with the Church, not a seperate entity. I don't think, though, that I need to now jump ship and become a dispi-pre-mil again because of that.

Being a former D-P-M I have, as far as I can recall, not heard of a very biblically sound argument for that position. This is the reason why I jumped ship with that camp. Not because of some tradition that I was just so eager to align myself with. I just didn't see the bible saying the things I used to believe. Not saying that there isn't a sound, biblical argument for your position out there. I have just never heard it before. I am eager to hear your defense of this position and promise that I won't jump down you throat the first moment I disagree with something you say. I might, however, make disagreeing comments as I read it.

That being said, I detect a strong hint of sarcastic overtones in your dialogue concerning this issue. Even if your belief system was completely correct I can't see Christ, some 2,000 years ago, arguing his point with any hint of sarcasm. And yes, I really think he, of all people, had every good reason to do so. What I'm trying to say is this, it is a lot easier to read your posts when it doesn't come off as highly polemic.

I know many in my camp can be the same way and even worse. Horton comes to mind. He has an acute mental genius but I can rarely get past his negative and sarcastic undertones to want to read positions he espouses - even if I wholeheartedly agree with them.

Anyway, as Forest Gump would say, "That's all I've got to say about that." For now anyway. ;-)

Anonymous said...

[In addition to listing and providing detailed exegesis of the 45,975 verses which can make sense only on a dispensational hermeneutic, I will also give detailed exposition of the 14 verses that decoder-ringers love to camp out on, in their desperate hopes of diverting attention from the rest of the Bible.]

How about 10 verses for starters? My experience, short as that may be, has been that everyone has a predisposition pair of interpretive glasses on when coming to the Bible. So of course, no one could possibly come to a right interpretation if they didn't come to the one that we came to. When I read the bible I make no attempt to hide the fact that I am using my primarily Covenantal, Amil, Reformed, Calvinistic glasses to decode what I am reading. They're really cool looking glasses too. I got an extra pair if you need them Dan! (With humorous overtones) ;-)