Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Twenty-five stupid reasons for dissing dispensationalism

It's just not "cool" to be dispensationalist, anymore.

The system had particular prominence in the seventies and beyond, which excited a lot of envy and resentment among the non's ("Hey, what about us?"). So they produced a lot of sourpuss, wanna-be literature, trying to take back every area that dispensational writers had held.

They haven't fully succeeded. This really irritates them, because many of them still think that dispensationalists are unsophisticated knuckle-draggers at best, or heretics at worst. It's like listening to evolutionists talk about the Great Unwashed, who they see as too stupid to agree with them, still boneheadedly clinging to inane creationistic notions. They alternate between sniffing in disdain, and wondering why their outreaches fail to penetrate their foes' Stygian darkness.

But anti-dispies have succeeded with some folks, more (I think) through image than substance. They have convinced them that it isn't cool to be a dispensationalist.

Particularly, it's not cool to be Reformed and dispensationalist. In responding to a letter of mine about something entirely different (the problem of evil), decades ago, the great commentator William Hendriksen slapped me down something fierce. I had made the mistake of mentioning in passing that I was a Calvinist, and a dispensationalist. The great man told me you can't be "100% reformed/Calvinist" and dispensationalist. He told me to read this and that book, and not to write him again until I was 100%. As I recall, he even suggested that this doctrinal error lay at the root of my problem with evil.

Yet stubbornly here I am, still unrepentantly both, and still for the exact same reason: when I consistently apply the hermeneutic that God used to save me, I end up Reformed... and dispensationalist.

In the circles that my Reformedicity puts me in, I hear a lot of dissing of Dispensationalism. In hearing that, I also hear a lot of ignorance, a lot of envy, a lot of serious denial. This little essay addresses some of the worst that I most frequently hear. And so, without further eloquence:
  1. All of the coolest guys are amillennial/"historical" premill/covenant/whatever. I suspect this is the real reason many adopt amillennialism. They want to be just like Augustine, or Calvin, or Owen, or Packer or Waltke or Whoever, or any of all those cool guys. It's just so cool to be cool. I'll admit it -- I've felt that pull. Just give up, give in, join the RHRG (Really Hip Reformed Guys). Then when they mock and make fun of people who still take all of the Bible seriously, it'll be okay. You'll be on the giving end, instead of the receiving end! Plus, prophecy doesn't require hard work anymore. Just shrug and say, "Jesus. The church. Whatever." Here, I'll show you:
    • Mount Zion to be made the capital of the earth? "Jesus. The church. Whatever."
    • Israel to be fully restored in spite of all her sins? "Jesus. The church. Whatever."
    • Wars and conflicts such as have never happened, followed by unprecedented deliverance for the nation of Israel? "Jesus. The church. Whatever."
    • Nine chapters of detailed prophecy about a temple such as has never yet been built? "Jesus. The church. Whatever."
    See? Cool!

    And I'll also say that it's largely true that the coolest have been, to say the least, non-dispensationalists. Most of my greatest theological and otherwise-Christian heroes were not dispensationalists: Machen, Spurgeon, Calvin, van Til, E. J. Young, and on and on.

    But then there's that little principle that I also gained at my conversion, and that has saved my spiritual life countless times. I'm a Christian because of Jesus. My judge is God, my rule is His Word. Other believers (dead or living) are important, but not all-important. My business is with God's Word (Hebrews 4:12-13). This focus has kept me Christian through countless instances of treachery, hypocrisy, betrayal, malice -- and I'm not about to leave it when it comes to formulating my theology.
    But if you're going to let peer-pressure mold your theological system, you had best not think too deeply about John 7:48 ("Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?", the Pharisees snort). No, you'll have to embrace your inner approbation-lust, and ignore the fact that it is the opposite of God-centered faith ("How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" -- John 5:44).

    Especially try not to think of your Reformer heroes. In their day, all the coolest guys were Roman Catholic.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. So many dispensationalists are goofs. Sure they are. I'll tell you another truth: so many Covenant Theology types are goofs. So many amills are goofs. So many Trinitarian inerrantist monergists are goofs. In fact, so many Christians are goofs. Better quit them all, right? Just become an amorphous nihilist? Oh, wait -- lots of amorphous nihilists are goofs, too. Guess I'll just have to exercise my priesthood, and think for myself, under God -- like He says I should (John 12:48; Hebrews 4:13). Next?
  5. Dispensationalist writers have made false predictions. First, let's be more accurate. Since another thing to love about dispensationalism is that its advocates also affirm the sufficiency of Scripture, they tend not to be Charismatic, and so they don't fake "prophecy." Therefore, they don't make faux-supernatural predictions, as if they were prophesying. But it's true: some have said "I think X Bible teaching means that Y will happen," and some have been wrong. Second, this game is a cheater's delight. Since the decoder-ring set spiritualizes all unfulfilled prophecy (except the bare fact of Jesus' eventual return) into shapeless goo, they have no specific predictions. No specific predictions = no falsifiability. So when you don't say anything is going to happen in the real world, you'll never be wrong. That's a coward's victory.

    I give a lot more credit to the man who expects to see prophecy actually fulfilled in history, and makes a tentative but well-reasoned application that doesn't come to pass, than I do to the counsel-of-despair man who throws prophecy in a blender, reduces it to paste, and then mocks those who don't follow suit.

    They are like the modern Charismatic counterfeit of "prophecy," whose perps hide under generalizations so vague that it is impossible to prove them wrong. Zero points for credibility.

    Isn't it ironic? Jesus faulted His generation for not looking for the fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 16:1-3). These oh-so-sophisticateds fault those who do. Thus, they have deftly turned that vice into a virtue.
  6. The best scholars hate dispensationalism. Depends on what you mean by "best," doesn't it? I keep hearing that the best scholars hate the Bible. The best scholars hate Calvinists. The best scholars hate Christ. If you've been around academia much, and surveyed its shifting sands, you'll know at least one truth: scholars are just as subject to peer pressure as anyone. Sometimes even more so. I'd say I've not seen too many Profiles in Courage in academia. So go back to #1.
  7. But the Reverend Doctor Professor _____ wrote a 600-page book destroying dispensationalism! Yeah. Have you ever noticed that it takes an awful lot of very detailed, sophisticated argumentation to "prove" that a passage doesn't mean what it says? If we're talking about the meaning of yom in Genesis 1, I can say "It means a day" in four words -- but it'll take hundreds, or even tens of thousands to "explain" that yom doesn't really mean what it clearly seems to mean. Once, I was asked if I could explain what a prophetic OT passage meant. "Sure," I replied. "Means what it says." That was my complete answer, and everyone knew exactly what I meant by it. Ohh boy, but that ticked off a guy whose obnoxious new girlfriend was Covenant Theology. But you know, before I was a Christian, I was in a cult whose answer to every uncongenial passage was, "We have to look for the deeper meaning." Funny how the "deeper meaning" was always the precise opposite of what the passage said, and exactly in harmony with what our cult believed. I left that sort of gameplaying behind with my conversion, and anything that even smells like it to me, smells.
  8. You can't prove all those dispensational distinctives and prophetic features from the New Testament alone! Um, Bunky? Three words? "Plenary verbal inspiration." Dispensationalists do what all Reformed folks say they do: they believe in the whole Bible. Sort of got that idea from Jesus. So, just as no Reformed guy worth anything would accept such a demand as "Prove sovereign-grace election solely from 1 Chronicles 1:1," so no dispensationalist who believes in the principles of the Reformation should rise to the demand, "Prove every detail of your system from 1/3 of the Canon!" There is no passage that teaches everything that every other passage teaches. If so, God would have inspired a Bible with one verse.Or perhaps a better statement would be that God did inspire a Bible with one verse. It's just a really, really long verse. And so, no believer in Reformed principles should indulge in trying to impose such a faulty premise. It's simply not Reformed to do so.
  9. It isn't a spiritual hermeneutic. Gosh, this one's such a hanging curveball. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Where to start? First, take off that "Plato is my homey" T-shirt, so we can talk. Oops, didn't see that "The Docetists are my crew" T-shirt underneath. Off with that too. So, tell me: the resurrected body of Jesus -- carnal? Or spiritual? I'll play the Jeopardy music while you look up 1 Corinthians 15:44f. (Hint: God made matter. He's really okay with matter. Matter matters. Sin ruined matter, the regeneration will redeem it.)

    Finally, if none of that helped you out of your decoder-ring quagmire, this thought: try not to be more "spiritual" than God, 'kay? When God said Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), He knew it meant "house of bread" -- but He meant the city anyway. I imagine what a CT would have done with that, before fulfillment: "What God is really saying would have been perfectly clear to the Jews. It was symbolic. Messiah would come from 'the house for bread,' from the storehouse of God's spiritual nourishment, and He would give life, as bread does. Those wooden literalists who look for fulfillment in an actual city are perverting the Word to their carnal imaginations."

    Trying to out-spiritual God is really stupid.
  10. Dispensationalists are antinomian. Bologna. I'm the former, and yet I'm not the latter. (In fact, gutless-gracers say I'm a legalist.) Makes just as much sense as saying amillennialists are Roman Catholic, because Roman Catholics are amillennial. Not only is there no necessary connection between dispensationalism and gutless-grace insanity, but the very hermeneutic that produces dispensationalism also deals howling, shrieking death to antinomianism.
  11. We should interpret the Old by the New. In itself, fine. Show me where the New says the Old is a lie, a fake, a trick -- because that's what replacement theology makes it. What I read in the New Testament is Jesus Christ severely blaming unbelievers for not accepting what's there in plain sight (Matthew 16:1-3; Luke 16:29-31; John 5:45-47). I don't see Him saying, "I really can't blame you for not seeing this -- who could have? It was totally hidden from everyone!" One hears, "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed." Given the interpretive violence some folks do to the Word, a more appropriate version I've heard might be, "The Old is by the New restricted; the New is on the Old inflicted."
  12. You can't take everything literally. Do you mean that literally? Of course you do. {pause}
  13. Dispies are over-literal. Have you actually heard a dispensationalist lay out his hermeneutic? People who offer "over literal" as a seriously critique of dispensationalism have seemingly never read a book dealing with hermeneutics, written by a responsible dispensationalist. Try this for an interpretive principle:
    When the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, seek no other sense. Therefore, take every word in its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental and axiomatic truths, clearly indicate otherwise
    It's a totally dispensational hermeneutic, and it's an equally dandy Reformed hermeneutic -- or should be. There's quite the chasm between saying "Of course God isn't literally a 'rock'," and saying "Mount Zion -- oh yeah. Has to be the universal Christian church!" Dispensationalists are what all Reformed folks would be, if they were consistent in their hermeneutics.
  14. I think Hal Lindsey is stupid, and I like to make fun of him. Really? I think Harold Camping is stupid and, well, he is pretty easy to parody. Is this helpful?
  15. I know some big names who used to be dispensationalists, and aren't. Really? I know some big names who used to be Christians, and aren't. I know some big names who used to be Calvinists, and aren't. Besides, when I hear a guy like [big vaunted amill expert "ex-" author] open his mouth on the subject, it's easy to see why he's an "ex." No evidence of a clue about dispensationalism in what I see him saying now.When Peter, all full of himself, tells Jesus "We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:69), Jesus replies, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil" (John 6:70). I take it that our Lord saw Peter as relying on the consensus; so Jesus throws back at Peter, in effect, "...and what if your consensus becomes a consensus of one? What will you do then?" When Judas left, was Jesus less the Messiah and Holy One? (To be clear, my only point in this is that the issue is the Word and truth and what I, myself, do with it, and not how many are voting for an interpretation of it. Some -- in fact, I'd say most -- of the finest, holiest men and women who ever cracked a Bible were not dispensationalists.)
  16. Dispensationalism is divisive. Just what Arminians say about Calvinism. I don't care from divisive. Everything Biblical is divisive to someone. My only concern: is it Biblical?
  17. Dispensationalism is defeatist. Dispensationalism is just what you are when you treat all the Bible respectfully. That's defeatist? Let's see: man cannot solve his own problems, Christ must deliver His saints personally, must personally come in power, grace, and glory to set up His kingdom, human sin and rebellion are shown to be absolutely inexcusable, and Christ reigns forever to the eternal glory of the Triune God. Hunh. Sounds like Calvinism to me. But then again, happy-face Christianoids think Calvinism is defeatist. Guess there's a little Pelagius in everyone, eh?
  18. Dispensationalism is fatalistic. Funny criticism, coming from Calvinists. If Calvinism is not fatalistic (and it isn't), neither is dispensationalism.
  19. Dispensationalism is escapist. Hm, I hear a similar complaint about the Gospel all the time. "So let me get this straight: you sin and sin and sin, and then just believe in Christ, and it's all gone? But some humanitarian who isn't a Christian goes to Hell? How convenient." Viewed from one angle, yep: salvation is convenient. More than convenient, it's glorious, it's stupendous, it's amazing. When you think of all that Christ accomplished for His people on the Cross, all He rescued us from, and delivered us to -- yep, pretty darned convenient. The pre-tribulational Rapture is small potatoes compared to that great salvation, a fortiori. It's hard to understand shrugging at God's hot fudge sundae, but then carping when He reaches out to place a cherry on the top. Compared to the deliverance from Hell in which all Christians believe, deliverance from the great tribulation is just really nice of God. But certainly not non-credible, on the lame grounds that it is "escapist." What kind of criticism is that from a professedly sola Scriptura guy, anyway?
  20. Dispensationalism teaches a false offer by Christ. This is yet another one of those oft-heard criticisms that is amazingly ironic to hear from Calvinist lips/pens. It is precisely the criticism Arminians of all stripes make of Calvinist evangelism. "You're telling this non-elect guy that if he believes in Christ he'll be saved, even though he'll never believe and never be saved, because he's not elect." We Calvinists reply that the offer is absolutely genuine: if the man repents and believes, he will be saved.So was the presentation of Christ to Israel.

    I genuinely wonder, since such otherwise-smart people keep making this stupid criticism -- what do you think would have happened if Israel had, en masse, repented and believed in Christ at the First Advent? Nothing? Nothing would have been different? What if Adam had never sinned? What if Noah had swatted those two mosquitoes? What if, what if, what if?

    I've got another. What if we left off the what-if's, and contented ourselves with the text of Scripture? Wouldn't that be nice? Wouldn't that be Reformed?
  21. "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him" (2 Corinthians 1:20a). As if there's a dispensationalist who disbelieves this verse. I'd suggest that it's the decoder-ring set that disbelieves it. Dispensationalists believe that Christ will make good on all the Trinity's promises, as He carries out all the will of the Father, and is King of the mediatorial Kingdom. It's the CT's who would turn this verse to "For all the promises of God find their 'Ha-ha, fooled you!' in him," or "For some of the promises of God find their No in him."
  22. Dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation. Sigh. Maybe if this is answered for the 950,000th time, it will go away? This old corker has been responded to and documented more times than a department-store "Santa" has said "Ho ho ho." So what, exactly, are we talking about? Oh, you mean like this? "Grace offers escape from the law only as a condition of salvation -- as it is in the covenant of works --, from the curse of the law, and from the law as an extraneous power." Oh yeah, that's bad. What rotten dispensationalist wrote that? That "rotten dispensationalist" Louis Berkhof (ST, p. 291). Allis and others have made similar statements that, isolated, sure sound like offers of two methods of salvation. Statements capable of misunderstanding and misrepresentation are not the sole provenance of dispensationalists. Golly, it'd be nice to wake up tomorrow to a world in which I can focus on the text, and not constantly see the discussion derailed by red herrings like this one. Could there be a reason why anti-dispies don't want to do that?
  23. "Hey, I'm a CT/amill/postmill/preterist whatever, and I use grammatico-historical exegesis on everything!" Suuuuure you do, Bunky. And I'm a muscular, slim 25-year old published author with multiple doctorates who pastors a successful church and  teaches in seminary — plus I have a full head of hair! It's really more than just a river in Egypt for you, isn't it, brother? When you tell me that Israel is the church, that only the prophetic curses have realtime fulfillment, but that the prophesied blessings are all spiritualized, you and G-H exegesis have long since gone the way of the Beatles. CT is your Yoko. [NOTE: had to update this one!]
  24. Dispensationalism divides the people of God. Wait -- isn't it complementarianism that does that? The Bible says, "there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28) , but complementarians teach that men and women are still distinct, even though they're in Christ, and have distinct roles. Calvinists/Reformeds tend to be complementarians, yet they affirm that men and women are distinct in Christ in one way, yet they affirm that they are one in Christ, in another way. Isn't that a contradiction? "But-but-but," sputters a Reformed complementarian, "that's stupid! You can be distinct, and yet one! Look at the Trinity! The Persons are distinct, yet they are one God! They have different functions, and there is an economy of relations, yet they are one! That's an inane criticism!" Oh, I totally agree. It's inane. It's stupid. It's lame. So... why do you go for the same inane, stupid, lame line of reasoning when it comes to Israel?

    I just keep wondering why the same people who have no trouble understanding why men and women can be distinct and yet one, fall all apart into hysterics and start doing horrible things to the Bible when it comes to Israel. Why can't Israel have a certain and sure ethnic future (as God promised, in the starkest and most undeniable terms, about a gazillion times), and yet be part of one people of God? Why do we have to turn God into a liar and a promise-breaker (see Jeremiah 31:35-37), in order to salvage some preconceived construct we made up?

    Having said all that, I don't think it's fundamental to dispensationalism to make divisions as stark as some pioneers did, as if Israel's eternity is 'way over there, and the Church's is right over here, and never the twain shall mix. I don't tend to think that way, myself.
  25. Dispensationalism fails to see Christ in every verse of the Bible. Again with the being-more-spiritual-than-God sin. This is maybe one of the most damaging Reformed traditions (in the worst sense of the word): the insistence by some of putting perfectly innocent texts on the rack, and torturing them until they scream "Jesus!" This turns God into a Clintonesque, smooth-talking trickster. He fools His audience into thinking He's talking about Israel, but He's really talking about something they couldn't have conceived of. He offers them an egg and some bread, and then gives them a stone and a serpent. "I promise to bless you, I swear it. {Later} Oops, presto! Not really you at all! Someone else! But I do have a dandy curse just for you -- and this time, I really do mean you!"

    Christ is indeed all over the Bible, directly or indirectly (Luke 24:27, 44, etc.). But to insist that a text is unworthy of God if it really talking about what it seems to be talking about is (A) to adopt a suicidal hermeneutic, (B) to make God into the worst unethical bait-and-switch salesman, and (C) to pour shame on the very hermeneutic of Christ and the apostles. If we abandon Scripture to adopt this hermeneutic, we invalidate Jesus' constant refrain to His enemies:
    "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:45-47)
    If this decoder-ring hermeneutic were true, his enemies could justly and correctly have replied, "There is no way we could be judged by Moses' writings, or the prophets. God said 'Israel' and meant 'not ethnic Israel at all, but the Christian church.' He named cities, but didn't mean them. He promised full national restoration in the most specific terms, again and again, but never meant it. All His threats He meant exactly as He said them, and all His promises meant something totally unrelated. So no, Jesus, Your teaching turns revelation into obscurement, and gives us a perfect, bona-fide excuse for rejecting You. God didn't give us the right decoder-ring when He put out the garbled, encrypted code. It's not our fault." Of course this is nonsense. Christ and the apostles treated the OT with full respect. Bethlehem meant Bethlehem, a donkey meant a donkey, Jerusalem meant Jerusalem, Israel meant Israel. It was because the OT was to be read as outlined in point #10, above, that Jews (and everyone) could then (and now) be held guilty before God: because they rejected the plain and clear sense of the text. What was bad for them is bad for us.

    God forbid we "honor Christ" in theory by dishonoring Christ in practice.

    This is the hermeneutic God saved me from in saving me from the cult of Religious Science, decades ago. We did the same thing, always finding "deeper meaning" that was in fact opposite meaning to texts we simply didn't like, because they didn't fit into our system. By the grace of God, the folks I'm criticizing don't do it to Christological, soteriological, or other passages. Only to prophetic passages. If they did the same across the board, they'd not be Christian. It is not dishonoring to Christ to believe that He said what He meant, and meant what He said. The reverse is what dishonors Him, no matter how honorable the intent.
I reserve the right to revise and expand this list, but I see these as top repeat-offenders.

So in close: do I respect anti-dispensationalists? Some of the anti's are people I immensely respect in many ways. They are my betters, and that, too, in many ways. I mean that with total sincerity.

But in their criticism of dispensationalism?

Not so much. These brothers and sisters are better than the position that's holding them back. Would that they'd take their fine minds, the fervent and godly hearts, their mighty pens, and their bold spirits, and do as much justice to Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the other prophets, as they have done to Paul and the other apostles. It's hard work. It'd be great to have their help, to have them lay some bricks, instead of just throwing them.

For more information:
  • Check out this essay (and its links) on what dispensationalism is and isn't.
  • For a grounding, explication, exposition, and application of the hermeneutic that (equally) produces the Sola's and dispensationalism, see this essay.


Garry Weaver said...

This is great stuff, Dan. I agree with you, although it'll prolly cause a little friction with the boys. They are right on most things, but I must have failed in their up-bringing on this point.

Even So... said...

As one Floridian Christian Dispy pastor to another, Garry, I forgive you...come back home, boys...

DJP said...

Sigh. Doing this post took weeks, and just about knocked me out. Now I see that it didn't render the paragraphs right. But I go into Blogger, preview it, and the paragraphs are perfect.

Oh, well. Just mentally supply paragraphs where warranted.

Even So... said...

Of course, considering the topic, we should understand that the paragraphs will appear progressively...


Kay said...

You're a heretic. Putting Rowan Atkinson's face on a cute ickle baby's body?

Eschatological gymnasium I can cope with. Mr Bean babies? Eww.

DJP said...

So, I work and work and work and work on this post, and a year from now, what part are people still going to be talking about?

The Beanie Baby.

And I didn't even make that.

< forehead slap >

Anonymous said...

...I'm a muscular, slim 25-year old...

Californian Dispensationalists clearly wear rose coloured glasses when looking in the mirror darkly.

It's just not "cool" to be dispensationalist


...dispensationalists are unsophisticated knuckle-draggers at best...

Okay, you got me on that one.


The weirdest British sort-of-word I've ever come across. Harry Potter says it and so does Libbie. No one else.

Anyways, very good job Dan.

Ruben said...

Well, well. Are there any legitimate criticisms of dispensationalism? Has anyone not within the camp managed to penetrate its mysteries enough to represent it accurately?

Highland Host said...

False dichotomy! You seem to be implying that EITHER a bloke must be a dispensationalist (although in the BROADEST possible sense that term can hold) OR he cannot believe in the literal restoration of Israel.
WRONG. Just because a bloke can't see the pre-trib rapture in the Bible doesn't mean he's going to spiritualize away Romans 11. I know. I am that bloke.

I'm as irritated as you are by that sort of silliness. And I know that taking 'king of Tyre' as meaning 'King of Tyre' and not 'Satan' is going to get me called a liberal. But the text says 'King of Tyre'.
So I DO hope you don't think, after all that worthy insistence on literal interpretation, that the 'King of Tyre' is just that, and you don't 'spiritualize' it as 'Satan.'

Matthew Celestine said...

I so love Dispensationalism. I actually linked this post.

HH, I think there are some pretty good reasons for seeing Satan revealed in Ezekiel 28.

God Bless


DJP said...

Ruben -- yeah, you're right. It was wrong of me to title the post "Everything That Possibly Could Be Said About Dispensationalistm." I probably should have focused more tightly. Given it a title like... oh, I don't know....

"Twenty-five stupid reasons for dissing dispensationalism"?

Oh. Wait.

HH -- pre-trib Rapture is not essential for dispensationalism; see my previous post, referenced at the end. If someone sees the glory of God as the center of history, does not blur "Israel" into the church, takes a normative, plain-sense, grammatico-historical approach to all of Scripture, odds are he's a dispensationalist. He won't (like E. J. Young) read Isaiah 2 about all nations flowing to Zion, and say, "Yep, that's the missionary activity of the Christian church," and then read Isaiah 5 and say, "Yep, that's literal curses on ethnic Israel."

If someone has the basic honesty to look at Romans 11 and grudgingly admit that there's some sort of future for ethnic Israel, but then go and puree OT prophecy wholesale, and try to turn the church into "spiritual Israel," he's still hermeneutically messed up.

Ezekiel 28 is a red herring. Worth discussing, certainly; not determinative either way.

Kay said...

Can I still believe in a future for ethnic Israel, believe that I am part of a wider spiritual Israel and not go a bundle for the whole dispy 'I'm more literal than you are' stuff?

Just askin, like. Cos, erm, I know next to nothing about systematic eschatology except wot I heard from some Greg Bahnsen tapes..

DJP said...


Bahnsen's nuts.

Anything else?


(You want a seriouser answer, ask me a seriouser question.)

Kay said...

OK, this is a serious question, if I am ethnically Jewish, and a believer, where do I fit? Will I have to live in physical Israel for a 1000 years, or will I get raptured? (Is the rapture a dispy teaching? I am unsure)

I know it sounds mildly facetious, but please, just put that down to me needing to be a little lighter after a heavy pro-life debate elsewhere...

Kay said...

Oh, and any more suggested resources and books would be useful too. I have oodles of time on my hands right now.

*translated as 'If you want to send me off with a flea in my ear for being cheeky, feel free'*

DJP said...

Okay, then, responding seriously:

Every Christian believes in the rapture, the catching away of living believers, since it is plainly taught in 1 Thessalonians 4. It's largely a matter of timing. Dispensationalists tend to see it as occurring before the Great Tribulation, and vice-versa. Others place it in the middle, others (majority) afterwards.

A Jew who believes in Christ today becomes a Christian, and is baptized in the Spirit into the church, the body of Christ. The first 1000 years of God's eternal kingdom will have as its capital Jerusalem (Isaiah 2). The elect within ethnic Israel will be converted and restored, as God promised, on His very honor (Jeremiah 31:31-40, among others).

I don't regard any book on any subject as inerrant, except the Bible. I've gotten help from many, while still reserving the Protestant/Reformed/Biblical Christian priestly right to have my own judgment. Those include Alva J. McClain's The Greatness of the Kingdom, R. D. Culver's Daniel and the Latter Days, Erich Sauer's books, and Charles Ryrie's Dispensationalism Today (I prefer the previous edition; the current is called Dispensationalism: Revised & Expanded).

Here's my own bottom-line: am I wed to everything that every Disp has ever taught? No way. But I believe their fundamental approach to Scripture is the Biblical approach; and when you start talking like my old cult ("Yes, it says X... but what it really means is gamma") my eyes glaze over.

Kay said...

Cheers, Dan. I knew you'd say 'scripture', but I'm always eager for book recommendations from people whose judgement I respect.

Well, apart from that baby picture, and the heretical karate stuff ;-)

joey said...

very, very interesting and well argued post...gives me a lot to think about.

DJP said...

Thanks, Joey; I appreciate it.

To my dispensationalist readers: if you see younger, underexperienced, overconfident writers complaining that these are "straw men," do two things:

1. Chuckle knowingly.

2. Note it for the future. Guaranteed you'll have opportunity to say, "Ah, I see. That's Phillips' #17," or, "So, in other words, Phillips' #8."

It'll be sweet.

Craver Vii said...

Thanks Daniel-San!
I can't wait to get home to read this thoroughly.

Ruben said...

Not to be rude or anything, Dan; but is there a reason you didn't answer the question? It can't be lack of time, because you had time to comment on it.

DJP said...

So, Ruben, here's how I see it:

I compose probably the longest post, ever, on either blog. It contains twenty-five specific, precisely-targeted points.

You, however, find yourself unwilling or unable to engage even one of those points substantively. But rather than leaving the conversation to those who are so willing, or pondering whether perhaps your unwillingness/inability is itself instructive, you try to introduce yet another topic.

When this is pointed out to you with a touch of (attempted) humor, rather than accepting the correction with grace and wisdom (Proverbs 9:8b-9), you cast aspersions on the blog's owner for declining to leave the post's topic.

If you remain unwilling or unable to engage this post, I hope someday another post is more interesting or relevant to you.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I want to do this with respect. If the view presented below does not represent your reading/study, just say so and I'll continue watching silently (though an explanation might be helpful).

So here is what has happened twice in the past with two different teachers, both dispensationalists. When teaching through Revelation, both got to some particular verse (no, I don't remember which one) and said, "Three and a half years pass in the middle of this verse," and that without obvious support from the text. When asked, they repeated the assertion without further support in the immediate context. Now, to my relatively untrained ears (I speak Geek, not Greek), that sounds like trying to bend the verse to match their theology. The teachers were years and hundreds of miles apart, so methinks there's another teacher behind it somewhere.

Can you shed any light here?

DJP said...

Jim, sorry, I really can't offhand. It's conceivable that they fall into #4, above.

But without knowing more, I couldn't put that in ink. No single verse says everything, context always matters, and sometimes parallel passages supply critical info. One Evangelist says there was one blind man, another says two; you read the first text with the knowledge of the second without doing violence to the first.

Anonymous said...


As a recent convert from the ‘MacArthurism, leaky Dispenational’ I held for years, I would attest to quite a few straw men here. But that’s beside the point, because 6 months ago I would have written the same post –and used many of the same arguments. So I understand where you’re coming from.

You did mention Jeremiah 31, and I believe that an exegesis of the entire passage of Jer 31:31-40 would show some holes in your argument. Simply put, it’s impossible to separate the land promises in v35-40 from the new covenant described in 31-34. The new covenant, I might add, that was made with Jews and not gentiles.

But that’s not what I want to get into, for you’ve heard it all before. What I really wanted to ask you was this:

As a cessationist (and I praise God for your excellent writings in this area), how would you answer the charge that your dispensationalism is inconsistent with your cessationism?

1)Daniel 9:24 states that an element of the 70 weeks was to, “seal both vision and prophet”. Dispensationalists, of course, believe that Daniel’s 70 weeks have yet to be completely fulfilled. Thus, it would seem inconsistent to me to say that the 70weeks haven’t ended, but prophecy has been sealed.

2)This goes side by side with Acts 2:17-21. Dispensationalists say that this quotation of Joel has not been fulfilled, though it seems to me that Peter is actually quoting its fulfillment. If the passage is yet unfulfilled in its entirety, then why argue that tongues, prophecy, vision, and dreams have ceased?

3)Maybe you addressed this above, but if God has one people of God, and Israel was/is separate from the church, how can you use passages like Deut 18 to argue the standard for prophecy? Didn’t that apply to ancient Israel alone?

[BTW, yes, I am a firm cessationist, but also spiritualizing CT heretic :) ]


Andrew Lindsey said...


I'm not too clear on the dispensationalist disagreement with the CT presentation of the covenants. For instance, what (if anything) would you object to in Fide-O's recent presentation of the Davidic Covenant?


Ruben said...

Well, Dan, I'm sorry you see it that way. My view is that you have a post criticizing certain critiques of dispensationalism. I ask if there are any good critiques, that would not fall under the umbrella of your post --then I get a response saying the post was not about that? Sure, it wasn't about good critiques: but you have to admit that it's not exactly a bad follow-up question. It is, after all, a question as to the scope of the post. In fact, it was my hope to engage you in a substantive way depending on your answer to the question.
I apologize for being snippy in my second reply, however. Since the content of the post seems somewhat sarcastic (The Docetists are my crew?), so was the phrasing of my original question. Then I got a response which didn't seem to have a lot to do with my question, and which I now discover was intended as a gently humorous Biblical rebuke, which in my hardness of heart I did not receive.
But please forgive me for responding in an aggressive way to your second comment to me. Either way the discussion goes I am sure we will both be more profited if we are not excessively antagonistic.
If after the explanation above you still feel that the question is off-topic, I will take it to another venue and supply you with a link.

DJP said...

Nathan -- sorry to hear of your loss of confidence in the perspicuity of Scripture, of course.

Now, I should say that I don't hold myself out as any kind of expert on prophecy. I've studied it closely and extensively, but it is a very difficult field, and I'm not one of the sharpest knives in the Lord's drawer. So I sympathize with the temptation of lazily mashing everything to symbolic goo. I'm just convinced that's not the believing way.

So, to give you what I have, such as it is:

Simply put, it’s impossible to separate the land promises in v35-40 from the new covenant described in 31-34. The new covenant, I might add, that was made with Jews and not gentiles.


Daniel 9:24 states that an element of the 70 weeks was to, “seal both vision and prophet”. Dispensationalists, of course, believe that Daniel’s 70 weeks have yet to be completely fulfilled. Thus, it would seem inconsistent to me to say that the 70weeks haven’t ended, but prophecy has been sealed.

You're assuming a particular view of the phrase. I studied it once very closely and extensively; it's really not so simple. But my own conclusion was that it referred to the fulfillment of OT vision and prophecy concerning Jerusalem. Doesn't really relate to the gift of prophecy.

If [Joel 2] is yet unfulfilled in its entirety, then why argue that tongues, prophecy, vision, and dreams have ceased?

That passage, as cited in Acts 2, is actually also quite difficult. It's just that Charismatics don't admit it, and I do. (c:

It clearly has not been fully fulfilled -- unless Luke (and every subsequent historian) simply forgot to mention signs and wonders in the heavens (Joel 2:30-31), and the restoration of the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem (3:1). So it is possible to me that "this is what was said by the prophet Joel" may not be exactly the same as "and thus it is fulfilled."

You did note that I said "possible," right?

...if God has one people of God, and Israel was/is separate from the church, how can you use passages like Deut 18 to argue the standard for prophecy? Didn’t that apply to ancient Israel alone?

Simpler, thank you. God's word is God's word. Exodus 4 and 7 specify the meaning of prophet/prophecy; Deuteronomy 13 and 18 give more. This meaning is assumed throughout Scripture. There is no indication that it has changed. There is discontinuity, but there is also continuity.

Thanks, too, for your very gracious words.

DJP said...

Ruben, your gracious tone humbles me. Thank you.

Here's how it seemed to me, by an imperfect analogy. I give a lecture titled "25 Stupid Criticisms of the Doctrine of the Trinity." In it, I get into every lame attempted cheap-shot I've ever heard a JW, unsaved Jew, Mormon, pagan, atheist, or otherwise non-Christian unitarian say, in 30-plus years of witnessing, dialoging, and reading.

And as soon as I finish, someone asks, "So is there any legitimate criticism of the doctrine of the Trinity?"

The impression it gives me is that the questioner doesn't want to think about anything I just worked so hard to say. He doesn't want anyone to think about what I just said. He just wants to make sure the evening ends on a "down" note for the Trinity.

Does that make sense?

So if I am now understanding your question and intent better, then yes, there have been very valid criticisms of individual dispensationalists' ideas and interpretations. Some things that were once more common among dispies (i.e. "kingdom of God" meaning one thing, "kingdom of heaven" meaning something totally different) are now held by few or no well-read dispies.

And there are certainly legitimate questions to ask of dispensationalism and -ists, such some commenters above.

But to tell you the God's honest truth -- an expression I don't use lightly -- in my mind, the view of Scripture that saved me from the cult in which I was going to Hell, is the view that equally produces the fundamental sine qua nons of dispensationalism and of Reformed theology.

I cannot conceive of giving up one, without seminally giving up all.

Highland Host said...

It seems our difference is mostly on whether or not we want to call ourselves 'dispensationalists'. I do not, you do. Why should we make each other offenders for a word?

Of course, we would both agree that there are SCHOOLS of dispensationalism that are in error, but you would reply that the errors taught in those schools form no necessary part of dispensationalism (how ever much the members of those schools would disagree).

DJP said...

Andrew -- honestly, Fide-0 has mostly lost me. Ever since they referred to John Hagee as the leading dispensationalist today, were roundly nailed for it, and refused simply to apologize and retract; referred to anyone who didn't think we were under the Law of Moses as antinomian; and Jason in particular became so obsessed with rationalizing his abandonment of the perspicuity of Scripture -- they've just mostly lost me. I scan it for graphics or the occasional brilliance, but don't bother with the labored attempts to prop up CT.

Is there something in that you wanted to ask me about? Otherwise, you'd have to send me a dollar, or a book -- a book I want -- to get me to trudge through it.

DJP said...

Highland Host -- I'd have to know more about your positions, and your approach to the first 2/3 of God's Word, to render an opinion.

But our big difference is I keep asking you to email me, and you keep disappearing every time -- which has been going on so long, I'm not sure I remember what I wanted to talk with you about. Maybe you're afraid I'll try to sell you a chart or something.

Ruben said...

Dan, thanks for your kindness. I do apologize for the miscommunication, and yes, I do see how my question could have come across that way. Actually I was trying to set you up to say that otherwise godly, gifted, intelligent, theologically astute men invariably fumbled when it came to dispensationalism --which is the same thing, of course, that our beloved FV friends do with their distinctives.

I think we probably agree that the hermeneutic is the fundamental area of disagreement. If one is consistent in applying GH exegesis, one arrives at dispensationalism, on your view. However, one vital principle of interpretation, which I am fairly confident you agree with, is that Scripture interprets Scripture. And here is where I would want to at least tweak this quote you provided: When the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, seek no other sense. Therefore, take every word in its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental and axiomatic truths, clearly indicate otherwise
I think you also need to locate it within the total Biblical theology: this may be covered by the related passages phrase, but I think it's as well to make it more explicit. I am sure you have thought about Galatians 4, and I doubt that I am suggesting anything new to you: but I would ask if a dispensationalist being consistent with his hermeneutic would have used the passage as Paul does. But this is all leading up to this very simple point, which again, I'm sure you have heard before.
James quotes from Amos 9 in Acts 15. Amos 9 relates a promise to restore David's fallen tabernacle. Reading that in isolation from Acts, would we not conclude, at least on a dispensational system, that the house of David will rise again to power? That a son of David will take the throne? And yet James either spiritualizes it, or else his hermeneutic has room for prophecy to be cast in the form of the types and shadows that God used so abundantly in OT times: because James uses this text as a confirmation that Simeon's experience of God saving Gentiles was all right --it had been predicted. Now, perhaps we would like to confine the point of the quotation to that part found in v.17. But v.17 is connected to v.16. V.17 provides the purpose for v.16. So if v.17 is being fulfilled, it seems to me, it can only be because v.16 has been fulfilled. Well then, when did God rebuild the tent of David that has fallen (ESV)? I submit that it was when he gave to Jesus the throne of His father, David: when Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father, on the mediatorial throne of the people of God.
Is this not taking Scripture seriously? Well, perhaps. The heart is deceitful above all things. But it could also be that this is, in fact, an attempt on my level (the only level I can function at) to seriously consider the implications of the Apostles' use of Scripture: to try to have an apostolic hermeneutic.

Scott Hill said...

honestly, Fide-0 has mostly lost me. Ever since they referred to John Hagee as the leading dispensationalist today, were roundly nailed for it, and refused simply to apologize and retract; referred to anyone who didn't think we were under the Law of Moses as antinomian;

None of that was said on Fide-O Dan and you know it. If you are going to write us off I would a least like the consideration of you getting an accurate depiction of what was said. No one called John Hagee THE leading dispensationalist, and the Antinomian comment is an extreme mis characterization of that post.

I think the thing that frustrates me the most is that this should be an intramural debate, but as soon as some of our dispensational readers discovered that we didn't agree on something they wrote us off as if we now have no business posting at all. I personally don't care who reads us and who doesn't, because I have gotten over the trap of trying to write for a blog audience, but if our reputation is going to maligned I would at least like the courtesy of being accurately represented.

Scott Hill said...

I don't want to sidetrack the comments about this post so I will not discuss this here anymore, but you can email me if you want.

Jason Robertson said...

Dan, you wrote of me:
Jason in particular became so obsessed with rationalizing his abandonment of the perspicuity of Scripture .

I'm sure that you get your share of people who disagree with your theological positions. And we neither have the desire nor time to answer most critics. But when Scott called me about what you said, I decided to just write to you this brief comment. Dan, the quote above is a serious charge from one brother to another. I have no idea why you feel the desire to defame me just because I am not a Dispy.

And if you just feel the need to make such a charge maybe you could give some proof that I don't think the Bible is clear in what it says. (I definitely don't need 10' tall charts to explain how God keeps His promises.) We fully understand that you don't find Covenant Theology to be lucid but to say that CT'ers don't believe in the perspicuity of Scripture is just flatly inaccurate. In fact, for you to say that I embrace that belief and have become "so obsessed with rationalizing [my] abandonment of the perspicuity of Scripture" falls into a level of slander that I am sure you don't intend to commit. Though you haven't given me a reason to, still I will delay making any final judgment that you are actually trying to be malevolent toward me in particular. But I agree with Scott that you have extremely mischaracterized our posts. Not surprisingly, I noticed that you have not "trudged" through it, as you said, so I guess there would be no way for you to speak accurately about it.

But, Dan, I would respectfully ask you to read my posts or listen to my radio interviews before engaging in anymore misquotes or mischaracterizations. Besides, my posts aren't as long as yours, it will not take you long to "trudge through it." :)

Dan, simply put. I understand your desire to continually defend DT, "prop it up" as you say. But I don't think it is necessary to make personal attacks against your brothers in the process. I have taken your comedic one-liners at Fide-O with a grain of salt. And now and then have read some of your posts at Pyros and will continue to do so. But somewhere along the way I am expecting you to get pass the defensiveness and join the discussion on this issue.

**I too have no desire to sidetrack your comments. So a simple retraction of your statements will be sufficient. I carry with me a similar desire as was exemplified by the men of the T4G Conference; I believe that we can defend and promote the Gospel together as CT'ers and DT'ers. We don't need to charge each other as being hermeneutically lazy just because our some of our rules of interpretation are slightly different.

I hope that you receive my words in the spirit of grace in which I write them. You may email me to keep this from becoming a prolonged issue in your comment section.

DJP said...

Scott, I'm afraid this is pretty typical of how things turned over there. You're just not listening.

You come here complaining of misrepresentation, and immediately misrepresent the complaint about which you're complaining.

What does "discover[ing] that we didn't agree on something" have to do with what I wrote? I daresay most of the blogs I frequent have areas of disagreement. Doesn't bother me.

But if they became obsessive, and were doggedly (pun) unwilling to admit and deal with their own misrepresentations... well, I'd do with them as I've done with Fide-0.

As to the rest:

1. So you disagree with the commenter who quoted Gene as saying "what really is humorous is whenever you watch the leading dispensationlist of today, your John Hagee's for example..."?

If so, you disagree with yourself.

How many actual real-live dispensationalists then pointed out to you-all that Hagee played NO part AT ALL in their doctrinal formation?

My complaint was accurate. Your complaint against my complaint is not.

2. I complained that Fide-0 "referred to anyone who didn't think we were under the Law of Moses as antinomian."

You complained, "the Antinomian comment is an extreme mis characterization [sic] of that post."

The post: "Antinomianism = (against the Law) = the belief that Christians are not bound by the Moral Law of God, particularly that of the Old Testament."

Once again, my comment was exactly accurate. Your complaint... not so much.

So will you admit that you misrepresented my complaint, and further that the complaints you faulted were exactly accurate, and in no sense a misrepresentation?

In each of these cases, I objected up-front on the blog. Now I've responded up-front to you. In neither of the cases on your blog, did I feel that I got a satisfactory response. How will you respond now?

DJP said...

And the Fide-o misrepresentations keep coming.

Jason, I only said I did not "trudge through" one post. On it, I made no further comment. You misrepresented me.

As I just proved to Scott, I myself misrepresented nothing in the specifics he singled out.

My comments about you are my opinion. I bear you no malevolence whatever, though I'm sorry for your error, and sorrier if you persuade anyone to join you -- as you've seemed obsessed in doing.

But it's one error in one area. I have no doubt whatever that I have errors in my own areas. Perhaps you'll help me to see them, when you get over this obsession.

Whether you believe in it or not, I expect you and I shall sit side by side in the Remedial Theology 101 classes in the Millennial Kingdom; and I suppose I'll be free of the temptation to cheat off your notes only because of glorification.

My general attitude towards folks like you is spelled out in the post, above. Did you read it all through before commenting? If you don't want to (who could blame you?), you could skip to the end.

What I expressed about you is my opinion. Am I the only one to make this observation?

I suppose I should be grateful that you and Scott do not engage my much, MUCH longer post. You interacted with a very small comment, only, and both of you managed to mangle it pretty badly. The mind staggers at what you might have done with the post itself. A math whiz could do the projection. Not I. {70 X 7} - 7 is about as complex as I can go.

Jason Robertson said...

I read your entire post before commenting. I found it to be a good post of your position and helpful to the discussion, except for your usual patronizing. And I don’t really mind the attempts to be funny, without it the blogosphere theological discussions can get a little boring. But, I only commented on the statement you made about me personally. Is there something about answering a charge made against you that you don't understand? No, I’m sure you understand completely. So, I will continue to suffer your condescension to see if I can secure a civil level of fellowship because I do think it is important for the sake of the kingdom.

And since you don’t want to just admit your misrepresentations of my theology I don’t know where to go from here. Just consider this, Dan. It may be possible that the reason you think that my few posts on CT out of hundreds of Fide-O posts is an obsession is because you don’t agree. It’s fine that you don’t agree; you aren’t the first or only. But there is no justification for misquoting or misrepresenting me. In other words, I don’t mind you saying that your disagree me, but don’t say that I have been obsessed with rationalizing [an] abandonment of the perspicuity of Scripture. Such statements not only are inaccurate, but they end up “poisoning the well” and making both of us loose credibility when neither of us are the enemies. Our goal should be to defend the gospel. Our enemies are enemies of the gospel. So again I just respectfully ask you to consider this. And when I define my hermeneutical rules or system of theology, I am doing no less than what you and I are doing when we define our Calvinism or Baptist beliefs or doctrines of justification or so forth. In the realm of debate and discussion, it is helpful to put into writing one’s theological positions. And Dan, there is a lot of theology to talk about, so don’t confuse comprehensiveness with some kind of silly obsession. (I sure hope that you don’t think Phil Johnson is infected with some silly obsession with his relentless posts against the dangers of post-modernism in the church. Of course, you don’t. Why? Because you agree with him as I do.) So, you may try to malign me with empty charges of obsession but it just rings hollow. Besides, with all of my posts and yours combined together, we have yet to touch the surface of all that needs to be discussed theologically. So again, when you do say such things about me, you should not be surprised when people find your input un-useful to the important task in which we are all engaged.

Highland Host said...

No, Mr. Phillips, it is that I have very little interest in discussions on eschatology. I dislike the fact that in some circles it has become a test. A friend of mine who wanted to join a nondenominational mission to the Jews was distressed by the mission's making premillenialism a requirement for all their workers. As if you have to be pre-mil to believe in the restoration of the Jews.

What do I believe about the O.T.? Firstly, it is all FOR US. There is (Romans 11) one purpose of God, and finally one people of God. There is NO part of the Bible that is not for the Church, yet the prophecies cannot be emptied of all content as referring to the gentile church only. 'The gift and the calling of God are without repentance.'

I believe that the Bible is to be interpreted literally, not according to any artificial system. Poetry is to be interpreted as poetry, parable as parable, symbolic language to be interpreted symbolically. In other words, unlike the Swedenborgian, I cannot allegorise plain history.
God saved me from liberal protestantism, and I suppose that I have enough of that rationalising instinct left to be safe and not to wonder from the text.

And so, because of the witness of the prophets and the apostles, not forgetting our Lord, I have to believe that God will restore Israel to faith.

Do I call myself a dispensationalist? No. A Covenant Theologian? Not really. I am uncomfortable with both labels.

And as for my lack of communication, I have been more than a little unsettled in life recently.

Andrew Lindsey said...

What I'd like to see is more extensive interaction between the Pyromaniacs bloggers and the Fide-O bloggers on the issue of dispensationalism/Covenant Theology. Those at Pyromaniacs represent the foremost bloggers who are both Calvinistic in their soteriology and consider themselves dispensational. The Fide-O guys have been vocal recently in educating and trying to persuade others concerning Covenant Theology. But what are the real issues? Each side accuses the other of improper readings of Scripture. Could specific examples of this be given by each side? I think it would be very beneficial to the Christian blogging community as a whole if these issues could be addressed without vitriol or personal attacks.

Tim said...

Thanks for what you are doing. I'll proudly call myself a Reformed Dispensationalist.


DJP said...

Okay, now I have enough time to try to give more focused, substantial responses.

Jason -- you say you're not obsessed with rationalizing your abandonment of the perspicuity of Scripture, I say it strikes me that you were. The beauty of this forum is that people can survey your writings, and form their own opinion. I'm not appealing to private correspondence, or revelation. This has been a great comfort to me when I've been grossly mischaracterized over at Pyro, particularly. If you feel (as you insist) that I've mischaracterized you, you can have that same comfort.

But once again I point out: I gave three specific reasons why Fide-0 hasn't been the must-read for me that it formerly was.

You and Scott objected to all three.

I instantly proved that two of the three were simply fact, and proved that you had mischaracterized me. My third issue is indeed my own opinion, my own impression, and nothing more. It was why I was reading Fide-0 less. It was not offered as a reason why nobody should read Fide-0. Anyone and everyone is free to reject, share, or ignore my impression.

Yet neither of you has acknowledged that my first two were well-founded, you haven't withdrawn your mischaracterizations, and you continue to complain that I don't admit mischaracterization.

As to my more general attitude, I spelled it out above (I thought), and you haven't responded. Indeed, we are co-combatants on a wide variety of critical issues. Stick to them, you'll find me with you. Say silly things about people who still take all of the Bible seriously, we may have words.

DJP said...

Highland Host -- well, I should expect a crusty response from a Highlander. If the reason you're not emailing me is that you think I want to argue prophecy, think so no longer. I think I just wanted to talk about Scotland, which I visited and loved. But I asked you to write me so long ago, I've forgotten.

How delightful to hear someone allude to 'The gift and the calling of God are without repentance' in context, and not as if it had something to do with tongues! Thank you, thank you!

As to the rest you said, sounds to me like we're closer to each other, rather than farther.

DJP said...

AJLin -- thanks for your comment. I forwarded it to Phil. I do doubt, however, that you'll see discussion about dispensationalism per se in Pyro posts. We have a certain focus, there; and that isn't it.

Here? Whole different issue.

Tim -- good for you! One day, God willing, those terms may form a tautology!


DJP said...

Ruben -- thanks for more thoughtful interaction.

If you had had the time and inclination to labor through the essay I link to, where I expand on the hermeneutical principle you quote, you'd see that it's my conviction that that is apostolic hermeneutics. I provide some examples.

Galatians 4:24 is an issue for anybody, or at least for any Reformed Christian, since the Reformers so heartily rejected allegorical interpretation. I recall their general take as being that Paul's meaning here was that the story was "typical," not strictly allegorical. See Calvin's vehement rejection of allegory here.

As to Acts 15, I've just never really understood why non-D's think it's a problem for D's. "David" is, as far as I know, never used in any other sense than literal in the NT. The issue in Acts 15 is the inclusion of the Gentiles. James quotes a passage from the OT which predicts that the Gentiles will be included in God's salvation. No Dispensationalist denies this. How is this supposed to be a problem?

The late, great S. Lewis Johnson, who's quoted as describing himself as a covenant theologian with a dispensational hermeneutic, said James' quotation is a nod to the Jewish faction, assuring them that the nation will have the promised future, and that that future is in no way exclusive of the blessing to the Gentiles promised in the Abrahamic Covenant.

Highland Host said...

My apologies. I am not actually a Highlander, but of Scottish, Huguenot and English descent, living in Norfolk, England.

Anonymous said...


I was linked from Nathan's blog and read the comments. There is much I would like to respond to. However, I am pretty much taking my time doing that over at my blog via some exposition:)

This last comment, and I don't know who Ruben is:), that you made concerning Acts 15, you made mention of Johnson's quote. The problem as I see it is precisely what you cited. No where in that passage is anything remotely like a "nod to the Jewish faction, assuring them that the nation will have the promised future." As a matter of fact, nothing of the Jewish nation is even mentioned. Simply a mention of the tabernacle of David and this rebuilding is so that the Gentiles may seek the Lord. Surely this would be referenced in other NT passages where the church is spoken of in such terms (ie. Eph. 2:21; 1 Cor. 6; Rev. 3:12). Of course in these passages the believer as well as the church is spoken of as the temple of God. The term used in Acts 15 denotes the movable tabernacle. In either case, the nation is not in focus.

This leads to part of the problem I see where you say others are denying the perspecuity of the Scriptures. Were the Scripture unclear to the Pharisees and disciples during Jesus' time concerning the nature of the kingdom??? It seems their "literal" (and I use that lightly) reading of Scripture led them to the wrong concclusion. Jesus seems to constantly be correcting them in regards to a "physical political kingdom" (see Luke 17:20,21).
Maybe somehow the words of Christ were unclear when He stated,

Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."John 2:19

Yet those around him believed he spoke about the standing temple and not the temple of His body. If you were standing there would you have assumed He spoke of His body? In regards to that several passages that dispensationalists claim are somehow future, such as the reign of Christ from David's throne are simply shot down in the face of apostolic New Testament statements. I point this out in a recent post on Psalm2. There is no reason to assume that we are waiting on Christ to come to a throne in the middle of the desert to reign from earth when He already is seated at the right hand of His Father (Mr 16:19; Ac 2:33; Ro 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 10:12; 1Pe 3:22) till all His enemies are put under His feet (1Cor. 15) and already has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18) and is currently ruling the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 3:27). If this is indeed the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and I believe it is since the inspired apostle Peter says so in Acts 2, and I quote,

25 "For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ 29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."’ 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

This has been fulfilled. Now I ask anyone in the forum, what is not clear and literal about that passage??? If that is true, then at its heart dispensationalism's foundations crack. Respectfully submitted.

DJP said...

Hi Tim,

1. Since you ignore the post and prefer to change the topic, we'll score it as 25 direct hits.

2. As to Acts 15, I guess I can sympathize with you to a degree. It must be very disappointing to feel that you have a devastating knockout punch, and see it fizzle into nothing, with no effect.

The decoder-ring set has to fiddle with and twist just about every OT covenant in order to reduce 2/3 of the Bible to goo; it'd be great, from your perspective, to be able to point to something. But you'll have to keep looking.

With Jesus and the apostles, I simply again affirm that the OT means what it says, and God's plan for the present and future encompasses both ethnic Israel and Gentiles; and with them (in contrast to the decoder-ring set) I affirm that God's promises are real, and not bait-and-switch trickery.

3. When you say that the throne of David belongs to Jesus, you say nothing more than Scripture (and therefore dispensationalists) say. Have you yet found a verse that says, expressly and in so many words, that Christ currently sits in David's throne? Jesus places sitting in His own throne as a future event (Matthew 25:31), distinguishes His throne from the throne He currently occupies (Acts 3:21).

If you ever find a verse that directly says otherwise, do share. Until then, I'll go ahead and accept what strikes me as the more obvious signification of Jesus's words.

4. And as to you brushing aside piles and piles of literal fulfillment to focus on a single metaphor... great job. I guess we dispensationalists will just have to allow for metaphor in the Bible.

Oh, wait -- we have. ALWAYS (see #13 above; did you even read the post?)

Anonymous said...


i did read the post and am writing my own posts conerning your points. I am up to number 10 should you care to read them. For the most part I do think many of the arguments you bring about are simply silly and I would never argue them against you and I state that in my upcoming posts.

Sidestep?? LOL. You're joking right? Did you actually read the apostle Peter's sermon? He is clearly referring to the promise made to David.

As for ignoring the post. I didn't do that. I was addressing what followed later in the comments. You seem to be able to throw a lot of blather around without actually dealing with what I wrote.

You said, "The decoder-ring set has to fiddle with and twist just about every OT covenant in order to reduce 2/3 of the Bible to goo; it'd be great, from your perspective, to be able to point to something. But you'll have to keep looking.

With Jesus and the apostles, I simply again affirm that the OT means what it says, and God's plan for the present and future encompasses both ethnic Israel and Gentiles; and with them (in contrast to the decoder-ring set) I affirm that God's promises are real, and not bait-and-switch trickery."

Decoder ring?? Again, You speak about my comments fizzling, when I directly quoted you quoting Johnson and pointed to the fact that nothing could be derived from the text of Acts 15 to substantiate what Johnson said, nothing. Deal with that.

As far as bait and switch, I don't believe that either Dan. They are real promises. Tell me something, were all those of Israel ethnic in the Old Testament? What about Abraham's servants who received the sign of circumcision? What about the servants of Jacob and his sons? What about Rahab or any other Gentiles who came into the assembly of Israel, were they counted as Israel? Were there absolutely no Gentiles who were a part of Israel in the Old Covenant? Please when you answer, don't talk down to me. I am not a dog. I am a brother in Christ and would appreciate dialogue that is not condescending. Try doing that brother.

Brushing aside piles and piles of literal fullfillment for a single metaphor? Come on. You can do better than that. I have not brushed aside anything. I simply commented. I'm not even going to go there since you cannot see the difference.

DJP said...


1. Perhaps sometime I'll go on over to your blog. Will I see you embodying and modelling the "dialogue that is not condescending" that you request of me? From your two comments, I'm not all that optimistic.

2. So the count of verses "that [say], expressly and in so many words, that Christ currently sits in David's throne," stands at zero. I should say, I don't see it as a pivotal issue either way. One prefers to hold to a system that does not depend at its very core on inferences, hints, dubious connections, and vapors, rather than on direct statements.

3. Your disappointment in finding that Acts 15 simply states what I believe is palpable. The issue was, do Gentiles have to be circumcized to be saved (15:1)? The apostles answer with an emphatic "No" (vv. 2-21). In his own remarks, addressing both Judaizing and Pauline/Petrine factions, James says that this all "agrees" with the words of the "prophets" (plural), and then alludes to the prophecy of Amos, as predicting both the restoration of the fallen booth of David, and the Gentiles seeking God (vv. 15-18). Everything is right on schedule, he says. With this, all dispensationalists agree, without losing their minds and forcing foreign meanings into perfectly innocent prophecies. You want that text to do something more, I guess, but do not blame it (nor me) that it refuses your advances.

4. And (to your more recent sidepath) where did the Judeans' insistence on Gentile circumcision (Acts 15:1) come from? From proselytism in the OT and after. Gentiles joined Israel. But the church is not Israel; it is Jew and Gentile alike in Christ, one body, one new man -- and not Israel, in any sense (Ephesians 2:11-22).

5. And yes, you did brush aside piles and piles of literal fulfillment to focus on a single metaphor, as if John 2 (or 6, or 10, or 15; Psalm 23) mean that plain language isn't plain language if it interferes with your alien grid. Otherwise, what does it have to do with anything?

Ruben said...

Hi Dan,

Perhaps you address this in the article you linked. I don't have time to read it right away, but I will add it to my links.

Perhaps it is just the difference of paradigms functioning here but neither your comments nor Johnson's deal with the fact that James quotes an extended passage, on the view you hinted at, only part of which is actually relevant to the point at hand: or the fact that the purpose of restoring David's tent is that the rest of men might seek the Lord. If that is correct, and the rest of men are seeking the Lord, then David's tent is necessarily restored --or at least in the process.

Mister Larry said...


Another friend of mine had critiqued your comments on his blogsite (in some detail). Would you care to take a look at it? It's Bob Hayton's "Fundamentally Reformed" blogsite. Bob is a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper). The link is at

Anonymous said...


Two quick things here:

First, since you keep mentioning the Old Testament, and since you keep demanding a verse that describes Jesus reigning from David’s throne, please consider this verse:

Isa 9:6-7:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.

Will you please explain how an exegesis of this verse leads to the conclusion that ‘this time forth’ is in a completely different millennia from ‘unto us a child is born’? If so, then I’m sure you will stay consistent and deny that the ‘government is on His shoulder’, and ‘His name is called…’, since those happen at the same time as His rule from David’s throne. Are we wrong in calling Him Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace? If, after all, this verse is still unfulfilled prophecy.

Secondly, I keep hearing you mention things like ‘I affirm God’s promises are real’, so I have a question for you: Have you ever examined the timeframe of God’s promises? That is, where in scripture is it ever stated that God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled in a 1000year period? You see, Dispensationals are correct in that God keeps His promises, but they arbitrarily apply a 1000year timeframe to these promises. You yourself quoted Jeremiah 31, which I will post here for clarification. Verse 38-40 says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever.”

Now, to reiterate my last question, is this promise and others like it, given to communicate a period of 1000years, or a period of ‘forever’. [See the Abrahamic Covenant for the same language.]

How, in your system, is this promise of 38-40 and others like it, fulfilled if the earth (along with the literal Jerusalem)is destroyed at our Lord’s coming, as described in 2 Peter chapter 3?

Are the promises for 1000years, or are they for forever? And how are these promises fulfilled forever (literally), if the earth and modern-day Jerusalem are to be destroyed by fire?


Anonymous said...


I apologize if you felt they were in that tone. Anyone who knows me knows that is not the way I tend to be. I was merely commenting on your comments and drew a conclusion. I hope we can start with a clean slate:) In most of your points I agree with you, I really do. Most of the points you made were simply silly and shouldn't be used against anyone.

Of course, if you visit my blog I will be cordial, though I am much farther down the food chain than yourself.

Now to part of your previous comments and the last one. In your previous ones you mention that Jesus places it as future and I agree it is in Jesus' future at that time. However, you place that and the end of history at the judgment (sheep and goats from Matt 25). Yet wouldn't you believe in a final judgment at the end of a thousand years, which would come 1000 years after Matt 25?

Second as to Christ's throne being distinguished in Acts. I will simply note that there is not two thrones mentioned in that passage, therefore there is not the distinguishing you mention. As for the earlier point you made when you said something about "Mount Zion.......Jesus, the church, whatever", again Psalm 2 comes into play. The apostles quote verse 7 as fulfilled in reference to his resurrection, but just before that the Psalmist records God saying, "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." Are we really willing to break this up in time?? this gets to Nathan's question. These things are fulfilled in Christ and Mount Zion being spoken of here is none other than where Christ rules from today. Again, Revelation 2:26-28 make it clear that Christ has assumed this position. Am I looking for a verse that says "David's throne"? Of course not. That, to me, seems like someone asking for word Trinity to appear in the text (and I don't mean that condescending:)

As to your point two. I have given direct apostolic references to that fact. But you have dismissed it because it doesn't say "David's throne". Well, I could point to the NT references you gave and say the same thing. No mention of the throne of God and say you are inferring that. Would that be a legitimate argument. Of course not.

In regards to your point 3 towards me. I am not disappointed at all in the text, just at the lack of evidence for the quote you cited from the text. I never askedthe text to do something more. I just commented that it didn't do the "more" you claimed.

As to point four and I must say this one is the clincher as far as I am concerned. So are there two people of God or one Dan? The church is made up of Jews and Gentiles right? What did you just quote? How many bodies? One, not two. Is it really the dispensationalist's claim that there is the body of Christ and some other body (national Israel)? If so, where do the believing Jews fit in, with the Church or national Israel or both? What will their inheritance be? I'm sure many here can see that. The passage is so clear from 2:11-3:13 that Gentiles are fellow heirs with Jews of the promises in Christ. Now dispensationalism wants to put a big bridge in between that again sometime in the future.

If we go just a little farther into chapter 4 we find that verse you were mentioning, verse 4

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Now I ask, how were Old Testament people saved? Was it not the same as New Testament people? After all, there is only One Faith, not two different kinds and that faith is in One Lord, not two Lords. there is also only One body, not two and within that one body is One Spirit not two. Again, this comes on the heels of this connection of Gentiles with Jews. You say the church is not Israel in any sense. If you mean a national political entity, then I wholeheartedly agree with you, but if you mean that the Church, or elect are not "the chosen of God", which is what Israel means and that we are not the descendants of Abraham which Paul clearly refutes in Galatians, then not only are you and I at odds, but you and the Scriptures are at odds.

As to the fifth point. Take each almost each chapter in John and you will find people doing exactly what you are doing and that is trying to interpret in some real sense the words of Christ. In Jn. 2 it's the temple: Jesus refutes that. In Jn. 3 it's the new birth: Jesus refutes Israel's teacher over that. In Jn. 4 it's the living water: Jesus refutes a wooden literal interpretation. This is all I'm saying. I haven't skipped over fulfilled prophecies. I just realize that many are affirmed as fulfilled in the NT by the apostles.

joey said...

well dan, I've had a lot of time to evaluate this post...and have decided that your wrong on all 25 points!! This post should have been titled, "25 splendid reasons for dissing dispensationalism"

so there.

4given said...

creepy baby pic ... makes me {{{shudder}}} eeewww

GUNNY said...

Though I am Reformed and no longer affirm enough of the dispensational scheme to be regarded as one, I think you actually did a nice job of identifying some overstatements, straw men, and ad hominem slooge.

As a non-dispensationalist, I'm curious as to how those who are anti-dispensationalists will work to come up with other reasons to "diss" dispensationalism.

Sola gratia,

P.S. Are you familiar with New Covenant Theology and it's emphasis on the uniqueness of the New Covenant and how it relates to the New Covenant.

This whole genre of discussion (Classical dispensationalism vs. Essential/Revised Dispensationalism vs. Progressive Dispensationalism vs. New Covenant theolgy vs. Covenant Theology) is fascinating and has been one of interest for me for years.

But, it's also an easy one in which to quickly get tired head and see tempers flare.

For NCT, I'd recommend a look at Abraham's Four Seeds by John Reisinger.

SteveT said...

Excellent work DP, I'm in a similar boat, and deeply fed up with being looked upon with suspicion and disdain by some of the 'pure blood' Reformed. I left the Plymouth Brethren because of my Calvinistic views, and while I enjoy much of Reformed church life, there is at times a seemingly thin line between having a theological conviction that you have worked out from scripture and hold in good conscience and having a certain smugness almost condescending attitude to others, I know where my reformed Baptist Pastor is coming from I am happy to give an amillennial viewpoint a fair hearing and I hope that I walk away giving it all a good thinking over. So why can't amill's at least be benevolent towards us, you can strongly disagree with us but you don't have be little us in the process.

Susan said...

So I am commenting on a 2006 post--but I feel compelled to. And it's not because I've finished reading it, either--it's because of that REALLY UGLY OLD BABY that you have there, Dan. I don't even think that Rowan Atkinson looked THAT bad when he was a bona fide baby. That's some incredibly skillful--and MAD--Photoshopping there. It's really giving me the creeps (and it's not even midnight yet!)!! :P

All right. I'm going back to read the rest now....

Theology Guy said...


I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I am a dispensationalist who is tired of the misrepresentations so often made by the other side. I especially loved point #25. I believe the idea of finding Christ in every verse (as some non-dispies attempt) is quite scary. Tell me, what does the story of Amnon raping Tamar tell us about Christ?
I realize this is an old article, but for those concerned about the scary "Bean"ie Baby, you should see the Mr. Bean "Mii" on the Nintendo Wii. Talk about funny.
Great work on the article. Hopefully, the point of the article will not be lost in the obvious sarcasm.

DJP said...

Thanks, TG. That is also one of the most compelling considerations to me.

SolaMommy said...

Dan, this is awesome.

DJP said...

Aw, thanks.

Sure generated some silly responses on other blogs. Tradition dies hard.