Is Dispensationalism considered Orthodox?

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by Nathan Riese, Sep 7, 2009.

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  1. Nathan Riese

    Nathan Riese Puritan Board Freshman

    Dispensationalists claim that they are just like the rest of evangelical, conservative, orthodox Christians. Are they? or are they pseudo-orthodox?
    Reformed theologians are taking strong stands against dispensationalism, should the stands be even stronger? Shouldn't there be more of an effort to "kill" dispensationalism, since it is an infection in the church, polluting the doctrine in the majority of American evangelical churches? Many Christians today are dispensational and satisfied with their theology, not because they've studied and compared and then concluded, but because they're assumed into a dispensational church and taught that they're the "normal, orthodox" type of Christians and that the reformed are the strange ones.

    So, I guess the question is, is dispensationalism orthodox, and if it isn't, why isn't there more of a movement against it?
  2. Sonoftheday

    Sonoftheday Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would consider the dispensationalism light that those such as John MacArthur hold to to be withing Orthodoxy. However any dispensationalism that says there will be a future earthly kingdom where animal sacrifices will be made in my opinion is unorthodox. As well as any dispensationalism that states Christ's sacrificial death was plan B. Or any form of dispensationalism that is antinomian in its direct teaching. There should be a strong stand against these lies, and I see many making this stand.
  3. D. Paul

    D. Paul Puritan Board Sophomore

    How does MacArthur avoid the future reinstatement of animal sacrifices?
  4. strangecharm

    strangecharm Puritan Board Freshman

    I've only ever understood dispensationalism in terms of eschatology. Whenever I think dispensationalism, I think premillenialism with a pretribulation rapture. Is there a way to hold that particular eschatological view and NOT be dispensational?

    First thing, Christ can't possible be plan B. I've never seen that taught, excepting in some strange Arminian churches. As to the future sacrifices, I never looked into that, but I am a child of the Left Behind generation. I've not looked for a scriptural basis for this claim. I just assumed that it went along with a pretrib rapture.

    The reason I'm now alarmed, is because I lean toward a pretrib rapture, and I'm trying not to slip into heterodoxy on a minor issue.
  5. kevin.carroll

    kevin.carroll Puritan Board Junior

    As a recovering Dispensationalist (15 years clean), I can assure you that IF you examine the basic principles of the hermeneutic and IF you understand covenant theology, you are left with very little biblical evidence for a pre-Trib position.

    Dispensationalists claim (at least they did when I got out) 1). they alone interpret the Bible literally and 2). there is a radical distinction between the Church and Israel, though this has modified a bit under "progressive" dispensationalism.

    With regards to 1), this claim is generally made when discussing the allegorizing of Origen, et al. They fail to understand that recognizing a spiritual fulfillment of prophecy is prophecy literally fulfilled. Secondly, they are not literalists at all and abandon the position whenever it is not convenient. I can remember the first time I began questioning the position. I was listening to a sermon on the "Secret Rapture" from 1 Th. 4. The preacher was talking about the silence of the Rapture and I looked at the text and thought, "Wait, a shout? The voice of an archangel? A trumpet blast? How can we take the text literally and posit silence surrounding the event?" The answer is, "Only the saved will hear it." Where does the Bible say that???

    With regards to 2), I began to read the NT. Does the NT maintain the radical Israel/Church distinction that Dispensationalists do (and the pre-Trib position lives or dies on this point)? No. In fact the NT routinely applies names and promises originally given to OT Israel to the NT people of God. It does so without apology. Why should we apologize, then?

    The pre-Trib rapture cannot survive without this distinction. The reasoning is based on Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks. The reasoning is, the first 69 weeks dealt with Israel, the 70th must too. Blah, blah, blah. It's very detailed and tightly argued, but without the Israel/Church thing, the whole system crashes to the ground.
  6. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

  7. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    To me, (also a recovered Dispensational) the scariest thing about dispensationalism is the idea that parts of the bible we're written to Christians, and parts of it we're written to Jews.
  8. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    I would be gentle and careful in this kind of assessment. "Unorthodox" is a strong term. We have a tendency to overuse words and devalue their meaning.

    Also remember many people in denominations or communions that hold to the dispensationalist framework do so nominally. It is sometimes not explicitly taught, perhaps assumed, but avoided as teaching topic.

    Generally, even confirmed dispensationalist church members who know the system, know only a standard list of objections to "Calvinism." They do not know, have not considered the weaknesses of their own dispensationalist system, and they do not understand "Calvinism" at all. So, there is lots of room for engagement... way beyond just saying they are "unorthodox."

    Before reading Mr. Gerstner's, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, I would have said it was only a different interpretive system.

    Now I would say it is an interpretive framework with huge weaknesses, and leads to major error.
  9. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    I wish it we're possible to find and post the LONG conversation Paul Manata had with me here years ago. I was a strong, "Left Behind" loving, dispensationalist. I had honestly never heard of any other eschatological belief besides pre-mill...ever! Paul told me his views (partial preterism) and I was absolutely shocked. He walked me through it, kindly, and politely until I understood his views and how he based them on scripture (at first I was thinking "is this guy a Christian!" lol).

    It would be a GREAT example as to how to approach a Dispensational on this issue.
  10. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    There are various camps under the larger umbrella of dispensationalism. Especially in its early forms, there was some heretical teachings of dispensationalism; e.g., Jews were saved by works, Christians by faith in Christ. That is certainly heretical. However, most modern dispensationalists have moved away from that and are certainly orthodox. Obviously, their teachings don't align with the confessions, but that doesn't necessarily make them unorthodox (depending on what point they disagree). Even the animal sacrifices thing in the rebuilt temple, which is a commonly held belief, is not a blood atonement as in the old testatment (as far as I know). I'm not sure what purpose it serves in their system (beyond fulfilled prophecy), but it is not a redemptive sacrifice.
  11. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    They believe the animal sacrifices is a "remembrance" thing that causes one to appreciate Christ all the more.
  12. kevin.carroll

    kevin.carroll Puritan Board Junior

    They believe it will be "comemorative."
  13. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    "My name is Kevin, and I was a Dispensationalist." "Hello, Kevin."

    It is also ironic that a literal reading of the classic NT "rapture" passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, actually excludes a pre-trib position. It is anything but secret (what with the shouting, the trumpet, the voice of the archangel), both the living and the dead are caught up, and the Lord is coming to earth in victory, accompanied by His saints (there is no seven year pause mentioned), immediately. You have to read a pre-trib rapture into the text.
  14. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Without debating the tenets of it, the origin of it settles it for me.
    A brief outline of Dispensational origin from Holman Bible dictionary on line @ Lifeway:

    "Modern Technical Usage The word “dispensation” became prominent in biblical studies in a recent eschatological movement which dates back to 1830 in Scotland. This movement called “dispensationalism” can be traced back to the visions of Margaret McDonald, a member of the Plymouth Brethren Church. She believed that the return of Christ would be in two distinct stages. The believer would be caught up to the Lord in the air before the days of the antichrist. Then there would be a final revelation of Christ at the end of the age.
    The Role of J.N. Darby This two-stage return of the Lord, unheard of before 1830, became the platform for a movement called “dispensationalism.” Miss McDonald’s pastor J. N. Darby (1800-1882) picked up on her idea and began to make use of it in his sermons. Darby was responsible for developing the two-stage coming of Christ into a fully developed eschatology or theology. He had been an Anglican clergyman until 1827 when he left the church to join the Plymouth Brethren.
    Darby set forth the idea that God has set up seven time periods called dispensations for His work among human beings. The seventh or last dispensation will be the millennial reign of Christ (Rev. 20). In each dispensation, people are tested in reference to the obedience of God’s will according to a specific revelation of that will.
    The Role of C. I. Scofield Darby visited the United States on several occasions and won many advocates to his theology. However, C. I. Scofield popularized the dispensational system in his study Bible of 1909. He set forth seven dispensations in God’s dealing with human beings.
    1. Innocency (Gen. 1:28) This is the period of time in the Garden of Eden.
    2. Conscience (Gen. 3:23) This is the awakening of human conscience and the expulsion from the garden.
    3. Human Government (Gen. 8:20) This is the new covenant made with Noah, bringing about human government.
    4. Promise (Gen. 12:1) This is the new covenant made with Abraham.
    5. Law (Ex. 19:8) This is the period of acceptance of the Jewish law.
    6. Grace (John 1:17) This dispensation begins with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    7. Kingdom (Eph. 1:10) This constitutes the final rule of Christ.
    Program of Eschatology Beyond the seven dispensations, the Darby movement had a definite program of eschatology in five steps.
    1. A two-stage coming of Christ—rapture and parousia.
    2. Seven years of tribulation on earth for those not raptured. The last three and a half years will be the time of the antichrist. One hundred forty-four thousand Jews will accept Christ and become evangelists.
    3. Christ will return with the church, conclude the battle of Armageddon, and rule for a thousand years.
    4. Belief in an unconditional covenant with Israel. Thus God is working through Israel and the church. In the millennium, national Israel will be restored.
    5. All Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled literally.
    Some of the more popular advocates of dispensationalism have been C. H. MacKintosh, W. E. Blackstone, H. A. Ironside, A. C. Gaebelein. More recently Hal Lindsey has made the system a best seller in The Late Great Planet Earth. The Book of Revelation has become a key book in the dispensational approach. Dispensationalists see the rapture taking place in Revelation 4:1 and the rest of the book (chs. 4–18) dealing with the seven years of tribulation. Thus the book has very little significance for Christians who will not be on earth during that time. See Millennium; Revelation.
    James L. Blevins"
  15. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I think that, at the academic level, dispensationalism is pretty much dead. When I was a student at Talbot School of Theology (part of Biola University), earning my M.Div, dispensationalism was never discussed in any of the courses I took - not even in the theology courses. And Biola was one of the original classic Dispensational institutions.

    At the popular level, dispensationalism has been resuscitated by the dreadful Left Behind series. But, I think that will be a (relatively) short-lived phenomenon.

    Folks like MacArthur do the Reformed a favor by undermining some Dispensational tenets (MacArthur has not held to the classic 7 Dispensational dispensations for many years) while claiming that they are still - in some sense - dispensationalists.

    As to whether dispensationalism is a heresy - I don't think so. It's mostly a hermeneutical error which leads to bad interpretations of some theological subjects, but I've never met a Dispensational who denied the basic theological tenets of the faith - the deity of Christ, substitionary atonement, etc.

    One thing though: a classic Dispensational like L. S. Chafer could (inadvertently, I hope) deny God's omniscience by saying that God was "taken by surprise" when the first century Jews rejected Christ as their Messiah, thereby "forcing" God to launch "Plan B."
  16. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Dispensationalism is relatively recent historically (began mid 1830's, popularized around World War I). It began as:

    1) God did redemption differently during different time periods
    2) An eternal separation of people with some Jewish ancestry from the Body of Christ

    In this generation, the different periods of redemption (originally the seven Rich listed above) have been challenged and almost disappeared from popular debate. The eternal separation is now that the two groups do eventually get together in the state of Glory (covenant theology says they are together now).

    I've understood one could be historical premillennial within reformed theology (but that is being hotly contested right now on another thread, worth studying), but not modern dispensational premillennial. The former does not have a rapture before a millennium with Christ physically ruling during that millennium.
  17. Kings Bro

    Kings Bro Puritan Board Freshman

    Dallas Theological Seminary is dispensational so it's not all the way dead on the academic level
  18. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    A lot of the folks at DTS are now claiming to be 'progressive dispensationalists' (which appears to be pretty close to historic premill as espoused by folks who don't want to risk their jobs). There are a few hard core Dispensationalists around, but I'm told they are clearly in the minority.

    Even so, one needs to be extremely careful in allowing DTS types into leadership roles.
  19. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Nothing of dispensationalism is orthodoxy....nothing. And I think there should be a movement to root it out of our circles, but I think that type of movement would step on too many toes too quickly. I think the thinking of slowly showing ppl like JM his error on this subject is more productive than to come out swinging in many ppl's minds....which could be true.
  20. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I agree with all this, except the last 4 words.
  21. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    so it could not be true? :)
  22. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    Agreed. Dispensationalism causes pain and turmoil in the church and the lives of Christians. It should be eradicated. We do that by teaching Biblical Christianity and turning congregations around one at a time.
  23. Sonoftheday

    Sonoftheday Puritan Board Sophomore

    I honestly don't know that he does. I have never seen MacArthur teach that their will be future animal sacrifices, so I assumed that he doesn't but honestly I don't know, and I haven't read all his works.

    From what I understand he actually rejects the term Dispensationalist. (Doesnt he reject the term Calvinist too?)

    Here is his response to a question regarding Dispensational.
  24. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    It is true that some folks believe that. It is not true that it is more productive. Dispensationalists should be confronted in their error.
  25. Baptist-1689er

    Baptist-1689er Puritan Board Freshman

    The MacArthur Study Bible states in its note on Ezekiel 43:19 about the sacrifices "They are of a memorial nature, they are not efficacious any more than OT sacrifices were. As OT sacrifices pointed forward to Christ's death, so these are tangible expressions, not competing with, but pointing back to the value of Christ's completely effective sacrifice, once for all (Heb. 9:28; 10:10)."

    This is a standard position one will hear from dispensationalists. Of course they have to back off their "literal interpretation" at this point.
  26. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    If I'm not mistaken, dispensationalism has been found to be error by several reformed denominations ... the OPC and PCA (through roots in the rpces and pcus) call it error.

    At what point is error heterodoxy? That is really what I see this as being. In one sense, any error is heterodoxy, if by heterodoxy we mean what is acceptable (only what is pure would be orthodox). But we all allow for some error (here we all hold to one of three different reformed standards, and they are not exactly the same, so at least two contain error). The question is how much and how serious is the error.

    There is also the matter of error and heresy being different. While I fully believe that all of us harbor some error at least a little, I do not believe we are all heretics.

    My brothers that are not so reformed, but still believe the Bible, trust in Christ alone for salvation, and can affirm the Apostles' Creed would be within the visible church, and not heretics. Many of them might be dispensationalists. Some are even Congragationalists! :) (You may make fun of my Presbyterian background as well!)

    So what are we to do? Teach what is right.
  27. strangecharm

    strangecharm Puritan Board Freshman

    A pastor told me that the same hermeneutic that led me to premillenialism would probably lead me to a pretribulation rapture.

    I don't exactly see two stages of the Second Coming, though I do have a book on my shelf in which the authors of Left Behind expound and defend their theological positions.

    I'm pretty set on there being a literal millennium, and would have no problem being an historical premillenialist.

    Keep my youth in mind. (That's to say, don't chastise my unresearched acceptance of theology. If you prefer, you can just try to change my highly impressionable mind.) :D
  28. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    Where do you see/find a "literal" millennium in scripture?
  29. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor

    Is dispensationalism Orthodox? In assessing the issue, it's not fair or accurate to clump MacArthur or MacArthurites (such as most of the folks at my church, including the elders) in with LaHaye or Hal Lindsey types. They are so different.
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