Is Dispensationalism considered Orthodox?

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

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  1. HokieAirman

    HokieAirman Puritan Board Freshman

    Based upon some of the posts I've read here:

    If Dispensationalism = different plan of redemption for different ages
    Then Dispensationalism does NOT = John 14:6
    Therefore Dispensationalism = heresy

    Is this a form of universalism? "Maybe God has his own dispensation for Buddhists and Muslims?"

    -----Added 9/8/2009 at 10:29:11 EST-----

    In saying the above in my previous post (merged)...I think that most Dispensational's simply don't know any other way. I grew up in churches that dabbled in it and thought the three eschatological views were pre trib, mid trib and post trib...seriously.

    I'm not saying the persons who hold to dispensationalism simply because its what they've been taught and don't really know anything else and are simply resistant to new ideas are heretics; I'm saying the idea and teaching is heretical based on my understanding of the word "heretical".

    I would say that those who know better, yet still teach it would be in the same camp as the FV folks.

    Now, I'll sit back and await the corrections. :)

    As a note...I'm basing the above on my understanding of what's been posted so far.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  2. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior


    Because there remains in you remnants of corruption in every part, including your knowledge of the scriptures and belief in them, so you must acknowledge that you do not believe all the truths of the scripture, in that you are mistaken in some cases, and your imperfection touches your belief in some places (at the very least). So by your argument above, you are calling yourself a heretic?

    If on the other hand it is not necessary that all the truth of scripture need be held perfectly (I certainly hope not, or none of us is saved) then there is error that is heresy, and error that is not heresy. I would be very careful to pronounce as heresy anything outside what the entire church has pronounced as heresy (the seven ecumenical councils would be a good place to see heresy defined). As such, I am willing to say JW are Arians (by their own mouths they claim such) and so have been condemned as heretics. There are other moderns that fit what the original councils said were heresy. But I do not believe dispensationalism is in there.
  3. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Joe, I believe that Sarah is saying that nothing distinctive to Dispensationalism is orthodox, that is, correct Christian belief. I was strongly adverse to her first statement, but after reading her explanation, I pretty much agree. She is not saying that all the beliefs of DispensationalISTS are unorthodox, only those which constitute their DispensationalISM.
  4. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Thanks. I hadn't thought of that. It's still a rather appalling statement though. For instance, does premillennialism fall into the realm of orthodoxy? Though not only in dispensationalism, it is a distinctive of it. So is a future for ethnic Israel, which many would argue is orthodox. It's certainly not a new concept. And even if someone disagrees with these being orthodox, the statement assumes that all that must be known about dispensationalism is known and is known not to be orthodoxy by the one making it. The absolute nature of the statement renders it moot, yet some jump on the Dispensational bashing bandwagon as the flames get fanned.
  5. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    If you correctly define dispensationalism, it is the separating of God's ppl into two different groups. This is unique to dispensationalism. So nothing within this definition is orthodoxy. You cannot place the virgin birth into dispensationalism and include that in my statement of "nothing". The virgin birth isn't unique to dispensationalism, the trinity isn't unique to dispensationalism, etc. No one denomination or belief system can claim the Trinity or virgin birth etc as their own unique belief system bc they belong to Christianity. That's what defines Christianity among other things. Dispensationalism is defined as a division of God's ppl. Actually, there's a better definition that Keith Matthison gives but I can't remember it off the top of my head.
  6. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Your definition of dispensationalism is faulty. That's part of the problem. You take a possible tenet of the dispensational understanding of Israel and make it a major tenet. God's people are saved by Christ, period. Dispensationalism CAN affirm this, though not all dispensationalists do. If you want a proper definition of dispensationalism check here and here. Though I think Vlach's definition is too restrictive, meaning it entails too much, I defer to his expertise in the matter.

    - literal grammatico-historical hermeneutic
    - future for ethnic Israel
    - God's glory central
    That's really it. People attempt to put more labels on dispensationalism, but that's all that's necessary.

    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
  7. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor

    I just know that Joe hides Hal Lindsey books under his bed. I noez it! Actually Joe, would you consider your dispensationalism to be on par with MacArthur? I'm trying to work through these issues but my church would be accurately labeled MacArthurite. I think your views are very similar to ours.
  8. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    OK, if my definition is wrong what other belief system holds to the notion that God's ppl are divided? Is there any other belief system which believes this?. No, it's unique to dispensationalism. That is the major tenet of dispensationalism. The virgin birth is believed by dispensationalists but it isn't a belief system that they alone hold....all forms of true Christianity holds to the virgin birth. There are dispensationalists who hold to different doctrines (the 5 points, the Trinity, the virgin birth etc) but that isn't what makes them dispensationalists. Those same things are not what makes me OPC. Those things are what make me a Christian and them a Christian. I can't explain it any clearer. BTW, I'm not so arrogant and proud to think that I came up with that definition of dispensationalism. I have done quite a bit of reading on this matter myself on both sides of the fence.
  9. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    According to Mathison's book, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?, there are three distinctives of dispensationalism according to Charles Ryrie and those distinctives are the following: 1) The distinction between Israel and the church, 2) A consistently literal intrepretation of Scripture, and 3) God's primary purpose is to glorify Himself.

    The following quotations are taken from Mathison's book, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?:

    "The only one of Ryrie's three distinctives of dispensationalism that has always been acknowledged as true is the distinction between Israel and the church. The particular dispensationalist understanding of this distinction is the heart of that system of theology. Dispensationalism may, therefore, be defined as that system of theology which sees a fundamental distinction between Israel and the church." (p. 8)

    "We must first note that if 'Israel' is defined as natural, national, or unbelieving Israel, then obviously 'Israel' is not the church. The political, ethnic nation of Israel is no more equivalent to the church than any nation is." (p. 38)

    "If however, we define 'Israel' as true Israel or Old Testament believers, we discover a different relationship. There is an organic, living relationship between Old Testament believers and New Testament believers. They are one body joined together under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ." (p. 39)
  10. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    and while that sounds simple, and non too serious it is NOT simple and IS very serious.

    Having been a very, very hard core dispensationalist I feel I can speak to this. Again, not prepared to call it heresy but certainly unorthodox and very problematic the Dispensational's I grew up around and who taught me believe

    -God is the husband of Israel and Jesus is the husband of the Church

    -The sermon on the mount is for Jews not Christians

    -Christ does not reign now

    -The Jews rejected the Kingdom offered to them, it may not have surprised God, but at the same time they could have reacted differently than they did if those so chose to.

    -God has promises He must yet still fulfill for the Jews

    -The Millennium will look very much like Old Testament day as it will be "governed" as David governed

    -Jewish people today should be treated well, and blessed by as (saved or not) because of their status as Jews.
  11. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    It has come to my attention that my assertions have been too blunt and less than gracious. Please forgive me for my impatience and lack of charity.

    Andrew, who told? Actually, I have a couple of Lindsey's books. They're interesting... but hardly theological masterpieces. I'm pretty close to MacArthur. The differences are small, though eschatologically speaking, I am not sure about a tribulation period of seven years and so am unsettled in regard to the rapture. I am decidedly a convinced premillennialist though.

    Sarah, you claim that dispensationalists "divide God's people." But the definition is different. As Bill said earlier, words have meaning. And the meaning of "seeing a distinction between Israel and the church" is much different than "dividing God's people." And, if you'll notice, Matthison's definition of dispensationalism is exactly the same as mine. Central to the disagreement (though hermeneutical differences exist and vary) is this statement, "Dispensationalism may, therefore, be defined as that system of theology which sees a fundamental distinction between Israel and the church." (p. 8) Thank you for the quote Curt.

    Adam has made some good observations in regard to what can be taught in dispensational churches. He also is clear that this is what he grew up around and was taught to believe. That DOES NOT mean that it is necessary for dispensationalism. This point must be clearly understood. On the Covenantal side, if I grew up in a FV church and became dispensational in my reaction against it, would it be credible for me to say that covenantalism equals FV? Of course not. But that is exactly what many here do when it comes to dispensationalism. If you're going to decry the evils that are inherent in dispensationalism then I strongly suggest sticking to the core of what it is, which is well defined in Curt's post above.

    Dispensationalism necessarily sees a distinction between the church and Israel. So do covenantalists, to a degree. When Moses addresses Israel, who is he talking to? The nation, regardless of whether they're true believers, or only those who believe? Somewhere Covenantalists draw a line. Dispensationalists don't. They see future promises for Israel yet to be fulfilled. But that doesn't mean that such promises are necessarily salvific in nature. It doesn't necessarily divide God's people into two distinct groups who are saved by different means. Some can and do make it say these things. And it is probably only within dispensationalism that such claims are made. But that does not mean that dispensationalism must teach those things. Again, this is central to the heart of this problem. Graciousness is cautioned here. Dispensationalism can just as readily teach that all who are saved by Christ are of the church, and there is no salvation outside of Christ. Israelites who are saved are of the church. But there are those who Israelite who are not of the church. Judas would be a good example. The spectrum is wide, I know. But it is what it is, so we should deal with it responsibly and graciously on its own terms, not those we impose upon it.

  12. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    And as you read dispensationalists' material as I have, you quickly come to see that distinction is really dividing God's ppl. I've seen it in dispensationalists' work and Keith Matthison says the same in his book. So I'm not so sure you want to still agree with Matthison.
  13. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    I probably don't agree with his conclusions. I do agree with the definition supplied, which he got from Ryrie. Beyond that, I'm sure he imposes the "division" aspect of it that is prevalent in several posts here.

    The spectrum of dispensationalism is wide. But the necessary definition is really a bit vague in specifics. It can include many perspectives within the distinction asserted between the church and Israel. And it is evident that much of what passes for dispensationalism denies much of what was classic about it 100 years ago. Often, it is apparent, what is argued against here is the more classic form, which was rightfully denied about 40 years ago. The start contrast between the two became less of a chasm and of a continuous distinction based on differences in spiritual/eternal and physical/land promises.
    I highly recommend reading chapters 6 & 7 of Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism. It will help alleviate much that is misunderstood regarding this matter. And, interestingly, the perspective becomes more centered on the kingdom of God as one continues digging. What is already and what is not yet?

    So, is dispensationalism orthodox? I suppose it depends upon whether or not seeing a distinction between Israel and the church can be considered orthodox. As much as many hate to admit it, this perspective is not new, nor is it only found within dispensationalism. The debate has been discussed recently here on the PB. So, is it? And who is to decide?
  14. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Joe, the point of his definition is to stop the dispensationalists from interjecting other definitions into dispensationalism which don't belong exclusively to dispensationalism. Notice that Ryrie places "A consistently literal intrepretation of Scripture, and 3) God's primary purpose is to glorify Himself" in the definition of dispensationalism which is inaccurate to do. Dispensationalists surely believe this as Christians but it isn't what defines dispensationalism. So when I say that nothing about dispensationalism is orthodoxy I'm not saying that "A consistently literal intrepretation of Scripture, and 3) God's primary purpose is to glorify Himself" is unorthodoxy because those two definitions belong to the Christian faith not to dispensationalism, not to OPC, not to Baptists, etc. Matthison states that the only accurate part of Ryrie's definition of dispensationalism is "The only one of Ryrie's three distinctives of dispensationalism that has always been acknowledged as true is the distinction between Israel and the church. The particular dispensationalist understanding of this distinction is the heart of that system of theology. Dispensationalism may, therefore, be defined as that system of theology which sees a fundamental distinction between Israel and the church." This has been my stance from the beginning.
  15. Baptist-1689er

    Baptist-1689er Puritan Board Freshman

    A question. Isn't it true that the view of a future conversion of a great host of ethnic Israel at the Second Advent was held by a number of prominent reformed teachers through the years? At issue is whether their conversion is seen as placing them in the church. If they are a separate people of God outside the church, then dispensationalism is in fact dividing the people of God.
  16. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Thanks Sarah. That is clear. Again, there is a major difference between dividing and seeing a distinction. Hamp seems to have grasped the significance of this; which is what the whole discussion probably boils down to.

    Dispensationalism does not necessitate either perspective. Both perspectives fall within the confines of its definition. That is part of the challenge of discerning its orthodoxy. In fact, I would propose that dispensationalism cannot be narrowed enough to correctly assert whether if is orthodox or not. On that alone, perhaps it's best to say it isn't because of it's lack of definition; though many dispensationalists may be.
  17. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Let me share with you my concern about origins & why I relate them to doctrine. It states clearly in Acts 20 that people will arise from amongst us and distort the truth. When someone tries to introduce a "new truth", it can almost be guaranteed a distortion. The truths about Christ and redemption have all been laid out in scripture (as much as God wants revealed to us). Why even entertain these so called "new truths" when people try to circulate them. A good modern example of people trying to introduce "new truth" are the NAR (Wagner, Pierce, Jacobs, Sheets and the like) and the WoF crowd (Kenyon, Hagin,Crouch,Copeland and the like). It's exhausting to refute every point of error. It is simpler to look at the origin and not waste much time analyzing the whole thing.

    Also, I would trust Holman BD before Wiki.
  18. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    I didn't hold Wiki as my source. I simply pointed out that even they (whoever "they" are) see the error and irresponsibility of what's been postulated in regard to the origins of dispensationalism. It discredits one's assertions when they rely on such disinformation. It's also why I mentioned that there is plenty to point out that's wrong about Darby and Scoffield's teaching to bother with such tenuous (graciously) assertions. One careful read of MacPherson's book shows how he jumps to conclusions and makes assertions in light of his perspective rather than sound evidence. I'd be interested in knowing Holman's source of information. It would be a surprise if it's not MacPherson.
    However, in light of what's happened in dispensationalism and its current distance from Darby and Scoffield, I don't know that it's entirely relevant to site the origins anyway.

  19. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    are my posts showing? (lol)
  20. PastorTim

    PastorTim Puritan Board Freshman

    "and Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom,..." Matt 4:23

    Is denying this kingdom a denial of this gospel?
  21. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Yes....I think there were 3 volleyballs on the court simultaneously:)
  22. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi


    Yea, I commented on your observations Adam.

  23. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    The dispensationalism I know does indeed see Israel and The Church as two people groups. Now, and in eternity.
  24. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Haven't we been down this road before?
  25. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    After denying that recognizing dispensations is part of the sine qua non of dispensationalism, along with premillennialism, Ryrie has typically been cited as the definitive spokesperson for the definition of dispensational hermeneutics. In his book of the same title, he says:

  26. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, Dennis, this is the sort of dribble that I have read when I studied dispensationalism. It's always good to read this doctrine from the horse's mouth. Ryrie lays out plainly why I very much disagree with dispensationalism. I'm not sure why he can't read his own writings and sees the horridness of it all.
  27. Calvin'scuz

    Calvin'scuz Puritan Board Freshman

    The Dispensational's explanation of the animal sacrifices at the rebuilt temple are as a memorial to Christ's sacrifice at Calvary...which is wierd in itself since the Ezekiel passage it comes from says the sacrifices are for sin. Plus, if Christ is physically present in Jerusalem (as they believe will be the case during the millennium) - physically sitting on the throne of David (wounds and all) - why is there any need for memorial animal sacrifices...especially for sin? What happened to once for all? As a matter of fact, why do we even need the Temple if Christ is present? The thing that irks me the most about Dispensational's is their arrogant ignorance. Most know nothing of any other eschatological viewpoint. If it ain't in the Left Behind series, it's heresy. I even have a Dispensational friend whose belief that animals go to heaven is solely based on the fact that Revelation speaks of Christ riding on a horse. Talk about "literal!" YIKES!!:eek:
  28. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    I've heard all of that before Jim, frequently.
  29. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Thanks Dennis. The quote is helpful. We must guard ourselves from seeing this as a division in a soteriological sense though, which is implied in statements accusing dispensationalism of "dividing God's people." Dispensationalism neither necessitates more than one means of salvation nor more than one group who is saved. In the same book Ryrie asserts,
    The positive teaching of dispensational writers is that salvation is always through God's grace. Chafer asserted this position clearly:
    Are there two ways by which one may be saved? In reply to this question it may be stated that salvation of whatever specific character is always the work of God in behalf of man and never a work of man in behalf of God. This is to assert that God never saved any one person or group of persons on any other ground than that righteous freedom to do so which the Cross of Christ secured. There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.​
    In the latter years of his life Chafer was charged with teaching "various plans of salvation for various groups in various ages" by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. In reply to the charge Chafer asserted in no uncertain terms,
    The Editor has never held such views and... he yields first lace to no man in contending that a holy God can deal with sin in any age on any other ground than that of the blood of Christ. The references cited by the Committee from the Editor's writing have no bearing on salvation whatever, but concern the rule of life which God has given to govern His peole in the world. He has addressed a rule of life on the ground that they are His covenant people. Observing the rule of life did not make them covenant people.​
    ... William Pettingill, another older dispensationalist, also declared clearly, "Salvation has always been, as it is now, purely a gift of God in response to faith. The dispensational tests served to show man's utter helplessness, in order to bring him to faith, that he might be saved by grace through faith plus nothing."
    The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations. It is this last point, of course, that distinguishes dispensationalism from covenant theology, but it is not a point to which the charge of teaching two ways of salvation can be attached. It simply recognizes the obvious fact of progressive revelation. When Adam looked upon the coats of skins with which God had clothed him and his wife, he did not see what the believer today sees looking back on the cross of Calvary.
    The charge of the covenant theologian that dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation is often based on what he thinks ought to be the logical teaching of dispensationalism rather than what is the actual teaching of dispensationalism. It is a charge that arises partly from the antithetical nature of the Mosaic period and the period of grace and truth through Jesus Christ. However much a the covenant theologian might wish to put every dealing of God into the straitjacket of his covenant of grace, he himself admits taht there is an antithetical dealing of God in the administration of the law. Whereas dispensationalists may have overemphasized the differences between law and grace, the covenant man has failed even to admit differences.
    If by "ways" of salvation is meant different content of faith, then dispensationalism does teach various "ways" because the Scriptures reveal differing contents for faith in the progressive nature of God's revelation to mankind. But if by "ways" is meant more than one basis or means of salvation, then dispensationalism most emphatically does not teach more than one way, for salvation has been, is, and always will be based on the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.
    If the dispensational emphasis on the distinctiveness of the church seems to result in a "dichotomy," let it stand as long as it is a result of literal, historicl-grammatical interpretation. There is nothing wrong with God's having a purpose for Israel and a purpose for the church and letting these two purposes stand together within His overall plan. After all, God has a purpose for angels, for the unsaved, and for nations that are different from His purposes for Israel and the church. Yet no antidispensationalist worries about a "dichotomy" there. The unifying principle of Scripture is the glory of God as revealed in the variegated purposes revealed and yet to be revealed. To pick out one of these purposes and force everything else into its mold is to warp the revelation of God. That is the error of the nondispensationalist.

    pp. 107-142​
    I am not proposing that all of this is biblically accurate. However it is good to let Ryrie speak for himself. Now, as I was going back over this, I found something rather confusing. It is possible that Ryrie does indeed divide God's people. I hate to admit it, because I had not seen this before. And, I'm not sure that, in light of the quotes above, he is actually stating so. But, though he obviously sees salvation as only through Christ, he may be revealing a perspective that divides God's people in this statement. And it would be dishonest of me not to include it in light of our discussion.
    The redeemed in the Body of Christ, the church of this dispensation, are the continuation of the line of redeemed from other ages, but they form a distinct group in the heavenly Zion (Heb. 12:22-24).

    p 142​
    So, is he dividing God's people? Perhaps. Is this necessary for dispensationalism? I still don't think so. Is this the straw between progressive and Ryrie's dispensationalism? I don't know. But, at the very least, I am left with at least a doubt of the eternal nature of the church as seen through the eyes of Ryrie. Am I shaken? Not in the least. My views remain the same. But my understanding of Ryrie's dispensationalism does not.

    I commend his Plea, chapter 12, to everyone.

  30. kevin.carroll

    kevin.carroll Puritan Board Junior

    My dumb email notifications never work, so I did not realize you had replied. The answer to your question is, I kid you not, there are two aspects to the Second Coming: the Rapture and the Return.

    Again, I used to scratch my head and say, "Uh, aren't we literalists?"
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