Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts on dispensationalism

We're in the middle of Vacation Bible School at church this week, and there's no possible way I'm going to find time to read and write a chapter review of The Courage to Be Protestant. I do plan to get back to our book club, but it will have to wait until next week.

Meanwhile, here's a good article by Matt Weymeyer on covenant theology versus dispensationalism. Theopedia defines "dispensationalism" as "a theological system that teaches biblical history is best understood in light of a number of successive administrations of God's dealings with mankind, which it calls 'dispensations.' It maintains fundamental distinctions between God's plans for national Israel and for the New Testament Church, and emphasizes prophecy of the end-times and a pre-tribulation rapture of the church prior to Christ's Second Coming." [Note: not all dispensationalists are pre-millenial and pre-tribulational, though perhaps most are.]

While the rapture and millennium are not first-order doctrines essential to the core of the gospel, dispensationalism is an important subject to grapple with because it provides an interpretive grid for the whole Scriptures. How you understand this subject will determine not only whether you believe in a millennium, but such things as how you interpret prophecy, how you apply OT law, how you view the church, and how you understand Christ's teaching on the kingdom of God. It really has far-reaching implications for Bible interpretation and application.


David said...

Interesting article.

I shared recently with a deacon regarding the law that we should always look for a natural reading of the text. We don't want to be "working" the Word with our own agenda's. I am afraid that's often what I do, since I approach any Scripture with my own theology. I am trying to learn to simply let God speak through the text.

And a rapture. . .

Stephen Jones said...

Yes, we must be careful not to approach a passage with theological presuppositions, and then simply fit that passage into our own agenda. Theology should not dictate exegesis. Rather, exegesis should dictate theology.

My seminary professor, Dr. Thomas, says in his booklet on Greek exegesis, "One cannot derive an accurate understanding of theology apart from a correct interpretation of the Bible. Hence, Systematic Theology must be based on Biblical Exegesis. The reverse cannot be true. Reversing the order can only result in a Systematic Theology tainted with subjective preferences and a Biblical Exegesis distorted by human prejudices."

As time goes on, however, our exegesis will gradually result in a theological system of either covenant theology or dispensationalism. This, in turn, will affect how we approach and understand the whole body of Scripture.