Archive for the ‘dispensationalism’ Category

Francis Schaeffer’s paedobaptist covenant premillennialism appears to be rarely held today, although apparently it was commonly held among the Bible Presbyterians and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), both of which he ministered in during his career.

The following is Schaeffer’s view in a nutshell and basically explains why he takes prophecy “literally” but why he wasn’t a dispensationalist even though he was a pre-tribulationist. It is from the second half of the message on the Covenant of Grace in the Westminster Confession of Faith series that was taught at L’Abri in the early 1960s. (This series includes the sermon from which his little book on Baptism was drawn.)

This is basically an introduction to a series of messages on the Abrahamic Covenant in which he emphasizes what he terms the unity and diversity of the covenant. This transcription is very lightly edited to remove repetition, etc. My apologies for any grammatical errors.

We have here two halves in the first three verses of the Abrahamic Covenant. [He then quotes Gen 12:1-3.]

Here we have two halves and we must not get the two halves confused. There is a national, natural promise here to the natural seed of Abraham who are the Jews. But there is also the spiritual portion. The Covenant of Grace is operating here. The Covenant to Noah is under the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant to Abraham is under the Covenant of Grace. It is not aside from the Covenant of Grace. It is a part and a portion of the Covenant of Grace.

What you have is the two halves given. There is the half that deals with the Jews as the Jews, a nation. And I would say that Romans makes very plain that God is not done with the Jews. This portion of the covenant still stands. As a matter of fact, I would say immediately that if it doesn’t stand, then we cannot trust God, because he says in reference to his covenant to the Jews, as Paul is speaking to the Jews concerning national, natural Israel, his brethren according to the flesh, he says “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He’s talking about the national, natural portion of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Jews as Jews. But we mustn’t forget that that isn’t all there is to it. There is a spiritual portion, a spiritual and personal element that is shown here: Looking forward to the coming of Messiah and an individual’s partaking in personally in it.

Those who tend to take the amillennial position tend to lose the diversity of this and confuse the national, natural portion with the spiritual portion. But there are many many people today who make the opposite mistake. And that is that they lose the unity, the failure to understand the total unity of the Covenant of Grace from the promise of Gen 3:15 onward, including the fact that there is a unity to those of us who are born again, now on this side of the cross, a unity with these promises, the spiritual side of the promises made to Abraham. Let us not lose the diversity. There is a difference between the promise made to the nation of the Jews as Jews and the spiritual portion, but let us equally beware of losing the unity, There is a unity to the Covenant of Grace. To say in passing, this is the reason I am not a dispensationalist. There is a unity.


Read Full Post »

With regard to prophetic sensationalism among premillennialists, Dr. Robert Duncan Culver (not strictly a dispensationalist, but an ardent premillennialist nonetheless) relates the following:

Unfortunately, the most grievous wounds to millennial faith have been inflicted by overzealous and sensationalist advocates among writers and preachers. As the good prophet in Zechariah 13 explains, his trauma is from “wounds . . . with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” This has been going on as long as I have been alive [1916-  ed. note] and continues unabated. These well meaning, and I think incautious people, make the millennium vehicle for far more doctrinal freight than the biblical undercarriage was engineered to carry. Some recent “evangelical” fiction has carried this to grievous extremes in my opinion. These self-inflicted wounds by premillenarians may explain, in part at least, why presently literal interpretation of biblical predictions of a future reign of Christ on earth has been under severe attack from many quarters. As a matter of personal observation these excesses have certainly caused some to renounce chiliastic teachings and prevented others from accepting them.

Robert Duncan Culver, The Earthly Reign of Our Lord With His People, p. 7 (Third revised edition of Daniel and the Latter Days.)

Read Full Post »

Approximately 20 years ago when the Lordship Salvation controversy was raging, John MacArthur referred to himself as a “leaky dispensationalist.”  It seems that this was largely in response to allegations by dispensationalists that he was in danger of  abandoning dispensationalism in favor of Reformed theology. The accusation went beyond an affirmation by MacArthur of all five points of Calvinism, which I think he had yet to affirm at that point.  Largely the accusations centered around an embrace on the part of MacArthur of what was considered a more Reformed understanding of discipleship.  (James Montgomery Boice also inveighed against what he called “The Dallas teaching” around the same time, although he had abandoned dispensationalism some years previously.)

Through the years it seems there has been some of confusion about what this “leaky dispensationalism” means, especially on the part of those who really aren’t that familiar with Dr. MacArthur.  But evidently what is meant by the term is that, unlike their opponents in the Lordship debate, MacArthur, his associates and proteges (i.e. The Masters Seminary) believe that dispensationalism merely deals with ecclesiology and eschatology and does not impact soteriology, etc.  Thus, they rejected the teaching of traditional dispensationalism (and Dallas Theological Seminary in particular) with regard to sanctification and perhaps other issues.  With regard to ecclesiology and eschatology, I don’t see much difference between their views and those of more traditional dispensationalists with the exception of their lack of emphasis and/or abandonment of the concept of seven dispensations.

This was brought home for me in a recent series of posts on the Cripplegate blog as well as a message at the 2012 Shepherd’s Conference by Jesse Johnson.  The message addressed Ray Comfort’s “Way of the Master” evangelistic method.  (That’s something I’m not going to get into here.)  But along the way, they lay out their view on the law.

Given the theological commitments of these men, holding the view of the law that they do is not surprising.  But must admit that I was astonished by the assertion by Mike Riccardi that Tom Schreiner and Douglas Moo are covenant theologians!    I’m sure they would be surprised to learn that they are covenantal!  If it were not for that, I probably would not have been inclined to respond at all.

Here is the response I posted to the comments linked above:


I’ve enjoyed many of your posts in the past and have benefited from many of the posts on The Cripplegate by other authors as well. And I recognize, as I’m sure all do, that the text of Scripture is what really matters. I’ve long thought that the practice of tossing out labels is often a way for one to dismiss someone without reckoning with his arguments, whether it be due to unwillingness or inability. But, when accurately used, labels can simply be a convenient way to note the basic outlines of a disagreement or controversy that has been going on for generations. If the dispensational label here is illegitimate then shall we abandon the use of labels like Arminian as well?

Tom Schreiner is not a covenant theologian. That is, unless you’re operating from a point of view that consigns all non-dispensational theologians to the covenantal camp. Doug Moo is also not a covenantalist. One need look no further than his essay against covenantalism’s view of the law in “Continuity and Discontinuity” to see that. Besides this, both of them reject the idea of “one covenant of grace with two administrations” and perhaps other things that covenantalists usually teach with regard to theological covenants that they infer from the Scriptures.

No covenant theologian could agree with Schreiner’s view of the law. The threefold division of the law and the perpetuity of the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments (and the believer being under them as a rule of life i.e. the Third Use of the Law) is one of the hallmarks of Reformed covenant theology. Were one to compare Schreiner’s teaching on the law with that of the Westminster Standards or any other detailed Reformed confession or systematic theology of that general persuasion, (including covenantal Baptist ones) the differences are very clear.

While I’m not sure whether or not he would accept the label since there’s still no consensus on what exactly it is, (as opposed to what it opposes) Dr. Schreiner is closer to New Covenant Theology than he is to either dispensationalism or covenantalism. NCT’s position on the law (all flavors of NCT in this case) is much closer to that of dispensationalism than the essentially covenantal view that is being criticized in this series of posts. Now, NCT and related views do typically state that the Church is the “New Israel” and often does so in less nuanced ways than many CT’s have done. But NCT’s (and Schreiner’s) view of the moral law is about as far from CT as the east is from the west. A reaction against CT’s view of the moral law was the primary impetus behind the development of NCT in the first place.

Through the years, I’ve noticed a tendency for more traditional dispensationalists to place anyone who disagrees with them on things like pre-trib and related teachings into the covenantal camp. You see the same thing with many covenantalists doing the reverse, consigning men like Schreiner and Moo into the dispensational camp because of their views on the law and a rejection of their understanding of the covenant of grace. In this case, for you to assert that Schreiner and Moo are covenantal when they are anything but suggests to me a rather narrow dispensational orientation (and perhaps, education) that has more of an impact on your thinking than you may realize.

A few years ago I defended The Masters Seminary (TMS) against some young Reformed men who appeared to reject dispensationalism for superficial reasons.  But I must say if this is in any way representative, then those who have left the school asserting that the education there is excessively one-sided and perhaps superficial with regard to the examination of other views may have a point. Admittedly I am only looking on from afar.  I hasten to add that it appears that TMS (and MacArthur in general) have done very good work in training pastors in expository preaching as well as emphasizing Biblical counseling.

The Executive Director of Grace to You, (and renowned blogger) Phil Johnson, does accept the threefold division of the law.  But he has been significantly impacted by Spurgeon, (which may account for the difference?) and has noted in the past that he is not affiliated with TMS in any direct way.

Read Full Post »

Master’s Seminary Professor Michael Vlach is now blogging.  Thus far he has 20 posts on the NT use of the OT, from what is perhaps best classified as a Progressive Dispensational point of view.  I’m still working through some of these issues (albeit very slowly of late) but I always find Dr. Vlach’s writing to be helpful.

Due to more pressing concerns, I haven’t posted here in ages and haven’t been reading many other blogs either.  (Somehow, I have even managed to avoid comment in the Rob Bell controversy!)  I am hoping, however, to start blogging more regularly soon, perhaps with more of a focus on book reviews.

Read Full Post »

Has the Church Replaced Israel?  A Theological Evaluation by Master’s Seminary Professor Dr. Michael Vlach is now available for pre-order from Amazon.  It is set for release on Oct. 1 and is published by B&H Academic. According to the product description the book seeks to answer the following question:  “Does the church replace, supersede, or fulfill the nation of Israel in God’s plan, or will Israel be saved and restored with a unique identity and role?”  It appears this book may be a good complement to Barry Horner’s Future Israel, which was previously published by B&H Academic.

Previously I had reviewed Dr. Vlach’s Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths.  As this is an ongoing area of study of mine, I definitely plan on getting this book!

Read Full Post »

About a year or so ago, a group calling itself the Nicene Council (made up largely of partial preterists) issued a statement under the name The Ninety-Five Theses Against Dispensationalism.  While their aim is true in some cases, overall the statement merely reiterates the myths and misunderstandings about dispensationalism that Dr. Michael Vlach dispelled in his little book that I reviewed last year.

Dispensationalism has always been a despised system, and it appears to be at a low ebb today among academics and younger pastors.  This is at least in part due to the resurgence of Calvinism that we have seen over the past fifty years, and especially in the past few decades.  (Overall I regard this as a welcome phenomenon.)  No doubt the antics of some popular dispensationalists haven’t helped matters.  As I had noted previously, it seems that some have simply dismissed dispensational and premillennial views in general on that basis alone.  This is often coupled with the perception that dispensational views made a relatively late appearance in church history.

Dr. Paul Henebury is attempting to remedy this, although he admits to being a somewhat reluctant defender of normative or classical dispensationalism.  (With that I can identify!  I’m not sure whether I’m a dispensationalist at all at this point, or at any rate don’t find the name to be particularly helpful.)  Dr. Henebury has just concluded a series of posts Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism that I believe will be of interest to both friends and foes of dispensationalism.

Read Full Post »

Note:  The following is an edit of a comment I left on SBC Impact, and to some degree it still reflects that context.  Rather than see it buried in an old thread, I thought it best to post the main points here.

Too often with discussions in which eschatology is the subject, opposing views are badly misrepresented, whether it is pretribulationists arguing that all other views are liberal or those with other views charging dispensationalists with heresy. The responsible practice of one sincerely seeking the truth is to read primary sources to better understand the various views, and not to simply rely on polemical works by those with whom one is already inclined to agree, although those works can sometimes be quite useful.  If you want to know what pretribulationists teach, read Ryrie, McClain, Saucy, MacArthur, Bock, Blaising etc.  For historic premillennialism (i.e. non pretrib) read George Eldon Ladd, Russell Moore and also C.H. Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle and Horatius Bonar.  For amil, read Venema, Hoekema, Poythress, Riddlebarger, Gaffin, O.P. Robertson, etc. For theonomic postmillennialism, read Bahnsen and Rushdoony. For partial preterism read Sproul and DeMar.  Of course, THE primary source is the Bible itself.

Despite what one might gather from anti-dispensationalist diatribes, every pretribulationist doesn’t agree with every jot and tittle of the Scofield Reference Bible. Also, Progressive Dispensationalists aren’t the only ones who have attempted to make some modifications to their eschatological viewpoint. Dr. Russell Moore notes in The Kingdom of Christ that there has been just as much movement on the part of several recent covenantal amillennialists as there has been by progressive dispensationalists.  Also, the historic premillennialism of George Ladd has some significant differences with the older historic (or covenantal) premils like Spurgeon, Ryle and Bonar.  Yet, it is often assumed that Ladd’s views are representative of older non-dispensational premils.  Theonomic postmillennialism has important differences with the historic Reformed or Puritan view.  Yet pretribulationists are alternately charged with being Scofield clones or are dismissed because modifications and clarifications have been made to dispensationalism since Scofield and Chafer, even though all of the other views have also seen attempts to varying degrees at further development, revision or modification in recent years.

The charge that dispensationalism is a new teaching and therefore to be rejected is often repeated. Ironically some today evidently fail to recognize that their own views, when taken in their totality, often represent a position that is of more recent vintage than dispensationalism. I’m thinking particularly of inaugurated eschatology with its already/not yet emphasis, which is largely a 20th century phenomenon that draws from Ladd in particular as well as other sources. If Ladd’s conception of the Kingdom of God is the only legitimate view, (as some have argued) then there are a lot of other figures in church history that flunk that test as well, including most amils prior to Hoekema, most premils prior to Ladd, as well as postmillennialism, which was the predominant view prior to the 20th Century.  I also find it interesting that many who point to Ladd’s eschatological views as being the way forward also often fail to note his abandonment of inerrancy and to reckon with whether his treatment of OT prophecy was a factor.

The charge of novelty can obviously also be brought against continuationism, particularly with regard to tongues or what has been termed a private prayer language in recent SBC controversies.

Another example is New Covenant Theology in its various manifestations, which is so recent that it arguably does not have a definitive expression or definition beyond being both non-covenantal and non-dispensational. If you are baptistic, non-dispensational and yet do not hold to covenant theology complete with Sabbatarianism as taught in historic confessions like the 1689 London Baptist Confession, the New Hampshire Confession and the 1925 and 1963 versions of the Baptist Faith and Message, you hold to a view that is quite recent, although I realize that exceptions here and there could be named through the years.   (As for covenant theology, given the 2000 years of church history, it is a post-reformation development that does not predate dispensationalism by very much.)

Of course, pointing out that a strong case can be made that the above views can be demonstrated to be more novel than dispensationalism proves little if anything with regard to whether or not they are biblical. The point is that it is folly to simply note that a teaching appears to be novel and just dismiss it out of hand the way that so many attempt to do with dispensationalism. Likewise, it is hardly responsible to simply point to someone on the lunatic fringe, however popular they may be, and thereby dismiss the camp with which they are identified. Recently I was taken aback when a young scholar posted on his blog that he abandoned dispensationalism after seeing an episode of Jack Van Impe’s show. If that’s reason enough to bail, then should amils abandon their view because of Harold Camping’s rantings or because it is the predominant view among many neo-orthodox and liberal scholars who reject the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture?  Should continuationists abandon their view when confronted with faith healers, the Word of Faith “prosperity gospel,” “Holy Laughter” and those who have taught that speaking in tongues is necessary to be saved?  Should non-dispensationalists abandon their identification of Israel with the church because it has often served as the justification for anti-Semitism?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »