Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
I decided to reblog an article written here June 23, 2009, rather than start an entirely new series on Dispensationalism. This particular theological outlook is often castigated and denigrated, often due to mistaken understandings regarding it. I realize that this one article will change no one’s mind because many books and articles produced by others who hold to Dispensationalism change no one’s mind. Still, putting this out there again helps readers understand where we are coming from. While C. I. Scofield has been widely condemned by many, the truth is that he is often derided because of the unflattering (and often untrue), books and articles produced by today’s detractors. Their followers often parrot their verbiage and arguments in the same vitriolic and harmful manner. In short, there is no discussion, but simply targeted acrimony toward those who believe that God has revealed His plans and purposes in a growing developmental manner; progressively.
It seems clear enough from starting with Genesis through to Revelation, that as time passed, God revealed more of His plans to humanity. Even a cursory reading of His Word bears this truth out. The largest sticking point that many have with Dispensationalism is the accusation that it purports to believe one type of salvation for Israel (often, it is said to include some form of works), while for those who came after Jesus lived, died, and rose again, salvation became established through faith. If this is actually what normative Dispensationalism taught, it would certainly be worthy of full and outright rejection. However, normative Dispensationalism does not teach this. There are aspects of HyperDispensationalism that might teach this, just as there are hyper aspects of Calvinism that are also doctrinally aberrant. We don’t throw out all of Calvinism because some have a propensity to take it to the extreme, do we?
At any rate, a great deal could be said about Dispensationalism and quite a lot has been published on the subject. We present this here to help readers gain a greater understanding of problems associated with it. If it helps form better comprehension of it, so much the better. So that everyone is aware, we do not believe that any portion of Scripture ever teaches that salvation is gained by some form of works. We also do not believe that C. I. Scofield ever actually taught this and we address the problem in the text below.
The Problem with Dispensationalism?
(From June 23, 2009)
I’ve been doing a great deal of research for an upcoming book I’m writing concerning various views of Dispensationalism. What is absolutely amazing to me is how often people misrepresent not only aspects of Dispensationalism, but misunderstand what people like Ryrie, Chafer, Walvoord and of course Scofield and others have said.
I went to one site today and it was anti-Dispensational in many ways. However the most intriguing aspect of the site was when a line of text that connected to the cursor which said, “Premillennial Dispensationalism is a False Religion.” Wherever you moved the cursor, that line of text would follow.
I’m used to being referred to as a heretic, etc. However, if people really understood Dispensationalism, as opposed to commenting or critiquing it based on their misconceptions, there would be much less vitriol spewed from those who are opposed to Dispensationalism.
I’ve decided to take a few Blogs and post some of my thoughts regarding some of the misconceptions and misrepresentations that I’ve run across either in books or here on the ‘Net.
In this Blog, I’m going to take up the alleged problem regarding salvation as understood by Dispensationalism.
The specific charge is that Dispensationalism teaches two methods of salvation. This is based primarily on two things:
Regardless of how often Scofield’s note has been clarified, for some it just doesn’t matter. Dispensationalism is often accused of “hiding” its real meaning, under a blanket of subterfuge. Sadly, this is essentially the only note that Scofield wrote that was questionable. His entire body of work (not only in the remaining notes and articles found within the 1909 edition of the Scofield Study System Bible), but all told, clearly indicate Scofield’s believes regarding grace and salvation.
Ryrie has tried his hand at clarifying, as has Walvoord, as has Chafer and others, yet the deliberate failure to understand persists. This same situation exists regarding the Dispensation of Grace.
Because it is named thusly, it appears to say that no grace (or much less) was available in previous Dispensations. This is patently untrue. However, rather than present the same arguments that have been presented by others in attempts to help those with a lack of understanding understand, I’m going to try a different tack. I am going to take a quick look at Covenant Theology and see where we end up.
Covenant Theology has at its core, two specific covenants (some opt for three). They are:
It is also understood that theologians like Berkhof break these covenants down into subdivisions so that by the time he is done, there are actually four or five covenantal parts he relates to various aspects of Scripture.
Be that as it may, for the Covenant of Works, the belief is that Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden and given one rule. It was that rule that had to be obeyed. Failure to obey would cost them eternal life. Berkhof also states that though there is no explicitly stated reward (eternal life), it is implied in the covenant.
First of all, it is not universally agreed that this was a covenant at all. A conditional covenant (which is what Covenant Theology teaches), has TWO parties to the covenant. Also in a conditional covenant is such that BOTH parties are given the opportunity to agree or disagree. This is the case when Moses presented the aspects of the Law. In the book of Exodus 19-24, we see the entire process, which covers numerous chapters. It is essentially a ceremony and it ends with the opportunity of the Israelites to agree or disagree with the tenets of the covenant. They did so, and Moses sprinkled them with blood. The people had said “Everything the LORD has said we will do,” (Exodus 24:3b). Immediately after this, Moses wrote down everything the Lord had said. This clearly a covenant.
The situation with Adam and Eve was not a covenant, but simply a rule that God gave to Adam. It was no different from a parent setting down the rules for their child. A rule does not a covenant make.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Covenant Theology is correct and this was a Covenant of Works. In that case, according to Covenant Theology, Adam and Eve were required to earn their salvation. Did you catch that? Adam and Eve needed to gain salvation through their own work. Interestingly enough, this is the exact same charge that Covenant Theology directs at Dispensationalism; that Dispensationalism teaches two methods of salvation.
So the question really becomes whether or not Adam and Eve actually had to earn their salvation at all? Let’s see…Adam and Eve were given instructions about what to do in the garden, to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. They were also told what not to do, by avoiding eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The Covenant Theologian states that they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, and because of that, they lost their chance at eternal life. So because of their failed effort here, they lost out. It was truly based on work. Covenant theologians such as Berkhof and Shedd believe that this was a one of a kind test that required work on the part of Adam and Eve. Immediately after this, God instituted grace, from that point onward, which of course led up to the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However, if we look closely at Adam and Eve, I would submit that while they did disobey, the reason they disobeyed was due solely to their lack of belief. In other words, at first, they believed that God was truthful regarding the forbidden fruit. Their belief in His Word of truth kept them from transgressing His law. But this belief did not last.
Satan came along and gets them to doubt God’s stated Word. They caved in and wound up disbelieving God’s spoken Word. The One who had created all, and cannot lie, was now being called a Liar by Satan. This was believed by Adam and Eve. Because their belief was no longer based in God and His Word, the action of disobedience was simply a natural outworking of their lack of faith in God’s Word.
The sin of disobedience then, was the result of their lack of faith. James makes this clear in James 1:15 “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
Eve lusted after the fruit, then wound up following the desire that lust produced. The outward sin was a foregone conclusion, because it had begun within.
So in actuality, Dispensationalism believes that Adam and Eve sinned because the faith (or belief) they had in God had been questioned, and their allegiance changed from God to Satan. That was actually the sin and it went to its natural conclusion.
Yet, there is no doubt whatsoever that within Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Works is just that; salvation is based on human effort. After this, things changed so that grace became the essential principle since.
Because Dispensationalism chose the name the Dispensation of Grace for the time of Christ, it appears implicitly stated that grace was absent prior. This is not at all true, and all that is required is to read notes and articles in Scofield’s Study System Bible, as well as Chafer’s and Ryrie’s books on salvation, and grace. Beyond that, Chafer’s Systematic Theology makes it absolutely clear what his beliefs are regarding grace, and salvation.
In spite of the charges put forth by Covenant Theology, it would appear that two methods of salvation, are clearly taught within that system, as opposed to Dispensationalism, where salvation is gained solely by faith alone, not of works.
Dispensationalism does not, nor has it ever taught two methods of salvation.