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  #1  
Unread 6th November 2004, 05:52 PM
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Dispensationalism Defined: Is this correct?

I've been struggling with defining what Dispensationalists are, and this is what I've come up with so far.

Its no easy task, since depending on the argument, it can be as broad as Lewis S. Chafer's definition: ‘‘Any person is a dispensationalist who trusts the blood of Christ rather than bringing an animal sacrifice and any person is a dispensationalist who observes the first day of the week rather than the seventh.’’

Chuck that definition away - too broad as it includes almost everyone.

Firstly what it is not: It is not someone who believes that God has different ways of relating to humanity at different times. As this is also too broad. Evidently the OT is different from the NT, so that can't be it either.

A correcter definition is the interpretation of these different "dispensational eras" is markedly different from other theologies. Not quite sure how yet, but its bound up in the way that prophesy is interpreted.

I think that dispensationalism says Israel is not a forerunner of the Christian church, they are separate peoples and have separate roles and destinies.

To the Jews are earthly objectives to be fulfilled on earth, to the church are heavenly objectives, to be fulfilled "spiritually".

This means that all prophesies that concern Israel must be fulfilled physically on earth for Israel (but may also, not instead of, be fulfilled spiritually by the church). Consequently, there is a strong forward looking premillenial emphasis that looks forward to the time of prophesy fulfilment for Israel (since it clearly hasn't yet been fulfilled physically). According to dispensationalists, at no time does any prophesy given to Israel gain its fulfilment in the church.

Further, historical passages are always what literally took place in the past, physically, for Israel.

During the "Church Age", or "Dispensation of Grace", God's earthly, Jewish objectives are put aside temporarily and then continued only when the church is raptured. OT prophesy cannot be fulfilled during this age, because literal fulfilment concerns Israel, and Israel is temporarily sidelined.

So an application of this idea runs like this:

Take



Joel 2
28 "And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD .
32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the LORD will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the LORD has said,
among the survivors
whom the LORD calls.
And its NT interpretation:




Acts 2: 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17" 'In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
To a non-dispensationalist, this seems to say clearly that Joel's prophesy has been fulfilled in the church. But not to a dispensationalist, who distinquishes between the last days for the church (between Christ and the rapture) and the last days for Israel (between rapture and judgement - the "Kingdom Age"). Now Peter is clearly applying the passage to the church, but to in order to make it fit with dispensationalism, the prophesy needed to be bifurcated into a dual meaning, with Peter's application typically termed an "application" or "partial fulfilment" with the literal fulfilment concerning Israel being termed the "Greater fulfilment".

How am I going so far?
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  #2  
Unread 6th November 2004, 07:26 PM
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Hi gnine,

Originally Posted by gnine
A correcter definition is the interpretation of these different "dispensational eras" is markedly different from other theologies. Not quite sure how yet, but its bound up in the way that prophesy is interpreted.
One key factor in interpretation is that dispensationalists place a heavier emphasis on progressive revelation.

Originally Posted by gnine
I think that dispensationalism says Israel is not a forerunner of the Christian church, they are separate peoples and have separate roles and destinies.
By far the majority of dispensationalists today acknowledge there is some overlap between Israel and the church. Peter and Paul were both of Israel and members of the Church. This also applies to all believing ethnic Jews throughout history. Also, the "separate" destiny between Israel and the church is not eternal - it only lasts until the end of the millennial reign. So IMO a more accurate word to describe the differences between Israel and the church is "distinct" rather than "separate."

Originally Posted by gnine
To the Jews are earthly objectives to be fulfilled on earth, to the church are heavenly objectives, to be fulfilled "spiritually".

This means that all prophesies that concern Israel must be fulfilled physically on earth for Israel (but may also, not instead of, be fulfilled spiritually by the church). Consequently, there is a strong forward looking premillenial emphasis that looks forward to the time of prophesy fulfilment for Israel (since it clearly hasn't yet been fulfilled physically). According to dispensationalists, at no time does any prophesy given to Israel gain its fulfilment in the church.
The earthly/heavenly duality might have described the approach some took in an earlier period of dispensational history, but it definitely took a backseat to the emphasis on "literal" interpretation. Today this "literal" interpretation has expanded to mean the historical-grammatical-literary interpretation of Scripture.

Dispensationalists therefore study the covenant promises in their original context - to whom each covenant was given, when it was given, and its implications. For example, the original context shows the New Covenant was specifically given to the house of Judah and the house of Israel. Dispensationalists do not "backread" Gentiles into the original recepients. Most say it wasn't until Acts 10-11 that this New Covenant was first extended to the Gentiles.

Originally Posted by gnine
During the "Church Age", or "Dispensation of Grace", God's earthly, Jewish objectives are put aside temporarily and then continued only when the church is raptured. OT prophesy cannot be fulfilled during this age, because literal fulfilment concerns Israel, and Israel is temporarily sidelined.
Many traditional dispensationalists do see this present dispensation as an intercalation or parenthesis. Progressive dispensationalists however do not, we view the present dispensation as an important link between previous dispensations and the future. Progressives view the New Covenant as having been inaugurated at the Last supper with an "already-but not yet" aspect of fulfillment to it.


Originally Posted by gnine
To a non-dispensationalist, this seems to say clearly that Joel's prophesy has been fulfilled in the church. But not to a dispensationalist, who distinquishes between the last days for the church (between Christ and the rapture) and the last days for Israel (between rapture and judgement - the "Kingdom Age"). Now Peter is clearly applying the passage to the church, but to in order to make it fit with dispensationalism, the prophesy needed to be bifurcated into a dual meaning, with Peter's application typically termed an "application" or "partial fulfilment" with the literal fulfilment concerning Israel being termed the "Greater fulfilment".
One key difference in interpretation of this quote is the emphasis of which part. Dispensationalists note that Peter's quote also included the wonders/signs "before the coming of the day of the Lord." That event - the second coming - has not happened yet. Traditional dispensationalists typically emphasize an "all-or-nothing" approach to fulfillment, so they argue that Peter applied the first half of the passage to the day of Pentecost. Scripture application is different than fulfillment, application can be repeated while fulfillment is complete: in Joel's passage the fulfillment is yet future. Progressive dispensationalists argue that the language Peter used (i.e., this is what was spoken...) is fulfillment language, and note that Peter slightly altered the wording of Joel as well. We argue for an "already-not yet" fulfillment aspect to the passage.


Originally Posted by gnine
How am I going so far?
I think you're doing very well in your attempt to tackle a difficult subject!


Lamorak Des Galis
  #3  
Unread 6th November 2004, 11:46 PM
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Hi gnine,

Here is a good introduction to dispensationalism. Others who read it may finally get an idea of what dispensationalism is about.

(Direct Quote: Introduction, "Dispensational Theology", Calvary Baptist Seminary)

In evangelical protestant circles, the two basic approaches to systematic Bible study and theology are the covenant and dispensational schools of thought. A controversy between their proponents exists because the schools begin with the two different sets of presuppositions.

The covenant theologian sees God's revelation and man's history as an outworking of God's redemptive purposes for mankind, especially through Israel. It adopts the word "covenant" from the Bible but uses it in a different time framework than those covenants recorded through the Old and New Testaments. It chooses, overall, a less literal approach to Scripture interpretation, and makes no clear distinction between the Israel of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament.

Dispensationalism is an approach to theology and the Bible that is based on dividing history into "dispensations" or "economies" which are seen as different phases of God's progressive revelation. The word comes form the Greek oikonomeo and its derivatives, which are found about twenty times in the New Testament and refer to the management or regulation of a household. When used of God, the word means God's sovereign plan for the world (see Lk 16:1-2, Eph 1:10, 3:2, 9; and Col 1:25).

The dispensational theologian sees God's revelation and man's history as a demonstration of God's graciousness, with God's main purpose being to glorify Himself rather than just redeem man. It chooses a much more literal interpretation of Scriptures, and makes the clearest of distinctions between Israel and the church.

This is not just an academic exercise carried out by obscure theologians. Some great practical implications are at stake. Both eschatology (study of prophecy, end times) and ecclesiology (study of the church) are brought into question.


(End quote: bolding added)
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Unread 9th November 2004, 05:43 AM
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Thanks for those answers, I'll certainly continue my study and post any further questions.

What is driving this study of mine is an effort to unify the OT and the NT into a common theme of redemption - a challenge indeed.

Whilst I am uncomfortable with the covenant theologians tendency to tear verses that seem addressed to the nation of Israel out of their context and apply them to the church today, I'm equally uncomfortable with dispensationalist thoughts that may do away with important biblical teaching on the basis that its not relevant to Christians today. The question is... how do I tell which is which?

I'm not a frequent poster, so it could be weeks or months before I continue this thread. Thanks for your patience.

g
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Unread 9th November 2004, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by gnine
What is driving this study of mine is an effort to unify the OT and the NT into a common theme of redemption - a challenge indeed.

Whilst I am uncomfortable with the covenant theologians tendency to tear verses that seem addressed to the nation of Israel out of their context and apply them to the church today, I'm equally uncomfortable with dispensationalist thoughts that may do away with important biblical teaching on the basis that its not relevant to Christians today. The question is... how do I tell which is which?
Both Covenant Theology and dispensationalism have far more variety and flexibility than what most people think. In the last 10-20 years the emphasis on Biblical exegesis has caused folks from each "side" to acknowledge Scripture context over standard "system" interpretations. There are Covenant Theologians today who now say the previous CT interpretation of Romans 11 was incorrect - that the passage does speak of a future for unbelieving Israel. Likewise, many dispensationalists now disagree with previous dispensation authors and believe the Sermon on the Mount does apply to Christians today. Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of disagreement on interpretation between Covenant Theologians and dispensationalists.

Ultimately it comes down to presuppositions, priorities, and emphases which one brings to the text. For CT, there is a high priority for the overall plan of redemption, the Covenant of Grace. As a consequence the continuities are emphasized - the church is typically "read back" into the OT through this lense. For dispensationalists, there is a high priority for progressive revelation. The discontinuities are emphasized more - a distinction is made between Israel and the church. This doesn't mean either side entirely rejects the emphases of the other. Dispensationalists do hold to a unified theme of redemption for both the OT and NT and refer to all the saved from all ages as "redeemed." Its just dispensationalists don't think this plan of redemption should override the discontinuities seen in the text. CTers also recognize progressive revelation, they just don't think progressive revelation should be given the high priority which dispensationalists give to it.


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Unread 9th November 2004, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by LamorakDesGalis
In the last 10-20 years the emphasis on Biblical exegesis has caused folks from each "side" to acknowledge Scripture context over standard "system" interpretations.
Thanks for your posts in this thread LamorakDesGalis. They help a lot in my understanding of the interaction between dispensationalists and CTs.

I hope that we can continue to emphasize exegesis and context and eventually abandon our dependency on both these system that I believe cloud good hermeneutics.
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Unread 9th November 2004, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Gold Dragon
I hope that we can continue to emphasize exegesis and context and eventually abandon our dependency on both these system that I believe cloud good hermeneutics.
How does dispensationalism cloud good hermeneutics?
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Unread 9th November 2004, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by BT
How does dispensationalism cloud good hermeneutics?
Post #40 in the opposition thread.
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Unread 9th November 2004, 01:09 PM
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Lol.
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Unread 9th November 2004, 09:01 PM
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To a non-dispensationalist, this seems to say clearly that Joel's prophesy has been fulfilled in the church. But not to a dispensationalist, who distinquishes between the last days for the church (between Christ and the rapture) and the last days for Israel (between rapture and judgement - the "Kingdom Age"). Now Peter is clearly applying the passage to the church, but to in order to make it fit with dispensationalism, the prophesy needed to be bifurcated into a dual meaning, with Peter's application typically termed an "application" or "partial fulfilment" with the literal fulfilment concerning Israel being termed the "Greater fulfilment".

How am I going so far?



You have pointed out that DFs will accept dogma over apostolic authority. Not a good plan for bible reading I reckon. But the gymnastics are fun to watch.
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