Attn ridge or zealot...

Hey, I was skimming another thread and was wondering if one of you would define dispensationalism.

I looked it up in dictionary.com and found:

–noun the interpreting of history as a series of divine dispensations.

so what gives in your critiques? Clearly the Old and New Testament were 2 divine "dispensations".

w/in the OT, you have the age of innocence (edenic), the Noahic Age, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, etc. until we get to the New Covenant.

While grace, mercy, faith and obedience have always been required, the "medium" for this has been different.

(ie: don't eat the fruit, build a boat, get circumcised and leave your land, kill an unspotted lamb and smear the blood on your doorstop, etc.)

I'm not sure what exactly you mean by dispensationalism aside from this...which seems pretty self evident.

That's the most benign part of it but its still not biblical.   Covenant theology makes more sense.



Dispensationalism is the eschatological theory devised first of all by a heretical Jesuit priest (I forgot his name at the moment) and formulated by John Nelson Darby and other Plymouth Brethren.  Some of its teachings include the belief in a Rapture as a  separate event from the Second Coming of Jesus.  It also teaches a literal thousand year reign of Jesus on earth in the future (called Chiliasm which now that I think of it was named after that Jesuit priest I just mentioned).  It teaches that not only are there dispensations like the ones you noted above, but there is the "plan B" dispensation of the church because the Jews excepted Jesus and he couldn't rule at the time he was alive.  In other words, it teaches that the death of Jesus on the cross was accidental or the Messiah prophecies for the Jews would have been fulfilled in his life.  But instead all of that was put on hold and God decided to let some Gentiles into his plan via the church.



I think I have already explained some of the pernicious effects of this false heresy on modern churches.  It tends to breed an escapist view of things.  It teaches that Christ's kingdom is future rather than present so there is little impetus to make the Kingdom manifest now.  It shows a continuing favoritism of the Jews by God even after the Messiah is brought forth from their race.  It leads to unquestioned support of Israel.  It leads to a diminishing of the Church as the new Israel.  The Scofield reference Bible, which was the primary medium for spreading this heresy in the US, actually teaches that the words of Jesus do not apply to Christians (like the sermon on the mount) but were rather directed at the Jews of his time for their dispensation.  



Feel like you have not heard all of this before?  Well that's because most dispensationalists are not told about the history of this view but mainly focus on things like the Rapture.  Once you realize how it began and how it spread it becomes a very strong candidate for a "tradition of men" and a "doctrine of demons".  Note that it cropped up around the same time that Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Spiritism, and Christian Science were formulated. 



The sooner evangelicals/pentecostals dispense of this false teaching the better.

2. What is Dispensationalism?

Dispensationalism is a form of premillennialism originating among the Plymouth Brethren in the early 1830's. The father of dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby, educated as a lawyer and ordained Anglican priest, was one of the chief founders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, which arose in reaction against the perceived empty formalism of the Church of England. To the Brethren the true "invisible" church was to come out of the apostate "visible" Church, rejecting such forms as priesthood and sacraments.

 Dispensational theology centers upon the concept of God's dealings with mankind being divided into (usually) seven distinct economies or "dispensations", in which man is tested as to his obedience to the will of God as revealed under each dispensation.

 Dispensationalists see God as pursuing two distinct purposes throughout history, one related to an earthly goal and an earthly people (the Jews), the other to heavenly goals and a heavenly people (the church).1

 Dispensationalists believe that in the Old Testament God promised the Jewish people an earthly kingdom ruled by Messiah ben David, and that when Christ came He offered this prophesied kingdom to the Jews. When the Jews of the time rejected Christ and the earthly kingdom, the promise was postponed, and the "mystery form" of the kingdom - the church - was established.

 The church, according to dispensational doctrine, was unforeseen in the Old Testament and constitutes a "parenthesis" in God's plan for Israel. In the future, the distinction between Jew and Gentile will be reestablished and will continue throughout all eternity. The "parenthesis", or church age, will end at the rapture when Christ comes invisibly to take all believers (excepting OT saints) to heaven to celebrate the "marriage feast of the Lamb" with Christ for a period of seven years.2

 God's program for the Jews then resumes with the tribulation, Antichrist, bowls of wrath, 144,000 Jews preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and Armageddon. Then, the Second (third, if you count the preTrib rapture) Coming, the instantaneous conversion of the entire nation of Israel, the resurrection of the Tribulation and Old Testament saints, and the "sheep and goats" judgment. The "goats" will be cast into hell, the "sheep" and the believing Jews will enter the millennium in natural human bodies, marrying, reproducing, and dying. The "mystery church" and the resurrected Tribulation and Old Testament saints will live in the heavenly Jerusalem suspended above the earthly city. This millennium will be a time of great peace and prosperity, with Christ ruling on David's throne. After 1,000 yrs. Satan will be released from the chain with which he had been bound at the beginning of the millennium and many of the children born to the "sheep" and the Israelites will follow him in revolt against Christ. The King will again destroy His enemies, followed by another resurrection of the righteous, another resurrection of the unrighteous, a final judgment, and at last the New Heavens and the New Earth.

 Although premillennial thought has been recorded in the early church, dispensational theology and its pursuant eschatology are new, as even the father of the system admitted -

"I think we ought to have something more of direct testimony as to the lord's coming, and its bearing also on the state of the church: ordinarily, it would not be well to have it so clear, as it frightens people. We must pursue it steadily; it works like leaven, and its fruit is by no means seen yet; I do not mean leaven as ill, but the thoughts are new, and people's minds work on them, and all the old habits are against their feelings - all the gain of situation, and every worldly motive; we must not be surprised at its effect being slow on the mass, the ordinary instruments of acting upon others having been trained in most opposite habits." - LETTERS OF J.N.D., vol.1 pg.25-26

The new doctrine was widely accepted in America, due to popular prophetic meetings such as the Niagara Bible Conferences. C.I. Scofield promulgated dispensational thought in his Scofield Reference Bible. Dispensational Bible institutes by the hundreds have sprung up across the continent - notably Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary. Media evangelists such as Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, Jack Van Impe, and Hal Lindsey popularize dispensational eschatology today. Most likely you have heard these doctrines taught over Christian radio programs, and yes, from your own church's pulpit, though probably no one defined the theological system as dispensationalism nor the origination as Darby circa 1832.

 Dispensationalists view the teaching as a return to Biblical theology, after nearly 1,800 years of darkness. But, since the day Darby began to preach the doctrine, Godly men have opposed. Many books have been published exposing the flaws in the intricate system. Most hack away at the branches, arguing peripheral issues. We intend to lay the axe to the root of the tree.

"My brother, I am a constant reader of my Bible, and I soon found that what I was taught to believe (by Darby's doctrine) did not always agree with what my Bible said. I came to see that I must either part company with John Darby, or my precious Bible, and I chose to cling to my Bible and part from Mr. Darby." - George Müeller, a contemporary and one time supporter of Darby quoted by Robert Cameron in his book SCRIPTURAL TRUTH ABOUT THE LORD'S RETURN, pp.146-7

 

http://users.frii.com/gosplow/disp2.html

 

what he said.

also you might look at wikipedia. They are often unreliable but they did a good job with dispensationalism and also of interest is their section on the book of Revelation. It goes over all the major schools of interpretation. Someone did alot of good work on that.

I have brought up george muller many times as he was involved in the bretheren split with darby. I recommend the auto biography or other biographies written much later on Herr Muller. A truly inspirational character in victorian england amidst a very trying time.

and what is covenant theology distinctly?

Here is a covenant theology Bible study if you want to give it a try.  Its by a Catholic but c.t. is not held just by Catholics.  In fact this guy was into covenant theology long before he became Catholic. 

 

http://www.salvationhistory.com/online/intermediate/class1_lesson1.cfm

 

Intro:

 

"Covenant" is the master concept that unlocks the meaning of the Bible. The Bible tells the story of God the Father's love for His children and His plan to fashion all people into one holy family. God unfolds this plan of salvation through a series of covenants, culminating in the New Covenant He makes in Jesus.

In this course, we look at God's covenant plan. We study the five key covenants God makes in the Old Testament in order to see how they are fulfilled in Jesus and the Church. The goal is to enable students to understand the crucial significance of the covenant concept for interpreting the Bible and for understanding God's fatherly plan.

Pretty interesting...my understanding of the dispensations (ages) is that they were all covenant driven. I'll email my pastor and ask him what the UPC's teachings are...

There are some similarities of course.  The good news is that any Christian can "dispense with dispensationalism"  without it in any way effecting the core gospel message of the faith.   

I agree with Ridge. Rooster, you are a very avid student of the bible yet it is amazing that you dont understand what dispensationalism is and how much it has affected american christian thought. I think its so common though. Let us know what you find out from your pastor and how you feel about it. It has no bearing on a persons state of salvation or their sincerity but it will indeed affect how you view much of the NT in particular.

will do...my non raptured compadres~! :-)

Hey guys, here's my Pastors response (smart, nice guy...)

"...wow - you want me to go back to Bible School? That's a pretty tough subject to dive into.

Hmmm... I would say that the UPC has people in both camps. But overall, we are not strict dispensationalists. Neither are we strict supersessionists. (Covenant theology). You will find a strict dispensationalist or a strict supersessionist here or there. In fact, I can think of a few off the top of my head.

The main idea between the two camps is similar, if expressed in different ways.

For example, from the http://www.salvationhistory.com/online/intermediate/class1_lesson1.cfm website:

Following St. Irenaeus, we're now ready to look at the number of covenants that God makes in the Bible and the special character of each. God makes six major covenants in the Bible, with:

  1. Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26-2:3)
  2. Noah and his family (Genesis 9:8-17)
  3. Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-14; 22:16-18)
  4. Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 19:5-6; 3:4-10; 6:7)
  5. David and the Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 7:8-19)
  6. Jesus and the Church (Matthew 26:28; 16:17-19)

It's important to know these covenants well - what God promises and what is required of those who enter into the covenants.

And from the wikipedia definition of Dispensationalism...

Dispensationalism seeks to address what many see as opposing theologies between the Old Testament and New Testament. Its name comes from the fact that it sees biblical history as best understood in light of a series of dispensations in the Bible.

the dispensation of innocence (Gen 1:1?3:7), prior to Adam's fall, of conscience (Gen 3:8?8:22), Adam to Noah, of government (Gen 9:1?11:32), Noah to Abraham,
of patriarchal rule (Gen 12:1?Exod 19:25), Abraham to Moses, of the Mosaic Law (Exod 20:1?Acts 2:4), Moses to Christ, of grace (Acts 2:4?Rev 20:3 ? except for Hyperdispensationalists), the current church age, and
of a literal, earthly 1,000-year Millennial Kingdom that has yet to come but soon will (Rev 20:4?20:6).

Each dispensation is said to represent a different way in which God deals with man, often a different test for man. "These periods are marked off in Scripture by some change in God's method of dealing with mankind, in respect to two questions: of sin, and of man's responsibility," explained C. I. Scofield. "Each of the dispensations may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment?marking his utter failure in every dispensation."

Both seek to define and understand the work of God's salvation (which often appears different) in the different ages. In that they are similar. There are, however, differences in the details.

Overall, Pentecostals and Charismatics fall somewhere in between, using language from both views. Do we believe God moved in unique ways for salvation in different ages, yes. Was there an age of Innocence? It certainly seems so. Did God have a covenant with Adam and Eve? Again, yes. Most of the UPC would probably say that there are areas in both arguments with which they like and agree, and areas where they don't agree.

For example, strict dispensationalism teaches that Jews are saved by following their covenant (since the church age might be a parenthesis, or at the very least God still has 7 years to finish with the Jews), whereas most of the UPC would teach that Jews are saved by following the plan of Salvation (John 3:16, Acts 2:1-4; 37-39). There has been a little creeping in of the idea of two on-going covenants, though. (One covenant for the Gentiles, one for the Jews) But I find no strong Bible for that. If we can have two covenants, why not four or five, one for Gentile Christians, one for Muslims, one for Buddhists, etc. There is either one plan (one lord, one faith, one baptism, etc) or... there is what, confusion? So, there are parts of the Dispensationalism Theology with which we don't agree at all. And there are areas of the other where we would find equally strong disagreement. (i.e., the millennial age)

"It tends to breed an escapist view of things. It teaches that Christ's kingdom is future rather than present so there is little impetus to make the Kingdom manifest now. It shows a continuing favoritism of the Jews by God even after the Messiah is brought forth from their race. It leads to unquestioned support of Israel. It leads to a diminishing of the Church as the new Israel."

My professor at Gateway had attended Southwest Theological Seminary in Dallas (strong dispensationalist teaching, to say the least) and held to a very strong dispensationalist view. But in no way did he minimize the need for evangelism or the work of the kingdom here and now. In fact, in light of the current dispensation (as he would say), which is the church age, we have a requirement, if we are to be faithful servants, to "go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature". So, while there is a future fulfillment of God's Kingdom, there is a kingdom here and now, and far better to enter into the kingdom in the age of grace then at some future (tribulation?) time period.

And, rather than being escapist, it is (should be) a motivator. Dispensationalism also teaches that He is the judge of all, and that we all will stand before Him. Two passages come to mind. 1) The parable of the talents, where the Lord's return brings his servants to an accounting of what transpired while He was gone, and 2) Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians that every mans work will be tried to see if it is of gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, or stubble. Matthew 25:14-30;1 Corinthians 3:11-15

As to the favoritism, yes, some take it to a wrong extreme, confusing Israel the nation-state, with Israel the spiritual entity that must return to her creator. Paul discusses the state of Israel in Romans, 9-11.

Romans 11:1-5 CEV
1 Am I saying that God has turned his back on his people? Certainly not! I am one of the people of Israel, and I myself am a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God did not turn his back on his chosen people. Don't you remember reading in the Scriptures how Elijah complained to God about the people of Israel?
3 He said, "Lord, they killed your prophets and destroyed your altars. I am the only one left, and now they want to kill me."
4 But the Lord told Elijah, "I still have seven thousand followers who have not worshiped Baal."
5 It is the same way now. God was kind to the people of Israel, and so a few of them are still his followers.

Romans 11:11-12 CEV
11 Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous.
12 But if the rest of the world's people were helped so much by Israel's sin and loss, they will be helped even more by their full return.

Romans 11:17-21 CEV
17 You Gentiles are like branches of a wild olive tree that were made to be part of a cultivated olive tree. You have taken the place of some branches that were cut away from it. And because of this, you enjoy the blessings that come from being part of that cultivated tree.
18 But don't think you are better than the branches that were cut away. Just remember that you are not supporting the roots of that tree. Its roots are supporting you.
19 Maybe you think those branches were cut away, so that you could be put in their place.
20 That's true enough. But they were cut away because they did not have faith, and you are where you are because you do have faith. So don't be proud, but be afraid.
21 If God cut away those natural branches, couldn't he do the same to you?

Romans 11:28-31 CEV
28 The people of Israel are treated as God's enemies, so that the good news can come to you Gentiles. But they are still the chosen ones, and God loves them because of their famous ancestors.
29 God doesn't take back the gifts he has given or forget about the people he has chosen.
30 At one time you Gentiles rejected God. But now Israel has rejected God, and you have been shown mercy.
31 And because of the mercy shown to you, they will also be shown mercy.

Romans 11:33 MKJV
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

Pastor

I wish he would have spoken to some of the other issues like:



1. The Jews refusal of Jesus's attempt to set up his kingdom the first time and his "accidental" plan B execution.  There is no indication that Jesus intended an earthly rule or had any other plan but to die on the cross.



2. The Rapture as a separate event from the final coming of Christ on the last day.  This is problematic for the date guessing, the teaching that the church will avoid end times persecution, and the addition of a third return of Christ.



3. An earthly millenium post Second Coming vs. the majority belief in amillenialism.



4. The idea that the teachings of Jesus were for a different dispensation than the church and so don't really apply to Christians (instead of St. Paul's epistles which are given primacy in most dispensational churches).



5. The late advent of this whole eschatology.  Most of the distinctives of dispensationalism were non-existent before 1830's.  Also some of the ideas are supposed to be based on the visions of one 14 year old girl.



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With all of that said, I do think eschatology is one of the most vague aspects of theology, especially in terms of the timing of the end of the world.  I personally have not settled on certain issues and need to study the subject much more before I do.



While a dispensationalist does not have to be an escapist it is the kind of teaching that leads to escapism in many Christians.  All the views of eschatology I know of involve judgement before Christ, but dispensationalism more than any other promotes an escapist approach to this life and the world.  I have certainly come across many escapist dispensationalists myself. 



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I do admire that your pastor is willing to admit that there is more than one theory out there.  Most dispensationalists are exposed to the teaching not as a particular theory of one group of people, but as the explicit teaching of the Bible.  That makes it very hard for them to be open-minded in considering other theories and realizing that many of these questions fall into a category of not having all the answers.  Keep in mind that many dispensationalists would leave their church if other eschaologies were allowed.

Here is a brief summary of Orthodox views on eschatology including why it is against the idea of a rapture or an earthly millenial reign if you are interested:

http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/readings/end/

nice post rooster. I like the openmindeness of your pastor regarding these things. I think sadly it shows how little the majority of christians even educated ones understand what they are being taught. It is one subject that I think is of paramount importance because it affects so much of NT interpretation. Ill have a close look in a bit. There was one sentence above that I wanted to address

;For example, strict dispensationalism teaches that Jews are saved by following their covenant (since the church age might be a parenthesis, or at the very least God still has 7 years to finish with the Jews), whereas most of the UPC would teach that Jews are saved by following the plan of Salvation (John 3:16, Acts 2:1-4; 37-39). There has been a little creeping in of the idea of two on-going covenants, though. (One covenant for the Gentiles, one for the Jews) But I find no strong Bible for that'

By the way Rooster, I have found that Orthodox writers have some of the most profound ideas about what the nature of the anti-christ may be.  Here is an excerpt from Fr. Eugene "Seraphim" Rose's 1962 letter to Thomas Merton:



Modern idealism, which is devoted to the realization of the idolatrous "Kingdom of Man," has long been making its influence felt in Christian circles; but only in quite recent years has this influence begun to bear real fruit within the womb of the Church itself. I think there can be no question but that we are witnessing the birth pangs of something that, to the true Christian, is indeed pregnant with frightful possibilities: a "new Christianity," a Christianity that claims to be "inward," but is entirely too concerned with outward result; a Christianity, even, that cannot really believe in "peace" and "brotherhood" unless it sees them generalized and universally applied, not in some seemingly remote "other world," but "here and now." This kind of Christianity says that "private virtue" is not enough—obviously relying on a Protestantized understanding of virtue, since everything the true Christian does is felt by all in the Mystical Body; nothing done in Christ is done for oneself alone—but not enough for what? The answer to that, I think, is clear: for the transformation of the world, the definitive "realization" of Christianity in the social and political order. And this is idolatry. The Kingdom is not of this world; to think or hope that Christianity can be outwardly "successful" in the world is a denial of all that Christ and His prophets have said of the future of the Church. Christianity can be "successful" on one condition: that of renouncing (or conveniently forgetting) the true Kingdom and seeking to build up a Kingdom in the world. The "Earthly Kingdom" is precisely the goal of the modern mentality; the building of it is the meaning of the modern age. It is not Christian; as Christians, we know whose Kingdom it is. And what so greatly troubles me is that today Christians—Catholic and Orthodox alike—are themselves joining, often quite unaware of the fact, often with the best possible intentions, in the building of this new Babel....


The modern idealism that hopes for "heaven on earth" hopes likewise for the vague "transformation" of man—the ideal of the "superman" (in diverse forms, conscious or not), which, however absurd, has a great appeal to a mentality that has been trained to believe in "evolution" and "progress." And let not contemporary despair make us think that hope in the worldly future is dead; despair over the future is only possible for someone who still wants to believe in it; and indeed, mingled with contemporary despair is a great sense of expectation, a will to believe, that the future ideal can, somehow, be realized.

There is a short story by a Russian writer named Soloviev about the end times.  The apostate Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants join with the anti-Christ while the faithful from these groups reunite in their persecution.  Also a large number of Jews are converted during this time.  Its actually pretty common to have that belief but the difference is that there is no separate plan for the Jews.  They are reconciled with God by joining the Church, not through some alternative salvation plan outside the body of Christ.  His vision of antichrist is scary because he makes a convincing case for how a world leader could be appealing to the majority, even using a false brand of Christianity to deceive many Christians.

Your twisting of the truth is getting more and more pathetic Bludhall.