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