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Common Claims Against Dispensationalism: Responses

The following come from various online discussions with individuals who cited reasons for rejecting dispensationalism, along with my responses.

Claim:  Dispensationalism is constantly changing from classic to modified to Progressive.

Response:  Dispensationalism is not “constantly changing from classic, to modified, to Progressive.” The way to describe what you have observed is: within the overall “umbrella” of dispensationalism some variations exist, on the lesser points such as the number of dispensations, the rapture timing, or on issues that really do not pertain to dispensationalism (such as Lordship salvation views, which is soteriology). These “changes” or differences also do not come from the same men changing their own views, but from these relatively minor differences among different theologians.

That said, it is equally true that the overall “umbrella” of Covenant Theology has just as much variation among different theologians. Some within overall CT hold to infant baptism, others do not. Some within CT see a future large-scale national salvation for Israel, while others think “all Israel” only means those Jews saved during the church age. Hoekema mixes things on his definitions of the Millennial Earth versus the Eternal State New Heavens New Earth. Some within CT formed another view of “New Covenant Theology” departing from some parts of CT while clinging to others. Some within CT are postmillennial with dominion theology ideas, while others are amillennial. Some postmills and amills are preterist, while some are historicist, and even a few amills are futurist, believing in a future great time of trouble before the end and Christ sets up the Eternal State. CT itself was only formulated in the 17th century and has had many variations since.

So we might as well say that “Covenant Theology is constantly changing, and thus unreliable and untrue.”

Another Claim:  As far as the idea that the New Testament “continually spoke with distinctions regarding Jews and Gentiles,” check out Ephesians 2:11-19. It clearly implies that gentile believers are no longer excluded from citizenship in Israel and strangers to the covenants. As far as, “The New Testament writers never said that the prophets were writing about the church or that those OT promises were transferred to the church age,” check out Peter’s use of quotes from Exodus 19:6 and 23:22 in I Peter 2:9.

Response:  So??  Ephesians 2:11-19 agrees with the point of Romans 11 and the wild and cultivated branches of the Olive Tree.  We are all included in the one people of God, which includes both Jews and Gentiles; we are now included in the same Olive Tree and receive the same promises given in the root, the Abrahamic covenant promises.

That does not nullify the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles, any more than where Paul says in Gal. 3:28 that “…there is now no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Just because all are now included in the people of God does not mean that men become women or women become men, or that slaves and free cease to have their distinct identities and roles.

Same with 1 Peter 2:9, just as the Jews have that identity as a chosen race and holy nation, so Gentiles who are brought to believe are brought into the one people of God, into that olive tree that includes BOTH Jews and Gentiles, yet distinctions of persons and roles still exist.  We’re all believers, but have our different roles and functions within God’s Divine Plan and Purpose:  slaves, free, great or small, male or female, Israelites (descended from Jacob), or Gentiles (descended from Japheth or Ham, etc.).

Follow-up Claim:
It’s amazing that every time that passage (Gal 3:28) is cited, dispensationalists are quick to explain what it ~doesn’t~ mean, but never really get around to explaining what it does mean. Given the context of (Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ…) it seems clear that Paul'”

Response:  Read Barry Horner’s “Future Israel” which explains it very well.  One aspect of the Abrahamic covenant referred to a singular seed of Abraham (Christ), but another part of that covenant very clearly talked about plural descendants (see Gen. 17:7-8).  In Galatians Paul dealt with one aspect of the Abrahamic covenant, but that covenant included other provisions as well, and those other provisions in the covenant are still there.  Just because someone gives particular commentary about one part of a covenant or contract, does not mean that the other parts of that covenant are null and void.

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