Dispelling Common Myths of Dispensationalism
Often I grow weary of the continual misrepresentations concerning biblical dispensationalism. In the blogosphere, recent references include posts from Michael Vlach How Two Covenant Theologians View Dispensationalism and Clearing Up a Misrepresentation in regard to Christ’s Prophetic Plans; also Dr. Henebury’s Misrepresentations of Dispensationalism with discussion reference to Vlach’s posts.
The Cripplegate blog also periodically discusses biblical dispensationalism and what it really is. The negative stereotypes persist in spite of the overwhelming information available both positively (what dispensationalists believe) and in refuting the myths and lies. From the comment activity at a recent Cripplegate blog post, for instance, a few people suggested (apparently recalling the evangelical scene of many years ago when the majority of dispensational churches were Arminian and doctrinally light) that “this view”(what Matt Weymeyer sets forth, in his review of Michael Vlach’s book about Dispensationalism) is an ideal that doesn’t really exist, what dispensationalism should be but isn’t really, or even that this view is somehow unique to the Masters Seminary.
In answer to that particular idea, I observe that many churches and individuals around the world hold to “this view” of dispensationalism, people not at all associated with TMS, as for instance Believer’s Chapel in Dallas, with the full archive from the late S. Lewis Johnson (a generation before John MacArthur); Dan Phillips (blog writer here and also here, see also this church site); Jim McClarty, Steven Lawson, and Bob DeWaay. Refer also to the churches listed here. This, the biblical understanding of dispensationalism, is widespread and not some ideal of “what should be,” and is far from something restricted to Weymeyer, Vlach and TMS.
Another common response is to mention the “popular effect” on evangelism from the likes of LaHaye and Jenkins. Here, refer to Dan Phillips’ classic post, 25 Stupid Reasons For Dissing Dispensationalism, #14. LaHaye and Jenkins do not speak for all of dispensational thought, and certainly not for serious and scholarly work. Every doctrinal viewpoint has its “undesirables,” the crack-pots who misrepresent those who seriously believe the true teaching. Harold Camping is amillennialist, but dispensationalists do not routinely criticize CTers by telling them that they believe everything that Harold Camping believes. Just because people like to continue repeating the same myths — which are not fair or accurate representations of what the majority of dispensationalists believe — does not make those ideas true.
Others of course like to point to some aberrant teaching of Scofield and Chafer, but again that does not relate to biblical Calvinist dispensationalists. And as to the claim that dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation, that the Jews were saved by following the law, refer to this article from Tony Garland.
One person actually came up with another objection, a less common one that I had not yet come across: Supposedly Dispensational Premils believe in “progressive revelation” BUT when they come to the NT despite there being no mention in the NT of a 7 Year Tribulation, no mention of a pre-trib Rapture, no mention of a rebuilt Temple, no mention of Christ reigning on earth where sin and death still oppress they affirm these things regardless. If Dispensationalists truly believed in progressive revelation they would recognize that the NT progressively reveals nothing about the above realities as a part of the future.
The obvious answer to that involves knowing our Bibles (and for a good reading plan to regularly read a lot of God’s word, I recommend the Horner Genre Reading plan and variations on it). In answer to that person’s claims, here are several NT texts that specifically address these very issues:
- Reference to the great tribulation: Revelation 7:14
- Time-references to the tribulation period: Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6; 12:14;13:5
- Pre-trib rapture: the timing of the rapture is never explicitly taught in scripture, but can only be inferred from other texts, and at any rate it is not essential to dispensationalism. Yet the concept of the rapture is taught in the NT, 1 Thess. 4:17.
- Rebuilt temple (the tribulation-era temple): Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 11:2
- Christ reigning on earth where sin and death still oppress: Revelation 20:4-10
It turned out that this last person was a preterist, one who had not only redefined his own reading of the scriptures but insisted that his “interpretation” of scripture is the only literal, true and correct meaning, thus “proving” his point that dispensationalists do not have any NT texts in support of their view. Really?? Even noted amillennial and postmillennial theologians of the past have at least accepted and acknowledged the fact that if the Bible were interpreted literally it would lead one to conclude that these prophecies must be literally fulfilled in the future. (Reference, for instance, Floyd Hamilton and Loraine Boettner, and quotes from Hamilton and O.T. Allis here.)