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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dispensationalism

I grew up being taught that dispensationalism was the systematic theological approcah to the Bible that was correct. I was never taught any alternative, or the (somewhat short) history of the system itself.

As an adult I was given the opportunity to learn to think about systemtatic theology using a Biblical hermenutic. That is using the Bible itself to analyse the Bible, and not some man made construct that was overlaid on the Bible. You see dispensationalism was actually invented (dreamed up) by a woman named Mary McDonald in 1830 and then further systemised by Chafer and others.

It is possible once you have this artificial construct in place to force the Bible and the understanding of prophetic parts of the Bible into this construct. You see when you already know what the answer is interpreting the Bible becomes fairly simple. Any apparent difficulties become fairly easily answered away by the literal vs figurative answer. That is if it doesn't fit literally then interpret it figuratively.

Now for 20 odd or more years various theologians have challenged the dispensationalist system that largely is taught at the Dallas Theological Seminary. Various students, even of the seminary themselves, have questioned in writing the tents of the system and sought academic and learned theological answers to their questions.
None have been forthcoming and the very books on which it is based themselves have been out of print for close to 20 years now.

Here is a challenge written in a book by Gary North called Rapture Fever.

MY CHALLENGE TO DALLAS SEMINARY
Gentlemen, your institution has not produced a systematic
theology since your founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer, wrote his in
1948. Even so, he failed to answer O. T Allis’ book, Prophecy
and the Church
(1945). You refused to keep Chafer in print after
1988. Your continuing silence is the symbol of your dilemma.
So is the inability of each generation to produce a detailed
systematic theology which answers, your many critics.
It is time for you as a faculty to produce a systematic theology.
It is my opinion that there is insufficient agreement at
Dallas Seminary for such a project to be completed. So, I now
offer you this challenge. You are required to sign a statement
of faith annually. The faculty needs to pay two or three members
to write an 800-page defense of that statement. Make it
clear to your students, the seminary’s donors, and the Board of
Trustees that this statement of faith can be defended in a scholarly,
biblical manner This will make it clear to pastors and
laymen that somebody, somewhere is able to defend the dispensational
system. As you know, I don’t think anyone is.
I predict that you will not accept this challenge because you
dare not do it. You are not agreed on what dispensationalism
teaches. If you become specific, you will blow up the seminary.
If you remain silent, you will forfeit whatever leadership you
retain in the dispensational community. So, you can no longer
afford to remain silent, yet you dare not become specific.
And so I leave it at this: there is no longer anyone who will
go into print with a comprehensive dispensational systematic
theology. The reason is simple: the dispensational system is so
flawed that its defenders are embarrassed by it. It is time for its
mute defenders to quit pretending otherwise.
Intellectual talent is scarce in evangelical Protestantism. We
need theologians who are willing to commit all their intellectual
gifts to the defense of the faith. If you cannot in good conscience
and with all your strength commit to dispensationalism,
it is time to adopt another position – one you can commit to.


The full book Rapture Fever is available as a free download