Dispensationalist Need to Read Their History

Many Dispensationalist lack the knowledge of historical theology and church history. I myself lack much being that  I am only 26-years old and just started reading it about 3-years ago. Yet the more I read of church history, the less I understand about American Evangelicalism, especially one of American’s largest faulty theologies over the last 100-years, Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism roots its history in the brethren movement – dispensationalism is rooted in the Plymouth Brethren movement in the 1830s of Ireland and England, and in the teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). Darby traveled extensively to continental Europe, New Zealand, Canada and the United States in an attempt to make converts to the Brethren movement. Over time, Darby’s eschatological views grew in popularity in the United States, especially among Baptists and Old School Presbyterians.

However Dispensationalism contradicts its’ own Brethren movement confessions time and time again.

Issue one: Covenant of Grace

The Waterland Confession: Article 4. Doctrine of Faith states, “Baptism means the entrance into the covenant of grace of God and the incorporation into the Church of Christ…

Leading proponent on Dispensationalism Dr. Charles Ryrie states in Dispensationalism Today, Moody Press, p.186, “there still remains the stark reality that nowhere does Scripture speak of a covenant of works or a covenant of grace as it speaks of a covenant with Abraham or a covenant at Sinai or the new covenant.

According to classical-dispensationalist Dr. Ryrie there is no such thing of a covenant of grace, but yet while his historical brethren roots confessed that the believer was issued into the Covenant of Grace after believers baptism. It would help to make mention that the Watlerland Confession was written 1540, prior to Darby dispensational thinking in 1830.

Issue two: Salvation the Same in both the OT & NT

The Dordrecht Confession: Article 3. states, “Regrading the restoration of our first parents and their descendants, we believe and confession: That god withstanding their (Adam and Eve) fall, transgressions, and sin, and although they had no power to help themselves, he was neverless not willing that they should be cast off entirely, or be eternally lost; but agin called them unto Him, comforted them, and showed them that there were-yet means with Him for their reconciliation; namely, the immaculate Lamb, the Son of God; who was for-ordained to this purpose before the foundation of the world, and was promised to them (Adam and Eve) and all their descendants, while they (our first parents) were yet in paradise, for their comfort, redemption, and salvation; yea, who was given to them thenceforward, through faith, as their own, after which they all the pious patriarchs, to whom this promise was often rewarded, longed and searched, beholding it through faith at a distance, and expecting its fulfillment – expecting that He, the Son of God, would at His coming, again redeem and deliver the fallen race of man from their sins, their guilt, and unrighteousness.

The early 20th century dispensationalist, Certainly Cyrus Ingerson Scofield carried water on both shoulders at this point, saying in some places that all people are saved in the same manner, but indicating in others that salvation was gained in a different manner during each of the seven periods. An example of his dual plans of salvation is found in the Scofield Bible (page 11 15, note 2) where he is contrasting the dispensation of law with that of grace stating,

“The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ… ‘ It is difficult to interpret this statement in any other way than that he was saying folk under the law were saved by one ‘condition’ while we under grace are saved by another ‘condition.’ His words, ‘no longer,’ indicate that there was a time when legal obedience was the means of salvation!”

If one dispensationalist was not enough, Lewis Sperry Chafer, another leader among the dispensationalists, also – in his insistence on a complete isolation of the New Testament dispensation from that of the Old Testament actually teaches two different plans of salvation. Writing in Dispensationalism (p.416), he makes the following statement:

“The essential elements of a grace administration – faith as the sole basis of acceptance with God, unmerited acceptance through a perfect standing in Christ, the present possession of eternal life, an absolute security from all condemnation, and the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit are not found in the kingdom administration. On the other hand, it is declared to be the fulfilling of ‘the law and the prophets’ (Matt 5:17,18; 7:12), and is seen to be an extension of the Mosaic Law into realms of meritorious obligation (italics mine).”

Break this paragraph by Chafer down into its component parts…

1. he gives the characteristics, including ‘faith as the sole basis of acceptance with God,’ of the present ‘dispensation’;

2. he says the alleged coming ‘dispensation’ (millennium) w ill operate under a different plan, since none of the above mentioned characteristics (note that this would include the mode of salvation) ‘are to be found in the kingdom administration’;

3. he says that the alleged coming millennial kingdom will be a continuation of the Old Testament plan, i.e., ‘it is declared to be the fulfilling of the law and the prophets.’

From these three points a syllogism can be formed easily. The syllogism would be as follows: In the present dispensation, we have ‘faith as the sole basis of acceptance with God…’ In the coming kingdom administration, this plan will not be in effect. They ‘are not found in the kingdom administration.’ Since, according to the dispensationalists, people will be saved during the millennium, they must of necessity be saved in some other manner than ‘faith as the sole basis of acceptance with God.’ Therefore, inasmuch as the coming dispensation will be an extension of the Mosaic Law into realms of meritorious obligation,’ the people under the Mosaic Law also were saved in a manner different from the present dispensation.

Chafer’s argument could also be illustrated in a diagram as follows:

1. Old Testament – Salvation by legal obedience – In effect until the Cross

2. ‘Church Age’ – Salvation by grace alone – Legal obedience postponed

3. ‘Kingdom Age’ – Legal obedience resumed – On a more perfect basis

In another book (The Kingdom in History and Prophecy, p. 70) Chafer again distinguishes between two different modes of salvation saying this,

“In the light of these seven ‘present truth’ realities we are enabled to recognize how great is the effect of the change from ‘the law which came by Moses’ and ‘grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ.’ And when these changed, age-long conditions have run their course we are assured that there will be a return to the legal kingdom grounds and the exaltation of that nation to whom pertain the covenants and promises.

Yet, this Dispensationalists teach that men in the O.T. were saved by faith in a revelation peculiar to their dispensation, but this did not include faith in the Messiah as their sin-bearer. However the dispensationalist roots in their confessed statement of faith stated that salvation was based on the promise of the Son of God as a sin-barer when they stated as above, “expecting that He, the Son of God, would at His coming, again redeem and deliver the fallen race of man from their sins, their guilt, and unrighteousness.”

It would help to make mention that the Dordrecht Confession was written 1632, prior to Chafer and Scofield dispensational thinking in from the early 20th-century. To bad these men and their theology didn’t stick to their historical roots.

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One Comment on “Dispensationalist Need to Read Their History”

  1. […] Michael Dewalt says dispensationalists need to read their history. […]


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