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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dispensationalism vs. the Bible

I have stated on many occasions that the Dispensationalist approach to Scripture, if consistently applied, would eventually lead one away from Christianity altogether in favor of Christ-rejecting Judaism. Rodney J. Decker's latest article (Why Do Dispensationalists Have Such a Hard Time Agreeing on the New Covenant?) related to the September 2008 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics, is a classic case in point. Decker has come to the conclusion that the church is not in covenant with God. Instead, Decker concludes, the new covenant is made only with the Christ-rejecting nation of Israel.

The disagreement between Dispensational and Covenantal Theology can be best solved by asking the following question. Whom shall we trust when it comes to the correct interpretation of Old Testament prophecy? Shall we trust the inspired writers of the New Testament, or should we trust Bible Baptist Seminary? Decker, Professor of NT and Greek at Bible Baptist Seminary, makes some surprising claims that put Dispensationalism clearly at odds with Scripture.

After assuming a priori that the Mosaic law has a "lack of legal standing in the church" (p.1), and that the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant is yet future1 (p. 1 - see Acts 2:25-32), Becker ask a series of questions concerning the method of Bible exegesis. "Does the text determine our theology or does our theology determine our understanding of the text? How does our hermeneutical framework - our theological system- affect (and sometimes effect!) our exegetical conclusions? Which takes priority, text or theology? We all know the "correct" answer to such questions: the text must determine our theology." (p. 2). All good so far, but this approach dissolves into mere rhetoric once he begins to delve into Old Testament Prophecy. He writes, “If God does not fulfill the promises of the new covenant with Israel exactly as he promised and as the prophet understood God’s promise, the God has failed.” (p. 20). This statement clearly begs the question. Becker never tells us how we are to determine the way "the prophet understood God’s promise". What insight does he have into the mind of the Old Testament prophets? Does he have any more than Jesus, John, Peter, or Paul? By rejecting the New Testament fulfillment as the actual fulfillment, Becker has clearly let his theology determine his understanding of the text. In addition, the Dispensational hermeneutic fails to focus on all of Scripture as a story of Christ's redemptive work. It pits Scripture against Scripture, and focuses on Old Testament shadows instead of the substance in Christ. (John 1:45, John 5:46, John 8:56, etc.). Furthermore, if we were to apply Becker’s standard to the Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament, we would become Judaist, who were blind leaders of the blind (Luke 6:39).

If nothing else, Decker should get props for consistency in terms of the new covenant in Dispensational theology. He also soundly refutes the modern "dual covenant" heresy propagated by John Hagee and others. Perhaps I can answer the question as to why Dispensationalists have such a hard time agreeing on the New Covenant. Because, contrary to Galatians 3:28, they insist on erecting racial walls in order to separate fleshly Israel from the Church. As such, they cannot figure out how to include both in the New Covenant. Like other dispensationalists, Decker cannot come to grips with the fact that there is no covenant without Christ, and there never has been. Thus Decker concludes, based on his flawed hermeneutic, that the New Covenant is made only with the present nation of Israel, not the church. However, he does suggest that the church participates in the blessing “in some way” (p. 19). He further defends the exclusion of the church from the New Covenant by boldly telling us that “...the church is never mentioned in the OT" (p. 17). Hmmm...

The redemptive work of Christ is the center of both the Old and the New Covenant, both covenants being made with the elect and them only. As for the correct interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy, why do we need to go any further than the interpretation given us in the New Testament? Indeed, Dispensationalism has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.

Footnotes:

1 I give Becker the benefit of the doubt concerning this approach, as he was addressing fellow dispensationalist concerning his view of the new covenant. He didn't address Covenantal views, which I have done many times here.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where does dispensationalism "pit Scripture against Scripture?" And something can be fulfilled in the New Testament times and be more fully fulfilled later at His Second Coming, or The Tribulation too.
And please explain how being dispensational takes away the Redemptive work of Christ seen throughout the whole of Scripture.

And just for the record, I may be dispensational in my beliefs, but I still love Jesus, have a good relationship with Him, and desire to grow in Him. I think you are pushing a little too close to calling us anything but non- Christians (which is what it seems you are saying without saying it explicitly). I am still a brother in Christ, so be careful not to judge too harshly...my brother.

Puritan Lad said...

Anonymous: "Where does dispensationalism "pit Scripture against Scripture?"

Response: For one, dispensationalism denies the authority of the New Testament in interpreting Old Testament prophecy. I can elaborate more if you like, right from the mouths of dispensationalist teachers.

Dispensationalists either implicitly (or like Dekker, explicitly) dent that the church is in the New Covenant (makes you wonder if they take the Lord's Supper).

Dispensationalism denies the ongoing validity of God's law, whereas Scripture teaches that God's moral law lasts forever (Psalm 119:160) and " until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)

Dispensationalism holds that modern day Judaism is a godly religion and that it's proponents are Abraham's seed, and rightful heirs to Christ's kingdom. Scripture tells is that proponents of Judaism are of their father the Devil (John 8:39-44), and "that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7).

Dispensationalism tells us that only certain passages of Scripture apply to today's "dispensation", whereas Scripture tells us that "All Scripture is profitable" (2 Timothy 3:16) and that we are to live "by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

Dispensationalism teaches that the "great tribulation" will happen in the future, whereas Scripture tells us that is happened within the apostles' generation (Matthew 24:21, 34).

There are many more examples, but that's a decent start.

Anonymous: "And something can be fulfilled in the New Testament times and be more fully fulfilled later at His Second Coming, or The Tribulation too."

Response: The "dual fulfillment" theory has been refuted here.

Dual Fulfillment and a Future TribulationAnonymous: "And please explain how being dispensational takes away the Redemptive work of Christ seen throughout the whole of Scripture."

Response: For starters, dispensationalism teaches that there will be a return to animal sacrifices in the Jewisn Temple. Scripture tells us that "he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12)

Anonymous: "And just for the record, I may be dispensational in my beliefs, but I still love Jesus, have a good relationship with Him, and desire to grow in Him. I think you are pushing a little too close to calling us anything but non- Christians (which is what it seems you are saying without saying it explicitly). I am still a brother in Christ, so be careful not to judge too harshly...my brother."

Response: Have I judged you? I don't even know who you are. I have simply stated that Dispensationalism is a false teaching. I am focused on the teachings itself, not the persons who hold them.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to criticize a scholar like Rod Decker, learn how to spell his name. You spelled it Becker and Dekker in your responses. I assume you can find the errors.

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks Anonymous,

If the worst errors that you can find in my arguments are typos, then I feel pretty good about my position. (I also spelled "Jewish" wrong, but you missed that one).

Responder said...

I've heard both sides claim the other is a "Johnny-come-lately".
I've heard both sides claim the other can lead a person away from the Gospel of "grace through faith".
I've heard leaders on both sides demean the other, sometimes with anger, sometimes mocking.
Both sides should take the energy spent on useless arguing, payed attention to by only a minute fraction of Christians, and spend it on the priority of loving one another ("that they may be one") and the great commission ("make disciples").

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks Responder,

On what authority would you suggest that the two doctrinal positions that you uphold are more important than other ones? Does truth matter? How do we become "one"? By ignoring doctrine? Has the Great Commission been reduced to "making disciples", or did Jesus say something about teaching as well?

You would do well to respond to actual arguments that have been presented as opposed to forsaking truth altogether in search of a superficial unity. Any unity that ignores doctrine is no unity at all. In the words of J. Gresham Machen, "Indifference to doctrine makes no heroes of the faith".