Friday, July 28, 2017

Notes on "Dispensationalism (Expanded and Revised Version)" by Charles Ryrie -

It is important to note the Charles Ryrie ends this book with plea for Christian love and fellowship among believers.

D = Dispensationalism or Dispensationalist CT = Covenant Theology or Covenant Theologian

Famous "ridicule the doctrine" attack is to say there are two or more ways of salvation and that the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) is for a future age. Things, D do not believe.

Even CT have "dispensations" ie Berkhof sees 4 epochs in the OT.

"Concerning the goal of history, dispensationalists find it in the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth, whereas the covenant theologian regards it as the eternal state."

"In short, the covenant of grace is God's plan of salvation, and therefore the unifying principle of covenant theology is soteriological. In dispensationalism the principle is theological or eschatological or doxological,..."

3 Sina qua non of D
1. Distinction between Israel and the Church
2. Grammatico-Histroical hermeneutic
3. Center of D is the glory of God.

Thus, the distinguishing characteristics of a different dispensation are three: (1) a
change in God's governmental relationship with man (though a dispensation does not
have to be composed entirely of completely new features); (2) a resultant change in man's
responsibility; and (3) corresponding revelation necessary to effect the change (which is
new and is a stage in the progress of revelation through the Bible).

Cross-sectional and longitudinal view of the progress of revelation (spiral)

On the Eternal state as a dispensation "In other words, the dispensational economies are related to the affairs of this present world, and they are no longer needed when the history of this world comes to a conclusion."

Some believe the Tribulation is a new / 8th dispensation or could be a re-instatement of the Mosaic / Law dispensation as the first 69 weeks of Daniel were in that time and the 70th is a continuation. Ryrie does not agree with this.

D of Innocency [sic]:
Adam was not merely innocent he had positive righteousness. "Also, his [Adam]holiness was unconfirmed until he could successfully pass the tests placed before him. Therefore, it seems that Adam's moral condition before God in those days of "innocency" was that of "unconfirmed creaturely holiness."

D of Conscience:
"During this stewardship man was responsible to respond to God through the promptings of his conscience, and part of a proper response was to bring an acceptable blood sacrifice as God had taught him to do (Gen. 3:21; 4:4). We have a record of only a few responding, and Abel, Enoch, and Noah are especially cited as heroes of faith."

D of Civil Government:
"The new revelation of this time included animals' fear of man, animals given to man to eat, the promise of no further floods, and the institution of capital punishment. It is the latter that gives the distinctive basis to this dispensation as that of human, or civil, government. God gave man the right to take the life of man, which in the very nature of the case gave man the authority to govern others."

D of of Promise, or Patriarchal Rule:
"Until this dispensation, all mankind had been directly related to God's governing principles. Now God marked out one family and one nation and in them made a representative test of all."

D of Grace:
"There are two aspects of the grace of God in this economy: (1) the blessing is entirely of grace and (2) that grace is for all. God is no longer dealing with just one nation as a sample but with all mankind."

Paul was the chief agent of revelation during this age.

Q: Does a dispensation in fact completely end when a new one is inaugurated, or in what sense does it end?
A: As a code of conduct and a specific revelation from God complete for its time, a dispensation ends. But some things may become part of succeeding codes in one way or another in the dispensations that follow. That is how, for example, Scripture can say that the law, and specifically the Ten Commandments, have been done away with (2 Cor. 3:7-11) and yet incorporate nine of those Ten Commandments plus other commandments in the law into the code of the dispensation of Grace

Covenant theology formulated in the 7th century, thus the recency argument not valid against D

Ryrie quotes Calvin: "charge of newness was leveled long ago at the doctrine of the Reformers. Calvin answered it with characteristic straightforwardness, and his answer is one that could be used to defend dispensationalism equally well against the same charge: "First, by calling it 'new' they do great wrong to God, whose Sacred Word does not deserve to be accused of novelty.... That it has lain long unknown and buried is the fault of man's impiety Now when it is restored to us by God's goodness, its claims to antiquity ought to be admitted at least by right of recovery"

"Orr, in his classic work The Progress of Dogma, shows how the doctrines taken up for theological study by the church throughout her history chronologically correspond with the general order followed in most systematic theologies. In chronological order the doctrinal discussions were on apologetics, theology proper, anthropology, Christology soteriology, and after the Reformation, eschatology.111 Undoubtedly the recency of systematic eschatology partly accounts for the relative recency of systematic dispensationalism"

Early church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, as well as modern CT recognize dispensations, at the minimum of Law and Grace.

Pierre Poiret was a French mystic and philosopher (1646-1719)... In viewpoint it is sometimes mystical, represents a modified form of Calvinism, and is premillennial and dispensational..."his seventh dispensation is a literal thousand-year millennium with Christ returned and reigning in bodily form upon the earth with His saints, and Israel regathered and converted [quoting Ehlert]."

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) Had 6 dispensations that were the same as the Scofield Bible with the exception of the Millennium.

[Note: Pseudo-Ephraem texts (4th century?) support the pre-trib rapture circa 374-627  A.D. http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=pretrib_arch]

The bottom-line questions are these: (1) Is the covenant of grace stated in Scripture? (2) Even if it is, should it be the controlling presupposition of hermeneutics and theology? (3) Even if there is a unity of redeemed peoples, does that remove disunities in God's program for His creations?

"To be sure, apocalyptic literature does employ symbols, but they stand for something actual"

D is about progressive not successive revelation. Each dispensation is not floating on its own.

He believes the sermon on the mount is primarily for Israel, but thay the ethical rules apply to the church today.

People see 2 ways of salvation in D due to wording issues: ie using the words "test" and "D of grace" makes it sound like there is work to pass the test and that other D did not have grace.

The Law was needed b/c Israel came out of bondage from Egypt and now needed a code to live by. 

Some statements by Chafer really make it sound like the Israelite's gave up grace and put themselves under law, but these are taken out of context. Chafer and all D's vehemently deny anything, but sola fide.

"a dispensation often reincorporates features found in others."

There is no reason why the law should not incorporate grace and in no way change the promises made in a previous economy. After all, the promise to Noah concerning no further flooding of the earth was not abrogated by succeeding dispensational arrangements. The law, too, was added alongside the promise made to Abraham (Gal. 3:14-18).

Furthermore, the proper functioning and operation of the church is dependent on the giving of gifts to the body, and the giving of gifts is, in turn, dependent on the ascension of Christ (4:7-12). If by some stretch of the imagination the Body of Christ could be said to have been in existence before the ascension of Christ, then it would have to be concluded that it was a nonfunctioning body.

This clearly distinguishes those who have died "in Christ" in this age from believers who died before Christ's first advent, thus marking the church off as distinct to this age and a mystery hidden and unrevealed in Old Testament times.

Since the church is the Body of Christ (Col. 1:18), the church could not have begun until Pentecost, and it did begin on that day.

His death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation were the necessary foundation on which the church was to be built.

In Paul's prayer for natural Israel (Rom. 10:1) there is a clear reference to Israel as a national people distinct from and outside the church. He also wrote, "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" (1 Cor. 10:32). If the Jewish people were the same group as the church or the Gentiles, then certainly there would be no point in the apostle's distinction in this passage... That these words were written after the beginning of the church is proof that the church does not rob Israel of her blessings.

It is hard for CT to star the church with the Abrahamic covenant. They do so because that is the "start of Israel" (ie the Church is Israel), however, what about Godly people before then? Pre-Israel?

Amill/Cov Premill believe the kingdom is inaugurated spiritually. Cov Premill believes in a messianic reign.

D believes if the Jews did accept Jesus, He would still need to be crucified, and then only would Israel kingdom reign be able to have started. D therefore does not minimize the role of the cross.

The contingent offer of the Davidic kingdom by Jesus was bona fide, and it was not a spiritual kingdom that He announced. That does not mean that dispensa-tionalists fail to recognize the rule of God in the heart today, but the Body of believers today constitutes the church, not the Davidic kingdom. The sometime distinction between the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God is not an issue at all

The initial period started with J. N. Darby and continued through the publication of L. S. Chafer's Systematic Theology in 1948. Progressives label this the classical period. (I personally think it makes better sense to divide the early/ Darby era from the Scofield/Chafer period). The second (or third) era extends from the 1950s almost to the 1990s and includes the writings of Alva McClain, John Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, and myself. This was first called by progressives the essentialist period (from my listing of the essentials—the sine qua non—of dispensationalism), but more recently it has been changed to the revised period. The third (or fourth) present period differs from the previ-ous ones because it includes "a number of modifications" and "sufficient revisions"

This already/not yet bifurcation is not new in theological parlance. Nor is it always used in the two-pronged concept of the Davidic rule (now in heaven, later on earth). Introduced by C. H. Dodd in 1926, it meant generally that the kingdom of God was already present, even though in some way it was also future. In George Ladd the "already" relates to Christ's reign in salvation and the "not yet" to His future reign in the Millennium. In Hoekema (an amillennialist) it means Christ's present heavenly reign on earth and His future reign in the new heavens and new earth.301 In Sproul (an amillennialist) the "already" is the present age and the "not yet" is the eternal state.302 In progressive dispensationalism, the "already" is Christ's present reign in partial fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and the "not yet" is His millennial reign.

Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews plainly declares that Christ "sat down at the right hand of the throne of God," not the throne of David (12:2)... Remember, too, that David himself was designated and anointed to be king some time before he began to reign as king.

"However, it is preferable to see David's earthly throne as different from the Lord's heavenly throne, because of the different contexts of Psalms 110 and 132. Psalm 110 refers to the Lord's throne (v 1) and a Melchizedekian priesthood (v 4) but Psalm 132 refers to David's throne (v 11) and (Aaronic) priests (w 9, 16).

New Testament references focus on the blood as payment [ie why the New Cov is not currently inaugurated]. In the Upper Room that payment is clearly related to the future fulfillment of the new covenant.

CT see multiple references to the temple (building, church, Christ's body, etc) and say the temple in Rev 11 is the church, thus the church is in the tribulation.

CT point - OT promises fulfilled via Christ's rule in the New Heavens and New Earth?

CT first mentioned in the Westminster Confession of Faith

The ideas and concepts contained in the covenants of works and grace are not unscriptural. But they are ideas that are not systematized, formalized, and stated by Scripture as covenants. At least the dispensationalist finds the word dispensation used of one or two of his specific dispensations (Eph. 1:10; 3:9); the covenant theologian never finds in the Bible the terms covenant of works and covenant of grace.

No one disputes the fact that covenant is a very basic idea in Scripture and that a number of specific covenants are revealed in Scripture. But there remains still the reality that nowhere does Scripture speak of a covenant of works or a covenant of grace as it does speak of a covenant with Abraham or a covenant with David or a new covenant.

Ultradispensationalsim (UD)
Dispensationalists say that the church began at Pentecost, while ultradispensationalists believe that it began with Paul sometime later

Bullingerism has been stigmatized as 'ultra' Dispensationalism.

Bullinger believed in soul sleep and annihilation (?)

He also denied that water baptism and the Lord's Supper are for this age.

Virtually all ultradispensationalists, of whatever school, agree that it did not begin at Pentecost. All dispensationalists agree that it did. Therefore, ultra-dispensationalism may be defined, or certainly characterized rather definitively, as the school of interpretation that places more than one dispensation between Pentecost and the end of the church age.
_____________________

Differences with PD (progressive dispensationalism) & ND (normative dispensationalism)

They see "successive arrangements in progressive revelation and accomplishment of redemption" not just relations changing between God and man


See intermingling of the millennium and eternal state thus diminishing the significance of God's accomplishments in history (ND sees history as culminating in the millennium) with Christ's
Less distinction between the church and Israel

Progressive dispensationalists place the eternal state as the second part of their final dispensation (the first part being the millennial kingdom), which is called either "the future dispensation" or the "Zionic dispensation.

PD does not include Pre-fall / Innocence a dispensation.

Neodispensationalism (Modified D?)
(1) the kingdom of God is the unifying theme of biblical history; (2) Christ has already inaugurated the Davidic covenant and is now reigning in heaven on the throne of David (right hand of the Father = the throne of David); (3) the concept of two purposes and two peoples of God (Israel and the church) is not valid; (4) thus, the church is not a separate group of redeemed people, nor was it un-revealed in the Old Testament (just unrealized); (5) there is one divine plan of holistic redemption for all people and all areas of human life (personal, societal, cultural, and political).

"Others, while not agreeing with the view that all the Old Testament promises are now fulfilled spiritually in the church, are saying that these promises have been inaugurated and begun to be fulfilled now in the church age and will be consummated in the new heavens and new earth (the already/not yet concept).145 Whereas half of this viewpoint is the same as that taught in progressive dispensationalism (i.e., the promises have already been inaugurated), the second half is not the same (since covenantalists believe that the consummation will be only in the eternal state and progressives say it will be in the Millennium and eternal state)."

"...they have introduced what they call complementary hermeneutics. This means that "the New Testament does introduce change and advance; it does not merely repeat Old Testament revelation. In making complementary additions, however, it does not jettison old promises. The enhancement is not at the expense of the original promise."

Ryrie believes PD's hermeneutic jettison's the ability to do literal / dispensational hermeneutics

They seem to describe the various dispensations more in relation to the history of salvation and the accomplishment of redemption than to the different codes that governed many aspects of life as revealed through the total stewardship arrangement instituted by God in each dispensation.

PD sees a more Christologic/Messianic goal to history (implication for the Davidic covenant reign now?)

Progressive dispensationalism teaches that the mystery character of the church means not that the church was unrevealed in Old Testament times but only that it was unrealized. The view also makes the baptism of the Spirit more of a metaphor related to Messianic times in general, including the nation Israel when it turns to Christ in the future.

By introducing different facets to the concept of the church, the church in this new view is less distinct. For example, Craig Blaising writes, "Progressives do not view the church as an anthropological category in the same class as terms like Israel.... The church is neither a separate race of humanity [true]... nor a competing nation [perhaps not competing, but a nation nevertheless, 1 Peter 2:9]. . .The church is precisely redeemed humanity itself."

By redefining the concept of the church as a mystery, the church has a less distinctive purpose in God's plan

In a similar vein [to amill] revisionist/progressive dispensationalists view the mystery as unrealized but not completely unrevealed in the Old Testament

Instead, the church is submerged into the broader kingdom concept and called a "functional outpost of God's kingdom" and a "sneak preview" of the future kingdom

Progressive dispensationalism (1) teaches that Christ is already reigning in heaven on the throne of David, thus merging the church with a present phase of the already inaugurated Davidic covenant and kingdom; (2) this is based on a complementary hermeneutic that allows the New Testament to introduce changes and additions to Old Testament revelation; and (3) the overall purpose of God is Christological, holistic redemption being the focus and goal of history.

One divergence seems to be this: normative dispensationalists distinguished the future heavenly promises for Jewish Christians who become part of the Body of Christ from the future promises for national Israel in the earthly Millennium; progressives do not ("A Jew who becomes a Christian today does not lose his or her relationship to Israel's future promises").

Basic Tenets of PD
1. The kingdom of God is the unifying theme of biblical history.
2. Within biblical history there are four dispensational eras.
3. Christ has already inaugurated the Davidic reign in heaven at the right hand of the Father, which equals the throne of David, though He not yet reigns as Davidic king on earth during the Millennium.
4. Likewise, the new covenant has already been inaugurated, though its blessings are not yet fully realized until the Millennium.
5. The concept of the church as completely distinct from Israel and as a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament needs revising, making the idea of two purposes and two peoples of God invalid.
6. A complementary hermeneutic must be used alongside a literal hermeneutic. This means that the New Testament makes complementary changes to Old Testament promises without jettisoning those original promises.
7. The one divine plan of holistic redemption encompasses

progressives conclude that the church is the "present reality of the coming eschatological kingdom."

The major similarities, if not sameness, between Ladd and progressives are these: (1) the focus on the kingdom of God as an overall, all-encompassing theme; (2) the already/not yet, progressively realized nature of the kingdom; (3) the present position of Christ reigning in heaven as the Messianic/Davidic king.

Progressives view the new covenant (like the Davidic covenant) as already inaugurated by Christ, who is dispensing certain of its blessings in this age, even though its provisions will not yet be fully realized until the Millennium. Furthermore, the new covenant will be mediated by the Davidic king, since the new covenant is the form in which the Abrahamic covenant blessing will be fulfilled


Bock Lecture:
Classic no not yet already no Davidic reign new covenant only to Israel. Sermon on the mount only applies to Israel.

Revised D only one new covenant with an application to the church. Sermon of the mouth can apply to Israel.

PD already not yet Davidic reign now / Davidic reign now. We are incorporated into Abraham via our incorporation with Christ. Church functions like Israel thus can share the same terminology. Sermon on the mount is for both Church and Israel. The current Jewish remnant is "bridging?" the OT past and NT future promises now. 

Substitute metaphor for millennium in Rev 20. Mentioned too much to be an actual metaphor.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dispensational Cessationism - Spiritual Gifts in View of Ones Eschatology

These are just some thoughts I first had about 3 years ago and never had time to jot down.

I have been thinking about the interplay between eschatology and one's view of the continuation of the spiritual gifts. There does not seem to be much written about it, so I will try and move the discussion forward.

As a quick primer, reformed/covenant theologians see the return of Jesus as the next major event in history, while dispensational theologians see the tribulation as the next major event (or the rapture depending on what camp you are in).  For a more in depth discussion of eschatology see my articles here:



A cessationist is someone who believes the gifts, usually the sign gifts, have stopped in the first century church. Another way to put it is that they see more discontinuity with the gifts in the current era when compared to the first century church. A continuationist/charismatic is someone who believes the gifts have continued and that there is more continuity in regards to spiritual gifts with the first century and the current church. For a more in depth discussion about this topic see my article here:


The Different Categories of Views:

1. Dispensational Cessationist (my view)

This view espouses that the current dispensation does not include the sign gifts. The key point is that though they do not believe the gifts are in operation for today, they do believe (whether they know it or not!) that they will come back during the tribulation. I have given this view a specific name so as to bring this to everyone's attention.  I think this view is the most attractive because it can account for why some people see the gifts stopping and why they continue. They have stopped because in the current dispensation they are not in operation, but they have not completely ended because they will be in operation during the tribulation. Why is that? After the rapture, there are no more Christians, thus God will need to have supernaturally gifted people to know Him and change the world in a mere 7 years! I suppose this view could also support concentric cessationism (see my cessationism article above for a definition)  as well, since there is not a hard stop to the gifts until after the tribulation or millennial kingdom.

2. Covenantal Cessationist

This is the traditional view that the sign gifts have ended in the first century. There is a lot of literature about cessationism from this point of view.  Since there is no tribulation period (for most covenantal theologians) and the next even in history is Christ's return, there are no role for gifts and will be no role for gifts in the future.

3. Dispensational  Continuatinist / Charismatic

This view would state this dispensation has access to the spiritual gifts. Not sure if I can say this, but I suppose the "second wave" and "third wave" believes could say those are different dispensations where God is working in a different manner. They also believe, obviously, that the gifts will also be in operation in the tribulation. 

4. Covenantal Continuatinist / Charismatic

This view states that the gifts have continued in the church since the early church and will continue on until Christ's coming. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Systematic Atheology: An Outline of Secular Thought

I am often annoyed when people complain that Christians are always “pushing” their beliefs on people, when they are so obliviously doing the same thing. It is probably because religious people in general like to think in categories and why organizing ones doctrine into a systematic theology for Christians is so appealing.


This is a little outline of atheist / secular materialist thought, showing it for what it really is - a religion with its own doctrines. Just because you don’t believe in God and don’t go to church does not mean you are not religious (see for a good outline of court cases endorsing atheism and secular humanism as religions see here at http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/07/for_first_amend1087481.html).


  1. Theology Proper: Study of God
    1. Existence of God
      1. Atheism - There is no God
      2. Agnosticism - God cannot be known ie Effectually no God
      3. Man as God
        1. Scientism as the ultimate arbiter of truth
    2. Creation
      1. Evolution
        1. Cosmologic, chemical, and biological
      2. Materialism - Only the physical world exists
    3. Morality
      1. Relativism
      2. Autonomy as the highest form of morality
  2. Anthropology: Study of Man
    1. Man as a created process from evolution
    2. Distinctions between human life, beings,and persons
      1. Implication on abortion and euthansia
    3. Sexual norms - LGBT Normalization
      1. Unique definition of marriage to include homosexual unions
      2. Separation of gender and (genetic) sex
  3. Eschatology: Study of Last Things
    1. Green revolution
    2. Global warming
    3. Earth will ultimately be destroyed with the destruction of the sun
  4. Soteriology: Study of Salvation
    1. In education
    2. In the expression and allowance of individual freedom
  5. Ecclesiology: Study of the Church
    1. Anti-organized religion
    2. Separation of church and state
      1. Interpreted to mean no influence of church on state