For the sake of Mark, and others who may not know, I thought I would explain this system of doctrine that cropped in in the early 1800s and has plagued the church ever since. Please realize that if you are a dispensationalist, this doesn’t mean you have some sort of disease, or that you are not a Christian. I do recognize the Christians who hold to this view are Christians. I just believe that their system of doctrine if fouled and based upon some false premises.
One of the primary traits of Dispensationalism is that concept that God worked through different dispensations, or governed His people, in different ways at different times. For instance, the typical Dispy view is that God dealt with Adam and Eve in one way, with Noah and his family in another, with Abraham and his descendants in another way, and is finally dealing with the church in an entirely different way.
Those of us who are opposed to this view, do admit that there does seem to be validity in that fact that God was dealing with His people in different ways, but we disagree about the ways that Dispy’s define these periods. For instance, Reformed thinkers would readily admit that the requirements given to Adam and Eve are different. He gave Adam a command by which he was not to eat of tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was what we believe to be called a covenant of works. For it was by works that Adam would have entered into eternal bliss with God had he kept the command.
The moment that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thereby breaking God’s holy command, death entered into the world and God had a right to put Adam to death from sinning against God. But God did not. He showed grace to Adam and Eve, thereby bringing in the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace has different aspects to it, which we see throughout history. For instance, God does institute a covenant with Noah before and after the flood. Then another covenant with Abraham. Also David and we are given aspects of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31, which is fulfilled in its completeness through Jesus Christ. We are actually given signs of the New Covenant, both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are sacraments of the New Covenant.
But all these covenants fall under the initial covenant of grace because these covenants are entered into by God’s grace, through faith. We are not performing works in order to become participants of these covenant, merely faith in the promises of God. It doesn’t matter which period someone lived in, we all enter into the benefits of the covenants by faith alone.
The primary difference between historic theology and Dispensationalism is the view of Israel and the church. D’s believe that Israel is always made up of only those who naturally descend from Abraham. God did promise to bless Abraham through his offspring. He worked with the descendants of Abraham throughout history and brought for His Son through the line of David.
Yet, even though God did work through the line of David and Abraham descendants, we disagree avidly about those who are called Jews today. The question really is: Who is true Israel? Those of us in Reformed circles believe that true Israel are those who have true faith in Christ, no matter which period of time they lived. In the Old Testament, their faith was in the promises of God, including those that pointed to the Messiah. In the New Testament those who are believers in Christ are the only true children of Abraham. In other words, genetics means nothing (Galatians 3).
Now, will God show grace to those who are genetically descended from Abraham? Yes, He always has. There have always been those who are Jewish by birth come to know Christ in every time period. They are true Israel as well. But being true Israel is not dependent upon genetics, but faith and faith alone.
One reason we feel this way is that the dichotomy given in Genesis 3:15 between the Seed of the Woman, and the seed of the serpent, was given long before Abraham walked the earth. There are only two people groups in the world: those who believe in Christ and are saved, becoming the seed of the woman after the true Seed, and those who reject Christ, who are the seed of the serpent. We all begin in the same sad situation at our birth. We are all non-believers. It is only by God’s grace that we are saved, becoming a new creation in Christ.
In Dispensationalism, instead of being two people groups, there are three: Jews, Christians and everyone else. Can you see the problem here? Not all Dispy’s believe this, but there are those who believe that faithful practicing Jews will be saved just as much as a Christian because of their view of these Jews. In fact, when one of them actually trusts in Christ, these Jews are elevated to almost popish status among certain Dispy camps. It’s like the wall that was destroyed separating Jews and Gentiles in the Temple is erected all over again by these Dispys. The very wall that Jesus came to destroy is put back into place making up two different groups of people inside the church, instead of the One new man that Paul tells us about in the book of Ephesians.
This is just a start of the differences there are between those who hold to Reformed Theology and Dispensationalism. I hope that it helps you see some of the problems. The other aspect that will need to be dealt with is the idolatrous view that Dispys have of the Rapture and end times theology.
One last note: I’m not trying to anger anyone who holds to this view. Again, I am not saying you are not a Christian. What I’m saying is that the theology known as Dispensationalism is misguided. It is also relatively new in the world of theology. One thing I hope you can understand when it comes to true Christian theology, if it has the word “new” in it, then there is something wrong with that. One of the founders of this position openly admitted that these views were “new wine” and went so far as to say that those who did not hold to these views were not true believers.