Andy Stanley Reaches Logical Conclusion of Dispensationalism

I know this is old news, but Andy Stanley, the mega-church pastor in Atlanta, GA., came out last year and said that Christians needed to unhitch themselves from the Old Testament. From what I understand, his reasoning is that the Old Testament is too much of a stumbling block for many people to come to know Christ. His logic is faulty because in the end, their stumbling block is not the Old Testament, but the Christ who gave us the Old Testament.

Michael Kruger gives a solid analysis of Stanley’s book that makes the case for unhitching ourselves from the Old Testament. You can read Kruger’s article here.

The point I’m trying to make is that Stanley is doing nothing more than coming to the logical conclusion of classical dispensationalism, which is what he was trained in while at Dallas Theological Seminary. The basic understanding of the Old Testament, for Dispensationalists, is that it was written for the Jews, and not for us Christians. They also have the belief that the Old Testament is to be used to interpret the New Testament, not the other way around.

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Against Dispensationalism — Thesis 26

Yes, there are plenty more thesis’ to go concerning Dispensationalism. I’ve already posted numbers 1-25 but I wanted us to look at number 26 in particular.

Remember, that in this discussion, I am not saying that Dispensationalists are not Christians. What I am saying is that their view of Scripture is misguided and wrong. It is a movement that only started in the 1800s and breaks with orthodox Christianity.

I was reminded this week that Dispensationalism was also a movement started by a woman who had a visions about the rapture and those around her proclaimed her to be a prophetess. (See here for the implications, and a related post concerning hearing the voice of God today).

What is wrong with this? Well, it goes against the basic understanding that the Canon of Scripture is closed. There is no more new revelation of what God has given us (Jude 3). Those who buy into Dispensationalism are buying into a system of doctrine that is based on a woman’s vision in the 1830s. If they do this, then they cannot  criticize those who have visions and so-called special revelations like David Koresh did before his death back in the early 1990s. I know that may be a bit on the extreme side in order to make the point. But the question remains: if we are accepting modern-day visions and prophecies, where do we draw the line between acceptable visions and prophecies and that which beyond reason, as was the case with Koresh, or Mary Baker Eddy, or Joseph Smith, or any number of nut jobs that have come along in the last 2000 years?

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Against Dispensationalism: Theses 1-25

Originally published December 5, 2010.

Many of you may know that I came through the Dispensational brand of theology when I was at Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS is known for its stance on dispensationalism. They have made that their trademark. (When we are talking about Dispensationalism, think of the Left Behind series and you get the idea). As a Reformed Presbyterian, I am not a dispensationalist. I believe the system of doctrine contained in that teaching is contrary to the best understanding of scripture. When I criticize dispensationalist, I am not saying they are heretics or non-believers, but simply wrong in their understanding of Scripture. There are many godly men and women who hold to the views that I reject here. So please understand that these differences I have with dispensationalist are not issues that would separate us from the table of communion together.

My main problem with dispensationalism is the common held belief that there are two peoples of God, Israelites/Jews and then those who belong to the church. This seems to go against the grain of the entire New Testament, especially in verses like Ephesian 2:11 – 3:7.

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Do You Take the Bible Literally?

I don’t, and guess what? I’m still a Christian. I know many of my brothers from Dallas Theological Seminary are taught that if we do not take the Bible literally, then we are not true Christians. The problem is: what does “literal” actually mean? According to Charles Ryrie, it means the normal usage of the word in the text. The problem with this is: who gets to determine what “normal” means?

The True Church has always let Christ and the Apostles define the terms since that puts Christ and the text of Scripture at the center of defining terms as opposed to men being at the center of those definitions. What Ryrie, and the rest at DTS, fail to see, is that they have set themselves up as the final authority’s on what the Bible means. This is a man-centered hermeneutic instead of a Christ-centered hermeneutic. In other words, this type of Bible interpretation is Solo Scriptura instead of Sola Scriptura. It is man-centered instead of Word centered.

For more on this, watch the video below from Jerry Johnson and Against the World.

Witnessing to Dispensationalist

Kenneth Gentry has a wonderful piece on how to witness to dispensationalist. He bases it on proper witnessing techniques he learned in Bible college while here in Tennessee. Not sure which college it was, but given the wonderful tips this college offered up, I’m sure that all their graduates go on to witness and lead more people to Christ than the average Billy Graham crusade.

Here are a few of the witnessing tips Gentry learned in college:

When I was a student at a dispensationalist college in Tennessee, the faculty continually emphasized that proper methods are essential for successfully witnessing to unbelievers. Because of their commitment to methodology, in the view of the administration and faculty the most important early church father was evangelist Charles G. Finney. (They noted that he was not real, real early, but that he was certainly earlier than any of the faculty — most of whom were fathers.) Finney’s important contribution to evangelism lies in the fact that he invented the “anxious bench” that was so vital for helping the sinner to convert himself.

Super church pastor Jack Hills spoke frequently in our chapel services. He emphasized how very important it was for soul-winners to use mouthwash, so as not to turn off the unbeliever who opens the door when you come knocking. He pointed out that it would be a tragedy if on Judgment Day some poor sinner was denied entry into heaven because you ate cabbage-wrapped bockwurst the day he met you. Because there were so many eager students gathered on one campus, many debates broke out regarding the best brand of mouth wash to use. This was never fully resolved in that the school year lasted only nine months.
We also learned from John R. Oats the importance of using a piano rather than an organ in evangelistic services. He pointed out that the slow building crescendo of a note on an organ was not as effective as the staccato, piercing sound of the piano. He emphasized how urgency was better promoted by a piano than an organ.(Dr. Oats even pointed out exegetically that no verse in all of the Bible mentions the electric organ.)
Tragically some students went out immediately and started smashing organs as “instruments of the devil.” One was even electrocuted because he used an iron crowbar that conducted electricity when it penetrated the electronic components within the organ. Needless to say, at his funeral we heard only the piano as we were all urged to come forward. Many of the students were born-again once again as they crowded the church aisles. And this was all because of this well-orchestrated funeral service. This student truly laid down his life for his friends.

Go read his post on actually witnessing to dispensationalists. It’s quite funny.

Also, for those of you who do not realize, this kind of debate on my blog is labeled an “in-house” debate, in that it is a debate with other Christians. We are discussing theological points, not things like the existence of God. When it comes to debates with non-Christians, atheists, JW’s, Mormons, Islamofascists, etc., those will be labeled as “out-house” debates. This means that they are debates focused on people outside of the house of God, and… these debates tend to get rather stinky. With in-house debates, we can always pray with one another at the end of the day. Out-house debates fail in this regard because we cannot agree on who it is we are praying to.

Against Dispensationalism — The Blog

I’ve added Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry’s blog, Against Dispensationalism to my blog roll. He, and the rest of the scholars at the NiceneCouncil.com, are committed to pointing out the dangers of bad theology, like Dispensationalism. They quote Dr. Robert L. Reymond, who says: “Dispensationalism has thrown down the gauntlet: and it is high time covenant theologians take up the challenge and respond to them Biblically.”

Gentry has written that Dispensationalism is beginning to die a long, painful death. Part of this is due to the wacky predictions of who the antichrist is, and when Jesus will return. In his most recent post, he lists at least 18 books that have predicted the return of Christ and such lunacy. After all, Jesus told us that no one knows when He will return except the Father in heaven. For some reason, Dispensationalists seem to always know when Christ will return.

Here is some of what Gentry writes:

This is like dispensationalism: it is such a large behemoth that its death will take a long time. Furthermore, given its inherent naivete — which allows its adherents to tolerate one failed Antichrist prediction after another and which can endure one erroneous rapture prediction after another — we can’t expect the system to die quickly. Dispensationalists are adept at grinning and bearing it.

Nevertheless, it is dying. And as we have pointed out: it dying from a brain-drain. Many of its scholars are opting out; others are radically transforming the system into what it has never been. Read the dominant dispensationalist’s vehement attacks on progressive dispensationalism. Fear is in their words: their beloved system is collapsing within.

We agree that the prophecies of the Bible do not fail of their purposes. But the prophecies of dispensationalists constantly fail. Again, review the titles listed above. As we have said many times: Dispensationalism is embarrassing itself to death.

I like the way he points out his intended purpose of the article:

In this blog article I will show that dispensationalism’s death is being effected by suicide. Apparently no amount of embarrassment and humiliation has been able to discomfit dispensational pew-sitters. Like the Eloi in “The Time Machine” they mindlessly wander about to their doom. They drift into Christian bookstores and pick up the latest mind-numbing, apocalyptic drivel. Neither wrong rapture dates nor wrong Antichrist spottings phase erstwhile dispensationalists. Their motto is: “Grin and Bear It.” But now we see that suicide might just do the trick. But first let me give a brief history lesson.

But more specifically, he shows how Dr. Chisolm, a professor at DTS, actually shows the Dispensationalism will commit suicide because of the change in the way the prophecy is viewed. Under the current system, every prophecy, according to the Dispy construct, must be fulfilled literally. Chisolm shows that this is not true at all.

The article shows that prophecy is dynamic, intending either to change or encourage the hearers rather than simply to record the future in advance. Chisholm notes that prophecy “announces God’s intentions conditionally and is intended to motivate a positive response” so that “the prophecy’s predictive element is designed to prevent (in the case of judgment announcement) or facilitate (in the case of a salvation announcement) its fulfillment” (p. 563). That is, prophecy has a hortatory dimension, which means that it seeks to encourage good behavior by promising (conditionally!) blessings in the future or to warn against bad behavior by threatening judgment. (Emphasis added).

What this means is that prophecy is not intended to show us the future, but shows us the future based upon continued obedience or lack of repentance. This means that there can be change in the prophecies fulfillment. Think of Jonah’s predication that in 40 days, all of Nineveh would be destroyed. Yet, what happened? Nineveh repented and they were sparred God’s wrath. So did the prophecy fail? Not at all. God was using the prophecy of impending judgment to bring about repentance. The prophecy brought about it’s intended purpose.

Gentry is helping us to see that those in Dispy circles are changing how they view prophecy. They are beginning to see that prophecy isn’t given to tell us the future, but to show us the future if certain conditions are or are not met.

Chisholm provides several other clear evidences of prophecy functioning as a goad to either repentance from sin or continuance in righteousness. This is prophecy’s main point: to either dynamically alter or effectively reinforce a people’s moral/spiritual condition, not to foretell the future for political pundits.

Because of this change, Dispensationalism will eventually fail. But Gentry doesn’t stop there. He shows that the predictions of Israel’s dominance of the world will not be fulfilled because those promises were conditional on her repentance and acceptance of Christ.

I believe Chisholm is correct in his view of the conditional nature and dynamic purpose of prophecy. And if he is correct, dispensationalism is no longer theologically viable.
On Chisholm’s principles we can argue that the future of Israel is not necessarily to involve a return to the land to rule the world and re-establish the temple sacrificial system. The dynamic purpose of Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s future glory were intended to encourage faithfulness. But Israel rejected all of her prophets and then when God finally sent his Son, they said: “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance” (Matt 21:38). As a result, God gave them a final forty years after Christ to repent and turn to him.

Tragically, Israel did not repent and her temple was destroyed in AD 70. As a result, Israel’s prophetic hope of future world-dominion will not be fulfilled in the literal terms of the Old Testament hope. We should not be surprised at this for Jesus himself taught:

“I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 811-12).

“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” (Matt 21:43).

This shows us that Israel will not rise up as a nation and rule for 1,000 years. Those days have passed, for Christ is ruling through His Kingdom now and there is no need for Israel, the descendants of Abraham, to rule again. This doesn’t mean that God’s prophecy of such failed. The prophecy wasn’t meant to be kept if the natural descendants were not obedient. It was given to spur on obedience, and the natural descendants failed in this regard.