Is Dispensationalism Dead?


Posted by Matt Postiff June 12, 2008 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Dispensationalism 

Ever since I talked to a pastor in Florida a few weeks ago, I have been thinking about the future of Dispensationalism. My title above was inspired by this pastor showing concern that the resurgence in popularity of Reformed theology may basically kill dispensational thought. In fact, he reported that Charles Ryrie, speaking at a Bible conference recently, said that the greatest threat to Dispensationalism is Reformed theology. Caution: This is not to say that if Dispensationalism dies it takes Christianity down with it--I'm not trying to raise Dispensationalism to the level of a fundamental of the faith! More on that later.

I have serious doubts about the death of Dispensationalism. I think that the concerns of its demise are greatly exaggerated, and hope to allay those concerns in future blog entries by defining and commenting on it. That said, I am concerned that the Dispensationalism be better understood. In many circles, it is greatly misunderstood. Many have not even heard of it, despite it being taught for several generations within fundamental and evangelical circles in the United States through schools like Dallas Theological Seminary and Grace Theological Seminary, not to mention many others. Antagonists who hold to a Covenant approach to the Bible often have such a skewed view of what Dispensationalism is and what it is not that they cannot possibly make an objective analysis of it. Even Dispensationalists misunderstand the genius of the system and think that many other doctrines necessarily rise or fall with it. I will justify these comments in later posts.

Let me also comment on two examples that show that Dispensationalism could be more rigorously promoted. The first is the school I've attended and taught at, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. It is dispensational in the traditional sense of the term (as opposed to progressive dispensational), and this is commendable. And while Dispensationalism is sprinkled throughout the curriculum and is treated some in the systematic and hermeneutics courses, two key courses, Dispensationalism and the Kingdom of God, are taught in summer school and as a result many students do not take them. As a result, students can graduate and lack more in-depth training that would be helpful to respond to the progressive dispensational view and the covenant view. To be sure, DBTS is not about duplicating theological robots, but that does not mean it must not confidently promote a certain form of doctrine. This is not to lay blame, but just to make an observation--after all, the curriculum at DBTS is packed and it is hard to decide between many necessary courses in the M.Div. program.

A second example is the IFCA International. A recent Voice magazine (May/June 2007) mentioned some issues in Dispensationalism. Another pastor integrally involved in the IFCA in Michigan told me of concerns in the fellowship that, though Dispensationalism is part of their doctrinal basis, many pastors of IFCA churches are not versed in it and it seems to be on the wane. Thus, even a fellowship dedicated to promoting this approach to the Bible is weakening in it.

Please feel free to send me comments on this and other future posts here.

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