About some time ago, I was convinced for a short while of Theonomic Postmillenialism. Now I do find the theological belief system to have a wealth of strength, admitting that a strong case can probably be made for it. However the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that Amillenialism was kicking in my head. When I made my pilgrimage from the dreaded Dispensationalism, which I believe should be a discouraged theology, Amillenial theology was where I leaned towards. Now, in honesty, eschatology has often been a subject that I have ignored. In honesty, as someone who has a high view of Covenant Theology, taking the Reformed Baptist view of covenant theology, I could not ignore eschatology.
In this post I would just like to give some reasons why I believe dispensationalism should be discouraged, and actively rejected, or as Wesleyan scholar Dr. Ben Witherington said, this theology should in fact be “left behind.” I have found it interesting that a hoard of both Reformed and non-Reformed evangelicals are uniting to challenge this position. Here are a few reasons why I believe the left-behind dispensational theology should be left behind:
- It teaches that there are two peoples of God.
God only has one people, the elect. The people of Israel, the true people of Israel always referred to the remnant according to grace, with the elect Gentiles being added to them.
The Apostle Paul labours to show this:
“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (Romans 9:6)
“For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh,” (Philippians 3:3)
The Church, is not an after-thought or plan B. It is True Israel. This is a very important feature of dispensationalism, namely its denial of the single people plan of God. It is time for people to consider stopping with reading John Hagee, to read something else. There no legitimate reason to think that God’s plan had to be changed in the process.
- It has a low view of suffering
Dispensationalism teaches that before the “abomination of desolation,” God will rapture the church thus saving them from the wrath that he will pour out in this time. This is explicitly denied in Matthew 24. I can see no scriptural reason why anyone can say that God wants to snatch us, instead of letting the church stand in the midst of trial.
It needs to be identified however that nowhere in the Scripture can be maintain that God will rapture us solely because he does did not intend to “destine us to wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). The implied meaning of this text is primarily salvific, soteriological as opposed to an eschatological salvation which is somehow different from Christ’s coming.
- It did not exist for the first 18 centuries of the Christian Church
Until Reverend John Darby, this theology was basically unheard of. It is often painful to listen to any who teaches this kind of theology, but let me put it plainly – it is not historical Christian theology. It is theology of plainly wishful thinking.
The Scriptures always refer to the coming of Christ as a unitary event, we await one blessed hope and glorious appearing (Titus 2:13) not a serious of two different comings of Christ. It is inference, which drives dispensationalism, inference does not necessitate a bad interpretation, but dispensationalism advocates a very bad inference that cannot from any reasonable measure be gained from reading the text of Scripture.
- It is typically antinomian
Antinomianism means that someone has a low view of the Law. It is typically taught in such belief-systems that the Church has no need to uphold the Moral law, or anything else. I would strongly disagree with this, believing in the perpetual significance of the moral Law. It is interesting though, that this form of thought is sometimes incorporate to some degree or another by New Covenant Theologians, obviously I believe in the typological unity of all the covenants and find the hermeneutic to deny the moral law unconvincing. I will not deal with this here, but in conclusion I hold to the view propagated and defended by the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.
“”In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 17Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. 18 For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:16-18)
“Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (Romans 3:31)
“Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8)
- You cannot come up with it by reading Scripture alone (even with the Confession Standards of Methodism, Presbyterianism, Reformed Baptist, etc.)
As to where I believe many theologies could come from an explicit text, and inferred like many systems are to some degree. I will not expand, but I think the variety of Christian traditions would agree with me.
This is why God has given me the choice as he predestined to leave behind the Left-Behind theology. As we continue looking around however, the apparent gospel of dispensationalism continues to thrive as truth. It however should be discarded without any real long thought, it is inference and bad inference–it is eisegesis.