Monday, October 09, 2006

Leaving Dispensationalism Behind (Part One)

I was introduced to dispensationalism at the age of twelve by the movie, A Thief in the Night. A couple of years later, I was attending a Christian high school basketball game. They were giving hand stamps so that you could enter and leave the facility, but I refused the stamp, thinking it could be the mark of the beast. I was a teenage dispensationalist.

During spring break in my junior year at college, I took a trip to Daytona beach with Campus Crusade for Christ, and heard Ron Ralston give a week’s worth of lectures on the end times from a staunchly dispensational perspective. He was so persuasive that I immediately jumped on board.

After graduating from college, I read Faith Works by John MacArthur, and was intrigued by the appendix on dispensationalism. I loved MacArthur’s commitment to the Bible, and I was hungry to understand the Biblical basis for dispensationalism.

I read Dispensationalism Today by Charles Ryrie. I appreciated his presentation of the sine qua non of dispensationalism, but overall, I was deeply disappointed by the lack of Biblical exegesis and the reliance upon philosophical arguments.

I tried reading Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church but understood very little. Blaising and Bock’s second book, Progressive Dispensationalism, was more helpful, but I was still lacking a comprehensive dispensational worldview.

About that time, I started attending a Bible church, where dispensationalism was alive and well. For five years, I was taught classic-dispensationalism, which centered on three main points:

1) Literal Interpretation
2) A Distinction between Israel and the Church
3) Pre-Mill Eschatology with a Pre-Trib Rapture

I fully imbibed from the dispensational tap, first with The Ryrie Study Bible and later with The MacArthur Study Bible. I read The Greatness of the Kingdom by Alva J. McClain, Things to Come by Dwight Pentecost, and other similar books. Most importantly, the pastor was very generous with his time, fielding my questions and patiently explaining the finer points of dispensationalism to me.

The first ripple in my dispensational pond started when a friend of mine began to show me some flaws in the classic-dispensational view of the kingdom, particularly that Israel did not reject Christ’s “offer” of the Millennial Kingdom in his first advent. I re-read the two Blaising and Bock books with a much greater appreciation. I agreed with their critique of classic-dispensationalism, particularly with regard to the present nature of kingdom. This was confirmed as I taught through the Lord’s Prayer.

So, I migrated to a progressive-dispensational understanding of the Bible. No problem, I thought. I’m still a dispensationalist. I still believe in a literal hermeneutic, a distinction between Israel and the Church, and a pre-trib rapture.

However, I hit another speed bump during a Wednesday night series on eschatology, when I was asked to teach on the difference between the rapture and the second coming. As I diligently studied for this, I was alarmed at the paucity of Biblical evidence for such a distinction. I concluded that I must to do a full-scale study of eschatology at some point.

About this time, I decided to attend The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, California. I longed for the opportunity to study the Bible in detail and polish my theological views. I had no idea that within a month of moving to LA, my dispensational ship would hit an iceberg and began to take on water.


Steve R. said...


I'm so excited you've started this blog! It will be fun to recall your journey out of dispensationalism which was great to witness during your time in LA or 'jail' as your son puts it.

What was most incredible and refreshing of all was you humility and eagerness in approaching scripture. If only you'd look at college football teams the same way. BTW get ready for a butt whooping from Huskernation this weekend. Maybe your next blog entry could be how I Left K-State Behind. You would then complete my joy.

Could you at some point down the road provide bullet points to introduce a dispensationalist to covenant theology. Pastor G. and I had an interesting time trying to explain it to Master's College students in a quick, concise way.

Look forward to reading more!

Go Cheifs,

Eric Adams said...


Great to hear from you! Yes, I'm rather pessimistic about K-State's chances this Saturday. I pine for return of the Jamal Lord era ... but hey, speaking of memorable players, you are in for a treat in that you'll get to see a real QB for once. Josh Freeman is a stud. Big Red should have thought about recruting him.

How about the Chiefs? What a gutsy, come-from-behind win! I can't handle seeing another player laying motionless on the field. That was a savage face-mask. Looks like it might be a good time to catch Pittsburgh, though. They looked terrible against San Diego, and our defense is Guinness-level stout.

Bullet points are hard because moving from dispensationalism to covenantalism involves such a major paradigm shift. However, I hope to lay down some thought-provoking posts in the near future.

Peace, Love, and Soul,

Mike E. said...

I'm proud of you for having an open mind and embracing covenant theology and "leaving dispensationalism" Maybe you and Steve R. could exercise that openmindedness and leave the big 12 for the Conference of Champions ie. The Pacific 10.
I'm here if you need to talk.
We miss you guys out here in sunny SoCal.
Bear down and Fight on, Mike

Eric Adams said...

The Pac-10? Is that I-AA or NAIA? I can never remember. Go Trojans!

Glad Torre is staying on. That means at least one more Yankee October collapse. Go Tigers!

Sean Brandt said...

This is great stuff, Eric. Thanks for doing it.

I don't expect us to win on Saturday, but that won't stop me from hoping. Go State!

Boneman said...

I'm totally crushed by this revelation. I thought I was your theological iceberg. So if Master's was really your iceberg, what does that make me? An Icee at 7-Eleven?

Seriously, if you're going to get jiggy with the dispy's you gotta do the same with your new homey's in Reformedom! C'mon, now.



Eric Adams said...

Sean, nice collar. If I ever don one, it's got to be as white as Preacher's (Clint Eastwood) in Pale Rider. That thing glowed!

Eric Adams said...

Boneman, sorry, but Big Red was the iceberg. If it's any consolation, you did sink my White Horse Inn battleship. Maybe someday I'll start a new blog, "Why I didn't transfer to Westminster West."

Steve R. said...

Did you not transfer to Westminster West because Dr. Clark is a Husker grad? Or were they too practically dispensational for your taste?

Not that I really mean it but good luck today vs. Big Red,


Nick said...


Thanks for your testimony. The biggest problem that I have with Dispensationalism is its teaching of rebuilding of the physical temple and re-institution of the animal sacrifices in the physical land of Israel. I know many Christians hold on to this view, and they even say that Lord Jesus could not come back before all this happens. Here is very serious, I even say blasphemous, error many Christians committing by holding on to the Dispensationalism; if any Christians believe this teaching, they are in fact bringing back the OT covenant. Not only that, they are saying without knowing that Jesus' precious blood was not enough to save a certain group of people, namely Jews. This is serous error the author of Hebrews warned us. When Jesus died on the cross, He died once for all and this death is for everyone who believes regardless one is Jew or Gentile. Actually, the Lord's very death abolished this distinction of Jew or Gentile. This is one of the biggest reasons that I cannot and I will not take Dispensationalism as valid teaching from the Bible.


Nick said...


Thanks for your testimony. The biggest reason that I cannot and I will not take Dispensationalism as valid teaching from the Bible is its teaching of rebuilding of the temple and re-institution of the animal sacrifices. Many Christians believe this teaching and, they even say that Lord cannot comeback until all these things happen first. But, as a Christian, if one holds this view, in fact he or she is bringing back the OT covenant. Without realizing it, he or she is saying that the Lord's precious blood on the cross was not enough. His blood was not able to save one group of people, namely Jews. But, in actuality, the very death of Jesus abolished this distinction of Jew or Gentile. To me, the teaching of Dispensationalism is not only erroneous but also blasphemous. Did not the author of Hebrews warn us taking the Lord's blood as common thing? (I can't remember exact verse). That is why I believe this teaching of Dispensationalism should be defeated by the Bible.


Jerry Brandt said...

As a graduate of a very fundamental bapist University I came out a staunch dispensationalist. Even had one of the largest libraries im America of Dispensational works. Like you, I hit the wall of honest exegetical bible study and over the years have become a covenant proponent and Kingdom Now. Gave all my books and my Scofield bible to a upstart bible college library free... was glad to get rid of them..around 2,000 volumes. Now love the kingdom and like a man who discovers a treasure in his field I have become passionate about seeing God's kingdom come now and us reign in life.