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.