One of the chief reasons that many are drawn to Dispensationalism is because of their commitment to the Scriptures. Dispensationalists claim that their system can be deduced from the plain interpretation of Scripture.
Specifically, Dispensationalists contend that a “literal” hermeneutic is required to properly understand the Scriptures. The application of “literalism” is a notorious problem, and it has been rightly criticized as “so-called literalism,” “wooden literalism,” and “inconsistent literalism.” However, there is a far more serious crisis with regard to the foundation of Dispensational “literalism.”
The problem is that the Dispensational hermeneutic is not based upon the exegesis of Scripture. “Literalism” is a presupposition, a philosophical pre-commitment. In fact, Dispensationalists routinely teach that one should not look to the Bible to obtain sound interpretive principles.
Matt Waymeyer recently wrote an article called “Don’t Try this at Home: Today’s Interpreter and the ‘Apostles’ Hermeneutic.’” While the NT use of the OT can be a thorny issue, and Waymeyer does raise some valid concerns, his conclusion is that we should not even attempt to find interpretive principles in how the NT writers used the OT. Hence, the warning in the title is “Don’t try this at Home.” Other Dispensationalists have argued the same thing.
This is shocking. Dispensationalists routinely argue that Scripture ought to be our standard for everything, except for interpretive principles. The Dispensational hermeneutic is not derived from Scripture itself.
“Literalism” is a philosophical presupposition. Thus, the ultimate foundation of Dispensationalism is not the Scriptures themselves, but philosophy. This philosophical principle of “literalism” is then used to interpret the Scriptures, which produces many of the distinctively Dispensational doctrines (e.g., a future Jewish millennium). These doctrines appear to be Scriptural, but they are arrived at using interpretive principles that are foreign to Scripture.
While the application of “literalism” is a notorious problem, the foundation of “literalism” is even more deeply flawed.