ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM BEN WITHERINGTON ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Margaret MacDonald---1830, a teenage visionary in Glasgow, Scotland • John Nelson Darby– founder of the Plymouth Brethren and Evangelist in the U.K. and the U.S. • The spreading of the message before and during the American Civil War ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Christ will return twice, once invisibly, once visibly • The former of the two returns will coincide with a ‘rapture’ of the church into heaven for seven years • The latter is the ‘glorious appearing’ mentioned Titus 2.13 when the new Jerusalem will be established on earth ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • The harmonic convergence of the message of Darby in 1859-77 and the desire for escape from the horrors of the Civil War • To his credit, Darby abstained from trying to predict the timing of the rapture or the ‘Glorious Appearing’ ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Dwight L. Moody--- his indebtedness to Darby • Moody, and eventually the Moody Bible Institute, did the most to spread the message of Dispensationalism in the last few decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Cyrus Scofield– entrepreneur, perpetrator of fraud, a man who abandoned his family • See J.M. Canfield, The Incredible Scofield and his Book • The Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909 becomes a million seller • W.E. Dubois also publishes a popular account-- Jesus is Coming in 1878 ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • The Dispensational schema was based on, and arose out of a close reading of the KJV, not the Greek or Hebrew texts of the Bible • The need for scholarly shoring up of the system– Lewis Chafer founds the Dallas Dispensational Training Center in 1924 ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Dallas Dispensational Institute evolves into • • Dallas Theological Seminary Producing a long string of scholars and popularizers of the system--- e.g. John Walvoord (President 1952-1986), Charles Ryrie, Hal Lindsey, Timothy LaHaye to mention a few. All of these persons, whether scholars or not, have spread the hermeneutic of this system through popular books, pamphlets etc. ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • CONCLUSION ABOUT THE HISTORY– • Dispensationalism is a theory of interpreting Biblical prophecy which does not have deep historical roots and is not well grounded in the history of the interpretation of the Bible by the church over many centuries. In particular, no one was arguing for a rapture doctrine before about 1830. This is severely problematic, not least because while many early Bible interpreters were pre-millenialists, they were not advocating a rapture theology, or a two track system of interpreting everything ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • One of the major difficulties with Dispensationalism is its theories about Biblical prophecy • For example, it fails to realize that most OT prophecy was either: 1) conditional in character; 2) is already fulfilled, or 3) was speaking about a situation in the life of Israel long, long ago, not speaking about the eschatological age ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Even more problematic is its failure to recognize • that the writers of the NT are unanimous that all the prophecies and promises of God are fulfilled in Christ and in his people (Jew and Gentile united in Christ), not in two different peoples of God, and not through two different comings of Jesus In other words, a non-NT hermeneutic is being applied to prophecy in the Dispensational schema ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Definitions--, a prophet was an oracle, a mouthpiece for • some divine being, and as such he or she did not speak for himself but for another. A prophet might also be many other things (teacher, priest, sage) but the role of prophet could be distinguished from these other roles and functions. Prophecy, whether from Mari or Jerusalem or Delphi or Rome was spoken in known languages, usually in poetic form, and so was an intelligible, even if often puzzling, kind of discourse. It might involve spontaneous utterances or a reading of omens or signs of various sorts but in any case it was not a matter of deciphering ancient texts, which was the task of scribes and sages and exegetes of various sorts. Consulting a prophet was an attempt to obtain a late word from one or another deity about some pressing or impending matter. ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Principles of interpretation– most Biblical • • prophecy is a late word from God for the present or very near horizon of events When some OT prophecy is viewed messianically in the NT, it is very rarely viewed as speaking about the remote or very distant future, and it is always correlated with events which involve Christ and/or the church, not world history in general. Instead it was believed by NT writers that the eschatological age began in their own era, and they never speak precisely about the timing of the end of that era. ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • Finally, the imagaic, and metaphorical and poetic nature of apocalyptic literature needs to be kept in mind • This sort of literature, even when it speaks of the more distant horizon does so using metaphorical and multivalent language, though clearly enough it is referential as well. ON DISPENSING WITH DISPENSATIONALISM • God only reveals enough about the future to give us hope, not so much that we don’t have to exercise faith, nor so much that we should spend our time engaged in theological weather forecasting.