Friday, June 30, 2006

Tackling Dispensationalism III

According to the New Scofield Bible, a dispensation is, “A period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” Dispensationalists see seven such periods of time, dispensations in which God deals differently with his people. These dispensations are innocence, conscience, government, promise, law, grace, and tribulation. Following these are the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. It is not my purpose to expound dispensationalism in these posts, but I list these periods of time to underline this assertion: Dispensationalism is complicated.

Granted, life is complicated. History is complicated. Getting the most out of Scripture requires work, thought and discipline. Even learning games is complicated (I played crib recently, but I still don’t really get it). However, I do not believe that understanding God’s ways with man has to be so difficult.

We have embraced a helpful discipleship tool, The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. As the title indicates, it is based on the account of Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus found in Luke 24. It is simple, it is profound, it is biblical and it has been well received by new Christians and searchers in our church. The organization Good Seed takes no particular eschatological stand, but their take on biblical interpretation lines up very well with my own. The emphasis is on God as Creator/Owner of all that He has made, pervasive human sinfulness since the Fall and God’s Promised Deliverer.

God’s revelation unfolds over time, little by little. This covenant was hidden in the past, is revealed through the preaching of the Gospel, and will be fully experienced when we see Christ face-to-face. Each of these aspects deserves a separate blog post.  Let me leave you with three passages from the ESV as a teaser:

Rom 16:25-27:  Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Gal 3:17-18: This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

1 Peter 1:10-12:  Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

3 comments:

Kim said...

Our church used that discipleship tool in its home bible studies.

BugBlaster said...

Hi Terry,
The total of seven always seemed artificial, as did some of the dividing lines. I was always mystified by all those pre-law dispensations. They seemed to be going way beyond scripture.

Also, there was too much awareness of elements of the "law" long before the law was given through Moses for us to say with certainty that they were without law.

Examples:
Abraham offered many "burnt offerings."

Lot baked "unleavened bread" for his angelic visitors.

Upon leaving the ark, Noah offered "burnt offerings" of only the "clean animals"

Abel offered "firstlings" (the best animals?) and the "fat portions" to God.

We are told only what we need to know in the Bible. There is a lot that we are not told about the interaction of say, Shem, with his God.

Extra-biblically, the Code of Hammurabi predates both Abraham and of course the Mosaic law, but has dozens upon dozens of similar elements to the law. And Hammurabi's Code was a compilation and consolidation of previous Babylonian codes.

Don't worry, I believe what the Bible tells us about the Mosaic law being given directly from God, but the Scriptural and extra-Biblical information are consistent with the notion of at least some significant portion of the law of God being known long before the time of Moses, and possibly known back to the time of Asshur and Shem.

But it would have been corrupted by successive generations of man. Hence by the time of Abraham, Ur was not a place that knew the true God.

Sooooo, perhaps we can stroke "government" and "promise" from the list (and maybe even "conscience"). That would leave us with innocence, law, and grace. We would then part ways only on tribulation and the millennial kingdom.

This is a terrible amount of speculation, but it is done as a counter to the greater speculation that necessarily must take place to fit two or three unique dispensations between the fall and the law.

Those'r all the thoughts for tonight. After this I hope you don't think I'm trying to buck for wingnut status :)

Delink me if you must!

stauf46 said...

Good comments, Buggy. I'm poking a stick in this wasp's nest to learn as much as I am to vent my opinions. These things are too complicated to package into neat little systems, if I don't sound too postmodern saying that!