A Review of Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth -- By: Charles H. Ray

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 05:15 (Aug 2001)
Article: A Review of Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth
Author: Charles H. Ray


A Review of
Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth

Charles H. Ray

Associate Editor
Th. D. candidate, Tyndale Seminary

In 1991, Dr. John H. Gerstner (d. 1996) wrote a book called Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism.1 It caused a stir in the evangelical community to say the least. Several times in the book Gerstner describes dispensationalism as “spurious Calvinism and dubious evangelicalism.” He devotes an entire chapter to each of those charges. He further declares dispensationalism is rife with antinomianism. The conclusion is dispensationalism does not teach the true gospel. In fact the dust jacket has this sentence: “The distinctive tenets of Dispensationalism pose a very real threat to the doctrine of salvation.” (Ironically, the author was lead to Christ by a dispensationalist. See p.v).

The book is divided into four main sections, namely History, Philosophy & Hermeneutics, Theology, and the final part has Gerstner’s response to three dispensationalists who reviewed his work. It has no bibliography or index of any kind.

History

In this section, the author tries to show dispensationalism is recent and thus it cannot be right. Gerstner acknowledges Justin Martyr, Hermas, Papias, and Irenaeus may have been premillennialists, but they were not dispensationalists (pp.2, 3). He makes it sound as if this were shocking, when a few paragraphs before he correctly states some portions of dispensationalism are ancient, yet as a system it is relatively recent (p.1). Similarly, he mentions that the important early creeds say nothing of a millennial kingdom. They do not directly address inerrancy either. One would not expect the early church Fathers to have formulated dispensationalism as it is known today. It would be equally difficult, if not more so, for Gerstner to prove amillennialism was the majority view. One of the great church historians, Philip Schaff, affirms the dispensationalism position.

The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers.2

Gerstner agrees with W. G. T. Shedd that “premillennialism in [early] Christian churches was just a revival of a Jewish belief” (p.3). It was based not “just” on...

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