Dispensationalism -- By: Lewis Sperry Chafer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 093:372 (Oct 1936)
Article: Dispensationalism
Author: Lewis Sperry Chafer


Lewis Sperry Chafer

[Author’s Note: (a) The title of this thesis has been chosen reluctantly. It is not intended by it to imply that those who hold what are here set forth as dispensational beliefs are abnormal or disproportionate in doctrine. This thesis purports to demonstrate that so-called Dispensationalists find the specific meaning of the Scriptures which God intended to impart and are, therefore, by the most exacting proofs found to be both reasonable and normal in their interpretations. This title is suffered only that this discussion may be identified in its relation to various articles others have written on this theme. (b) Much Scripture is cited. Usually the citation is not exhaustive, but serves only to provide one proof text out of the many. For want of space, the Scriptures could not be quoted. The sincere reader is requested to look up each passage; otherwise, the value of this thesis, such as it is, will not be gained.]

A controversy among orthodox theologians over dispensational distinctions is not new. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) wrote: “There is, perhaps, no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines so much differ as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ” (Edward’s Works, I, 100). But this discussion, as is often the case, has suffered much for want of definition.

The word dispensation is twofold in its import: (1) It may refer to a dispensing or an administration, or (2) to an abrogation of standards or existing laws-such are the dispensations practiced by the Church of Rome. It is obvious that the controversy among theologians is concerned only with the former. The word dispensation is Latin in its origin, being derived from dispensatio-economical management, or superintendence-and has its equivalent in the Greek οἰκονομία, meaning, in this specific usage, stewardship or economy as to special features of divine government in

the various ages. To quote the Century Dictionary bearing on the theological import of the word: ”(a) The method or scheme by which God has at different times developed his purpose, and revealed himself to man; or the body of privileges bestowed, and duties and responsibilities enjoined, in connection with that scheme or method of revelation: as the Old or Jewish dispensation; the New Gospel dispensation. (b) A period marked by a particular development of the divine purpose and revelation: as the patriarchal dispensation (lasting from Adam to Moses); the Mosaic dispensation (from Moses to Christ); the Christian dispensat...

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