A Review of “Dispensationalism” by John Wick Bowman: Part II -- By: Clarence E. Mason, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 114:454 (Apr 1957)
Article: A Review of “Dispensationalism” by John Wick Bowman: Part II
Author: Clarence E. Mason, Jr.


A Review of “Dispensationalism” by John Wick Bowman:
Part II

Clarence E. Mason, Jr.

[“The Bible and Modern Religions: II. Dispensationalism,” Interpretation, 10:2:170–87, April, 1956.]

[Clarence E. Mason, Jr., is Dean of the Philadelphia Bible Institute and a member of the Committee for the revision of the Scofield Reference Bible appointed by the Oxford University Press.]

The Seven Dispensations

Bowman first restates, quite acceptably, a summary of the seven dispensations, and follows this by saying that Scofield indicates that “each of these periods or Dispensations is characterized by (a) a divinely-imposed testing, (b) man’s sinful response to the same, and (c) God’s judgment accordingly upon man’s sin. The seventh dispensation only appears not to fall into this pattern.” He then closes with an observation not acceptable, whose last chord is a sour note indeed: “In each of the other periods God demands man’s obedience to the test imposed, man fails to measure up to the divine demand, and receives accordingly the divine condenmation or judgment—a dismal picture, indeed!”

Bowman’s criticism of the SRB dispensational system is threefold:

1. The misuse of the worddispensation.” Bowman labors the point that the word oikonomia primarily means stewardship,

administration, etc., but that this word sometimes translated “dispensation…never means nor does it have any reference to a period of time as such, as Scofield’s definition demands” on page 5 of SRB.

This criticism states nothing new nor earth-shaking. The writer is one of a growing group of dispensationalists who believe it would be better to reserve the word dispensation for the content of the test by which the divine wisdom is now proposing to deal with men, and to use the word age, which is another good Bible word, to describe the particular

period of time in which the test is dominant. But having said this, this group of dispensationalists by no means feel that Bowman is correct in rejecting “any temporal connection” of the word dispensation. The genius and thesis of SRB’s position is that new and fuller revelation is made by God, beginning at a specific occasion in time and continuing through a period of time in which man is especially responsible for this added test of revealed truth, regardless of what he has been previously told. He further suggests that that period of time is then followed by another, initiated by a further revelation of truth, which is followed by another, until the sequence o...

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