A New Look at Dispensationalism -- By: Roy L. Aldrich

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 120:477 (Jan 1963)
Article: A New Look at Dispensationalism
Author: Roy L. Aldrich

A New Look at Dispensationalism

Roy L. Aldrich

[Roy L. Aldrich, President, Detroit Bible College, Detroit Visiting Bible Lecturer, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The current debate over dispensationalism suffers for lack of clarity and agreement in the area of basic definitions. It also suffers from an overemphasis upon distinctives and a neglect of the areas of agreement. It would be naive to suppose that the dispensationalist and his critics have no important theological differences. However, this study takes a new look at the dispensational debate to show that the problem of definition is not impossible, and that both sides have much more in common about essential dispensational distinctions than they have in difference. Surely this is the emphasis most needed today.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following as the theological definition of dispensation: “A religious order or system, conceived as divinely instituted, or as a stage in a progressive revelation expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time, as the patriarchal, Mosaic (or Jewish) dispensation, the Christian dispensation; also the age or period during which such system has prevailed.”1 It is probable that this definition would be generally approved by both modern dispensationalists and nondispensationalists. Attention is directed to the fact that a dispensation includes the two factors of a religious order and the age during which the order is in effect.

The idea of a religious order or economy is indicated in the New Testament by the Greek word oikonomia. This is a compound term derived by union of the word oikos (house) and nomos (law). The literal meaning is thus “house rule” which is expanded to mean stewardship, or economy.

The word is found eight times in the New Testament. The first three occurrences are all in the parable of the unjust steward and the word has the limited and local meaning of stewardship: “…Give account of thy stewardship” (Luke 16:2), “…My lord taketh away from me the stewardship” (Luke 16:3), “…When I am put out of the stewardship” (Luke 16:4).

Paul uses the term with a wider meaning in the following five passages: “…I have a stewardship intrusted to me” (1 Cor 9:17, ASV). “…The dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2

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