Developing Dispensationalism Part 2: Development of Dispensationalism by Contemporary Dispensationalists -- By: Craig A. Blaising

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 145:579 (Jul 1988)
Article: Developing Dispensationalism Part 2: Development of Dispensationalism by Contemporary Dispensationalists
Author: Craig A. Blaising


Developing Dispensationalism
Part 2:
Development of Dispensationalism by Contemporary Dispensationalists

Craig A. Blaising

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Dallas Theological Seminary

Dispensationalism is undeniably a doctrinal development in the history of theology. Everyone recognizes this (in spite of sometimes tongue-in-cheek remarks such as “anybody who worships on Sunday is a dispensationalist,” i.e., the whole church throughout history excluding sabbatarians such as the modern Seventh-day Adventists). John Nelson Darby had his own view of this development. As he saw it, the entire history of the church since the Apostles was marked by apostasy. He saw his own theological work as a recovery of apostolic doctrine. Others have attempted to find at least some continuity with the early church fathers for dispensational distinctives, but that appeal has never really been convincing, except perhaps on the matter of belief in multiple historical dispensations.1

Dispensationalists are aware that their system has introduced a new theological synthesis into the history of postapostolic

Christian thought. That is why they frequently counter the antidispensational tradition-polemic with sola Scriptura. That fact alone is clear evidence of the problem of orthodox doctrinal development. In dispensationalism there is the emergence of a new doctrinal synthesis legitimizing itself against an older synthesis (tradition) on the grounds of Scripture.2

Not all dispensationalists have followed Darby in relegating the whole historical church since the Apostles to apostasy. In the United States for example many dispensationalists have sought to maintain some traditional continuity with the Reformation. In fact dispensationalists including Darby have had a great deal of continuity with the broad stream of orthodoxy. But when they have attempted to maintain a confessional allegiance to some more recent tradition—Reformed thought from the Westminster Confession through American Presbyterianism, for example—all the strains and pressures of the phenomena of doctrinal development are clearly sensed. In spite of this, dispensational theologians have not really grasped the problem of doctrinal development, the problem that only began to be articulated in the days of Darby by John Henry Newman and which few evangelicals have addressed directly. Actually dispensationalists because of their place in the history of doctrine should be the most concerned for proper orthodox doctrinal development and should encourage the present application of the same princi...

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