Part 1: A Review of “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:594 (Apr 1992)
Article: Part 1: A Review of “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth”
Author: John A. Witmer

Part 1:
A Review of “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth”

John A. Witmer

Archivist and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Emeritus
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

In the last decade covenant and dispensational theologians have taken significant steps in dialoguing about their theological positions. John Gerstner’s recent book, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, is another discussion of dispensationalism. Because of his stature and the nature and tone of this book, his work deserves a full review in two parts. This article presents an evaluation of Gerstner’s approach to and charges against dispensationalism and related matters, and the second article in the series interacts with key theological issues raised in his work.

Using a title he acknowledges borrowing from H. A. Ironside’s critique of ultradispensationalism—Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (p. 55, footnote) Gerstner has produced what his subtitle calls “A Critique of Dispensationalism.”1 A more appropriate subtitle would be “A Diatribe against Dispensationalism” in the dictionary definition of “diatribe” as “a bitter or abusive harangue.” The work is a caricature of dispensationalism in the sense of a “distortion by exaggeration of parts or characteristics.” In fact the distortion is so extreme that few dispensationalists, this reviewer included, would acknowledge that it portrays what they believe. As such, it holds little hope of contributing significantly to the recent covenant-dispensational dialogue other than to reinforce false stereotypes about dispensationalism.

Gerstner’s Attitude

Gerstner’s attitude toward dispensationalism, as displayed in the book, is antagonistic, confrontational, denunciatory, and polemic. Throughout the book the tone almost without relief is angry, bitter, caustic, derogatory, inflammatory, judgmental, and at times even sarcastic (see p. 223). Gerstner resorts to name-calling with its concomitant guilt by association. The most prominent is antinomianism, a charge leveled in the titles of two chapters (11 and 12) and made frequently throughout the book, beginning on page 1 and ending on page 272. He also identifies dispensationalism as Arminianism (p. 107 and elsewhere), Gnosticism (p. 208), pantheism (pp. 136, 143), Pelagianism (p. 243 and elsewhere), and perfectionism (p. 246 and elsewhere). As a capstone Gerstner identifies dispensationalism as “heresy” (pp. 1, 231 and elsewhere) and a “cult” (p. 150).

In the foreword, Sproul acknowledges that “Gerstner does not have a reputation for dueling with gentility” (p. ix). Appa...

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