Dispensational Theology -- By: Ernest Pickering

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 04:1 (Spring 1961)
Article: Dispensational Theology
Author: Ernest Pickering

Dispensational Theology

Ernest Pickering

Professor of Systematic Theology

Central Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary

In the face of strong opposition the system of Biblical interpretation commonly known as “dispensationalism” continues to flourish. Popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible, it found able advocates in past generations in such giants of the faith as A. C. Gaebelein, H, A. Ironside, William Pettengill, Lewis Sperry Chafer, J. N. Darby, James M. Gray, W. H. Griffith Thomas, I. M. Haldeman, and a host of others. Noted Biblical journals have been dispensational in tone-Our Hope, Revelation (now Eternity), and Bibliotheca Sacra. The Bible institute movement historically was almost totally dispensational and most of the leading Bible institutes and Bible colleges even today still teach this system of truth.

Actually basic principles of dispensationalism can be found quite early in the church’s history. The church of the first three centuries was overwhelmingly premillennial, and premillennialism is inherently dispensational. Later writers set forth various dispensational schemes (cf. Bibliotheca Sacra, Nos. 402–405, articles by Arnold Ehlert entitled, “A Bibliography of Dispensationalism”). To state that the principles of dispensationalism are “theological novelties” is hardly a fair and accurate observation.

Sharp criticism has been thrown at dispensationalism in the last twenty years. Whole books have been written to discredit its premises such as the following: Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church; Jesse W. Hodges, Christ’s Coming Kingdom; and Clarence Bass, Backgrounds to Dispensationalism. Many pamphlets and periodical articles have also appeared opposing dispensationalism. In light of this quite vocal attack it is urgently necessary to reiterate, emphasize, and clarify the leading principles of dispensational premillennialism.

The question naturally arises, “Why the rising tide of anti-dispensational feeling?” Perhaps the most obvious answer is simply that any theological system which becomes prominent and makes an impact upon the churches will find opposition. However, there are other factors which no doubt account for this as well. There is a growing spirit of ecumenicism among evangelicals which tends to fuzziness of theological perspective and lack of sharply-defined distinctions. Dispensationalism tends to be more sharply-defined and hence does not fit into this contemporary picture as readily.

We are also confronted with a growing “intellectualism” among evangelical scholars. They claim dissatisfaction w...

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