A Study In The Dispensations -- By: Rolland D. McCune

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 13:2 (Summer 1970)
Article: A Study In The Dispensations
Author: Rolland D. McCune


A Study In The Dispensations

Rolland D. McCune

Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis

This is a study in the Biblical dispensations and not necessarily an apologetic for Dispensationalism. The Dispensational approach to Scripture is assumed throughout. This approach keeps Israel and the Church distinct theologically and hermeneutically throughout Scripture, uses a literal or normal interpretation of prophetic literature as well as the rest of the Bible, and has for the underlying purpose of God His own glory in this world. These three principles form the hard core of Dispensational theology and are the irreducible minimum of its tenets. Without adherence to these principles one cannot be a consistent Dispensational Biblicist; denial of any one of these tenets usually reflects a trace or more of Covenant Theology.

Not all Dispensationalists are agreed on the precise definition or the exact number of dispensations. The difference in definitions has more to do with emphases than fundamental elements, however. The number of dispensations varies among authors as they attempt to implement their definitions as well as to understand God’s revelation. These differences are intramural and do not affect Dispensationalism as such. The purpose here is to define and characterize a dispensation and also to delineate some aspects of the usual seven dispensations.

Definition Of A Dispensation

Until recently nearly all definitions of a dispensation by Dispensationalists placed emphasis on the time aspect of God’s dealings with men. Take the definition put forth in both the Old and New Scofield Reference Bibles for example: “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” Other definitions vary but

little from that of Scofield. Ironside defined a dispensation as “a period of time, long or short, in which God is dealing with men in a different way than He has ever dealt with them before.” Lincoln put it this way, “A period of time during which a particular revelation of God’s mind and will is operative, and during which man is tested as to obedience to that specific manifestation of God’s will.” In a nearly identical vein Kurtanek has “a dispensation denotes a particular period during which man is tested in respect to obedience to that will.”

In conjunction with the emphasis on time is also the matter of a test which is noted in the above definitions. God has given a certain amount of revelation which then becomes a test of man during a particular period of time. Both the elements of time and test have been incorporated into Dispe...

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