The Heart of Dispensationalism -- By: David E. Olander

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 08:25 (Dec 2004)
Article: The Heart of Dispensationalism
Author: David E. Olander


The Heart of Dispensationalism

David E. Olander

Associate Professor of Greek, Tyndale Seminary

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)

No system of theology is immune to criticism or disapproval and in that arena, Dispensationalism is no different from any other major biblical teaching which certainly has its many critics and opponents. What is perhaps different with dispensationalism today as a system of theology is the marked and noticeable departure from dispensationalism by many bible colleges and seminaries that were once highly or completely dispensational. This is not surprising especially when there are continued warnings given in Scripture concerning departure from biblical truth (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1–3; 4:3–4). While there has always been departure from great biblical teachings and fact, the major issue here concerns the absolute certainty and truth of dispensationalism as a system of theology.

What truly defines a dispensationalist or dispensationalism? What are the basic and most fundamental teachings of dispensationalism? What are the primary issues that have arisen in the past 20 or so years especially with institutions that were dispensational? All this can be understood quite simply by answering the question what is the very heart of dispensationalism.

What is a Dispensation? What is Dispensationalism?

Through the centuries, theologians and theologies have recognized various dispensations in Scripture.1 Dispensationalism

as a system is built upon both biblical distinctions and definitions. The Scofield Reference Bible defines a dispensation as “a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.”2 Charles Ryrie defines a dispensation as a “distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.”3 Article V of the doctrinal position of Dallas Theological Seminary states specifically “We believe that the dispensations are stewardships by which God administers His purpose on the earth through man under varying responsibilities ... We believe that three of these dispensations or rules of life are the subject of extended revelation in the Scriptures, viz., the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, ...

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