Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 02:1 (Winter 1961)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Backgrounds to Dispensationalism. By Clarence B. Bass. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1960. 184 pp., $3.50.

Clarence B. Bass, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, began his doctoral program of research on J. N. Darby’s doctrine of the church as a “confirmed dispensationalist” (p. 9). As a result of these studies at the University of Edinburgh, he became convinced that the hermeneutical pattern of interpreting Scripture which dispensationalists employ is broadly divergent from that of the historic Christian faith. He confesses: “I have not found the way out of dispensationalism easy, and I sometimes wonder if even now I have left it completely” (p. 9). After studying his book carefully, the reviewer wonders whether Dr. Bass has ever understood dispensationalism and whether he has a right to be classified as a premillennialist though he claims to be one. The current fad of anti-dispensational “historic premillennialism” as represented by this book needs to be carefully studied, for its implications in the fields of hermeneutics, ecclesiology, and eschatology are for more serious than is often realized.

Dr. Bass is deeply concerned that dispensationalists insist that there be “an unconditional literal fulfillment of all prophetic promises” (p. 22), and that “the covenant with Abraham must be fulfilled in every detail” (p. 23), and that “God binds himself to fulfill every promise to Israel exactly” (p. 24). Further, a “rigid and unyielding” application of the principle of literalness “actually perverts the meaning of the text” (p. 21). While admitting that the literal-grammatical method of interpretation “is the natural one to be employed” and “is the method which gives the word the meaning it would normally have according to its natural construction and usage,” Bass maintains that it cannot be applied to prophetic promises, for “out of such literalness comes a dichotomy between Israel and the church…and the whole pattern of dispensational division follows” (pp. 21–23). In other words, we dare not take Biblical prophecy too seriously or it will lead us into the errors of dispensationalism! We are impressed by the force of logic in the following comment by T. F. Torrance, professor of dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh: “The historical particularity of Israel covenanted with God persists through the Christian era. God has not cast off His ancient people (Rom 11:1ff); for the covenant with Israel as God’s people remains in force, and cannot be ‘spiritualized’ and turned into some form alien to the stubborn historicity of its nature without calling in question the whole historical foundation of God...

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