Why I Am A Dispensationalist With A Small “d” -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 41:3 (Sep 1998)
Article: Why I Am A Dispensationalist With A Small “d”
Author: Darrell L. Bock


Why I Am A Dispensationalist With A Small “d”

Darrell L. Bock*

* Darrell Bock is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204.

I. Why Ask Why?

More than a decade ago at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society the ETS Dispensational Study Group held its inaugural meeting.1 The goal of our meetings was to discuss various issues related to dispensationalism because those who launched the effort felt that such discussion would prove fruitful not only to dispensationalists but also to other Society members interested in eschatology. The effort began with the combined help of some who today might identify themselves either as progressive or traditional dispensationalists. The group was consciously committed not only to having discussion among themselves but also to having others participate as speakers who did not identify with dispensationalism but with other theological traditions. Talking to one another, not about one another, was and is a major goal of our meetings.

This essay’s goal is similar. Why not engage in some reflection about what dispensationalism is as a movement? Why not make clear why dispensationalists identify with dispensationalism as a significant contributor to evangelical theology? What does dispensationalism contribute to evangelical theology? Why not reflect on its strengths, developments and potential weaknesses? That will be my goal. This is all the more important as some within our tradition have asked, even publicly, whether progressive dispensationalism is in fact dispensationalism at all. Some of these critics regard it instead as a troubling hybrid and an attempt to be covenant theology in sheep’s clothing.2

I think it is important and appropriate to answer this question as directly as possible. I hope to affirm the strengths of this tradition and why I identify with it.

I also want all of us, whatever our tradition, to reflect on what the meaning and limitations of such traditional labels are. What does identifying with a tradition mean in a Biblically oriented group that is quite aware of Paul’s rebuke in 1 Corinthians 1 about being of Paul or of Apollos or even of Christ? This is the explanation for the small “d.” It is my contention that all of us, whatever our traditional roots, need to hold to our tradition with a sense that it possesses a small-letter dimension in recognition of the fact that many points we discuss with one another are points of debate between Biblical...

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