Israel And The Church: The Transcendental Distinction Within The Dispensational Tradition -- By: Bruce A. Baker
JMAT 8:2 (Fall 2004) p. 57
Israel And The Church:
The Transcendental Distinction
Within The Dispensational Tradition
Senior Pastor, Open Door Bible Church Belton, Missouri
The Question Under Investigation
Ryrie’s Sine Qua Non
“What marks off a man as a dispensationalist? What is the sine qua non of the system?”1 In 1965, Charles Ryrie answered these questions in what is arguably his greatest contribution to the development of dispensationalism. In his book Dispensationalism Today, Ryrie listed for the first time his evaluation of the essentials (the sine qua non)2 of dispensationalism. These essentials were (1) a distinction between Israel and the church, (2) the use of a consistent literal hermeneutic, and (3) a doxological purpose of history.3 Ryrie’s sine qua non gained almost immediate acceptance throughout dispensational circles and rapidly became the standard definition for dispensationalism as a system for the next twenty years. Blaising correctly observes, “The importance of this work for the
JMAT 8:2 (Fall 2004) p. 58
self-understanding of late twentieth-century dispensationalism cannot be overstated.”4
Progressive Dispensationalist’s Rejection Of The Sine Qua Non
In 1985, however, with the advent of progressive dispensationalism,5 these three defining tenets came into question. While some progressives “sought to preserve Ryrie’s definitional method while adjusting the contents of the definition he proposed,”6 ultimately the quest for the defining essence of dispensationalism was abandoned by progressives. Blaising lists three reasons for discarding Ryrie’s sine qua non:
First, as already noted, the essentialist approach to defining dispensationalism is too narrow. It omits beliefs, perspectives, and emphases that form a more natural identity. Furthermore, it has failed to grasp the living, developing, historical character of dispensationalism.
Second, the essentialist approach has as the object of its quest beliefs or (hermeneutical) practice that belong exclusively to dispensationalists. Nowhere did Ryrie assert this more strongly than in the area of hermeneutics. But nowadays this is simply not the case. While hermeneutical self-consciousness does characterize present dispensationalism, it does not pretend t...
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