Dispensationalism's Basic Fallacies--No. 1
Professor Price's article on dispensationalism in the August, 1938, Ministry, is most timely, and worthy of careful study by every Seventh-day Adventist minister. Personally, I believe that we concede too much when we classify dispensationalists as Fundamentalists. They certainly are not contending for "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 3. Like the Pharisees of old, they have a zeal, but not according to Biblical truth and knowledge.
In my home town, Plymouth (Devon), England, the birthplace of the Plymouth Brethren, I have come much in contact with the devotees of dispensationalism and with their writings. I gave considerable study to the matter some years ago, and finally came to the conclusion that modern dispensational-ism is well related to futurism, that great enemy of the historical school of prophetic interpretation.
A dispensationalist is, as the name implies, a believer in dispensations, and contends that Biblical history is divided up into various dispensations, such as "antediluvian," "patriarchal," "Mosaical," "Christian," etc. There is, of course, no Scriptural authority for this.
A dispensation is a period of time in which something is being dispensed. At least three things are essential to make a dispensation.
There must be (1) a dispenser; (2) something to dispense; and (3) a receiver of that which is dispensed. A fourth factor might be added; namely, an agent or medium through whom the dispenser dispenses. To illustrate: God is the dispenser; Christ is the medium; grace is that which is dispensed; and man is the recipient. As God does not change, there can be only one gospel dispensation.
In the November, 1935, Ministry, under the heading, "Fallacy of Antinomian Arguments," E. L. Maxwell pointed out the danger of dispensationalism, and showed clearly that we should be very careful in the use of terms which may ally us with dispensationalists and their errors, even though we may use such expressions merely to denote some period of time. He says:
"The terms, `old,' Mosaic,' or 'law dispensation,' and `new,' gospel,' or 'Christian dispensation,' together with 'dispensation of grace,' or 'dispensation of the Spirit,' etc., are the inventions of theologians. They have no place in the Bible."—Page 17.
Permit me here to digress a little in order to mention that of the two systems of apocalyptical interpretation which emanate from Rome —preterism and futurism—the latter is the more dangerous in that most of its opponents have themselves been caught in its subtle net. Strange to say, this baneful system was introduced into England, so far as the nineteenth century is concerned, in 1826 by S. R. Maitland, librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and into America about 1844 by Moses Stuart. Now, granting that futurism originated in the mind of Ribera, the Jesuit, through early dispensational beliefs, it would seem that the acceptance of this system by Protestants has been instrumental in enlarging the errors of modern dispensationalism. Unfortunately, futurism has not been confined to the book of Revelation, but has also been largely applied to the Old Testament prophecies, to the total neglect of their local setting and fulfillment. And herein lies the great danger of this subtle Jesuit bypath, in that it creates dispensational ideas in the minds of the professed believers.
Some of the principles and methods that I learned in college in studying the major and minor prophets have greatly helped me in my study of the Old Testament, and I am of the opinion that if modern dispensationalists understood them, they would cease to be such. Three of these follow.
1. An understanding of the life and times of each prophet is essential as a basis for an adequate comprehension of his message.
2. The particular application of a prophet's message to his own generation.
3. The special predictive element touching the future of God's people.
The second principle is especially important in the reading of the Old Testament prophets. Then among the principles of interpretation, two must suffice:
I. The same outline may relate to different events, and predictions apparently initially fulfilled may yet await a grander fulfillment.
2. The final attitude of any nation toward God will determine the fulfillment or nonfulfillment of predictions of prosperity or adversity made concerning that nation.
Professor Price is quite true in his statement —as all Seventh-day Adventist ministers have cause to know—that "they [dispensationalists] are never troubled with the pathetic plea of Oliver Cromwell, which has come down through the centuries: 'My brethren, by the bowels of Christ I beseech you, bethink you that ye may be mistaken.'" H. Grattan Guiness discovered the same spirit in his day. In his book "Fallacies of Futurism," he comments thus on Robert Anderson's book, "The Coming Prince, the Last Great Monarch of Christendom."
"The book though containing some valuable truth and original research, is marred by error and assumption, as well as by rash statements and wild speculations. It is also marred by a disrespectful, supercilious manner in speaking of opponents, which is neither gentlemanly nor Christian, for we are commanded 'to be courteous!' "—Pages 43, 44.
And A. Close, in his "Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms," says:
"The Plymouth Brethren, founded in 183o by J. N. Darby, immediately seized on Maitland's interpretation (i.e., of the Jesuit Ribera's "Futurism,"] then new to the English world of literature, and have . ever since powerfully propagated his views."--Page 3.
Now the Plymouth Brethren are prolific dispensationalists, as well as futurists. The two go together. Unfortunately their false beliefs have permeated almost every other body of professed Christians. The far-reaching effects of this fallacious system of dividing Biblical history into a variety of dispensations may be seen from the following catalogue of errors, which I have gathered from contact with them and their writings:
"The Age of Law and the Age of Grace" theory ; "God `s earthly people, the Jews, and His heavenly people, the Gentile Christians." The earthly people, the Jews, cast off until the heavenly people, the Bride, the Lamb's wife, have been gathered out." "The impending return of the earthly people, the Jews, to Palestine, and the secret rapture of the heavenly people, the church, or saints." "The second coming made up of two comings, i.e., coming for His saints in the secret rapture, and coming with His saints at the end of the seventieth week." "The Sabbath confined to the earthly people, the Jews ; and the Lord's Day, Sunday, to the heavenly people, the Christians." "The time clock of prophecy stopped [at 31 A.n.] until the commencement of the seventieth week of Daniel 9 :27," i.e., the great gap theory. "The antichrist to come after the church has been caught away, i.e., during the seventieth week." "The temporal millennium on earth." "The peace and safety cry." "The coming Elijah and a future probation." "The return of the bride, the heavenly people, from the wedding, to rule over the earthly people, the Jews." "The earthly Jerusalem will be the metropolis of the future kingdom, the heavenly city being suspended in the air above it." "The Scriptures divided into church truth and kingdom truth." "The discrimination between earthly promises made to the earthly people, and the heavenly promises made to the heavenly people." "The once in grace always in grace" theory, etc.
Thus in the dispensational edifice that has been erected, every brick is of the earth, earthy. The whole is built on a sandy foundation, soon to perish. Or to use another figure, it is a plant not of the Lord's planting; hence, one that is soon to be rooted up. There are certain key Scriptures to meet every one of the foregoing fallacies that will always leave the dispensationalist floundering. Every Seventh-day Adventist minister with the wonderful truth that God has committed to our trust should study how to use them, and thus be instrumental by the grace of God in delivering even dispensationalists from the errors of their belief.
_____________ To be concluded in December
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