Dispensational Theology-Part 8
|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©2001|
|This month Dr. Showers explains: “Now that Dispensational Theology has been surveyed as a system, it is essential to determine how it deals with the necessary elements in its attempt to exposit the Bible’s philosophy of history.|
CONCLUDING CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY
Key Elements Of Dispensational Theology’s Exposition Of The Biblical Philosophy Of History
Earlier in this study we noted that, in order for an exposition of the biblical philosophy of history to be valid, it must contain certain necessary elements. Now that Dispensational Theology has been surveyed as a system, it is essential to determine how it deals with those necessary elements in its attempt to exposit the Bible’s philosophy of history.
The first necessary element of a valid exposition is an ultimate purpose or goal for history toward the fulfillment of which all history moves. According to Dispensational Theology, the ultimate goal of history is for God to glorify Himself by demonstrating the fact that He alone is the sovereign God.
The Bible ascribes great glory to God, signifying that everything is for His glory. It calls Him “The God of glory” (Acts 7:2), “the Father of glory” (Ephesians 1:17), and “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7-10). It declares that His name is glorious and expresses the desire that the whole earth be filled with His glory (Psalm 72:18-19). Because all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him, the Bible ascribes glory to God forever (Romans 11:36).
It is significant that the Bible repeatedly associates the glory of God with His sovereign rule. For example, King David declared, “Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel, our father, forever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name (1 Chronicles 29:10-13).
Many other passages associate God’s glory with the concepts of His Kingship, throne, Kingdom, dominion, and authority (Psalm 29:1-2, 9-10; 96:7-10; 97:1-6; 113:4- 5; 115:1-3; 145:10-13; Isaiah 6:1, 3, 5; Jeremiah 14:21; Daniel 7:14; Matthew 19:28; 25:31; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 25; Revelation 5:13; 7:10-12).
The Bible indicates that God is glorified through His sovereign dealings with nations (Ezekiel 39:17-21), human rulers (Romans 9:17; Daniel 4:17, 34-37), the nation of Israel (Isaiah 43:1, 7; 46:13; 60:1-3; Jeremiah 13:11), the Church (Ephesians 3:20-21), and the non-elect (Romans 9:17-18, 21). God is glorified by His sovereign act of creation (Psalm 19:1; Revelation 4:11), His sovereign acts in storms (Psalm 29:1-3, 9-10), His sovereign judgments (Isaiah 2:19, 21; 59:18- 19; Ezekiel 39:17-21; Revelation 11:13; 19:1-2), and His sovereign act of hiding knowledge from human beings (Proverbs 25:2). God glorifies Himself by sovereignly redeeming lost human beings and sovereignly keeping those whom He has redeemed (Romans 9:23; 15:7-9; Ephesians 1:5-6, 12, 14, 18; Philippians 4:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:18). God is to be glorified through the righteous deeds of believers performed through the equipment which God sovereignly gives (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 13:21).
The successive dispensations glorify God in several ways. First, they demonstrate that God is the sovereign Ruler throughout history in spite of Satan’s attempt to overthrow that rule and mankind’s rebellion against it. The fact that God can hold mankind responsible to obey His different ways of administering His rule throughout history and can judge mankind for its failures to obey clearly demonstrates that God is sovereign throughout history.
Second, the dispensations demonstrate how desperately mankind needs to submit to God’s rule in order to have things right on earth. They display the disorder and tragedy which result from the rejection of God’s rule.
Third, the dispensations progressively move history toward the fulfillment of its God-intended climax. In the final “dispensation of the fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:9-10), God will glorify Himself by crushing Satan and his kingdom (Romans 16:20; Revelation 20:1-3), restoring His own Kingdom rule to the earth through Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:15; 20:4-6), and reversing the tragic consequences of man’s rebellion (Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:19-21).
The second necessary element of a valid exposition of the Bible’s philosophy of history is the recognition of distinctions or things that differ in history. Dispensational Theology claims that distinctions are the result of God administering His rule in different ways at different periods of history. In other words, distinctions are the result of the different dispensations of God’s rule.
The third necessary element is a proper concept of the progress of revelation. Dispensational Theology states that each new dispensation, since it involves a new way of God administering His rule of the world, requires new revelation. Mankind must be informed of the new way with its new responsibilities.
The fourth necessary element is a unifying principle that ties the distinctions and progressive stages of revelation together and directs them toward the fulfillment of the purpose of history. Dispensational Theology’s unifying principle for all of history is the sovereign rule of God.
Indispensable Factors Of Dispensational Theology
Three factors are indispensable to Dispensational Theology. Any system of theology that does not contain all three is not dispensational in the truest sense (Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, Chicago: Moody Press, 1965, pp. 43-47).
The first factor is the recognition of the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church. Dispensational Theology believes that, although both Israel and the Church have had special relationships with God, they are distinct entities, not essentially the same.
The second indispensable factor is the consistent use of a single hermeneutic (a single method of interpreting the Bible)—namely, the historical-grammatical method. In this method, words are given the common, ordinary meaning which they had in the culture and time in which the passage was written. Dispensational Theology is convinced that the historical-grammatical method should be employed for all of Scripture, including those prophetic passages related to Israel and the Kingdom of God.
The third indispensable factor is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God. Although Dispensational Theology recognizes that the redemption of lost human beings is a very important part of God’s purpose for history, it is convinced that it is only one part of that purpose. During the course of history God is working out many other programs in addition to the program of redeeming people. All of these programs must be contributing something to the ultimate purpose of history. Thus, the ultimate purpose of history must be large enough to incorporate all of God’s programs, not just one of them.
Dispensational Theology proposes that the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God is the only purpose capable of doing this. It also is convinced that the Scriptures indicate that this is the ultimate purpose of history.