• Old Testament,  Theology

    When did Israel Stop Being God’s People?

    No one can deny that Israel had a unique role as God’s chosen people in the past. They received a privilege no other nation had ever experienced! They were his firstborn son (Exod 4:22) and his treasured possession (Exod 19:5; Deut 7:6). When Moses was reminding the people of their special role as God’s people, he noted the uniqueness of God speaking to them “out of the midst of the fire” and taking “a nation for himself from the midst of another nation by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war…” (Deut 4:33–34). We read one of the most descriptive statements about Israel’s unique status as God’s people in Deuteronomy 7:6. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the…

  • Culture,  Theology

    Do Dispensationalists Cause Cultural Decay?

    Postmillenialists will often claim that dispensationalists do not engage the culture and have no interest in seeing the culture flourish. Furthermore, it is often stated that wherever dispensationalism flourishes, the culture decays. Thus, it is dispensationalism which is dangerous and causes cultural decay. Although I have written before that many incorrectly argue that dispensationalism hurts the church, today I want address the subject again, focusing on whether dispensationalists promote an escapist worldview which causes cultural decay. It is my goal that the argument that dispensationalists don’t care about culture should be be retired from use, since it is neither true nor the real issue. An Eschatology of Escapism for Dispensationalists? It is quite popular in some Christian circles (postmillenialists usually) to accuse dispensationalists as being escapists, unconcerned by what happens in the culture. Gary DeMar describes this alleged inaction and laziness as the “Fatal Flaw in the Culture War.” He…

  • Church,  Culture,  Theology

    Does Dispensationalism Hurt the Church?

    Not too long ago while I was on social media I stumbled across a quote by a Christian cultural apologist who said, “Wherever dispensationalism has gained ground, Christian culture has lost ground.” Although the claim that dispensationalism has hurt the church is not new, it was interesting to see how much agreement the post garnered in the comments. Some commenters labeled dispensationalism as the worst heresy the church has seen. Others said dispensationalism is a damnable heresy which has single-handedly lost the American culture war. In this post I would like to analyze the argument that dispensationalism itself is dangerous and responsible for the cultural loss we see in Western culture today. What is Dispensationalism? As I have written elsewhere, it is unfortunately common for people to wrongly attribute heretical beliefs to dispensationalism which are not inherently a part of the system. Dispensationalism should simply be viewed as a set…

  • Review,  Theology

    Book Review: Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational & Covenantal Theologies

    Typically, when there is a multiple-views book, it is a multiple-author attempt to persuade the reader to a certain theological position. These books have a needed place in the church, but it is certainly not the only way to compare different theological viewpoints. Most recently, I read a refreshing book on the multiple-views theme by a single author, Ben Merkle. I want to highlight this book as a valuable resource in the field of understanding eschatological systems because of its unique approach. Merkle’s book, Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational & Covenantal Theologies (Lexham Press, 2020), is a multiple-views book by a single author (Merkle). However, rather than attempting to persuade the reader to any particular theological system, Merkle takes great pains to remain purely descriptive of the theological systems. I think he does a remarkable job in doing this, and to Merkle’s credit, he is able to describe…

  • Church,  Hermeneutics,  Theology

    7 Beliefs that Don’t Define Dispensationalism

    Readers of this blog may be curious as to what makes someone a dispensationalist. Simply put, dispensationalism is a set of doctrinal beliefs that deal with hermeneutics (how to read Scripture), ecclesiology (how the church operates), and eschatology (what the end times look like). Hence, a dispensationalist holds a distinctive set of beliefs about understanding Scripture, the role and function of the church, and about the end times. I have written elsewhere about how one can define dispensationalism, but in this post I want to highlight seven fundamentally errant beliefs that are sometimes associated with dispensationalism. These are charges that are often leveled against dispensationalism in a variety of circles. I have listed them in their accusatory forms. Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation. Unfortunately, this myth is often repeated, but has no basis in reality. Some people accuse dispensationalists of believing OT saints were saved by keeping the Law…

  • Hermeneutics,  Theology

    How do You Define Dispensationalism?

    I have written previously on the beliefs that are often linked with a dispensationalism, yet should not be associated with the theological system itself. Those beliefs are not inherent to the system of dispensationalism, and therefore are not essential to a dispensationalist. Today we turn the page and look at which beliefs define dispensationalism. We can define dispensationalism as a set of doctrinal beliefs that deal with hermeneutics, ecclesiology, and eschatology. This means that within those three spheres, a dispensationalist must hold to a specific set of beliefs concerning how one understands Scripture, the role and function of the church, and the end times. Thus, what follows are the four beliefs which each dispensationalist must hold to. Dispensationalism teaches that the Old Testament must be interpreted within its own context. This is, in my opinion, the most important belief of a dispensationalist because it leads to the rest. The core…

  • Review

    Book Review: Forsaking Israel

    One of the main reasons I came to Shepherds Theological Seminary was because of Dr. Larry Pettegrew. He had an impeccable reputation as a humble scholar who loved the Lord and his family. The most recent effort which validates his well-deserved reputation is the book, Forsaking Israel: How it Happened and Why it Matters (Kress, 2020). Forsaking Israel contains years and years of research and study on behalf of Pettegrew and some other distinguished colleagues at Shepherds Theological Seminary. The book is divided into two main sections. The main thrust of the first section is church history, and a discussion of the Church Fathers and why Israel began to be neglected in early church history. This section of the book also includes one of the most detailed analyses of the history of Covenant Theology and how the theology itself contributed to a downplaying of Israel as God’s chosen people. The…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    Following the Principle of the Law

    We have looked previously at the clear testimony of Scripture that the believer’s relationship to the Mosaic Law has drastically changed. In fact, because the Mosaic Law was tied to the Mosaic Covenant, when the Mosaic Covenant passed away, the believer was no longer under the Law (cf. Gal 5:18). But, yet we see Paul and the other Apostles constantly being influenced by and appealing to the Law. How can this be?   It stands to reason that although the Law is no longer binding, this does not mean there is no more usefulness to the Mosaic Law. In fact, I would argue that the Mosaic Law retains its didactic purpose and helps instruct mankind how to live in light of the creation principles. In other words, the Law stops functioning as a law code, but it retains its pedagogical function, giving the Christian insight into the character of the…

  • Christian Living,  Law,  Old Testament

    Does the Old Testament Law Apply Today?

    How does a Christian apply the Old Testament Law today? This is a bit of a complicated question. Given the fact that the Law reflects creation principles, we should not be surprised that it remains relevant. Indeed, Scripture unequivocally teaches the positive role of the Mosaic Law in the life of the Christian. “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Rom 3:31) “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7:12) On the other hand, there are also clear Scripture passages which indicate the believer’s relationship to the Mosaic Law has drastically changed. “Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17) “You are not under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14) “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4) “But if you are…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Purpose of the Old Testament Law

    In a prior post, I mentioned that the Law needs to be read in its narrative context. In addition to being sensitive to the narrative context, we also need to evaluate the purpose of the Old Testament Law as it is portrayed in the Old Testament itself. This is an important first step in helping understand the differences that we see between the Old and New Testaments. The Law was never a means of salvation First, we need to adimently reaffirm that the Law is not portrayed as a standard for salvation. It is common for people to accuse dispensationalists of believing the Law was the means of salvation for Israel. I have spoken against this on multiple occasions, but if you are looking for an in depth treatment on the subject, John Feinberg wrote an excellent article on salvation in the Old Testament. Additionally, as I argued previously, the…