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A Study of Dispensationalism
by Arthur Pink

"But there is further reason, and a pressing one today, why we should write upon our present subject, and that is to expose the modern and pernicious error of Dispensationalism. This is a device of the Enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to "make the Bible a new book" by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation."

My Appearance on the Peter Jennings' Special

P. Andrew Sandlin | The Bible of Jesus, not Just the Jesus of the Bible

If you saw Peter Jennings’ wildly uneven three-hour ABC special Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness Monday evening, you saw, among many other people, this writer (albeit a younger, thinner and less balding permutation). Near the end of the special, Jennings is suggesting a tension in Paul between a “Puritanical” strain on the one hand and an emphasis on love, gentleness and inclusion on the other. To evince how this tension survives to this very day in the Christianity that Paul “founded,” Jennings sandwiches clips of alleged Christians holding banners supporting gay rights, and a Black minister pontificating on the necessity for “inclusion” (one infers from the context that it is homosexual inclusion to which he refers) with Pat Buchanan declaring that there is no such thing as equality, and me preaching that Romans 1 declares homosexuality to be a vile sin. In the context of Jennings’ argument, Buchanan and I represent the harsh and intolerant side of Paul, while the banner-bearing gay-rights Christians and the Black minister represent the loving and inclusionary side of Paul. The footage of me was captured the Sunday in October, 1992 when the ABC crew filmed my sermon in which I stated the controversial thesis that for Christians to vote for Bill Clinton in the upcoming election was a sin. In that sermon I also mentioned Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality.

Jennings’ entire program was tilted heavily toward the views of the extensively interviewed theologically liberal or radical scholars like Marcus Borg (of the infamous Jesus Seminar), Elaine Pagels (author of The Gnostic Gospels), and John Shelby Spong (the notorious radical Episcopalian). Fortunately, Paul Maier, Ben Witherington, and N. T. Wright preserved the Biblical picture of Jesus and Paul. They were vastly outnumbered, however, and Jennings’ own narrative was sizzling in skepticism. Neither he nor his liberal commentators treated the Bible as a sacred text, surely not as the written Word of God. It may be generally reliable as an historical document (though this opinion is at points dubious), but its claims must be tested (and rejected) in light of historical evidence.

Jennings' Big Problem

The problem for both Jennings and the skeptical commentators is that there is little evidence and information of Paul and Jesus actions and teachings apart from the Bible itself. Make no mistake: the Bible is no ultimate document, as though it were meant to stand by itself as an abstract religious code. It is an enumeration and interpretation of redemptive events, especially the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is mainly a Book of history, but it is not only a Book of history. It is also the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is meant in fact to give God’s interpretation of revelatory events, which are themselves revelation. The Bible is inspired interpretation of revelation and is itself revelation.

Jennings (even if sincere at every juncture) wants an accurate historical picture of Jesus and Paul apart from a divine revelation of that picture. But the Bible is not merely a history book, even a very good one. The Bible is a revelation in human language of certain events as well as their interpretation. In short, event and interpretation were meant to hang together. This was true with Israel. Their history is not simply an account of a small, strange, ancient nomadic people; it is a narrative of God’s dealings with a chosen race. Likewise, the Gospels and Paul’s epistles are not just accounts of what Jesus and His early followers did. These writings are also, and most distinctively, the revelation of God, an interpretation of the events they relate. The crucifixion of Jesus merely as an historical fact is not of itself significant; the Romans crucified lots of people. The momentous significance attaches to the divine interpretation of that event: among other things, a sacrifice for the sins of man (1 Cor. 5:7) and a public spectacle of the defeat of Satan and his hosts (Col. 2:15). You don’t get that significance if all you see in the Bible is (at best) a generally reliable history.

Nor is this to imply that dreaded “mechanical dictation” view of divine inspiration, which discounts the distinctive personalities of the Biblical writers, or even a view of “verbal inspiration” that banishes to the background the history in which the events being written about take place. But if we take the view of Jesus and His followers, we see the Bible (both testaments) as God’s truthful revelation.

All of which is to say that Jennings and Borg will never get Jesus right as long as they get the Bible wrong. Admittedly, the Bible is less important that Jesus. The Bible redeems nobody. The Bible did not rise from the dead. The Bible will not return again in great glory. But the Bible is God’s revelation about Jesus through which we can know with certainty what He has done for us and what all of this activity means.

Jennings finds my enumeration of Paul’s execration of homosexuality objectionable because he finds the Bible objectionable.

But Paul, who knew vastly more about Jesus than Jennings, didn't.

So, Jennings will never be won to the Jesus of the Bible until he is won to the Bible of Jesus.

  P. Andrew Sandlin, an ordained minister, is president of the Center for Cultural Leadership, a Christian educational foundation dedicated to reclaiming contemporary culture for Jesus Christ. An interdisciplinary scholar, he holds academic degrees or concentrations in English, English literature, history, and political science. He has written several monographs and books, including The Full Gospel: A Biblical Vocabulary of Salvation and Totalism, and hundreds of essays and articles, both scholarly and popular. Andrew and his wife Sharon have five children.  



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