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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."

Glossary of Frequently Used Terms 

Arminianism: The extension of the views of late sixteenth-century Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (Arminius' views were somewhat more Reformed than those of his successors). Arminianism generally holds that man is not totally depraved, that God chooses men to salvation on the basis of some foreseen faith or goodness in them, that Christ died in order to save every man, that God's grace and will can be resisted, and that Christians can forfeit their salvation. These views were decisively refuted and condemned by the Reformed churches at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619).

Antinomianism: Literally, "anti-law." Theologically, it denotes those who oppose or dismiss God's law in the Bible. There are two classifications of antinomians. Explicit antinomians are the unconverted who display a flagrant disregard for the law of God (Rom. 1, 2). Implicit antinomians are professed Christians who hold that God's law is not relevant in the present era. They often substitute subjective, arbitrary standards like the so-called "leading of the Spirit" for God's written revelation.

Amillennialism: The view that the millennium of Revelation 20 is fulfilled in the present institutional church or in the deceased saints reigning with Christ in heaven. It specifically denies any global millennium.

Apologetics: A conscious, articulated defense of the claims of the Christian Faith. The two main apologetic methods are classical (evidential) and presuppositional.

Calvinism, Reformed: The form of doctrine and practice set forth by such leading Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century as John Calvin, John Knox, and Theodore Beza. This also includes the teaching of such confessions of faith as the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons and Decrees of the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the London Baptist Confession. In the Chalcedon Report, Reformed and Calvinism are usually used interchangeably.

Christian Libertarianism: The view that supports maximum individual liberty under God's law. Christ came, among other things, to grant men liberty under God's authority (Jn. 8:36). The authority of all human individuals and institutions (in family, church, and state, for example) is strictly limited to what the Bible authorizes. True liberty in the individual life, the family, the church, and society, including the state, is possible only on the grounds of the Bible and of Christianity. Secular libertarianism, therefore, undermines true liberty and invites the tyranny of anarchy.

Church: In the New Testament, the ekklesia. In the Bible, this has no reference whatever to buildings or organizations but to the called-out assembly, the covenant people of God. In the overwhelming number of cases, the church or ekklesia of both the Old and New Testaments is the visible covenant community in a particular locale or region. Under the authority of elders (godly heads of households), it unites on the first day of the week to hear the preaching of the Word, to receive the sacraments, and to preserve and perpetuate the Christian Faith. The church is one aspect of the kingdom of God, but it is not the kingdom itself.

Council of Chalcedon: The ecumenical council of A. D. 451 that clarified the orthodox teaching concerning Jesus Christ. Specifically, it concluded that divine and human natures are inextricably united - but not confused or blended - in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This Council laid the foundation for Western liberty by denying divinity to any human or human institution - Jesus Christ alone is both human and divine. No one but Christ and the Bible can speak a divine, infallible word. The authority of legitimate human institutions like the family, church, and state is a derivative authority, strictly limited by the Bible.

Covenant: A solemn, usually oath-bound, pledge between two or more parties. The Bible teaches that God deals with man by means of a covenant relationship. All the leading covenants in the Bible between God and believing man are aspects of a single covenant relationship: the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, the New Covenant, and so forth. The Old Covenant and the New Covenant are not descriptions of certain "dispensations" or time periods. Rather, they are subjective states of man's relation to God in both the Old and New Testaments - and today.

Covenant Theology: The theological system developed by Reformed theologians taking the covenant as its overarching theme. Distinctives of covenant theology include: Christ's judicial (substitutionary) atonement, the imputation of Adam's sin to all of his posterity, salvation exclusively by grace through faith, the abiding authority of the law, and infant baptism.

Dispensationalism: A method of interpreting the Bible that divides history into distinct eras or "dispensations" in which God deals with man in a distinctive way and, in some cases, in which God's ethical standards change. A leading distinctive of dispensationalism is the sharp division between ethnic Israel and the church of Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christianity has traditionally held that the church of Jesus Christ is the New Israel; dispensationalists hold that ethnic Israel and the church of Jesus Christ are two separate, distinct entities in God's program. All dispensationalists are premillennial, but not all premillennialists are dispensationalists.

Dualism: The idea that man and the universe are both composed principally of two differing properties, body and spirit. Almost all dualists see the body and material things as inferior to what they consider "spirit." Dualism is an ancient pagan heresy that deeply infected the church. Many ancient Greek philosophers were dualistic. They found the body and human history distasteful, and longed for death as an escape to the world of the ideal, i.e., the spirit. Thus, ancient dualists found the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection laughable (Ac. 17:32). Today's "Christian" dualists usually look only for escape from this life in the form of some sort of "spiritual" monastic retreat, a "pre-tribulational rapture," or death.

Evangelicalism: A massive, popular Christian movement that grew out of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British and American revivals. Its chief distinctive is preoccupation with the individual conversion experience. It often neglects or downplays the objective authority of the entire Bible, the centrality of doctrine and theology in the church, and God's law as an abiding ethical standard for man. For most evangelicals, Christianity is chiefly an experience and morality, not a doctrinal confession of faith.

Evidentialism: The apologetic method that attempts to persuade unbelievers and skeptics by the appeal to evidence for the Christian Faith. That evidence can include the traditional five proofs for the existence of God, miracles, archeological discoveries, and so forth. Evidentialists hold that this evidence can be properly assessed apart from salvation or the acceptance of Christianity.

Kingdom of God (or Christ): God's righteous reign in the earth, mediated by His Son, Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God begins in the hearts of redeemed men (Col. 1:13) and moves outward wherever men are subject to Christ's gospel and law. The kingdom of God is not preeminently political, though it has implications for politics. Wherever Christ's gospel breaks the stony heart of sinful man, bringing him to his knees in submission to Jesus Christ, there is the kingdom of God. As more and more men are converted and reorient their lives to the Bible, the kingdom of God extends throughout the earth in all spheres (vocation, technology, education, economics, science, the arts, and so forth).

Orthodoxy: Literally, "right belief." Christianity, unlike most false religions, is not fundamentally a moral code. It is a doctrinal system that dictates and requires a particular ethical code. The outlines of Christianity were hammered out in the early ecumenical councils of the church in its first five centuries of its existence. There can be no Christianity without this orthodoxy. There are more specific orthodoxies. For example, Reformed orthodoxy includes a broader range of Biblical belief. It includes such doctrines emphasized at the time of the Reformation as the Bible as our final authority and justification by faith alone. Reformed orthodoxy is expressed preeminently in the great Reformed confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Chalcedon supports both early ecumenical orthodoxy and Reformed orthodoxy.

Pietism: The seventeenth-century reaction within Lutheranism against what it considered the cold, abstract, argumentative nature of Lutheran orthodoxy. Pietism stressed "the religion of the heart," an experiential, warm, affectional, and often sentimental, view of the Faith. Pietism later spread to the Reformed churches and it was a hallmark of Wesleyanism. Though the early pietists were not against orthodoxy as such, their sentimental and man-centered view of Christianity laid the groundwork for nineteenth-century Protestant liberalism. More generally, pietism today refers to a sentimental, privatized Christianity, which sees the Faith almost exclusively in terms of an individualized, emotional experience. Pietism denies the claims of the Word of God on all areas of life and society.

Postmillennialism: The view that Christ's Second Advent will occur after the earthly millennium of Revelation 20. Most postmillennialists believe that the kingdom of God advances in history slowly, almost imperceptibly, and that there will be a Godly Golden Age as prophesized by the Old Testament prophets before Christ returns. Postmillennialism is Chalcedon's position.

Premillennialism: The view that Christ's Second Advent will occur before the earthly millennium of Revelation 20, and will, in fact, institute that millennium. This is the idea that Christ will reign on the earth physically for a long period, probably a thousand years. Most, but not all, premillennialists are dispensationalists.

Presuppositionalism: An apologetic method which requires that Christianity be assumed as true. There is no neutral starting point from which Christianity can be judged. Christianity must be presupposed in order to discover the meaning of anything whatsoever. The chief presuppositionalist of this century has been the Reformed apologist Cornelius Van Til. Chalcedon is presuppositional.

Theonomy: Literally, "God's law." A more precise term is biblionomy, Biblical law. As a theological expression, it means the abiding authority of all of the Bible's teachings, unless the Bible itself asserts that those teachings have been fulfilled or rescinded (for example, such distinctively Jewish practices as the national feasts and festivals, circumcision, and the Passover). The law in the Old Testament as the authority for the believer and all of society has not been set aside.

A special thanks goes out to Chalcedon for permission to reprint this article on our site.




Martyn Lloyde-Jones

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
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