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Dispensationalism in Decline

December 7, 2011

Introducing Kevin Zuber’s article, Supersessionism Rising: Dispensationalism…? on his blog, Dave James mentioned participating in a discussion about the future of dispensationalism. He wrote:

The question we were asking ourselves was, “Where is the next generation of prophecy speakers going to come from? Who is teaching and training them.” This also led to the observation that dispensationalism, in general, seems to be in rapid decline after over 50 years of being the most widely-held view within conservative evangelicalism.

His post also quoted the following definition of supersessionism, a label that dispensationalists often unfairly pin on their opponents:

[supersessionism is] the theology that denies that God has a future program for the nation of Israel and denies that the promises God has made to the ethnic descendants of Abraham–the Jewish people–will be kept fully and literally.

In his article, Kevin Zuber wrote:

I have seen a growing weariness, even resistance to the study of eschatology and in particular the study of the details of premillennial dispensationalism. It may be fatigue from the best-selling Left Behind series or the influence of post-modern relativism. In any case, many of my students and their friends in other Christian colleges and universities have decided that eschatology is just not that important. And the students are not alone in this regard. Many lay people are of the same opinion.

The apostle Peter exhorts Christians to take heed to prophecy, so it seems sad when they consider it to be unimportant. I suggest that this may be symptomatic of one of the more serious defects in dispensationalism. Zuber said:

I may be wrong on this and I deeply hope I am. But I’m afraid that premillennial dispensationalism is on the wane, and not because there are better arguments for other millennial views, or for supersessionism. I think this is because the scholars have decided there have been enough arguments over eschatology and that one’s view of the millennium is, well, inconsequential and that to advocate a particular view is in poor scholarly taste. And students are looking for cultural acceptance more than theological precision because they think this is a better way to reach the world with the gospel.

Many other possible reasons might contribute to the numbers of people becoming turned off by dispensationalism. For example:

  • Perhaps it is perceived by many that dispensationalism is in decline. It is a relic of a previous generation. Zuber’s comments seem to confirm this.
  • Many pastors avoid taking a firm position on prophecy as they wish to avoid controversy.
  • In the decades before the Internet, dispensationalism seemed ubiquitous, but now people are exposed to more and better research, books, and alternative opinions and interpretations. The arguments against dispensationalism, once suppressed or set aside in the churches, are more readily available to students of prophecy. In effect, dispensationalism cannot endure scrutiny.
  • Classical dispensationalism has been undermined by Progressive Dispensationalism developed by Craig Blaising, Darrell Bock and other faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary, which denies there are two redemptive progams, one for Israel and one for the Church, as claimed in the older school of dispensationalism, and affirms that Christ is reigning now as the promised King on the throne of David. In turn, their position is attacked by supporters of the older school.
  • Finally, and perhaps most important, is the growing realization that dispensationalism is a delusion. There are indeed better and far less pessimistic interpretations of prophecy, some of which are presented in articles on this blog. (If you disagree, feel free to respond.) Dave James and Kevin Zuber’s comments exhibit a curious blindness to its defects.

 

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  1. July 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Actually, I’m quite aware of the arguments against dispensationalism and not in the least blind to what people say are its defects. But as I have studied and examined them in depth, I simply don’t find them compelling. Remember, the blindness argument cuts both ways – and can be used against any position equally well – but it inherently has no meaning because it adds nothing to the discussion. It does tend to be a conversation-killer, however.

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