The “Seven Dispensations” of the Scofield Bible—continued
Our starting-point in reviewing the “Seven Dispensations” of Scofield is taken from the Word of God in II Corinthians 1:20, where we read, “for all the promises of God in Him (for whatsoever promises of God there are) are yea, and in Him Amen to the glory of God by us.” Fact is that in the Greek text these promises are “the Yea” and “the Amen.” And they are emphatically thus to God’s glory! This means that there are definitely no promises in the entire O.T. prophetic Scriptures, which have not been fulfilled in Christ. Many are these promises of God which are recorded throughout these holy Scriptures, which many, many promises, in divers times and seasons, have all been fulfilled in Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:1-4).
The “things concerning me” have an end! (Luke 22:37).
These “things concerning me” are written in all the law and the prophets, from Genesis 1:1 to Malachi 4:6. And their “end” is that Christ, by being numbered with the transgressors, will surely bring His church to glory, and shall see seed of a numberless throng of His redeemed church, who wash their garments in the blood of the Lamb (Is. 53:12; Luke 22:37; Rev. 7:14).
Using this measuring rod for the interpretation of the Sacred Writings we do not wander off into a labyrinth of Satan’s errors, nor into the perplexing combinations of Dispensational errors. We will then learn from the Prophetic Scriptures that there is basically but one great Promise of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, which promise is fulfilled in the Christ, the only begotten Son of God.
However, whosoever cuts the Scriptures into “seven dispensations,” contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible, does so because he does not hold on to the Divinely given interpretation as fulfilled in Christ, the Christ of the Scriptures. When Scofield limits the “Promise” to the chronological time between Abraham and Mount Sinai, the time of the “Lawgiving,” he has made it impossible for himself to do justice to the great “Promise” as given already by God Himself in Paradise to Adam and Eve at the very dawn of history. He has cut the doings of God, His dealings with man, in such a way that there is no grand Promise of God which reaches across the ages! He really cannot say with Paul “whatsoever promises of God there are, these are (the) Yea, and (the) Amen in Christ”!
Such handling of the Scriptures is not a “rightly dividing of the Word of truth.” But it is a mutilation of the unity of the Promise, and that too beyond recognition. These sound like strong words. Be it so; they are true words. That will be the burden of what we hope further to write about this grandiose error! It is one of the winds of false teaching which sweeps through the church here in our land.
Let us take a bit closer look at these “seven dispensations” of Scofieldian Dispensationalism.
We begin with the first “dispensation,” which he named “Dispensation of Innocence.” This must then refer to the brief span of time from the creation of our first parents on the sixth day till the day of the Fall through Satan’s temptation in Paradise. How Scofield came to designate this time as a time of “innocence” we can understand in a measure, provided that “innocence” be properly explained by good exegesis of Genesis 1:26, 27. However, it is surpassingly strange to denominate this period as a “dispensation” in the biblical sense of the term. For that biblical sense of the term we refer to Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2; and Colossians 1:25. In every case this refers to the actual dealings of God with His people through Christ’s Cross and resurrection. At best this period could be called simply Adam’s state and condition of rectitude, a compliancewith the commandment of God. The term dispensation does not fit here at all. Although it was a time of trial from God to Adam, it was not a dispensation, a period in which the reality of a “good conscience” was absent. This is by implication the teaching of Scofield. His concept of “innocence” is not that of one who is standing in true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness, but it is a not yet having a real knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve really received their actual “conscience” by means of the transgression of eating from the forbidden tree: the tree of knowledge of good and of evil. “Innocence” is a lack of knowledge of either good or evil!
Now according to the orthodox sense of the term, “innocence” is not being under the condemning verdict of standing guilt before God. It meant that Adam was representative of the human race, and that in his spiritual rectitude we too were not under condemnation, but we were standing in positive righteousness, a good will and a proper understanding of God by means of the “things made.” It meant a proper receiving of God’s revelation, both of God’s power and godhead (divinity)—(Rom. 1:20). But innocency was not that man was in a certain “ignorant bliss” concerning the moral life of right and wrong. God’s command was so clear that Adam knew thewrong of eating of the forbidden tree contrary to God’s command, and the right of not eating, but that he might eat of the tree of life which stood in the midst of the garden. Adam’s innocency was woven in the very fabric of the “antithetical” keeping of God’s command.
Such is the innocency of which the Bible teaches us.
This is an “innocency” which is qualitatively different from the wrong version of it as taught by Scofield’s Bible notes. Strictly speaking the innocency-conception of Scofield does not allow for the possibility of a real Fall as taught in the Bible, a Fall by which our nature became so corrupted that we are born and conceived in sin, a “one transgression” by one man in which sin reigned unto death (Rom. 5:15). In such a “dispensation of Innocence” there is no real, positive righteousness of the human will, nor can in such a conception there be a losing of our righteous will, a will which through the Fall became “wicked, rebellious and obdurate in heart and will, impure in affections” (Canons of Dordt, III, IV, Art. 1). Small wonder that this perverted presentation of Adam’s “Innocence” knows nothing of the Promise of the victory through “blood of atonement” as clearly taught in the sovereign grace of the Protevangel in Genesis 3:15. The glad tidings of the Gospel, as first revealed in paradise, would to Scofield be a meaningless sound indeed!
This brings us to our consideration of the so-called “dispensation of Conscience.”
It should be borne in mind that in all false teaching there is ever just enough plausibility to make the teaching sound acceptable to the ears of God’s children. This is true until we listen a bit more sharply and apply the touchstone of biblical teaching on the matter of “conscience.” We must not be hoodwinked by nice-sounding words.
Let us take a closer look at this so-called “dispensation of Conscience.”
It is true that the term “conscience” means literally: toknow with. That is the meaning of the term also in the Greek, as well as in the Dutch and German. The Dutch has “ge-weten” and the German “gewissen.” It deals with the moral life in men and angels in their conscious relationship to God, as they know the will of God from His law: to love God with all the heart, the mind, and the soul and the strength!
It is the teaching of Scofield that Adam really had no “Conscience” prior to the Fall. Writes Scofield, “By disobedience man came to a personal and experimental knowledge of good and evil—of good as obedience and of evil as disobedience to the known will of God. Through that knowledge conscience awoke” (page 10, note 2 in the Scofield Bible).
Now it is simply not the teaching of Scripture that man’s conscience “awoke” through the sin of the Fall. According to this teaching there will be not an awakened conscience without sin. Furthermore, this makes the Fall not an act of man followed by God’s pre-announced verdict of “dying thou shall surely die,” but sin is then a mere stepping-stone, a transition from a slumbering conscience to an awakened conscience. It is entirely evident that Adam’s conscience was not merely awakened but his conscience became entirely corrupted by sin; Adam and Eve’s consciences were such that they kept the truth down in unrighteousness, even when they tried to cover the shame of their nakedness with mere fig leaves. Furthermore, even though their conscience accused them they could not and they would not each confess their sinful part in the Fall (Gen. 3:7-13). They could only do what Paul writes inRomans 2:15: “. . .their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.”
Now in such a state of “awakened conscience,” which is really a defiled conscience, a seared conscience, how could this be a positive “dispensation” of God to try Adam and his posterity whether they would walk as having conscience being their guide? Certainly in the state of rectitude Adam’s conscience was “guided” by the revealed will of God. And after the Fall Adam was not Left to the whims of a corrupted conscience (which is something else than an awakened conscience) but was graciously renewed in his conscience by grace and sovereign mercy. Such was the case with all who “began to call upon the Name of the LORD” in the days of Enos (Gen. 4:26). The rest walked in a conscience which accused and excused each other, but which was even in so doing holding down the truth in unrighteousness (John 1:5: Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 4). Thus man became ever more inexcusable before God.
Hence, before the Fall: a good conscience, doing God’s will. After the Fall: a condemning conscience, a filthy conscience, a corrupt and disobedient conscience. And for those who received mercy, such as Abel, Enoch, and Noah, a free and good conscience in the Blood which they saw foreshadowed in their bloody animal sacrifices. After the Fall it was the Dispensation of grace for believers; and it was the fallen sinful state of those upon whom the wrath of God abideth.
A “dispensation of conscience” as God’s way of trying man is the mere figment of man’s mind, which does not “believe the Scriptures”!