Still More on Dispensationalism

Again L.W. of Spokane writes, and informs us that it was a slip of memory which resulted in the Dec. 1, 1966 title “Dispensationalism an Ancient Error” being misquoted. He then questions a statement in the May 1, 1967 article, which had read, “What Calvinistic theology gives credence to Dispensa­tionalism?” and calls attention to Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology as being “Calvinistic, premillennial and dispensational.” Perhaps our own theological library at the Protestant Reformed Seminary contains this work. If so, then our own editor and pro­fessor of theology would be in a posi­tion to say, as this writer is not, whether the work referred to is in­deed “Calvinistic.” But almost without exception, dispensational spheres are not Calvinistic. A quote, from, of all people, Herbert Lockyer (All the Doctrines of the Bible, Zondervan, 1964, p. 223) hardly proves dispensationalists to be Calvinist. From of old, Fundamentalists have laid claim to Calvinism merely because they hold to what they call “the doctrine of eternal security,” and because the antithesis to that doctrine is so glaringly Arminianistic. Many feel they have the right to call themselves Calvinist because they hold “the perseverance of the saints.” But no one really holds the perseverance of the saints who does not understand the preservation of the saints, or who rejects the other four points of Calvinism. He is a Calvinist, e.g., who believes the perseverance of the saints, but not limited atonement? Nonsense!

We had said in our first answer to L.W. that “it is rather well known that they (dispensationalists) have…mani­fested a contempt for theology…” This by Rev. R.C. Harbach is evident in his quote from Chafer: “the very fact that I did not study a prescribed course in theology made it possible for me to approach the sub­ject with an unprejudiced mind and be concerned only with what the Bible actually teaches (Sys. Theol., Vol. 8, pp. 5, 6).” If this implies—and to this writer it is obvious that it does—that holding and coming to the Bible with a prescribed theology is to ap­proach same with a prejudiced mind, we can only agree, for we are admit­tedly prejudiced in favor of the Re­formed theology, which we believe to be the systematic setting forth of the teaching of the Bible. But we cannot agree with the further implication that a prescribed theology, as Reformed theology, so prejudices the mind that it ill fits one for being concerned with, or able to reach, what the Bible actually teaches! For this hints that theology in general and Reformed theology in particular are far afield from “what the Bible actually teaches.” But let it be proved where Reformed theology differs from “what the Bible actually teaches.”

As Christians we are not inventors, but disciples, learners. We do not try to think, as God does, univocally. We think analogically, patterning our thought after His. Nor are we pioneers in the field of the truth of Scrip­ture and its development. That is, we do not bypass a prescribed and scripturally based theology to take up the study of holy writ from scratch. That is not the method of the best defenders of the faith. That is too much like the modern “instant the­ology” which insults the Holy Spirit by ignoring what He has given the church in ages past, and presumes to come up with discoveries the result of its own “independent research” (ibid.). Let everyone study Scripture for himself, but let the study be done in connection with the moorings of the history of doctrine and the foundation of the faith of our fathers.

We had criticized Scofield for re­marks which implied two ways of sal­vation (May 1, Question Box). L.W. feels this out of place since C. Hodge and O.T. Allis, Reformed men, also make unfortunate statements and come out with conditional theology. He writes “that Dispensationalists believe that salvation is only through ‘the power of God…through the sacrifice of Christ,’ ” and not, as regrettably, Scofield implied at one time through “doing righteously.” Now conditional theology is no more consistent than dispensationalism. But Scofield once had these words in a footnote at I John 3:7, “‘Righteousness’ here, and in the passages having marginal references to this, means the righteous life which is the result of salvation through Christ.” The implication of these words seems to be that there is a righteous life which is not the result of salvation in Christ, but rather the result of man’s doing righteously. For Scofield’s next sentence is, “The righteous man under law became righteous (ct. Gal. 2:16, RCH) by doing righteously; under grace he does righteously because he has been made righteous…” Now, in the New Scofield Reference Edition, p. 1344, the note reads, ” ‘Righteousness’ here, and in the passages having marginal reference to this verse, means the righteous life which is the result of salvation through Christ. By God’s grace the Christian does righteously because he has been made righteous…” At first glance, this seems an improve­ment over the former unfortunate re­mark of Scofield’s. But yet the note still seems to imply that under the dispensation of law, the last quoted sentence could not have been made. Did the believer in that day do right­eously because he had been made righteous, had been viewed as righteous in Christ? Or was it that then he (as per the old Scofield Bible) “became righteous by doing righteously?” The latter, we as dispensationalists were taught and as many of our dispensationalist friends mistakenly believed. The note ought to read something like this: “In every age the child of God does righteously only because he is righteous in Christ!”