REVISING THE DISPENSATINALL CHART
By Russell Earl Kelly, PhD.
July 29, 2018
For reference, see Dr. Renald Showers’ article, Dispensational Theology, Is it Biblical? Showers is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.
Dispensationalists believe that salvation is and always has been by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone. While many denominations recognize most of the same dispensations, they often describe them in different terminology.
Most modern Dispensationalists recognize seven distinct periods of time during which God judged actions of men differently. They point out that, since Adam’s fall, God (1) has progressively revealed more and more of His will, (2) He has expected a faith-response to each new revelation and (3) He has thus far punished failure to respond to each successive revelation.
FINE TUNING THE DOCTRINE AND CHARTS
1. NOT ALL DISPENSATIONS ARE FOR ALL PEOPLE.
Too often we are told that the dispensations are for “man.” Since the charts do not go into detail (as does Showers), the typical Dispensational church member is confused and often concludes that every dispensation was for all mankind.
Example #1: Scofield: “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” Later inn the article Showers writes “The purpose of each dispensation, then, is to place man under a specific rule of conduct, but such stewardship is not a condition of salvation.” (Showers) Standing alone, these definitions are both wrong.
Example #2: A “dispensation” as “a progressive and connected revelation of God's dealings with man, given sometimes to the whole race and at other times to a particular people, Israel.” Rather than point out Scofield’s confusing definition, Showers simply addes his own.
Example #3: “Before the cross man was saved in prospect of Christ's atoning sacrifice, through believing the revelation thus far given him.” (Showers) The first half of the sentence is correct. The second half is incorrect because the dispensations were not different plans of salvation. Regardless of the dispensation, before Grace man was saved by (1) admitting his sinfulness and (2) offering a sin sacrifice as a forward-looking atonement in Christ. This is especially true of Law: obedience to the revelation of Law for Hebrews saved none.
Example #4: “Dispensational Theology could be defined as a particular way of God's administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose for world history.” Far from being God’s rule over “the world,” the dispensation of Promise was only God’s rule over one family. The dispensation of Law was only over only one nation and Grace is only over believers. A more careful exact wording is necessary to avoid confusion.
Example #5: “Each dispensation makes man responsible to obey God in accordance with its unique ruling factor or combination of factors. “Since all man was not responsible for obedience to every dispensation, the statement is not correct in the absence of qualifiers.
Example #6: “A DISPENSATION MAY INVOLVE A PARTICULAR WAY OF GOD'S ADMINISTERING HIS RULE OVER ALL OF ANY KIND OR OVER ONLY ONE SEGMENT OF MANKIND.” Here, with great emphasis, Showers has it correct. However, by now his audience is confused because he did not go back and correct examples #1, #3, $4 and #5.
Example #7: “For example, the Dispensation of Human Government was over all of mankind, but the Dispensation of the Mosaic Law was over only the nation of Israel.” Having corrected his definition of “dispensation,” the confusion from examples #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.
2. “DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGIANS NORMALLY NAME EACH NEW DISPENSADTION AFTER THE NEW RULING FACTOR.” (Showers)
As long as this point is made absolutely clear, it is not objectionable. However, the problem is that it is NOT always made absolutely clear! There equal size of the circles on the charts is very deceptive. They make the casual Bible student think that God judges everybody on earth according to that particular dispensation. It is no wonder that most Christians go around saying “We are no longer under the Law” when Gentiles and the Church never were under it.”
The typical Dispensational church member does not understand the doctrine of dispensations because the display charts lead to the wrong conclusion.
3. DISPENSATIONS ARE OFTEN, BUT NOT ALWAYS, CUMULATIVE
“On man's part the continuing requirement is obedience to the [progressive] revelation of God. This obedience is a stewardship of faith. Although the divine revelation unfolds progressively, the deposit of truth in the earlier time-periods is not discarded; rather it is cumulative. Thus conscience (moral responsibility) is an abiding truth in human life (Rom. 2:15; 9:1; 2 Cor 1:12; 4:2), although it does not continue as a dispensation.” (Showers)
Except for The Law of Moses, the dispensations are cumulative: believers are convinced of sin by Conscience, Government (man’s judicial laws), Promise, Grace and Millennial Law. Unbelievers are convinced of sin against God by Conscience and Government (1 Tim 1:8-10) and even God’s government during the Millennium.
From Romans 1:18 to 2:16, the Apostle Paul uses conscience and nature to explain how and why God is just in dispensing wrath upon all unbelievers “who hold the truth in unrighteousness (1:18).” Those who have not heard the gospel or known “The” formal Law are still guilty of transgressing God’s principle of law as found in the conscience and nature (1:18-20; 2:14-16; 3:20; John 1:9.
Rather than ending at Calvary (as did The formall Law), Promise continues and expands into Grace (Galatians 3:28-29) and endures into the Millennium and eternity in Christ.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD