I’m sure that many dispensationalist friends will be disappointed to read or hear that I am no longer a dispensationalist and have decided (or more accurately, have been led by the Holy Spirit) to embrace the reformed platform. There are many reasons why I am no longer a dispensationalist, and for those dispensationalist friends, I’m hoping that they will afford me an opportunity to review scripturally why I no longer hold to those beliefs, which I will address in various blog posts.
It started innocently enough. It was simply a continued desire to spend more time studying God’s word. Being on Facebook took too much time away from my family and more importantly, God. When I left Facebook, I was facing two other major problems – my dad’s terminal illness and my own serious health issues. It simply got to be too much dealing with the demands of being an active participant in any social media platform, which in this case was both Facebook and Twitter. So I exited from social media.
Once my dad passed away and after my own surgeries were completed, during the recovery I was able to spend more time studying God’s word. And I had some nagging issues about dispensationalism and I thought, well, now’s the time to start digging in.
I never hid the fact that I was a four-point Calvinist – in fact, most dispensationalists hold to three or four points of Calvinism unknowingly, and most dispensationalists are unaware that the “Father” of dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby, was a Plymouth Brethren – which is to say, a Calvinist. Yes, a full-blown five point Calvinist. And there are plenty of resources that will easily confirm this information. I am not going to spend time writing a mini-biography of JN Darby here.
So, let’s talk about Calvinism. Calvinism is NOT properly defined as being “five points” – in fact, the issue over the five points were derived from Jacob Arminius in 1610 as a protest against certain teachings of John Calvin and other Reformed theologians. His disputation was called the Remonstrance. A synod of Reformed theologians was held in the Belgian town of Dort in late 1618/early 1619. And the decision was reached to reject Arminius’ objections. Again, plenty of books and articles are available that obviously go into greater detail than I have here. And I will address Calvinism and Arminianism concerning salvation in a future blog post.
All I can say is that I have heard many a sermon from dispensationalist preachers ragging about Calvinism and it goes without saying that in most cases, according to them, just about every Calvinist is a hyper-Calvinist and that Calvinism is a heresy. And it just betrays their ignorance of Protestant history to make such outlandish claims. In fact, if you were to ask John Calvin about TULIP, he would most likely take you to his garden and point to a tulip. The TULIP acronym was a more recent development (circa 1905, by most accounts) that I will be addressing in a future post. Calvinism was overwhelmingly the Protestant position and continues to be the major Protestant position five hundred years later.
Now, the only reason I was not a five point Calvinist previously was the issue on the atonement. Calvinists hold to Limited Atonement (or more accurately defined as Particular Atonement or Definitive Atonement) while most dispensationalists believe in Universal or Unlimited Atonement (by the way, there are a small percentage of Dispensationalists that are Calvinists – it’s not a contradiction). I spent a number of years investigating and studying this issue and I will address this too in a future post, as well as a better understanding of the other four points. But needless to say, I now understand and agree with Limited Atonement. Obviously, this makes me a “five-point” Calvinist and I’m sure, a bitter disappointment to my dispensationalist friends. But I’m praying that my dispensationalist friends will take the time to read my blog post on this issue in the future.
There were various nagging questions concerning the dispensationalist view of the end-times. I had questions about Daniel’s 70th week, the Israel – Church distinctives, premillennialism, the sin and animal sacrifice issues during the millennial reign of Christ, the stages of the resurrection, the binding of Satan and so many more. But as any good dispensationalist will do – I “put it all on a shelf” or “put it on the back-burner” – and as what happens often, one never finds the time to answer those questions. And yet, those questions were nagging me. Little did I realize then that these were the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And once I made the time to investigate (or more accurately, once the Holy Spirit gave me the time to investigate), the flood gates were opened – there was no turning back.
I acknowledge that there aren’t any end-time scenarios that are perfect. Far from it, in fact. However, I knew that there had to be a simpler system. I knew that God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:33) – and a simpler system was going to be more peaceful and frankly, easier to grasp. And that was a dilemma – I had studied dispensationalism intensely with its complicated timeline, though not to the exclusion of all else. I was familiar with the other end-time scenarios and their timelines, but did not devote an equal amount of time on those other scenarios, as I had with dispensationalism. So I began with a simple question –
Where in the scriptures will I find the millennial reign of Christ? As a dispensationalist, I was very aware of Revelation 20, but where else can I find this teaching in scripture? Honestly, after an exhaustive search, THERE WAS NO WHERE ELSE. I know that dispensationalists will argue, well what about Ezekiel 40 through 48? That’s the millennium, right? Uh…no. It is not. Not a single mention of a thousand year reign of the Messiah there. In fact, I could not find a mention of a literal millennial reign anywhere else in scripture. I challenge my dispensationalist friends to find it and to let me know where else in the bible I can find a literal 1000 year reign of Christ outside of Revelation 20.
So my next question then led me to proper hermeneutical interpretation. I held to the literal-grammatical-historical interpretation of the bible (and by the way, I continue to do so). As a bible teacher, I recalled many a time that I stated that one had to also read the bible LITERARILY, that is, according to the genre. So perhaps I should follow my own advice, huh? So I began to study this issue.
There are a number of genres of literature in the bible – you have historical accounts, poetry, parables, apocalyptic, wisdom, prophecy, forensic (legal), psalms (hymns), the gospels and the epistles. And not all of them are to be read LITERALLY. (And please don’t argue with me on this point – am I to understand literally that God the Father has feather and wings (Ps 91:4)? God the Father has hands (Isa 66:2)? God the Father walks (Gen 3:8)? Does God the Father have a physical body (Ex 33)? Is He not spirit (John 4:24)?
I took a good long hard look at myself concerning the interpretation of these genres and concluded that when it came to apocalyptic and prophecy literature, I was interpreting these genres incorrectly in many cases. How can I take literature that is highly symbolic and interpret it literally? Especially when it came to the interpretation of numbers in apocalyptic and prophecy literature. And that will be the subject of my next blog post. (And I will also be addressing the millennial reign of Christ in a future blog post.)
I pray that you will join in my quest of discovery.