How many dispensations are there? It depends on who you ask! I have documented schemes that claim anywhere between 3 and 19. I quote one author that says it could be as many as 37! The following article I wrote several years ago shows the confusion about the number of dispensations which are supposed to be “clearly defined” and “marked off” in Scripture and demonstrates the futility of trying to defend the dispensational hermeneutic.
In the opening of his essay “Law And Grace” John Murray states:
“No subject is more intimately bound up with the nature of the gospel than that of law and grace. In the degree to which error is entertained at this point, in the same degree is our conception of the gospel perverted”. Murray goes on to state the classic covenantal understanding in his comprehensive essay:
The Gospel Of The Incarnation is a book of 2 sermons preached by B. B. Warfield in the Chapel of Princeton Seminary. The sermons were so popular that the students requested that they be published. I have formatted the book and converted it to an e-book:
Ask several people “what is the Gospel?” and you probably get a number of different answers ranging from “the Good News” to a lengthy theological explanation. Reformed theologian Loraine Boettner wrote a booklet answering the question and it is well worth reading. In it he addresses a wide range of subjects and compares the Calvinistic and Arminian view of the Gospel.
Presuppositions and Axioms: a quote from Gordon H. Clark:
“Every philosophic or theological system must begin somewhere, for if it did not begin it could not continue. But a beginning cannot be preceded by anything else, or it would not be the beginning. Therefore every system must be based on presuppositions (Require as a precondition of possibility or coherence. Tacitly assume to be the case) or axioms (An accepted statement or proposition regarded as being self-evidently true). They may be Spinoza’s axioms; they may be Locke’s sensory starting point, or whatever. Every system must therefore be presuppositional.
The first principle cannot be demonstrated because there is nothing prior from which to deduce it. Call it presuppositionalism, call it fideism, names do not matter. But I know no better presupposition than “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs.”
(Gordon Haddon Clark (1902-1985) was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics. He taught at Wheaton College early in his career and later served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University, a position he held for 28 years).
Loraine Boettner wrote:
“In all the history of the world Jesus emerges as the only “expected” person. No one was looking for such a person as Julius Caesar, or Napoleon, or Washington, or Lincoln to appear at the time and place that they did appear. No other person has had his course foretold or his work laid out for him centuries before he was born. But the coming of the Messiah had been predicted for centuries. In fact, the first promise of His coming was given to Adam and Eve soon after their fall into sin. As time went on various details concerning His Person and work were revealed through the prophets; and at the time Jesus was born there was a general expectation through the Jewish world that the Messiah was soon to appear, even the manner of His birth and the town in which it would occur having been clearly indicated”.
(Loraine Boettner, Studies In Theology, p. 160)
Recently I was doing some research on the internet and ran across an article on the Canons Of Dort (the origin for the acronym TULIP) at the Reformed Church Of America’s website. Reading the article I started wondering how the familiar TULIP used by Calvinists originated since the Canons had different descriptions of the 5 points. I started researching this and came across an article “The Five Points of Calvinism Historically Considered” written in 1913 by Dr. William H. Wail in 1913. He said the 1st use of the acronym was by a presbyterian theologian and pastor Dr. Cleland Boyd McAfee at a lecture on Calvinism in 1905. Prior to that time there were a number of ways the 5 points were described. I was unable to find any reference to TULIP before 1905 so I think Dr. Wail is probably right.
Following is a short article I wrote about the origin of the acronym TULIP:
Here is the original article by Dr. Wail:
I was searching the web for articles and/or quotes by John Murray and came across a study on the atonement by Dr. Van Lees. After reading it I think is one of the best I have ever seen. He also has some other great articles from a reformed viewpoint on his web-site: covenantofgracechurch.org. Check it out!
I have been reading a lot of materials on the covenants lately as I try to sort out the differences between CT and NCT. I found an article by Dr. John Murray. This is the best treatment of the covenants I have found so far.
The Covenant Of Grace — A Biblico-Theological Study By John Murray (e-book):
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758 ) was a Christian preacher, philosopher, and theologian. Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals. His essay on the Trinity is a classic:
In 1973 while working for Wheaton College I prepared a short article for a class I was going to teach on why I held to the posttribulational position. I read through it yesterday and found a serious typo which I corrected and am now reposting it.
B. W. Newton was a contemporary of John Nelson Darby and worked with him in establishing the first Plymouth Brethren churches. He later split with Darby over church polity and teachings about the Second Coming Of Christ. Newton firmly rejected Darby’s notion that there were two future comings of Christ, one before and one after the tribulation ( a 2nd and 3rd Coming). Here is one of Newton’s essays on the subject showing that there are events preceding the Lords return and that the any-moment coming is not tenable when compared to Scripture:
A Liar, A Lunatic, Or The Son Of God? (quoted from: Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3 “The Shocking Alternative”, 1952, Macmillan, 1952)
Among the Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it.
One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned; the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.
Loraine Boettner was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.B., 1928; Th.M., 1929), where he studied Systematic Theology under the late Dr. C. W. Hodge. One of his most popular writings was “The Reformed Faith” where he outlines the theology of Calvinism and compares it to Arminianism. Boettner’s writing style is understandable to the layman and helpful to the theologian alike.
If you are interested in the theology of Calvinism and its comparison to Arminianism you would do well to download this e-book:
“If, ten years ago, you had told me that I would live to see literate evangelicals, some with doctorates and a seminary teaching record, arguing for the reality of an eternal salvation, divinely guaranteed, that may have in it no repentance, no discipleship, no behavioral change, no practical acknowledgment of Christ as Lord of one’s life, and no perseverance in faith, then I would have told you that you were out of your mind. Stark, staring, bonkers, is the British phrase I would probably have used.”
“Repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as King in self’s place…More than once Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves.”
Charles Hodge was one of the outstanding Calvinistic theologians of the 19th century. His writings are still being published and his ‘Systematic Theology’ textbook is used in some reformed seminaries. I put together some articles on Hodges view of justification and created an e-book. The first three articles ‘Justification’, ‘The Demands Of The Law Are Satisfied By What Christ Has Done’, and ‘The Righteousness Of Christ The True Ground Of Our Justification’ were published together, the forth ‘Justification Is a Forensic Act’, I added.
“The Scriptures teach us that the Son of God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, became flesh, and subjected himself to the very law to which we were bound; that he perfectly obeyed that law, and suffered its penalty, and thus, by satisfying its demands, delivered us from its bondage, and introduced us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. It is thus that the doctrine of redemption is presented in the Scriptures. “God,” says the apostle, “sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law” (Gal. 4.4-5). Being made under the law, we know that he obeyed it perfectly, and brought in everlasting righteousness, and is therefore declared to be “the Lord our righteousness, “(Jer. 23.6) since, by his obedience, many are constituted righteous (Rom. 5.19). He, therefore, is said to be made righteousness unto us (1 Cor. 1.30). And those who are in him are said to be righteous before God, not having their own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ (Phil. 3.9”).
(From the book “Justification”, section 2, “The Demands Of The Law Are Satisfied By What Christ Has Done” by Charles Hodge).
The TULIP acrostic, while useful, is only an inadequate summary of the theology espoused at the Synod of Dort, much less that of the theology known as Calvinism. Properly understood, the theology known by the nickname of Calvinism is simply a full-orbed understanding of what the Bible teaches. In that light, a mere five points cannot summarize the whole, or even the crux of Scriptural doctrine. Are you a student of God’s Word, the Bible? Regular, daily time in the Bible is crucial to your spiritual health.
“But his delight in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate, day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:2-3, KJV)
From the blog This Day In Presbyterian History.
J. I. Packer describes how the doctrine of “penal substitution” theologically explains everything regarding the saving work of Christ’s death on the cross:
“What did Christ’s death accomplish? It redeemed us to God – purchased us at a price, that is, from captivity to sin for the freedom of life with God (Tit 2:14; Rev 5:9). How did it do that? By being a blood-sacrifice for our sins (Eph 1:7; Heb 9:11-15). How did that sacrifice have its redemptive effect? By making peace, achieving reconciliation, and so ending enmity between God and ourselves (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Eph 2:13-16; Col 1:19-20). How did Christ’s death make peace? By being a propitiation, an offering appointed by God himself to dissolve his judicial wrath against us by removing our sins from his sight (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). How did the Savior’s self-sacrifice have this propitiatory effect? By being a vicarious enduring of the retribution declared due to us by God’s own law (Gal 3:13; Col 2:13-14) – in other words, by penal substitution”
(Quoted from: The Atonement in the Life of the Christian, p 416, by J. I. Packer)
“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours….’ ‘The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”
(John R.W. Stott, The Cross)
If you are a dispensationalist you may want to skip this post!
Arthur W. Pink was a Reformed Baptist pastor, and prolific author of many books and articles. Early in his career he was a dispensational pretribulationist but changed his mind in his later years after years of extensive study.
The following e-book A Study Of Dispensationalism, contains a series of 5 articles for the purpose of refuting dispensationalism that was published in 1952 in his monthly magazine Studies in the Scriptures.. These articles demonstrate Pink’s changed position, he was strongly against the dispensational theology.
A Brief Confession Of Faith By John Calvin:
–I confess that there is one God, in whom we ought to rest, worshipping and serving him, and placing all our hope in him alone. And although he is of one essence, he is nevertheless distinguished into three persons. Wherefore, I detest all heresies condemned by the first Council of Nice, and likewise those of Ephesus and Chalcedon, along with all the errors revived by Servetus and his followers. For I acquiesce in the simple view, that in the one essence of God is the Father, who from eternity begat his own Word, and ever had in himself his own Spirit, and that each of these persons has his own peculiar properties, yet so that the Godhead always remains entire.
–I likewise confess, that God created not only this visible world, (that is, heaven and earth, and whatever is contained in them,) but also invisible spirits, some of whom have continued obedient to God, while others, by their own wickedness, have been precipitated into destruction. That the former have persevered, I acknowledge, to be due to the free election of God, who hastened to love them, and embrace them with his goodness, by bestowing upon them the power of remaining firm and steadfast. And I accordingly abominate the heresy of the Manichees, who imagined that the devil is wicked by nature, and derives origin and beginning from himself.
I ran across a little book on the resurrection of Jesus Christ by a lawyer named George W. Gere titled “Did Jesus Rise? Evidences Of The Resurrection From The View-Point Of A Lawyer”. I was able to reformat it and convert it to PDF format. The author has some interesting points that are worth considering.
Several years ago I wrote an article titled “Study Bibles – A Critique” where I argued that they should not be used for reading and general study. I prefer using a reference Bible (with cross-references and concordance) for my Bible reading and study. My reason for this is that the notes in a Study Bible are absorbed, consciously or unconsciously, during normal reading & study and strongly affect the reader whether they recognize it or not. I know this from experience, as a young Christian I was given a Scofield Bible and soon was thoroughly indoctrinated with Scofield’s theology (which I have long since discarded).
Following are some recommendations for Study Bibles extracted from my article:
If you do own a Study Bible keep it on your bookshelf and use it for occasional reference only, as you would a Bible commentary or dictionary, and not for reading and study. Some pages in the average Study Bible contain more words of man than Words of God!, and despite efforts the student will be influenced by the interpretations of the editor.
Stay away from those Study Bibles written by one person and those with strong theological bias (such as the Dake Annotated Reference Bible, The Companion Bible, Scofield Reference Bible, Prophecy Study Bible, Ryrie Study Bible, LaHaye Prophecy Bible, Jimmy Swaggert’s Expositors Study Bible, etc.)!! Study Bibles produced by a committee of conservative evangelical scholars are generally more balanced and less likely to stray from orthodox theology.
Today I am posting “The Death Of Christ”, an e-book by James Denney.
About the author: James Denney, D.D. (1856-1917) was a Scottish theologian and preacher. Denney was Professor of Systematic Theology at Free Church College Glasgow in 1897 and spent the rest of his life teaching there.
Denney’s greatest contribution to theological literature is in his robust defense of the penal character of the atonement. First expressed in his Studies in Theology, it found its fullest expression in his 1902 work The Death of Christ (London, Hodder and Stoughton, often reprinted), and its follow-up (in later editions included as an appendix in The Death of Christ), The Atonement and the Modern Mind. Denney insists that the death of Christ cannot be understood unless it is seen as a death for sin, as Christ bearing the penalty in the place of those he came to save. (info on James Denney adapted from a WikiPedia article)
I keep a copy of the Westminster Confession and the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 and refer to them occasionally. I haven’t given much thought to the First London Baptist Confession of 1644 (later published with minor corrections in 1646).
I read an article recently stating that the 1644 Confession aligns with New Covenant Theology more than the 1689 Confession and the Westminster Confession which are closer to Covenant Theology. After re-reading the 1644 Confession I tend to agree.
Here is the 1644 Confession with the 1646 edits:
Charles R. Erdman was a pastor, theologian, and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary during the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy in the early 20th century. He was a contributor to the Scofield Reference Bible when it first was published in 1909, but later recanted his pretribulational beliefs due to ‘further searching of the Scriptures.’ Charles Erdman would be classified today as a ‘historic premillennialist’.
The following article was 1st published in The Fundamentals, edited by R. A. Torrey (1910):
Arminianism and Calvinism Compared, an excellent chart comparing the two theologies:
and a comment on the matter by by Charles Spurgeon:
If you have been following the Dispensational vs Covenant vs New Covent theology debate you have surely heard the term “replacement theology”, a term Classic and Hyper-Dispensationalists use to cast aspersions on and criticize those who disagree with them. They use what I call the “straw man” approach: they quote someone with which they disagree out of context, then huff and puff and try to blow them away.
Now there just may be some who believe in “replacement theology” but the Covenant theologians I have read and studied don’t agree with this assessment of the relation between Israel and the Church. The following article by Dr. Michael Milton (President, Reformed Theological Seminary, N.C.) gives a good explanation of how he views the Israel/Church relationship. The article is titled: “Engrafted – Not Replaced” (How I View True Israel, and Why I Support Ethnic Jews and the State of Israel and Pray for Them to Be Saved by Jesus Christ And Still Believe in Covenant Theology)! Quite a long title but definitely worth a read.