By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
(Read Part 1)
In the first installment in this series, we considered our current cultural context and its impact upon us as we seek to move traditional dispensational theology forward in conditions that are increasingly hostile to Biblical truth. Now in Part 2 we turn our attention to the church.
Here we are pressed to inquire as to whether the teaching of dispensationalism is increasing or decreasing within evangelical churches.
Unfortunately, the answer would be difficult to obtain or document for a variety of reasons.
First of all, few churches self-identify as being dispensational. From all appearances, churches that strive to make dispensationalism a hallmark of their ministry in any prominent way are low in number.
Next, dispensationalism is a theological system that may be attached to a variety of denominational perspectives. Thus, it permeates many different groups of churches. Yet, while there are some fellowships of churches that are committed to dispensational theology, others view it as merely one doctrinal option among several.  It might be considered a non-essential that may be pursued as long as it does not distract from the primary mission or cause division.
Another factor that would make it difficult to gauge the status of dispensationalism within evangelical churches is that proponents of dispensationalism may hold the teaching to differing degrees—and may apply it with varying levels of consistency and proficiency. Thus, the question of whether “Dr. So-and-so” is a dispensationalist is not always easily answered.
Unless a church has been taught extensively in the realm of dispensational truth or makes its teaching necessary by including it in its doctrinal statement, it would not be unusual to find various views among staff members of the same church, or between a pastor and his successor—to say nothing of differences among members of the congregation.
While we lack the hard data to make any conclusive statements, we are nevertheless suspicious that the teaching of traditional dispensationalism may be on the decline within evangelical churches as a whole. There are, of course, notable exceptions.
How can you know if your church is committed to dispensationalism? Here are a few simple questions that can help you determine the answer:
- Is the pastor a Bible expositor? Not all expositors are dispensationalists, but—since dispensationalism is built upon a literal interpretation of the text and drives us to seek to understand the intricacies of God’s plan as revealed in Scripture—all dispensationalists should be expositors.
- Do the pastor and other teachers explain dispensationalism or the dispensations?
- Do they discuss the vital concepts of dispensationalism, such as progressive revelation, the distinction between Israel and the church, the age of the law and the age of grace or the importance of the coming kingdom?
- Do they preach on prophecy—from the perspective of futurism, premillennialism and the pre-tribulational rapture?
If your pastor is uncertain about these issues but willing to learn more, please encourage him to make use of the resources that we offer here at Dispensational Publishing House.
(To be continued)
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
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