By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
Editor’s Note: Tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 13, we will launch our Revived Classics line with a special blog article. In it, I will introduce you to some of our plans as well as the first authors that we have permission to list as those whose works we hope to “revive” in the future through the publishing of blogs, booklets, books and other resources. In preparation for tomorrow’s article, I am writing two introductory pieces this week that describe how God has used some great dispensationalists—and great dispensational writings—to change my direction and shape my life. It is our prayer that the authors and works that we promote through Revived Classics will have the same effect for many years to come, until the Lord returns.
What books have influenced and shaped your life?
I hope that, first and foremost, your answer would include the Bible, of course. But what would be next?
In this article I would like to share brief descriptions of five books that have really made a major impact upon my life, my theology and my ministry. I hope that you will read them—and I pray that someday a book published by Dispensational Publishing House might rise to this level of influence.
This book has doubtless become the standard text on dispensationalism since it was first published under the title Dispensationalism Today in 1965. The extent of the influence of both the book and its author are evidenced by the tribute that was paid to Ryrie when he went to heaven earlier this year.
Ryrie tackles nearly every aspect of dispensationalism, coming from the perspective of an academic theologian who is defending traditional dispensationalism. In the book, in fact, he defends it specifically against both progressive and ultradispensationalism (chapters 9 and 11, respectively) and, of course, covenant theology (chapter 10). Perhaps the most well-known aspect of the book is his listing of “The Sine Qua Non of Dispensationalism” on pp. 45-48.
Writing in the foreword in 1965, Frank E. Gabelein stated: “I believe that this book is mandatory reading for those who have attacked dispensationalism and for all who would understand what it really is” (p. 8).
Believing that it is necessary in my position with DPH for me to be utterly conversant with this book, I am currently re-reading it.
This book has become the standard text and reference book for students of pretribulational premillennialism. I read through it in a college class on Bible prophecy, and have since used it regularly and frequently as an authoritative source of study.
Pentecost famously filled his book with quotes from numerous sources covering the theological spectrum. As the years pass and many of these quoted authors and their works become further removed from us, some might believe the book to be less relevant. Indeed, those sources may not be familiar, but the depth of scholarship that Pentecost employed and the scope of issues that he addressed never changes.
I have heard the story told that Pentecost had quite a struggle to find a publisher to get this book into print. There was no DPH to help him back in that day! But we are glad that he finally succeeded, in God’s providence. This is another book that every dispensationalist must be familiar with and must interact with.
I encourage you to keep it by your desk.
The book’s subtitle tells the story: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology. The volume unfolds through 18 short, easy-to-read chapters that flesh out Showers’ purpose. He starts by covering both of these systems of theology (chapters 1-5), then tackles specific Biblical and theological issues, such as the Old Testament covenants (chapters 6-10), the “Millennial Views” (chapters 11-13), the kingdom of God (chapter 14), the church (chapter 15) and law and grace (chapters 16 and 17).
Showers, who has recently retired as a long-time author and Bible teacher for The Friends of Israel, is one of those writers and speakers who always makes me feel like I am learning something new—even when I may be hearing him address a subject that is extremely familiar to me.
Although this book is suitable even for use as a seminary text, and is by no means simplistic, it is the one that I would recommend that anyone seeking to learn about dispensationalism read first.
If I could only possess one book besides the Bible ever again, this would have to be it. McClain, the founding president of Grace Theological Seminary, takes the reader through the entire Bible, explaining the meaning of the kingdom in the progress of revelation.
There is no question that McClain’s work must be regarded as one of the great texts on dispensationalism. This is in spite of the fact that it certainly has not enjoyed the popularity of some of the other books on this list.
McClain explores the distinction between the universal kingdom of God and the Messianic, theocratic, mediatorial or millennial kingdom of God. This is a distinction that is so important to the basis of traditional dispensationalism.
If I could only pick one book besides the Bible, I would not only want to choose The Greatness of the Kingdom, but I would like to have my own copy. It is filled with notes from years of study, beginning in a seminary module on “Kingdom of God” with Dr. Rolland McCune.
If you are not familiar with this volume, I highly recommend that you read it.
This book by the long-time president and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary offers a wonderful complement to McClain’s book. Its subtitle is again instructive: A Basic Text in Premillennial Theology.
Walvoord’s incredibly intricate outline is set up completely differently from McClain’s book. It begins with a historical survey (chapters 1 to 4), then switches its focus to views of millennialism (chapters 5 to 11), covenants and other theological topics (chapters 12 to 24) and characteristics of the millennium (chapters 25 to 29).
Like McClain’s book, this work is not easy, and it is one that is probably not growing in popularity today outside of those few seminaries that are devoted to traditional dispensationalism. Like Things to Come, it interacts with the scholarly sources of its time, which are obviously no longer viewed as cutting-edge.
The substance of the content of this book, however, remains as weighty as ever. It is required reading for anyone claiming to be a well-informed dispensationalist.
These are five dispensational books that have shaped my theology. Even as I write about them, it saddens me to think of how much time has passed—how many things have changed—since I was in seminary just two decades ago. I wonder if up-and-coming students of theology will even be conversant with names like Ryrie, Pentecost, Showers, McClain and Walvoord in the near future.
But there is also a challenge there for all of us who are blessed to be part of DPH. By God’s grace, may we have the opportunity—one day—to play a role in adding more such books to this list.
And may we do our part to keep the theological legacy of traditional dispensationalism alive and well.
Copyright © 2016 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 For more on this book, see this article by Paul Scharf: “McClain’s Masterpiece.” Gospel Herald and The Sunday School Times, Vol. 24, No. 3. (Summer 2006): 49.