(Read Part 4)

In this fifth installment in our series, we begin looking at the last of the major “Issues of Contention” between dispensational and covenantal theology and thought.


The final important issue to mention is hermeneutics.

Though some have used the phrase dispensational hermeneutics,[1] that is an unfortunate combination of a doctrinal position (covering ecclesiology, eschatology and soteriology, as already noted) and how we practice exegesis of the text of Scripture.

The student of Scripture is not free to practice his own hermeneutical hopscotch, jumping around the text and twisting it to meet his theological agenda. God revealed Himself and His plan through the Bible, consisting of words, paragraphs and books. When we read and study the Scriptures, we are bound by the rules of literature and grammar to unpack its meaning based on the grammar in front of us, as it was written in a real historical context.

We in the dispensational line seek to practice a consistently literal, historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture. To say that is to also interpret the Minor Prophets and Revelation like we do every other part of Scripture, yet acknowledging the difference in genre. The Bible does not have some hidden meanings or even layers of meanings, but a single point to be unpacked in each passage of Scripture. We “take it in its normal sense unless its normal sense makes no sense,” as one hermeneutics professor taught me.

Throughout the history of the church there have always been those who spiritualize and allegorize a text, not drawing out of the text the author’s intent, but rather reading into it his own preconceived ideas. Some would suggest that Bible teachers on both sides of the discussion practice this method. Yet God has not left us to our own devices and creative ingenuity. The text clues in the interpreter through the use of figurative language and other devices as to how to interpret the text. Whether it be the drawn-out, meticulous instructions that Ezekiel gives for the future millennial temple, or the clear literal meaning of Revelation 20 that teaches a 1,000-year physical reign of Jesus Christ on the throne of David, we must interpret Scripture literally and at face value—in its normal sense.

We owe a great debt to Bible scholars within the covenantal camp who have preached, taught and written on the Word of God. Yet, the constant priority of the New Testament over the Old Testament (as if the Old Testament cannot stand on its own two feet or has to bow to the fuller revelation of the New Testament) and the interpretation (or even reinterpretation) of the Old Testament with the New Testament cannot be excused.

Furthermore, dispensationalists cannot, as covenantalists, read Jesus into every Old Testament verse. Though all the Bible points to Jesus Christ, He is not in every passage. We must practice exegesis (reading out of the text what the author intended) rather than practice exe-Jesus and reading Him into every passage.

We can be faithful to the text and still remain Christ-centered in the process.

(Read Part 6)

Review the entire series:

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

Dr. Parker Reardon is a graduate of Word of Life Bible Institute, Pensacola Christian College and The Master’s Seminary, where he received a doctorate in expository preaching. He is currently serving as the main teaching elder/pastor at Applegate Community Church in Grants Pass, Ore., and as adjunct professor of theology for Liberty University and adjunct professor of Bible and theology for Pacific Bible College. Reardon’s sermons and writings may be accessed at BiblicalExpositor.org. It is with great eagerness that we present him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House for the benefit of our readers.

Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Parker Reardon. Used by permission of the author.

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

[1] I very much appreciate the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics and have gleaned a great deal from the interactions there. Mike Stallard, who started the meetings, and to whom we owe thanks, has written some great articles on the literal and normal interpretation of Scripture.