“Why am I a dispensationalist?” For me, a better question might be, “Why am I still a dispensationalist?” But, let me start from the beginning.
I grew up in the Bible Belt of East Texas, in a youth group that was more fun and games than Bible study. I wanted to know more about the Bible, but as Milton said, “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” I soon concluded that Christianity was empty nonsense, so I abandoned the worldview altogether, lived a rebellious lifestyle, and landed in federal prison a few years later. While I was in jail, some Christians reached out to and sent me some books on basic apologetics. After considering the evidence, I could no longer deny the resurrection of Christ, so I converted back to Christianity.
I had the opportunity to read several books while I was in the joint and before long I saw that the Bible had much more content than I previously thought. On the one hand, I was relieved finally to understand things that God had so plainly laid out in Scripture for all to see. On the other, I was disturbed that those of us who grew up in church had not been presented with such important truth. So, I decided to dedicate my life to spreading biblically consistent theology.
I didn’t learn the word, “dispensationalism,” for a while after my conversion. Few Christians do. Essentially, dispensationalism is just the plain reading of Scripture, which results in a doxological centrality and a Church/Israel distinction. Isn’t that the default setting for most converts? I would argue that many Christians start reading the Bible plainly and don’t start believing in supersessionism, genre override, extrabiblical covenants, etc. until they start hanging around pastors or theologians that promote anti-dispensationalist thought. So, like most Christians, I started out as a baby dispensationalist. But, why am I still a dispensationalist?
It wasn’t until I got into seminary that I realized how important dispensationalism really is. I was taking an Old Testament survey course online and there was an assignment to write a paragraph explaining our views on the temple in Ezekiel 40-46. This was an unfamiliar topic to me at the time, so I picked up my Bible and read the chapters. Apparently, that was a mistake; I was supposed to turn to the theologians for their opinions, not look to the Bible and form my own. From reading the Bible, I knew that Ezekiel was a prophet of the exile and I knew that the Temple he prophesized was much bigger than the one that they rebuilt after the exile. I also knew that there will not be a Temple in the eternal state (Rev 21:22), nor is there a functioning Temple now, so by process of elimination, I concluded that this Temple would be in the Millennial Kingdom. I wasn’t too confident, but it made sense, so that’s what I wrote.
My professor exploded.
Actually, I didn’t realize it was my professor at first. I thought it was a fellow student trolling me because his response was so angry and unprofessional. I somehow survived that assignment, but as I went through the rest of the course, I heard all sorts of ideas that simply had no support in the text. There were even assaults on the inerrancy of the Old Testament itself. That class was my wake up call. I already knew that I was a dispensationalist, but that class taught me that dispensationalism really matters.
I finished my master’s degree in seminary and was void of a biblical education. So, I found Tyndale Theological Seminary, which is solidly dispensational, and started my D.Min. My first semester at Tyndale was more beneficial than the entire master’s degree at the previous institution. I am writing my dissertation now on the Kingdom proffered and postponed and am still blown away by the Bible’s clarity if we just read it for its plain sense.
When I look back on my Christian life since converting in jail, I see how the dispensational framework has grown me. Life isn’t easier for me now than it was many years ago when I was in youth group, but now I have a biblical framework that I can use when the going gets tough. Why am I still a dispensationalist? Because God wants me to be diligent to present myself approved to Him, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Paul Miles is a missionary serving in Ukraine. He is associated with the Word of God Church in Lviv, Ukraine, one of the churches on our Dispensational Church List. Learn more about the Miles’ missionary work at Grace Abroad Ministries.
If you would like to submit your dispensational testimony for publication on our blog, send it to Randy White.