From a doctrinal perspective, the biggest thing about 2005 was my final good-bye to Dispensationalism. It wasn’t hard. I had always had problems with it. Always. But I assumed Dispensationalists knew what they were talking about. I mean, I never heard an alternative viewpoint. I also learned that there are a lot of other Pentecostals who have made the same decision. Which was a surprise to me. Dispensationalism is a part of the doctrinal heritage of Pentecostalism, just as it is Fundamentalists and modern Evangelicals.
Blogs aren’t very conducive to long pieces, so I’ll probably make this into more than one entry, but the reasons for my initial doubts include the dispensationalist habit of trying to link every news article to the Second Coming, an often poor understanding of geopolitics, even on a simplistic level, and aspects of the teaching that didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Those are all generalizations, I know. Specific examples of each?
I came to the Lord in 1981. One of the first prophecy books I’d been given suggested that Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian leader who had just made peace with Israel, might be the Anti-Christ. He was a peace-maker, after all. I wish I could remember the title, but I do recall that the fact that he had just been murdered took something away from the author’s argument. For me, anyway. Just one incident, I know, but a good example of something that happens in dispensationalism all the time. Everything is made to fit neatly together into a schema, but the schema is being remade all the time. Nobody steps back and looks at the big picture, and the horrible record it shows.
Examples of the poor geopolitics can be found in the Cold War mentality that permeates books and teachings. Until the end of the Cold War dispensationalists were always talking of the upcoming nuclear holocaust, seemingly unaware that such a war would destroy America and Israel as well. I’m not talking about a river of blood; I am talking about rendering the nations deserts of molten glass. Moreover, many are still entranced by the threat of Russian Communism, apparently unable to pick up a newspaper and realise that that threat is over, and that if Russia is going to still play that role Jesus is going to have to put off his return for a generation while Putin and his cronies rebuild their country.
This is going to take more than one entry. A quick example of teachings that don’t hold up to scrutiny? The dispensations themselves. Each is a period in which God dealt with humanity through a different covenant, and each ended with a judgement. The first few work fine. Innocence, Conscience, Human Government (or the Noahic Covenant). But once you get to Abraham it all falls apart. It applied to one family only, not all mankind – and would not apply to all until Jesus came (when all the nations would be blessed through God’s promise to Abraham). And it did not end with judgement. Actually, it hasn’t ended at all. God’s promise to Abraham is still true. But all the lessons I know use Israel’s slavery in Egypt to mark its end. If you took the time to read Genesis chapter 15, you’ll learn that their slavery was not a judgement at all.
In my next entry I’ll go into the discoveries that led to my parting with this doctrine, but a last point for now. A great many Christians do, of course, turn their backs of this teaching. After years of expecting, they grow disillusioned and doubtful. But rather than learning of other teachings, they either decide to continue churchgoing as a tradition – its something they’ve always done – or they stop going all together. Many would be shocked to learn how new this teaching really is.