Thursday, August 04, 2011

Covenant, Dispensation...

A brief theological musing.
I find I am not really a dispensationalist. Or if I am, I am only very mildly so. I always used to think I was. But there are too many problems of discontinuity in traditional dispensationalism, discontinuity in redemptive history that doesn't seem to fit God's consistent nature.
But I'm not really covenant either. Or if I am, again I am only mildly so. I am aware that covenant theology does not necessarily entail replacement theology and infant baptism/sprinkling, but most of the time it does. And I reject both replacement theology and infant baptism/sprinkling.
Covenant, Dispensation. I'm trying to figure out what I am.
Both? Neither? Half one, half the other?
Evidently, dispensational and covenant theology are not the only two options -- they are points on a spectrum, one direction representing continuity and the other representing discontinuity. I think I'm somewhere in between.
I suppose I just have to tackle issues one at a time.
But, I can no longer say that I am a dispensationalist.


Kyleigh said...

I hadn't heard terms for either of those before so I had to look them up.
I'd be more on the side of covenant, though like you without the infant baptism/sprinkling. I don't think I wholly disagree with replacement theology, though I've only studied it in the past few minutes. Saying "replaced" makes it sound like God changed His mind and said "I don't want Israel anymore," as opposed to it being a fore-runner to Christ and the Church. And yet I don't think God is 'finished' with Israel as most articles on replacement theology make it sound.
I'd have to agree with you that those two are extremes and I'm also somewhere in the middle.
The whole idea of labeling all these doctrines often bothers and confuses me. It's confusing because it puts often lengthy names on things I studied and knew when I was little, and it bothers me because often times it ends up being like in 1 Corinthians 3.
Then again, lots of people say they live by the sufficiency of scripture and yet have differing interpretations.

James Dunn said...

Hi Kyleigh! I think we have the same feeling about this, at least in general. Replacement theology takes something that is true about the church and Israel, and takes it too far to the extent that God is finished with Israel. If it doesn't involve the total rejection of Israel, then it isn't really replacement theology. Replacement theology also results in a lot of prophesies in the old testament given to Israel being interpreted in a very unnatural way. On the other hand, I think that Dispensationalism, in a noble attempt to protect physical Israel's position as still being God's chosen people and still being in God's plans, Dispensationalism has also gone to far. Dispensationalism tends to make too much of discontinuity in the redemptive history, to the point where truths taught in the Old Testament can be considered as no longer applicable (like the command to raise children in the law of the Lord). Dispensational theology can also lend itself to "Free Grace" theology, which denies that repentance is a necessary part of saving faith (which is an issue I'm currently dealing with that has a lot of practical implications).
So, in short, each theological system enshrines part of scripture, takes it out of balance, creates a framework, and forces the rest of Scripture to comply to it.

Ezra said...


I think I'm right about where you are with those issues. There are some folks who seem to mention Dominion as much as they mention the Gospel, and others who care for the very center of the Gospel only (and not for its many wonderful implications). We must hold our theology and practice accountable to God's Word (Psalm 19:7-11).

P.S. I'm still locked out of my Blog account. Ugh.