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Dispensational eschatology is an incorrect hermeneutic

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/16/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,166 times Debate No: 13681
Debate Rounds (4)
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This is a theological, not idealogical debate. Therefore, I would prefer to debate with a fellow Christian who believes the Bible is the ultimate authority on the matter.
Definition: Dispensationalism is a Protestant evangelical tradition based on a biblical hermeneutic that sees a series of chronologically successive "dispensations" or periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants. [1]

I will primarily argue the following points:
1. Dispensationalism interprets the Bible inconsistently
2. Dispensationalism leads to inconsistency
3. Dispensationalism makes unfounded claims
4. Dispensationalism is not orthodox

I would suggest the following order for the rounds of debate:
1. Definitions and summary of what will be presented
2. Arguments and rebuttals
3. Questions and answer period ~ 3 questions max
4. Final rebuttals and closing arguments

If you are a Dispensational Christian, and would like to debate the issue in a civil and Christ honoring way, then accept this debate...



I thank my opponent for starting a christian debate on this sight, they are rare to find, but often worth finding to debate.

I will follow my opponents suggestion for order in each of the rounds, but would like to ask a few questions.
1) for round 2, it seems I have an unfair advantage as you will have nothing to rebuttal from me as I would not have presented an argument yet, only a summery, are you fine with only having the standard arguments from search-able sources of proponents of Dispensationalism, or do you need me to post anything extra from my summery in the comment section for you to give rebuttal towards?
2) similar question about round 3, should I put the 3 questions max in round 2 so that you can answer them in the question and answer round?

Definitions as far as I can see are covered, but considering the debate, there is a chance Covenant theology will come up presented as an alternative so here is source for that [1]. Eschatology is of course study of 'end things'. As for my summery....

I will primarily argue....
1) Dispensationalist does interpret the bible consistently
2) Generally speaking, rejecting Dispensationalism causes at least some of the most reasonable apologetic's for Christianity to fall apart
3) should it come up, I will provide a case to show Covenant theology inaccurate, if not in all respects at least in some.
4) perhaps I am misunderstanding what my opponents case shall be when he say's he will show Dispensationalism as 'unorthodox', but currently I understand orthodox to mean the normal teaching of the church; and if Pro hopes to show Dispensationalism is wrong because its not the 'normal' teaching of most christian churches, then I will have quite a lot to say about that. However to me that just seems too illogical a case to make that I doubt I understand yet what the significant point Pro plans to make about it being 'not orthodox' so I will just have to wait and see.....

I never thought of myself s a Dispensation Christian before, however after reading the wiki source you gave I realized I have been arguing it as part of my apologetic arguments in the forums for quite some time on this sight. Also the source on Covenant theology say's it's accepted by mostly Calvinist churches, and seeing as I'm a 'Free Willie' anti-Calvinist, and Methodist, I figure that most likely makes me a Dispensationalist Christian too. I hope I will show myself to debate in honorably Scout like, and Christ like way, but if I slip up from doing so guess it's cause I'm human but feel free to call me out on it so that I know to correct my behavior.

Debate Round No. 1


Marauder and I have come to an agreement on the order of debate. I want to thank him for accepting this debate. It is my favorite Biblical subject, and I'm sure this debate will be enlightening for both of us as Christian brethren. For the record, I grew up being taught the Dispensationalist view. However, I moved away from it a long time ago, as I feel the other views are superior to this one. Since the debate is framed as "Dispensational Eschatology," I will stick primarily with that instead of Dispensationalism Vs. Covenant Theology as whole systems.

Point One: Dispensationalism interprets the Bible inconsistently

The Dispensational "end times" viewpoint is characterized by several distinct teachings. These include an entirely futuristic interpretation of prophecy, Israel as being distinct from the Church, a future Tribulation period, pre-tribulational rapture (Pre-Trib as opposed to Mid- and Post-Trib), and so on.

The first point I would like to make is that Dispensationalism holds to a method of interpretation that forces a "wooden" literalism upon texts when such is not intended by the author, nor warranted. I have heard with my own ears the rule of thumb for interpreting Scripture is to "interpret absolutely literally, except where that would make no common sense." Tim LeHaye agrees, saying: "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, but take every word at its primary, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise." [1]
Since this method has no real standard to go on, it is wide open for speculation and leads to "literally" endless conspiracy theories about Antichrist and other topics. Thus, the end result is Dispensationalism on many points is not consistent.

One example, (and there are many), is in Revelation, the most symbolic book in the whole Bible. In Revelation 19 the Dispensationalist argues that Jesus upon the white horse must be taken absolutely literally, but in the same exact passage they argue that the sword coming out of the mouth of Christ is symbolic, representing the Word of God.

Point Two: Dispensationalism leads to inconsistency

This inconsistent method of interpretation leads to inconsistency in application. For example, in the seventies, it was all the furor that Anwar Sadat was the Antichrist, since he was the first one to successfully broker a peace deal with Israel. In the eighties, the Antichrist was thought to be Mikhail Gorbachev, especially since he had that "mark" on his forehead. Now a days, the Antichrist is President Obama. One only has to go to YouTube and find several videos that claim his name spells out something incriminating. [2] The speculations are endless. I know another guy who insists that Prince William is the Antichrist! As Gary DeMar states, "Why should we believe present-day prophetic prognosticators when we have been offered assurances of the identity of the Antichrist numerous times over the centuries?" [3]

Point Three: Dispensationalism makes unfounded claims

Dispensationalism also makes unfounded claims. For lack of space, I will mention one:
Dispensationalists insist that the Great Tribulation is a 7 year period of time in the future, that it involves God's dealing with the geo-political nation of Israel, that it is Daniel's 70th Week, and that during this time Antichrist will rule the world.
However, there is no scriptural backing for this. This is reflected in the fact that in every single other view of eschatology, even Historical Premillennialism, the Great Tribulation "proper" is taught to have taken place in the past, as God's judgment against Israel in the first century. Dr. G.R. Dawe, a historical Premillennialist states about the Dispensational version: "There arose in Christendom, about 150 years ago, a view of Christian doctrine not held before, that the church would be raptured home to glory before the great tribulation would break upon the world. Some who do not believe this doctrine, nevertheless believe in a comparatively short period of tribulation at the end of the age, through which we all must pass. We believe this to be an erroneous and unscriptural view…" [4]
Even John Wesley, the father of Methodism, who, though he implies the term "Great Tribulation" could carry a further meaning, he specifically supports the 70 AD view overall and comments about Matthew 24:22, "And unless those days were shortened - By the taking of Jerusalem sooner than could be expected: No flesh would be saved - The whole nation would be destroyed. But for the elect's sake - That is, for the sake of the Christians." [5]

Point Four: Dispensationalism is not orthodox

This leads to my fourth point: that Dispensationalism is not orthodox. As my friend Marauder pointed out, I didn't adequately define orthodox. I accept the following definition (generally speaking) of "Orthodox" as defined by the World English Dictionary ~ "conforming to the Christian faith as established by the early Church." [6] (My apologies for inserting it in this round).
Everyone likes to think that their doctrine is Apostolic. It is important that we can trace the development of our beliefs, therefore, throughout the historic Church. Though there are certainly divergent views, they all hold certain things in common.
Dispensationalism was literally invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1800's. As Dr. Dawe stated previously, Dispensational views were not held by the Church before then. This means that it is virtually impossible that the Apostles held these views. Although I will concede that the Bible is the ultimate judge of truth, Keith Mathison states it best by saying: "For almost two thousand years, God has given the church gifted teachers whose insights into Scripture are invaluable. To neglect what these giansts of the Christian faith have said is not only presumptuous, but foolish." [7]

1. Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm: Why Christians will Escape All the Tribulation (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1992), 240. No Fear of the Storm has been republished as Rapture Under Attack (1998)
3.Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, Ch. 11
7.Keith Mathison, Postmillennialism – An Eschatology of Hope, p. 23


I thank my opponent for posting his opening arguments, and double thank him for teaching me what John Wesley's views may have been on this subject.
It seems I may need to change what I claimed I would argue in round 1 based on my opponent's points. Before defending it from why Pro claims it is inconsistent I shall present my case for why it's rather necessary in apologetic's as I think I can do that at the same time as explaining just what dispensationalism is as a foundation for theological thinking.

1) It's need in apologetic's, and what it is:
If you are a new comer to this controversy and did not even no what dispensationalism is or the common eschatology those who think of the bible periods in terms of dispensations view, you would still not know just from reading my opponents argument. I'm not even sure my opponent really wants to argue anything about dispensationalism being wrong now but rather pre-tribulation premillinialism as incorrect witch I am more than willing to do, but let's not call it a debate over dispensationalism effect on that eschatology unless we connect the dots as to why viewing history in dispensations led to that. What if a case could be made all dispensation thinkers abandon that theology when they deal with eschatology? That would of course be bad for there credibility as theologians but could you still blame the viewing of the bible in dispensations as the cause of that? There are bad theologians existing out there defending near all the beliefs there is to be had, so I think not.
Dispensationalism is no more than a teaching about how god deals with man differently though-out time. On this sight while arguing with atheist I have repeatedly needed to refer back to that as a fact. For example the favored accusation of "thought shall stone gays" is quoted to make numerous cases to not believe in the bible that I just don't have room to list them. But I answer all there concerns about god making that commandment for his people back then is that that was a community commandment, specific to the time and the people. Some commands are tailored to fit all, some though can mean something for only individuals, (god ordered Abraham to sacrifice his child, orders all others to shun people who do that for there god). If the case is made there is individual specific commands, then expect community ones too. Dispensationism comes into play here because God is eternally just, but justice itself is not something that is eternally the same is it? What justice is often related to the context of the situation (those change as time goes on). So God no longer has us stone gays because that is no longer just for reasons only he knows fully. We might not understand completely why as he does, but we do know he is dealing with us differently than he did to Israel back in mosaic days.
Without drawing on saying god deals in dispensations, how am I to argue that there are only 10 commandments and not over 600? Argue that NT does not contradict OT, but that some of those particular commands no longer apply while others do? Supersessionism is just not an option for me, OT is going to remain an important part of my bible cause I know God left it there for good reason.

2) Pro say's this thinking leads to inconsistency in eschatology, but did not point out how for me to argue against. He simply gave a general accusation against what he see's the theologians themselves (ad-hominen) tend to do as far as he has observed. Interpreting with wooden literalism were its not warranted. Even if true, this fallacy actually has nothing to do with dispensationalism or pre-tribulation premillinialism. All those who attempt to interpret the prophetic scriptures are liable to make this kind of mistake. I recently read a similar accusation made by a pre-tribulation premillinialist (John MacArther) that it is the preterist who do this, making all scripture meaninglessly metaphoric so that they may read one particular verse with wooden literalism where in MacArther's words ‘is not warranted'
So I say let us not just accuse each other of being wooden in the wrong cases and meaninglessly metaphoric in others, but actually give the reasoning behind why these cases are wrongly being taken the plain way they are stated, or wrongly ‘spiritualized'.
In any case there is nothing inconsistent about how pre-tribulation premillinialist got their conclusions on the matter. There is plenty of scripture just littering the NT that make it clear Christ could return at any time ‘like a thief in the night'. And there are plenty enough to give us an idea that in some sense we could define the tribulation as a time period of some sort. So doesn't that make one question if you really could expect Christ to come today? How can you if you can always go ‘well he cant come today because the Great Tribulation has yet to occur, that must happen first'. Well then that's more like saying he can only come in the next 7 years at any time right? Pre-tribulation premillinialism reconciles these two abrasive teachings though in that Christ comes BEFORE the tribulation for the church during the rapture. If you take the rapture out of being before the tribulation on your end of day's chronology you have the problem of not being able to truly say Jesus could come back at any time, there will be so many signs that you will know 7 years ahead of time when he is going to come.

3) makes unfounded claims:
It seems pro's case he gave for why the claims are unfounded is ‘its reflected by every other view of eschatology takes a preterist view on the matter' (paraphrased for space) Well, I hardly think every other view of eschatology thinks the prophecies are of past events, but even if enough of all other views are, it does not follow that the dispensationalist claim is unfounded. Before asking if there founded claims we should first ask what are the claims supposed to be founded in. considering that my opponent and I are both brothers in Christ I think for this debate we can agree that eschatology claims are considered ‘founded' if there founded in scripture. And the claims Pro contends are as founded in scripture as any other views of end times are. Here are some of the scriptures this stuff comes from; (will put more next round, out of space this one; the passage I gave in here answers the dealing with Israel differently than we the rest of the church)

4) Unorthodox
I respect what you mean to say by the importance of it being orthodox now. from your description of its role in theology your speaking of one the 4 point of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral in all its fullest glory, the source for theology of Tradition. I argue against its use in this case however using another of the 4 points, Experience. The Experience of the church, of we the body of Christ has increased considerably since earlier times. We face a different world with different theological challenges than they did. Paul thought in his day that Christ would come in his lifetime, he didn't have the knowledge that we do that 2000 years has already passed with the world as bad as it ever has been if not more so while still waiting on our saviors return. So our theology has had to take a different tone since his day.
Besides that, Darby is quickly becoming a 'giant of the faith as his views are catching like wildfire. He has been dead since before I was born and Mega-Evangilist like Hagee, Falwell, Graham, or MacArther have drawn from his Dispensational teaching. Tim LaHay's has probably affected the public understanding of 'end times' than anyone else alive and His Books are very much dispensationalist. So among the living those you would call the giants of the faith it is becoming very 'orthodox' and 'mainstream' only time will tell if in the future this theological shift will remain and it's proponents be counted among the dead giants of faith for more than 100
Debate Round No. 2


I appreciate the comments made by my opponent in the last round. He raises some good points. I would remind my opponent that the title of the debate is "Dispensational Eschatology is an Incorrect Hermeneutic." Thus, the debate is aptly titled to refer to the eschatology that stems from dispensationalism, and not dispensationalism itself as a system.
The assumption is made that the prospective opponent understands what Dispensationalism is, and, therefore, it is redundant to define it.

Yet the eschatology that stems from dispensationalism shows that "wisdom is known of her children." A bad tree bears bad fruit, so to speak. Since Dispensationalism is best known for its unique eschatology, I think it reflects as well on the system as a whole.

Secondly, One does not need Dispensationalism to substantiate the arguments given by Marauder as pertaining to how God deals somewhat differently at times with different people. God's actions toward man are based on His sovereignty and His covenants with them, not any dispensation. For example, Marauder states: "But I answer all there concerns about god making that commandment for his people back then is that that was a community commandment, specific to the time and the people."

But this is precisely because these commandments were a part of the Old Covenant made with Israel! The fact that they no longer apply, is not because of any dispensation. The New Testament is clear that the Old Covenant system was passing away, and therefore the economy of Israel, it's covenant and sacrificial system came to an end.
Hebrews 8:13 "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear."
Romans 10:4 "Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."

Thirdly, Marauder in this same line of reasoning states:
"Dispensationism comes into play here because God is eternally just, but justice itself is not something that is eternally the same is it? What justice is often related to the context of the situation (those change as time goes on). So God no longer has us stone gays because that is no longer just for reasons only he knows fully"

I would reply that since absolute justice is a quality possesed by God, (God is just in all His ways), then that justice cannot change for God cannot change. God's justice is absolute, not subjective. God no longer has us "stone gays" because the sovereign purpose for that has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Once again, this is based on a change of covenants, not a change in dispensations. It's not mysterious at all, but clearly explained for us.

Fourthly, my opponent makes reference to my remarks about the often "wooden literal" interpretations of Dispensationalists: "All those who attempt to interpret the prophetic scriptures are liable to make this kind of mistake." Yet that is the point. Dispensationalists insist upon "making this mistake" the "Golden Rule of interpretation." [1]

Yet I think dispensationalism leads us to believe there are lines drawn in history where they aren't warranted. For example, Dispensationalism says that the dispensation of Promise, such as those promises made to Abraham, ended with the dispensation of the Law. However, Paul plainly states in Galatians 3:19, "Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator." Paul states that the Law was ADDED to the promise. Nothing came to an end!

My opponent's arguments are all based on the premise that Dispensationalism is the only thing that can explain why the Law no longer applies to us as Christians, and why it applies differently than it did originally to unbelievers. Yet that is the crux of the Apostles' teaching (without dispensationalism). It is due to a change in covenants. Furthermore, no one in Covenant theology considers the Old Covenant as no longer necessary. Rather it is viewed in its proper role of being fulfilled. -> "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (Romans 3:31)

Fifthly, my opponent contends for the Dispensational Rapture, (which is the only view that divides the Second Coming into two distinct parts): "(The Rapture is necessary because) there will be so many signs (pointing to the second coming) that you will know 7 years ahead of time when he is going to come."

This is a fallacy of necessity. Since Dispensationalism places the Great Tribulation as a future 7 year period of time in which God must deal separately with Israel in the absence of the (supposedly) Gentile Church, there must be inserted a way for the Church to be moved out of the way. This argument of where to place the Rapture is only found within dispensationalism itself. Most other forms that believe in the imminent return of Christ understand that no rapture theory is necessary because there is no "Great tribulation" to look for. Indeed all scriptures that deal with the return of Christ are crystal clear that His coming is accompanied by the end of the age and the final judgment. There is no foundation for a "secret" coming of Christ. Think about it. Why do dispensationalists need a Rapture? To escape a future tribulation. Yet they have to come up with a Rapture precisely because they incorrectly futurize the tribulation! It's like saying that one must buy a lifetime supply of buckets to deal with creating an unneccessary leak! Fix the leak and the buckets are unnecessary!

Lastly, my opponent claims the following:
"We face a different world with different theological challenges than they did. Paul thought in his day that Christ would come in his lifetime, he didn't have the knowledge that we do that 2000 years has already passed with the world as bad as it ever has been if not more so while still waiting on our saviors return. So our theology has had to take a different tone since his day."

This is the nature of Dispensationalism to classify revelation as being progressive. Yet the Scripture testifies that we should "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 1:3) The argument that Paul believed Jesus would come in his lifetime is unsupportable, unless one understands that the coming that Paul spoke of most often was not THE coming of Christ, but A coming of Christ in judgment upon Israel. I would like to address the issue of the Apostle Paul being ignorant of the plan of Christ in the next round if time and space warrant.

At any rate, I am enjoying this debate and hope that my opponent doesn't think my tone too aggressive or offensive.

If I am not mistaken, I am allowed to ask my opponent three questions in this round, so here they are:
1. Who was the book of Revelation written to? (Revelation 1:4)
2. What was the purpose of it being written? (Revelation 1:1,3)
3. What were the purposes for the 70 weeks of Daniel? (Daniel 9:24)

1. Understanding Bible Prophecy for Yourself - Tim LaHaye p.14


To begin this round, hear are the sources of scripture I said existed but did not have space for last round and promised this round.
(same website can be used for all the following) Daniel 9: 25-27
Revelation 7-19
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
Jude 14
James 5:7-9
1 Peter 4:7
Heb 10:24-25

Yes, I agree it would be redundant to define ‘dispensation' further if the only thing to do in this debate was for you and me to try and teach each other something, that something being something we both already know. But for the viewing audience who are following to debate whether to cast a vote at its end or learn about the topic so they can pick a side in this new controversy they are now just learning about I feel the wiki source is not enough to put the definition in context with the argument; especially when a lot a members on this site will not even skim a wiki source because they are too elitist too.

Now to answer the Questions for this question and answer round:

1) who was the book of Revelation written to?
Well, there are a few sets of people you could conclude it was written to from reading it.
a) It was revealed through John, so I would think that qualifies as a potential person god intended to here it.
b) There are seven messages directed at each church independently that was around at the time, a message for Ephesus, a message to Smyrna, one for Pergamum, one to Thyatira, one to Sardis, one to Philadelphia, and one to Laodicea. They are clearly all singled out independently from the whole church and from each other in the first three chapters.
c) Chapter 4 and onward does not speak to any of the individual churches any longer so I believe it is meant for the whole body of Christ.

2) What was the purpose of it being written?
The purpose? Truly only god knows for sure but as of the present I believe that its purpose in being written is to
a) give the church hope, that there suffering and persecutions are not for nothing
b) give warning about coming events, that potentially could happen very soon.
c) give hope again, because they shall be saved even though there are not perfect and have many problems of there own their still dealing with
you may have noticed I used the term ‘potentially' in their, let me explain a little further on that. Jesus could have returned in their lifetime and all prophecy have been fulfilled just fine and all the promises, ect ect. He could have returned in George Washington's day, he could have returned when Hitler was in power, and he could return today if he wanted too. But he has not. Why? Well our God, he's the kind of God that actually answers prayer, sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes a not yet, but he very much does answer prayers. And he answers prayers in such a way that they interfere with his original plans sometimes. Had Moses chosen not to pray God would have killed all the Israelites except for Moses and kept his covenant promises with Abraham through Moses, but Moses prayed for them to be spared and God held back giving mercy to them. This shows how our free will and prayer can offset the actions god was originally going to take, So because of prayer of his servants and his great mercy on us and the unsaved that we are trying to reach out to all the time, he has pushed back the date of his return more and more all the time, how many time we don't, could have occurred just once, maybe it's happened over a 100 times already. What we do know though is that at all times it's potentially ‘soon'

3) What were the purposes for the 70 weeks of Daniel?
The passage you cited in the question spell's it out fine I think,
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people & upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and the prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy"
I don't wish to pretend to understand every little detail to that list of purposes, such as ‘to seal up the vision and the prophecy' rather escapes me, some of it obviously has something to do with Christ ‘to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness,….to anoint the most Holy'
The thing I don't understand though that is relevant to this debate though is that I don't understand where the purpose of the prophecy comes up in this discussion of interpretation. How does it show time specifics to be false in pre-tribulation pre-millennialism, or that the people of that ‘holy city' do not get any different special attention from God than we gentiles?

Now for my 3 questions:

1) what sort of ‘covenant' is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our lord and savior categorized/described as being of?
2) How is the term ‘Dispensation' grammatically used in a sentence? (verb, adjective, proper noun, adverb, like a name, like a time, like measurement unit?) to make it as plane as possible for me or our audience make the example sentence (should you explain it using one) have nothing to do with this debate.
3) How precisely does seeing a series of chronologically successive periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants lead (inevitably) to pre-tribulation pre-millennialism in eschatology.
Debate Round No. 3


First I would like to thank my new friend Marauder for accepting this debate. I believe that it has caused both of us to study more, and to come away with a new appreciation for the further study of eschatology. Even though we may disagree on this point, it in no way implies that we disagree as far as the most important aspects of the Faith are concerned.
To address my opponents points:

"Yes, I agree it would be redundant to define ‘dispensation' further if the only thing to do in this debate was for you and me to try and teach each other something, that something being something we both already know."

Fair enough. Dispensationalism is a method of Biblical interpretation in which history is divided into (usually 7) periods of time known as dispensations.

They are listed as follows:
1. The Dispensation of Innocency (Gen. 1:3-3:6)
2. The Dispensation of Conscience (Gen. 3:7-8:14)
3. The Dispensation of Civil Government (Gen. 8:15-11:9)
4. The Dispensation of Promise or Patriarchal Rule (Gen. 11:10-Ex. 18:27)
5. The Dispensation of the Mosaic Law (Ex. 19:1-Acts 1:26)
6. The Dispensation of Grace (Acts 2:1-Rev. 19:21)
7. The Dispensation of the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-15)

In each Dispensation, God gives man a test, man fails the test, and God judges man.

It's most essential doctrine is that the Church consists only of those believers saved between Pentecost and the Rapture [the secret catching away of the saints from the earth]. But Dispensationalism's most distinctive doctrines are its eschatological ["end times"] teachings, which are divided into three camps, the first being overwhelmingly the most popular: 1. The imminent Pre-Tribulational rapture of the Church. 2. The Mid-Tribulational view, and 3. The Post-Tribulational view. [1]

The Dispensationalist views Jesus' descriptions in the Olivet Discourse, (and is the only view that does), as being solely concerned with a yet future 7 year period of time known as the "Great Tribulation," in which God removes the Church and deals with the geo-political nation of Israel. This future 7 year period of time is also known as the "Seventieth Week of Daniel." - A prophecy from Daniel 9. Dispensationalists claim that this last 7 year period of the Seventy Week prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, and it is this time that will be known as the Great Tribulation and will be marked by such things as a One World Government, a personal Antichrist who is basically Satan incarnate, the mark of the beast and so on. At the end of the 7 year Tribulation period, Jesus Christ returns to rescue the Jews, at which time they will recognize Him as the Messiah. A 3rd Jewish temple will be erected, and Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of His father David, and will rule the world from Jerusalem for 1000 years. This 1000 years is known as the Millennium.

This is in contrast to Covenant Theology. Covenant theology, as its name indicates, structures redemptive history around the covenants. In the very first covenant made between God and Himself, God, (before the foundation of the world) chose to redeem a people for Himself by sending the Son to accomplish their redemption and sending the Spirit to apply that redemption. This is the "Covenant of Redemption." The historical covenants between God and man all flow from this initial covenant of redemption. Covenant theology was the accepted standard for the first 1800 or so years of the Church.

These Covenants are stuctured as follows:

1. The Covenant of Redemption
2. The Covenant of Works (made with Adam)
3. The Covenant of Grace - which includes:
1. The Noachic, or Noachide Covenant
2. The Abrahamic Covenant
3. The Mosaic Covenant
4. The Davidic Covenant
5. and finally the New Covenant

In the question and answer round, I asked my opponent the following questions:
1) who was the book of Revelation written to?
2) What was the purpose of it being written?
3) What were the purposes for the 70 weeks of Daniel?
My purpose in doing so was to point out that the answers to these questions are in the text itself.
1. The text itself says "John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia." These were 7 first century churches in Asia Minor.
2. The text itself tells us the purpose which is "to show his servants what must soon take place." - MUST SOON take place, not, "could possibly take place now, but maybe in the next 3000 years"...
3. The text itself lists the reasons mentioned by my opponent. There's a lot that could be said, but the main point is that these reasons are for ALL 70 weeks. Where is "Great Tribulation" included in the list???

Now to answer my opponents questions:

1) what sort of ‘covenant' is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our lord and savior categorized/described as being of?

A. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the culmination of all previous covenants in the one New Covenant. In the New Covenant all previous covenants find their ultimate consumation: Luke 24:47 "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in ALL the scriptures the things concerning HIMSELF."

2) How is the term ‘Dispensation' grammatically used in a sentence? (verb, adjective, proper noun, adverb, like a name, like a time, like measurement unit?) to make it as plane as possible for me or our audience make the example sentence (should you explain it using one) have nothing to do with this debate.

A. Really it depends upon the context...In strictly a theological sense, the word means "a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God."[2] However, in its normal sense, it usually means, as defined by Thayer:

1) the management of a household or of household affairs
1a) specifically, the management, oversight, administration, of other's property
1b) the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship
1c) administration, dispensation

Paul, in Ephesians 3:2 (KJV) uses it in this way: "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward"
In the NIV translated as follows: "Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you." In each case it is a noun.

3) How precisely does seeing a series of chronologically successive periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants lead (inevitably) to pre-tribulation pre-millennialism in eschatology.

A. It's more than just that. There are other teachings which are unique to the system, such as the teaching that Israel and the Church are separate altogether, that God deals with them separately, and that certain prophecies are still for Israel and still future, that grace was not offered until Christ's ascension, and so on.
In Dispensationalism, God is dealing solely with Israel when sending the Messiah. Messiah offers Israel the kingdom, but they reject it. The Prophetic clock stops. During the Great Tribulation, God brings judgment upon Israel, while also offering salvation. Thus, the Church has to be removed so that God can deal with Israel during this time of wrath. In traditional Dispensationalism, Israel will recognize Jesus when He returns to earth and be saved. Thus, the Pre-trib Pre-mill eschatology provides the scenario for God to deal with Israel as a nation apart from the Church.

Having spent the majority of this round defining Dispensationalism at my opponents insistence, I conclude my argument that Dispensationalism is inconsistent, leads to inconsistency and makes unfounded claims. It wrongly makes certain pre-suppositions and therefore comes to wrong conclusions.

1. Charles Ryrie, "Dispensationalism Today" (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p.62
2. Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford, 1909), 5.


First, I would like to apologize for accidentally causing my opponent to spend most of his round defining despensationalism. You say that I insisted you define but I do not remember doing so. When you said it was redundant to define it last round, I thought you were calling me out for my argument my characterization of dispensationalism ("dispensationalism is no more than….) the previous round . My response was that of defending my use of defining in context of the argument, I did not mean for it to come off as asking for further definition from you.

Pro's Q #1 : I admitted as much that in part it was addressed to those individual churches. So are near all the books in the NT (Corinthians to the Corinthians, Romans to the church at Rome, ect.) Even the Gospel of Luke starts out saying it was being written for one person that Luke wanted to educate. And yet in spite of that context of who the epistles and gospels and the revelation of john was written for at the time, they are all written by the holy spirit for OUR benefit too today.
Pro's Q #2 : I see you choose to press the use of the phrase ‘MUST SOON'. Do remember for God ‘soon' is a lot different for what that means for us. For example the Earth is possibly over 4 billion years old, the universe itself all together so much greater than that still that the earth would seem to be around just a short time so far. So 3000 years is not that perspectively long for god. And I would like to point out you did not address at all the argument I gave defending that it could mean 3000 years later, the point about God answering prayer, witch is essentially the point about the interference of our free will. If you found my case so un-compelling about Moses prayer to god changing his stated plans to destroy the Israelis, then perhaps this scripture will do better as it states it better than I ever could why the over 2000 year passing of time does not matter and the ‘why' for the delay in what the church was told then ‘must soon' come to pass. 2 Peter 3: 6-14. verse 9 shows the delay is because god wishes for none of us to perish. Eventually that longsuffering patience will come to an end and judgment shall occur. But the point is there is deviation for the timing of his promises, because our God is not a computer program that must follow its pre-laid out programming, but rather as the scripture say he is a ‘living god' and as the hymnist said ‘the lord of the dance' who allows for free will and adapts his actions for all things we could possibly do with that free will. When I say ‘adapt' I do not mean God himself changes, I just mean God being as perfect as he is responds to all possible actions done by my free will what is accordingly just for them.
Pro's Q #3 : the ‘Great Tribulation' is not inferred from the list of purposes but from the obvious parallels with it and the Olivet discourse making reference to it in a future sense even after the reign of King Antiochus (thought to be the king fulfilled the ‘abomination of desecration'), meaning that part of what Daniel prophesied of was yet to be fulfilled. Seeing such a parallel its very reasonable to believe that they are about the same thing. Although you could see that the purpose ‘to bring and end to sin' and to ‘finish the transgression' is no doubt the reason of for the tribulation.

My Q #1 : The answer I was actually looking for was ‘a covenant of grace' as covenant theologians refer to it. What else could the covenant be called after all for it is a huge theme in all the NT that it teaches us to understand that Christ sacrifice was a act of Grace. But trying mash that fact with you preconceived theology of ‘everything works by covenants' from the blessings given to Israel to the very changing of the sky from day to night, you get this oxymoron statement of ‘ a covenant of grace'. ‘covenant' and ‘grace' don't go in the same sentence because they are the very opposite of each other. A covenant is where a weaker party does something for something from a stronger party. A deal, both sides do something for the other. Grace, to put as my pastor has before is ‘gifts you receive witch you do not deserve'. You don't do anything for it. If you did it would not be grace, it would be a covenant. What is my point to all this? The label ‘covenant' is simply not good enough to describe all of gods acts with man and how he deals with them. Referring the changes in how he deals with us as dispensations is much broader though and does fit even with the acts of grace. Covenant theology itself could be considered part of the dispensations and it not contradict.

My Q #2 : I asked this question because quite often you would treat ‘dispensation' like it had a similar meaning to ‘covenant' (… , this is based on a change of covenants, not a change in dispensations.) though the 2 theologies are competing ones, they are not terms that can be spoken of with the same grammar context. A covenant is an agreement between god and man, a dispensation is how god organized history. So saying a change in covenant is a change in dispensation too, your entering a new era of history with the change. But why does god change his covenants? Why not use the later covenants deemed good enough to replace the old first and have the final covenant be the only covenant? It's because of how god has chosen to administer and ‘dispense' them for his purposes of how to test and grow us . If you look at your list of the ‘covenant' view of history and the ‘dispensation' view there isn't much difference. And if you look into the full doctrine taught by dispensationalist you will see the presence of ‘grace' and the ‘law ' is said to be in all the dispensations too just like covenant theologians place the two in all the covenants in some respect or another. There's not that much difference between the two, but there is an important one, and that's ‘dispensation' is a broader term that doesn't haven't the problems calling everything a covenant does.

My Q #3 : first, though there may be some dispensationalist that go as far to say grace did not start until the ascension, if you read your own source on dispensationalism which I am not contending you will see for most dispensationalist that is not the case. Second, a non-hyper preterist view is not unique to dispensationalist, most all Christians believe that a large portion of the prophecies deal with what is even our future still, including that some are about Israel, its location is spelled out often enough in them so the view is not unfounded.
Third, your main point against dispensationalism in your response to question 3 and throughout this whole debate I think is about God dealing with Israel separately from the church (dispensationalist actually do accept theirs overlap between the 2). You speak of this as if that would make God unfair by dealing differently with the rest of the church than he deals with Israel. But the fact is the bible is full of examples where god deals differently with some than he does others. Rehab was dealt differently than the rest of Jericho, the seer who showed Saul the ghost of Samuel was dealt with differently by god, or the sorcerer Balaam as well, or the pharaoh of Joseph's time. They were dealt with differently by god. Does that make God unfair? If you say that then you should also say god is unfair for making some of his servants die martyrs like Steven and others live to be kings like David. There is nothing unfair about god dealing differently with some than others. He created us all unique, with unique strengths and weaknesses, & thus has unique test and challenges; unique purposes are set aside for us. A man gifted with the ability to sing is expected to give more time to the choir no doubt than the man who can't hold a note. Being different means it's only fair that god dispense accordingly.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Marauder 7 years ago
I ran out of room in the last round to say this was a fun debate. thank you for starting it.
Posted by Marauder 7 years ago

perhaps you haven't been on this sight very long to know what you are talking about, if you observe the actual facts of how atheist are viewing our actions here they actually find us coming off as far too bias and closed minded for not showing some disagreement among ourselves. C_N suggest in that forum that you should expect debaters who are logical on this sight would feel free to call others out on cases they don't think add up, he claimed that only they the atheist do this, and we Christians will defend anything our brothers and sisters say even if they say it poorly in a not so logical way by our own standards.

the truth is most all understand that there's nothing wrong with our debating each other on minor issues of our beliefs. You cant have proper peace if you don't have proper conflict. It's how we conflict though that will either leave our enemies speechless or give them leverage to use against us. Debate in a civilized way and there will be no problem.

also, if you take a look at Cody's reaction to this debate (another atheist) he is a good example how most atheist treat christian controversies like Dispensationalism, Universalism, or Premillialism. They don't know and they don't care to learn more, its too advance stuff for them to even try learning about. the controversies they want to poke at and use against us are always the basic teachings that currently is too confusing for them (trinity, free will, omnipotence...); So this is probably the least dangerous debate for our cause to reach them.
Posted by chengste 7 years ago

If you would like to email back and forth I would be happy to. But I will not purposely do anything that I believe might interfere with someone coming to Christ. I believe debating Christians in an open forum like this does just that.
Posted by Hislife 7 years ago

Would you like to debate this issue? I think you are incorrect. With all due respect...
Posted by chengste 7 years ago

"Grow up, the fact that we debate does not send a mixed message."

Does it show unity in Jesus? Does it further the Gospel?

What it does do is offer those who are skeptic more reasons to be so. What it does do is offer those who are against Christ the opportunity to use these arguments to hold down the Gospel of Jesus.

My point is, for Christians to get together and debate/discuss the Bible is fantastic. But this is not the forum where your comments and actions can and will be used against the Gospel.
Posted by Hislife 7 years ago
fair enough
Posted by Marauder 7 years ago
Grow up, the fact that we debate does not send a mixed message.
Posted by Marauder 7 years ago
Dispensationalism is the only proper name for the theory Pro wants to argue against, eschatology is a commonly used term in near all theology books to refer to 'end of things' type teachings.
for the sake of using colloquial laymen terms or as the bible puts it 'use speech that is plain and simple' hermeneutic could have been substituted by 'interpretation' witch would have been grammatically more fitting anyway because this debate is to argue the interpretation being incorrect, not the 'study of the interpretation'
Posted by Hislife 7 years ago
Well Cody, when I was 18 I didn't know what all those words meant either. However, now that I'm 40 I do. Read lots of books and you learn new words.

Chengste, thank you for your comment. Actually, this site is about debating. A friendly debate over eschatology has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reality is that people hold different views about the Bible. That is no secret, and trying to present a false front to show otherwise is pointless. I would much rather debate over the Scriptures with a fellow Christian than debate with an athiest over whether or not God exists, which seems to be the only other alternative...
Posted by Cody_Franklin 7 years ago
I don't even understand the topic. I don't know what "Dispensational", "eschatology", or "hermeneutic" mean. I'm pretty sure this is one of those instances in which you're trying to use unnecessarily complex words to make yourself seem more intelligent/credible than you actually are.
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