Bible "Dispensations" Examined Biblically

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    Bible "Dispensations":
    Where is the Proof?


    I use quotes on the word because, contrary to claims of dispensationalists, there is not a single verse in the Bible that uses this word - in the sense that they intend. If this is true then the case for dispensationalism is seriously damaged, seeing that their usage of that word is not based on Scripture. First we will list all eight verses that contain the word sometimes translated "dispensation", and then we will see if any of these can support the modern concept.

    "Dispensation" is from the Greek word "OIKONOMIA". It is translated in the KJV as either "dispensation" (four times), "stewardship" (three times), and once as the noun in the phrase "godly edifying" (1st Tim. 1:4). A related word is "OIKONOMOS", translated "steward", "chamberlain" or "governor".

    Here are the verses for "OIKONOMIA" with that word in ALLCAPS. Let's see where we can find this modern notion of the word as describing successive periods of time of God's dealing with mankind. The first three are from the same passage (Luke 16:2- 4):

    1. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy STEWARDSHIP; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

    2. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the STEWARDSHIP: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

    3. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the STEWARDSHIP, they may receive me into their houses.

    4. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a DISPENSATION of the gospel is committed unto me. (1st Cor. 9:17)

    5. That in the DISPENSATION of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Eph. 1:10)

    6. If ye have heard of the DISPENSATION of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (Eph. 3:2- 3a)

    7. Whereof I am made a minister, according to the DISPENSATION of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; (Col. 1:25)

    8. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly EDIFYING which is in the faith; so do. (1st Tim. 1:4)


    Those are the verses from which the concept of Dispensationalism must have some Biblical basis.
    If the idea is not found in any of these then, at the very least, the claim must not be made that "dispensation" (in the modern sense) is a Biblical term.

    So what is the modern definition of "dispensation"? Charles Ryrie ("Dispensationalism Today") defines it as "a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God's purpose". This definition is more subtle and careful than his later treatment of the actual divisions of time which he calls "dispensations". Paul Enns defines these periods as "different stewardships of man under God".

    There is a certain circular caginess in both of these definitions.
    Both draw on the actual meaning of the word ("economy", "stewardship"), but do not describe the modern use of the word in popular circles. It almost seems as if they realize that the Scriptural warrant for dispensations is not there. Anyhow, let's go through the verses and see where we can find justification for their use of the word.

    Examples 1 through 3 are from the same passage, Luke 16:2- 4). To be fair to Ryrie and the rest, I don't think they would draw their definition from here. Here is person (the unwise steward) who was entrusted with property and proved unreliable. What he lost was not a period of time but that position of trust and responsibility.

    Example 4 (1st Cor. 9:17) actually uses OIKONOMIA in a somewhat similar way than the Luke passage. Paul is entrusted with the gospel. He gets a reward for willing service, but even without the willingness he has the charge given him to preach the gospel. Either way this is no use of the word in the modern sense. It is a description of God's personal entrusting of Paul with a certain task.

    Examples 6 and 7 (Eph. 3:2 and Col. 1:25) are similar to number 4 in at least one respect: they speak again of God's personally entrusting a mission to Paul on behalf of the saints. There is no evidence of God changing His general dealings with mankind on the whole.

    Example 8 (1st Tim. 1:4) has an more complicated construction involving the word in question. But since it is not important for our present study, neither do dispensationalists use it as such, so we will pass this one by as well.

    The Prime Dispensational Verse: Ephesians 1:10
    This leaves us with example 5 (Eph. 1:10). This is the verse that seems the most serviceable for the dispensationalist's use, since it speaks more broadly about God's purposes, and is not just speaking of Paul's agency. Paul Enns seizes on the phrase "fullness of times" to find an end-times application, calling it "the summing up of all things in Christ". Here, he says, "is the future dispensation of the millennial kingdom".

    Not so fast, Mr. Enns. The phrase "fullness of time" should ring a bell, especially for those who read their New Testaments in order. In the previous book of Galatians (4:4), Paul describes something that happened just a few year's prior to the time of his letter:

    "But when the FULLNESS OF TIME was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law;"

    Using the "literal exactness" that dispensationalists claim to use, they should interpret that phrase in the light of this cross-reference. The two phrases speak of the same time, the time of the incarnation and life of the Son.

    Likewise, many see the "gather[ing] together in one all things in Christ" (Eph.1:10) as a future dispensation being described. However a consistent reading of Ephesians shows that this describes present beginnings of this gathering together. (See Eph. 3:5- 6; 13- 19).

    So where is the scriptural proof of different dispensations? For the use of the word, at least, and for the claim that it is from the Bible, we find no proof at all. Yes, there were the former "times of ignorance" for the Gentiles (Acts 17), and Jesus spoke to His hearers of "this age" and "the age to come" (Luke 12:10), but these are nowhere called "dispensations".

    My main point is that biblical concepts require biblical terms. If we are careful in this we are less likely, in our theology and in our life, to stray from the intent of God's Word. Also, if we are careful in our terms, we will be able to see through such elaborate and fanciful systems such as those devised by Doctors Scofield or Ryrie.
     
    #1 asterisktom, Nov 30, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2009
  2. DHK

    DHK
    Expand Collapse
    <b>Moderator</b>
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2000
    Messages:
    37,982
    Likes Received:
    134
    So the "trinity" is not a Biblical term?
     
  3. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    Right. The Trinity is not a Biblical term. It - the term - is not found in the Bible. The idea is.

    Your point of comparison with "dispensation" is not valid. In the case of OIKONOMIA we have a Biblical term that is -often - used in a different way than the Bible does.

    My main point is that we should use biblical terms biblically. (Scofield and Ryrie didn't.)
     
  4. DHK

    DHK
    Expand Collapse
    <b>Moderator</b>
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2000
    Messages:
    37,982
    Likes Received:
    134
    The word ekklesia isn't translated correctly either; and most of the time the word "church" is not used correctly either. There are plenty of examples like that. Our language is very fluid; it is always in a change of flux; and many words have a variety of meanings.
     
  5. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    The fluidity of the language is understood, but we who hold to Scripture - and profess to interpret it do so from Scripture's own context, not Webster's. That was my whole point in going down all the scriptural occurrences of OIKONOMIA, to show that usage suggested by Scofield was not found in any one of them.
     
  6. DHK

    DHK
    Expand Collapse
    <b>Moderator</b>
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2000
    Messages:
    37,982
    Likes Received:
    134
    You could do the same thing with ekklesia. The term "church" as we understand it in todays usage is not in the Bible. The word simply means assembly.
     
  7. OldRegular

    OldRegular
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Messages:
    22,678
    Likes Received:
    53
    I believe the validity of the use of the word CHURCH is being discussed on another thread. If I am not mistaken it was shown that the word ekklesia could mean a called out assembly just as the CHURCH is a called out group of people.
     
  8. OldRegular

    OldRegular
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Messages:
    22,678
    Likes Received:
    53
    If you don't like trinity you can always use the TRIUNE GOD or just God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
     
  9. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    This is closer to what I perceive your point to be but still not close enough, IMO. EKKLESIA, while having a varied range of meaning in the NT still has some of those occurrences (Matt, Thess, 1 Tim, etc.) that coincide with our modern notion of church.
    The same cannot be said for OIKONOMIA; not a single one of the eight uses of the term in the Bible coincide with the notions of teachers like Scofield and Ryrie.

    And if there is no overlap at all between a Bible term and our notion of what that term should mean then what we have is, by definition, an unbiblical use of the term.
     
  10. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    I actually prefer "triunity". It conveys better both three Persons one Essence. Dreieinigkeit, in German. (Where I was born)
     
  11. DHK

    DHK
    Expand Collapse
    <b>Moderator</b>
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2000
    Messages:
    37,982
    Likes Received:
    134
    If I am following your logic correctly we would have to throw out perhaps eighty to ninety percent of all the words in a theological dictionary. Most of the theological words that we use have no basis in Scripture. They come from Latin or Greek, or perhaps some other etymological base, and are used to define a theological concept. Calvinism in not in the Bible; nor is Arminianism, for example. Transubstantiation, supralapsinarianism, etc.
    Soteriology is the study of salvation, but the word is not in the Bible. We make up words to define what we are speaking about.

    A dispensation is a period of time. Nowadays dispensation has that meaning, and it is not a wrong meaning just because it does not come from the Greek. In your vocabulary, do you refer to your church as a building at times--the church building. If so, that is totally unbiblical. But the word "church" has come to take on that meaning, unbiblical or not, and we use it that way. Dispensation simply means "period of time" in modern day English. If we confined our terminology to the Bible the English language would be very limited.
     
  12. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    Once again, my complaint is not with new words being used, but with old ones (that is, Scriptural ones) given new slants of meaning. Using "eschatology" or "trinity" is not the same as using "dispensation" since that last term is in the Bible.

    We should not use Bible terms and pretend to be acting within the scope of those terms, which is exactly what Scofield does when he appeals to, say, Eph. 1:10 as a basis for his dispensationalism.
     
  13. The Archangel

    The Archangel
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2003
    Messages:
    2,444
    Likes Received:
    0
    But, that's not necessarily so. The word was also used of an assembly in a synagogue. So, speaking of the historical context, the assembly in most cases was understood to be a religious assembly (hence, church). In most cases the use of ekklesia in the Greek New Testament is, contextually speaking, referring to a religious gathering and is, therefore, a "church."

    Blessings,

    The Archangel
     
  14. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2006
    Messages:
    38,332
    Likes Received:
    786
    Not sure why this needs explaining but apparently it does. But hey.....at least we have someone on board to straighten out Scofield. What would we have done without it.
     
  15. OldRegular

    OldRegular
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Messages:
    22,678
    Likes Received:
    53
    I agree! It is about time. This really needs to be done. Of course Scofield is with us only in the original notes but those who have been deluded by his teachings should welcome "asterisktom" with open arms.
     
  16. asterisktom

    asterisktom
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    21
    BTW, OR, I forget whether it is visible, but my name is Tom Riggle. I have been accused before of hiding behind a monicker (not saying you are doing that).

    About Scofield: At BJU we used to quote this variation of The Solid Rock:

    "My hope is built on nothing less
    than Scofield Bible with King James notes"!

    It was an ominous sound - to me at least - when a passage being read from the chapel went to the next page in Scofield. The rustling of all those pages in unison made an impression on me, even then. "Being on the same page" isn't always a good thing.
     
    #16 asterisktom, Dec 1, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2009
  17. thomas15

    thomas15
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,456
    Likes Received:
    0
    When I woke up this morning, I had literally no idea that my entire theological belief system was going to be turned on it's head.

    One post on an internet discussion forum brought into focus what 2 years of personal study on the dispensational vs. covenant debate couldn't accomplish. Just in the nick of time I might add, I was on the verge of believing that it is possible (but unlikely) that a Baptist could be a 5 pointer and not an (amateur) covenant theologian.

    The only question I now have is what do I do with the 25 or so books I have collected on the subject now that the issue is been made so clear to me?
     
    #17 thomas15, Dec 1, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2009
  18. kyredneck

    kyredneck
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2009
    Messages:
    10,558
    Likes Received:
    273
    I boxed mine up and stored them somewhere in the basement many years ago. Just couldn't bring myself to toss them.
     
  19. thomas15

    thomas15
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,456
    Likes Received:
    0
    Should I place into storage Berkhof or Chafer or both?
     
  20. kyredneck

    kyredneck
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2009
    Messages:
    10,558
    Likes Received:
    273
    Don't know about Berkof, but you made me realize that I still have Chafer's eight volume set on systematic theology in one of my book shelves. I suppose I kept them up here for handy reference from time to time; but I honestly can't remember the last time I looked at it. :)

    One set I use on a regular basis is a three volume set on systematic theology by Charles Hodge. I love it!
     
    #20 kyredneck, Dec 1, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2009

Share This Page

Loading...