Is Dispensationalism Elitist? If a new believer and student of Scripture were to begin his study using a plain ‘text’ Bible [or a Bible with references and a concordance only; no study notes] he would find no mention of the dispensations as described below and no clear distinction or teaching as to when an old dispensation ends or a new dispensation starts. In fact he would not find the word dispensation mentioned in the Old Testament. For that matter he could be an learned student of Scripture and, if he had not been exposed to the Darby/Scofield system of interpretation, I believe that he would be unable to isolate any such distinct dispensations. The seven dispensations [Ryrie, [i[Dispensationalism[/i], page 51ff] and the period of time associated with each are listed below. Keep in mind that, according to Scofield, a dispensation is “a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God”. 1. Innocence, extended from creation until the fall. 2. Conscience, extended from the fall until the flood. 3. Civil Government, extended from the flood until the call of Abraham. 4. Promise, extended from the call of Abraham until Mount. Sinai. 5. Law, extended from Mount. Sinai until Jesus Christ. 6. Grace, extended from Pentecost until the “Rapture”. 7. Millennium. Assume that our new believer and student of Scripture begins reading in Genesis. What does he find? He reads the creation story, of Adam and Eve, and of God’s command and promise [Genesis 2:16,17] concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Indeed this is a period of time during which man is tested, and our student sees the disobedience of Adam and Eve. They failed the test. Now does he read of the institution of a dispensation of conscience in which man will once again be tested. No! man has been tested and has failed! Rather he reads [Genesis 3] of the promise of God, that the seed of Eve will bruise the head of [destroy?] the Tempter. Later, as he reads the New Testament, the student may come to understand that this promised seed of Eve is none other than the incarnate Son of God and that the defeat of Satan the Tempter and the redemption of “whosoever will” is accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Does he read next of a second test that fallen man must meet? No! he will only read of the downward spiral of mankind into sin until God’s judgment is executed in the universal flood. However, one man, Noah, will find grace in the eyes of God [Genesis 6]. Noah believed God, obeyed God, built an ark, and was saved from destruction. Now, for the first time, our student reads of a Covenant. An everlasting Covenant made with Noah and his descendants, that is all mankind [Genesis 9]. A promise, in effect, that God would never again destroy the earth with flood. Notice that this Covenant is instituted by God [as are all His Covenants] and is unconditional. Nowhere is there any mention of a new test that man must pass, nowhere any indication of a dispensation of civil government. In fact, there is little more, if any, indication of government after the flood than before. Now our student reads of another man who finds grace in the eyes of God, a pagan man, Abram. [The Old Testament Scripture does not mention grace relative to Abraham, yet the mere fact that God called a man out of paganism constitutes grace.] He reads again that God establishes another Covenant, a unilateral Covenant, for all of God’s Covenants are unilateral. Is the Covenant unconditional? Not at all, the two unconditional Covenants are the promise of a redeemer [Genesis 3:15] and the promise not to destroy the earth again by flood. . Even though God graciously initiated and established this Covenant, Scripture teaches that “Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him” [Genesis 12:4] and later teaches that “he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” [Genesis 15:6]. The belief of Abraham was not mere intellectual assent but a faith that resulted in obedience. The Covenant was conditional on Abraham’s obedience. God in His grace reckoned Abraham’s faith for righteousness. The above is a Covenant of Promise, not a dispensation of promise. There is no indication of any new way in which all of mankind is tested since the Covenant is only for Abraham and his seed. However this Covenant becomes universal in scope with the advent of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul writes: Galatians 3:29 [KJV] And if ye [be] Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. As our student continues to read he learns of the sojourn of Israel in Egypt, of God’s deliverance of His people and of the journey to Mount Sinai. At Sinai God renews the Covenant of Promise with the children of Israel with additional conditions, conditions designed to enable His people to confront the paganism that surrounded them. The fruits of obedience are: Exodus 19:5 [KJV] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth [is] mine: There are those dispensationalists who contend that the Israelites foolishly gave up faith and promise at Sinai in exchange for the Law. Such a claim is, in itself, foolish. God does not negotiate Covenants, man does not bargain with God. God unilaterally institutes Covenants. The Israelites had no choice in the institution of the Law. Their choice was obedience rooted in faith or disobedience rooted in unbelief. Once again the question must be asked, is there a dispensation of law? And the answer must be a resounding, No! The law at Sinai is given to the Israelites. Nothing is said about the Gentiles. The Gentiles knew nothing of the Law of Moses just as they knew nothing of the Promise to Abraham. Yet a new dispensation was presumably for all mankind. [Paul addresses the Gentiles responsibility before God in Chapters 1&2 of Romans.] Our student reads of the conquest of Canaan, of the apostasy of Israel, of the establishment of the kingdom, and the “man after God’s own heart”, David [1 Samuel 13.14]. He reads of God’s promise [Covenant] to David and his descendants regarding an everlasting kingdom [2 Samuel 7:4-17]. He will later come to see this promise fulfilled in the Kingdom of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, “of the house and lineage of David” [Luke 2:4]. Yet he will continue to read of the apostasy of Israel. Finally he will read of the New Covenant from the prophecy of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:31-34 [KJV] 31. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33. But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Unlike the Covenant at Sinai where God’s moral law was written on tablets of stone, under the New Covenant God will write His laws on the heart of man. When the student reads the Gospels he will understand that the New Covenant is the fruition of the promise in Eden and is that Covenant instituted by Jesus Christ and sealed by His blood and is extended to “Whosoever will”. No mention throughout of different dispensations and different tests. He reads of only only one test that man failed and then he reads of God working in history through His chosen vessel, Israel, to bring to fruition His promise in Eden. Consequently, I believe that the dispensational system of Biblical interpretation by its nature and structure is elitist. It is not indicated by a straightforward reading and interpretation of the Bible. Rather indoctrination or training by someone or something else is required before one can what? understand it, find it, I don’t know! Charles C. Ryrie in his book Dispensationalism [page 52], inadvertently perhaps, admits such when he writes “The average dispensationalist has been schooled to designate the second economy as Conscience.” Thus the remarks above regarding the influence of Scofield on the spread of Dispensationalism. [Many people who use the Scofield Reference Bible do not distinguish between the inspired text and Scofield’s notes. As John Newport comments in The Lion and the Lamb [page 100] “It is not surprising that some persons find it difficult to remember whether they had read something in the text or at the bottom of the page in the notes.”] I believe it is clear that dispensationalism is an unnatural system of interpretation and that its adherents must be indoctrinated in its intricacies. It does not follow from a natural reading of Scripture. Darby and Scofield did not “Rightly Divide The Word” they “splintered” it.