Category Archives: Classic

A Reading Ethic: Syria and Dispensationalism

I don’t have time to write this post in the way it should be, but I still wanted to post something.

syriaIsaiah 17 says of the city of Damascus in Syria:

The oracle concerning Damascus.

“Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city
And will become a fallen ruin.
2 “The cities of Aroer are forsaken;
They will be for flocks to lie down in,
And there will be no one to frighten them.
3 “The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
And sovereignty from Damascus
And the remnant of Aram;
They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,”
Declares the Lord of hosts.

Given the sine qua non of Dispensational hermeneutics, that the Bible ought to be interpreted in its most literal sense (meaning a kind of wooden, straightforward literalism), this particular prophecy of Damascus is still waiting to be fulfilled. And so given the precarious situation we find ourselves within; given the reality that the United States of America is most likely going to strike Damascus, militarily; many dispensationalist interpreters believe that this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Indeed, it would be a fulfillment of this passage that would further attest to the dispensationalist that Jesus’ rapture of the church is just about to happen. In order for God’s prophetic plan to be legitimate, this fulfillment must happen in a kind of end times scenario that sees Damascus fitting into the broader schema of dispensational understanding. The fall of Damascus might signal that things are about to get very real very fast.

So an ethic that gets pressed here, a reading ethic, is that geo-political concerns become the lens by which the scriptures become interpreted. It isn’t the suffering Servant who become the primary lens, it isn’t the widows and orphans who become the primary lens; it is the fulfillment of geo-political realities upon the ground. So even though many dispensational interpreters will recognize the terrible plight of the people in Damascus and elsewhere, their primary mode of consideration isn’t really the broken people; but instead, it is the fulfillment of abstract geo-political realities that fit into a tightly wound understanding of the end times.

I really would like to say more, with more substance (I mean quotes and more depth), but this will have to suffice for now.

Dispensationalism Applied

If you are still unaware of how classic dispensationalism looks in an applied way, here is a discussion between Chuck Smith (founder of Calvary Chapel — I attended his church in Costa Mesa, CA for about 4 years), Don Stewart (one of Chuck’s right-hand men), and then Wayne Taylor (pastor of a Calvary in Seattle, WA). It lasts for 47 minutes:

Click Here

The 3 Essences, and 7 Ingredients of Classic-Revised Dispensationalism

According to Charles Ryrie here are the 3 most basic ingredients that must be present in order for someone to pop out as an Dispensationalist:

[T]he essence of dispensationalism is (1) the recognition of a consistent distinction between Israel and the Church, (2) a consistent and regular use of a literal principle of interpretation, and (3) a basic and primary conception of the purpose of God as His own glory rather than the salvation of mankind. (Charles Ryrie, “Dispensationalism,” 45)

This provides the rubric from which dispensationalism flows (esp. in its Classic and Revised forms). Each of these points require further explanation, and development; but for now I will just state them up front like this, just in case you are unaware of some of these basic points upon which dispensational theology pivots. In the same flow, let me also list the 7 dispensations usually articulated by both Classic/Revised dispensationalists; again, we will hear from Ryrie:

1.) Name: INNOCENCY –> Scripture: Genesis 1:3–3:6 –> Responsibilities: Keep Garden, Do not eat one fruit, Fill subdue earth, Fellowship with God. –> Judgment(s): Curses, and physical and spiritual death.

2.) Name: CONSCIENCE –> Scripture: Genesis 3:7–8:14 –> Responsibilities: Do good –> Judgment(s): Flood.

3). Name: CIVIL GOVERNMENT –> Scripture: Genesis 8:15–11:9 –> Responsibilities: Fill earth, Capital Punishment –> Judgment(s): Forced scattering by confusion of languages.

4.) Name: PATRIARCHAL RULE –> Scripture: Genesis 11:10–Exodus 18:27 –> Responsibilities: Stay in Promised Land, Believe and obey God –> Judgment(s): Egyptian bondage and wilderness wanderings.

5.) Name: MOSAIC LAW –> Scripture: Exodus 19:1–John 14:30 –> Responsibilites: Keep the law, Walk with God –> Judgment(s): Captivities.

6.) Name: GRACE –> Scripture: Acts 2:1–Revelation 19:21 –> Responsibilities: Believe on Christ, Walk with Christ –> Judgment(s): Death, Loss of rewards.

7.) Name: MILLENNIUM –> Scripture: Revelation 20:1-15 –> Responsibilities: Believe and obey Christ and His government –> Judgment(s): Death, Great White Throne Judgment.

— Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 54

Do these sound familiar? Maybe not all of these, but I would imagine the last 3 that many of you are quite familiar with; at least if you are an American Evangelical. You can see how the cycles of “stewardship” work between each new dispensation. There are certain responsibilities given to humanity in each dispensation; when this group of people fail, they experience God’s judgment, which then also becomes the trigger for the next dispensation to start. Interestingly, the end of the 6th dispensation would come about by unbelief in Christ (by much of the Church); which for the Apostle Paul (like in his epistles to Timothy) coincides with the “Great Apostasy” that will typify the end of days (which many believe we are experiencing right now).

Let me know what you think . . .