Book Review: Dispensationalism And The History Of Redemption

Dispensationalism And The History Of Redemption:  A Developing And Diverse Tradition, edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I must admit that I liked this book far more than I thought I would.  At times I read a book not believing I will enjoy it very much but thinking it somewhat important or worthwhile to read the book because it comes from a perspective that is not my own, and such was the case here.  I am not a dispensationalist, and am moreover somewhat hostile to it, even as I am somewhat hostile to Calvinism, which this book talks a lot about [1].  Ultimately, if I found a great deal that I disagreed with in the dispensationalist hermeneutic that this book expresses, at least I feel that I read enough to understand how people with that perspective view themselves and their own anti-denominational history and I feel that I can engage with that view directly and not through the straw men that are often posited by those hostile to their views.  Understanding does not always lead to agreement, but at least, as in this case, it can lead to a reasoned and open disagreement.  For honestly and forthrightly discussing their case and their viewpoint and their own desire to be seen as legitimate within Protestant intellectual circles, this book deserves a lot of credit.

In terms of its contents, this book is made up of a series of connected essays from various authors of the dispensationalist perspective on their worldview.  Overall, this may be considered a work of apologetics.  The ten essays of this book take up about 250 pages or so of material.  The first essay looks at a proposal for defining what dispensationalism is.  The second essay looks at the relationship between dispensationalism and the Bible.  The third essay explains the seven-era dispensationalist view of biblical history and prophecy.  The fourth essay looks at the hermeneutical principles of dispensationalism.  The fifth essay looks at the role of God’s workings in history before Christ.  The sixth essay examines God’s plan for history in the first coming of Christ.  The seventh essay looks at God’s plan for history from the ascension to the return of Jesus Christ.  Then the next essay looks at the consummation of history through the new heavens and the new earth, largely skipping over the question of the nature of Jesus’ rule in the Millennium.  The ninth essay looks at the relationship between dispensationalism and the views of redemption history, and the last essay looks at the worldwide impact of dispensationalism through its offspring like fundamentalism, the Evangelical movement, and the Pentecostal movement.  Each of the essays includes its own endnotes, some of which are substantial in length and depth.

I feel that this book largely clarified my disagreement with the dispensationalist perspective and for that I feel that this book is a worthwhile read whether or not someone agrees with the worldview of its authors.  The authors here point out that dispensationalism is a non-systematic bottom-up populist approach to scripture that largely conflates interpretation of scripture with the content of scripture, as opposed to the top-down and systematic covenantal approach of Calvinism that similarly conflates interpretation with the content of scripture.  I found a great deal of agreement with the historical-grammatical approach to textual criticism found here, but also found that there was far too much reductionism in the authors’ approach to scripture.  The authors, and this appears to a broader failing within dispensationalism as a whole, appear to seek only one layer of meaning within a given text and thus fail to capture its full layered nuance and complexity.  Additionally, over and over again I saw the authors exaggerate the discontinuities between law and grace and between the way God worked with Israel and the way He works with believers today.  Ultimately, this book showed that the conflict between dispensationalism and Calvinism is a false dilemma in which both sides are holding different parts of an elephant and are unaware of the broader picture that they fight over when arguing with each other.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: Dispensationalism And The History Of Redemption

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