D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider. Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption: A Developing and Diverse Tradition. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015. See here to buy the book.
Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption contains
essays by ten scholars about dispensationalism. The scholars include
Craig A. Blaising, Darrell L. Bock, Oscar A. Campos, Nathan D. Holstein,
Eugene H. Merrill, T. Maurice Pugh, Michael J. Svigel, and Stanley D.
Toussant. Each scholar has some connection with Dallas Theological
Seminary, which teaches dispensationalism. Each scholar either has a
degree from DTS, or he teaches there.
What is dispensationalism? More specifically, what is the
dispensationalism that is promoted and engaged in this book? First of
all, dispensationalism maintains that God has dealt with people in
different ways throughout history. God’s ways of operating in Old
Testament times were not entirely the same as God’s ways of operating in
New Testament times. In Old Testament times, there was a focus on the
nation of Israel, observing the Torah, and offering sacrifices to atone
for sin. In New Testament times, there is a church that consists of
Jews and Gentiles, Christians are not expected to observe the Mosaic
law, and the blood of Christ is what atones for sin. Of course, many
Christians believe this, even those who would not classify themselves as
dispensationalists. Dispensationalists have been accused, however, of
teaching that people were saved by works in Old Testament times
(particularly under the Mosaic law), a charge that is denied in this
Second, dispensationalism distinguishes between Israel and the
church. In the Old Testament, God makes promises to Israel about
possessing the land of Canaan and prospering there. For
dispensationalists, these promises are to be interpreted literally and
as applying to the people of Israel. By contrast, other Christians have
regarded the promises as ultimately symbolic of the work of Christ or
God’s spiritual blessings for the church.
There are other features that have characterized dispensationalism.
There is a dispensationalist teaching that God offered to send the
Messianic era if Israel would repent, that God established the church
when Israel did not to do so, and that God would send the Messianic era
and restore Israel after she repents. There is a belief in a
pretribulational rapture, the idea that God will take Christians to
heaven before the Great Tribulation, which will precede the second
coming of Christ to earth.
The book defines and defends dispensationalism. It mentions
different kinds of dispensationalism (classic, revised, and progressive)
and the differences of opinion among dispensationalists. A few essays
contrast dispensationalism with Covenant Theology. One essay discusses
the history of dispensationalism. It divides the history of
dispensationalism into seven eras, the way that many dispensationalists
divide biblical history into seven dispensations. Other essays struggle
with the issue of dispensationalism and biblical interpretation: What
does it mean to interpret the Bible literally, as dispensationalists
claim to do? How does dispensationalism relate to the tendency of many
Christians to believe that the Bible speaks to them personally? There
are also essays about dispensationalism and the Old Testament, the New
Testament, and eschatology.
The book is informative, and it can whet one’s appetite as it
portrays dispensationalism as a diverse belief system that has undergone
development. The book is unsatisfying, however, in that it did not
really explain why God operates as God does, under dispensationalism.
Perhaps one can draw conclusions: God worked with Israel in the Old
Testament so that she would bless the nations, but God then worked
through the church after Israel as a nation failed to repent, making
Israel an unsuitable vessel for God’s purposes. God will still restore
Israel, however. The book also should have gone into how Israelites
were justified by grace through faith even under the Mosaic law.
The book also should have tackled more arguments that Covenant
Theology has made. Covenant Theology has argued that Old Testament
promises to Israel are treated as symbolic in the New Testament. The
book should have interacted with its arguments by addressing how
dispensationalists have interpreted such passages.
An index would also have been helpful. That way, readers can refresh
their memories about the distinction among classical, revised, and
I give this book 3.5 stars. It is worth reading on account of its information. Yet, I was still hungry after reading it.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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