I am a dispensationalist. And that means I've got a bad reputation with many evangelicals. And what's worse it's a reputation undeserved because it is based on misinformation and misunderstanding.
Here is the cloud I live under: Some say dispensationalism proposes two ways of salvation. Or, they say that under a perverse commitment to grace, dispensationalism tolerates the absence of law and ethical constraint (a charge formally called antinomianism). Still others charge that dispensationalists are not interested in ministry in the wider culture; they are pessimistic in their approach to history; that all they care about is the future, Israel, and the pretribulational rapture; and that they teach the kingdom of God (or heaven) is strictly future.
Any one of these views, or some combination of them, might be found in some pockets of dispensationalism, but they do not fairly characterize the tradition as a whole.
Fortunately, a group has mobilized for greater understanding. We first met on a fall day in 1985. Twenty-four dispensationalists from several Bible colleges and seminaries gathered in the faculty lounge at Biola University and did more than discuss grading curves and the latest textbooks. We talked about personal frustrations. We were committed to dispensationalism, yet we observed how many in the evangelical community, even some of our personal friends, misunderstood and stereotyped us.
Critics tend to treat dispensationalism as a monolith, but we knew better, since dispensationalist thinkers have long articulated differing views of the people of God, the kingdom "program," and the covenants. Indeed, a new and discernibly different "progressive dispensationalism" is emerging. (More about that later.)
That afternoon we ...1
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