My Critique of Dispensationalism (9)

Progressive Revelation

Gregory Michael Peterson, a noted dispensational premillennialist whom we referenced in our first few posts, says this about dispensationalists’ use of progressive revelation: “It is the idea that ‘later revelation builds on earlier revelation’ [cites Erickson, Christian Theology]. Thus, the Old Testament is the backdrop for the new. Consequently, Charles Ryrie boldly asserts, ‘only dispensational premillennialism does justice to the proper concept of progress of revelation’” [cites Ryrie, The Necessity of Dispensationalism].

Then Peterson states, “Amillennialism, postmillennialism, and historic premillennialism all rely upon New Testament priority, which is why spiritualizing of texts becomes necessary for those positions. By contrast, dispensational premillennialism finds no reason to spiritualize because New Testament priority over the Old is not the way the New Testament authors approached their understanding of the Old.”

At that point, Peterson quotes Kaiser, [Single Meaning, Unified Referents], who says, “No New Testament author invents or [interjects – sic] meaning from their setting and perspective back onto the Old Testament text. Instead, it is precisely because the older texts speak so clearly that they are filled with confidence and hope as they announce that God has acted just as He said He would ages beforehand.”

Well, the dispensationalists are flat-out incorrect. Taking their last point first, we cited the apostle Paul in our previous few articles. He didn’t “invent” anything when he “interjected” upon the Old Testament story of Sarah vs. Hagar as being two covenants – the new Jerusalem vs. the old, respectively (Galatians 4:21-31). That story occurred approximately four thousand years ago, two thousand before Christ and when Paul spoke. If one believes all Scripture is God-breathed, we know we can trust what Paul wrote, as he was writing under inspiration. What did that Old Testament story so clearly speak that Paul couldn’t allegorize about Sarah being the covenant of the New Jerusalem and Hagar the covenant of the Old?  

Dispensationalists make silly arguments when they say that only they do justice “to the proper concept of progress of revelation.” Likewise, their accusations that all but they “spiritualize” is silly because, in reality, prophecies made in the Old Testament, repeated in the New, which then find fulfillment in history, can only be considered spiritualizing by those who “literalize” them into futuristic speculation. Of course, dispensationalists acknowledge many of those prophecies found fulfillment by the events of the Apostolic Age and those of A.D. 70. Still, they employ gimmicks such as partial and double fulfillments because of their insistence on yet future satisfaction.

Both the Old and New Testaments are God’s Word and, therefore, neither takes priority over the other. But for dispensationalist premillennialists to say that all except themselves understand how the New Testament authors approached the Old is absurd on its face. Are they so arrogant as to believe that only they know how the first-century apostles and disciples, who walked with the Lord and His apostles, understood the Old Testament? They are putting themselves on the same level as the inspired writers. Such audacity! There is plenty of evidence that, apart from the inspired writers, those who knew them, and their friends did not understand matters of prophecy. Papias and Irenaeus come to mind, to name two.

So, who are these people who only came along in the past two hundred years to make such outrageous claims? Dispensationalists consistently demonstrate that they do not understand the Old Testament, or they would not make such ridiculous assertions. Moreover, their standard that new revelation builds on earlier falls flat on its face as that would infer the New Testament builds on the Old and therefore should take priority over the Old. But as we said, they are both the Word of God, and neither takes precedence over the other. Instead, they complement one another.

Dispensationalists’ minimizing the New Testament in light of the Old is a flaw in their hermeneutic system. Furthermore, it has led to their erroneous theology that prioritizes national Israel over the church, which we will discuss in our next article. A simple Google search reveals this from Got Question: “One scholar, J. Barton Price, has found as many as 574 Old Testament verses that somehow point to or describe or reference the coming Messiah. Alfred Edersheim found 456 Old Testament verses referring to the Messiah or His times. Conservatively, Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophesies in His earthly ministry.” In light of that, it is laughable to say the New Testament plays second fiddle to the Old, or the church to National Israel, except that, sadly, so many have bought into their erroneous theology.

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