On Dispensationalism

I read a number of things on the topic this Spring preparing for a project, and want to highlight 2 books by Michael Vlach that were useful.

The first, Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths is a solid introduction. Another benefit is that it is available as a “loan” ebook if you are an Amazon Prime member. So you can read it for free and see what you think. I admit to being skeptical about lists of “essentials.” They don’t always reflect the historical diversity of the movement and since none of the lists of essentials produced by various authors agree, I think there is reason to be suspicious. If you treat the “essentials” as something more like common features, I think what Vlach provides is quite serviceable.  I found the myths section to be helpful and would suggest this as a solid basic introduction. It’s short and there are lots of things he doesn’t cover, but if you just want a taste, that’s OK.

The second work is a bit more focused and substantial: Has the Church Replaced Israel? Again, I’d make a few adjustments here and there but Vlach does a very good job of highlighting many of the arguments against supercessionism. This doesn’t “prove” dispensationalism is correct, but it is a helpful piece of the overall puzzle. There is a helpful history of the supercessionist debate and Vlach is clearly in the mainstream of dispensationalism in his views. While not aligning himself with either more traditional or progressive dispensationalism, he is clearly open to some revisions. He argues the New Covenant is in effect for the church now and is open to some “both-and” approaches. He also defends a new creation eschatology as more biblically faithful (and I agree). I think this position sets up thoughtful dispensationalists to make allies with scholars in other traditions in important areas, while still having room to develop a distinctive dispensational response to a few issues (notably the Israel question). While I think a bit more hermeneutical flexibility than Vlach admits might be needed in a few areas, I appreciated his careful and thoughtful approach. I learned a a few things and a few different ways to put things. And that’s always good.

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