Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dispensational, Party of One!

I don't love using big words. I enjoy taking concepts and words and trying to bring them down to the normal people world because well, I'm a normal person. Big words in the Christian world are almost as scary to me as big science words (and we'll talk one day about how many times I took Bio 101 in college). Propitiation, imputation, justification, sanctification, dispensation - all of these words are big and have bigger meanings. But we need to know them and to understand them if we are going to be growing Christians. Our Christian faith must be built on a foundation of Christ and the work he did for us on the cross. We can never sway from that. We can never tire of that. But in order to grow we need to know what big words mean and how they affect us.

This growing is not sexy. I don't use that word flippantly. It's not easy or pretty. It doesn't seem to get us anywhere in this feel good world we live in. It's like the vocabulary section of English class. We all hated it but it enhanced our knowledge of what we were learning, reading, and experiencing. My generations (I'm stuck in the middle of GenXers and Millennials) are not known for knowing meat in Scripture. If we grew up in church we've been somewhat tainted by either our loose Pentecostal ways or our strict fundamental ways. We want something balanced yet our balance looks lopsided if we truly step back and take a look-see.

My generations want to drink wine but have a hard time distinguishing where the drunk line is. We want to have deep spiritual conversations but we don't know the difference between covenant and dispensational theology. We want to better the world but can't find the balance of helping people physically and helping people spiritually. What we want is to make a difference. And for most of us, all we really know is that it doesn't look like what some of generations before us tried to accomplish.

Working away from Christian nonprofit for a time has its advantages. Instead of choosing a side of the evangelical line or square or pocket, you can kind of slide around and get people's perspective. You aren't standing there with a spotlight that says, "I am old-school! A Dispensationalist!" But now that I'm back and I work at a place with the word "Israel" in the title, I have to speak out. I have to draw my line in the sand. I have to ask myself, "Is this what I truly believe?" Because well, if it's not then I need reexamine my job situation. So I have. I did. And I came back believing and standing behind a faint line that was in the sand from the time before I left.

A Dispensatioinalist. When I was in Bible school in Upstate NY in the early 2000s, we had an entire class dedicated to this word. I was very confused. When I typed the word "Dispensationalism" in Microsoft Word, it came up with a red misspelled line underneath. What was this course that Word didn't even recognize as a bona fide word? So I did what any pastor's kid would do, I called my dad. I asked him what this word meant. How I've gone 23 years without ever remembering it being spoken. Should I be skeptical? We talked for a bit on what it meant and I came to the conclusion I was a dispenationalist, even if I didn't realize it. So what on earth is this word? What does it mean? And why in the world would a Bible college think it was important enough to have an entire course on it?

Renald Showers defines Dispensational Theology as, "a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible's philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God. It represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations of God's rule." In normal people talk it basically means that when you take a look at the big picture in Biblical history through today, there have been different patterns in how God dealt with his people and accomplished his will. Okay. That is easy enough. I'm not reading on CNN this week how a group of people are destroying city's because God is commanding them to walk around a city wall and make some crazy noise and everything inside those city walls die. But he commanded that from his people at a point in time.

Today, dispensationalist aren't cool. They aren't hip. I'll talk more on that another time. But for now, after being away for so long, I am seeing the importance of living with the knowledge of big words and their meaning. For it gives me a deeper understanding of God. It allows me to dive deep into the deep end of Scripture and not shy away. For God's greatness is in the deep end. And he is a good God; He won't allow us to drown.

And even if I feel like I'm the only one that showed up to the reformed table as a dispensationalist, I'll yell out loudly, "Dispensational, party of one!" And I won't fight with others about it. I'll show my view and not hold to terms or symantics. I'll only hold to the cross and the rest, well it's just secondary. But that secondary things help make the cross that much sweeter. 

1 comment:

Justin Carlton said...

Well, some of us DID enjoy English class and DO love big words...

Thanks for sharing your heart in this topic. I also have trouble identifying myself squarely as "dispensational" or "reformed," and often struggle to identify the more subtle differences between the schools of thought. Ultimately, I too find myself clinging to the cross of Jesus for dear life, and learning each day how much more I need Him now than I did before.

Miss you and Martin lots!