A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.
If you miss one part of the puzzle that is being put together in these studies, you will never see and understand the whole picture.
Copyright © February 7, 2018
A complete analysis of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology requires a long and deep study of the Bible.[i] These short lessons will briefly look at some of the characteristics of each and distinctions between the two. The differences were debated in the colonies during a spiritual warfare that began in the early 1630’s. Fortunately, the dispensationalist view prevailed. This resulted in the adoption of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which, among other things, separates church and state (not God and state).
The two theologies have distinct “philosophies of history.”[ii] The two main systems which Bible-believing scholars have developed to exposit the Bible’s philosophy of history over the last three or four hundred years, Dispensationalism or Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology, have produced two systems of theology. Dispensational Theology contains all the necessary elements of a valid philosophy of history. “Dispensationalism, [which] can be defined very simply as a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God, represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations[, economies, or stewardships] of God’s rule.”[iii]
“The essence of dispensationalism … is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist’s consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purposes of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well.”[iv]
Covenant theologians teach that the church has replaced Israel. The Bible literally teaches that the rules for the church and state are different than the rules God ordained for the theocracy in Israel. Distinct rules, as discussed in the articles under “Distinct Differences between Church and State that Render Them Mutually Exclusive,” are laid down in the Bible concerning Judaism and Israel and the church and state.
“It may safely be said that the Judaizing of the Church has done more to hinder her progress, pervert her mission, and destroy her spiritually, than all other causes combined. Instead of pursuing her appointed path of separation from the world and following the Lord in her heavenly calling, she has used Jewish Scriptures to justify herself in lowering her purpose to the civilization of the world, the acquisition of wealth, the use of an imposing ritual, the erection of magnificent churches, the invocation of God’s blessing upon the conflicts of armies, and the division of an equal brotherhood into ‘clergy’ and ‘laity.’”[v]
The “Judaizing” of the church is based upon false biblical interpretation, upon a false philosophy of history.
The main issue in the theological warfare in the colonies was the relationship of church and state. Other issues such as believer’s baptism (Dispensational) versus infant baptism (Covenant Theology)—an issue closely related to the issue of separation of church and state—were also hotly debated. Covenant theologians believe in union of church and state. Dispensationalists take the literal meaning of the Bible on this issue—that God desires church and state to be separate in Gentile nations; both under God, but neither working over, with, or under the other. The arguments of both sides in the colonies are still available. Both secular and Christian histories of the theological warfare and the accompanying persecutions of dissenters is undeniable. Sadly, Calvinist, Protestant, and Catholic revisionism has done a masterful job of both promoting a revised version of history while hiding the truth from untold millions of “Christians.”
[i] For much more in-depth look at these matters, see Dispensational Theology versus Covenant Theology.
[ii] “Karl Lowith defines ‘a philosophy of history as ‘a systematic interpretation of universal history in accordance with a principle by which historical events and successions are unified and directed toward ultimate meaning’” (Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 17, citing Karl Lowith, Meaning in History (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1949), p. 1; see also, Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), p. 1). This definition “centers on three things: (1) the ultimate goal of history; (2) the unifying principle; and (3) the recognition of ‘historical events and successions,’ or a proper concept of the progress of revelation in history” (Ryrie, p. 17). The Bible contains a philosophy of history because it deals with the issue of meaning, offers a systematic interpretation of history, covers the entire scope of history from beginning to end, including the what and why of the future, presents a unifying principle which ties together and makes sense of the whole gamut of events, distinctions, and successions, and demonstrates that history has an ultimate goal or purpose (Showers, p. 2; Ryrie, p. 17).
[iii] Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), p. 27.
[iv] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 41.
[v] Dr C. I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, First Edition, January, 1896), p. 12.