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Copyright © February 9, 2018
“[T]he way in which the two systems meet [the] requirements [for a valid philosophy of history] affirms that dispensationalism is the more valid and helpful system.”[i] First, Dispensationalists find the goal of history in the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth, an optimistic view which insists that the glory of the sovereign God must be seen in the present heavens and earth. According to Dispensational Theology, all history moves toward the ultimate goal for God to glorify Himself by demonstrating that He alone is the sovereign God.
Throughout Scripture, God is glorified. The First of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,” an absolute, rock-hard rule, indicates that God wants to be glorified. Everything is seen in the Bible as being for His glory.[ii] The successive dispensations glorify God by (1) demonstrating that God is sovereign throughout history despite Satan’s attempts to overthrow God’s rule and man’s rebellion against God since God can “hold man responsible to obey His methods of administering His rule and can judge man for his” disobedience; (2) “displaying the disorder and tragedy which result from the rejection of God’s rule;” and (3) by “progressively [moving] history toward the fulfillment of its God-intended climax.”[iii]
On the other hand, the Covenant Theologian seems pessimistic and sees the present struggle between good and evil terminated by the beginning of eternity at which point there will come catastrophe and divine judgment.[iv]
Second, in Covenant Theology, the unifying principle for the philosophy of history is the Covenant of Grace, a soteriological principle. Dispensational Theology has a unifying principle—the sovereign rule of God—which “ties the distinctions and progressive stages of revelation together and directs them toward the fulfillment of purpose in history.”[v] Dispensational Theology recognizes that the redemption of the elect plus many other programs are all parts of God’s purpose for history.
“In dispensationalism the [unifying] principle is theological or eschatological or doxological, for the differing dispensations reveal the glory of God as He manifests His character in the differing stewardships, which culminate in history with the millennial glory. This is not to say that dispensationalism fails to give salvation its proper place in the purpose of God…. If the goal of history is the earthly Millennium and if the glory of God will be manifest at that time in the personal presence of Christ in a way hitherto unknown, then the unifying principle of dispensationalism may be said to be eschatological (if viewed from the goal toward which we are moving) or theological (if viewed from the self-revelation of God in every dispensation) or doxological (if viewed from the perspective of the overall manifestation of the glory of God).”[vi]
Third, Dispensationalism gives a proper place to the idea of development, whereas Covenant Theology does not. In Covenant Theology in practice there is extreme rigidity even though Covenant Theology does include in its system different modes of administration of the Covenant of Grace, and although those modes would give an appearance of an idea of progressiveness in revelation. Dispensational Theology states that each new dispensation requires a new revelation, thereby supplying the element of a proper concept of the progress of revelation. According to Dispensationalism, under different economies, God gives new revelation which is increasingly progressive in scope. The similarities in different dispensations are part of a progression of development by God rather than:
- “a result of employing the unifying principle of the covenant of grace…. Only dispensationalism can cause historical events and successions to be seen in their own light and not to be reflected in the artificial light of an overall covenant.
- “Thus a correct philosophy of history with its requirements of a proper goal, a proper unifying principle, and a proper concept of progress is best satisfied by the dispensational system. Like the need for biblical distinctions, the proper concept of the philosophy of history leads to dispensationalism.”[vii]
[i] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 17.
[ii] See 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), pp. 50-51 for an excellent overview of Scripture that substantiates this point.
[iii] Ibid., pp. 50-51.
[iv] Ryrie, pp. 17-18 citing Alva J. McClain, “A Premillennial Philosophy of History,” Bibliotheca Sacra 113 (April 1956): 113-14.
[v] Showers, p. 52.
[vi] Ryrie, pp. 17-18; see also, Showers, p. 53.
[vii] Ryrie, p. 19.