As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I have another blog that features material from my interest in the Civil War, and most particularly the Battle of Antietam. That blog can be found at www.enfiladinglines.com.
In that blog I have written a post about a Confederate soldier who fought in the fields south of Sharpsburg with the 7thTennessee … a guy named Cyrus Ingersoll Scofield.
I encourage you go to my “enfilading lines” blog for all the details, but if you fear getting lost in the historical weeds, let me quickly say that this man, though not a believer in Christ until 17 years after Antietam, has had a large impact on my life and family…
… He founded my college (Philadelphia College of Bible) and was an instrumental force behind the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary (my grad school).
… Diana taught in the Christian school of a church he built in Dallas.
… He also popularized a system of theology called “Dispensationalism,” particularly through his Bible notes called the Scofield Reference Bible. This was essentially the first “Study Bible.”
If you have heard me preach and teach for very long, you are hearing the interpretation of the Bible through the construct of what is known within the theological world as “Dispensationalism.” What is that? It sounds like a fatal disease, doesn’t it? (And some people would certainly see it as exactly that!)
Dispensationalism interprets the Bible as a coherent message from beginning to end – explaining God’s workings with man as a holistic story on a grand scale – one that brings glory to God, not merely explaining the way lost mankind is saved.
The system divides the Scriptures into segments of time – periods during which God’s dealings with man involve a responsibility for man to obey, which of course man always fails to follow … upon which God institutes a new economy or dispensation (period) of responsibility.
Various proponents of Dispensationalism over the years have divided Scripture in various ways, but probably the most common delineations are:
Dispensation of Innocence – from creation to the fall of man into sin – where man is to obey God in the perfect environment of tending the garden – man fails by disobeying God, so God institutes a new economy …..
Dispensation of Conscience – from the fall to the flood of Noah – where man is to live in obedience to God’s ways by following his conscience and engrained understanding of right and wrong – and all fail but Noah and his family, who alone survive the flood …..
Dispensation of Human Government – from the flood to the Tower of Babel – where man is to rule one another under God – this too fails as instead of spreading throughout the earth, man congregates around an immense structure – so God judges man by confounding languages and sending them spreading throughout the earth
Dispensation of Promise – from Abraham to Moses – where man is to live under the promise given to Abraham of His provision of a land and a redeemer to come – but man refuses to trust in this and so…..
Dispensation of the Law – from Moses to Christ – where God revealed in great detail His perfect law by which to live and worship Him, and though the people said they would do all that was written in it, they disobeyed and were oft punished. And though they were to be a witness to the world, the nation of Israel failed terribly in this, and so …
Dispensation of Grace Abounding – also called the Dispensation of the Church – this is the message of Christ’s atoning work to be preached to all the world. But even with a final provision for sin in this grace, the bulk of mankind refuses to believe and trust, and so …..
Dispensation of the Millennium – the fulfillment of all time, when, after the rapture of the church and a period of 7 years of intense tribulation, God establishes the promised literal 1,000-year Kingdom rule and reign of Christ upon the earth … yet even with his physical presence, still significant percentages of mankind rebel, and thus God ultimately establishes a new heaven and a new earth for all of eternity.
There are literally tens of thousands of details left out of this accounting. The overall scheme of teaching that we do at TSF – called “God’s Big Story” – is essentially this system as it relates to how we have a personal relationship with God.
As I wrote in the Civil War blog, Scofield did not invent this, but what he did was bring it to thousands of people through his organized study materials and reference Bible.
One of his early books – one that I recall always near my grandmother’s chair – was “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.” This booklet summarizes the teaching above, and is a take-off from the Scripture in 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
That is what we want to do as a church – to so delve into the Scriptures that we understand it both in a macro and global sense, but also in the micro sense of understanding the incredible ways that it all does indeed tie together from beginning to end.
This does, however, take work!