by Michael Vlach
If you are committed to hating anything Dispensational, then it doesn’t really matter what a Dispy says. Alright. But if you are committed to trying to read the Bible and understand what it says, and want the Bible to tell you what “system” (if any) to believe rather than depending on the System to tell you what you can believe in the Bible, Dispensational Hermeneutics would edify you.
Vlach encourages me. He is clear, and he does not overstate his arguments, which is part of what enables him to avoid coming off as combative. I appreciated his start with the Bible’s storyline, including God’s purposes for “the salvation of nations/society and the restoration of creation” (Loc. 138). The guts of the book are his ten hermeneutical principes:
- Consistent Use of Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutics to All Scripture
- Consistent Contextual Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecies
- Passage Priority: The Meaning of Any Bible Passage Is Found in that Passage
- Old Testament Prophecies not Repeated in the New Testament Remain Relevant
- Old Testament Eschatology Expectations Are Reaffirmed in the New Testament
- Progress of Revelation Does Not Cancel or Transform Unconditional Promises to the Original Audience
- Fulfillments Occur with the Two Comings of Jesus
- Partial Fulfillments of Old Testament Prophecies
- Jesus as Means of Fulfillment of the Old Testament
- Types, Yes! Typological Interpretation, No!
He argues against a “Christocentric” reading, but offers instead “a Christotelic approach (that) asserts that all Scripture is related to the person and work of Christ, even though Christ is not found in every passage. All Scripture is not Jesus, but all Scripture relates to Him” (Location 1132). That’s a helpful distinction.
One of the things I’ve seen going around recently is that the nation of Israel doesn’t matter to God at all any more because Jesus is the TRUE Israel and all the OT promises are fulfilled in Him. But Jesus can be the Seed and there can still be future fulfillment for the other parts of the covenants.
“The New Testament writers do not apply a mystical, metaphysical personalism hermeneutic concerning Jesus that makes details of Bible prophecies evaporate into Him.” (Location 1757)
The teaching (and hermeneutic) of the apostles did not transform or redefine, let alone cancel, previous revelation. Come on, people.
There are two reasons I’m giving this 4/5 instead of 5/5 stars.
First, I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I think calling it “Dispensational Hermeneutics” is the wrong name altogether. Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know that people talked that way. Grammatical-Historial hermeneutics, YES! But the Dispensational nickname/label is a result of Bible reading not a way to get a certain “reading” of the Bible. Dispensational as an adjective should describe the person post-reading, not as an adjective for a pre-reading lens.
Consistent (and I know that’s not always easy to get) Grammatical-Historical reading of the text would reject extra-biblical covenants that are supposedly necessary to understand the story of the Bible. Consistent sola Scriptura bears the fruit of Dispensationalism, Dispensationalism is not the soil or seed. So I love the principles, and don’t love the adjective in the title.
Second, I’d love to see more “here and now” application which also comes from avoiding the “spiritualized” reading required by non-Dispy systems. Call it Kuyperian, call it non-gnostic/non-pietistic, you pick. Take this quote:
“The Christian worldview, though, affirms the goodness of both physical and spiritual realities. While they are distinct, physical and spiritual realities both are important in God’s purposes, and one does not supersede the other.” (Location 1433)
Yes and amen, but the book puts this worldview more in the future context, which is right, but misses some of the relevance for the present day. The physical blessings of God on His people will be unsurpassed in the Millennial Kingdom and into the eternal state, but many of those blessings won’t be unprecedented, as in, known for the first time only then. The blessings of salvation now include intangibles and many tangibles, even if only a taste during the current time.
This may be an issue of emphasis, not really disagreement, but so many Dispies I know are functional dualists, where only the spiritual things matter, and, ironically, that is bad Bible reading, which we claim to be better at.
Regardless, this is a great read, full of plain principles that encourage Bible readers to take God at His Word.