Dispensationalisms Revolt Against Biblical Ethics

We admit that these practices border on the mystical rather than the ethical. But this may not be the result of seduction by a New Age philosophy. The law of God as the standard for a Christian's sanctification has not been popular with the church for over a century. When the law of God is jettisoned, some other standard fills the void. David Chilton writes that when an objective standard outside of man is no longer available, man then "relates to God by using magic or manipulative techniques. Metaphysical Theology is man-centered, humanistic theology, or, more pre

49. Language is central to dominion. Adam "named" the animals (Gen 2:19). Judges pronounce" sentences. They speak" {diction)judgment {juris). Of course, this is quite different from using words to create out of nothing.

50. Hunt and McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity, p. 101.

cisely, anthropology. This is why there is such an emphasis on individual experience, and why what goes on under the name of evangelism is often more concerned with the subjective feelings of the believer than with the objective gospel of Jesus Christ. . . ."51

One of the most prominent doctrines of "dominion theology" and Christian reconstruction is the belief that the whole Bible is applicable for the Christian today; that man pleases God through obedience; that dominion comes through God's grace, giving us the ability and will to obey His law in love for Him and service to man. There are dozens of books written by reconstructionists of one variety or another that support this claim.

There is a curious bit of irony here. For nearly a century, dis-pensational premillennialists have been telling us that the Christian is no longer obligated to keep the law of God. As one dispen-sational writer tells us, "the Bible does give us broad commands to do good to the general public."52 But broad commands are not enough. Christ ians are looking for specifics. Keep telling Christians that the law does not matter, and they will find novel ways to please God. The Bible tells us that we show our love to God by keeping His commandments. Dave Hunt, Hal Lindsey, and Jimmy Swaggart are all dispensationalists. They do not believe that the law of God as outlined in all the Bible is appropriate for the Christian to use today, They make a radical division between law and grace,53 Old and New Testament, and Israel and the Church.54

51. Chilton,"Between the Covers of Power for Living," p. 4

52. John Walvoord, "Our Future Hope: Eschatology and Its Role in the Church," Christianity Today (February 6, 1987), p. 6-1.

53. The reaf distinction is between "works" and "grace," or the "works of the law" and "grace."

54. The Bible assures us that gentile believers were brought into the already existing church (Eph. 2:11-22; Rem. 11). The church existed in the wilderness: "This is he [Moses], that was in the church [Gr., ekklesia] with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us" (Acts 7:38,KJV).

Millions of Christians were raised on this teaching. The chickens have now come home to roost, and they have now laid some colossal theological eggs. If a person does not keep the law to please God, then he must look elsewhere. So, then, the seduction of Christianity has not come so much from the New Agers, who were little known as recently as 1976, when Gary North's None Dare Call It Witchcraft first appeared. The seduction of Christianity has been in the midst of the camp of those who are New Age humanism's most vocal critics.

Hal Lindsey, a critic of "dominion theology," has a chapter in his best-selling book Satan is Alive andWell on Planet Earth (1972) that describes "legalism" as the Christian's obligation to keep the law. He goes on to write:

Legalism - seeking to live for God by the principle of the law — is the first and the worst doctrine of demons. It is the dent in your armor at which Satan will chip away until he has a hole big enough to drive a truck through. I don't know another doctrinal distortion that has been more devastating to believers. The awful thing is that it can sidetrack a mature believer as well as a young one. In fact, this demonic doctrine seems to find especially fertile soil in the life of a growing believer who is intent upon pleasing God in this life.55

Now, if Mr. Lindsey means by "legalism" that an individual is justified on the basis of keeping the law, then his warning is justified. But he seems to go beyond this traditional interpretation of the term. If he means that the Christian is not obligated to keep the objective, inscripturated law as a standard of righteousness for holy living, then he is out of accord with the testimony of Scripture.56

55. Hal Lindsey, Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), pp. 168-9.

56. Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonorny in Christian Ethics (rev. erf.; Phillipsburg, NJ:

Presbyterian and Reformed, [1977] 1984); ByThis Standard: The Authority of God's LawToday (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985).

Lindsey tells us that "Grace emphasizes love as a motivation for obedience and service, but law-uses a fear-threat motive,"57 This is only partially true. Perfect love does cast out fear (1 John 4:18), but this is no open door for lawlessness or the abandonment of the law of God found in Scripture as the standard of righteousness. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm see Prov. 1:7). We are not given a license to sin that 'grace might increase" (Rem. 6:1). Jesus tells us how we can know if we are loving Him: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Remember, the law is not the way we aie justified by God. The law is, however, an objective standard to which we conform our thoughts, words, and deeds. Paul describes love in Remans 13:8-10 in terms of obedience to the law. One way that you know if you are loving your neighbor is by looking at the law. Paul writes in another place that through faith "we establish the law" (Rem. 3:31).

But Lindsey is not officially lawless. He tells us that a[t]he answer to a righteous and obedient life is to walk in the Spirit and walk by faith in His ability to produce God's righteousness and obedience to His laws within you."53 What are these "laws within you"? Where did these laws come from? How are they different from God's inscripturated laws? Lindsey is correct in telling us that it cannot be the conscience, for conscience is not a "reliable standard of conduct" because "it can easily be seared."59 Rather, it is the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit. Lindsey even goes beyond traditional dispensational theology by never telling the Christian that at least he is obligated to keep New Testament commands over against Old Testament commands. Greg Bahnsen describes this as "Spiritual antinomianism," a view that teaches

59. Ibid., p. 171. For a discussion of the conscience as an inadequate standard of authority see Gary DeMar, God and Covemment:The Restoration of the Republic (Atlanta,GA: American Vision, 1986), pp. 47-51.

that the Christian needs guidance for the holy living expected by God, but it would deny that such guidance comes from a written (or verbally defined) code. Ethical direction is rather found in the internal promptings of the Holy Spirit. . . . Quite expectedly, such thinking leads quickly to subjectivism in Christian ethics, with each man doing whatever he claims "the Spirit" has prompted him to do - despite the fact that it conflicts with what the Spirit has prompted others to do and (worse) with what the Spirit has revealed once-for-all in the Scriptures. The Bible teaches us that the Spirit works through the word, not speaking or directing from Himself (John 16:13-15). The Spirit works to fulfill the law in us (Rem. 8:4-9). The abiding of the Spirit in believers brings obedience to God's commandments (1 John 3 :24).60

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