Progressive Dispensationalism – Keith Mathison

Keith Mathison (PostMil):

“Progressive dispensationalists have moved closer to Reformed theology on a number of doctrines. They now acknowledge that the kingdom has been inaugurated and that there is a present as well as a future aspect of the kingdom. They have also recognized the two-peoples-of-God theory to be unbiblical, which, ironically, brings us to the negative side of progressive dispensationalism.

If the defining doctrine of dispensationalism is the two-peoples-of-God theory, then to reject that theory is to reject dispensationalism itself. “Progressive dispensationalism” is therefore both an encouraging trend and a misleading or confusing title.

In view of genuinely positive developments, how problematic is the name “progressive dispensationalism”? Perhaps an illustration will clarify my concern. Suppose I announced that I am a “progressive Baptist.” When asked what that means, I explain that I have rejected believer’s baptism by immersion only. I now believe that infant baptism is biblical and that the mode of baptism should be sprinkling or pouring. But I claim to be a progressive Baptist. What would a good Baptist tell me? He would remind me that believer’s baptism by immersion only is the essence of what it means to be a Baptist.

Similarly, suppose I have become convinced that Jesus will return after the millennium. Would I be honest to describe myself as a “progressive premillennialist.” No. Or what if I have abandoned belief in God? Would I be a progressive theist?

The church suffers too much damage when people do not identify what they really believe. For the sake of accuracy, honesty, and understanding, “progressive dispensationalists” should no longer claim to be dispensational. Traditional dispensationalists would likely concur. Do most dispensational laymen realize that the “dispensationalism” now taught in their seminaries is not the dispensationalism they know? As much as I prefer to see Reformed theology taught in these seminaries, if someone is going to teach nondispensationalism in a dispensational seminary, students and donors should at least be aware of the fact.”

Dispensationalism – Rightly Dividing the People of God?, pages 135-137.

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12 thoughts on “Progressive Dispensationalism – Keith Mathison

  1. I generally like Mathison, but this is again another ad hoc type argument, rather than a biblical and hermeneutical one. Again, this is the weakness of the older Reformational position, at least when it comes to the eschatological truth. The older Reformed positions here are simply more “Catholic”, which is more medieval and sees Scripture in several layers of meaning, and certainly ends in the “supersessional” position, which most surely tends to miss the progressive nature of God’s Revelation! Ryrie, especially brings out something of this loss in his book: Dispensationalism (see, the Revised and Expanded version). Note, chapter Four: The Origins Of Dispensationalism. In the end, the Progressive nature of Dispensaionalism is actually one of its grreatest strengths! It is simply (if properly understood), one the most profound and spiritual truths! Noting again, St. Paul’s texts like, 1 Cor. 10: 32 / Rom. 9: 3-5 ;30-32 ; 10:1-4. The whole of chapter Romans 11! And Rom. 15: 8-9.

    • Fr. Robert,

      The quote dealt with the logical problems inherent with the faulty hermeneutic of a church / Israel partition (you know, the one scripture declares to be removed) while claiming to be “progressive” in their Dispensationalism.

      You cannot claim “ad hoc” simply because you disagree with the conclusion. I know you are aware of the exegetical reasons behind the conclusions posted contra Dispensationalism so your response is, by definition, ad hoc.

      Yours in The Lord,

      jm

      • At least I always try to use an “exegetical” argument! One simple does not see much real exegesis today, even with many modern Reformed, rather sad really! Again I say, “supersessionism” is simply NOT Pauline, but again “Medieval” and “R. Catholic”!

      • Fr. Robert,

        Forgive my brevity I’m posting from my phone…post hoc ergo propter hoc? Correlation does not mean causation.

        Peace,

        j

      • I am a “Biblicist”! That ends all arguments! 😉

        “With mt whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (i.e. Word & Revelation) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you O LORD; teach me your statutes!” (Psalm 119: 10-11-12, ESV)

  2. The Traditional Dispensationalists think they own the label, and insist that the Progressive Dispensationalists are not Dispensationalists. The Covenant Theologians like Mathison would seem to agree (for once) with the Traditional Dispensationalists, and want a say in who has legitimate claim to the label. Perhaps for them it is all about the label(s). While I an ducking in order to allow them to continue hitting each other with the stones thrown from the traditional/classical polarities they represent I notice (from my crouching position) that the Biblical texts and theological issues are not being fairly addressed. Arguing about who has the right to a label, or who is in what camp smacks of a “Corinthian” party spirit, evidencing the flesh (“I’m with Paul” vs. “I’m with Apollos” vs. “I’m with Peter” vs. “I’m with Christ”) rather than the Spirit. System driven fortress mentalities have not and are not furthering a hunger for the truth,and a humble desire to examine personal convictions from the Scriptures and fellowship with the brethren.

    • I am with you too John, I have old school dispensationalists who simply can’t stand my idea of both something classic Dispensational and or with Progressive Dispensationalism! Who cares whether its eclectic, that is the basis (as I see it) of the mystery of the Word and Revelation of God! Thus, I am always a Neo-Calvinist also. WE will never figure-out the depths of God, not in this life or the next! I was reading the other day, Henry Vaughen’s poem: “They are all gone into the world of light.” There, only there will “I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13: 12)

      • And btw too, the common and past Covenant apologetics against Dispensationalism simply has to change now with the newer Progressive Dispensationalism! And I quite agree with John, that seeking to press Dispensationalism thru one theological key hole or paradigm is again more of the straw-man aspect. The Biblical dialogue that the classic books of the PD that have come from people like Bock & Blaising, with too Robert Saucy, simply must be seen, especially the latter. We all must deal with the logic and theology itself of the PD, and this has been quite missing with people certainly in the Traditional Dispensational camp. As too the classic Covenantal idea that all Dispensationalists are the same. But the “covenantal” differences between National Israel and especially the Gentile Christians, must be looked at! As does St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 10: 32. This verse is quite a reality in itself! Not to mention, the Letters of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. This does not necessarily mean there is a clean and overt separation between certain dispensational lines, but the lines should be seen and appreciated, and too in some spiritual and progressive sense, as we see somewhat in the PD.

  3. jm: I certainly understand, and my comments were not directed at you personally. For some years now I have faced a great deal of contention over “labels” and labelling to the point where I wrote a brief paper on the issue along the lines of my comment above. Such “saber rattling” and drawing of lines in the sand as is evidenced in Mathison’s remarks above along with those of others is counter-productive, does not edify, and ultimately frustrates any “iron sharpens iron” benefits, in my humble opinion.

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