Christian Converser

Dodgy Dispensationalism Gets More Airtime In US

As we all know, dispensationalism is one of the leading theologies taught in the USA. Why is that? It is at least in part because it is the core belief at the heart of dominionism, which teaches that the US will rule the world in millenialism. Everyone knows that the US believes it already is meant to rule the world, so a theology that essentially states the same thing is obviously attractive to many churches that are fully embedded into US society and culture. However, when dispensationalism’s many proponents in the US broadcast their beliefs far and wide on the likes of TBN, they essentially make themselves the laughingstock of theologians outside the US, because the beliefs of dispensationalism are only adhered to by a small minority percentage of the theological community across the entire world. For the majority, this claim by the US to have a Biblical mandate for sovereignty, by implication, across the whole Church, is obviously repellent.

It’s obvious that when something major is going down in the world that conspiracy theories will reign and that dispensationalism will get a lot of air time. We hardly need to remind our readers that electing a Republican president to office in the US is guaranteed to give four years of renewed legitimacy to dispensationalist and dominionists to pursue their cause, and we previously examined a book called “Trumpocalypse” on this site that is the latest of many examples of dispensationalism’s supporters elevating a President or some other prominent politician to the role of chief enabler of their agenda. However, it must be noted that they almost never mention or acknowledge the 100% failure rate of their predictions to date, or what that implies for Biblical prophecy in general. We have sought to draw upon the scholarly work of local theologian Alistair Donaldson, who lectures at Laidlaw College in Christchurch, who published his critique “The Last Days of Dispensationalism” in 2010. Donaldson was preceded in NZ by well-known pastor Barry Smith, a leading proponent of dispensationalism who wrote a number of books and incorporated his teachings into many evangelistic campaigns throughout Australia and around the world, but since he passed away in 2002 no one has stepped up to fill his shoes, although his family continues to support his legacy and the materials they produced are still able to be purchased (in fact, we still have some of them gathering dust on our bookshelf).

Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic we have observed an increase in dispensationalist teachings from a number of well-known ministries, especially in the US where it has a strong following, including being the key ministry focus of a particular theological school. The times the Church worldwide may be going through are hard, but scarcely comparable with what is supposedly revealed in the Apocalyptic scriptures. But there is and has been this tendency for leading proponents of dispensationalism to invoke its name at the slightest hint of trouble. People thought the same during World War II and probably during any number of testing times on the Earth in the past, yet Jesus has still not returned, and there have been so many predictions of His imminent return that have not been fulfilled in the past. Undoubtedly, the latest buzz in dispensationist circles will be Trump’s new peace plan for the Middle East, but we should point out that even if this does somehow succeed in being introduced, which looks to be extremely unlikely, there is still no proof at all that the timeline and other key aspects of dispensationlist teaching will come to pass. Likewise there isn’t the slightest proof that Jesus will return at any particular time related to any specific world events. The key to understanding the claims made by dispensationalists is to understand that eschatology is by no means a recent development in theology overall. Various forms of eschatological belief have existed in one form or another almost since the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the Gospels, and the predictions based on them stretch back at least that far and none have been fulfilled. Jesus’s disciples themselves probably believed that He would return in their own lifetimes.

The key lesson to be learned about dispensationalism or any similar eschatological teachings that enjoin Christians to embrace conspiracy theories, foretellings or prophecies of a timeline of future events, and a profound pessimism about the longevity of humanity and the Christian faith in general, is that we should not live out our lives as Christians bound up by fear of the future and fear of the unknown. We also believe an important lesson for all Christians is that we shouldn’t become proponents of dispensationalist teachings, because it has the unfortunate impact of becoming too dominant in our everyday lives. Here at this blog, we actively put a distance between ourselves and all instances we find of dispensationalism in the Christian community, because it is actively promoted on some of the Christian TV programming we consume, as well as the teachings of a number of ministries that we follow and support, and various Christian publications we regularly access. We do that to keep our own personal sanity as well as wishing to encourage other believers to achieve the same. Ultimately these fears that people can develop from becoming proponents of the “end times” beliefs will take over their lives. We believe an appropriate response to these ministries by denying belief in them is in the same league as refusing to allow our lives to be dominated by other fearmongering predictions such as the state of the world economy or climate change or whatever. We doubt there has ever been a time in the New Testament era, or indeed at any time in human history, when there hasn’t been a prevalence of similar views expressed in society, many of which have amounted to nothing. Ultimately, the Christian faith requires courage and bravery, not cowardice. A Christian believer who cowers at the slightest threat of any sort is never going to achieve anything of value in their personal faith and walk, and whilst it may be disputed that this type of teaching is encouraging believers to live in daily fear of world events, the possibility that believers could let their lives be bound up with constantly observing world activities and interpreting them in light of the latest books or other publications from dispensationalist authors. What we definitely need to put in context is that in the Western world we simply do not experience anything like the level of persecution that is prevalent overseas, or even in Jesus’ day as experienced by His followers and disciples. It therefore doesn’t take much forethought to conclude that the chief proponents of dispensationism appear to be focused on scaremongering that the US way of life is seriously under threat, never mind that that way of life is hugely privileged worldwide. As we noted above, dispensationalists generally teach that the US will become the ruling nation over the whole earth, and this taps perfectly into the prevalence of this belief in their society in general. But it is very difficult to see how dispensationlism makes sense outside of that elite corner of the Christian community worldwide.