Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth- A Critique of Dispensationalism, by John Gerstner
John Gerstner is obviously intelligent, steeped in Reformed Theology and willing to take other theologians to task. He calls a spade a spade. He has drawn a line in the sand that makes clear some of the differences between Reformed Theology and Dispensationalism. I do appreciate his frankness and clear cut divides, because it makes it easier to understand the differences between the two theological systems.
He does, however, fail to be objective with Dispensationalism as other writers have done (e.g. Wilcox, Pink). This clearest divide is declaring that Dispensationalism teaches a false gospel (pp. 149, 230, 251, 259, 263, 270). There is nothing more fundamental than the gospel, and “one of us is wrong – seriously wrong,” he writes (p. 263). Yet, the battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), so where do these differences come from?
I’m amazed at how little Scripture is used to support his position. His discussion of Dispensationalism is almost entirely from the writings of those who adhere to Dispensationalism, rather than arguing against the Scriptures they use to teach Dispensationalism. That would seem more objective. Anyone can take quotes from authors, even in context, and state that they apply to all people who hold a particular theology. Gerstner cites many Dispensationalists, but often comes to wrong conclusions. Again, Scripture is rarely used.
The differences come from a lack of understanding why we are here. We are here to glorify God, most reformed theologians would say, but we are also here for the sake of the Angelic Conflict that existed prior to our creation (Matt. 25:41; Eph. 3:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:8-12). If your theology doesn’t include the big picture of God’s creation and sovereign purposes, it will fall short of answering important questions and fail to harmonize much of Scripture.
Dr. Gerstner shows that while he understands Dispensationalism fairly well, he also has created a Dispensational Theology that is not true to Dispensationalism. He declares that Dispensationalists believe that the Kingdom should have been set up at the First Advent (p. 19). A few taught that, but most do not. He states that Dispensationalists see “division and separation in Scripture rather than unity.” (p. 89, cf. 99). There is certainly a division of administrations, but a unity of the overall decree of God in the fulfillment of His Plan to fulfill the Angelic Conflict. He argues that Dispensationalists are not as literal as they purport. (p. 92) They are much more consistent in acknowledging the different types of literature (genre) of Scripture. Gerstner declares that Dispensationalists do not teach the imputation of Adam’s guilt (sin). (p. 108) Darby may have been confused on that, but Luther was confused on many issues and all today, that I know of, teach the imputation of Adam’s original sin. Adam was the federal representative for all mankind. Gerstner writes that Disp teach that God’s will is limited by human will (p. 115). If God willingly limits Himself to allow an evil government to kill its own people, then that is not limiting God’s will. That is allowing the creature to reveal it is disposed to evil when not dependent on the will of God.
Gerstner teaches that according to Disp that because man can refuse God’s blessed salvation, that God is therefore or would be frustrated and bereaved from blessedness (p. 129). Man’s rejection of God’s provision could never deprive God of any peace or blessing. Is Gerstner’s God that small? Gerstner writes that a Disp teaches “man can save himself by throwing himself upon the saving grace of Jesus Christ.” (p. 141) That reads into what is Disp because while man believes, God must take that spark of faith to simultaneously regenerate his dead spirit, i.e. it is God alone that saves man (John 1:13). Gerstner teaches that Reformed Theology is the only correct view (p. 150). I’m thankful for his frankness. Unfortunately, he identifies all Dispensationalists as Antinomian (p. 209, 210-230). He teaches that Dispensationalists teach more than one way of salvation (p. 155, 158). He teaches that Disp teach that “faith is a ‘work’” (p. 158, 161). Again, these are not what Disp teach (John 1:13).
There are a number of things he writes that are Scripturally wrong and form the premise for his wrong theology. For example, he writes that God never invites reprobates (p. 177). I was reprobate. (Compare also John 16:8-11). He uses OT Scriptures to say that the Church was mentioned in the OT (p. 187). That must be why he doesn’t use a Literal historico-grammatical approach to hermeneutics (interpretation). He writes that “mystery” means it was partly known because of the previous Scriptures (p. 199). He’s twisting definitions to fit his theology. He confuses that because Disp believe Israel and the Church are distinct that there are two kinds of salvation (p. 206). The same salvation existed and exists for both.
I’m grateful for this volume, because it creates a clear divide between Reformed Theology and Dispensationalism. R.C. Sproul, as a reformed theologian seems to support Gerstner, but states, “If a dispensationalist reads this book and honestly says, ‘This is not what I believe,’ nothing would please Gerstner more.” (p. xi) As a dispensationalist, I find too much of what Gerstner has written, I do not believe. Sproul also writes, “Is it possible that Gerstner has misunderstood dispensational theology and consequently misrepresented it? We must surely hold to this possibility.” (p. xi) But Sproul also says, “If Gerstner is accurate, then dispensationalism should be discarded as being a serious deviation from Biblical Christianity.” (p. xi) The study must continue, but not to be distracted from reaching the world for the sake of Jesus Christ. The analysis makes clear that there are many questions that should be asked of believers in each theological system, “What saith the Lord?”