Michael Glodo contributed a chapter on dispensationalism to Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Perspectives. The editors should have asked a dispensationalist to write the first part of the chapter, in which dispensationalism is described, and asked Glodo to respond. Glodo did not demonstrate an accurate understanding dispensationalism and was therefore not in a good place to critique it.
He opens the chapter with this list of “dispensationalist distinctives”:
- “the claim that there are two peoples of God, Israel and the church.” This is not the view of Progressive dispensationalists.
- the church and Israel have “their own distinctive programs for salvation.” He clarifies in a footnote that dispensationalists reject the accusation that Israel was justified through the law, so it is not clear what is being asserted here.
- “the separation of earthly and spiritual promises in the Old Testament.” In reality, dispensationalists object to the separation of the earthly and spiritual promises.
- “the removal (rapture) of the church out of the world prior to a literal one-thousand-year earthly reign of Jesus Christ,” The majority of dispensationalists hold instead that rapture occurs prior to the final Day of the Lord judgments; resurrected and transformed saints are present during the millennium.
- “the reconstitution of national Israel in the land of Palestine during that millennial period.” True; however, this view has also been held by a number of covenant theologians, including various Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, and David Brown.
- “the temple will be rebuilt and its worship will resume until the consummation of the ages.” Not all dispensationalists hold to the resumption of the sacrificial system.
Glodo then charges dispensationalists with a “literalism” that “almost presupposes an innate lack of self-awareness, which characterized modernist interpretation in general.” This is at best a dated charge. It fails to interact with significant hermeneutical discussion that both traditional and progressive dispensationalists have undertaken. For instance, Buist Fanning’s recent commentary on Revelation in Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series does not fairly come under this critique.
Glodo then turns to survey the history of dispensationalism, tracing its history from Darby, Inglis and Scofield through Chafer, Walvoord, and Pentecost to Ryrie and Progressive Dispensationalism. In the midst of this survey Glodo links dispensationalism with Christian Zionism. However, while he observes that Christian Zionism is “fundamentally inconsistent” with dispensational theology, he fails to acknowledge that this is recognized by both traditional and progressive dispensationalists. Not all dispensationalists are Christian Zionists.
Glodo’s discussion of Progressive Dispensationalism is also poorly done.
- He observes that Progressive dispensationalism holds to “one people of God” and a unified, progressing plan of God. But instead of further summarizing the Progressive Dispensationalist position, he pivots to a statement of Ryrie that objects to identifying Progressive Dispensationalism with dispensationalism.
- He includes a lengthy quote from Blaising that makes clear that Progressive Dispensationalism recognizes literary aspects of texts in its interpretation (thus refuting his charge of unself-aware literalism). But he dismisses Blaising by objecting that Progressive Dispensationalists are nonetheless too literal in their interpretation of Apocalyptic literature (again, a look at Fanning should put the lie to this assertion).
- He misreads Bock’s belief that the Antichrist will rebuild the temple as an affirmation of the reinstitution of the sacrificial system in the Milennium. The actions of the Antichrist are not the same actions as those of the Christ!
- He quotes an anonymous scholar, whom he identifies as a progressive dispensationalist, as saying that if God has the temple rebuilt, he’ll provide new revelation regarding how to worship in it. To this Glodo asserts, “While emphasis on new revelation is normally more muted in dispensationalism, especially in light of heretical traditions such as Islam and Mormonism, which rest on later ‘revelation,’ it should nonetheless be a matter on which dispensationalism should be pressed” (538). This is a cheap shot. Aside from the fact that the quotation is not sourced, this scholar is not speaking of continuing revelation at present. He is speaking about revelation that might be given after the return of Christ to earth. Surely Covenant Theologians do not believe God will be silent and will reveal nothing beyond what is currently revealed after Christ returns.
Glodo’s analysis section is no better. He begins by acknowledging that dispensationalism has been developing in recent decades, but he chooses to focus his critique of the classic dispensationalism of Darby and Scofield. Sadly, this is par for the course among covenant theologians. Aside from brief comments in multiple views books, I have never read or heard covenant theologian engage substantively with Progressive Dispensationalism. Instead, I note the two tendencies: (1) engagement with popularizers instead of scholars; (2) engagement with Darby and Scofield rather than the most recent dispensational scholarship. Glodo cites no dispensationalist scholarship more recent than the 1990s.
I have personally learned much from covenant theologians, and I think they would learn much from Progressive Dispensationalists—if they would be willing to listen.