dividing people of god
This concise examination of dispensationalism dispels much current confusion by clarifying the most central and problematic teachings of dispensationalists in the light of Scripture and historic Reformed theology.
He wrote in the Preface to this 1995 book, "The decision to write this book was not an easy one... why would a Christian decide to write a book critical of a system of theology cherished by so many godly men and women? ... (Because) the dispensationalists I know desire to believe only what the Scriptures teach. That is also my desire."
He immediately distinguishes between premillennialism and dispensationalism, noting that premillennialism has existed since the first century, "but dispensationalism dates from only about 1830." Later, he notes that "while all dispensationalists are premillennialists, not all premillennialists are dispensationalists" (Pg. 123)
He states that the "real point of disagreement centers on the relationship between believers in the church age and believers in other ages... Reformed theology teaches that the believers of all ages are part of the one body of Christ..." (Pg. 23) While dispensationalism insists that "the church cannot fulfill the new covenant," he asserts that the new covenant is "the clearest example of a promise made to national Israel that is now being fulfilled in and by the church... the old covenant has been abolished and .. the new covenant has been inaugurated by Jesus Christ." (Pg. 28-29)
He adds that Old Testament believers "are NOT distinct from New Testament believers. A true Israel always existed within the nation of Israel... The true Israel was and is the true church, and the true church is the true Israel." (Pg. 41-42)
Mathison's book will mostly likely not convince dispensationalists (or premillennialists); but it is a clear and forceful critique of dispensationalism, and well worth study.
Dispensationalism, Rightly Dividing the People of God?, is excellently written from cover to cover; even the preface, which is usually ignored by the reader, is insightful. In the preface, Mr. Mathison basically states what inspired him to write the book: first of all, the dispensational views are so widely accepted by the majority of people without reservation of thought, simply because these views are popular, and secondly, the Christian is obligated to seek and perpetuate Biblical truth.
Prominent dispensationalist, such as Charles Ryrie, C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, J. Dwight Pentecost, and others, are quoted throughout the book. Liken unto the analyses of a chemist, holding a test tube over a flame, breaking a bit of matter to its common elements - so too does Mr. Mathison in analyzing dispensationalism, holding the very words of dispensationalist over the flame of Holy Scripture. The purpose of this book is to determine whether or not dispensational theology is Biblically true.
Perhaps the chapter most beneficial to me personally was Chapter 12, "Regeneration," because it cleared up the confusion of the Christian with two nature assumption. In this chapter, Mathison explains that when a person is saved (regenerated), that person is then spiritually alive, not dead, but that this does not equate to having a new "divine" nature; a Christian has a spirit united with Christ (by His Spirit), but, as Mr. Mathison states, "a man remains a man with a human nature only."
I also found "Part 2" of the book (chapters 3-6), in regards to the contrast between the Reform view and Dispensational view of the Doctrine of the Church, were extremely helpful; in particular, Mathison's examination of Romans 11:11-24 and Galatians 3:16, 29, and Chapter six, including the diagrams representing "NATIONAL ISRAEL", "GENTILE NATIONS", and "TRUE ISRAEL = THE CHURCH."
Dispensationalism, Rightly Dividing the People of God?, is a very good book; it's relatively easy to read, straight-forward, and yet thoroughly detailed; provocative, yet not insulting. It's a book which you could loan to a dispensationalist friend - and still remain friends.