For The Serious Students Among Us…
There are three major and several minor “SYSTEMS” that form “SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY”.
- Covenantal Theology
- Dispensational Theology
- New Covenantal Theology
When one speaks of systematic theology, it is helpful to ask which “system” he is referring to. The exact same Scripture passage, run through the different systems will end up with very different interpretations. The system of theology used controls the interpretation. If you are interested in the different systems, you should look them up. Even defining them is beyond the scope of this opinion piece.
I was weaned and raised with Dispensational Theology. I went to a Bible College where they used New Covenant Theology which attempts to take the best of both Covenantal and Dispensational Theology while leaving out the hard, dogmatic stand taken by both of those schools that prevents them from even taking an honest look at interpretations that violate their rigid systems. I had never seen Covenantal Theology. Reading their interpretations of Scripture and how they reached them was an eye opener… I had assumed that the whole world was dispensational.
What happened first was that I identified glaring problems with Covenantal Theology… problems that led them to interpret the Scripture in ways that defied common sense and plain reading. I also identified some strengths in the system that I thought to be superior to the dispensational system.
Having read Covenantal Theology, I went back and looked at Dispensational Theology through a different lens. Here too, I found problems that caused people to interpret Scripture in a way that sometimes defied common sense…. It did not seem to matter what the obvious meaning was… the Scripture had to be bent to fit the system. I also found great strengths in the system.
As I began to read books by New Covenant Theology teachers, I found more liberty to choose the common sense interpretations… sometimes it seemed like they were making up the system as they went… siding with the Dispensationalists on one issue and with the Covenantalists on the next.
Now to my opinion. I find that it is helpful to have a system of theology as you seek to understand the Scripture. I find it troubling that the System often forces unreal and artificial interpretations on the Scripture. Many things that I was taught as “Gospel Truth” are, in reality, “Dispensational truth”. In my humble opinion, Scripture is more important than the system that you use to interpret it… Violating common sense and plain reading by placing artificial and phony, systematic interpretations on that which makes perfect sense, standing on its own, is intellectually and spiritually wrong.
Covenants are of God. You can identify them in Scripture. There are Eternal Covenants, Temporary Covenants, Unconditional Covenants and Unconditional Covenants… The Bible is full of covenants.
The seven “Dispensations”, while sometimes helpful, are arbitrary and manmade. There is no Scripture that speaks to seven “Dispensations” in the Scripture itself, although the word is used twice in the King James Bible.
Why not place common sense and clear meaning ahead of any system? Why not bend the system to fit the Scripture, rather than bending Scripture to fit the system? Why not look at the interpretations from the other schools and ask yourself if they could be right, even though they violate “your system”?
Sometimes, it is helpful to step outside of your system and ask yourself what that passage means in plain Greek…