Dispensationalism is an hermeneutical framework which, while not entirely modern, has been defined and promulgated most sharply since the 19th Century. It has strong links to premillennialism — that is, dispensationalists are premillennialists, but not all premillennialists are dispensationalists — and is uniquely Protestant.
Often set against Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism stands out for its literal hermeneutic, commitment to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, and its doctrine of Israel and the Church. It is understood in a typical breakdown of salvation history into seven dispensations, or eras, in which God deals with humanity’s sin and responsibility in different ways, culminating in the return and final victory of Christ.
Read more about what Dispensationalism is in our more thorough treatment.
Four Dispensationalist Seminaries to Know about
1. Dallas Theological Seminary
DTS is one of the modern heavy-hitters in the landscape of theological education. Students need not affirm Dispensationalism; they are required only to affirm the following doctrines:
- the Trinity
- the full deity and humanity of Christ
- the spiritual lostness of the human race
- the substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection of Christ
- salvation by faith alone in Christ alone
- the physical return of Christ
- the authority and inerrancy of Scripture
But the faculty at DTS have affirmed a much fuller and more nuanced doctrinal statement.
We believe that the dispensations are stewardships by which God administers His purpose on the earth through man under varying responsibilities. We believe that the changes in the dispensational dealings of God with man depend on changed conditions or situations in which man is successively found with relation to God, and that these changes are the result of the failures of man and the judgments of God. We believe that different administrative responsibilities of this character are manifest in the biblical record, that they span the entire history of mankind, and that each ends in the failure of man under the respective test and in an ensuing judgment from God. We believe that three of these dispensations or rules of life are the subject of extended revelation in the Scriptures, viz., the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, the present dispensation of grace, and the future dispensation of the millennial kingdom. We believe that these are distinct and are not to be intermingled or confused, as they are chronologically successive.
To read more, see particularly Article V of their doctrinal statement.
Students who attend Dallas Theological Seminary will study under Darrell L. Bock (who is a “small ‘d’ dispensationalist” and represents a progressive dispensationalist perspective), Robert B. Chisholm, John C. Dyer, Daniel B. Wallace, and more.
2. Virginia Beach Theological Seminary
VBTS, located in beautiful Virginia Beach, is committed to equipping future scholar-pastors with a grace-filled, Jesus-centered approach, and is marked by deep academic rigor. They focus on preparing the hearts and minds of future pastors and missionaries for Spirit-powered ministry.
Virginia Beach Theological Seminary holds to a Dispensational framework while maintaining a firm emphasis on a philosophy of grace, which undergirds all of their academics. Students will study exegesis, practical theology, the original languages, and more under the guidance of Daniel K. Davey, Michael H. Windsor, Eric J. Lehner, and more.
Dr. Windsor contributed an article titled “Why I Am a Dispensationalist” to VBTS’s newsletter publication, which you can read in its entirety here (at the bottom of the post).
As a dispensationalist, I recognize an exegetical distinction between the Church and Israel. Scriptures may use similar imagery for both Israel and the Church, but the Scriptures never identify the Church as Israel. Both spiritual communities may share similar features because they both relate to the same God. For example, Peter exhorted Christians to be holy because God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15), just as Moses earlier exhorted the people of Israel to the same spiritual state (Lev. 11:45). Holiness was expected of a person walking with God, whether that person was an OT saint or NT saint. Recognizing the distinction between these two spiritual communities leads me to see distinctions in their eschatological destinies. When Jesus returns in His Second Advent, He will establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The nation of Israel will be regathered in the Holy Land and the Church will reign with the King.
Learn more about pursuing a degree with VBTS.
3. The Master’s Seminary
With John MacArthur at the helm as President, The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, CA, has risen in the ranks as a trusted institution for a sharp theological and pastoral education. Though MacArthur has often been jokingly-referred to as a “leaky Dispensationalist” (which is in reference to his Reformed leanings), Dispensationalism remains a distinctive of TMS.
4. Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary
Faith Baptist is located in Ankeny, Iowa, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Offering both undergrad and graduate degrees in Bible and theology, this institution provides online and residential theological training from a Dispensationalist perspective to prepare expositors to serve effectively in ministry within Baptist fundamentalism.
For students unfamiliar with Dispensationalism, Faith Baptist has written an overview here.
Some critique Dispensationalism as not having hermeneutical grounds to correctly exposit and apply the Old Testament to the Church today. In answer, Faith Baptist writes:
[T]he Old Testament is profitable for us because it is Christ-centered (Luke 24:25–27, 44, 45). These Old Testament references to Christ may be types that find their fulfillment spelled out in the New Testament. Second, Old Testament stories are meant by God to be examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:1–11). Finally, there is truth in the Old Testament that transcends all time (Romans 15:1-5). The question remains: how are we to know whether or not a truth encountered in the Old Testament is suppose to guide us in the church age? The answer is that the New Testament epistles are written in the church age to explain how a believer is to live now. Therefore, we must study the New Testament epistles and grasp the truths they impart for godly living today. Only then will we be able to discern those same principles in the Old Testament.