I’ve typically found that as I have grown as a Christian and gotten older with a host of -isms and movements swirling around and also what I generally see as contemporary theological manure I’ve done three things:
- Looked to Scripture.
- Looked to the Past (i.e. Ancient Tradition).
- Looked East.
I look to Scripture because I believe in Prima Scriptura (what I think is actually the more accurate understanding of the 16th century Evangelical doctrine of Sola Scriptura), I look to the Ancient Tradition because I believe there is more clarity and substance in the Traditional Faith of the Fathers and the Protestant Reformers than in most contemporary theological talk, and I look East because, while I reject the unique Ecclesiological claims of Eastern Orthodoxy, I do believe it retains the purest form of the Ancient Apostolic and Patristic Tradition; indeed my primary reason for not joining the Orthodox Communion is over the issue of soteriology, to which I remain ever steadfast in my affirmation of the original Evangelical Confessions of the 16th century.
I bring this up because I’ve once again been reminded of the kind of theological manure which the 19th and 20th century has produced. If I thought good ol’ regular Dispensationalism was bad, I’m fairly flabbergasted at the biblical and hermeneutical gymnastics of the Hyperdispensationalists.
I grew up in a thoroughly non-sacramental tradition, we had the Sacraments, we just called them “Ordinances”. Baptism and the Eucharist were part of my youthful experience of my faith, so I can still understand the non-sacramental views of the broad Anabaptist Tradition, because those were once my views as well. However Hyperdispensationalism goes an even further radical step, totally eradicating Baptism from its churchly praxis entirely.
Hyperdispensationalism teaches that Baptism was part of the Dispensation of Law, and that the Dispensation of Grace (which they teach we are currently in) didn’t begin after the death and resurrection of Jesus (as Traditional Dispensationalists believe) but at some point later. The most radical of the Hyperdispensationalists argue that nearly the entire Book of Acts is for an uniquely “Jewish Church”, whereas the Dispensation of Grace is for the “Gentile Church” which begins sometime in Acts 28, and thus assign the practice of Baptism to the former Jewish Church, but as non-applicable to the latter Gentile Church.
How do people come up with this stuff? Seriously!
I find the anecdotal story that Martin Luther, on his deathbed, lamented, “My God, what have I done? Even the milkmaids think they can interpret Scripture!” to be fairly interesting. It’s not that milkmaids (and the rest of us) shouldn’t read and seek to understand Scripture, rather Luther’s lament is most likely grounded in this unfortunate truth: When we threw off the yoke of Rome, Rome’s Pope and his Curia, we fashioned for ourselves papal tiaras and crowned ourselves mini-popes.
What good is it to cast away one Pope a thousand miles away in Rome in exchange for a thousand popes right in our own home?
It’s no wonder that when the Orthodox look at us Protestants they call us “Crypto-Papists”.
To be true to our Evangelical heritage means, in my honest and most sincere opinion, to take seriously the Ancient Tradition of our Faith.
The Hyperdispensationalists remind me, once again, why the Reformation isn’t over, and the call toward Evangelical Reform is as important now as it was five centuries ago.
Solus Christus–Christ Alone.
Sola Gratia–Grace Alone.
Sola Fides–Faith Alone.
Sola Crucis–Cross Alone.
Solum Evangelium–Gospel Alone.