Dr. Glenn R. Kreider is Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Along with Jeffrey Bingham, he has edited, Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption: A Developing and Diverse Tradition (Moody Press, 2015). The new work has the potential of defining and clarifying dispensationalism for both the modern academy and the church. Dr. Kreider graciously agreed to an interview in association with the publication of the book.
Dr. Kreider, first, tell us a little about your church and educational background as relates to dispensationalism. Did any of this play a role in your reasons for writing this volume?
I was born into a dispensational family, came to faith in a dispensational church, was trained in two dispensational schools, and now teach at Dallas Theological Seminary. My roots are firmly planted in this tradition. The more I have studied the Bible and the more I have studied the history of interpretation, the more I am convinced that dispensationalism is a legitimate hermeneutical approach. In my view, it seems to be the best way to read the Bible.
This book grew out of a frustration with the way dispensationalism has been represented by its critics, as well as the need to provide an overview of the tradition today for both friends and foes. (A third group, those who are unaware of dispensationalism, might be the largest.) For example, as recently as today, I read the claim (in print, in a book published by an evangelical publisher in 2015) that all dispensationalists believe in several ways of salvation. It has been 40 years since Ryrie’s Dispensationalism Today. We thought it time to provide a summary of dispensationalism as it currently exists.
I notice that the writers come from diverse ethnic traditions, which itself is unique for an evangelical theological volume. How did you decide on the contributors to the volume?
Our intent was to represent the diversity that exists in dispensationalism. Dispensationalism always has been a diverse tradition, with a worldwide impact. We thought that diversity should be represented in the contributors.
The writers of the essays fall into three categories. Several of them were our teachers. Several of them were our colleagues. Several of them were our students. They are all competent scholars in biblical and theological studies, as well as a pastor and a missionary/theologian. And all of them are our friends.
Early in the book you write to dispel some misperceptions about dispensationalism. What are one or two of the most important misperceptions you address?
I have mentioned already the repeated assertion that dispensationalism is heretical because it denies that salvation always has been by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It seems that this one simply will not die, no matter how many times and how emphatically dispensational writers respond.
Another major misperception is that dispensationalism is a hermeneutical approach that is imposed upon the Bible. The claim is that no one ever has read the Bible this way, until recently, and that no one ever would read the Bible this way unless taught to do so. I believe that, although dispensationalism as a system is relatively recent, most Christians have seen distinguishable periods in redemptive history where God has dealt with his people differently. And, I think a reasonable case can be made that this is the way the Bible should be read.
A related misconception is that dispensationalism is largely concerned with eschatology. We try to show in the book that although dispensationalism does hold to a pretribulational premillennial eschatology, the tradition is much more than that.
Some would say that dispensationalism’s late foray into church history makes it suspect with respect to conforming to orthodoxy. How would you respond to such a charge?
It is true that dispensationalism as a system is recent. But there are no doctrines of Christian orthodoxy that are denied or ignored by dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is a subset of Christian orthodoxy, holding to the trinity, full deity and humanity of Christ, inspiration of Scripture, substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the bodily resurrection of Christ and his bodily return, the resurrection of the dead, etc.
What is one significance of holding to a dispensational theology for practical church ministry?
Dispensationalism, like every other Christian tradition, provides the hope of resurrection and the redemption of all things. There is nothing more practical or more significant than the gospel. Dispensationalism recognizes progressive revelation and the redemptive trajectory in God’s relationship with his world. Dispensationalism, as a biblical hermeneutic, helps the student of the Scripture to read, and thus apply, the biblical story to life and ministry today.
What do you hope the broader, evangelical academic community will gain from reading this work?
I hope that dispensationalists will understand the breadth and the diversity of this tradition and that non-dispensationalists will understand that some of what they have been taught about dispensationalism is not accurate. Our goal is understanding.
Also by Glenn R. Kreider
Jonathan Edward’s Interpretation of Revelation 4:1-8:1
God With Us: Exploring God’s Personal Interactions with His People Throughout the Bible