Does Dispensationalism Teach Two Modes of Salvation? (Part 2)

As we said in Part 1, (see here) any system at its core, dispensationalism included, can only be measured by the bulk of its teachers. We do not claim that every single person claiming to be a dispensationalist is orthodox, but this is true in any theological system. We do claim that Lewis Sperry Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary, likely the largest seminary in the world which graduated the most dispensational pastors. Chafer studied under C. I. Scofield, one of the key early figures in dispensationalism. Chafer also systematized dispensationalism into a theology proper, publishing his Systematic Theology near his death in 1952.  Chafer’s theology was taught at DTS directly to tens of thousands of seminary students over at least 70 years. With his extensive writings and influence, Chafer represents the body of teaching that defines dispensationalism.

We do not have to guess at what Chafer’s position was on the charge of more than one mode of salvation. In the mid-1940’s, a group of Presbyterians charged Chafer with exactly that: more than one mode of salvation. As editor of the journal Bibliotheca Sacra, Chafer responded directly in two editorials. I quote the relevant sections of his responses here. I quote this at length to remove confusion about his point:

False and damaging statements are included in this report which are a libel of immeasurable proportions. It is no slight injury to an individual when a Committee declares before a Presbyterian Assembly what is utterly false. The report states that the Editor of BIBLIOTHECA SACRA teaches “a dispensational view of God’s various and divergent plans of salvation for various groups in different ages.” To this it is answered, as answered before, that the Editor has never held such views and that he yields first place to no man in contending that a holy God can deal with sin in any age on any other ground than that of the blood of Christ. The references cited by the Committee from the Editor’s writings have no bearing on salvation whatever, but concern the rule of life which God has given to govern His people in the world. He has addressed a rule of life to Israel on the ground that they are His covenant people. Observing the rule of life did not make them covenant people. In like manner, God has addressed a rule of life with heavenly standards to the believers of this age; not as a means of salvation, but because they are saved.[1]

 

And again:

The present ill-conceived wave of resentment which is being fostered by Covenant theologians against dispensational distinctions in Biblical interpretation has centered its contention on the assertion that those who recognize dispensational distinctions—especially the late Dr. C. I. Scofield and the Editor of Bibliotheca Sacra—teach that there are two ways by which one may be saved—one by law-observance and one by faith in Christ. It seems not to occur to the men who frame their protests against dispensational teachings that their contentions have no basis whatever upon which to rest, nor do they estimate the injury to other men when they, attempting to state what dispensationalists believe, publish what is utterly untrue . . .

Are there two ways by which one may be saved? In reply to this question it may be stated that salvation of whatever specific character is always the work of God in behalf of man and never a work of man in behalf of God. This is to assert that God never saved any one person or group of persons on any other ground than that righteous freedom to do so which the Cross of Christ secured. There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.

. . . man never contributes anything to his salvation whether he be one who keeps the Law or one who trusts Christ alone apart from human works. The colossal error which supplies any point to the contention of those who accuse others of believing that there are two ways by which the lost may be saved is just this, that neither works nor faith of themselves can ever save anyone. It is God’s undertaking and always on the ground, not of works or faith, but on the blood of Christ.

God has assigned different human requirements in various ages as the terms upon which He Himself saves on the ground of the death of Christ . . .

First, God imputed righteousness to Abraham, which righteousness is the foremost feature of God’s salvation, on the sole ground that Abraham believed or amened God. Abraham believed God respecting a son whom he would himself generate. . .

Second, God imputes righteousness to those in this age who believe, which righteousness is the foremost feature of salvation, on the one demand that they believe; but this belief is not centered in a son which each individual might generate, as in the case of Abraham, but in the Son whom God has given to a lost world, who died for the world and whom God has raised from the dead to be a Saviour of those who do believe. . . From this it will be seen that, though the specific object of faith—Isaac in the case of Abraham and Jesus Christ in the case of those becoming Christians—varies, both have a promise of God on which to rest and both believe God. It does not follow that men of all ages may be saved by believing any promise of God; it is only such promises as God has Himself made to be the terms upon which He will save. Both Abraham and the Christian come by faith under transforming power and neither one saves himself. He is saved by God alone and only through the righteous freedom which the death of Christ provides whereby a holy God can save sinful man. . .

. . . This redemption was confirmed, as was all Old Testament redemption, by Christ on the Cross. . . When [Israel is] saved it will be because One died for that nation and on that righteous ground alone, which death for them they will then be moved by the Holy Spirit to accept by faith. . .

Thus it is disclosed that the salvation of an Israelite, who lived in the Mosaic age, which age will be completed in the coming Tribulation, was guaranteed by covenant; yet the individual could, by failing to do God’s revealed will as contained in the Mosaic Law, sacrifice his place in the coming Kingdom and be cut off from his people (cf. Lk. 10:25–28; 18:18–21; Matt. 8:11, 12; 24:50, 51; 25:29, 30). Jehovah’s salvation of Israel will be on the ground of Christ’s death. The human terms, because of the covenant promise regarding their salvation, are not the same as that required of Abraham or of any individual in this age, whether Jew or Gentile.

Once again and finally let it be asserted, that salvation of any character or of any people or upon any varied human terms is the work of God in behalf of man and is righteously executed by God on the sole basis of the death of Christ. It is puerile to intimate that there could be a salvation achieved alone by the power of either law-works or faith. It is only God’s power set free through Christ’s death that can save and it is always and only through Christ’s death, whatever the human responsibility may be.[2]

 

Further, many well-known dispensational teachers such as  J. Vernon McGee have very public teaching ministries that teach salvation through faith in Christ alone. Surely no one can listen to McGee and determine anything other than his sole focus on Christ.

Personally, I was a member and sometimes bible teacher at two dispensational churches for about 18 years and I was only taught salvation in Christ as the only way of salvation, never once hearing of a supposed two means of salvation. Directly, I am a dispensationalist and I affirm salvation in Christ alone. I deny that old testament saints, or any other, could achieve salvation in any other means except that of faith in Christ. For those who insist on continuing in the false idea that dispensationalists teach two salvations, what do you do of me and my testimony?

A few quotes were given to my first post. These will be dealt with in the next post.

NOTE added 12/22/19:  The key phrase in all this seems to be the following, as quoted above: “the salvation of an Israelite, who lived in the Mosaic age, which age will be completed in the coming Tribulation, was guaranteed by covenant; yet the individual could, by failing to do God’s revealed will as contained in the Mosaic Law, sacrifice his place in the coming Kingdom and be cut off from his people.”  The key words here are that an OT Israelite is saved by God’s election with sin bought by Christ’s death. If such a person disobeyed the law, they would sacrifice their position in the coming kingdom age. This would be no different than a saved Christian in the present age who did not obey God.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Henry Bennetch, “Editorials,” Bibliotheca Sacra 101 (1944): 258–259.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Henry Bennetch, “Editorials,” Bibliotheca Sacra 102 (1945): 1–5.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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