Friday, February 25, 2011


I have in this blog been publishing a series of notes on The Sermon on the Mount. I started in 2007, when I happened to be teaching a class on this topic.  I did not publish a complete set then, and when I began to teach another class on the Sermon, I decided I needed to complete the notes. I’m still working on them.

However, it seems that some readers have picked up and begun to read my later notes, without referring to my earlier comments.  This has raised anew for some the question as to just who this Sermon is for.  I thought I’d explained my views in THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, 1).  But I believe I need to say more.

There are, I have found, a few old-time dispensationalists out there, readers of the Scofield Bible or Lewis Sperry Chafer, or some of his followers, who were taught that The Sermon on the Mount is not for us in this age.  Scofield and Chafer taught that the Sermon was part of “The Law of the Kingdom” that Jesus taught as he was presenting Himself to Israel as their King.  This “Law of the Kingdom” supposedly has to do with behavior in Christ’s future millennial kingdom and has no direct application for today.  It is assumed that I, as a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, which was founded by Lewis Sperry Chafer, should hold the same position.

I don’t.  And as I explained to one of those who held this assumption, many – perhaps most – Dallas Theological Seminary grads disagree with much of Chafer’s teaching on the Gospels and the Kingdom.  The main reason for my disagreement is that I find nowhere in the Scripture where these distinctions are made.  I believe that C. I. Scofield and L. S. Chafer invented these constructs to help explain what they perceived as apparent discrepancies.

However, the fact that I and other DTS grads disagree with L. S. Chafer comes as a surprise to those who think of this school as a bastion of Chafer’s brand of dispensationalism.  It isn’t!

At DTS I studied theology from what I would call an evangelical perspective.  Yes, we studied dispensationalism, but we also were taught to read widely and to think broadly and critically – to think theologically.  I should also add that I was 36 years of age when I began my studies there and had already read some major works in theology from many systems, including the works of the Reformers.

But I also learned how to study the Bible.  I still consider this the greatest part of the education that DTS gave me.  I learned to read the Bible in the original languages.  I learned principles of exegesis.  I still read my Bible regularly in Greek and Hebrew and use the principles I was taught.

I, for years, taught classes in theology and in Bible study at the College of Biblical Studies.  I found that the foundations that were laid at DTS were extremely valuable, though I have continued to attempt to expand my thinking (see DOING THEOLOGY).

There is, I feel, what appears to be a sort of schizophrenia in theological education.  On the one hand, we present a theological system as complete, while on the other we teach students to critically think through the Scriptures on their own.  On one hand we say “accept this” and on the other we say “question this.”

I believe, and have taught, that any theological system must be held a bit loosely, especially in the details.  It must always be held to account by what Scriptures say.  Theological systems are man-made attempts to organize the truths of the Scripture.  I am not, however, advocating an anything-goes theology.  There are some matters that must be held with absolute certainty while other matters can be held with less.  I believe that a major part of wisdom is knowing which is which.


XLT said...

I have to say, I never ran into that specific teaching about the Gospels at DTS. I had kind of heard about it, inklings here and there...

Not until recently had I run into someone who had really just latched onto it. It was fairly shocking to say the least:)... of course this same person had pretty low opinion of preaching OT from the pulpit it seemed. :)

Bill Ball said...

It's right there in Chafer's Theology, Vol.3,pp.23&24, as well as elsewhere. We had to buy the whole set, though not many profs required that we read much of it.

XLT said...

Yeah, I found it there after the fact... :) But I don't think I ever had any assigned reading in it, as odd as that might sound.

Anonymous said...

hi, new to the site, thanks.

Gabe said...

Its been a while since I've been in to read. I'm intrigued and looking forward to the "Sermon series" (I'll start with 1!)