As an Army chaplain, I was around people from various theological backgrounds. As a dispensationalist, I was in the minority. I even attended a couple of seminaries that were non-dispensational. On more than one occasion I have been called crazy. I was the butt of many jokes.
Those who called me crazy pointed out that J. N. Darby must have been crazy when he came up with dispensationalism; he developed the idea after hitting his head when he fell off a horse. C. I. Scofield, the man who popularized the system, was immoral. The Church is the new Israel and has replaced it. Dispensationalism divides the Scriptures into segments and allows us to pick and choose which ones apply to us. The heresy of Free Grace theology sprung from doing just that. You’re nuts if you buy into all that junk.
The ministry of John the Baptist is a subject related to these charges. As a dispensationalist, I would point out that John was sent to the Nation of Israel. His message was not for the Church or for unbelievers today. The wrath he warned his hearers about was God’s judgment that fell in AD 70 when the Romans burned Jerusalem to the ground.
Non-dispensationalists would insist I was wrong. They said that we are to preach the same message John did. John wanted people saved from the wrath of hell. His message to the Jews in the first century is the message for the Church and for unbelievers today. These non-dispensationalists would sometimes tell me that I believe John is speaking to Israel and not to people today because I don’t take sin seriously. John called for repentance and as a Free Grace guy, I don’t like that message. Therefore, those non-dispensationalists would say, that is why we dispensationalists say we don’t have to listen to John and why we make a distinction between Israel and the Church. The attack would normally conclude with their saying something like, “Dispensationalists like Ken think you can live however you want and still go to heaven. He is crazy!”
I don’t mind being attacked for my theological views or being the butt of jokes. However, when given the opportunity, I would counterattack. If we were talking about John the Baptist, I might appeal to his preaching in Luke 3:7-11. My non-dispensational opponents would say that John gives us the pattern for evangelism today. If we preach the way John did, we will save people from hell.
Well, it’s interesting that in Luke 3:7-14, which records John’s preaching, he does not mention faith. He does not mention eternal life. He doesn’t even mention Christ. He doesn’t mention the death and resurrection of Christ. But he sure talks a lot about sin. He demands that his hearers stop sinning.
Usually, my non-dispensational acquaintances would say that we are saved from hell by grace through faith and that we need to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ. John mentions none of these things. That seems strange if we are supposed to preach the same message John did.
A couple of things John did say show that it’s even stranger to compare John’s preaching to the preaching of Evangelical non-dispensationalists today. For example, John yelled at his audience and called them a “brood of vipers” (v 7). I think this refers to the corrupt religious leaders who were leading the Nation of Israel into rebellion against God (Matt 3:7). The non-dispensationalist rejects that distinction and says it is for all unbelievers.
But how many of these non-dispensationalists call the unbelievers who come to their churches the offspring of poisonous snakes? Every time I hear them talk about evangelism, they say we need to reach out to unbelievers. We need to make them feel welcome. We need to meet them in the parking lot and ask them if there is anything we can do for them. We need to give them some coffee and donuts, make them our friends, show them that we love them, and tell them that God does too.
Excuse me, but that is not what John did.
Another thing John told his hearers was that if they had two shirts, they were to give one to a poor person. As a dispensationalist, I say John was rebuking the nation for failing to do what the OT prophets said. The Jews were to avoid social sins such as abusing the poor.
But the non-dispensationalist says this is what the unbeliever needs to do to get into heaven. What does that look like? Do we tell the unbeliever who has two cars that he must give one of them to somebody who doesn’t have one? Is this what he must do to show he is really saved? I have never heard that in a sermon.
The bottom line is this: Non-dispensationalists say their message is the same as John’s. The reader will have to determine who is crazy.