Reflections of a Recovering Dispensationalist — a Book Review

October 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Theology | 2 Comments

I just read Reflections of a Recovering Dispensationalist by S. P. Sammons.  I picked up this book for two reasons.  First, I loved the title, because “Recovering Dispensationalist” could describe me as well as the author, though he knows far more than I do and was deeper into Dispensationalism than I was.  But second, when I saw recommendations by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss, two men whose work I have appreciated in the past, I decided it was worth a read.  Sammons’ writing is simple and straight forward, sometimes sounding almost simplistic, but that style fits the purposes of this book very well, since his point is that a simple interpretation of scripture led him to his conclusions.  The subtitle is Revisiting the Pretribulational Rapture in Light of a Literal Interpretation.  Sammons writes as an insider, having grown up a Dispensationalist and having attended a Dispensational seminary, but he has since abandoned that school of thought.   Since I began this blog with a promise to chart my journey from a pre-tribulation rapture position to a post-tribulation rapture position, I had to include this report.

The argument he makes over and over, for numerous tenants of Dispensational Theology, is two-fold.  First he states that these tenants are no where plainly stated in scripture.  For example, Sammons says, “The pretribulation rapture of the Church is a doctrine that is not directly stated in the Scriptures.  It is a doctrine that is based on a nineteenth century theology”  (p.103)  I would have added that, in some cases, the straightforward interpretation of scripture leads to the opposite of what Dispensationalists claim.  Sammons only touches on that in the second stage of his argument.  I’ve written about some of those examples before.

Second, Sammons shows that the tenants of Dispensationalism also cannot be drawn from the Bible.  That the literal/historic hermeneutic that the Dispensationalists claim to follow really doesn’t give the conclusions they claim, unless they assume those conclusions to begin with.  The only way one can arrive there is to come to the scriptures with a predisposed bent toward them.   For example, “I would submit that to attribute meaning that the Apostle Paul did not intend is not the result of a plain and normal interpretation; rather, it is the result of coming to the text with an interpretive agenda.  One must impose a predetermined theological filter  .  .  .  ” (p.108)  He says similar things throughout the book, using this same two-fold approach for other points of the system.

I suppose I liked the book because the author wrote what has been my theological journey over the past 30 some years of Bible study.  It’s always been my intent to understand the text of the Bible.  That lead me to many unanswered questions and contradictions concerning Dispensationalism.  I came to the conviction, at one point, just as Sammons did, that one has to have a predetermined Dispensational bent to come to a Dispensational conclusion.  It is a theology that isn’t drawn from scripture; it is one that is brought to the scriptures.

Sammons claims not to be a Covenant Theologian either, and though he doesn’t clearly offer an alternative system, he quotes books that would offer one.  He does however, graciously invite those of a Dispensational bent to ask themselves some tough questions about their own system of belief.  If you’re willing to hear an insider’s journey out of Dispensational theology, you will find this book very interesting.

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  1. For a long time I had no idea that there were any end times teachings other than a pre-tribulation rapture. Then for just a couple of years we attended a church that held an amillennial view, but they never explained what it meant.

    Then for five years we belonged to a church that had an interesting view that the Christians would go through a large portion of the tribulation, and would not be caught out (raptured) until the 7th trumpet sounded. Then the Battle of Armageddon, would occur when the last of seven vials is poured out.

    He believed that that Jesus Christ has already fulfilled the first 1185 days of the last week of Daniel 9:27, and that instead of 2520 days remaining, we only have 1335 days left to be fulfilled. He explained that when Daniel’s clock begins to tick again to finally complete the Age of the Gentiles and Daniel’s 70th week, it will only have to tick for 1335 days. He believed that at the end all of the days would add up to seven years, but they were not seven consecutive years. He wrote three books on the subject. I personally never read them, but he preached a lot on the subject of prophecy.

    I don’t think he was a dispensationalist…if I am truly understanding what a dispensationalist is. He believed that all people of all ages were saved by grace through faith in the promised Messiah that would crush the serpents head. The sacrifices made in the Old Testament were not what saved the people of that age, but rather depicted what Jesus, the Lamb of God, would accomplish.

  2. I made a mistake in my comment. I made it sound like that pastor believed that all people would be save and that nobody would go to Hell. That is not what I meant. Sorry about that.


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