The core beliefs of fundamentalism are;
- The Bible is inspired by God
- The Bible has been preserved accurately through the ages by God, so what we have now is literally God’s word to us.
- The Bible should be taken literally unless there is an obvious compelling reason not to do so.
- The Bible is relevant to us today.
- We are in a war between God and Satan as God has an overarching plan to restore His creation back to its original state of perfection.
The fundy flavor I was raised with taught a version of theology called Dispensationalism. It basically groups the different time eras of the Bible into 7 time segments or ‘dispensations’ or ‘economies’. In this theology, the words ‘progressive revelation’ are used. This means that God interacts differently with the people in each different time segment, and reveals more information as time passes on. In a way, it’s like a video game with different levels that give you varying options as you progress through the game.
Here’s an example of this idea: Under the Dispensation of Law, God gave a specific instruction for how average Joe Israel was to approach Him. Joe Israel had to bring a Sin-offering to the priest, he would stand over the animal he was going to kill, and confess his sins, then kill the animal as a sacrifice for his sins.
Today, Dispensationalists claim we are in the Dispensation of Grace. In this economy, Jesus was the perfect unblemished ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He was punished for our sins, so that we can pray directly to God the Father anytime without the need to approach a priest with an animal sacrifice.
We are taught that the animal sacrifices of old were symbolic, a foretelling of what Jesus would do for us.
But here’s the thing. . .your average Joe Israelite had no idea of this. The priests didn’t think this. They were too exhausted slaughtering animals, making sacrifices. (Given the assumed size of Israel at the time, and the number of priests listed to serve them, have you ever thought about the numbers of animals each priest had to kill for each sacrifice? In passing, without too much thought, I’ve wondered if this was even feasible?) Anyway. . .the average Joe Blow Israelite did not have a ‘personal relationship’ with God. He had a whole lot of rules to follow. It doesn’t appear that God cared to interact with ‘His chosen people’ on a personal level as we are taught today.
That strikes me as pretty weird.
As long as I’m on this, general path, I don’t believe that the idea of hell is mentioned in the Old Testament either. Or believe on Jesus, accept Him into your heart and thou shalt be saved. Not so much. So assuming that all the Israelites just naturally believed and worshiped God under the Dispensation of Law, did they just all go to heaven when they died? But surely over hundreds of years, the average Joe Israelite didn’t see spectacular miracles, didn’t have a Bible, didn’t have a ‘personal relationship’. What he did have was a strongly connected tribal social structure, along with many laws and penalties to follow. It wouldn’t seem unusual to me to consider the possibility that many Israelites were born, followed the rules in their culture the best they could, and died without much awareness of any ‘personal, loving God’.
And this says nothing of the Chinese culture, or any other cultures that existed during these times.
I was presented Biblical history using this Dispensationalist structure as the foundation. I understood all of history through this filter, which somehow ignored all the other people in the world. If it addressed them at all, they were still said to be accountable because they had the truth originally prior to the Tower of Babel. All other nations were said to have lost the truth about God due to their choices to sin. Wow!
At the same time, I was taught that God either knows or chooses who will get saved, and doesn’t need any of us to accomplish His will. And yet, Paul, (inspired by God according to what I was taught) also says in Romans 10:14
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
So let me summarize this twisted logic here. . .
a. God created mankind, and interacts differently with mankind during different historical time periods; ie. . .God has different rules for people during different time periods, and expects mankind to respond to Him accordingly.
b. God expects all mankind to acknowledge, obey, and know Him. It doesn’t count if someone grew up in a culture that is far removed from God, because the light of truth was extinguished over time by each generations choices to ignore what knowledge had been given to them about God originally.
c. Every human, therefore, is individually accountable to believe in God regardless of their level of knowledge, culture, because the obvious magnificence of nature would require a Creator. (Of course, merely believing in a creator is a long way from believing in a personal God of the Bible!)
d. God has an unfolding plan which He reveals to succeeding generations of mankind.
e. God, by definition, needs nobody to execute His plan to reclaim the universe.
f. God inspired Paul to write, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
g. Yet, in this Dispensation, all men are going to hell by default for their lack of belief in God regardless if they’ve heard or not. Paul also wrote in Romans 1:18-20 the following;
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
Bottom line, I think that Dispensationalism is a synthetic man made theology that attempts to glue the completely different teachings of the Bible in the Old Testament with the New Testament.
Because, what if you just read the Bible as it is written without this tool?
What would you think then?