Covenant Theology vs. Dispensational Theology


Dispensationalism– A Futurist, Biblical interpretation that foresees a series of “dispensations” or periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different biblical covenants.(according to the most credible source, wikipedia)

In my words, Gods interactions with man change through different time periods. These time periods are called dispensations.
Covenant Theology-a conceptual overview and interpretive framework for understanding the overall flow of the bible. It uses the theological concept of covenant as an organizing principle for Christian theology(another Wikipedia definition).
In my words, God deals with mankind under different covenants.

Where they disagree:

 Covenant Theology emphasizes that God’s interactions with man are the same but the covenant’s are what changes the interactions. With Dispensationalism, the “dispensations” or time periods are what changes the interaction. Another good source for differences.

Supporters of:

Charles Ryrie, D L Moody, Cyrus Scofield, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, Dwight Pentecost, 
Covenant Theology:
R C Sproul, J I Packer, Sinclaire Ferguson, Michael Horton 
There is a third leg that is jumbled in there with these two called New Covenant Theology. Here is another chart for the three people left reading that are interested.

As for me…

 I just don’t know. I was a student of Charles Ryrie, who was heavily dispensational. I also have studied under the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where many of my professors have been either New Covenant or Covenant Theologians. I would have to say that the ideas of covenant theology make more sense then dispensationalism. But with that, neither one is clear in scriptures.

One response to “Covenant Theology vs. Dispensational Theology

  1. Mark, The definitions on both camps is weak. Yes, God does deal with mankind in different ways during different time periods but there are covenant theologians who have anywhere from 2-6 dispensations based on the Biblical term rather than theological term. The difference is not in covenants or dispensations – those are peripheral to the basic issue. The basic issue is that Covenant Theology believes God has put aside Israel entirely and that the church has taken Israel’s place in future things. The basic problem is that neither is a or should be a system of interpretation. Both should be the response to the literal interpretation of Scripture. Dispensationalism takes the Bible literally, which includes the prophets. Covenant Theology does not take the prophets literally though they are the result of the necessity of taking the Bible literally at the time of the Reformation. If both camps took the Bible literally, the difference would be only in two or three covenants make in the garden which the Bible does not declare are covenants. Two or Three in how you look at it. They are: 1) The covenant of works and 2) the Covenant of Grace and 3) the covenant of Redemption. Some covenant folk hold the Covenant of Grace includes the Covenant of Redemption and so it is either two or three covenants. The Dispensationalists also have covenants – 7 to be exact. The real dividing point is a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture which leads to the maintaining of God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7:12-16) as an eternal covenant or one that was done away when Israel was expelled from the land due to unbelief. This produces a problem with God’s wording through His prophets as to the promise to David

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