One of my favorite theological writers is Henry Thiessen. His Lectures in Systematic
Theology was one of my texts in grad school; and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Right at the beginning of the text, he writes this:
For generations theology has been considered the queen of the sciences and systematic
theology the crown of the queen. Theology itself is the science of God and his works
and systematic theology is the systematizing of the findings of that science.
Or, if I might rephrase: The established doctrines of Systematic Theology are the
crown jewels of all of the scientific disciplines. Those established doctrines are
typically broken into 9 doctrines (sometimes 10 or 11, depending on how the major
doctrines are categorized). They are:
Bibliology - the Bible
Theology Proper - God the Father
Christology - Jesus Christ
Anthropology - mankind (and sometimes distinct from Hamartiology: the doctrine of
Soteriology - salvation
Pneumatology - the Holy Spirit
Angelology - angelic beings (and sometimes distinct from Demonology: Satan’s kingdom)
Ecclesiology - the Church
Eschatology - End Times events
Most of the classic Systematics are Calvinistic in their theology - including Hodge’s
& Strong’s. Modern Systematics like Wayne Grudem’s1 are also Calvinistic. One of
the key concepts in Calvinism is “Replacement Theology.” Replacement Theology teaches
that God is completely finished with the nation of Israel as a covenant people, and
that the literal promises that God made to the nation of Israel have not only been
ended, but they have spiritually been applied to the church. While not all Calvinists
utilize Replacement Theology (John MacArthur is an example of a Calvinist who rejects
replacement theology), the vast majority of Calvinists are Amillennial because they
adhere to replacement theology.
Dispensationalism, as a distinct branch of theology, sees the unconditional and unrealized
covenants that God made with Israel as still yet to be fulfilled. That’s why we believe
that there still is to come an Earthly Kingdom of Israel with Christ sitting on the
literal & eternal throne of David. That is an unfulfilled promise that God made to
David (2Sam 7). Will God lie (Titus 1:2)? Will He repent (1Sam 15:29)? Of course
not. Replacement Theology is based on the tenet that God can lie and/or repent of
His unconditional promises.
It has only been during the last 100 years that Dispensationalism has become systematized.
During that time, dispensational theologians have organized and refined their theology
from a dispensational point of view.
Clarence Larkin “photgraphed” dispensationalism with his dozens and dozens of famous
charts. While notable in error concerning the Age of the Earth, his charts are still
quite helpful indeed in distinguishing dispensations one from another.
Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote the magnus opus, not only for himself, but for the entire
dispensational movement, when he penned his eight volume Systematic Theology - the
single greatest Systematic Theology ever written. Users of eSword & theWord can economically
purchase these volumes as premium modules for their software.
John Walvoord, the man who succeeded Chafer at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote
dozens of books - many of which are available for free online, and are important
contributions to dispensational theology. (They are relatively easy to convert to
modules for your personal module library, by the way.)
Charles Ryrie continued to sharpen dispensational theology with seminal works like
The Ryrie Study Bible, Dispensationalism/Dispensationalism Today, and Basic Theology
(which is available as a premium eSword module).
That brings me to a fellow that, I’m guessing, most of us have never heard of: Arnold
Fruchtenbaum. He is a messianic Jew who studied theology under Ryrie. He is a theologian,
and a thinker. He, too, has contributed to the theology of dispensationalism with
multiple excellent books. One work with a particularly interesting title is “Israelology:
The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.” In his Introduction he says
The issue of Israel is one of the major points of division in evangelical theology
today. This is true both among Arminians and Calvinists. An evangelical theologian’s
view of Israel will determine whether he is a Covenant Theologian or a Dispensationalist.
It will also determine what kind of Covenant Theologian he is: postmillennial, amillennial,
or premillennial. The question of Israel is central for a proper Systematic Theology
. . . . Yet, while there are many Systematic Theologies today which have systematized
all areas of biblical truth, none thus far have developed an Israelology as part
of their system.
As good as Chafer, Walvoord & Ryrie are in their dispensational theologies, Fruchtenbaum
hits the nail squarely on the head. If one’s view of Israel is central to one’s theology,
then, one’s view of Israel should be a central component of Systematic Theology.
The concept of an “Israelology” is so new, there is not much yet written in this
area. But there is some; and some of it has been made available as modules for eSword
I’m pleased to be able to bring you an entire doctrinal subsection called “Israelology.”
In it are some great works, both ancient and modern. Some focus on history; others
on prophecy. But the common core of these modules is the viewpoint that God will
keep His unconditional promises to the nation of Israel. He will not lie; He will
not repent. What He has said, He will perform. “Hath He spoken, and shall He not
make it good?” (Num 23:19).
*Grudem is premillennial; but he is not pre-tribulational. His reason? Israel is
not to be distinguished from the church (ie - replacement theology). “But it must
be said that behind this argument of pretribulationists is probably a more fundamental
concern: the desire to preserve a distinction between the church (which they think
will be taken up into heaven to be with Christ) and Israel (which they think will
constitute the people of God on earth during the tribulation and then during the
millennial kingdom). But, as we noted in an earlier chapter, . . . the New Testament
does not support a distinction of this kind between Israel and the church. Hence
it does not imply a need to see a distinction between these groups at the time of
the tribulation and the millennium.” (Chapter 55 - “The Millennium.”)