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The comments has strayed form the original post and we're currently discussing the the perspicuity of Scripture and reading the methodology for understanding the words of the Old Testament. He's surely coming in at this from a non-dispensational position.

The question here is on the You and Your Dispensational hermeneutic. What is your goal asdispensationalists when reading scriptures? Is it to maximize literalness? Is it to find some sort of interpretation that coincides with the perspective of the New Testament? Is it something else? I understand Ryrie's tripartite sine quo non but I'm not aiming at what the Big Boy Dispies say, but you, as a Dispensationalists on the ground.

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I would say the approach should always be the normative, or "plain language" approach -- which recognizes narrative versus symbolic language, and not try to second-guess God and say that a narrative text is impossible to fulfill -- impossible perhaps from our reference point, but not from the final end times reference point. I continue to find that, more and more, the plain, literal meaning is exactly what God means.

An example of what I mean : Horatius Bonar wrote in the mid-19th century, and generally held very strongly to the plain language, literal-grammatical-historical hermenuetic, and criticized those who would generalize whole chapters of prophecy as being some simple statement about the future glory of the church, because there is so much more detail there that is important.

But then he too stumbled a bit when he came across some narrative texts that -- to him -- seemed impossible to fulfill literally. He especially had a problem with the description in Revelation 11:8-10, and how that could possibly mean a literal 3 1/2 days. He wrote:

"Now, is it possible, that within three days and a half, people of the different nations even of the prophetic earth should be able to come together to the street of the great city, and see these bodies lying? Or is it possible, that within that short space the intelligence of their death should be so universally diffused, that men should have time to congratulate each other, and send gifts one to the other in token of their common joy? We can hardly conceive this possible."

Obviously we have no problem understanding how that passage can indeed be fulfilled literally -- God has brought to pass, in His providence and sovereign purposes, the very technology to answer Bonar's questions. The literal, plain meaning of a text is the correct meaning, as we see from the prophecies concerning our Lord's first coming.

Matt Weymeyer in his recent Shepherd's Conference talk, exposition of Revelation 20, pointed out the following three guidelines for interpreting a text as literal or not:

1. Does it possess a degree of absurdity when taken literally? Example: Isaiah 55:12 “the trees of the fields will clap their hands.”
2. Does it possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically? Symbolic language effectively communicates what it symbolizes.
Isaiah 55:12 does possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically.
3. Does it fall into an established category of symbolic language? — figures of speech, etc. You have to be able to identify what kind of symbol you’re dealing with. Isaiah 55:12 is a Personification type of symbol.

He specifically applied these three questions to the matter of Rev. 20 "thousand years" being symbolic or not, and indeed the "thousand years" as symbolic fails those three questions. Certainly these three points can be applied to any text in question, such as the text in Isaiah 11 mentioned in that blog you referenced. I would classify his question about Isaiah 11 as similar to Horatius Bonar's problem with Revelation 11.
It's to find out what the text means. Whether that's through a plain (or literal) interpretation or an allegorical (or spiritual).  I see the two ways as necessary in understanding both a particular text as well as God's full revelation to the world.  Does every text have two meanings?  Mmm...not sure.  But do some have more that one (literal) meaning?  I'd say, without question, Yes! Abosulte literalness does not hold up to the apostles' own interpretations.  So I guess an interpretation that coincides with the perspective of the New Testament would be my goal, depending on what you mean.

When I read Scripture I try to understand what it says and means. I try to take the context into account - book/section/paragraph. If I'm studying, then the historical, grammatical and literary aspects can help to enlighten my understanding or even change it. What I'm saying is that the details of reading and study are really not much different than how non-dispensationalists approach Scripture.

I have discovered that what does make me different as a dispensationalist is the emphasis on progressive revelation. I know there is a lot of talk about literalness, but trying to define literal is a lot like trying to handle a wet fish. There are references to a sine qua non, but even there the number varies from 1 to 7. In the meantime lots of dispensationalists who have never heard of these things plug away at reading Scripture through a dispensationalist lens. I believe that somewhere along the way, the idea and emphasis of progressive revelation was communicated, we buy into it as a presupposition and that shapes how we approach Scripture - at least in the big sense.

The progressive revelation approach to Scripture gives rise to just about everything we hold as dispensationalists. For example, God promised the land to the nation of Israel, then when they are in the land, God promises Israel a future restoration - particularly when they are about to come under judgment. It seems  arbitrary to us for anyone to separate "judged Israel" from a future "restored Israel" when we see them as the same nation. Its seems arbitrary to us when someone says that the "land promises" have been substituted for something more "spiritual."  And its not that non-dispensationalists don't believe in progressive revelation, its just that they don't put as heavy an emphasis on progressive revelation (as Walter Kaiser said).

 

So for any non-dispensationalist who wants to understand dispensationalists better, I would tell them to put on a pair of heavily emphasized progressive revelation glasses, then start reading Scripture in book order.

 

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