Are You Reformed and a Dispensationalist? Yes!

(I just ran across this brief article by Erik Raymond in a search on “Calvinism and Dispensationalism” – since I sometimes feel like I’m the only human being on the planet that adheres to both of these teachings in my theology – but in reality the few words below explain exactly what I believe and I think a few other men you may have heard of as well – John MacArthur, James Montgomery Boice, Erwin Lutzer, Steve Lawson, Thomas Ice, John Hannah, Robert Saucy, and S. Lewis Johnson – to name a few [DPC])

Labels are often difficult. It is usually better to define terms before endorsing or rejecting them.

By saying I am a dispensationalist I mean the following:

(1) I see a distinction between the church and the nation of Israel

(2) I see a future for the nation of Israel

(3) I employ a consistent literal historical-grammatical approach to Bible interpretation

(4) The major theme in the Scriptures is the glory of God

Also, by saying I am a dispensationalist I also believe the following:

(1) I do not see multiple ways of salvation in the Bible, sinners are saved by grace through faith (whether Paul or Abraham, cf. Rom. 4.1-5)

(2) I do not believe that some parts of the New Testament are not for us today (i.e. the Sermon on the Mount)

(3) I do not believe that Jesus may be our Savior without being our Lord

Some people think it is odd that we could be both Reformed and Dispensational. I like to remind folks that it is the same approach to the Bible that produces both for me. I am not Reformed because Calvin was Reformed and I am not Dispensational because Ryrie is. I think the Bible teaches Reformed soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and Dispensational eschatology (doctrine of things to come).

Amen Erik – I couldn’t agree more! [DPC]

About the Author: Erik Raymond has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at This brief article was adapted from his website on February 16, 2007.

Author: lifecoach4God

I am the Lead Pastor of Marin Bible Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca., and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 30 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and seven grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: (1) Intimacy with God, (2) marriage, (3) family, (4) friendship, (5) vocationally/ministry , (6) emotional and physical health, (7) stewardship of resources, (8) discipleship, and (9) mentoring.

12 thoughts on “Are You Reformed and a Dispensationalist? Yes!”

  1. Good luck in redefining the Word Reformed. So can I call myself an Arminian and deny free-will? Thats what you are doing, trying to claim to be reformed by denying Covenant Theology. Those men like John Mac are not reformed but Calvinistic big difference.

    1. Hello Joseph, John MacArthur is unabashedly a Calvinst but not a Covenant Theologian. Neither was James Montgomery Boice – who founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals – now headed up by Covenant Theologian – Michael Horton. It really depends on how narrow or broad your definition of reformed is. I’m not concerned about being “Reformed” so much as I am being “Biblical” – in accordance with what the whole counsel of Scripture teaches about all aspects of Theology. I’m not redefining anything. it just so happens that I agree with the Refomers on 95% of what they taught. I have a problem with NOT making a distinction of Israel and the Church; with infant Baptism; and consubstantiation or the real presence view of the Lord’s Supper. If that doesn’t make people like John MacArthur, and myself – “Reformed” – than so be it. I have read both sides on the issues of baptism; the Lord’s Supper and eschatology (easily over 100 books on these subjects) and I have yet to be convinced that the so-called “Reformed” position on these issues is definitively correct, and believe that the Biblical evidence for the “Baptistic” and “Dispensational” positions far outweighs most of those in the “Reformed” camp. I love my brothers and sisters in both camps! But obviously no one is 100% accurate on every interpretation of Scripture – even R.C. Sproul and J.I. Packer disagree on Eschatology & Luther and Melanchton had differing views on The Lord’s Supper and aspects of Soteriology. I care deeply about Theology and strive to be the best interpreter of Scripture I can be – but the overwhelming evidence in Scripture is that speaking the truth in love is more important than what theological camp one is in. The term “disciple” is used over 300 times in the NT – the word “Reformed” is never used – so ultimately my greatest concern is that those who follow Christ are constantly “learning” about and following Jesus with all their mind, soul, and strength and seeking to exalt and honor The Lord Jesus Christ as we love Him and our neighbors by our words and actions that reflect the truth of the Gospel.

    1. Hello – There are a few that are Reformed and Dispensational – Steven J. Lawson; Robert Saucy; Erwin Lutzer; James Boice; S. Lewis Johnson – Most Dispensational theologians lean Arminian and most Reformed theologians are non-dispensational – so in reality theologians who believe exactly like MacArthur are rare.

      1. James Boice wasn’t dispensational, he was a Covenant Theologian, historic premill. From what I know he was a dispensationalist early in his ministry, but changed. His definition of “reformed” is not as narrow as most reformed people want it to be though. According to his definition, we Calvinist Dispensationalists are “reformed”.
        (Similar notes are in the Reformation bible, notes he wrote).

        Anyway, you are certainly not alone. There are many of us. If you are on facebook, you can find some of us in a group called “Calvinist Dispensationalists, Unite!”.

      2. Yes, I think he moved away from a Dispensational outlook in his last years. His book Last Days (1972) definitely leans Dispensational. He argues for a pretribulational rapture. I think he was influenced by Barnhouse – his predecessor early in his pastorate. I will check out the site you recommended on Facebook. Thank you.

  2. S. Lewis Johnson also moved away from and rejected the Dispensational outlook. How do I know this? I mailed him a letter in 1994 with a bunch of questions on different things and he wrote back with a lengthy letter and one of his comments had to do with that. He said for me to listen to his messages from 1985 on concerning prophecy and ‘you would have noted some changes in my own understanding of the Word,’ meaning Dispensationalism. He said he was still Premill.

    1. Hello Bill,

      I have listened to his series on Daniel, Revelation, and Eschatology. As I have talked with men who knew him well – it seems that he moved to more of a Progressive view of Dispensationalism – That’s what I hold to as well. Blessings to you, David

  3. Hi David,

    Well, I have his letter to me in my hands, dated August 4, 1994, little less than 10 years before he died. I had listened to his tapes from Believer’s Chapel for years. I had lived in Dallas briefly 10 years earlier and had bought my Dallas phone book back home to FL. I found his address and mailed my letter to his home on Ashridge Dr. There were a lot of things going on with Dallas Theol. Seminary at the time and I asked him about Dallas since he used to be the chair of the Systematic Theology Dept. there. He gave a long lengthy answer, saying he left Dallas over Calvinism. and also bought Walvoord and Chafer into his remarks.

    He said that ”the DTS system is very monolithic, centering around the claim that there are two elect peoples, Israel and the church, with different promises and in some minds different destinies.” He then asked me to listen to his tapes from 1985 on. “I do not believe it is really possible to speak of two peoples of God. I was taught that by Chafer and Walvoord, but my viewpoint has changed. Romans 11, in my opinion, cannot be squared with the two people of God system, and Ephesians 2:12 – 3:12 really cannot either. I would suggest that you listen to the series at the Chapel entitled, “The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy,” given a few years back.”

    “Dispensationalism has been under increasing attack and is not faring very well. In fact, no really convincing support of the system has been offered in the face of the attacks of the past fifteen years or so. Anthony Hoekema’s book, “The Bible and the Future,” has not had a significant response from the dispensationalists.”

    “Dr. Walvoord’s writing has come to be accepted as the standard dispensational position, but it has not been technically sound enough to gain a wider support from individuals outside the dispensational family.”

    More to the letter, also wrote about Bible translations, etc. and a bit more on dispensationalism. I would say that the men who you talked to who knew him well didn’t ‘know’ him that well the last 20 years of his life, because as you can see he had completely repudiated dispensationalism during the last part of his life. Also, his tapes cover decades and decades of preaching, try to listen to the ones that are, as he said, from 1985 on, in particular the series he suggested “The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy.” Lot of typing, fingers hurt HA 🙂 I have sent this letter around the country, to some well known theologians and others, who were huge fans of Johnson and wanted to see his letter. One called him the ‘greatest preacher of the 20th century.” I know his tapes turned me on to the doctrines of grace, nicknamed Calvinism, changed my theology completely, and my life!

    1. From what I have recently learned, S. Lewis Johnson was influenced by Gary Long, another DTS grad, to accept Particular Redemption. Of course, we all know that this was a major issue in his leaving DTS (not acrimoniously though). Gary Long is now considered one of the older promoters of New Covenant Theology and apparently also convinced Mr. Johnson to accept NCT tenets (I don’t know to what degree so I can’t speak to that). All that to say, NCT now claims Johnson for their view…so it complicates things a bit as far as “where Johnson fell” theologically.” That’s not a bad thing though, as we are all striving to be more and more biblical in our understanding. Semper Reformanda!

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