Recommended Reading in Dispensationalism

Dan Phillips has asked me to come up with a guide to the reading of Dispensational Theology.  I hope this is what he expected.  Anyway, this is what I have come up with.  No “Progressive Dispensationalist” work is included because I do not consider that approach to be Dispensationalism proper (which does not mean dispensationalists can’t learn from them!).  Neither have I included ultra-dispensational works, nor indeed, those post-trib./pre-wrath books which deny imminence.  An asterisk indicates my recommendation of where money ought to go first.

No doubt I have let some vital resource run through the sieve that is my memory.  If readers want to prompt me to remembrance I shall add to the following list: 

Introductions

*DispensationalismCharles C. Ryrie – Updated version of the author’s Dispensationalism Today, which should still be purchased.  This is a must read, even if it is soft on the covenants. Irenic in style.

*Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths – Michael Vlach – Short and punchy.  I don’t like his restriction of Dispensationalism to ecclesiology and eschatology.

Understanding End Times Prophecy (2nd ed.) – Paul Benware -A very good introduction to the subject.

The End – Mark Hitchcock – A large but still fairly introductory level text.  I haven’t read it yet, only skimmed its contents.

The Footsteps of the Messiah (2nd ed.)Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum –  Somewhat unique in its presentation of eschatology.  Contains some “Pemberisms” (abodes of Satan, pre-Adamic crystalline earth, etc).

Major Bible Prophecies – John F. WalvoordA handy resource.

Biblical Theology:

*The Dawn of World Redemption – Erich Sauer – Perhaps the best study of God’s overall plan in the OT.  Some glitches, but the main argument is very sound.  Contains many ideas which deserve to be developed.  Includes many seed-thoughts and insights

*The Triumph of the CrucifiedErich Sauer – Coupled with the work above this is a must-have book.

From Eternity to EternityErich Sauer – Provides both an overview of God’s plan and responses to objections.  Recommended.

*The Greatness of the KingdomAlva J. McClain – An outstanding, mature study of the subject. One of the “must have” books.

*The Theocratic Kingdom (3 Vols) – George N. H. Peters – An extraordinary book.  Notable for several reasons, not least because it is theocentric and so avoids treating eschatology in isolation.  Not perfect (e.g. holds to a partial rapture), but the work on the subject.  The person who masters Peters will be a formidable Bible teacher.

*Everlasting Dominion – Eugene Merrill – An excellent Old Testament Theology, though again, soft on covenants in Genesis 2-3. Merrill gives due stress to the covenants.

A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament – Zuck/Merrill/Bock (eds.) – An often helpful treatment of the subject.

The Millennial KingdomJohn F. Walvoord – A solid contribution and critique of opposing positions.  Adopts the “two new covenants view.”  Has interesting, if not totally persuasive comments about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven.  Walvoord’s best work.

*Israelology – Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum – Massive and cumbersome, but thorough presentation and defense of the biblical data concerning Israel. An important study of millennial systems and Israel’s place in Theology.  Ponderous and repetitive in style.

Important Studies:

The Great Prophecies Concerning the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church – G. H. Pember – The author was known for his ”Pemberisms” (Gap theory; Pre-Adamic fall; Partial rapture) but there is little evidence of them here.  A good study, elegantly written.

Israel in Prophecy – John F. Walvoord – Brief and full of insight.

*Things to Come – J. Dwight Pentecost – One of the finest texts on eschatology ever published.  The style is “scholastic” and it needs updating.

*Thy Kingdom ComeJ. Dwight Pentecost – Thorough study of the biblical data.  Good use of dispensations and covenants.

*Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate –  Matthew Wehmeyer – The best study of this vital passage.  Undermines the whole foundation of amillennialism.

How Firm A Foundation – Hal Harless – A fine study of covenants and the Bible, even if he does teach covenants in Genesis 2-3.

*Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant – (ed.) Michael Stallard – Chapters from a symposium on the subject seeking to answer the question of the Church’s involvement (or non-involvement) in the New Covenant.  Our position that Christ is the New Covenant and all who are saved must be saved by it is not represented.

*Continuity and Discontinuity – (ed.) John Feinberg – Top of the line articles by dispensationalists and covenant theologians (and one or two ‘inbetweenies’) about the relationship between the Testaments.

Specific Issues:

The Interpretation of Prophecy Paul Lee Tan – A very useful guide.

*The Messianic Hope– Michael Rydelnik – A slim but impressive study of the Messiah in the OT.

Jerusalem in Prophecy – J. Randall Price – Price is one of the best contemporary writers on Israel in prophecy.

*The Temple and Bible Prophecy – J. Randall Price – An expanded edition of The Coming Last Days Temple.  This is a definitive work.

Premillennialism and Amillennialism – C. L. Feinberg – Very competent analysis of these two systems.

*Future Israel – Barry Horner – A recent study which shows, among other things, the latent Anti-Israelism of evangelicals who believe the Church is the “New Israel.”  The editing could have been better.

*Jews, Gentiles and the Church – David L. Larsen – An important study of historical and biblical matters pertaining to the subject.

The Rapture QuestionJohn F. Walvoord – A well written apology for the pretrib position

Maranatha!? Our Lord ComeRenald Showers – A newer treatment which interacts with contemporary views.

The Greatness of the Rapture– David Olander – A thought-provoking work

*Kept From The HourGerald Stanton – Still the best book on the subject of the Rapture

Messianic ChristologyArnold Fruchtenbaum –A handy set of expository studies, some more persuasive than others.

There Really Is A Difference  – Renald Showers – Plain but solid comparison of Dispensational and Covenant theologies.

*Has the Church Replaced Israel? – Michael Vlach – Perhaps the best treatment on the subject.  Vlach is nuanced which makes him more valuable.

*The Company of HopeDavid L. Larsen – A valuable historical study of eschatology.  Poorly edited. Lauds Lindsey and LaHaye.  

Collected Essays:

Walvoord: A Tribute – (ed.) D. K. Campbell – This book contains several excellent articles.

Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost – (eds.) S. Toussaint & C. Dyer – Similar quality articles to above.

Issues in Dispensationalism(eds.) J. Master & W. Willis – Some good explorations of in-house ideas can be found here.

*Dispensationalism: Tomorrow and Beyond – (ed.) Christopher Cone – A good if rather dislocated series of essays in celebration of Charles Ryrie.

Vital Prophetic Issues(ed.) Roy B. ZuckReprints of fine articles from BibSac.  A little overly reliant on Walvoord’s contributions.

*Dictionary of Premillennial Theology – (ed.) Mal O. Couch– An important if imperfect contribution.  Contains some terrific articles.  Poorly indexed.

The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy – (eds.) T. LaHaye & E. Hindson – Many fine articles on issues to do with Israel in prophecy.  The one on “Dispensations” ties them too closely to the covenants.

The Gathering Storm – (ed.) Mal Couch – This is a very helpful book full of interesting essays.

Israel in the Spotlight(ed.) C. L. Feinberg – Hard to procure but with some fine contributions.  Somewhat dated.

Christ’s Prophetic Plans(eds.) R. Mayhue, J. MacArthur, et al – I haven’t read this but it looks good.

*Israel: The Land and the People(ed.) H. Wayne House – A very solid and informative work.

An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics – Mal Couch (ed.) – Some excellent chapters on correct interpretive issues.

The Return of Christ – David Allen & Steve Lemke (eds.) – An uneven but helpful survey of Premillennialism

Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism – (ed.) Herbert W. Bateman – Dispensationalists and “Progressives” discuss three important matters.  I found the Progressives rather confusing to read, particularly on the distinction between Israel and the Church, where the writer seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth, but the questions raised are important.  The book is not as good as it should have been.

 

Along “Dispensational” Lines:

Recovering the Unity of the Bible – Walter C. Kaiser – A short study of Kaiser’s “Promise Theology” which somewhat overlaps our study

*The Promise-Plan of God – Walter C. Kaiser – A large work in Old and New Testament Theology centering on God’s Promise.

Unfolding Drama of Redemption – W. Graham Scroggie – An uneven but helpful survey of the redemptive story.  Alliteration everywhere.

Explore The Book – J. Sidlow Baxter – A great companion to bible study, even if the author commits some fouls here and there.

In addition these works on theology will be helpful:

*Basic Theology – Charles C. Ryrie – Ryrie’s best book

Systematic TheologyLewis Sperry Chafer – Old and not as thorough as might be hoped, but there is much good material in these volumes.  The dispensationalism crops up everywhere (which is a good thing in a Dispensational Systematic Theology).

Lectures in Systematic Theology – Henry C. Thiessen – Good eschatological sections

Practical Christian Theology – Floyd Barackman – Basic but solid.

*Systematic Theology (Vol. 4) – Norman Geisler – The best of an uneven set.  Worthwhile.

A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity (Vol. 3) – Rolland McCune – As with the other volumes in this set, somewhat disappointing, but worth studying.

Kregel Dictionary of the Bible and Theology – Henry Holloman

*The Moody Handbook of Theology (Revised & Expanded) – Paul Enns

Top Three Recommendations For Students:

I’m going to insert here a little moan about the awful lack of methodological groundwork which has stifled dispensationalist thinking for decades.  Should we be concerned about defending our system, or should we be concerned with representing God’s Truth?  The former encourages a trench mentality; the latter is open to improve and grow.

1. Dispensationalism – Ryrie – A good primer for getting oriented.

2. Has The Church Replaced Israel? – Vlach – Sound argumentation based upon robust methodology.

3. The Greatness of the Kingdom – McClain – The only volume of a proposed Systematic Theology (what might have been?).  This is the kind of work dispensationalists should have built on for the past 50 years and haven’t!  

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46 comments

  1. Thank you, Paul! Treasure-trove.

    So now I’d ask: if a non- were to ask, “I know nothing about dispensationalism except that it is spoken against everywhere. What three books should I read to give me its best self-presentation?” What would you recommend?

  2. On the other side of the coin, what do the covenantalists consider their top books? Don’t need a huge list, just a sprinkling of two or three will do, like Dan asked for on the pro side. Thanks, very thorough and forwardable!

      1. That was a misunderstanding Dan, I was asking for what Paul thought were the three top covenantal books, not what the CT guys thought of the dispensational books. My bad, I guess I wasn’t clear enough.

      2. Dan is right. CT’s can give their own list. But I don’t see anything wrong with me giving a personal opinion; especially as I’ve been reading these guys for many years. Modern CT is not monolithic and suffers from poor definition in the same way that Dispensationalism does. My top three books on Covenant Theology are:

        1. According To Plan – G. Goldsworthy – Clear and unambiguous treatment of Biblical Theology in the Vossian mode. This is the place to go to to get the idea of what CT’s are doing.

        2. The Christ of the Covenants – O. Palmer Robertson – Robertson’s language is more evasive than Goldsworthy’s, and his defining of the covenants might seem a little confusing, but this book has become a standard.

        3. God of Promise – Michael Horton – Takes issues with Robertson in places and appears (to me) to take with one hand what he gives with another (e.g. on unconditional covenants), but I like this book. It is also called Introducing Covenant Theology.

        Berkhof and Reymond are the go-to Systematic Theology’s, and everyone must read Gerhaardus Vos’s “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology” available at Monergism or in the book Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation.

  3. Thank you! Thank you!

    As someone who has just been turned on to dispensationalism thought through reading Christ’s Prophetic Plans by Mayhue and MacArthur this list is invaluable to me.

    Dan, until last week, I pretty much fell into the category of “I know nothing about dispensationalism except that it is spoken against everywhere.” And Christ’s Prophetic Plans presented an incredibly persuasive presentation in an understandable and accessible package. I’ve recommended it to all my friends and am looking forward to digging into some of these works now that I have a general framework.

    Thanks again, Paul.

    1. I read that book as well and found it to give both a good historical and biblical treatment of both dispensationalism and the roost of Covenant Theology. I highly recommend it.

    2. Hi Reagan and Paul, if you don’t mind me chiming in at the middle of a conversation between you two, may I suggest another reading at a very introductory here? It is good before you even start to go into any single book and get an idea that why some believers swim away from amillennialism into dispensationalism. (It does happen, and I think if Sydney Anglicans have their way in the Reformed fiefdom, we will see an explosion of individual and one-to-one Bible studies which will open the floodgate of dispensationalism)

      Questioning Amillennialism: One Lutheran Woman’s Search For Truth

      http://www.geocities.ws/questioningamillennialism/index.htm

      It’s a website rather than a book sure done by a lay believer at WELS (Wisconsin synod Lutherans, which is confessionally amillennial. In theory, you can’t be a member of good standing if you are premillennial in eschatolody). She started out as believing the Bible should be read in the plain sense and confused by her church’s amillennial beliefs. She struggled for a long time and gradually gone to a fullblown dispensational conclusion by how the Bible is to be read and interpreted.

      It may lack the theological polishments of printed works, her references may have been a bit dated – she wrote this back in year 2000 and before the time of YRRs, her dialogues with amillennials are largely restricted with Lutherans so it was Wilbert Gawrisch more than Robert Reymond for example, and you may find the author’s own theology here or there too non-calvinistic to your liking (assuming you come from a calvinistic background), I find her arguments cut through even the most sophisticated amillennial defenses in the sharp way.

      She went through time to defend her arguments against her own pastor and came back saying that God has protected her and the pastor allowed her to stay on despite being a dispensationalist.

      You will find that at the end of the day, most arguments for and against dispensationalism and covenant theology differ only in the sementics being used. So for example, G.K. Beale versus Michael Vlach and the “95 Theses Against Dispensationalism” group against “Questioning Amillennialism” read pretty much the same, both sides just angle or repackage their arguments to differing levels of theological sophistication.

  4. Hi Paul,

    Great list! I’ll be posting it in our next newsletter. I took a look at my resources and identified a few others I can think of that seem to fit the limitations you tried to apply to entries in the list.

    David Baron, Israel In The Plan Of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1983). ISBN = 0-8254-2089-X

    Ronald E. Diprose, Israel In The Development Of Christian Thought (Rome, Italy: Istituto Biblico Evangelico Italiano, 1998). ISBN = 88-85403-07-7

    Ronald E. Diprose, Israel And The Church (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2000). ISBN = 1-884543-97-9

    John S. Feinberg, Continuity And Discontinuity (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988). ISBN = 0-89107-468-6

    Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, When The Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995). ISBN = 1-56507-313-4

    Of course the ones you’ve already mentioned pretty much cover the bases–I think I had 34 of them but you (as always) have me beat! 🙂

    1. Tony,

      Baron should be there, and I can’t believe I left out Feinberg! Not sure on Diprose. He’s good ancillary reading but I deliberately kept him out of the list because his agenda is different.

      As for ‘When The Trumpet Sounds,’ well, I know that it includes very good material. But it also has contributions from some folks I cannot approve. You and I have talked about my problems with the way dispies have not been careful about there associations, and how this has prejudiced non-dispies against the theology. Owing to the fact that the list already includes many collected essays, I think I should leave it aside.

      Hope you understand.

      P.

  5. I’m sure covenant folks would recommend that new G.K Beale theology book that Dr. R reviewed in 4 parts which should be turned into a longer pdf paper over the holiday break.

  6. Thanks Paul for this excellent list and for all that you do here on this site. You mentioned that Dr. Vlach limits dispensationalism to only ecclesiology and eschatology. When you have the time can you please list each major category of systematic theology and briefly (if possible) explain how dispensationalism should affect each one. Sorry if this is a crazy request. Thanks again and God bless!!

  7. Great list, Paul. I’m getting The Theocratic Kingdom for CHRISTmas, thanks to my wife!

    Agree with your list as well, Tony. I have them all except Diprose’s Israel In The Development Of Christian Thought.

    One I might add, just to further bloat the list, is PROGRESSIVE Dispensationalism. It is edited by Ron Bigalke and is a defense of Traditional Dispensationalism.

  8. Paul,
    Thank you for putting this excellent list together. In 1982 I purchased “Things to Come” by Pentecost which was very foundational for me. “The Greatness of the Kingdom” as well as “Continuity and Discontinuity” were also very helpful for me.
    For those who are interested I have available several new signed copies of “Future Israel” by Barry Horner. Please feel free to contact me at gracebiblechurchsv@gmail.com

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Actually, “Future Israel” is there. I decided not to include books on the Second Coming because it would make the list too big. No prayer and fasting went into the decision. I admit to a certain arbitrariness in my selections.

      God bless,

      Paul H.

  9. Also recommend Paul Williamson: Sealed with An Oath” – a study of the Old Testament covenants in what the author calls “an arc” culminating in the New Covenant. He takes several pages early in the book dealing with the so called covenants of works and grace. His conclusion is that there is no basis for them in Scripture. This is powerful coming from an Australian Anglican.

    1. Fred,

      Williamson’s book is very good, but I have to circumscribe my list, and since he sees covenant fulfillment mainly at the first coming, and is not dispensational, I’ll agree with your commendation but will refrain from adding him. I hope you understand.

      BTW, Peter Gentry takes Williamson to task in “Kingdom through Covenant.”

      God bless you and yours,

      Paul H.

  10. I devoured everything I could read by Pentecost, Walvoord, Ryrie, Chafer, Lindsey, etc. in the early to mid-70s. I also attended a dispensational bible college. Reading all that actually drove me away, first to post-trib and then to amillenialism,which I didn’t know existed. I loved ‘Blessed Hope’ by George Ladd even tho it was censored at the bible college. Dispensationalists had impressed on me the finished work of Christ, which I appreciate to this day. However, when I saw different ways of getting saved in the trib and millenium and also read Hebrews, I decided that dispensationalism divided the body of Christ and made the return of the Lord, which is a singular simple concept into something much more complex and therefore dubious. BTW, most CT books are also dubious. some new approaches are long overdue.

    1. I guess you never really studied dispensationalism since you repeated in substance many old misrepresentations of it. Even George Ladd in his commentary on the book of Revelation has many things which takes place which leads to Jesus second coming. Same with with Amillennialist and Postmillennialist as well. But you seem to have no room except that of your own position. 🙂 John Walvoord wrote a review of Ladd’s book The Blessed Hope. Walvoord dealt effectively with it in his own writings. I dont know where you get the idea of different ways of salvation in the tribulation but in the OT and NT it has a single way of being justified and that is by God’s grace through faith . Salvation has always been through the merits of the blood and work of Jesus Christ in all dispensations. I take it that you missed dispensationalist writings which expressly taught what I stated. Not sure where you get the ” divided the body of Christ from but dispensationalism teaches saved Jews and Gentiles since Pentecost until the time of the rapture consist of those who belong to the Body of Christ. I think most of your statements amount to special pleading at times. I went from being Amillennial to becoming dispensational premillennial. I have been a dispensationalist for over 20 years now and remain convinced of it being correct based on proper exegesis of Scripture. Your former dispensationalist claims holds no water with me. Everyone of us is a former this or that. I simply dont think you really knew what dispensationalism based on your comments.

      1. Walvoord’s review of Ladd’s book can be read online:

        http://www.walvoord.com/article/68

        One issue I have with Ladd is this:

        “The Old Testament must be interpreted by the New Testament. In principle it is quite possible that the prophecies addressed originally to literal Israel describing physical blessings have their fulfillment exclusively in the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the church. It is also possible that the Old Testament expectation of a kingdom on earth could be reinterpreted by the New Testament altogether of blessings in the spiritual realm.” ~ George Ladd)

  11. Paul please keep me in mind for future reading/or old on dispensationalism, pre-trib rapture, replacement theology and the likes. God bless steve.

  12. Hi again Paul,
    Next year i’ll be looking to teach through Daniel. I was thinking Walvoord for a commentary. Any other recommendations, or would he be as solid as they get?
    Dave

    1. Hi David,

      I can’t believe I haven’t done a Recommended Commentaries piece on Daniel yet. Thought I had! Here are my top recommendations:

      1. Stephen Miller NAC – indispensible
      2. Leon Wood
      3. Gleason Archer old EBC (Gaebelein)

      All of these are better than Walvoord IMHO

      God bless.

      Oh, and I do remember my faults this day. I forgot to send your paper with my comments. I get wrapped up in stuff and forget. I’m trying to write a book and often have to squeeze in a few paragraphs here and there when I can. That makes me neglect other things sometimes.

      Please accept my apologies Dave.

      Your brother,

      Paul H

      1. Paul, thanks very much! I’ll have a look at those resources. Re the paper, don’t worry about it at all mate 🙂

        Keep strong
        Dave

  13. On the Book of Daniel I can’t more highly recommend “Daniel and the Latter Days” by Robert Duncan Culver. I finally found the one book I can unhesitatingly recommend.

    1. Ah yes, good old Culver. Fantastic book!

      BUT! (And Paul I’d love your thoughts on this…) I’ve now read about 5 commentaries on Daniel, and I just picked up Christ White’s commentary. He is a dispensational, prewrath proponent. I’m intrigued by prewrath, but until I look at it further I’m a pretribber at present. Anyway, I have really enjoyed his commentary. Even if I’m not with him on everything, I love his “hermeneutics trumps tradition” approach, and it has caused me to question many of the classic dispy assumptions that I have always held.

      Also, another paper I read by Charles Cooper challenging the notion that the Dan 7 beasts are correspond to Dan 2 seems to have very compelling arguments. Google Charles Cooper Dan 2 and Dan 7 and you’ll find it.

      1. Culver can be read online. It’s a great commentary but I still prefer Walvoord’s. Also looking forward to Tony Garland’s commentary on Daniel when it finally comes out.

        I was initially very intrigued with the prewrath position when I came across it about 8 or 9 years ago. The difficulty with it is that it is complicated to the point that many proponents don’t fully understand some of Van Kampen’s lesser known beliefs. Renald Showers’ critique of it was thorough and recommeded reading. Also Bob DeWaay and Eric Douma conducted a series of lectures analyzing the view. Well worth checking them out.

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