As a system of theology, there are many errors in the way dispensationalism endeavors to understand scripture, but perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this theology (historically) is its faulty view of regeneration. In a relatively recent “round table” discussion with Sinclair Ferguson, R. C. Sproul Jr., and a few others, R. C. Sproul shared an anecdote of a conversation he had with some of the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary (historic bastion of dispensationalism) regarding this problem. In recounting the conversation, Sproul said the following:
They asked me, “R.C., what’s your problem with dispensationalism?” And I said, “You know, my biggest problem with dispensationalism is your historic doctrine of regeneration.”And that was met with bewilderment. These professors said, “What are you talking about? What’s the problem with our view of regeneration?”
I said, “Well, classic dispensationalism teaches that when the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, that person does not experience a change in their nature. So that you can have the Spirit in you, and you be in a state of salvation, without any change in your life whatsoever. And that was popularized in the picture books that were spread out by Campus Crusade, where you had the circle with the chair, and you had the cross outside the circle, and ‘S’ – the self – was on the chair; and that’s the picture of the unregenerate person, the pagan. But then you have the next stage of those who are regenerated, where now Christ is inside the circle, but not on the throne. Self is still on the throne. You’re saved, you’re in a state of grace, you’re regenerated, you’re justified, but you have absolutely no fruit whatsoever because your life hasn’t changed. And that gave rise to the development of this concept of the “Carnal Christian”, where a person could be saved without any manifestation of any change, and . . . I said for us, regeneration involves a foundational change in the disposition of the human heart, where that fallen person prior to his regeneration had no inclination to the things of God, no love for Jesus, and once that heart has been changed, through the immediate, transcendent power of God the Holy Spirit in regeneration, now that person has Christ in his life, and Christ is now his Lord. He’s not perfected, not fully sanctified, but the process of sanctification has certainly begun. And if it hasn’t, you have a profession of faith with no faith.”
And so what’s so serious about this is that it invites a false sense of security for people believing that they are saved, because they signed a card or raised their hand or walked an aisle, and prayed a prayer or whatever, but have no evidence of the fruit of sanctification in their lives.
Now there are many dispensationalists who do not share this view of regeneration, perhaps most notably, John MacArthur. Like other systems of theology, Dispensationalism may conjure up a specific image in our minds or mean certain things to us, but not everyone who claims the mantle may hold those views that would historically be considered dispensational.