A straw man is an intentional misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. The reason people set up straw men is because it is easier to defeat the straw man than it is to defeat the opponent’s real view. One of the most common dispensational straw men is the charge that dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation. This charge is made so often that Dr. Ryrie described it as being “…repeated with the regularity of a dripping faucet.”1
Now, to be fair, Dr. C.I. Scofield did make an unfortunate statement. In the original Scofield reference Bible, a note on John 1:17 says, “The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ,”.2 Strictly speaking, I think he was writing about the dispensational test of the church age, not a way of salvation. Nevertheless, critics have seized on that statement as proof that dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation.
Conveniently, what the critics ignore, are the clear statements about salvation made by so many other leading dispensationalists since Dr. Scofield. Take for example Scofield’s protege, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer. He wrote, “There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.”3 Similarly, another associate of Dr. Scofield was William L. Pettingill. Dr. Pettingill was one of the co-founders of the Philadelphia College of the Bible. He wrote, “Salvation has always been, as it is now, purely a gift of God in response to faith. The dispensational tests served to show man’s utter helplessness, in order to bring him to faith, that he might be saved by grace through faith plus nothing.”4
So, it is clear that leading dispensationalists do not believe there are multiple ways of salvation. It was Dr. Ryrie who made the clearest statement of what dispensationalists do believe. He wrote, “The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations.”5
With so many clear statements by leading dispensationalists affirming one way of salvation one must conclude that the critics who constantly make the accusation that dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation willfully remain intentionally ignorant. Critics who bring this up would rather address their pretend dispensational soteriology than what dispensationalists really teach.
1 Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 105
2 C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), 1115.
3 Inventing Heretics Through Misunderstanding,” Bibliotheca Sacra 102 (January 1945): 1
4 William L. Pettingill, Bible Questions Answered (Wheaton: Van Kampen, n.d.), 470.
5 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 134.