What’s In a Name

Soon we’ll start to consider more carefully what a Kuyperian Dispensationalist is. We need to answer questions such as, What makes someone Kuyperian? What is a Dispensationalist? Is it conceivable for them to go together?

But before dealing with those, a typical question, or even strong objection, is: Why use names at all? Abraham is a Bible name, but not Abraham Kuyper. Dispensations can be found in the Bible but never the word itself, even if you agree with the doctrine. Must we use extra-biblical descriptions? Don’t names cause divisions and upset stomachs? And especially, considering the history of using a name such as Calvinism, isn’t this elevating a man over Scripture? Like any system, won’t we be guilty of forcing an external pattern onto the Bible?

It absolutely could be any of those things, and much worse things. But when Adam named the animals God created it didn’t change what they were. Even more so, it was part of Adam’s calling by God to label and classify things. That was part of his image-bearing glory. Recognizing patterns is not making the patterns, like the golden ratio in nautilus shells or planetary orbits in astronomy, or theology. Doctrine about the One God in Three Persons, eternally co-equal, could require us to say the Athanasian Creed every time (though it isn’t inspired either). Or we could use the the one word summary, “Trinity,” that isn’t in the Bible.

As for systemizing things, Spurgeon once said that a truth isn’t contradicted because it can be organized.

“To affirm of any human production that it contained many great and instructive truths which it would be impossible to systematize without weakening each separate truth, and frustrating the design of the whole, would be a serious reflection upon the author’s wisdom and skill. How much more to affirm this of the Word of God! Systematic theology is to the Bible what science is to nature. To suppose that all the other works of God are orderly and systematic, and the greater the work the more perfect the system; and that the greatest of all His works, in which all His perfections are transcendently displayed, should have no plan or system, is altogether absurd. If faith in the Scriptures is to be positive, if consistent with itself, if operative, if abiding, it must have a fixed and well-defined creed. No one can say that the Bible is his creed, unless he can express it in words of his own. (Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, 1872, 141, quoted in The Forgotten Spurgeon by Ian Murray, 9.)

Names help diagnose and then treat diseases. Names help conceive and assemble buildings. Names can be misused, they can also help to communicate, to share the meaning of something in common. It doesn’t matter if someone says he is a Trinitarian as long as he believes the truth of it. It doesn’t matter if someone hates the word dualism as long as he actually hates dualism. It doesn’t matter if someone has ever heard of the “hypostatic union,” but he must believe that Jesus is both God and man. And if he does believe it, why not use the label?

So the Kuyperian Dispensationalist is shorthand, a nickname, a quirky code for sake of convenience in order to share an understanding about how things connect. If it happens to cause some provocation along the way, maybe that’s just what the doctor prescribed.

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