Dispensational and Covenantal Hermeneutics: Where is the Contention
What follows is some exploratory writing as I am currently trying to hammer out some issues regarding this topic.
Hermeneutics (the science and method of interpreting scripture) is at the foundation of both the Dispensational and Covenantal theologies. Both views hold a high regard for scripture and believe that it should be studied to find out what the authors through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit originally meant. If both groups hold to this then why do we end up in different places theologically?
Dispensationalists hold to a distinction between Israel and the Church. The reason they have this distinction is because when they read all of the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament, they take them literally. If the prophet said that God was going to establish the kingdom and rebuild the tabernacle, it means just that. There will be an earthly established kingdom with a tabernacle including the sacrifices in it. This promise is for Israel and not the church. Israel and the church have different purposes and promises and we should not confuse them. Another example of this is that David was promised to have an everlasting king seated on his throne. Dispensationalists do not believe this promise has been fulfilled, but will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom when Christ rules on the earth (some progressive dispensationalist will disagree and say that Christ is now on the throne in heaven).
On the other hand Covenantal theologians say that we should not have this distinction between Israel and the Church. The Church is Israel. We have been grafted in and we are it. All of the promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is spiritually ruling over Israel (the Church) and will be on that throne eternally. Through the Church, Israel has been established.
How do these views play into the Hermeneutic discussion? The covenantal theologian charges the Dispensationalist with building his eschatology from the Old Testament and then forcing the New Testament to fit into this mold. On the other hand the Dispensationalist charges the Covenantal theologians with building his eschatology from the New Testament and then tries to make the Old Testament fit his mold. Both grougs would obviously reject these charges, but it is helpful to see this distinction. Ultimately the answer seems to revolve in how both groups relate the old and new covenants to each other.
I realize this is painting with an extremely broad brush and the answers are found in the details, but at this point I am simply trying to see the larger pictures then move in from there.