One of the primary trajectories according to which dispensationalists criticize covenantalists is hermeneutics, and one of the specific, concrete criticisms has to do witht he question of the clarity of scripture (or lack thereof). According to dispensationalists, if the authors of the New Testament interpret the Old Testament in a way that would have been contrary to the way its original audience would have been able to understand it, then the doctrine of the clarity of scripture, according to which the ordinary person is capable of understanding the text(as least in its essentials) is seriously compromised. According to the Westminster Confession’s understanding of the clarity of scripture:
“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them”(Chapter 1, Part 7).
Here is an example:
“While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever”(Ezek. 43:6-7).
This text seems to speak of a Temple in Israel in which God will make His dwelling forever. However, commenting precisely on this text(and throughout Revelation, the section of Ezekiel 40-48 in general), John writes:
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb”(Rev. 21:22).
John, like the rest of the authors of the New Testament, seems the promise of a Temple in which God dwells eternally as having been fulfilled in Christ. The Old Testament oftentimes spoke in types and shadows according to which the eschatologically intensified realities we now experience were only dimly set forth such that the full meaning and significance of original prophecies were not exhaustively revealed to its original audience:
“They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.””(Heb. 8:5).
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near”(Heb. 10:1).
This is simple a question of presuppositionalism. We not only believe what the Bible says but we accept the definitions it gives of its content. We accept that such a view of the relation of hermeneutics to progressive revelation and its implications for the doctrine of the clarity of scripture is legitimate. When dispensationalists insist that such a position compromises the doctrine of the clarity of scripture, they are railing against God and not against covenantalists. If the authors of the Bible insist that such a view of the the relation of the progress of revelation to hermeneutics is compatible with or even necessitates a non-dispensational view of the clarity of scripture, we would do well to submit to it rather than to define according to our autonomous reason antecedently what counts as a proper formulation of a biblical doctrine. All our understandings of what constitutes a legitimate formulation of biblical doctrines must come from the Bible itself.