I just finished reading the book Dispensationalism by Charles C. Ryrie. He says that dispensationalism is a system of theology that is built on three non-negotiable pillars:
1) a literal, face-value reading of Scripture.
2) the distinction between Israel and the church (i.e. the church is not the "new Israel" or the "Israel of God."
3) the purpose of history being the glory of God (as opposed to the redemption of man).
This is the 4th book I've read on dispensationalism in the past month. I'm really trying to get a handle on it. I'm drawn to the reverance with which it views Scripture. I'm challenged by the way that it interprets Old Testament prophecy literally to the point that you get a pretribulational rapture of the church, which leads to a 7-year tribulation, followed by a 1000 year earthly reign of Christ in Jerusalem, during which all of the Old Testament promises to Israel will literally be fulfilled.
Although I have no problem with the conclusions, I find it hard to believe that God would allow himself to be that predictable. On the other hand, it seems that if we can say that God will not literally fulfill every Old Testament prophecy, who's to say that Christ will literally fulfill his prophesied return at all? Without the literal approach, a slippery slope develops. But can we say that in order to avoid a slippery slope we will interpret all Scripture the same way? Just questions I'm asking and praying about. In the meantime, I feel very akin to the dispensational view as I understand it.