Darby and Dispensationalism

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  • Topic: Rapture, Book of Revelation, Dispensationalism
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  • Published : July 27, 2012
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Madi Moser
November 18, 2008
Dr. Damrel
Rel 398A

Darby and His Dispensationalism Theology

The Southern Baptist denomination stresses the idea of man’s sinfulness and a need to convert oneself through their faith in Jesus. It is influenced by pre-millennial values, believing that the apocalypse will come before the millennial period of prosperity that was referred to the Revelation of John. Believers of Pre-millennialism believe that the Anti-Christ will be a strong, possibly political, leader known as “the Beast” who will rule the world through one government during the seven-year Tribulation period. During this era, a third of the earth will burn; insects and other ‘pests’ will starve and kill animals, plants, and people; an army of two hundred million will kill half the population; and the oceans will turn to blood. The Tribulation Era will end with the second coming of Christ and the Beast’s demise with the Battle of Armageddon, commencing in the Middle East and ringing in the new millennium. It is not a very lovely era, but most of the Baptist beliefs are like that. They understand the bible to be incredibly literal. [pic]

Figure 1

One of the biggest theories in pre-millennialism is dispensationalism. It began with John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) in the early nineteenth century. Starting out as a member of the Plymouth Brethren, Darby taught that God dealt with man through seven eras. This became known as the “seven dispensations,” bringing about dispensationalism. Point blank: Darby was a major thinker in dispensationalism, taking the bible to a very literal degree. The question of how Darby related dispensationalism to the apocalypse will be explored.

John Darby’s roots are in the Plymouth Brethren. The Brethren were a group of separatists who, in the early 1820s, left the Anglican Church. It has five specific characteristics that separate it from other religious groups: first, the norm of apostolic church; a stereological principle of unity; divine initiative in reviving concern for primitive ecclesial practices; advocacy of primitive simplicity in worship; and authority of spiritual over academic qualifications for ministry. The Brethren’s distance between them and the church is justified by Callahan’s idea of “primitivist ecclesiology,” or an appeal to the authority of such ecclesial practices of the church (Krapohl).

Dispensationalism is connected with the Revelation of John and the Book of Daniel; both are also closely knit with the apocalypse and the rapture, thus allowing the theory of dispensationalism to intertwine with the apocalypse. It is a way of reading the bible in which all the events and people are sorted into categories and then sorted into seven eras, or dispensations. Dispensational theory, according to William Sloos, is a “systematized concept of biblical interpretation that describes how God managers affairs of humankind in specific time periods throughout history arranged through a program of consecutive dispensations.” Each dispensation has an obligation for humanity that corresponds with God’s request. Along with an obligation, it is characterized by a demand for faith and obedience and a test of one’s faith—God wants to see if people will go with him or not. Man tries to reconcile himself with God, which can be done only through His grace. In the end, it culminates with a massive failure on humanity’s part and God’s judgment. It illustrates God’s progressive relationship with man, beginning with the resurrection and ending with eternity. God has an accord with man in each dispensation, and man’s testament to his faith is tested corresponding to that agreement. So Darby thought of the bible in the most literal sense possible. In his mind, there were seven eras, or dispensations. These dispensations include: Innocence (Edenic), Conscience (Antediluvian), Government (Postdiluvian), Patriarchial, Law (Legal), Grace (Ecclesiastical), and the 1000-year...
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