The orthodox Christian theology of Hadley Robinson

Dispensationalism

by Hadley Robinson


Darbyism (a.k.a. Dispensationalism) was founded in the early 19th century by John Nelson Darby, a schismatic priest in the Church of Ireland.  Like Mormonism, the peculiar views of Darbyism have no connection with historical Christian orthodoxy, especially the notions of a secret and second Rapture of the Church and that the kingdom of God described in the Old Testament is different from the Church established by Jesus Christ.  Steve Gregg has a written an essay summarizing the peculiar views of Darbyism and how it deviates from historic Christian orthodoxy, especially in regards to the relationship between Israel and the Church.

To his credit, Darby saw the widespread heterodoxy in the Church of England and reacted strongly against it.

But that is no excuse to throw out the good with the bad, as he did, and further divide and fracture the Church.  On these grounds alone, Darby and his followers should be classified as heretics.  This is the proper classification of those who split the Church into pieces based on non-essentials of the Christian faith.  What could be more non-essential than demanding that all Christians acknowledge Darby's views on the so-called rapture, something which has not happened yet?  Contrast the response of Darby to the Baptists of the late 17th century.  The latter were apologetic and sorrowful that, for conscious sake, they had to disagree with the practice of infant baptism.

Suffice it to say, one of the key characteristics of Reformation thinking is:  separate from everyone else.  But this notion is contrary to the will of Christ who, in John 10 & 17, expressly prayed that the Church would not be divided.  How are we working at fulfilling His will in this regard?  I hope that I and many others in the Church will do better....

The Protestant Reformation had a lot to do with the elevation of Man, encouraging man-centered rather than Christ centered ministry.  Men have always wanted to gain a following for this or that reason – from Dathan (Numbers 16) to Diotrephes (3John) – and Protestant churches are rife with this spiritual disease.  Not only is this attitude divisive in the Church but these man-centered ministries often collapse when their charismatic leader dies or moves on, as we would expect. John Darby was a leader of a movement that placed non-essentials of the Christian faith above the unity of the Church.  Of course, they would deny that their peculiar views of the Second Coming, for example, are non-essential.

Darbyism is popular among a sub-group of the American Church known as Fundamentalists.  While they generally adhere to orthodox Biblical doctrine, their doctrines concerning Israel, Bible translations, wine & spirits, treatment of other faithful Christians, to name but a few, put them at (or sometimes beyond) the edges of orthodoxy.

What is to happen in the future is a great concern for them so some  Darbyites make attempts to date the exact End of the World – repeatedly embarrassing themselves, the Church, and the Name.  The debacles created by Harold Camping of Family Radio concerning the exact date when the Second Coming would occur were a wasteful distraction that did not promote godliness in the lives of anyone.  They made Christians look like gullible (and dangerous) fools.  Rather than apologize that his views were misguided and false, Camping continued to change the dates.  It was a fiasco and a great embarrassment to our Savior.  Just before he died, Mr. Camping apologized, thankfully, for spreading his teaching about setting a date for the Second Coming.  But the widespread damaged had already been done -- it was too late.  Mr. Camping was a follower of John Darby in most ways so who could expect him to handle the Word carefully?

Christians should not waste their time and energy, as the Darbyites do, on what is yet to come but rather on being salt and light where they live.

Will the heathen praise God for the lives of the Christians they see about them?
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1Thess. 4:11-12
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:16
It has never been about words and speeches (unless you are an anointed evangelist) but about what you and I do.  If I have failed in anything in life, it has been that my deeds do not measure up to my words.  But I, nor anyone else, need give up.  We must diligently continue to make obedience to Christ our goal in this life.

For example, one wonders had Paul been a follower of Darby, would we have the letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians?  The Darbyites need to work harder in showing love towards those with whom they disagree.  It is not a good witness that Darby himself got entangled in hair-splitting with the group he formed – the Plymouth Brethren.   In the 3rd century A.D., the bitterly persecuted Christians of Carthage were still known for their good works (Acts 10:38), especially their care of the heathen sick during numerous plagues.  Sadly, Christians  are often known among the heathen for being busybodies, mean spirited, and bullies.  This should not be.

If this author has some constructive words for the followers of Mr. Darby, it would be to exhibit a more humble and generous spirit towards those whom they consider "outsiders," to better educate themselves in theology (especially historic Christian orthodoxy), to better understand what are disputable matters, and to adopt a more generous spirit towards the world even though it is a prisoner to sin.  We all fail to live up to this Biblical standard so it would be incorrect to just single out Dispensationalists.

Our speech is to be always gracious, yet seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6).  Sinful men – even those who are forgiven – must exercise great care:  Only the Prophets in the Bible perfectly speak for God.  Neither I nor anyone else can speak in that way -- but not if you are a Dispensationalist.  If we wish to instruct others in doctrine we must remember Paul's words to Timothy:
And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. 2Tim. 2:24-25
"Kind to everyone"?  What can that mean but to everyone?  A gentle instructor?  Has anyone listened to the typical Darbyite on the radio rail at people for not embracing Dispensationalism?  It is a disgrace.

The light of the Church here in North America is in danger of being extinguished as it has been in Europe.  The churches of Asia Minor were destroyed because they did not heed the LORD's warnings in Revelation 2-3.  These same words need to be studied and applied with diligence and care to our lives – if we are concerned about the future of His Body here, to say nothing of the future of our children.

As the Spirit commands, are we winning the respect of outsiders or their disdain and anger for reasons unconnected with the Biblical Gospel?  Are we proving our repentance from sin by our deeds?  Dispensationalism has an enormous and – often enough – unwitting following who make claims that, upon careful examination, are presumptuous and contrary to sound teaching, especially historical Christian orthodoxy.

As Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. once quipped about liberals, dispensationalists say they welcome other Christian views but then are shocked and offended when they actually discover that there are other views, especially views prior to 1830.
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