Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Englishness of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism began in Britain. Of course, John Nelson Darby, the founder of the system was from Ireland, not England. However, the Anglo-Irish aristocracy from which Darby arose were almost as distinct from the Irish population as whites and blacks in South Africa. The majority of the Plymouth Brethren who adopted Darby;s system were in England.

Of course, many people associate Dispensationalism with the United States. American fundamentalism adopted Dispensationalism with great passion. However, I would suggest that Americans are not passionate about the Dispensational system so much as the prophetic events that Dispensationalism expects, such as the rapture and the restoration of Israel. I would argue that there is something distinctively English about Dispensationalism.

You have to understand that in the early 19th century, Anglican clergymen did not have to do any work. Of course, a clergyman's living came with the expectation that he would conduct services and preach. However, the minister could easily afford to get his curate to do all that. And even if he did conduct services on the Lord's Day, he stil had the rest of the week to himself.

Some Anglican ministers spent their time hunting and making merry with the local gentry, but many others took up scholarly pursuits. A particular favorite was the study of natural history. A good deal of British wildlife, has been catalogued and classified by clergymen with too much time on their hands.

There is something distinctively English about the country clergyman who devotes his life to the study of butterflies or flowers. Likewise, there is something so typical about the methodology of Dispensationalism, in its rigorous classification of the different parts of the Scriptures according to their dispensational and prophetic character. This spirit can be best represented in the work of the Ultradispensationalist, EW Bullinger, who was of course, and English High Anglican minister.

Perhaps we English are a race of obsessive-compulsives.

Dispensationalism is a system in the English fashion. It is not an abstract, philosophical system of rationalism, like continental systems. Rather, it is empirical, inductive and aspires to be scientific.

It is of course, a highly narrative system. The Dispensationalist upholds a vast panorama of cosmic events; what many might call a mythology. Only the nation that gave the world William Blake and John Milton's Paradise Lost, with their unique graphic images of metaphysical drama. While this Dispensationalist is not a great fan of poetry, he absolutely adorses Gustave Dore's illustrations of Paradise Lost. It was also England that gave us Tolkien's incredible world of Middle Earth. Only an Englishman could create an whole mythology.

2 comments:

Trent said...

hi Matthew. Trent here. After posting several times as Trent on other peoples blogs, I finally broke down and started my own. Its at http://sola-scriptura-truth.blogspot.com/ I would like to see if you would like to link to mine, and allow me to do the same. If it was inappropriate for me to post my blog here, just delete it. Talk to you later.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks for the URL.