Origin of Dispensationalism?

I got a question from a Lutheran friend about the origin of the dispensationalism belief. This is one area I have not studied and I would like to provide him with some material/info/sources he can refer to. I told him to give me a couple days to ask around. I think he’d even be willing to come to CA if there are reference material here on the topic.

“…Do you have any good sources that describe the origins of the Dispensationalism belief among most evangelicals? I have been told that is originated from a Scottish school girl’s dream, and John Darby then made it part of the doctrine that he taught (1820’s). Perhaps also a good source that refutes the belief. It seems the Catholic church is the only denomination where this belief hasn’t yet seeped in - I think.”

Oh, and please don’t hammer him for calling the Church a “denomination”. One step at a time. :wink:

This article might be a good refutation of it. catholicrevelation.com/2009/10/dispensationalism/

A quick Google search: google.com/search?q=monogomy&gws_rd=ssl#q=dispensationalism. It’s definitely not an ancient belief of the Church. It’s quite recent, highly speculative nonsense akin to believing in UFOs.

This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate one of the flaws of “Sola Scriptura”. Why?

Because you’ll find that trying to nail down a definition of this theology is like trying to get a cat into a gunny sack. With the lack of central authority and a system of checks and balances (which we have in the Church), defining what is true and what is not becomes problematic.

Darby produced a translation of the Bible and initiated the concept, but C.I. Scofield was responsible for popularizing Dispensationalism. Scofield’s book really popularized it: “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth”. After that, he produced his own Study Bible around the early 1900’s and the idea took off from there.

I think it’s safe to say that it’s about 160 years old.

As to why it hasn’t “seeped in” to the Catholic faith is because of the structure of our Church. We have checks and balances designed to make sure that such things are checked, re-checked, studied and thought about by real, academically trained theologians. Protestants don’t really have that benefit.

“Sola Scriptura” is what allows these things to “seep in” to protestant denominations. In that world, if enough people believe in a specific interpretation of scripture, then it has a very good chance of infiltrating major denominations. And, if it doesn’t, the people who believe it will can start their own denomination.

What you’ll find is that many of these advocates of Dispensationalism disagree as to the exact definition of it. Once again, these disagreements are the direct result of “Sola Scriptura”, because if you have no central authority then there is no clear definition of the doctrine.

Here’s an interview with John MacArthur that shows you an example of the disagreements.

Keep in mind that John MacArthur is a rabid anti-catholic. Use caution in suggesting your friend read that article.

You need to be careful of taking information off the web about this because opinions and definitions on this vary wildly and I find it hard to believe that you’ll find unbiased sources on the web.

Many Protestant denominations reject the concept. Most of those denominations fall under the category of “Reformed Theology”.

Here is an article that will help. Keep in mind it was written by a Reformed Theologian, so it is not a neutral position. IMO, however, it’s fairly accurate.

This is mostly from memory, so factual corrections are welcome!


Shoot! I forgot something!

It’s important to note that Scofield WAS NOT A THEOLOGIAN.

He had no real theological training-- yet he started and popularized a theological concept that the majority of Protestants accept! Not only that, he became a pastor with no theological training. To me, that’s like learning to Skydive from someone who’s never done it. But that would only risk your life, not your soul.

Even worse, his material is STILL TAUGHT in MAJOR Protestant Seminaries.

How’s that for the end results of “Sola Scriptura”?

Thanks very much for the great information! I’ll pass this along (except maybe not the MacArthur one…I’ve already had to deal with some of his stuff). :smiley:

Just a quick note from a protestant. Yes, the key players in popularising dispensationalism were John Darby, Cyrus Schofield, and Clarence Larkin. Several seminaries were influential too such as Dallas Theological Seminary.

I would like to add that ‘Dispensationalism’ has never been the dominant view in Protestant churches - just the noisiest. Also, it has been rapidly losing ground over the last 20 years or so.

Thank you for that.

Hi Kephart,
When you say the “majority of Protestants”, my understanding is that dispensationalism is taught by some Baptists, Pentecostals, and some fundamentalist and non-denominational groups. Do you have a specific list from which you make the claim of “majority”?

Do you have a list of the “major” protestant seminaries? Dispensationalism wouldn’t be taught in Lutheran, Presbyterian/Reformed, and Anglican seminaries, so I was wondering which seminaries you are referring to.


I’m not sure I agree, but I have no stats to back my opinion up. Although I did spend 20 years as a Protestant, my experience certainly doesn’t determine universal trends. I’m going to bet that I missed a recent resurgence in Reformed Theology… :wink:

And offhand, I’d say the “noisiest” view would be the idea of “The Rapture”.

Don’t get me started on that…! :rolleyes:


Eschatology has been trending toward part-Preterism and/or Amillenialism since about the turn of this century. Funnily enough, its much the same as standard Catholic eschatology but with different terminology.

Speaking of ‘catholic eschatology’, their track record has included a few la-la ideas too. We all have our share. :wink:

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