Saturday, October 1, 2016

The New Totalitarianism, Dispensationalism Before Darby, 'Hunting' Pretribbers

The New Totalitarianism

It is vitally important for Americans to understand that the collectivist dictatorship of the future (that writers like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell were warning us about) is not going to take over our country instantaneously as in Nazi Germany or violently as in Soviet Russia, and certainly not by openly declaring that it is going to take over. It is coming about very slowly and subtly by the adoption of false ideas and a subconscious self-deception among the intellectuals that lead our nation, by corrup¬tion of the word symbols that the people use, and by a philosophical distor¬tion of the reality around them. Such deceptions and corruptions make the people believe that what they are getting is some new enlightened kind of freedom, some sort of “progressive,” “creative,” and “benevolent” government that will erect a great utopia of material wealth, where all men will be perpetually secure and successful no matter what the levels of their capability, intelligence, and energy are.

The modern-day tyrant gains his power by telling the people that he is going to make life more plentiful and beautiful for them than they are capable of doing on their own. And in most cases, he actually believes he is going to. He proclaims that their concern for freedom is “old fash¬ioned,” that they must go beyond such “simplistic desires” to a Great Planned Society where enlightened bureaucrats and philosopher kings will guide them through their life’s decisions and tribulations, relieving them of the responsibility of their acts while providing them with all their basic needs. It is a siren song as base as the power lust it springs from, and it lures the people of a country into a collectivist slavery as sure as the darkness of night follows the light of day.

Compliant masses are the fodder that tyranny seeks, and the obliteration of reason is the contagion it brings about. Spreading its ideological agents throughout the nation like germs consuming a host cell, it teaches (in the schools, the churches, and the media) that to be free and independent is “selfish,” that making a profit is “exploitative,” that laissez-faire capitalism is “unworkable,” that obedience to the majority will is “true freedom." A ready audience, eager to absorb such propaganda, is culled from the conformist and fearful. The concepts of collectivism and state wel¬fare are glorified to the young, and the subservient among them grow up wanting to become collectivistic, wanting to become servants to the gov¬ernment. What is so alarming is that just such a subtle and sophisticated indoctrination process is taking place today in almost every American university.

As a preface to the next two articles, I have to profess to have great frustration over the continual false arguments regarding John Darby and the pre-tribulation rapture view. As most of us know, it's a theoretical "argument" that John Darby "started" the "rapture movement" in the 1800's and it was never taught in the Church prior to that, therefore it is an invalid view. Additionally, Darby received his "information" from Margaret McDonald who was a teenage girl who had visions. Despite the fact that this has been disproven over and over and over again, I still see these arguments made and if it weren't so sad and misleading it would actually be funny at this point. Just a few facts:

1. There were many Church teachings on the rapture prior to John Darby. This has been shown over and over again, but simply ignored. 

This point of view also conveniently ignores the early Church writings which were clearly discussing the rapture, such as the apostles Peter, John and Paul, not to mention Luke, accurately recorded in a book called "The Bible". Ignoring the very earliest Church in this argument is very perplexing at best. 

2. Even if Darby DID begin the rapture teachings (which he didn't, but for the sake of argument...), we know from the book of Daniel that the end-times prophetic scrolls would not be unsealed until the end of days. 

3. If you read her writings, Margaret McDonald had dreams/visions of a post-tribulation rapture.

4. John Darby never mentioned Margaret McDonald, but with one exception - and in that exception he was critical.

5. Darby had written some of his materials on the rapture prior to Margaret McDonalds dreams/visions. 

Yet despite all of this, I see these same tired arguments used frequently. 

Dispensationalism Before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism (affiliate link) by William C. Watson – a review. The book is published by Lampion Press (373 pages).
Critics of dispensationalism and pretribulationism inevitably point to John Darby. Cyrus Scofield and a number of popular pretribulational proponents are included in the list. There are obligatory mentions of Hal Lindsay and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind books. Darby’s character and personal integrity are often maligned. The take-home message is that pretribulationism and dispensationalism are new and either invented by Darby, the Jesuits or Ribera. Take your pick!
Keep in mind that Covenant Theology is relatively new (16th-17th centuries). The Pre-Wrath Rapture didn’t see light of day until late 20th century. I often joke that these critics copy and paste material from the same source – Dave MacPherson’s polemics.
In any case, enter William C. Watson’s book, Dispensationalism Before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism.
Watson is Professor of History at Colorado Christian University who specializes in 17th century and 18th century English history. He has a B.A. degree in history from California Polytechnic State University, a M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology, a M.A. in European history and a Ph.D. in 17th and 18th Century English history from the University of California, Riverside. He was also a 2004 Fulbright Scholar in Moldova.
One may get a sense of Watson’s dedication and rigorous methodology from the opening lines of his article Pretribulational Rapture in 17th & 18th Century England. You can also view an online summary of his findings.
In some cases Watson traveled long distances at personal expense to research his material. Watson also accessed databases such as “Early English Books Online (EEBO), a collection of over 100,000 titles published in English from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.” According to Watson:
I have used more than 350 primary sources, most of which have not been read (much less cited) for centuries. This is largely due to the fact that the writings are either unfamiliar or previously inaccessible to many researchers.
What emerges from Watson’s fascinating research is a thorough refutation that dispensational and pre-conflagration rapture concepts were non existent prior to John Darby. These ideas are found among many Puritan writings across more than one continent. In most cases these early thoughts didn’t exactly reflect the final conclusion which Darby and others arrived at in the 19th century. However, one can certainly see the progression towards Darby’s thinking. Many of these men (and women) departed from Covenant Theology’s tendency to allegorize prophecy. These scholars began to derive their ideas from a more literal biblical hermeneutic.
For example: On page 45 Watson provides a list of names of scholars who loved the Jews. They often recognized God’s eternal covenant with the Jewish nation, expected their restoration, and even saw that restoration as a precursor to the apocalypse. Notably, Watson later writes:
An expectation that the saints would be taken out of tribulation and protected from the wrath of the Antichrist was common in the seventeenth century. ~ (p 144)
This is a must read book for any objective reader who doesn’t have negative presuppositions about the origins of dispensationalism and pretribulationism. My hope is that this book gains a broader readership. Sadly, I suspect cynics will simply ignore this inconvenient book and continue the usual narrative against John Darby and futurism.
In any case, we should thank Professor Watson for this valuable contribution. While this is an information-packed read, it will reward those genuinely interested in prophecy and who haven’t got axes to grind. I eagerly look forward to future contributions.

That said the level of rancor I've seen against pretribulationism fascinates me. It almost ranks with the animosity I see against modern Israel. In fact the only reason I ever became interested in the rapture timing debate was because of this weird anti-pretrib phenomenon.

I'm sure many sincerely believed they were doing a good thing - rescuing pretribulationists from a "dangerous teaching." Later I discovered that a lot of them were influenced by polemical books written against pretribulationism. There are even entire websites designed to combat the "pretrib heresy."

My shift from posttrib to pretrib was partly a result of struggling to understand why some people were so fervently anti-pretrib. I wanted to know if their arguments and concerns stacked up and how they justified their views.

Having reached my conclusions, I started a blog on eschatology in order to record my thoughts. Sure enough, whenever I posted an article on the rapture, I'd get drive-by comments suggesting I should Google something about John Darby, or Tommy Ice, or Cyrus Scofield, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye etc. It hardly ever failed.

I learned something from jousting with the rare few who bothered engaging me. Most of them weren't interested in genuine dialogue. Whenever I answered an objection they'd move to a different one. They also disliked justifying themselves. Interestingly, atheists use the same tactics.
Others who run public pretribulational forums know that pro-pretrib articles are bound to be magnets for attacks. After a series of attacks by proponents of one particular rapture timing system, one ministry decided to officially respond to the view.

Personally, I felt that the response was fair and irenic considering the provocations. But the non-pretribbers were incensed. "Foul!" they cried. Blogs were written and debate challenges dutifully issued. Those wotten pwetwib wascals! How dare they attack us!

Then there was the four-hour documentary produced against pretribulationism in which John Darby was a focal point. It was natural that pretribulationists who actually endured the four hours would react. Ironically, the doco producers were so offended by one rejoinder - they convened a one hour and forty-five minute conference. Is there some disconnect here?

Speaking of Darby - a standard attack on pretribulationism consists of drawing connections between Margaret Macdonald, Darby, Scofield, Lindsey, and LaHaye's Left Behind novels. When Grant Jeffrey discovered a pre-conflagration rapture statement by someone called Pseudo Ephraem, non-pretribbers circled the wagons. "It couldn't be!" they cried. "Wishful thinking!"

Posttribber Robert Gundry came to their rescue by suggesting that PE spoke in symboliclanguage. Sound familiar? Dr Ice responded HERE. Note that Gundry wrote two books arguing against the pretrib rapture.

Yet PE was the tip of the ice-berg. William C. Watson has since written Dispensationalism Before Darby which opens the flood waters of pre-Darby rapture and dispensational themes among Puritans. Dr. Watson told me that Gundry - despite this overwhelming data - insisted his view was based on Scripture. One then wonders why that urgency to debunk PE.

Because dispensationalism and pretribulationism are often intertwined, we often hear of the so-called heresies associated with the former as a means to refute the latter. Foremost is the charge that dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation. As many times as this is refuted it keeps returning. Please read Tony Garland's response.
Another alleged issue is that pretrib-dispensationalism "dangerously" teaches a different mode of salvation during the 70th week of Daniel. Salvation is always by faith through grace - even in the Old Testament. The question is the content of that faith.
Here's the irony. In this Age of Grace there's no sin preventing an unbeliever from repenting and coming to salvation through faith in Christ. Yet when John MacArthur suggested that people who'd taken the Mark of the Beast could repent and be saved, pretribbers and non-pretribbers alike criticized him. Of course the latter had a field day against pretribulationism.
Now I'm not defending MacArthur. However, what has changed in the 70th week? What about Matt 25:32-46? Think about it.

I realize I'm going over some well-trodden ground. But it bears repetition because it keeps coming up. Are pretribbers ill-prepared for the coming tribulation? Will they confuse the Antichrist for Jesus because the former allegedly arrives first?

It's hard to take the last one seriously. The Beast doesn't come down in the clouds, and he chops people's heads off if they don't take the mark and worship him. That isn't what Christ does. Case closed.

Here's something for the non-pretrib preppers. There's much wisdom in being prepared for short-term disasters. Yet it isn't likely one can prepare for seven years of it. Will you bunker down? Then who will witness to the lost? When the starving lost ones knock on your door, will you feed and witness to them? Or will you send them away? Remember Matt 25?

I sometimes see non-pretrib Christians use the pseudonym "Overcomer" as a pointer to Matt 24:13 and Rev 7:14. Tribulation is already here. It always has been. Every day, around the world, Christians are dying for their faith.

The time for overcoming is now.

How do we overcome?  Do we trust ourselves? Paul wrote that he was able to bear all conditions through Christ who strengthened him (Phil 4:11-13). He didn't prep for shipwrecks. Paul was ever ready because of his position in Christ.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5

This is what should comfort us greatly:

My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38-39

Instead of hunting down people with differing eschatological views, our focus should be on our personal daily walk in the Lord and witnessing to the lost. We don't know when God may call us home through death. Are you ready to meet the Lord now?

Let's wisely use whatever time we have left.
The Lord might come for us sooner than we imagine.


Susannah said...

You're right Scott, our focus should always be the Lord, eyes on him not on trying to work out what will happen when. It becomes a trap which takes our focus and certainly doesn't change us more into His image, it divides and creates hostility...hmm, now who does that remind me of?
As Dostoevsky wrote "every day we stand on the brink of eternity" or even better Jesus said you never know when yourlife will be required of you, so pay attention to your relationship with him!
Sincere greetings in Christ.

Bt374 said...

I love the last couple paragraphs of this hunting pretribbers article. I'll not waste time on my eschatological opinion here... What is always most important is doing what Jesus command in Matthew 28. Go. Teach the lost the very same gospel that Jesus himself taught. The rest will work itself out. Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 1 to not be a divided church. (imho) Especially not for the sake of non-essential doctrines. I pray that pre,post,mid,and whatever elsetribbers would not be divided. last time I checked, salvation didn't depend on when Jesus would come for the church. Salvation depends on faith and trust in Jesus, who shed His blood for ALL.
No matter your view on triibbin...I think we can all agree that time is so very short. Love one another.
In Christ,

Caver said...

Interesting conversation and observations.
I live not far from where the Burlington Revival recently concluded after over 3 months and 1000 souls saved. The presiding pastors had some relevant and interesting comments to us.

By the time it ended, over 60 area churches were supporting it and sending people nightly to perform needed functions. These were churches the pastors for years would not even enter a restaurant where another was eating. They felt they had nothing in common and, in fact, were doctrinally opposed to each other.

By midpoint in the revival, they had become best friends and realized their small differences were simply the window dressing....on all the important points they were all precisely on point. Jesus is the only Son of God and became both fully human and fully God to live among us, suffer, shed His innocent blood, and die for us. Whomever believes on His name and calls on Him shall be saved.

That's the nitty gritty. That's the message.

ally said...

:) Caver, that's awesome! I always try and chalk that stuff up to a general non awareness of the "body" of Christ. Im in a physical body, if my brain tells me I have to stay and finish a project while my Crohns disease tells my stomach I gotta find a bathroom NOW lol, that's an issue. It's hard for your own body to stay in agreement with itself, much less millions of people in different denominations.
But, if I turn a corner on a walk and find myself in the midst of a blm protest, uh, suddenly my body falls into agreement and RUNS! ;) (actually, lol, you know me id try to reason with them, Jesus and MLK both gave up their lives, what you doing out here in the streets doing the work of a curmudgeon billionaire white man? Haven't you learned anything yet? Still letting someone else use you to accomplish their purposes and then kick you to the curb. At least Trump will give you a job.) Then I'd run.
But I think you get the gist.
That's part of why the church excells under pressure.
The American church has been sitting on the sofa eating donuts and watching tv for the last 20 years or more. But she is about to get up and do a serious prewedding workout. ;)
Ken Johnson has an amazing teaching about what the church fathers and the rapture belief. Ken can be kinda dry but his research is excellent. Of course, they were all Petrib. And he also has a little teaching on biblical birthplace of the antichrist. Intriguing indeed.
Still think we are crazy close to finding out!!!! ;)