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S5:E3 Dispensationalism and John Nelson Darby

S5:E3 Dispensationalism and John Nelson Darby

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What is dispensationalism?

This season we’re tracing the history of Christian fundamentalism through the life of William Jennings Bryan. But first, we need to learn some important definitions. Our big word of the week is dispensationalism. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Dispensationalism is (in part) the notion that God treats humankind differently depending on what era we are in. It is not accepted by all Christians, but it is a building block of fundamentalism. Another component of dispensationalism is the secret rapture–the idea that God will take His elect to heaven just before the tribulation. It also asserts that the Christian Church will become apostate before the end times. This last tidbit is important! Premillennialism made Christians suspicious of the outside world, but it was dispensationalism that made us suspicious of each other.

Who created dispensationalism?

John Nelson Darby is often credited as the father of dispensationalism. He came up with the idea of the rapture and is the man who packaged a bunch of existing ideas into this systematized vision of the Bible. In the 1700s and 1800s, people adapted the scientific notion of categorizing everything into genus and species and applied it to all areas of study, even when reading the Bible. This encouraged people like Darby to break the Bible into “dispensations” or eras.

Our guest this week is George Marsden. He’s the author of “Fundamentalism and American Culture”.

Discussion Questions:

  • Are you suspicious of other Christians? Why is that?
  • Do you believe in the rapture? Why?
  • Does the God of the Bible behave differently in different parts of the Bible? Or is He the same throughout?
  • Do you believe that Jewish people were destined to return to Israel based on Matthew 24:32-33 or Romans 11:25-26?
  • What did you know about the French Revolution before our recent episodes on it? Do you think it was a significant event in world history? If so, why?

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S5:E2 Premillennialism and Postmillennialism

S5:E2 Premillennialism and Postmillennialism

The difference between Premillennialism and Postmillennialism is more important than you think

What is the difference between premillennialism and postmillennialism? And what does it matter?

After the French Revolution in the late 1700s, Christians began to see the world as coming to an end. Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 describe an oppressor who will wear the people out for a period of time. Some Christian interpret that as being 1260 years. That 1260 years can be placed over the reign of Justinian all the way through history up until the French Revolution. That is just one interpretation that not everyone shares. But if you hold that view then this event was HUGE. It meant that the end of the world was super close. It has now been over 200 years since that event, but many premillennialists still hold up this prophecy as proof of the fulfillment of scripture.

Many Christians tried to uncover the meaning of it all. Some turned to an old idea — premillennialism. It’s the notion that the world is on a downward trajectory. Things are going to get really bad and then Jesus will return. Before this time, many evangelicals were postmillennialism. They thought the world was going to get better over time. This split was an important part of what would become the fundamentalist/ modernist debate.

Premillennialism has some dark “logical” conclusions to it. Some premillennialist like pastor John MacArthur argue that since the world is going to burn anyway, we humans shouldn’t worry about things like global warming.

Discussion Questions:

  • Why was the French Revolution such an important moment in world history?
  • Pre-Revolution the nobles and clergy controlled much of the power in France. They could out-weigh 98% of the population of France. Is this perhaps a reason why the French people turned against them?
  • Are you a premillennialist, a postmillennialist, or neither?
  • Did you read the Left Behind books? What do you remember? How did they impact you?
  • Do you think you have a positive or negative view of world history? How does that impact the way you act?
  • Should premillennialists see Jesus’ second coming as a reason to avoid taking care of the planet?

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