A History of Dispensationalism in America by Ernest Reisinger
In our last study we considered the vital relationship of Dispensationalism to the Lordship controversy. Dispensationalism is the theological mother of non-Lordship teaching.
In this study I wish to give a very brief history of dispensationalism in the U.S.A. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study. It is just a little parenthesis in our studies on the Lordship controversy.
I am taking this little diversion because many, if no, most, of those carrying Scofield Bibles, who sit under Dispensational teachers, know very little about the system and its history. They do not know how the Dispensational theological system differs from the Reformational, historical theology in general, and covenant, Reformed Theology in particular. This is true not only of those in the pews but also, in many instances, the preachers themselves have never seriously compared Dispensationalism with covenant theology as it is most clearly expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the theology of the Heidelberg Catechism. Covenant Theology is the archrival of Dispensationalism.
It is my conviction that many who are presently disposed toward Dispensationalism would not be victims of the system if they were better acquainted and informed about the system and its history-its theological roots and the doctrinal errors it has spawned.
Dispensationalism has its roots in the Plymouth Brethren movement which began in the United Kingdom. Writers do not all agree as to the time and place of the Brethren’s origin. The first “breaking of bread service” that I can find a record of was in 1827 in Dublin. The preponderance of the information would show that John Nelson Darby was in a real sense a key person and early teacher of the Brethren movement. Other names are very early identified with the movement; such as A.N. Groves; B.W. Newton; W.H. Dorman; E. Cronin; and J.G. Bullett. All of these men were early leaders in places like Dublin, Plymouth and Bristol. It would be generally agreed that John Nelson Darby was the energizing and guiding spirit in its beginning. These men had many differences and divisions among themselves in the early days and ever after. This is not a critique of the Plymouth Brethren movement in the U.K. I mention it to show approximately when and where the Dispensational roots first appeared in history.
There are some Dispensationalists who do not agree with this assessment of their historical beginning. Their arguments, however, will not survive historical examination. Dispensationalism is a development of the Plymouth Brethren movement.