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Postscript to The Death of Victory
By Ovid Need, Jr.
The Heretical Teachings of J.N. Darby
Though we mentioned some of the following in our recent review of
The Plot, we will mention some more. This writer has been working on a lengthy manuscript,
The Death of Victory, for several years, tracing the roots, influence and implications of some new, unique
distinctive school of Christian thought formulated from about 1825 to 1875.1.
Muller noted in his journal for 21 February, 1834, that he had that morning formed ĎA plan for establishing upon scriptural principles an Institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroadí. [Mullerís Narrative, I. 107.] Later he set down the reasons why he felt that existing societies were not conducted on Scriptural lines. [Ibid., I. 107-109. Cf. the strictures by J. L. Harris on ĎReligious Societiesí, Christian Witness, IV. 86-100.] They had as their object the conversion of the world, an object which Muller had not been able to find in Scripture...2.
It is interesting to notice that the [Mullerís, ed] Scriptural Knowledge Institution was a mainstay of Hudson Taylorís China Inland Mission in its earliest days.3.
Thus Muller considered the idea of converting the World to Christ as sin, and his ideas formed the basis of China Inland Mission: Chinaís subsequent fall to Communism can, hence, be directly attributed to China Inland Mission, for it taught that it was sin for Christians to influence society for Christ and try to win the world to Christ.
A key figure in The Death of Victory was John Nelson Darby. Among a great many other things, Darby presented a new view of Matthew 24 and of Daniel, permitting him to say that the Stone of Daniel 2 has not yet struck the image, for it, said he,
"...shall break in pieces and consume those kingdoms" in their last form, viz., under the ten kings who give their power to the beast. (Daniel ii. 40-44; Rev. xvii. 11-14.) And here I must stop to remark upon a great error which prevails, viz., that the little stone was the setting up of Christís kingdom at the day of Pentecost, and that it has been growing into a great mountain every since; or, in other words, that the preaching of the gospel, in the present dispensation, is that which is to convert the world.4.
Thus he saw Christís appearing is not at the end (as is supposed), but at the beginning of the kingdom. In other words, Christ has not yet taken His kingdom.5. Up to Darbyís time, the common belief was that Christ had already ascended to His throne, Ehp 1 & 2, and was now ruling over all things. His ideas concerning Daniel 2 would only work, however, with radical dispensationalims, which he developed and defended through a new Bible study method, Bible Readings.
His view that the stone has not yet struck the image led to his next logical point: "The scripture does not speak of the universal prevalence of Christianity while the image subsists..." Hence, going against the common, orthodox Christian doctrine of his day, he taught that until Christ literally rules from Jerusalem on Davidís throne, there is no hope for the gospel changing anything for God and Godliness.6. What a sad situation when people become convinced that the preaching of the gospel cannot change society; robbed of faith in the power of God (as defined in 1 Cor 1:23ff.) to convert sinners to Himself, Christians are left with only a political hope. If they are taught that political involvement is wrong, they have no hope except escape.
Darby taught strongly against both political and social involvement, e.g., if your neighbour is being beaten and robbed, pass over on the other side of the street:
Darby defines Godís grace in the above letter, and elsewhere, as Godís power enabeling one to be unconcerned about what is going on around him- enabeling him to be uninterested and uninvolved in wicked, worldly activities, e.g.,voting. This writer knows men today who refuse to vote not because they hold Darbyís radical dispensationalism, but because they say it makes them part of the wicked system that is destroying the Constitution. However, they fail to see that the system is still in place that permits throwing the rascals out who are destroying the Constitution. The power is still at the local level, but it requires hard work to use it for Godly purposes.
We have now only time left to consider the promise: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God," &c. Here we see how definitely all the promises are connected with the time of glory - the new Jerusalem, here the heart is lifted up into its own proper dwelling-place. Are we taking the position of heavenly dwellers while walking this earth... [He then warns against Satanís seduction to become involved in the affairs around us, defining aithfulness to Christ as standing against Satanís seduction.] 8.
Darby held that Satan, using the world as his instrument, put Christ to death, and thus Godís plan failed: The cross proved there are no good men on earth. Therefore, Christian must be a stranger in this world with no concern for the events going on around him. Obviously, he understood Scripture in a manner to justify what he desires to believe and teach, viz., NO responsibility on this earth.
However, the Word of God clearly states that the wicked who killed Christ simply carried out Godís predetermined counsel, Acts 2:23; 3:18 ; 4:28, &c. But when one, e.g., Darby, believes the Old Testament is only given for nice illustrations, he can teach any view of the New Testament he desires, particularly a view that releases one from responsibility to oneís neighbour.
Darbyís belief, with the help of Darbyists, was spread to the four corners of the world, teaching Christians that they were simply strangers passing through a strange community. Accordingly, if they see someone being beaten and robbed, they MUST cross over the road and pass by on the other side. The Bible Reading method developed by Darby and popularized in America by D.L. Moody permits one to completely avoid passages that might require something he does not want to do, like protect his neighbour from thieves and robbers. Bible Reading:
The Bible Reading method of the study of Scripture with no regard to their context can be attributed directly to the Brethren movement, particularly Darby. This method permitted Darby to support his non-orthodox, unique ideas from the Word of God. However the horrendous implications of this kind of exegesis are obvious: Anything can be taught and supported from Scripture, and many times is.
Is it any wonder Irvingism/Darbyism is so tenaciously clung to? After all, Darbyism permits one to be indifferent about the plight of his neighbour, justify his indifference from Godís Word through Bible Reading and be deluded into a good conscience before God.
Of course, in order to ignore the plight of his neighbour, one must depart from the Christian faith as defined in the prophecies which have gone before, the Old Testament,
2 Ti 2:17, 18 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
Hence, we see that the general meaning of blaspheme is to speak evil of the truth of Godís Word. 1 Tim 1:18-21, points out that involved in Paulís deliverance of Hymenaeus and Alexander unto Satan was their evil speaking concerning the prophecies which went before, the Old Testament Scriptures. But the church did not learn from Paulís words against Hymenaeus and Alexander, and many have risen up since to speak reproachfully against the Old Testament.
One of the first to blaspheme, i.e., speak reproachfully against the truth of Godís Word, was Marcion [died c. 160]. Marcion,
Marcion reproachful, blasphemous speech against the Word of God as presented in the prophecies which went before was considered and dealt with as heresy: "Justin Martyr regarded him as the most insidious and dangerous heretic of the day. Polycarp called him the Ďfirst borní of Satan.íĎ13.
Taking on an appearance as an angel of light, Marcionism surfaced again in the 1800s, and swept multitudes into its fold. The Irvingites/Darbyites, followed by the Scofieldites, intentionally separated themselves from the Old Testament prophecies which went before: Their dispensationalism separated themselves from the weapons of a good warfare.
Irving/Darby Marcionised or dispensationalized the Word of God into a book more conducive to their way of thinking, mutilating it down to just basically the writings of Paul. However, though they followed Marcionís 1700 year old path, the reintroduction of Marcionís heresy met with huge success, for it permitted people to be free from the law of God and responsibility in the days of social chaos. Darby led in reintroducing and developing Marcionís heresy:
But even after separating the Old Testament from the New, Darbyists do not have a dependable word from God, for, they contend, not all the New Testament is acceptable for faith and practice. They, following Marcionís earlier path, separate Paulís teachings from the rest of Scripture, leaving the child of God with only a few words of instruction in faith and practice:
In another letter that same year, Darby mentions the Roman church that bases its system upon Peterís writings instead of Paulís: "This system presses stronger on me than even infidelity, dreadful as it is individually."16. In a 1874 letter from Belfast, Darby reduced the gospels to little more than the story of Christ: "Luke introduces the new order of things in which we find ourselves, rather than the kingdom to come.... For my part I often go back to the gospels in order to study the precious Saviour Himself. They are full of the richest instruction."17. Many times over and in many different letters, Darby labors to separate the Christian from all Scripture except Paulís. One last quote: "As to baptising, Christ did not send me to baptise, and we are under Paulís dispensation.18.
Having effectively cut off not only the Old Testament, but also all non- Pauline writings, Darbyism leaves the Christians who will follow it with no standard of right and wrong, and with no responsibility, we must add:
Thus Christians are called to look inward for his guidance. This extremely active and perceptive man convinced multitudes that they had no guide except the conscience of the spiritual man who is near enough to God to know His will. He develops, "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light," to say that if one is a Christian with a genuine desire to "walk in a way worthy of Him," he will, therefore, "grow in the knowledge of Godís will" for his life. He will, hence, know Godís will. In other words, if one is a Christian and has the proper motive, God will guide him through his conscience. He makes no mention of Godís Word.20.
Darby continues to make the point in another 1875 letter: ĎHe that is spiritual discerneth all things,í i.e., If one is sincere in his motives, Godís grace watches over him to lead in the proper path.21. In fact, when confrontations arose between Darby and others, he knew he was in the right because, in his words, "My conscience does not reproach me..."22. Referring to the Holy Spirit speaking in the heart, this Marcionite said,
Throughout the letters, it is obvious that Darby considers himself part of the class of persons who are the vessels and channels of communicating Godís own thoughts to mankind. This writer is suspicious: Might not this be a reason Darby failed to emphasize the individual must go to Godís Word for instruction, viz. It would strip him of his power? Was this not the great conflict between Christ and the Pharisees: They stood against the revealed Word of God because He was striping them of their influence and power over the people of God.
"But you have confounded, as is very common, law and gospel. The Gentiles have no law..." Nor can the law be made a measure for Chrisitans: "You are all wrong as to making law the measure. It was the measure of human righteousness in a child of Adam... Nor is the blessing of Christianity... to be found in the Old Testament... Nor is the law the measure of human sin..."26. Darby thus confuses Christís applied righteousness by faith to the sinner with the believerís right living according to the law. He contended that the Christianís promised blessings were claimed by obedience to Godís will as written in the heart, i.e., the conscience, not as written in His Law-Word.27.
This pastor has continually encountered this antinomian spirit over the span of 30 years since he entered Christian work. In fact, he was part of the spirit until the Lord dealt with him. Since the Lord dealt with him, he has tried to correct the antinomian spirit from the hearts of his people.
In a 1856 letter, Darby continues to drive people away from the will of God as revealed in His Word:
Do not dismiss the above as so far from truth that thinking Christians will reject it. This pastor questioned a young man concerning the young manís determination to become a pastor of a particular church upon graduation from one of the largest, best known fundamental Bible colleges in the world, located only about 2 hours north of us. The young man defended, and would not change, his determination when asked to defend his decision from the Word of God: The door is open, i.e., circumstances, and I have peace about it. He had no revealed written word from God for his decision.
Obviously, the sin promoted by Darby of "Let your conscience be your guide" has been around since Eve. The primary difference is that he gave it a cloak of Christian respectability by saying,"This requires spirituality, and abiding in communion with God. It is not to be guided by the circumstances, but to be guided by God in them, being near enough to God as to be able to judge immediately what one ought to do, as soon as the circumstances are there."21. His communion with God, though, was a mystical communion, not communion with God in His Word: It was not, Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not be ashamed.
His words sound Godly, all the right ones are there, but the message is clearly demonic, i.e., You are saved and desire to serve God; therefore, let your inner spirit guide you; if you are a Christian dedicated to serving the Lord, your conscience will not misguide you. In fact, Darby subjects even circumstances to feelings: C.I. Scofield sums up Darbyís entire teaching on the matter of Godís will, saying that, "Under the new covenant of grace the principle of obedience to the divine will is inwrought (Heb. 10.16)." 29. Darby continues in his letter:
In other words, circumstances might be contrary to what a Christian is determined to do, but that is only Satan trying to hinder one from obeying "the divine will inwrought." Darby really opens the Christian up to demonic activity in the spirit by saying, "God never allows Satan to act otherwise than on the flesh."31.
However, he does not leave the Christian with no standard: "...do what Jesus would have done in such and such a circumstance." Good advice. Certainly, the gospels "are full of the richest instruction," but one needs sound, written, black and white instructions as found only in Godís revealed will, His total Word.
There are a great many more quotes which would reveal Darbyís basic supposition concerning the Word of God, sin, Godís will, &c. But we will draw this to a close:
The above excerpt from Darbyís 1874 letter from London sounds like something every Christian could agree with, but, again, notice his next statement in the same letter:
Read what this man said who laid the foundation for C.I. Scofieldís, "Under the new covenant of grace the principle of obedience to the divine will is inwrought (Heb. 10.16)." He said that God does not speak to His people through paper and ink; rather, He speaks through the conscience and through circumstances.
Is it any wonder Irvingism/Darbyism is so tenaciously clung to? Darbyism/Scofieldism permits one to:
1) let his conscience be his guide, free from the restraints of Godís Law.
Paul inseparably connects the Old Testament with the New. When the Old is separated from the New, faith is put away, and the believers in that separation are made shipwreck, and delivered unto Satan. Has modern Irvingite/Darbyite/Scofieldite Christianity been delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme?
1. H.A. Ironside, A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement, Loizeaux Brothers, 1942, 1988 reprint, 7. "Because of the farreaching influence of this distinctive school of Christian thought it may not be unprofitable to inquire into the cause of the movement...," H.A. Ironside.
[Permission to re-post given from The Biblical Examiner]
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