Darby and Dualism

In Darby, Dualism, and the Decline of Dispensationalism, Ron Henzel argues that traditional Dispensationalism's current plight can be traced back to its founder, John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), although not for the reasons that non-Dispensationalists have generally assumed. Dispensationalism's critics have tended to focus on Darby's excessively literal approach to the interpretation of biblical prophecy, but Henzel offers a new paradigm for understanding Darby, one that has far-reaching consequences for those who would attempt to understand both Dispensationalism and its problems without first consulting the writings of its primary architect.

Exceptional research and scholarship are evident throughout this fine book, probably the best work written about the unique theological ideas of John Nelson Darby and how they resulted in the creation of the dispensationalist system, which Henzel rightly describes as being "a deliberately iconoclastic system" (p 22). Henzel brings to the foreground Darby's radical dichotomy (never before promulgated by anyone claiming to be an orthodox Christian) between the heavenly people and the earthly people of God and carefully and fairly shows how Darby broke with orthodox Christian understandings on many issues, including eschatology and soteriology. The dualism posited by Darby, Henzel argues (and demonstrates), "was a dualism as great as anyone had ever posited between the sacred and the secular, or between the spiritual and the natural" (p 87). That is strong, but accurate, assessment - and one that needs to be heard by many Christians.