Walter Scott, A Link in Dispensationalism between Darby and Scofield? -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:610 (Apr 1996)
Article: Walter Scott, A Link in Dispensationalism between Darby and Scofield?
Author: David J. MacLeod


Walter Scott, A Link in Dispensationalism between Darby and Scofield?

David J. MacLeod

[David J. MacLeod is a member of the faculty of Emmaus Bible College, Dubuque, Iowa, and is associate editor of the Emmaus Journal.]

Critics of classic dispensationalism commonly argue that the dispensational views of C. I. Scofield (1843–1921)1 may be traced directly to John Nelson Darby (1800–1882),2 a prominent leader and seminal thinker among the early Plymouth Brethren. Oswald T. Allis, Old Testament professor at

Princeton and Westminster seminaries, wrote that Scofield’s dispensationalism “can be traced back directly to the Brethren Movement [and J. N. Darby].”3 Dismissing dispensationalism as a recent fringe-group theory, Carnell wrote, “Dispensationalism was formulated by one of the nineteenth-century separatist movements, the Plymouth Brethren.”4 Likewise Daniel P. Fuller argued that dispensationalism as a system originated with Darby.5 Similarly, former Bethel Seminary professor, Clarence Bass, argued that Scofield “borrowed ideas, words, and phrases” from Darby.6 Most recently, John Gerstner, theologian-at-large for Ligonier Ministries, concluded that “hardly anyone [today] questions that Scofield was profoundly influenced by Darby in the production of The Scofield Reference Bible.”7

Modern proponents of dispensationalism, however, are inclined to distance themselves from Darby in the interest of escaping the charges of recency and divisiveness.8 They rightly want to be considered part of mainstream evangelicalism and not part of a fringe movement. Thus Charles Ryrie, professor emeritus of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, while conceding the influence of Darby, wrote, “Darby’s teaching…was obviously not the pattern which Scofield followed…. The glib statement that dispensationalism originated with Darby, whose system was taken over and popularized by Scofield, is not historically accurate.”9 Likewise Larry Crutchfield, in his Drew

University dissertation, concluded that “there appears to be little evidence to connect Scofield directly with the works and influence of Darby.”

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