Gribben, in chapter 2, begins to present for us the historical backdrop for a belief in a “secret rapture.” I am finding more and more that Gribben is an extremely faithful historian who works hard to prevent his biases from influencing his historical narrative. I think my sole concern in this chapter is the designation of “secret” rapture!
Gribben presents for us the history of the adoption of a pre-tribulational rapture in the life of the church. Gribben traces its mainstream adoption of the doctrine to John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren. He discounts the repeated negative assertions that it was originally developed in the ecstatic utterance of Margaret Macdonald, but instead, brings a newer twist (at least to this reviewer), of an origin in a French Roman Catholic sect! Gribben though rightly acknowledges that when and where a doctrine develops is not really the issue but simply if one faithfully derives that doctrine from the Word of God. He may disagree with the theology of a “secret” rapture, but still is honest in this assertion.
He argues against those (including the generally good Systematic Theologian, Robert Reymond), who continue to misunderstand dispensationalism despite the arguments of its best theologians. Gribben cites Charles Ryrie and his groundbreaking Dispensationalism Today as representative of those who continue to oppose those who label dispensationalism as a movement that teaches more than one way of salvation. My one question is, why do those who interact with dispensationalism always interact with Ryrie’s original 1965 edition (which Gribben notes is older) and does not reference his updated 1995 edition? If Ryrie is one of dispensationalism’s best theologians should we not be following even his most up-to-date work?
Gribben’s history of the “secret” rapture is fascinating. The political origins, which most certainly seem right, of the rapture doctrine really force those of us who adhere to a pre-tribulational rapture to argue for our doctrine from a purely exegetical and theological approach. If one is looking for a more detailed look at the history of dispensationalism especially as it was developed by Darby check out, Larry V. Crutchfield, The Origins of Dispensationalism: The Darby Factor (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992).
Gribben concludes the chapter dealing with the qualms that some of evangelicalism’s heavy hitters make about the so-called anti-intellectual nature of Fundamentalism’s pre-tribulatinal, premillennial theology. Of course, any fringe group in any movement can be charged with anti-intellectualism. Truly, Fundamentalism as a whole, in its key theological leaders and schools, was hardly anti-intellectual. They simply were not as involved socially as those who are complaining about them. This thinking on the part of the Fundamentalists was surely influenced by their eschatology, but not solely. Regardless, Gribben is right to note that the major problem in modern evangelicalism is not the pre-tribulational, premillennial theology of many, but the weak view of the gospel!
Gribben is an excellent writer who makes history incredibly interesting. I am looking forward to continue reading this book. It has been encouraging to see Gribben, who does not take the position I hold, treat the position with respect. And I continue to agree that the view of the gospel presented in the “Left Behind” theology and modern evangelicalism, requires a tremendous reappraisal!
I continue to recommend this book to those engaged on all sides of the “dispensational” debate, to those engaged in the ministry, but even more so, those in the pews who are reading these bestselling “Rapture Fictions.”