A Critical Examination of the Ecclesiology of John Nelson Darby

Clarke, Matthew Austin (2009) A Critical Examination of the Ecclesiology of John Nelson Darby. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

545745_Redacted.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License All Rights Reserved.

Download (12MB) | Preview


This thesis examines the ecclesiology, or doctrine of the church, of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), who was one of the leading and most prominent members of the Plymouth Brethren in the nineteenth century. The thesis systematically outlines the structure of Darby's thought on the subject of ecclesiology. It explains how Darby defined the church and understood its nature. His ecclesiology is shown to be foundational to the system of Dispensationalist theology in that the church is seen in occupying a period of time unforeseen in biblical prophecy. Darby's ecclesiology is also shown to be an ecclesiology of crisis in that he believed that the church had fallen into such a state of ruin that no bodies existed that could truly be described as churches. The thesis considers Darby's solution to the ruin or failure of the church found in 'meeting in the name of the Lord.' It examines how Darby's view of how the church should meet successfully synthesized the conflicting concepts of unity and separation. It suggests that other writers have not always recognized how Darby distinguished between separation from individuals and separation from institutions. Nevertheless while arguing that Darby's ecclesiology achieved a stable synthesis between unity and separation, it presents a number of practical problems with Darby's ecclesiology. Attention is given to Darby's teaching on discipline, ministry, church government and sacraments. The thesis considers his ecclesiology within a number of contexts. First, its place within the development of ecclesiology in theological history and in relation specifically to modem ecclesiologies. Second, in his life and involvement with the Brethren movement. Third, his role in the development of American fundamentalism, a major proportion of which has adopted significant aspects of his theology, particularly Dispensationalism, a form of millennial theology that makes a strong distinction between the church and the nation of Israel within salvation history. This thesis argues that while some American fundamentalists adopted Darby's dispensational views, they found very different practical applications for them in their ecclesiastical activity. A number of reasons are considered as to why they did not adopt Darby's ecclesiology in its entirety. Fourthly, the thesis considers the place of Darby's ecclesiology in relation to other ecclesiastical movements in nineteenth century Britain. It argues that Darby's ecclesiology shared similar themes to three ecclesiastical movements,

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Scotland, Nigelnscotland@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Holmes, Stephensholmes@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Uncontrolled Keywords: Plymouth Brethren, History; John Nelson Darby (1800-1882); Christian sects, United Kingdom;
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Depositing User: Phil Davis
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2016 17:04
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:56
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3192

University Staff: Request a correction | Repository Editors: Update this record

University Of Gloucestershire

Bookmark and Share

Find Us On Social Media:

Social Media Icons Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Pinterest Linkedin

Other University Web Sites

University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.