Exporting the Rapture

John Nelson Darby and the Victorian Conquest of North-American Evangelicalism

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Donald Harman Akenson
  • Oxford, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , September
     520 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Martin Spence forthcoming.


Apocalyptic millennialism is one of the most powerful strands in evangelical Christianity. It is not a single belief, but across many powerful evangelical groups there is general adhesion to faith in the physical return of Jesus in the Second Coming, the affirmation of a Rapture heavenward of "saved" believers, a millennium of peace under the rule of Jesus and his saints and, eventually, a final judgement and entry into deep eternity.
In Discovering the End of Time (2016) Donald Harman Akenson traced the emergence of the primary packaging of modern apocalyptic millennialism back to southern Ireland in the 1820s and '30s. In Exporting the Rapture, he documents for the first time how the complex theological construction that has come to dominate modern evangelical thought was enhulled in an organizational system that made it exportable from the British Isles to North America-- and subsequently around the world. A key figure in this process was John Nelson Darby who was at first a formative influence on evangelical apocalypticism in Ireland; then the volatile central figure in Brethren apocalypticism throughout the British Isles; and also a crusty but ultimately very successful missionary to the United States and Canada. Akenson emphasizes that, as strong a personality as John Nelson Darby was, the real story is that he became a vector for the transmission of a terrifically complex and highly seductive ideological system from the old world to the new. So beguiling, adaptable, and compelling was the new Dispensational system that Darby injected into North-American evangelicalism that it continued to spread logarithmically after his death. By the 1920s, the system had become the doctrinal template of the fundamentalist branch of North-American evangelicalism and the distinguishing characteristic of the bestselling Scofield Bible.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Donald Harman Akenson is Douglas Professor of Canadian and Colonial History, Queen's University, Ontario. He has published several award-winning books on the history of Ireland and on the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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