Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Biblical Charts!

"When I was a kid, I could look at that chart ("The Course of Time from Eternity to Eternity") and feel that I understood all of human history. There on the chart it was perfectly explained and simplified. This wasn't anything I could have explained to anybody else. It was simply a feeling of utter certainty".

- Garrison Keillor, 'The Wobegon Preacher', Leadership, 10 (Fall 1991).

Biblical charts are fascinating (Dispensational charts, even more so): tiny pictures of Heaven and Hell aside, they have the power of paradox, seemingly evident proof of something that requires not proof after all but faith; a map of a mystery, as it were.

Describing nothing less than the ultimate realities of God, Satan, Life & Afterlife, the idea that one could follow the lines, read the map, and have the whole thing handed to you "from eternity to eternity", well - the attraction is obvious, the appeal perhaps innate - wanting proof for our beliefs, backing up beliefs with arguments, diagrams and appeals to authority if not rationality.

Dispensationalism lays out the idea that our world is divided into seven dispensations or eras, each of which has its own relationship between God and Man (hence the difference between Old Testament God and New Testament God). It's an idea that works well in chart form and it's a system that can be as simple or as complicated as its designer wants to make it.

From Clarence Larkin's seminal B&W WWI-era charts to the widespread success that has been A.E. Booth's The Course of Time from Eternity to Eternity to even more complex charts by the likes of Dake or Hall, they are artwork and artifice, sensation and avocation.

A visual spectacle. The early 20th century's version of TV? Something fantastic for the pleebs to gawk at and something deep for the thinkers to contemplate and discuss. The charts employed contemporary advertising technique in service of an age-old message, profoundly influencing generations of viewers in their thinking about how the world works and what the big picture looks like when you put it all together.

Desktop publishing and HTML have meant that most anyone can display their own Biblical charts online - and they do! I have looked at way too many of these websites recently. What follows are some of the standout Biblical charts I've found online (click on the chart for a full-size image); most of them are Dispensationalist but there's a whole tossed salad of charts here, a mishmash of mystery maps for hungry eyeballs.

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