The Groundbreaking Achievement of Clarence Larkin

Every now and then people come across a classic scholarly work that for one reason or another seems to have been forgotten or at least taken out of the main stream of cultural influence although their truth is just as timeless as when it was originally produced. Clarence Larkin’s book, Dispensational Truth, is one such treasure. It is still sold in Christian bookstores and has been referenced by popular authors like Tim LaHaye, but that’s about the extent of it. His charts are available within Sword Searcher, which has a good bio. You can also get the full text and images for free at www.preservedwords.com.

To give you an idea of his influence over time, consider this: every illustration I’ve ever seen describing the statue in the vision of Daniel 2:31-45 is a variation of Larkin’s original graphic.

Larkin Chart Daniel's Vision

Clarence Larkin’s chart on Daniel’s Vision

I can identify with this particular author because, like me, he was a young mechanical engineer with some experience in drafting before being called into ministry. While a pastor, he employed his skills toward creating exacting illustrations of the Bible. The Larkin Estate indicates that he produced 205 charts and illustrations, complete with biblical references and full explanations of each. The ones I find most impressive are his works titled “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” and “The Book of Revelation.”

Clarence Larkin: The Book of Revelation

Clarence Larkin: The Book of Revelation

As you can see, the original illustration is a black-and-white print. While Mr. Larkin did produce color charts, those he published were not, perhaps due to technology or cost limitations on producing a full-color book back in the 1920’s. I have found some colorized versions, but in my opinion they lack the original quality of his work. It has been on my to-do list for some time to make an attempt at converting at least one of these charts to a high-quality, interactive web presentation. Given the astounding detail of each chart, I’m not expecting to complete that task any time soon (any graphic designers out there looking for a project?).

He built these graphics at a time when no one had heard of the Bible being converted to a digital format. No one could yet dream of the complex visualizations made possible by advanced technology of the information age. I personally believe he was ahead of his time in creating ways to visualize related points in a unified whole that gives a consistent biblical picture.

Clarence Larkin gives due credit to the one who made such a work possible:

“With profound gratitude and thankfulness for the blessing of his Heavenly Father…in the hands of the Holy Spirit…”

Indeed, without the direction of the Spirit, no one man alone could accomplish this remarkable work. He also could not have done it if he had chosen to focus efforts on presenting and debating multiple theological views. On this point, the author states:

“[I have] sought to avoid such criticisms and to simply expound the Word of God as the Holy Spirit opened it up to [me.]”

It took three years to produce a book on just one theological view which he earnestly believed and was framed by nothing more or less than the scriptures. Had he gone beyond that into every wind of doctrine, three years would scarcely be enough to complete a discussion on the Book of Daniel alone!

Therein lies an area in which I believe it’s time to shift our thinking about the way we produce and use Bible study software. Everything available today includes a host of commentaries, versions, systematic theologies…all of which tend to have conflicting viewpoints to one degree or another. Yet, when Christians gather together for Bible study, only one such view is presented. To do otherwise would lead to confusion and be time prohibitive to boot. The same holds true for the working man or woman today who has trouble finding time to even read the Bible daily, let alone sift through a full library of data.

The teacher of such a study would wisely consult multiple resources while praying for God’s guidance, so in that sense today’s study tools are great. But, I believe that in-depth study should be made possible for everyone, not just the scholars and teachers. One way to do this is to 1) make it free to everyone and 2) limit the information to only authoritative works which agree with those of the author of said software as guided by the Spirit. While I do agree that it’s a not a good idea to limit access to multiple viewpoints, I do not agree that presenting an endless list of options to sort through accomplishes that goal. That kind of information overload actually makes good information harder to find, which is the last thing I want.

By restricting the database to a more popular-level summary based on detailed and reliable scholarship of old (such as the charts mentioned above), I expect it to be possible for one or a few godly men to produce more advanced tools quite economically. They could be used by anyone and would contain the same level of accuracy, detail, and cohesiveness of the many works of Clarence Larkin and others like him. Anyone willing to help in this endeavor is more than encouraged to pray and if you feel led to do so, contact me by leaving a comment on this blog.

  • Brother,

    I share your sentiments about Clarence Larkin’s works. I dare say they are among the most influential Christian material ever published. As you noted his charts and drawings have been the basis of prophetic thought ever since.

    The Lord allowed us to be the first to convert any of his works into digital format and post them on the Internet in 1998. We determined the copyrights had expired and placed about a dozen of his charts, scanned from his book “Rightly Dividing The Word,” on this page, http://www.preservedwords.com/charts.htm. We got some flack over it also. We were called thieves, crooks, scoundrels, and less charitable names for posting these charts. It seems they were affecting someone’s income. But they were public domain and needed to be seen, thus they remained. These charts have been copied thousands of times. I see them everywhere. Good. Since then some others have placed even more charts online. Great.

    The Lord also allowed us to be the first to place Larkin’s book, Dispensational Truth, in its entirety online for free access. It has been viewed by many thousands as well.

    Now to my point. Although the content of these charts is not dated, the appearance of the charts is. There are around a dozen or so of Larkin’s most comprehensive charts that need to be modernized for this digital age. I am also the developer of Bible Analyzer software and have been working on this some. I recently made it possible for Bible Analyzer to work with image coordinates similar to HTML image maps. This allows the images to be somewhat interactive. For a similar example watch this video, http://www.BibleAnalyzer.com/tutorials/clouds.html. I have recently made “hotspots” for about 20 of Larkin’s charts that popup the visible references and also do a search on mapped words. This helps the charts significantly, I believe. For instance, the amazing chart The Perspective of Prophecy has scores of references and the verse popups make the chart alive with Bible text.

    But much more needs to be done. The charts need to be redrawn in color and in exacting detail with more interactive features such as audio, video, flash, etc. A competent, amateur graphic designer could easily draw nice new graphics, but I don’t know any and I don’t have time to learn. But what I can do I will do, Lord willing, to make the truths in these charts more accessible to people in this digital age.

    In Christ,
    Tim Morton

    (p.s. Ironically, the most hits I ever had on the Larkin Charts page in one day was from an atheist blog making fun of it. At least they saw them.)

    • Robert

      Tom,

      Thanks for sharing. In the coming weeks I’ll be releasing the first version of MetaV, which has some of the same ideas behind it that BibleAnalyzer does, but it’s more visually oriented and web-based. Once that’s off the ground, my next major focus will be converting some of Larkin’s simpler charts.

      I have Adobe CS4 Web Premium and the skills to put it to good use (thanks to my yearbook days), but I usually do not get the time I’d like to have. Illustrator has a really nice tracing feature which could greatly aid the process of modernizing and colorizing several things.

      I’ve seen similar popularity trends on my website. After the words “God,” “Jesus,” and “Bible,” the term “Larkin” is the top search term bringing traffic to this site. “Daniel” is right after that. Obviously there’s still a significant influence there.

      In regard to copyright, everything I’ve ever seen indicates that Larkin’s works are public domain. In any case, if they were to be re-drawn, colorized, or made interactive somehow, that would constitute a significant enough change from the original that it would become a moot point. I will offer them all free of charge.

      • Robert,

        I decided to try and make one new Larkin chart pretty much from scratch. Picked “The Perspective of Prophecy” since it has many references and is a ingenious and very informative chart. Using Corel Draw it took about 10 hours.

        I took Larkin’s original graphics and made new scans and converted the bitmaps to vectors so they can be resized without any loss. Corel’s “Bitmap Trace” feature is amazing. When done I will make hotspots for the refs, many words, and hopefully add the ability to place notes or comments in the BA image mod that will popup. That way a module creator (and maybe a user later) can map little Note hotspots in the image and have their notes popup on mouseover and exported to the MultiWindow on click. Could also have audio (even video) hot spots where an mp3 could be played on click with a popup as well. Later Scourby could read the verse popups.

        Send me an email and I’ll send it to you. I tried to put in every detail. It is all vector.

        In Christ,
        Tim