The Making of "Bible Bill" Aberhart

Posted at Leben:

Official Portrait of the Honourable William Aberhart
by Nicholas de Grandmaison, 1943.
Used by permission of the Speaker of the
Legislative Assembly of Alberta.
Perhaps, no single figure better personifies the prophet-politician than William Aberhart, who ruled the Province of Alberta with an idiosyncratic mix of premillenial prophecy, bizarre economic theories and an authoritarian fist. Born on December 30, 1878, to a German immigrant in what is today East Huron, Ontario, William Aberhart was a middling and unexceptional student who busied himself learning to play various instruments.

His father died in 1910 when, reaching under the counter of a pharmacy owned by William's brother Charles, the senior Aberhart mistakenly took a long pull from a bottle that turned out to be carbolic acid, not the whiskey his son usually put there for him. William, now living in Calgary, did not make the trip home for the funeral.

He dabbled at several professions before settling into the job of teaching, a profession at which he seemed proficient, and for which he was typically praised. As a child, he had attended Sunday School at a local Presbyterian church, and for a time adopted the biblical literalism and predestinarian doctrines taught there, but soon became interested in bible prophecy, particularly the Dispensationalism of fellow Presbyterian-turned-Congreg-ationalist C. I. Scofield. Sco-field's theological scheme taught that there were seven "dispensations" in which God dealt differently with his creatures in each time period. The theories had gained a foothold among Pres-byterians, most notably James H. Brookes, pastor of Walnut Street Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri. William quickly jettisoned the historic Presby-terian theology in favor of the Dispensational scheme, and was soon a passionate defender of Arminianism, (named for the 17th Century Dutch theologian James Arminius, an opponent of predestinarianism).

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