The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism: How the Evangelical Battle over the End Times Shaped a Nation
A fascinating history of dispensationalism and its influence on popular culture, politics, and religion
In The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism, Daniel G. Hummel illuminates how dispensationalism, despite often being dismissed as a fringe end-times theory, shaped Anglo-American evangelicalism and the larger American cultural imagination.
Hummel locates dispensationalism’s origin in the writings of the nineteenth-century Protestant John Nelson Darby, who established many of the hallmarks of the movement, such as premillennialism and belief in the rapture. Though it consistently faced criticism, dispensationalism held populist, and briefly scholarly, appeal—visible in everything from turn-of-the-century revivalism to apocalyptic bestsellers of the 1970s to current internet conspiracy theories.
Measured and irenic, Hummel objectively evaluates evangelicalism’s most resilient and contentious popular theology. As the first comprehensive intellectual-cultural history of its kind, The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism is a must-read for students and scholars of American religion.
As a theological perspective, dispensationalism has had a profound impact on American evangelicalism—from advancing views on biblical literalism and end-times prophecies, to the formation and defense of the current state of Israel. Even beyond its religious impacts, dispensationalism has influenced culture and politics. Join us as we unpack its origins and consider its broad cultural reverberations at our gathering with historian Dan Hummel, whose new book— The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism: How the Evangelical Battle over the End Times Shaped a Nation (Eerdmans, 2023)—lands in bookstores this May.
Many who grew up in American evangelical and fundamentalist traditions might be familiar with words linked to dispensationalist theology, words like “rapture” and “tribulation.” Dan will discuss how dispensationalism, despite sometimes being dismissed as a fringe apocalyptic movement, came to shape Anglo-American evangelicalism and the larger American cultural imagination. Though dispensationalism has consistently faced criticism, it continues to hold popular appeal. Through the past century, its themes have been visible in everything from turn-of-the-century revivalism to apocalyptic bestsellers of the 1970s.
Upper House doors will open at 6:45 PM. Light refreshments will be served. Dan will share his research, as well as discuss his book in an interview format with Upper House’s Director of Continuing Education, Tony Bolos. Q&A will round out our time together.
Dan Hummel, Ph.D., is the Director of University Engagement at Upper House, a Christian study center serving the University of Wisconsin-Madison and surrounding community. Prior to joining Upper House, Dan held appointments at UW-Madison and Harvard University. He earned his PhD in History from UW-Madison, as well as his MA in History and BA in History and Philosophy from Colorado State University. He also studied at the Hebrew University-Jerusalem. Aside from this current project, Dan is the author of Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) and has written articles for the Washington Post, Christianity Today, and Religion News Service. His research has been published in Religion & American Culture and Church History.
He doesn’t even follow his own flawed hermeneutic.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that would take place in the far distant future. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is at least 2000 years away.. His hermeneutic calls for the plain simple reading of the text, yet he doesn’t read Revelation 1:1-3 that way. He reads it the way I misquoted it.
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense”, is quoted in “Living by the Book”, by Howard G. Hendricks, which is an excellent hermeneutical textbook. I took the class in Bible college, and have taught through it myself several times. The phrase “seek no other sense”, doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no other sense. However, my inquisitive mind always wonders if there is another sense, and I look to see if it might not be so.
The challenge I have with the concept of dispensationalism is that, is that all who hold to it will not consider the possibility that any scripture, whether literal or not, whether in context or not, could mean anything but what they want it to mean. Viewed unprejudicially, through sound hermeneutic and reason, the theory has more holes in it than a window screen.
One point, probably one of the most important points, to be made is that NO Dispensationalist truly believes what they call the rapture is imminent. If they truly believe that, they would live accordingly, yet they continue to invest in the future, save for retirement, save for children’s college education, have 20-30 year mortgages, buy expensive life and burial insurance. Now, while this might seem trivial to some, if you truly believe the rapture will happen in the next few seconds (for more than 2000 years), would you really do these things?
Their idea of imminence is not that our Lord’s return IS going to occur in the next few minutes, but that it COULD. Jesus did teach his imminent coming for each individual. That has always been true, we can drop dead at any moment. Solomon understood that truth when he wrote of wise men preparing for the future, and leaving inheritance to their children. But when Christ returns to this earth he’s not just coming for his Church, He’s coming to judge EVERYBODY? Yes, the dead in Christ will rise first, yes we will join them in the air, like the bride that runs out of the house to meet him when she sees the groom coming, and then accompanies him back into the house. We don’t know when he is coming. But, we do know that he will not return until all of the prophesies that he said would happen before his return happen, and the “man of sin” has not yet been revealed. And there aint no 7-year tribulation anywhere in the Bible. Jesus said that the Great Tribulation would begin with the destruction of the Temple, and it did in 70AD, and is still going on.
And such a future world view has to be managed by Paul to the Thessalonians. Do you Believe Paul thought the Lord was coming back in his lifetime?? You actually think we are in the great tribulation because the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D ?? Preterism and postmil sort of concept no??
I’ll make this perfectly clear, I have not espoused any eschatological view in any of my posts. I do not espouse any particular eschatological view at all. I stopped using those terms a long time ago because too much baggage comes with them. There are good and bad, right and wrong points to any view. No eschatological view determines my salvation or relationship with our Lord. I once held to the Dispenasational eschatological view so what it teaches is no stranger to me. If Jesus returns in the next five seconds or five thousand years it doesn’t matter to me. I will be with Him wherever He is. We have a mission here on earth at the present time and that is to Glorify God and proclaim the gospel.
They may throw dirt on me someday, but when an if they do my conscience will be clear. We are Spiritual Israel by faith, and if we have any other faith than what Abraham had we need to rid ourselves of it right away. But this is my problem with amils, all they seem to speak on is the heavenly spiritual side of reality while they ignore the earthly physical side of reality. So if ya put 100 amils in the same room they are all at liberty to make any earthly physical sort of prophecies into spirital ones. Jesus was clearly Prophesized to come in the OT in a physical way and a spirtual way. He will return in the same fashion as he left, just in a glorified body, a physical glorified body. I will not deny the physical aspect of escatology. Not his kingdom we are in now which is Spiritual, or The physical which shall come. Neither are a problem as God made both. Sometimes on this subject I feel like amils have a strain of gnosticismn in there eschatology and simply deny any physical realm as regarding the eartly kingdom because they have such a spiritualistic hermanutic while ignoring any physical aspects of what a 1000 years realy is. Surely you would not think God is trying to trick us and make it 2000 years do ya? Btw, if Satan is tied up in chains those chains are extremely long. Your soteriology is sound, your position on the law is sound, as well as your position on supra lapsarian vs lapsarian . I think we even discussed the free and sincere offer of the Gospel as an Arminian concept as universalism would be the only outcome, but I will not and have not spent much time in responding to your post as i have no desire to create friction between you and your group. Have a good day Stuart. You think eschatology is very important and so do I . I just do not believe that election of national Israel can be cut off as you have to do, which in a way is concerning because it puts a question mark on the destiny of National israel and a question mark on eternal security.
How I learned to understand Dispensations: Dispensationalism is a theological framework of interpreting the Bible which maintains that history is divided into multiple ages or “dispensations” in which God acts with his chosen people in different ways.  Dispensationalists use a ‘literal interpretation’ of the Bible and believe that divine revelation unfolds throughout the Bible. Examples: O.T. (THE LAW) ,(Genesis thru Malachi, N.T.(AGE OF GRACE), John thru Revelation, Rapture of the Church, Great Tribulation 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, End Times.(Revelation) GOD does what He says and means what He says. GOD Says What He Means And Means What He Says! Sometimes, He says something that is very Literal…
For one to be premil is for one to be a dispensational in the eyes of the amil, so to be fair lets allow folks like Spurgeon, John Gill, Horatius Bonar, A.W. Pink to speak on the matter. Its not like amils have a corner on the truth on their hermeneutic which is basically a Saint Augustine hermeneutic.
Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
This is good, sound theology. It is true, and it is biblical theology. Even though the one who said it was the false prophet Balaam. Because he said it, it doesn’t make it Balaam Theology; and if Augustine happened to get something right, it doesn’t make it Augustinian Hermeneutic. If it’s right, it doesn’t matter who said it.