The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism

A fascinating history of dispensationalism and its influence on popular culture, politics, and religion. With a Foreword by Mark Noll.

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.

Daniel G. Hummel is a historian of US religion and the author of Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations. He works at Upper House, a Christian study center located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


“What do you say about a historical study that reads like a whodunit? Dan Hummel’s book is a page turner, shedding light on details that I already knew from dispensationalist pop culture, filling in the gaps through patient analysis and good storytelling. Historians will love his patient analysis; it’s the storytelling that hooked me. At the end of each chapter, I had to know what came next. Not only is The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism a superb academic study; Hummel’s analysis of the gap left by the decline of dispensationalism helps us understand the ideological crisis of the so-called evangelical church today.”
—J. Richard Middleton, professor of biblical worldview and exegesis, Northeastern Seminary

Library Journal (starred review)
“This is an exceptional resource for readers looking to understand conservative Christianity. The book also illuminates much of U.S. religious history in general.”

“In this brilliant and original book, Daniel G. Hummel traces the extraordinary history of one of the most influential religious groups in modern American life. His research is impressive, his writing is sharp, and his arguments will transform what we think we know about American religious history. An impressive achievement!”
—Matthew Avery Sutton, author of Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States during the Second World War

“Daniel Hummel has written the best and most comprehensive history of dispensationalist theology currently in existence. Combining impressive historical research with an exceptionally nuanced attention to theological developments, Hummel’s work offers a detailed, engagingly written historical survey of a movement that is often mentioned in studies of evangelical politics but rarely understood on its own terms. This is the book for people who want to go beyond the headlines to understand the long historical trajectory of the most influential end-times theology in American evangelicalism.”
—Daniel K. Williams, author of God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right

“A tremendous achievement, based on meticulous research and bold synthesis. Thanks to Dan Hummel, we can finally understand how these influential ideas moved through North American culture and politics.”
—Molly Worthen, associate professor of history, University of North Carolina

“As I write these words, I am looking at my bookshelf where I see a copy of the Scofield Reference Bible sitting next to my multivolume set of Lewis Sperry Chafer's theology and a few of the Left Behind novels. As someone whose teenage conversion to evangelical faith led him to study at a dispensationalist Bible college, I was reminded of my young-adult obsession with a brand of conservative Protestantism that shaped much of twentieth-century American evangelicalism. If you want to learn more about the evangelical fascination with the rapture, Israel, the antichrist, and the prophetic books of the Bible, The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism is the place to start.”
—John Fea, distinguished professor of history, Messiah University and author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

“Daniel Hummel has done us all a service by digging up the bones of a theological beast that left massive footprints across the land and then (all but) disappeared. Dispensationalism needs to be reckoned with. Its history of theological innovations, inclinations, obsessions, and curiosities is with us still, even if they’re just skeletons buried in the backyard. Hummel’s careful accounting and thoughtful interpretations are a gift to anyone trying to understand the contemporary landscape of evangelicalism.”
—Daniel Silliman, author of Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

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