Dispensationalists and liberals

I’m creeping my way through Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture; creeping, because it’s one of those books I have to set down every few pages so I can think for awhile.

He makes connections where I’m too dull-witted to readily see one. Here’s an example (p. 54):

“Ironically, the dispensationalists [in the 19th century] were responding to some of the very same problems in Biblical interpretation that were troubling theological liberals in the nineteenth century. If the Biblical statements were taken at face value and subjected to scientific analysis, major anomalies seemed to appear. Among these were that many Old Testament prophecies did not seem to refer precisely to the church, that Jesus and his disciples seemed to expect his return and the establishment of the kingdom very shortly, and that much of the teaching of Jesus seemed to conflict with the theology of Paul. Liberals resolved such problems by greatly broadening the standards for interpreting Biblical language. Dispensationalists did the opposite. They held more strictly than ever to a literal interpretation but introduced a new historical scheme whose key was the interpretation of the church age as a parenthesis. Once the key step was accepted, the rest of Scripture could be fit into the scheme, and aspects that others viewed as inconsistencies could be explained as simply referring to different dispensations.”

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