Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
Dispensationalism(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Dispensationalism is a theological system designed to give shape and organization to Bible history. Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952) and Charles C. Ryrie (b. 1925) are perhaps the best-known defenders of the system. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is considered its founder, even though proponents claim it goes all the way back to Augustine in the fifth century CE.
Ryrie, in his book Dispensationalism, defines it this way:
Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. In His household-world God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to His own will and in various stages of revelation in the passage of time. These various stages mark off the distinguishably different economies in the outworking of His total purpose, and these different economies constitute the dispensation. The understanding of God's differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies.
In other words, when the ordinary person reads the Bible, he finds God behaving in different ways at different times. The angry God of the Old Testament who tells Joshua to kill all the Canaanites seems totally different from the Jesus of the New Testament who tells his followers to turn the other cheek. How to explain these differences?
Some have found the explanation by discovering "dispensations," periods of time when God acts in a certain way consistent with human development at the time,
testing humans in respect to a specific revelation of the will of God. The Scofield Reference Bible and Dallas Theological Seminary have been at the forefront of dispensational theology, identifying seven different periods of time, seven different "dispensations," in which the Bible reveals the developing plan of God for the world and humankind.
According to the Scofield Reference Bible, these seven dispensations are as follows:
1. Innocence (before the fall described in Genesis 3) 2. Conscience (from the fall to Noah) 3. Human Government (from Noah to Abraham) 4. Promise (from Abraham to Moses) 5. Law (from Moses to Christ) 6. Grace (the Church age) 7. Kingdom (the millennium)
After the millennium, humankind enters the Eternal State.
Because Christians seem to have attacked each other as often as they have attacked the world, followers of dispensational theology and covenant theology (see Covenant) have often been at odds, with rhetoric appearing—at least to the uninitiated—to generate a lot more heat than light. Although it seems strange to the outsider, it demonstrates the devotion to a theological system that has been at the very core of the many different and competing Christian denominations in the world today.