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(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.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In a final irony, the ancient inscription that provided for the Umayyads a decipherable text confirming Islamic dispensationalism and legitimate Umayyad dominion conveys in al-Ma'arri's late Abbasid reading the same meaning as the indecipherable "mute" inscriptions of the naslbic ruins: man's mortality.
(20.) Clark Banack offers an excellent discussion of dispensationalism's origins, belief structure, and relationship with other forms of Protestantism.
(25) The new president required that instructors sign a statement affirming belief in dispensationalism, despite the fact that the theological documents of the school were based on the Abstract of Principles of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, which Western Seminary had adopted almost intact upon its establishment in the 1920s.
Bateman IV, "Dispensationalism Tomorrow," in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism: A Comparison of Traditional and Progressive Views, ed.
"[T]he Millerite trouble damaged historicism's reputation and helped open the door for a new mode of conservative Protestant eschatology--the futurist schemes of premillennial dispensationalism." (16) This was launched by British theologian John Nelson Darby, whose views literally took the American conservative Protestant establishment by storm through the publication of C.
The Problem With Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Wesleyanism, and Pentecostalism, Revised and Expanded Edition
In the fourth chapter, the specific doctrine of the group is examined through its soteriology, cosmology, Christology, and eschatology, which he identifies as premillennial dispensationalism. Zeller claims that Heaven's Gate's exegetical approach can be explained as an "extraterrestrial Biblical hermeneutic," allowing for such an unlikely syncretism (74).
They are, to their understanding, legitimate Jews--and practise the full calendric repertoire of Jewish holidays, all assisted by Olim Aid International, a Queensland-based evangelical organisation promoting premillennial dispensationalism.
Some based Mennonite identity "on cultural separation but theological integration with local conservative evangelicalism, " while others favored "a relaxing of cultural separatism mixed with a breaking from conservative evangelicalism and premillennial dispensationalism" (73).
John Nelson Darby developed Dispensationalism, a theological reading of the Bible that sets out a series of the ages that will lead to the "End Times," said Ateek.
At the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where he switched to Presbyterian Calvinism, the big fight was over one's type of dispensationalism, meaning the variety of plans that God is said to have for fulfilling his promises.
The latter was instrumental in translating the Scofield Reference Bible into Chinese and introducing dispensationalism to the Chinese church via a hugely popular correspondence course.