(redirected from Dispensationalist)
Also found in: Dictionary.
Related to Dispensationalist: rapture


(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 ?
The capture of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza by Israel has provided more conclusive evidence of the dispensationalist predictions of the creation of a "Greater Israel" as part of the end time events.
Unlike 2,000 years of orthodox Catholic and Eastern Catholic thought that the Jews were replaced by the Church because of their sin of rejecting Jesus, Dispensationalist Christians believe that God had never abandoned his special relationship with the Jewish people.
(This is with reference to the dispensationalist belief that, after regaining the biblical lands, Jews who don't convert to Christianity will be damned.)
When during the 1984 presidential election campaign Ronald Reagan made worldwide headlines for expressing belief in "Armageddon theology," I became intrigued and decided to find out more about what seemed to me a strange distortion of Christian faith: the dispensationalist end-of-the-world scenarios disseminated by mega-bestsellers such as Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth and their influence on the politics of the "New Christian Right."
Its presence places the Dome of the Rock, which sits on the same spot today, under a kind of erasure, I would argue, and brings to fruition in Orlando an evangelical and dispensationalist agenda for Jerusalem.
This best-selling series of twelve books portrays the last 7 years of the world, a time known in premillennial dispensationalist eschatology as the Tribulation (the world becomes increasingly centralized, politically and economically, around Nicolae Carpathia, a figure that turns the United Nations into a one-world government called the Global Community).
When a more moderate American "neoevangelical" coalition emerged in the mid 20th century, it had lost touch with its 19th century roots in social engagement, and was also influenced by Dispensationalist beliefs that the world would inevitably get worse until Christ returned (Carpenter 1997; Marsden 1980; Moberg 1972).
As for the Christian (dispensationalist) soldiers marching onward as to war--in this case, the phrase is more than a metaphor--in order to ease the worries of God's chosen people about Israel's hostile neighbors or to hasten the glorious mayhem of the prophesied end times, suffice it to say that these fundamentalists worked hard to elect their favorite man to the presidency, and they succeeded in doing so.
Despite the fact that Christian Zionists do not focus only on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as do activist Jewish groups, their fundamentalist religious orientation (Dispensationalist) and social clout on behalf of Israel may dwarf that of both Jews and neoconservatives combined.
"The mainstream pro-Israel camp has decided so brazenly to throw its lot in with neoconservative ideologues within this administration and with the far Right dispensationalist Christian Zionists, and this unholy triangle has pulled things so much to the right-wing direction that we are desperately in need of a corrective.
Born in 19th century England, dispensationalist thought became popular in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The "Left Behind" series - 16 novels written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins - deal with a Christian "dispensationalist" view of the end of the world.