(redirected from Dispensationalists)
Also found in: Dictionary.


(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.

References in periodicals archive ?
The studies argue that millennial dispensationalists were originally divided on their view towards Jews.
For instance, InterCP, in its so- called "prophecy seminars", indoctrinates participants with the entire history of the dispensationalist paradigm.
Dispensationalists, in particular, expect the Muslim world to ally with Russia at the end of times and be defeated in an attack against Israel.
So rather than speculating about the identity of the Antichrist alive today--as dispensationalists do--he believes Christians ought to come to grips with the reality that "the enemy is within our own beating hearts, that we can destroy ourselves through some catastrophic war with nuclear and biological weapons or through the slow strangling of our planet through ecological degradation.
Dispensationalists believe that Jews are on a parallel track with the Christian church, in God's protection, until the end of time itself.
While premillennial dispensationalists conceptualized history as time partitioned into certain ages and with a definite end, secular critics of nuclear weapons postulated global annihilation.
He concludes on the question of Jewish willingness to work with evangelicals to support Israel, "Given the choice between the openly theological views of the dispensationalists and views that may be operating 'precritically and unconsciously' among the more 'progressive' and 'enlightened' elements in the divesting churches, the alliance with the pro-Israel Christian Right" is the "more prudent course" (19) of action for the Jewish community.
Chapters two through four cover, in turn, the dispensationalists, the Calvinists, and the Lutherans.
22) Dispensationalists, often referred to as Christian fundamentalists, teach that believers will be removed from this physical earth at the time of the return of Christ.
Dispensationalists typically believe that Jews have a unique relationship with God.
His main point is this: North American Dispensationalists had been predicting the end time on the basis of biblical prophecy for well over a century before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Dispensationalists also teach that in the End Times a demonic figure, the Antichrist, will rule the earth for seven years--the socalled Great Tribulation--before Christ returns to defeat him at Armageddon.