But the last two have been... uneven. I'll pick on today's definition at this blog, and perhaps the other, later, at Pyromaniacs.
The word? Dispensationalism. Here's their definition in full:
A biblical hermeneutic paradigm common in conservative fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian theology. Originating from the Plymouth Brethren in the nineteenth century and popularized in the Schofield Reference Bible in the twentieth century, dispensationalism has three primary characteristics: 1) the call for a consistent literal or “normal” hermeneutic, 2) the separation of Israel from the church, 3) the separation of human history into several distinct epics, “economies,” or dispensations in which God relates to mankind in a distinct way. With regard to soteriological history (history of salvation), dispensationalism teaches that salvation has always been by faith alone, by grace alone, yet the content of the Gospel has been progressively revealed through biblical history. Dispensationalism has a variety of forms and has gone through some recent developments.Well. For starters, I think I like referring to it as a "biblical hermeneutic paradigm." This correctly takes the focus off of counting or slicing dispensations (which everyone does), charts (which many do and anyone can), or even the timing of the Rapture (which all positions affirm, but with differing temporal location). It correctly isolates the issue as a hermeneutical issue. That, I like a lot.
"Schofield"? Best-selling study Bible since the start of the last century? How about "Scofield"? Eek.
And then after a good beginning and two good distinctives, it slips on the third: "the separation of human history into several distinct epics, 'economies,' or dispensations in which God relates to mankind in a distinct way."
Every Biblical system distinguishes at least two different economies (hel-lo? Old Testament? New Testament?). Most would also grant that pre-Fall is a different set of expectations, and post-Second-Advent is another. Well, that's four — unless the individual is just so angry at dispensationalists that he'll Gumby up words to keep himself different.
But look: if you feel free to eat ham, go to church on Sunday, and ask God for forgiveness explicitly on the basis of Jesus' blood rather than offering an animal sacrifice .... gotcha!
Probably Ryrie's third distinctive is a better one: seeing the glory of God as the center of history, rather than man's redemption.
Thus far, my quibbles.