Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 10)

Things Are Not Getting Better

Postmillennialism must always address the seemingly obvious criticism that things are not getting better.

This criticism actually requires no response, because if the Bible teaches that things will get better, then they will get better regardless of the present world conditions. And if, as postmillennialists assert, the Bible teaches of the success of the great commission, then Christians who deny that eventuality are in fact guilty of not believing what God has revealed. To disbelieve God's promise, because it seems impossible, is to make the same mistake Sarah did:

10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master] is old, will I now have this pleasure?" 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh." But he said, "Yes, you did laugh." (Gen. 18:10-15)

(Isn't that a priceless exchange between God and Sarah?)

Nevertheless it is amusing to address the criticism non-biblically.

There are many quotes from pre- and amillennialists, that pronounce a death sentence of postmillennialism. A typical one (from a Reformed scholar!):

The advent of two World Wars not only transformed yesterday's optimistic modernism into today's pessimistic Neo-orthodoxy, but virtually rang the death knell upon conservative postmillennialism as well…. Currently, postmillennialism is considered all but a dead issue. It is spurned as highly unrealistic because it predicts a golden age around the corner in a day in which the world nervously anticipates momentary destruction by nuclear warfare. 186

But nobody does it better than Hal Lindsey:

There used to be a group called "postmillennialists." They believed that the Christians would root out all the evil in the world, abolish godless rulers, and convert the world through ever-increasing evangelism until they brought about the Kingdom of God through their own efforts. Then after 1000 years of the institutional church reigning on earth with peace, equality and righteousness, Christ would return and time would end. These people rejected much of the Scripture as being literal and believed in the inherent goodness of man. World War I greatly disheartened this group and World War II virtually wiped out this viewpoint. No self-respecting scholar who looks at the world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today is a "postmillennialist." 187

Now, by either ignorance or malice aforethought (I don’t know which would be worse) Hal Lindsey slanders the postmillennial position. Postmillennialism dos not teach that the Kingdom of God is brought about through man’s efforts (but through the power of the Holy Spirit) nor does it proclaim "the inherent goodness of man."

As we see, the world wars were prominent reasons for declaring the end of postmillennialism. Gentry answers this rhetoric with some of his own:

Who won World Wars I and II? Did the anti-Christian forces of evil overwhelm those nations wherein resided the greatest missionary forces for Christianity in the world? Was the world made a more dangerous place for Christianity because of the defeat of Japan and Germany? 188

Looking at the overall trend, there is no doubt that the church has grown dramatically over the centuries, and if there has been a recent decline (not at all clear unless one focuses solely on the western world) it has not wiped out the gains of two thousand years. The postmillennialist believes the hope implied in the promise that God’s word "shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isa. 55:11). The irony, as Gentry notes, is that "we sit in a free land, in a comfortable bible believing church, dressed in our 'Sunday best', holding one of our many personal Bibles (the world’s largest selling book) debating on whether there has been any advance in Christianity since its persecuted inception 2,000 years ago!"189

Turning the Tables

Presently, the geopolitical argument, so popular in the 20th century among dispensationalists, can now actually be turned around. Up until 1990, dispensationalists scoffed at the notion of Communism's collapse.

What peace of mind it brings to Christians as the end times approaches. What a cause for rejoicing that righteousness, not Russia, shall ultimately triumph. The triumph of Christ over Communism [at His imminent return] emphasizes the folly of getting side-tracked in spending our time primarily in opposing Communism rather than in an all-out proclamation of the gospel of Grace. 190

What we have instead, with the fall of Communism (with God’s grace, but not requiring the Second Advent) are headlines like

  • Religion Gains Momentum in Soviet Union191
  • Prayers and Bible Welcomed in the Kremlin192
  • Albania Awakes from Atheism193
  • Churches gain favor with Castro, see Spiritual Awakening194
  • New Law extends Religious Freedom195
  • Evangelism finds place on new Soviet Agenda196
  • Scholars are detecting a growing interest in spiritual matters in France and throughout Europe197

No postmillennialists would argue that these headlines prove their doctrine. They would only point out how silly is to use the newspaper rather than the bible to form an opinion on the correctness of an eschatology. As Gentry writes:

Nothing in the postmillennial definition requires either relentless forward progress or a reaching of the height of postmillennial advance by any particular date, [only that] before the end—whenever that might be (Matt 24:36) the kingdom of God will have reached world dominating proportions. 198

Furthermore, Gentry asks, why has dispensationalism not been discredited by its constant cry that the end is at hand? Recall LeHaye’s quote: "The fact that we are the generation that will be on earth when the Lord comes certainly should not depress ... [I]f you are a Christian, after reading this book you ought to know that the end is near!"199 Oh, and then there is:

The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon (Hal Lindsey), 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988 and The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989 (E. C. Whisenant), Sword Over America (R. Ruhling, M.D.) Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny (G. Jeffrey) which brings us up to the year 2000, and titles such as: Planet Earth—2000; WILL Mankind Survive; I Predict 2000; Prophecy 2000: Rushing to Armageddon; How Close Are We?; Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ; ….

Recently I read the following on dispensational website (from memory)

As you know, we have been asserting since the end of the first Gulf war that Saddam Hussein was the agent of evil who would rebuild Babylon according to prophecy. We were wrong. However, the defeat and capture of Saddam actually makes it more likely that Babylon will be rebuilt, as the necessary monies begin to flow into Iraq from the west as part of the rebuilding.

Another common dispensational and amillennial complaint is that postmillennialism undermines watchfulness. Best selling dispensational author David Hunt said: "There is [in postmillennialism] an increasing antagonism against eagerly watching and waiting for Christ’s return." Typical postmillennial responses are along these lines:

  • To expect the Lord in out lifetime is not a prerequisite for true piety—this would be to base the Christian life, in most generations, upon a falsehood. 200

  • This argument has been stated in various ways, all of which assume that men cannot expect and watch for the coming of Christ and be stimulated and safeguarded by the thought of it unless they can believe that it may take place ‘at any moment.’ This argument is not valid. A mother may live in the constant, ever-present hope of seeing her absent boy, even when she knows that he is on the other side of the globe. Intensity of affection disregards time and distance. Seven years was a long time for Jacob to serve for Rachel; and he had made a contract with Laban and knew that he would be held to the letter of it. Yet the years seemed to him 'like a few days' for the love he had for her. (Gen 29:20) 201

Next we will look at some Biblical arguments against Postmillennialism.

186 Jay E. Adams, The Time is at Hand, 1966, p. 2.
187 Hal Lindsey, The Late, Great Planet Earth, 1970, p. 176.
188 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 441.
189 Ibid.
190 Aldan A Gannet, "Will Christ or Communism Rule the World?" Prophecy in the Seventies, Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. (Moody Press) 1971, pp. 64-64.
191 New York Times release, Greenville Piedmont, Oct. 7, 1991, A-1.
192 Christianity Today, Oct. 7, 1991, pp. 42-43
193 Christianity Today, May 27, 1991, pp. 52-54
194 Christianity Today, Jan. 14, 1991, pp. 46ff.
195 Christianity Today, Nov. 5, 1991, pp. 76ff.
196 Christianity Today, Dec 17, 1990, pp. 39ff.
197 World Magazine, Nov 29, 2003, p. 30.
198 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 444.
199 Tim LeHaye, The Beginning of the End, 1972, p. 172.
200 Macleod, "The Second Coming of Christ", Banner of Truth, Nos. 82-83, July/Aug 1970, 20.
201 O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, p.169.

No comments:

Post a Comment