Monday, July 19, 2010


My wife, whom everyone would agree is out of my league, looked especially sexy at church yesterday. I'm not sure what that means...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

God and Baseball Statistics

In the six days of sports creation, God created sports successively closer and closer to the perfect divine image. To be precise:

Day 1: Basketball (Intended for the Nephilim, to keep their minds off the daughters of men. Alas it didn't work, because the sport was too boring, and the daughters of men were hawt.)
Day 2: Soccer
Day 3: Real Football
Day 4: Hockey
Day 5: Baseball

And on the seventh day he watched NASCAR. And it was very good. Except for Mark Martin hitting the wall in turn two.

A "Sports Theodicy" is an attempt to explain the puzzle of where figure skating, gymnastics and Formula One Racing came from, since God had nothing to do with these. He is never the author of sports that are highly feminized.

Though baseball is not the pinnacle of sports creation, it's darn close. And it has been given the special honor as the sport-most-holy in its conduciveness to statistical analysis.

We all know about batting average (BA). If you don't—well in the words of that great American philosopher Foghorn Leghorn, "I say, there's just something yech about a boy who don't, I say don't like baseball." BA is simply the number of hits divided by the number at bats. By divine fiat the number of significant digits shall always be kept at three. Never four, and five is just out of the question. And thou shall omit the leading zero, lest thou be sentenced to be a Pittsburgh Pirate fan.

So a player who has 207 hits in 611 at bats has BA of .339.

A more interesting statistic is the batting average on balls in play (BABIP). For this statistic, you take the number of times the batter gets the ball in play, i.e., hits it into fair territory, divided by plate appearances. Strikeouts and home runs are excluded. Sacrifice flies, however, count as plate appearances. The formula is:

BABIP = (H – HR)/(AB – K – HR + SF)

where H is hits, HR is home runs, AB is at bats, K is strikeouts, and SF is sacrifice flies.

By comparison, the regular batting average is given by:


The average BABIP is around .300. Usually, but not always, a hitter's BABIP is higher than his BA.

Here is where things get interesting. If you are a general manager and your team needs a hitter, you generally snag the one with the highest BA. But suppose there are two players available with the same BA but different BABIP. For example:

Bill Buckner: BA: .280, BABIP: .290
Omar Moreno: BA: .280, BABIP .340

Which would you take? The counter-intuitive answer: take Buckner, the hitter with the lower BABIP.


Because it turns out that to a good first approximation once a batted ball is in play whether or not it results in a safe hit is random. Does the ball go to where a defender ain't? So a BABIP below the average of .300 indicates a player who has, statistically speaking, been unlucky. His BA should be higher. Conversely a player whose BABIP is higher than .300 has been lucky. His BA is artifically high.

Over time you expect the BA of a player with a high BABIP to drop, and the BA of a player with a low BABIP to rise.

So take Bill Buckner. Send Omar Moreno to AAA.

The Unreasonable Success of Physics

Interesting quote from  Feynman (HT: Martin LaBar)
What is it about nature that lets this happen, that it is possible to guess from one part what the rest is going to do? That is an unscientific question: I do not know how to answer it, and therefore I am going to give an unscientific answer. I think it is because nature has a simplicity and therefore a great beauty. Richard Feynman, "Seeking New Laws," pp. 143-167, in Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, New York: Modern Library, 1994. Quote is from p. 167.
At the risk of quote-mining, since I don't have the book, this appears to be Feynman's version of Wigner's famous Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics argument. Wigner* wrote
The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
Both Feynmann and Wigner, in my reading, conclude that science can never answer the question as to why science and mathematics work as well as they do. 

If you consider all the talking points in ID--irreducible complexity, privileged planet, cosmological fine-tuning--some of which I find useless (irreducible complexity) and some of which I find interesting (the apparent sensitivity of life to the values of constants) no one observation from the world of science or mathematics has ever struck me as a more powerful apologetic than Feynman's and Wigner's point.

The world is not only governed by orderly laws, but those laws are expressible in simple enough terms that we can make sense out of them and use them to make astonishingly accurate predictions. As Feynman suggested, if I read him correctly, science can never explain why this is so. It is, in fact, unreasonable that this happens.

I often think of it this way. The dawn of modern science arrives with Newton. Newton's Second Law is a simple linear differential equation. (Probably trivial is a better word--speaking not of Newton's insight--which was genius--but of the degree of difficulty of his equation.) One can only speculate in a What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly? manner what would have happened if Newton's Second Law had been a complicated nonlinear differential equation (or even a simple nonlinear differential equation)--but it is not far-fetched to argue that science would have been stillborn.

* Here is a likely apocryphal story one of my professors told about Wigner. He was already famous when, in 1930, Princeton recruited him from, I believe, Göttingen (Germany). His arrival was a big deal with lots of fanfare and hoopla. And of course all the Americans, not wanting to look stupid, went the extra mile to pronounce his name correctly.

On Wigner's first day of work his secretary answered the phone:

"May I speak to Professor Wigner?" asked the caller, pronouncing the w in Wigner like a garden-variety trailer-park w.

"Professor 'Vigner' is not available," the secretary answered, pronouncing the w like a v. "May I take a message?" She relished correcting this person--probably another annoying reporter.

"No thank you, I'll call back," the woman on the phone said. Which she did, a half hour later. The conversation was similar:

"May I speak to Professor Wigner?"

"Professor 'Vigner' is not available," the secretary answered, this time with added emphasis on the correct pronunciation. "May I take a message?"

"No thank you, I'll call back," the woman on the phone said. Which she did, a half hour later. Now her third attempt:

"May I speak to Professor Wigner?"

"Professor 'Vigner' is not available," the secretary answered, now exasperated. "May I puh-lease take a message?"

"Very well," the woman said. "Just tell him Mrs. Wigner called."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Holocaust survivor dances with grandchildren at the sites of concentration camps. (HT: Ed Brayton).

UPDATE:  The video was removed from YouTube. I hope you had a chance to see it.

UPDATE 2:  Seems to be working again.

UPDATE 3:  Seems to be gone again. Very zen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ken Ham, what's that you say?

Ken Ham is losing it.

On his website he gives his take on the Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life. Said declaration is the product of atheists meeting in Copenhagen. I thought about commenting on it earlier but then decided against it. Why?—because it is noteworthy only for being utterly noncontroversial. That is, it is not radical. Not radical means not sexy. It was not worth a convention in Copenhagen to derive that document—but then again conventions are never really cost effective.

That is probably a mistake—not to write about it, that is. I should have posted it and stated: Here is what a bunch of atheists with too many travel funds have to say—I generally agree with most of it. I could nitpick it, but more or less it is all vanilla.

Not so, says Ken Ham. Old Kenners lapsed into paroxysms of self-righteous indignation. And the way he did it was bizarre. He went through declaration quoting paragraphs verbatim. And then he rewrote the paragraphs, inserting his own words. And then, apparently, he gave himself the vapors over his private version of the text. He deserves a straw-man argument “red card.”

For example, the declaration stated:
We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
(You see why I didn’t comment on it—who could argue with such apple-pie views?)

Ham rewrites this into the official hammerized version:
We recognize the unlimited right (even though we have no objective basis for “rights” in our system) to freedom of conscience, religion, and belief—except for Christians—and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others (this is the golden rule: “do unto others . . . ” for which we have no logical basis in our way of thinking)—except for Christians, as we reject Christianity totally and must try to eliminate it.
Juuusssst a bit of an extrapolation. Does he get up in the morning and ask: how can I make Christians look stupid today?

Another example:
We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
We assert the need for a society based on democracy (even though this has no logical basis in our evolutionary worldview)—as long as the absolutes of Christianity are not allowed—human rights (for which we have no basis), and the rule of law (which protects the weak from the strong—despite the fact that we believe in evolution, which is about the strong dominating the weak). History has shown that the most successful (“successful” by our arbitrary dogma) societies are the most secular—just like the countries led by Mao, Pol Pott, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, and many more (killing off millions of human animals for their cause).
Dude—check your meds.

What Ken Ham (or anyone else ) could try to do is to present a case, with references, showing that the marquee new atheists don’t measure up to the Copenhagen Declaration. Does PZ’s crackergate live up to these lofty standards? Maybe yes, maybe no—but in any event you could at least try to put together a story. What Ham did was---not even wrong.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vandal Scandal

Vandal Scandal

Chrissy Satterfield writes for the vomit-inducing WorldNetDaily, a webzine that, in its deplorable, insatiable desire to entwine Christianity with right-wing politics, to offer Obama "birther" theories and encourage Christian victimhood persecution complexes, misses no opportunity to be an utter embarrassment to the One True Faith.

They only manner in which Christians should be offensive is in those situations where people find the gospel to be offensive. Then we dust off our feet and move on. In no other circumstances should we go out of our way to be offensive. 

Isn't that obvious?

Chrissy Satterfied doesn’t get it. She editorialized about a story of Christian vandalism of an atheist billboard. Someone spray-painted words "Under God" on a message of "One Nation Indivisible." In doing so she took the lowest of low-roads. She applauded it. She said it restored her hope. (What, we may ask, is the foundation of her hope if it can be restored by criminal mischief?). She named her article (OK maybe an editor named it, but if so he named it aptly) My Kind Of Vandals.

Just when I start believing there is no hope for our country I get a little reminder from my God that all is not lost. It was reported June 29 that a billboard sign sponsored by a North Carolina atheist organization had been vandalized. The ad reads, "One Nation Indivisible." It seems someone didn't think the sign was an accurate depiction of our Pledge of Allegiance, so the vandals inserted "Under God" with spray paint – and I couldn't be more relieved. It's nice to know that I am not alone in my beliefs and that some people are still willing to stand on the right side of the truth.

What a pinhead. Standing on the right side of the Christian truth is about presenting and living the gospel. And living the gospel never involves destroying someone's property. Duh.

Absolute right and wrong? Ehh, not so much for Ms. Satterfeld:
Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I'll let it slide.
Why that’s might relative of you.

I don’t know what New Testament Ms. Satterfeld reads. It must be the one where Paul went to Mars Hill and painted fish on all the statues.

Satterfeld rationalizes:
What did this group think would happen? They placed this controversial message on a billboard that just so happens to be on a street named after Rev. Billy Graham. Did they expect the response to be positive?
No. I expect the response to be law-abiding. They probably didn't expect the response to be positive--that's why you put up provocative billboards--to elicit strong responses. And they succeeded. If this was a game, we ended up on the losing side, and Chrissy Satterfield is no more than a cheerleader for our ineptitude.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tuesday Child Puzzle

There has been a lot of chatter about the Tuesday Child puzzle:
I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys?
Everyone's instinct is to say: Tuesday has nothing to do with it, so the answer is simply 1/2.

That answer is wrong. Here is the trouble with everyone's intuition: they read the problem as: I have one son born on a Tuesday, what is the probability that my next child will be a son? There the answer is 1/2. But that is not the problem at hand--here both children are already born. It's a different problem

The answer is actually 13/27 = 0.481, not 1/2.

Let's accept that for now. If you Google you'll find a lot of proofs, some with tables and some using complicated Bayesian analysis. I'll get the result later, via simulation, but for now we'll assume it is correct. But the way to think about it is this: there are lots of ways that two children can be born on any of seven days, say Boy on Tuesday and Girl on Saturday, all with equal probability, and exactly 1/4 of them have two boys. But as I place constraints, such as Boy on Tuesday, many of the possibilities are eliminated and the probabilities change. For example, I can place a very tight constraint: I have two children, one is a son born Tuesday and the other is a son born Saturday. What is the probability I have two sons? Why it is one of course, because all arrangements except Boy on Tuesday and Boy on Saturday have been eliminated by the constraints.

Of course Tuesday really has nothing to do with it. What is relevant is that a boy is constrained to be born on one specific day—any day would do--this could just as easily be the Friday Child Puzzle. It is the limitation that one of the children is a boy born on one specific day out of seven that is relevant.

To see this, assume you asked:
I have two children. One is a boy born on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. What is the probability I have two boys?
Clearly this is the same as simply asking: I have two children, one is a boy, what is the probability that the other is a boy? Here the answer is clear—the possible arrangements given that we have at least one boy are: BB, BG, GB. They occur with equal probability, so the probability of BB (two boys) is 1/3.

We could generalize the puzzle this way:

I have two children. One is a boy born no later than day N where N is 1..7. What is the probability I have two boys?

Let's call that probability P(N).

So the original form of the puzzle is: what is P(1)? The answer we are accepting (for now) is not 1/2 but 13/27.

The second form of the puzzle, where the constraint is a boy born on any of the seven days, could be stated this way: what is P(7)? That we just demonstrated is 1/3.

What is the meaning of P(0)? This would mean that the first boy wasn't born on any day. This pathological case becomes, simply, what is the probability that the other child is a boy, which is our beloved 1/2.

Let's make a prediction. We have:

P(0) = 1/2 = 14/28
P(1) = 13/27
P(2) = 12/26
P(3) = 11/25
P(4) = 10/24
P(5) = 9/23
P(6) = 8/22

P(7) = 7/21 = 1/3

P(2) through P(6) is a prediction from an obvious pattern. Let us remember what this means. P(1) is the probability of two boys given that one son is born on one specific day, say Tuesday. P(2) is the probability given that one son is born on one of two days, say Tuesday or Wednesday. Etc., etc., etc.

I wrote a Monte Carlo for this problem and the results are:

Days   Prob of 2 boys
 P(1)       0.4811
P(2)       0.4615
P(3)       0.4399
P(4)       0.4167
P(5)       0.3911
P(6)       0.3631
P(7)       0.3336

These are good approximations to the predicted fractions above. The zero row is not in the output because it is a pathological case and the code won't handle it.

Note that P(1), as advertised, is 13/27.

The probability (that the second child is a boy) drops smoothly from P(0) = 1/2 (when in effect there is no first child) to 1/3 when the first child is a boy, born any day.

The JAVA program is given below.

public class TuesdayChild {

//constant defining a boy baby
   private static final int BOY = 0;

//method that randomly selects a sex
   private static int randomSex() {
     return (int)(Integer.MAX_VALUE*Math.random()) % 2;

//method that randomly selects a day, 0--6 
  private static int randomDay() {
    return (int)(Integer.MAX_VALUE*Math.random()) % 7;


//main method
   public static void main(String arg[]) {
     TuesdayChild tchild = new TuesdayChild();

//how many trials per iteration
     int numTrial = 10000000;

//hold the results for each case. We will vary the
//number of days one boy is constrained to be born on
//from 1 (corresponding to the problem as stated) to 7

     double results[] = new double[7];

//loop over the constraint days 

    for (int numDays = 1; numDays <= 7; numDays++) { 
      int passCount = 0; //number of trials passing constraint
      int twoBoyCount = 0; //subset that have two boys

//now loop over the trials
     for (int i = 0; i < numTrial; i++) { 

      Trial trial = Trial(numDays); 
      if (trial.keepTrial()) { 
        if (trial.twoBoys()) {
    results[numDays-1] = ((double)twoBoyCount)/passCount; 
//now print the results
   System.out.println("Days Prob 2 boys"); 
   for (int numDays = 1; numDays <= 7; numDays++) {

      System.out.println(String.format("%d %8.4f", numDays, results[numDays-1])); 

//class for a single trial
   class Trial {
//sex of child 1 and child 2
   int sex1 = randomSex();
   int sex2 = randomSex();

//day of birth child 1 and child 2
   int day1 = randomDay();
   int day2 = randomDay();

//this will determine how many days we constrain the birth
//of one boy. It can be 1--7. At one, one boy will be constrained
//to be born on one day, such as Tuesday. This is analogous to the
//puzzle as stated. If it is two then one boy is constrained to be
//born on two days, say Tuesday or Wednesday. If it is seven, one boy
//is constrained to be born on any day. This is the same as simply saying
//you have one boy. The answer for that case should be 1/3.

   int _max;

   public Trial(int max) {
     _max = max;

//see if we keep this trial because at least one of the two children
//was a boy born within the constrained number of days

   public boolean keepTrial() {
     return ((sex1==BOY)&&(day1<;_max)) || (sex2==BOY)&&((day2< _max)); } 

//see if this trial has two boys
   public boolean twoBoys() {
     return (sex1 == BOY) && (sex2 == BOY);

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

First new review in years

My book has been out five years and has dropped in rank to something like 2-millionth on Amazon. I am not sure how much lower it can get--but I guess I'll find out. I have a few good reviews there--but I never had a review on B&N. For whatever reason I decided to check, and to my delight I now have a review on B&N, and it is very recent. And its five stars:
Posted June 5, 2010, 5:18 PM EST: This is a relatively unknown book so I was skeptical at first but it did not disappoint! I read the entire thing in two days. Sometimes in the bookstore I pick up a book and have to read a chapter or so before I buy it because I can't remember if I've already read it. This book is nothing like that. It's definitely one of those books you will remember.
Now how could I argue with that?

Mrs. Calvinist can write!

Here she recounts a recent job interview for our autistic son Luke. The interview was for a church accompanist. This is his second such interview. He didn't get the job the first time, and is likely not to get the job the second time.

It's not because he isn't a good enough musician--he is. It is unlikely, though possible, that a more musically gifted person got the job. The problem is that he instills discomfort in music directors--they realize they will have to learn how to deal with someone who doesn't communicate verbally all that well--at least when the instruction is not purely in musical terms. They will have to deal with someone different. It's a burden.

The first time Luke didn't get the job I wanted to ask the music director if he ever read Matt. 25:40.

It is really their loss, seriously. There is one constant about every church we have been in--that is the unanimous agreement that Luke--both his attitude and his music, are a huge blessing.


In changing my template I discovered that I have rid myself of the haloscan (or whatever they are now called) comments. I am now using blogger comments.

The old comments are lost. I apologize--not that I think many people will care. But I have to switch--the son-of-haloscan system was too hideous in many ways.

♫ How many times must a man be wrong, before you call him a Jerry? ♫

No matter how many times Jerry Coyne is wrong, he can always find more ways to be wrong. Today he has a post entitled:  What evidence would convince you that a god exists?

Claiming the high road, which is like Bernard Madoff staking out a position of "ethical businessman," Coyne writes:
In contrast, the faithful do not (and cannot) specify what observations would disprove their beliefs—or the whole basis of their religion. 

It’s your turn.  If you’re one of the faithful reading this, feel free to post those observations that would convince you that God doesn‘t exist.
Well Jerry I would, but in addition to Dembski’s Uncommon Descent and a far-right YEC forum, the only other blog on which I cannot post comments is your blog.

So what he really means is: If you are one of the faithful whose IP address I am not blocking, feel free to post your observations. And what he really really means is that the faithful will not provide such a list.

So here is a short list, just to, yet again, prove Jerry wrong:

1)      Archeological proof that the synoptic gospels were written after AD 70. Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple within the timeframe of a generation is so specific that if it were shown to be written after the fact it would destroy the credibility of the bible.
2)      Archeological proof that the biblical writers conspired to fabricate the story of the resurrection.
3)      Except when the bible is referring to a miracle, a demonstrably false scientific statement in its text.
4)      The scientific demonstration of the String multiverse. That is, if it is demonstrated that there is a semi-infinite number of universes each with different fundamental constants, essentially randomly drawn constants, then my faith would be shattered.
5)      The scientific demonstration of Smolin’s Cosmic Evolution theory.
6)      Scientific proof of the claim of many atheists (and what should be the claim of all atheists)that free will does not exist.

I could go on and on.

I have done this before—addressed this challenge on other blogs such as Panda’s Thumb. The response is always the same: No, these things would not make you renounce your faith.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Comparative Views of the End Times (Lesson 2-2)

Will teach this series next fall. These lessons have been posted before--way back in 2003--but I'll be updating.

Overview of the Four Views

Today, in preparation for in-depth studies, we will give a final overview of the four views we have been discussing. Our goal is to understand the basic rudimentary positions and chronologies of the four views before we begin investigating underlying theology, scriptural support, and scriptural weaknesses.

Recall that, of the four views, two are premillennial, meaning that Christ returns before the millennium of Revelation 20. These two are dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism. Two views are postmillennial, teaching that Christ will return after the millennium. These are amillennialism and postmillennialism.


Postmillennialism teaches that Christ will return after the millennium, and that the millennium is a future golden age on earth where the church will reign victorious.

I’m not dead yet

Postmillennialism reached its apex in the American church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its optimistic outlook fit nicely in the "Age of Reason (and science)", but it suffered two near fatal blows in the twentieth century:
  1. Overall optimism with man’s ability to affect beneficial change through education and science was replaced with pessimism born of two world wars, genocide, and the advent of weapons of mass destruction.

  2. Postmillennialism became "guilty by association" with other optimistic perspectives, including secular progressivism (man can improve the world on his own) and religious liberalism (man is basically good and can improve the world if he gives occasional credit to the big grandpa in the sky.)
In The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), Hal Lindsey wrote:
No self-respecting scholar who looks at world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today is a postmillennialist.
Dispensationalist J. Dwight Pentecost put it this way:
Postmillennialism is no longer an issue in theology. World War II brought about the demise of this system.

Actually, I’m feeling better

Nevertheless, postmillennialism has fought back, and is once again on the increase. The first criticism is answered by pointing out that things might already be getting better, especially if one views long term trends, and also if one takes into account the non-Western, non-white Christian church. In addition, it is not what is happening now that is relevant, but what scripture promises will occur before the Second Coming. The second criticism is rebutted by stating clearly that, unlike the secular progressives and religious liberals, postmillennialism does not suggest that the golden age is achieved by man’s efforts through better government, increased education, etc., but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Basic Features

The basic features of postmillennialism are: 11, 12
  • The Messianic Kingdom was founded on earth during the earthly ministry of Christ in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The New Testament church is the transformation of Israel, the Israel of God about which Paul writes:

    Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16)

  • As the gospel spreads throughout the earth and brings its divinely intended and Spirit-energized results, evil (and perhaps an antichrist) is routed and the millennium arrives.

  • During this era, Satan is bound and the nations live in peace. The great commission will succeed. The kingdom of Christ will gradually expand.

  • After the millennium ends, Satan is loosed to lead a final, short-termed (and doomed) rebellion.

  • Satan’s rebellion is ended by the triumphal return of Jesus. Only in postmillennialism does Jesus return to a church victorious (a victory achieved through His power, not man’s). In all other views, Christ returns to a church on the run.

  • The Second Coming is followed by the general resurrection, the judgment, and the eternal state—heaven and hell.

Smooth Transition

Another feature of postmillennialism is there is no discontinuity. The church age gradually transits into the millennium, perhaps even imperceptibly. As more are regenerated through the Holy Spirit, there will be a diminishing of evil in human affairs, but this will occur slowly. The changes that occur will be changes in extent, not content. 13 Postmillennialism’s dominance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is reflected in some of the great hymns of that era. For example Lead On O King Eternal (#483 in our hymnals) contains these postmillennial lines: For not with swords loud clashing, Nor roll of stirring drums; With deeds of love and mercy, The heav’nly kingdom comes. The hymn Joy to the World! Which we sing as a Christmas carol, is actually proclaiming Christ’s Sceond Coming (not His first) from a postmillennial perspective.

Dispensational Premillennialism

During the twentieth century, dispensational premillennialism replaced postmillennialism as the dominant viewpoint among American evangelicals. At its apex, it was so pervasive as to become a test of orthodoxy, like the doctrine of the Trinity or The Incarnation. Theologian Clarence Bass wrote of his encountering this position (that dispensational premillennialism is an essential of Christianity):
Even today some of my dearest friends are convinced that I have departed from the evangelical faith. No affirmation of my belief in the cardinal doctrines of the faith—the virgin birth, the efficaciousness of Christ’s death, the historicity of the resurrection, the necessity of the new birth, even the fervent expectancy of the personal, literal, actual, bodily return of the Lord to earth will convince them because I have ceased to rightly divide the word of truth. 14
Dispensational Premillennialism has two aspects that make it very appealing:
  1. It employs a literal hermeneutic of interpreting biblical prophesy.

  2. It seems to fit very well and even "foresaw" the current state of the world, especially in regards to the Middle East. The creation of Israel in 1948 was a spectacular boost to dispensational premillennialism. The break-up of the Soviet Union, the secularization of Israel, and the over-expansion of the European Union has restrained some of its excessive prophetic boasting.

Basic Features

Dispensational Premillennialism has the most complex feature set and chronology of all the views: 15
  • God offered the Davidic Kingdom to the Jews. They rejected it, and it was postponed to the future.

  • The current church is a "parenthesis", unknown to the Old Testament Prophets.

  • God has separate programs for the church and Israel.

  • The church will continue to lose influence, ultimately becoming apostate at the end of the church age.

  • Christ returns secretly to rapture the church before the tribulation (the seventieth week of Daniel). The church is taken to heaven to stand before the "judgment seat of Christ" and celebrate “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19)

  • On earth, the appearance of the antichrist marks the beginning of the tribulation.

  • After the tribulation, Christ will return to fight the battle of Armageddon. Israel acknowledges Christ as the long awaited Messiah. Christ establishes and administers a Jewish political kingdom based in Jerusalem for 1000 years. Satan will be bound, the temple will be rebuilt, and animal sacrifice will be re-instituted.

  • Those who are converted during the tribulation, including the 144,000 Jews, go on to repopulate earth.

  • Near the end of the millennium, Satan will be released and Christ will be attacked at Jerusalem.

  • Christ will call down judgment from heaven and destroy His enemies. The (second) resurrection and the (Great White Throne) judgment of the wicked will occur, initiating the eternal order.

Historic Premillennialism

In the modern era, historic postmillennialism is increasing. Some scholars believe that as classic dispensationalism wanes, its former proponents, desirous to hold on to a premillennial view, are turning to the older variant. Grenz writes: Many of the evangelical thinkers who rejected classical dispensationalism remained staunchly premillennial. Consequently, for guidance in the constructive theological task they took another look at the history of doctrine. To their delight they discovered that a tradition of non-dispensational premillennialism has been present in the church at least since the patristic era. Basic Features The basic features of historic premillennialism are: 17
  • The New Testament church is the initial phase of Christ’s Kingdom, as prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. 18

  • The church may win occasional victories in history, but ultimately she will fail in her mission, lose influence, and become corrupted as worldwide evil increases toward the end of the church age.

  • The church will pass through a future, worldwide, unprecedented time of travail (the Great Tribulation), which will punctuate the end of contemporary history.

  • Christ will return at the end of the tribulation to rapture the church, resurrect dead saints, and conduct the judgment of the righteous.

  • Christ will then descend to earth with His glorified saints, fight the battle of Armageddon, defeat the antichrist, bind Satan, and establish a worldwide political kingdom which will be personally administered by him in Jerusalem for 1000 years.

  • At the end of 1000 years, Satan will be loosed and a fierce rebellion will ensue. God will intervene with fiery judgments to rescue Christ and the saints. The resurrection and judgment of the wicked will occur and the eternal state will begin.
The main feature distinguishing historic premillennialism from dispensational premillennialism is the post-tribulation rapture. The blessed hope of the church, according to historic premillennialists, is not the rapture but the Second Coming. However, the main theological underpinning that distinguishes the two premillennial views is that historic premillennialists believe that the church is indeed the new Israel, and that covenantal relations between the God and the Jews have passed over to the church. Unlike postmillennialism, the millennium is not inaugurated gradually, but suddenly through the appearance of Christ at the end of the tribulation. Also unlike postmillennialism, historic premillennialism anticipates a gradual deterioration of conditions. Christ returns to “rescue” a church in retreat, not to be welcomed by a church victorious. Historic premillennialists anticipate worldwide peace and harmony during the millennium. They also look for the effects of the fall on nature to be removed or greatly mitigated during the millennium. The age will enjoy a cessation of hostility among the animals and man: 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:8-9)


Amillennialism sounds of if it teaches no millennium. In fact, what is holds is that the millennium is now. Proponents prefer to be called present or realized millennialists.

Basic Features:

  • The present church age is the millennium; it is also the Kingdom era prophesied in the Old Testament.

  • The New Testament church is the "spiritual" Israel. However, some amillennialists hold that, for example, the phrase "all Israel" (as found, for example in Rom. 11:26: and so all Israel will be saved ) might indeed refer to ethnic Jews, but unlike dispensationalist view they are not the Jews of an eschatological nation of Israel but the elect among the Jews, i.e. the remnant.

  • Satan was bound, or more accurately restrained, during Christ’s ministry, particularly when he was defeated on the cross and in the initiation of the great commission. Consider Luke 10:18:

    And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. (Luke 10:18).

    Given that this is spoken to the 70 returning disciples, an amill might view it as referring not to Satan's original fall but to the reduction of his power concurrent with Christ’s ministry.

  • Christ is ruling now through the hearts of believers. The Kingdom of God is now. Thus amillennialists are delighted with verses that read "The Kingdom of God (or Heaven) is at hand”, which they say implies a near term fulfillment.

  • Toward the end of the age, evil’s growth will accelerate (Satan’s is unleashed, for a short while, as described in Rev. 20) culminating in the tribulation and (possibly) the appearance of the antichrist.

  • Christ will return to end history and judge all men. The same glorious consummation described in all views.
Unlike postmillennialism which has a gradual or evolutionary aspect to it, amillennialists actually proclaim the biggest discontinuity of all the millennial views. The present church age, is the Kingdom of God. Satan is already bound although not completely powerless (hence the paucity of demonic possession?). Throughout this age, a diminished (but strengthening) kingdom of evil will coexist with the Kingdom of God. Both will be replaced virtually instantly (in the twinkling of an eye) with the eternal dispensation. There is no 1000 year buffer between this age and the ultimate age. This age, and indeed history itself, will end abruptly with the Second Advent, which will occur in the midst of a final intense persecution of the church.

General Chronology

The main feature of the amillennialist end-times chronology is its simplicity and suddenness. The present age, which is the millennium, ends. The eternal state begins. This is evident in the following summary of William E. Cox, as quoted by Grenz: 19
When the trumpet sounds, things will take place simultaneously. Our Lord will begin his descent to the earth, the brightness of this event will put down Satan, and all the graves will be opened…All the saints will go together to meet the Lord and to escort Him to the earth. …The unsaved … will be forced to bow the knee and acknowledge that this is of a certainty the Christ… They will see the suffering Servant reigning now as Judge of the quick and the dead, and they will seek a place of hiding but will find none: Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Rev. 1:7)

Reasons to be Pessimistic

While postmillennialism is criticized for being unrealistically optimistic, amillennialism is charged with being too pessimistic. There is no rapture to spare believers from the tribulation. Nor is the tribulation reserved for unconverted Jews. The church itself will endure the tribulation (and may be doing so right now) as things gradually get worse, perhaps culminating with the appearance of the antichrist. The is no danger in this view being co-opted by utopian liberal progressives, as was the case with postmillennialism. The different eschatological views also result in different anticipations in terms of the numbers of people saved. Postmillennialists, who look forward to the ultimate success of the great commission in converting many nations, generally expect a much more "populated" heaven than do the amillennialists.

11 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, pp. 72. 12 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 200-201. 13 Grenz, pp. 71. 14 The rightly divide is a reference to classic dispensationalism, which its proponents claim “rightly divides” God’s plan into (usually) seven distinct dispensations. 15 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 197-198. 16 Grenz, pp.127-128. 17 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 199-200. 18 This is in vivid conflict with dispensationalism, which holds that the present church age was unforeseen by the Old Testament prophets. 19 Grenz, 152-153.