PMT 2014-092 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Many opponents of postmillennialism reject the hope-filled outlook because of their strong convictions regarding the power of sin. Like me, they are committed to Calvinistic doctrine regarding man’s total depravity. Total depravity teaches that man is a fallen sinner and depraved in every aspect of being. How can we have any hope for a better world governed by sinful men?
In dispensationalist J. Dwight Pentecost’s assessment of the deficiencies of postmillennialism, his fourth objection is along these lines. He speaks of “the new trend toward realism in theology and philosophy, seen in neo-orthodoxy, which admits man is a sinner, and can not bring about the new age anticipated by postmillennialism” (Pentecost, Things to Come, 387). Prophetic populist Hal Lindsey asserts that postmillennialism believes in “the inherent goodness of man” (Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, 176).
Herman Hanko, a strong Calvinist, is convinced that “from the fall on, the world develops the sin of our first parents. This development continues throughout history. . . . More and more that kingdom of darkness comes to manifestation as time progresses” (Hanko, “An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism,” Protestant Reformed Theological Journal [11:2] 25). Indeed, in his view postmillennialism “is a mirage, therefore, a false hope, because it fails to reckon properly with the fact of sin” and “cannot take sin as seriously as do the Scriptures” (Hanko, “The Illusory Hope of Postmillennialism,” Reformed Witness, 159).
How can the postmillennialist get around such objections? Especially Calvinist postmillennialists, like me? I will answer this question in two articles.
The Climax of the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)
Six lectures on six DVDs that introduce Revelation as a whole,
then focuses on its glorious conclusion.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
In the first place I would point that despite the presence of sin, sinners do nevertheless convert to Christ. We must remember that each and every convert to Christ was at one time a totally depraved sinner. Is this not the case? Has it not always been the case?
And yet we have hundreds of millions of Christians in the world today. Salvation comes by the gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16). How can we deny the gospel’s power that has already saved millions of depraved sinners? What God can do for one sinner he can do for another. This is evident in the apostolic era (Ac 2:41; 4:4), as well as in biblical prophecy (Isa 2:3–4; Psa 86:9; Rev 5:9; 7:9).
A fatal objection to postmillennialism cannot arise from the power of sin. After all, the power of God to save greatly overshadows the power of sin to destroy. Indeed, “with God all things are possible” (Lk 18:27). In the ultimate analysis, the issue is not the power of sin, but the power of God. As I point out in the PostmillennialismToday blog, and as all postmillennialists argue, It is God’s will to bring redemption gradually to the whole world as a system through the proclamation of Christ’s gospel while building his church.
But in one sense though it is true that the postmillennialist overlooks the depravity of man. He overlooks it — that is, looks over and beyond it — to see the resurrection of Jesus Christ. David Chilton challenges us: “Like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, [despairing evangelicals] looked at ‘nature’ rather than at the Lord Jesus Christ; like the Israelites on the border of Canaan, they looked at the ‘giants in the land’ instead of trusting the infallible promises of God; they were filled with fear, and took flight” (Chilton, Paradise Restored, 232).
We see the glorious power of Christ’s resurrection overwhelming the destructive power of Adam’s fall. We need to consider the strength of grace in comparison to the power of sin. The Christian should ask himself: “Have I ever seen a lost man become saved?” The answer is: Yes. This being the case, it is evident that grace is stronger than sin. The Christian should then ask a follow up question: “Does the Bible teach that a saved man can lose his salvation?” Here the answer is: No. In both cases, we see the superior power of God’s grace over man’s sin. As postmillennialist scholar David Brown once put it: “Souls that have felt the Saviour’s grace know right well its matchless power. After their own conversion, they can never doubt its converting efficacy on any scale that may be required” (Brown, Christ’s Second Coming, 302–303).