IS AMILLENNIALISM PESSIMISTIC?

GloomPMT 2015-021 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

The basic evangelical eschatological positions may be broken down into two classes: optimistic or pessimistic. Only postmillennialism is characterized as optimistic. In fact, this is the distinctive feature of postmillennialism, which resembles amillennialism in most other respects.

Amillennialists do not like being deemed pessimistic. And they will often complain that postmillennialists wrongly designate them as “pessimistic.” They generally reject this evaluation for two reasons: (1) It is negative sounding in itself, and (2) it overlooks the fact that they argue that ultimately Christ and his people win the victory at the end of history. Still other amillennialists deny this designation because they call themselves “optimistic amillennialists.”

But why do postmillenialists argue that amillennialism is “pessimistic”? What is it about their system that distinguishes them from postmillennialism regarding this optimism/pessimism issue?


Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond
(ed. by Darrell Bock)
Presents three views on the millennium: progressive dispensationalist, amillennialist, and reconstructionist postmillennialist viewpoints. Includes separate responses to each view.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Of course, all evangelical eschatological perspectives are ultimately optimistic by the very nature of evangelical theology. Christ does lead his people to victory in saving them from their sins, resurrecting them from the dead, and establishing them in righteousness in the eternal order. These issues are not debated among evangelicals: Christianity inherently has glorious, eternal consequences.

Nevertheless, these issues are irrelevant to debate between the millennial views.

Historically amillennialism has tended to be pessimistic in terms of the question of widespread, long-lasting cultural success for the Christian faith in time and on earth. That is, regarding these matters:

First, as a system of gospel proclamation amillennialism teaches that the gospel of Christ will not exercise any majority influence in the world before Christ’s return. They allow that Christianity may enjoy flashes of revival and spurts of growth. Yet, by its very nature the amillennial system cannot allow that Christianity will become the dominant feature of human society and culture.

Second, as a system of historical understanding amillennialism, in fact, holds the Bible teaches there are prophetically determined, irresistible trends downward toward chaos in the outworking and development of history. Though some amillennialists understand the great tribulation in the Olivet Discourse as referring (correctly) to the Jewish War and the AD 70 destruction of the temple, their system necessarily demands a prophetically-determined collapse of society in history.


Amillennialism v. Postmillennialism Debate
(DVD by Gentry and Gaffin)

Formal, public debate between Dr. Richard Gaffin (Westminster Theological Seminary)
and Kenneth Gentry at the Van Til Conference in Maryland.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Third, as a system for the promotion of Christian discipleship amillennialism dissuades the Church from anticipating and laboring for wide-scale success in influencing the world for Christ during this age. In fact, this distinguishes amillennialism and postmillennialism. Regarding the question of so-called “optimistic amillennialists,” it seems to me that the verses an amillennialist would use to underscore his optimism are those that endorse a postmillennial perspective. Unless, of course, he is optimistic on grounds other than direct biblical revelation. Therefore, he should come out of the closet and be a postmillennialist.

Advertisements

Tagged:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: