PMT 2015:017 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Most evangelical Christians recognize and lament the widescale cultural collapse America is witnessing. This seems to better fit the dispensationalist’s gloomy outlook on the future. How can one hold to the postmillennial hope while witnessing the demise of the Christian influence in America?
But this question has a deeper significance. A leading objection against the postmillennial hope of gospel conquest is the fact of man’s inborn total depravity. In this blog posting I will explain how postmillennialism may offer an optimistic outlook on history even though we live in a world of depraved sinners.
Samples from Objectors
J. Dwight Pentecost’s objects to postmillennialism along these lines. In his Things to Come (387) 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.”
Despite Postmillennialism being dominated by Calvinists today, Hal Lindsey has asserted that postmillennialism believes in “the inherent goodness of man” (The Late Great Planet Earth, 176).
God Gave Wine
(by Kenneth Gentry)
A biblical defense of moderate alcohol consumption.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Strong Calvinist amillennialist, Herman Hanko, 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” (“An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism,” 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” (“The Illusory Hope of Postmillennialism,” 159).
Responses from Optimists
Our cultural collapse and Obama’s antipathy to the Christian faith and Christian principles is certainly a serious matter. Especially when it seems to reflect the underlying reality of the inherent sinfulness of man. This is truly a significant theological matter that must be answered by postmillennialists, if the system is to have any hope of surviving in our current climate. And I as a Calvinist certainly hold to the total depravity of man. But I would offer the following response to Pentecost, Lindsey, Hanko, and others:
We must note that despite the presence of sin, sinners are nevertheless converted to Christ. We must remember that each and every convert to Christ was at one time a totally depraved sinner. 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.
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).
The Christian should recognize that power of God to save sinners greatly overshadows the power of sin to destroy men. In the ultimate analysis, the issue is not the power of sin, but the power of God.
Political Christianity (book)
(by Christian Citizen)
Christian principles appliend to practical political issues, including “lesser-of-evils” voting.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
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.
Postmillennialists do not believe in the inherent goodness of man, but opponents of postmillennialism seem to believe in the inherent weakness of the gospel. They believe that man’s sin successfully resists the gospel even to the end of history. Jonah also had a concern regarding the power of the gospel: he feared its power to save wicked, powerful Nineveh (Jon 1:2–3, 10; 3:2; 4:1–4).
Though the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9), the postmillennialist firmly believes that “God is greater than our heart” (1Jn 3:20). We are confident that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1Jn 4:4). After Christ’s resurrection the church receives the Spirit’s outpouring (Jn 7:39; Ac 2:33). And God promises that historical power is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zec 4:6).
The postmillennial hope is not in any way, shape, or form rooted in any effort by man. We cannot have a high estimation of our future based on man himself, for “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Ro 8:7–8). When left to himself man’s world is corrupted and destroyed — a classic illustration being in the days of Noah (Ge 6:5). But God refuses to leave man to himself.
But neither does the hope for the man’s progress under the gospel relate to the Christian’s self-generated strength, wisdom, or cleverness. Left to our own efforts, we Christians too quickly learn that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Were our future outlook rooted in the unaided power even of redeemed man, all would be hopeless. But our hope is in the resurrected Christ. The labor is ours; the subduing is His.”
Obama and his policies certainly cast a great shadow over our Christian labors. And the damage he has done to our heritage is very real and quite serious. But Christ is king. And Christ’s redemptive labors can overcome the ineptitude of world leaders and the sinfulness of fallen men. Indeed, it will do so as the positive argument for postmillennialism amply demonstrates.
Hang in their postmillennialists: this too will pass. The Christ who saved you is still on the throne. His word is still true.
Tagged: sin and postmillennialism, total depravity
Dear Dr. Gentry,
Thank you for this article. I believe that any system that is standing against God, will be judged by God, in history. The book of Revelation and the 70AD historical event, proves that the religious and civil authorities that persecuted the saints, were judged in history. That is the basis of our hope for any religious or civil opposition.
I was thinking how this argument can be strengthened. One idea that came to my mind, was to be reminded of all the systems that came down in history and the saints triumphed. And then draw a parallel line to modern times examples.
1) Pagan system: in ancient world, the Roman empire couldn’t stand against God.A modern parallel, is the pagan peoples converting by millions to Christ in Africa and Asia.
2) Roman Catholic theocracy: in ancient world (Reformation time) the militant papacy couldn’t stand against God. A modern parallel could be cited the millions of catholics converting to biblical christianity in Latin America.
3) Communism: ancient/modern example is the collapse of the militant communism in ex USSR in 1991.
4) Militant Caliphate: ancient/modern example is the 1924 dissolution of the caliphate that once virtually ruled from India to Spain, where the saints lived as second class citizens.
the only example I didn’t find is:
5) pluralistic/democratic secularism (to differentiate it from militant atheism/communism): I’m struggling to find a modern example of any country who was once secular, but now is going (or going back) to its christian roots. Muslims can cite Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Sudan or Pakistan who once were secular and now thoroughly islamic. Do you know of any non-militant democratic pluralistic society (in northern, western or southern europe); or any country) where the gospel is advancing in great measures?
Interestingly, the underground church in China is growing rapidly.
I was reluctant to cite China, although an interesting case could be made on that. I was reluctant, because China may not be regarded as a democractic/pluralistic secular county (following the type of europe or US). That’s why some may argue, that the growth of christianity in china could be attributed to the persecution and/or 50 years of communistic spiritual void. Western type countries do not have neither persecution nor atheistic/confucian/buddhist hertiage or a void (they have democracy and substantial evangelical heritage/presence).
I was trying to search the net to see the most substantive evangelical growth in secular europe. Luxemburg is the highest. That could be an interesting case to follow up in the future. Argentina/Brazil/South Africa/South Korea are other examples of high evangelical growth, in secularistc democratic milieu. But the “secularism” in these countries are not at the caliber of the secularism found in europe.
Perhaps, also a case can be made, if in modern history, an infamous law was reversed in any secular country (a law at the caliber of Row vs.Wade). If one or two examples could be found in the western world where after 40-50 years of such an anti-God law, was reversed, by popular opposition, or conservative activism, then, a strong case can be made for postmillenial hope, in the current gloomy environment that is lingering upon the church.
Any thoughts on that?
I’m seeing two layers of the proofs we are seeking; proofs of God’s work in modern history:
1) exponential growth of the church (the case we are trying to find is in a secular democratic country).
but most importantly:
2) modern examples of reversing immoral laws in secular countries to make them more compatible with moral biblical christianity (here, potential examples should be found from Latin America/Africa/Asia where the church is growing therefore they could have been successful in the cultural mandate to some degree; I doubt positive cases could be found in Europe/Canada/Australia/UK/USA where the church’s moral/cultural impact is on the retreat).
Based on the following link, the influential western secular countries who have substantial biblical christianity presence (more than 4% or more than 1.5 million) AND a positive growth rate are: Norway, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Netherlands and USA
I’m mentioning this here online, so that perhaps some christian researchers may be motivated to try to search for one or two examples of the reversal of some immoral laws (if any) in these countries in modern history.
There are glimpses/pointers that even secular states can come back to godliness at some point, let’s not lose hope:
I read in Christ and Culture Revisited (2008) by D. A. Carson, that Hungary “concerned that morals be taught in the public school system, have in recent years invited Christian leaders to teach the Bible within the system…” (p.186)
Regarding freedom of religion on university campuses, Carson mentions that In France “provided Christians are using their group time for study of the Bible and Christian teachings, the French commitment to academic freedom may respond favorably. Where Christians want to include corporate worship, the French commitment to la laicite may forbid the meetings altogether. So Christians shape their meetings and their appeals around study and teaching.” (p.190)
If I were to believe in postmillennialism, I would have to accept the Classic Postmillennialism of earlier theologians. I would believe that the millennium would be a literal thousand year period. I would believe that Satan would not be bound until the beginning of this coming millennium and Jesus would return at its end. As the old hymn says: the darkness will turn to morning and the morning to noon day bright, and Christ’s Great Kingdom will come on earth, the Kingdom of love and light. In my opinion, the millennium is not yet here if postmillennialism is true. May God bless us one and all.
I see you did not accept my last statement. That does not matter; on the contrary, I am an Amillennialist like Anthony Hoekema. At one time, I could have accepted Classic Postmillennialism; however, that is no longer the case. In any case, God bless all on this blog. I do hope there is freedom of speech here as long as it is not anti-Christian.
I see you did not publish my statement on Classic Postmillennialism. Why?
Because I have been out of town for two weeks. All my articles popping up while I was away had been earlier posted in my queue before I left town.
I have been out of town (see previous reply).
Old-line postmillennialism of the Puritans did see the conquest of the gospel in terms of a catastrophic revival that sparked the beginning of a literal 1000 year period of great glory. However, modern postmillennialism recognizes the principle of gradualism (like a mustard seed growing, like leaven acting). And in doing this it avoids the problem of having its view of kingdom victory located in only one chapter in the Bible, and in the most symbolic book of all Scripture. Keep studying!
“Of the INCREASE of His government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:7a).