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).
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.