PMT 2017-040 by Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D.
In this study series, I will addresses a vital, yet often overlooked topic: the ethics of eschatology. Stated simply the pertinent question posed is: If theonomic postmillennialism is true—and it certainly is—then what differences here and now should this conviction make in the lives of Christians and their churches? What should be the character, and what should be the conduct of a professing postmillennialist?
The answer to this question is multi-faceted. At least five ethical implications flow from postmillennial convictions. Theonomic postmillennialism—rightly conceived and practiced—demands our:
Promoting Gospel Primacy;
Demonstrating Evangelistic Zeal;
Cultivating Christendomic Consciousness;
Practicing Cultural Engagement; and
Habituating Christian Humility.
Promoting Gospel Primacy
Paul addressed the church at Corinth with a singularly focused purpose: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The foundation for Paul’s instruction, exhortation and admonition to these believers was the Cross, the gospel of Christ. In this context Paul presents a victorious eschatology to these Christians: “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). Does a connection exist between these pronouncements regarding the Cross and eschatological victory? The postmillennialist believes it does.
Greatness of the Great Commission (by Ken Gentry)
An insightful analysis of the full implications of the great commission. Impacts postmillennialism as well as the whole Christian worldview.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Paul expressed eschatological confidence precisely because he held the gospel as primary. This is because he rightly acknowledged that the gospel is transformational in the very nature of the case: Indeed, the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, according to Scripture the cause of societal transformation is the gospel—not political or familial reconstruction.
Unfortunately, theonomic postmillennialism has been maligned and even slandered as
promoting either some form of social gospel or a “Jewish dream.” Nevertheless, the expositors and defenders of this optimistic eschatology have ardently underscored the gospel’s predominance in advancing God’s postmillennial victory. Indeed, the gospel’s priority in postmillennial eschatology has been set forth with utter and unmistakable clarity. Consider the following contemporary proponents of theonomic postmillennialism:
Rousas J. Rushdoonyi:
• “Evil men will not produce a good society. The key to social renewal is individual regeneration.” (Rushdoony, Institutes, 122).
• “Clearly there is no hope for man except in regeneration. . . . The salvation of man includes his restoration into the image of God and the calling implicit in that image, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion. Hence, the proclamation of the gospel was also the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, according to all the New Testament.” (Rushdoony, Institutes, 449).
• “Without regenerating grace, man cannot keep God’s law and discharge his duties.” (Rushdoony, Institutes, study147).
• “The fall of man has not altered this calling, although it has made its fulfilment impossible apart from Christ’s regenerating work.” (Rushdoony, Institutes, 163).
• “In terms of God’s law, true reform begins with regeneration and then the submission of the believer to the whole law-word of God. The degenerate pretenders to reform want to reform the world by beginning with their opponents, with any and everyone save themselves.” (Rushdoony, Institutes, 627).
• “The source of peace is man’s regeneration in Christ; it is more than the cessation of hostilities : it is the growth of communion and it is personal fulfilment in Christ as well.” (Rushdoony, Institutes, 780).
Greg L. Bahnsen:
•“Postmillennialism maintains that the victorious advance of Christ’s kingdom in this world will take place in terms of the present peaceful and spiritual power of the gospel” (Bahnsen, Victory in Jesus, 42).
•“Postmillennialism believes in the gradual growth and success of the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church’s preaching of the gospel” (Bahnsen, Victory in Jesus, 43).
Kenneth L. Gentry. Jr.:
• “That theonomists speak of God’s kingdom as a civilization does not mean that they do not see this civilization as grounded in spiritual regeneration” (Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 224).
•“This era of dominion will produce the worldwide transformation of society through the preaching of the gospel and individuals’ widespread positive response to the message of redemption—a continuity of dominion” Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 232).
•“This is not accomplished by political imposition, but spiritual transformation” (Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 245).
•“Postmillennialists believe that evangelism is the absolute precondition to worldwide, postmillennial, theocratic success . . . . Thus, postmillennialism seeks the Christianization of the world by the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism has priority in Christianization” (Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 259–60).
As these excerpts demonstrate, holding theonomic postmillennial convictions necessitates that the gospel occupy preeminence. And just as plainly these excerpts illustrate that those who would malign postmillennialism either are uninformed or willfully refuse to accurately characterize the position.
Nevertheless, it is one thing to accurately profess postmillennialism; it is quite another to practice it. That is, to function in terms of its implications. To rightly practice postmillennialism requires that one promote the primacy of the gospel. The gospel is not to be treated as a “spare tire,” simply annexed to the SUV’s of our lives and then hastily grasped only during dire emergencies. Changing the metaphor, the gospel is not simply the “door” to a new home, something quickly left behind as one proceeds into the living quarters of the house. Rather, the gospel is life itself and it is something that needs to be preached to oneself, even (especially) after one “gets saved.” [Note 1]
He Shall Have Dominion
(paperback by Kenneth Gentry)
A classic, thorough explanation and defense of postmillennialism (600+ pages). Complete with several chapters answering specific objections.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Far too often, those holding theonomic and postmillennial convictions have expended time and effort on society’s transformation, but have neglected the cause and foundation for that transformation: the gospel. They have focused on the desired effect, rather than cultivating the necessary cause. [Note 2] It is no coincidence that John Owen, the craftsman of the explicitly postmillennial Savoy Declaration, rightly warned: “He who has small thoughts of sin never has had great thoughts of God.” The gospel matters. Only a great God can transform a fallen society, a society overrun with sinful men. Yet the Lord has chosen to do just that—by the gospel. The gospel must therefore be primary, not only in theory but in practice..
The Lord in this day has graciously rekindled the vision and hope of optimistic eschatology. This generation’s postmillennialists must therefore grasp the heart of that eschatology, the transformational gospel of Christ. By the power of God, through means of God’s grace is how the serious theonomic postmillennialist operates, therefore he must promote the primacy of the gospel. Absent that emphasis, priority, and passion, one is not a true postmillennialist; rather, he is simply a vain moralistic pretender.
In the next study in this series we will consider: evangelistic zeal.
1. Nineteenth century revivalistic philosophy continues to influence American Christianity: this is especially noticeable in two areas: (1) the disregard or even absence of ecclesiastical authority and (2) more pertinent here, the reduction and limitation of “salvation” to personal conversion or “fire insurance,” rather than conceiving of salvation biblically, as involving a comprehensive way of life lived under Christ’s redeeming Kingship. For helpful insight concerning the notion of “preaching the gospel to yourself,” see, Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace : God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994).
2. Query whether the Reformed have simply aped evangelicalism’s “how to” mentality by issuing paperback after paperback trumpeting the family, family government, courtship, child rearing, particular educational paradigms, “traditional” or “medieval” liturgical preferences, etc. Certainly these issues comprise important topics, but when does one’s infatuation and “band-wagoning” with them transmogrify Christianity into nothing more than a form of idolatrous monotheistic Mormonism? In short, where’s the gospel in the Christian life? (Cf., Gal. 3:3). The gospel must receive primary.